Photographic resource for Queensland-enlisted WWI soldiers

I have been doing some research into a WWI soldier for the 2015 Trans-Tasman Anzac Day Blog Challenge put together by Auckland Libraries and the Kintalk blog.

My research on this soldier is not complete, need to get a wriggle on, but I had to share a (new to me) resource on WWI soldiers from Queensland.

None of my military ancestors are actually from Queensland, however, because many of them lived in Northern NSW near the Queensland border a number of them enlisted in Queensland. One of those was Milton Simmons who I have blogged about before for the inaugural ANZAC challenge.

I have been researching a soldier who is unrelated to me, but one who went to the school my grandmother went to and the one my children now attend, and as I was searching for photographs of him in TROVE I found one of him and the source is as follows, ‘one of the soldiers photographed in The Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 1914.’

So in my true fashion, I went off on a tangent searching for a photograph of Milton Simmons – yes, I need to be more focused! But, I found him. Well at least I think I did. I need to look more carefully at the fuzzy image I already have of him and see how they compare. The photo does mention his Battalion, the 26th, so I think it really could be him.

The Queenslander, State Library of Queensland

The Queenslander, State Library of Queensland

The real purpose of this blog though is to note this fantastic resource for anyone who might be trying to find photographs of their WWI soldiers who enlisted in Queensland. You  may find them via TROVE, but you should also search directly in the State Library of Queensland’s catalogue One Search for these photographs from The Queenslander.  When searching, enter the surname of the person you are searching for, not their given names, and also enter the word soldiers, this should give you a good change of finding your soldier if there is a photo of him.

I have tried searching before on TROVE for photos of Milton Simmons but had no luck, mainly due to the commonality of his surname and I would also have used his given name. These photographs do not include given names so there is very little chance I would have found him without being able to search the State Library of QLD’s collection. Always great to have more than one place to search.

They are still digitising these photos, so if you don’t find your soldier the first time, don’t give up. Try again!

Trove Tuesday – one of my fav articles

I love Trove! I would be surprised to hear anyone say anything other than that.

I have found many wonderful articles and images on Trove that have helped add layers to my family history research. One of my favourite articles so far is one about my great grandfather George Thomas Smede who I have previously posted about in Wealth for Toil and The Butcher and the Policeman.

GT Smede takes a starring role as he, “dressed as a cricketer”, (one assumes that means he had just finished playing a game of cricket rather than being dressed up for a fancy dress party!), comes upon a group of people on a picnic. Must have looked like an ordinary group of people enjoying the sunshine and views at Broken Head until….the water exploded in front of them! They were dynamiting fish, as you do – not!

1929 ‘DYNAMITING FISH. PICNICKERS FINED.’, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 25 February, p. 14, viewed 28 August, 2012,

This may explain why it is very hard to catch any fish down there these days.

The butcher and the policeman

I wrote a post earlier this year about my great grandfather George Thomas SMEDE. In it I noted that he had been declared bankrupt in Berridale in 1917, but at the time of writing the post I did not know why. I do now, and what I have discovered is both maddening and sad.

A couple of months ago a friend very kindly made a copy of GT’s bankruptcy file when she made a trip to the State Records of NSW in Kingswood. (Thank you Tracy!) This is my first experience with a bankruptcy file and it has been interesting to see how much information is contained in one.

In the bankruptcy file, GT attributes his bankruptcy to an action for damages in the District Court at Cooma in June 1917. The claim for damages for an amount of £130.5.7 was taken against GT by a John Oliver WESTON of Berridale, described in the file as a “Butcher and Grazier”. So, I already don’t like Mr Weston.

In order to be discharged from bankruptcy in 1920, GT wrote a declaration and included his side of the story regarding Weston’s claim against him. At the time, (which I can only judge to be prior to the court case in June 1917 as no date is given), GT was a police constable in Berridale and arrested Weston after he was accused of stealing some timber. Weston had purchased some wire netting at a sale in Berridale and had been informed by the auctioneer that although there was timber attached to the wire netting, it was not included in the sale. Weston took it home anyway, and when he refused to hand it over to GT who went to his house in an official capacity, GT arrested him.

On Weston’s appearance at the Police Court in Dalgetty, however, the case against Weston was dismissed because the Magistrate held that there was insufficient evidence against him. It may have helped GT’s case if the Magistrate had called on the auctioneer’s clerk to appear before him and state what had occurred, but he didn’t. As a result, the case was dismissed and Weston claimed £400 in damages from GT for wrongful arrest, even though the Magistrate at one point made the comment, “The fact is, Weston took the timber without authority”.

Paying Weston’s damages claim is what forced GT into bankruptcy.

Throughout my research into GT’s bankruptcy I have tried to be mindful that it is GT’s account alone that I have access to. Unless I find another account that backs his up, which is unlikely, I must be careful to remember that I am only in possession of one side of the story. Unfortunately, no-one alive on this side of the family has any details on GT’s bankruptcy. All his children have passed away, including my grandmother, and none of his grandchildren, including my mother, had ever heard that he was bankrupt. It may be that none of his children were ever aware it had happened as they were quite young at the time.

I digress. I have a soft spot for GT, although he died before I was born and I did not know him. Maybe having his clock has formed a connection between us. Regardless, I would love to believe his side of the story, and after digging further in Trove, I am inclined to.

I did a few different searches for John Weston, using a variety of combinations of his name, on Trove and found some intriguing pieces of information. The most interesting results appeared when I searched for “John Oliver Weston” and I have tagged them for future reference. It would seem that Weston had a tendency to take people to court. One action in particular caught my eye. Two years after he took GT to court, Weston went after three other policemen. I wonder if people were asking questions about his integrity at this stage, particularly as this time he was awarded a token amount of one farthing, (did farthings exist? – something else to research!), in damages.

1919 ‘Unusual Action at Cooma District Court.’, Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer (NSW : 1915 – 1927), 20 June, p. 2, viewed 8 June, 2012,

I still have a few places to look for to either confirm or discount GT’s account. I need to check local press, as yet not digitised on Trove, as well as obtaining a copy of GT and Weston’s appearance in front of the Police Magistrate in Dalgetty, if one exists.

Who knows, they may shed further light on the story. I hope so.

There is a John O WESTON listed as being born in 1869 (Ref: 9902/1869) in Cooma to William and Mary A. Death of same man included in BDM index in 1934 (Ref: 12684/1934)

Do as I say, not as I do

As a reference librarian in a University library one of my main responsibilities is to teach students how to conduct research and correctly cite what they find.

Well I think I should listen to myself a little more often! Two weeks ago I fell into the trap of getting excited about finding a piece of information and not recording the citation details. And guess what?? I couldn’t find it again!

I blogged about a discovery I made on Trove in The Northern Star that has been recently added to the digitised newspapers database. In my excitement I failed to tag and correct the article within Trove, which I am usually careful to do, or make a note of the citation details. A few days later when I discovered what I had done I went searching for it again and of course I couldn’t find it, no matter how I looked for it. (I asked one of my colleagues at work to have a try at looking for it and she found it quickly, using the age-old technique of “not getting too complicated with your search keywords” – another piece of advice I like to give but apparently don’t listen to myself!!)

Anyway, my lesson for today is to record your citations no matter how excited you are, otherwise that excitement will quickly turn to disappointment and dismay.

BTW, I have tagged and corrected the article on Trove and added the citation to my original blog entry.

The treasure in Trove

I discovered two nights ago that Trove had started to load digitised versions of my local newspaper The Northern Star onto its website. I am very excited to see this because many of my father’s ancestors have lived in the area covered by this newspaper since the 1870s and 1880s when they moved from Kangaloon and Marshall Mount in Southern NSW.

I have inherited a few copies of marriage notices and the like from my Nan who either collected them herself or inherited them over the years, but there are many events that I have to discover for myself and this task has now become so much easier.

To be honest, I was so excited to see The Northern Star appear that I really didn’t know where to start and just threw names in almost randomly to see what results appeared. (Not really what an efficient reference librarian should do). Tonight I have been trying to be more efficient and have already found something unexpected.

I did a search for my 2x great grandfather Hugh KIRKLAND and found an article from 1911 regarding the death of someone described as one of his employees.

SUDDEN DEATH. (1911, September 11). Northern Star
(Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved November
9, 2011, from

The employee unfortunately passed away very quickly one day over just a couple of hours. I am particularly interested in this article because the employee is described as “an Indian”.My husband’s parents are both from India, (we tend to describe him as Anglo-Indian with quite a bit of Portugeuse ancestry), and although we have neighbours who are of Indian descent and have been here for many years, I did not expect to find my farming 2x great grandfather employing men from India. I obviously have a lot to learn!

The article is very brief and warrants further research to discover the results of the autopsy. I would also like to find out more about Maffra and where he came from if possible. As this newspaper has not been completely uploaded to Trove yet I may have to be patient for a little longer. I will be though, because a great deal of it is already there.

I was at work a couple of weeks ago…

and the phone rang. I answered and an elderly gentleman, he was very polite, introduced himself and explained that he wanted to look at old copies of the local newspaper.

I work in a library, not a local library which you would expect would have copies of the local paper on microfilm, but happily for him one that did have copies of the newspaper he was looking for. The gentleman explained, after a little questioning, that he was looking into an accident that occurred in the area in the 1930s that resulted in 2 deaths. I suggested that he could come into our library and use our resources, however he said he had tried and this proved physically impossible for him – there is a very steep hill to climb and he found he could not do it. I offered a couple of alternatives, including contacting his local library for assistance, however by this time I was completely hooked and wanted to help, so took down all the details and said I would ring if I thought of anything else.

First I used Trove to search their collection of digitised newspapers and found a few brief articles about the accident. The gentleman’s main aim was to find out where one of the deceased persons had been buried though, and these articles did not mention those details. It was clear I would have to scroll through the microfilm – shudder. As I set myself up to use the ancient microfilm reader, (knowing my kids would have to wait to be picked up from kindy because their mama was dealing with some sort of genealogy obsession), people I worked with walked past exclaiming at the fact I was using this dreadful old machine.

It didn’t take long though to find articles about the accident. There were a few reasons for this: it was, and still is, a small country area where events such as this occur very rarely; the deceased came from well known local families and they were both young men in their early 20s; and most usefully, there was an inquest into the accident that therefore included a lot of details.

The one particular piece of information I was looking for eluded me though, until I had nearly given up hope – a hint of where one of the men had been buried. I had found a burial notice that mentioned where the other man was to be interred, but not where the second man was to be – which was what the gentleman caller was looking for. I had looked in what I thought was all the likely places, personal notices, death notices, obituaries etc., but had failed the first time to look at the large article about the accident itself, that contained a few paragraphs about the young man’s funeral that had been held the day before and where he had been buried. I very easily nearly overlooked this because I was in a huge hurry, (picking up tired, hungry kids from kindy was clouding my mind), so was extremely excited when I spotted it. This taught me to always look more widely than just those areas you would normally expect a death/funeral notice to be.

I quickly copied everything I had found to my flashdrive and took it home to print and label with sources etc, then rang the gentleman to ask if I could post it to him. He didn’t answer, but returned my call nearly a week later. His mobile had been giving him trouble but he was very happy to hear that I had an answer to his question. I said I would post the information to him, but failed to ask what I really wanted to know – who were these people he was researching and was he related to one of them?

I posted the articles and had almost forgotten about them when my mobile rang last week and I heard the elderly fellow’s voice. He was calling to say he was extremely grateful for the information and that it had answered a lot of questions for him.

I did end up asking him why he was looking, (after about 5 minutes of trying to work out the most polite way of doing so), and he told me that one of the young men had been his birth father. His mother was unaware at the time of the accident that she was pregnant, also unmarried, and at the time this occurred this was not socially acceptable, so he was adopted. He was happy to now know where both men had been buried, but also many more details of the accident as reported in the newspaper due to the inquest.

I enjoyed being able to help this gentleman, particularly because he was so grateful and this is what I would love to be doing all the time – but also because it turns out he knows my father from fishing on the beach!

Happy searching!