Blog post

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ANZAC Day genea-blogging–preliminary roundup

After our successful Australia Day and Waitangi Day blogging challenges, Seonaid (@genebrarian) from the Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries suggested that we get together to hold a joint Australian and New Zealand blogging event for ANZAC Day (25 April).

Participants were to:

  • Write a blog post about an Australian or New Zealander serviceman or woman’s family, and the impact war had on their family history.
  • Publish their post by 25 April 2011
  • Post a comment with the URL on this blog, or under discussions on the Auckland Research Centre’s Facebook page.

As indicated on our first posts, all submissions will be listed in a summary posting on this blog and Auckland Libraries’ Kintalk blog by the end of April.

In the meantime… here are the links to the ANZAC Day submissions which were notified to this blog.

Anglers Rest: Edward Ellis

Alison, My Family Puzzles: Hugh O’Brien

Sharon, The Tree of Me: Alan Seabrook Mitchell

patientgenie, patientgenie: Eric Hugh Barker

Rosemary, Climbing the Family Rosebush: Reginald Sydney Merrett

cassmob, Family history across the seas: William Rudolph (Robert) Kunkel

Shelley, Twigs of Yore: Leonard John Couper “Jack” Lee

Geniaus, Geniaus: John Bertram Chatfield

Tanya Honey, My genealogy Adventure: James (Milton) Simmons

Aillin, Australian Genealogy Journeys: George Brown Fullerton

Are you missing from the list? Did you post here, not at Kintalk? Please drop me a line (see the About me page for my email). I wouldn’t want to miss anyone.

I haven’t had the chance to read all of the posts yet, but those I have read were moving tributes, without exception. I think I will have to read the posts in stages, or it will be too much heartbreak to take in one hit.

Congratulations and thanks to all.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

ANZAC Day: Aircraftman Leonard John Couper Lee

My ancestors didn’t serve in Australia (or New Zealand's) military forces. My grandparents were of an age where they were too young for the first world war, too old for the second. I know of many people in my broader family tree who served, but none who lost their lives. My family seems to be remarkably fortunate in that its young men came home.

This doesn't mean that they, or their families, did not suffer hardship or were unaffected by the war. Let me tell you what I have learned about Uncle Jack.

Aircraftman Leonard John Couper Lee

PHOTO Jack Lee F41Leonard John Couper “Jack” Lee was my grandfather’s younger brother. Having years earlier been rejected for service (“undersized”) he enlisted with the R.A.A.F as a trainee electrician on 29 November 1940 for “the duration of the War and a period of 12 months thereafter”. Training started two weeks later, on 16 December 1940. He passed his final course on 22 August 1941 and was listed as an Electrical Fitter. His course assessment noted that he was a "Good type - young and well mannered - good appearance and speaks well."

Uncle Jack left Perth for Malaya on 10 October 1941, arriving on 20 October 1941 in the role of ground crew for R.A.A.F. No. 1 Squadron. He would have barely had time to find his feet in a Unit where it was acknowledged that efficiency and training had slipped, due to an outbreak of dysentery, before the Pacific War began.

No. 1 Squadron was the first to see action in the Pacific, shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 8 December 1841. The Squadron was forced to relocate from Kota Bharu, Malaya to Palembang, Sumatra, as Japanese forces advanced along the Malay peninsula, and again to Semplak, Java when Japanese paratroopers landed at Palembang.

Some of the Squadron were able to be evacuated, but 180 members remained.

After weeks of heavy bombing, and exhausting relocations, Uncle Jack was taken with the rest of his unit as a prisoner of war.

The Family’s Perspective

When Uncle Jack went to war, he left behind him parents, siblings, his extended family, and his young wife. What an anxious time it must have been, particularly as news of the treatment of Japanese prisoners of war filtered back to the Australian public.

I don’t know all the information the family may have had access to, but I do know they received the following communications, copied to his R.A.A.F. casualty file.

Reported Missing – new received 13 March 1942

Dear Madam,

This letter is to confirm the telegram from
this Department dated the 13th March, 1942, informing
you that your husband, Aircraftmen Class 1 L.J.Cooper Lee,
has been reported missing as a result of the invasion
of Java by the Japanese.

Although your husband has been reported
missing he is not necessarily killed or wounded and,
in view of this it may be of assistance to you in
your anxiety to know what action is taken to trace
missing members of the Air Force. I am, therefore,
forwarding herewith a leaflet which gives full
information concerning this matter. You will see
from the leaflet that any further information
received will be conveyed to you immediately.

I desire to extend to you the sincere
sympathy of the Department in the anxiety you are

Yours faithfully,

(M.C. Langslow)

Confirmed prisoner of war – news received 27 June 1943

Dear Madam,

I desire to confirm the telegram from this Department
dated 27th June, 1943, informing you that your husband,
Aircraftman Leonard John Cooper Lee, is a prisoner of war in
Japanese hands.

This information was received from the International
Red Cross Committee, Geneva, quoting Tokio information.
It is regretted that at present your husband’s
place of internment as a prisoner of war is not known in this

I am forwarding herewith a leaflet which has been
issued by the Australian Red Cross Society setting out the
procedure to be followed in sending communications to prisoners
of war in the Far East. Should you desire any further
information regarding the method of communicating with your
husband, it is suggested that you get in touch with the
Australian Red Cross Society, Spring Street, Melbourne, or
with any of its State bureaux.

Yours faithfully,

(M.C. Langslow)

Location determinednews received around end July 1943

Dear Madam,

I refer to previous communications concerning your husband, Aircraftman Leonard John Cooper Lee, who is a prisoner of war in Japanese hands.

I desire to inform you that information has now been received stating that your husband’s place of internment is in Java.

Yours faithfully,

(M.C. Langslow)

The above was dated 22 July 1943.

News? Or Propaganda? – News received around end July 1944

Dear Madam,

I refer to previous communications from this
Department concerning your husband, Aircraftman Leonard John
Cooper Lee.

I desire to inform you that your husband’s name
was mentioned in a radio broadcast from Batavia on the 30th
June, 1944.

The enemy radio announcer gave your husbands
correct name and also your address and a letter purporting
to have come from him was transmitted over the radio. The
following is the text of the letter as received in Australia :


“Dear Nora, Well another New Year is here and it finds
us still separated, but I am sincerely hoping and
trusting that we will be together before the next.
I wish you all the very best for your birthday of
this month and also send birthday greetings to Beth
and Mum. I have not had the good fortune to receive
any mail from you since the first lot came in, dated
June and July ‘42, but as I know you write regularly
I keep hoping and expect one of these days to receive
quite a lot. I am still fairly fit and as comfortable
as circumstances permit. I am working regularly each
day as a ...... and find that this helps to pass the
time away, which after all is the main thing. I sincerely
hope, sweetheart, that you are keeping well and not
worrying about me. I am hoping each day for ...... and
try to see the best side of things. I hope all things at
home are still running smoothly for you and that you
are enjoying the best of health. Please convey my love
to Aunt Helen, Joyce and all at home and tell them not
to worry as I am doing alright. Remember me to all
friends. Trusting that I will soon be home again and
sending you all my love, I remain your loving husband,
Jack. "

It is recommended that you should exercise some
reserve in accepting the contents of the letter. This may not
be entirely authentic in as much as it emanates from an enemy
source and does not come through the recognised International
channels for the distribution of information concerning
prisoners of war. Furthermore, the letter may have been
altered for propaganda purposes, as it was transmitted in
the course of a Japanese propaganda programme.

Yours faithfully,

(M.C. Langslow)

Followed by another letter late in November 1944 advising of a similar broadcast. Some of the names mentioned are familiar to me, others not – but I haven’t researched his wife’s family. Norma’s birthday was in January so the letter was broadcast many months later. What would the family have made of this news?

Coming home – News received early October 1945



Four years after he left for Malaya, Uncle Jack came home to his young wife. They raised children who eventually had children of their own. He passed away in 1995. My mother told me, when I was of an age to be learning about such things at school, that he had spent four years as a Japanese prisoner of war but it was something he never spoke about. I hate to imagine what he went through during almost four years of captivity.

So many young men and women didn’t come home.

Lest we forget.


Australian War Memorial,
1 Squadron RAAF | The Australian War Memorial, Second World War Unit History, accessed 22 April 2011.

NAA: A705, 166/24/623; LEE, Leonard John Cooper - (Sergeant); Service Number - 19824; File type - Casualty - Repatriation; Place - Java, Netherlands East Indies; Date - 8 March 1942

NAA: A9186, 1, images 219 to 227; RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Number 1 Squadron
Jul 25 - Feb 46

NAA: A9301, 19824; LEE LEONARD JOHN COUPER : Service Number - 19824 : Date of birth - 28 Oct 1912 : Place of birth - OAKLEIGH VIC : Place of enlistment - MELBOURNE : Next of Kin - LEE NORMA

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Message to the Troops

Yesterday I received an email from a member of ‘Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence team’, on the Message to the Troops campaign for Telstra and the Australian Defence Force.

This is an annual campaign which I have been aware of in previous years. This year they hope to send 30,000 messages of support to Australia’s troops on ANZAC Day. They have asked (very nicely) if I would pass the message on to my readers.

How to send a message of support

If you wish to send a message of support to Australia’s troops serving in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, and to those serving on home soil for the flood relief, you can:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ANZAC Day Blogging Reminder

Don’t forget! 25 April 2011 is ANZAC day – a national day of remembrance for Australian and New Zealanders who died at war.

To commemorate this significant day for both our nations, Twigs of Yore and the Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries are jointly hosting an ANZAC Day blogging event.

To participate:

By the end of April, all submissions will be listed in a summary posting on this blog and Auckland Libraries’ Kintalk blog.

I hope you will join us.

Actually, I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to participate myself! I have not yet discovered any Australians (or New Zealanders) in my family tree who died in military service. I may have to have a chat with my co-conspirator Seonaid (@genebrarian) about whether I can bend the rules a little…

Regardless, I look forward to reading your posts!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

FamilyTreeDNA results – Population Finder

Yesterday, a week ahead of schedule, my FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder results came back. I’ve also had testing with 23andMe as well (see my earlier posts covering health and haplogroups and Ancestry Finder) and have been looking forward to comparing the two.

The FamilyTreeDNA pages don’t give much away about what you will actually see when your results come back. Although I had some idea of the most important content – a list of matches with names attached! – the detail of what would be returned wasn’t 100% clear to me even after searching the FAQs.  Now I see a new set of menu items in the side bar.


When I discussed the 23andMe results I covered the health and haplogroup information first. FamilyTreeDNA doesn’t provide health information, and haplogroups require a different test. What I do have is a tool that compares my DNA against various reference populations.

Population Finder

The FamilyTreeDNA Population Finder goes to a greater level of detail than any of the similar tools in 23andMe. 23andMe had me as 100% European – a boringly expected result! Population Finder went further. It has me as 100% Orcadian, by which I gather they mean British Isles. The confidence interval was plus or minus 0.01% - they couldn’t really get much more confident about what part of the world my genes appear to have come from.

The thing that surprised me about this was that even with many more subgroups (see here) they didn’t see even a smidgeon of me that looked like somewhere other than British Isles! That’s so boring that it’s interesting again.

Next time – Matches

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Research update: from the snail mail

I’ve been going through my tree and following up on documents that I know are there but haven’t ordered yet. If it relates to my ancestors, I will almost always shell out for a copy. As a result I’m waiting on or have recently received quite a few bits and pieces relating to the family through the mail.

Recently arrived
  • Letter from John Allsop (c1820-1882) of Tissington, Derbyshire advising of his family’s safe arrival at Deptford en route to Australia, 1852.
    I came across a reference to this while browsing the internet and sent off for a copy. Although the letter itself doesn’t tell me much, it suggests that there’s a whole lot more information that I would love to see at the Derbyshire Record Office. This research will have to wait for another time but the copy of the letter is nice to have.
  • Probate package for Michael Job Bennett  (c1805 – 1883)
    I sent off for the probate file over two months ago in the hope that it would confirm that his son James is the same person as my gg-grandfather James. It doesn’t, but that doesn’t matter. After sending off for the packet I found a different record that gave parent’s names for ‘my’ James and yes, his father was Michael Job Bennett. The probate package reveals that he left £600 to James. This makes it all the more puzzling as to where and when James died. If he had that much money you would think I’d be able to find a will or admin file. I have a few ideas of places to look so I’m not declaring his death a brickwall just yet.
  • Book on CD: The Martin Family of Stithians in Cornwall by Edward A.Martin, 5th edition, 1996.
    This book includes my ancestor Timothy Martin and I gather it’s well respected. It will be a source of clues when I get around to this part of the family.
Coming soon
  • GRO Death certificates
    With the strength of the Australian dollar at the moment, English GRO certificates cost me less than certificates for Victoria, Australia. I thought I’d better get in while I can and order those birth death and marriage certificates I’ve had my eye on but not actually ordered.
    Any day now I expect to see death certificates for:
    - Michael Job Bennett, 1883
    - Elizabeth Ann Bennett (nee Barnes), 1855
    - John Robotham, 1866
    - Hannah Robotham (nee Mee), 1864
    I don’t expect to learn a lot from them, but you never know.
  • FHL microfilm – Irish marriage record for William Stannus and Catherine Mack, 22 Aug 1848.
    I plan on slowly making my way through all those IGI and now FamilySearch Historical Record references I’ve accumulated and seeing the microfilms.
Also coming soon should be hard copy genealogy course materials. I don’t intend to start another course until the course materials get here.
Finally, my FamilyTreeDNA results are due back on around 13 April arrived today. It should be is interesting to compare them with 23andMe. More on that later.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

One down, 39 to go?

I recently enrolled in the Basic Australian package of nine courses on, using a heavy discount I won as a door prize at the Unlock the Past Australian History and Genealogy 2010 Roadshow late last year. The idea of study appeals to me. To qualify for their Certificate in Genealogical Studies-Australian Records I would need to continue beyond those first nine courses and complete a total of 40 courses (26 compulsory, 14 electives).

On 7 March I started “Methodology – Part 1”. On 14 March I posted here that I was working on module 2. A week later, I had finished modules 3 to 5 without breaking a sweat. I didn’t want to make the mistake of skipping through the course thinking “yes, yes, I know that” and not taking information in so I gave myself a few days break before embarking on module 6. For me, halfway through module 6 was where I started to feel like there was a bit more substance. Module 6 took longer as it involved a series of assignments such as transcribing documents. Finally, there was a 20 question multiple choice exam, and it was over.

I don’t have a final grade yet as the course doesn’t technically finish for another month. I’m confident that I did well – not perfectly, but well.

My overall impression of the course is that it was very light. I think I would have been disappointed if taking it as a stand-alone subject at full price. I don’t mind it as a building block in a larger package. From everything I have read I understand that later courses will increase in substance and difficulty but even taking into account that I have been playing genealogist on and off for 22 years, this one was light. I found the little there was about research plans quite useful but I was left wanting more. I didn’t participate in any of the online chat sessions, which may have changed my opinion, as I finished the course before there were any sessions at a reasonable hour (my time).

As a more general comment on the course material, it must be hard to try and come up with a “generic” research situation that doesn’t rely on location-specific knowledge. Even if the question asked is generic, the experience of the individual taking the course isn’t.

Despite my comments above, I am feeling very positive about continuing this course of study. I’m looking forward to courses that I hope and expect will give me more to get my teeth into!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The first month of my family tree site

On 1st March I set my family tree site,, to “public”.

In the month of March the site had 315 unique visits, and 1201 page loads. There was a definite spike at the start of the month, when I announced the site and again when one of my researcher relatives forwarded on the details to his close relatives. There is also a spike in visits towards the end of the month.

I use Statcounter to check up on my blog and website visits. It’s free to use, but the detailed statistics only cover the last 500 page loads. My detailed statistics date from 22 March, so I am able to dig into that recent spike and see what was happening. It turns out it was one user using an apple device, and each page load that evening was counted as a visit. Something to remember when I look at the stats about the number of visits.

Along those lines… You know how you see those blog posts that say that searches on certain keywords found their blog – but don’t worry because they can’t identify you from it? Well it’s true up to a point but only up to a point.

When I look at my detailed Statcounter log I can see the IP address with service provider and city/state/country, the operating system used, the screen size, and the page by page path taken through the site. I can also click the IP address and check out previous visits (but only if they are with the 500 latest page views). I can often see what page referred you to the site. If you used a search engine I can see the search terms you used. So although I don’t know exactly who visitors to the site are, if it’s someone I already know I can make a pretty good guess. But don’t worry! I’m not interesting in stalking anyone on the site or off. I’m just pleased that they continue to find it interesting.

I can see that pages from the website are showing up in Google searches. In fact I set off a few Google alerts to myself when I made the site public!

Now of course I face the frustration of seeing visits from people using very specific search terms but not knowing exactly who they are. So please, if you find your relatives on the the site through a search (or otherwise) send me a message to say hi!