Where were your ancestors on Christmas Day 100 years ago?

My maternal grandfather Tommy Hill, had a butcher shop in Westbrook Crossing, Queensland, in 1917, and I’d like to think he would have kept the best ham, or the best cut of beef or pork for his own family (but I doubt it). I’m sure the table would have been covered with home-made bread, sweets, jellies and jams, and home-grown veges.  My grandmother Ethel, was two months pregnant at the time with her fifth child (Joe). Tommy and Ethel celebrated Christmas 1917 with their children Leo (10), “Surrey” (7), Carmel (4) and “Tiger” (2).   Ethel’s parents had both passed away prior to 1917, but I imagine her younger brother Frank (18) would have joined them for Christmas Day.

Tommy’s cousin Robert Ryan, lived not far away at Athol.  So perhaps, he and his wife, Norah also joined them for Christmas Day.  Robert and Norah had five children by then.  The two eldest girls, twins Nell and Ode, had just passed their first musical exams according to the local newspaper, so perhaps a little musical concert was performed on the day. Robert was a grazier, so I bet he took along some lamb or mutton for the occasion. Robert’s sister Margaret-Ellen also lived at Westbrook and as a single lady, would have spent the day with the family also.

Perhaps Margaret-Ellen, may have chosen to spend the day with her Aunt Isabella and three spinster cousins. Tommy’s mother, Isabella, had been widowed two years earlier. She was still living in “Ballymena”, in Gipps Street, Drayton with her three adult daughters in 1917.  Isabella and the ‘girls’ led very quiet lives and I’d say that they would have spent a quiet day at home. I doubt that they would have travelled to Westbrook for the day, given that Isabella would have been in her 70s and it was probably too hot for her to travel far. Devout Catholics, they may have attended Mass that day, or had prayers at home.  I’m sure Tommy would have also provided them with a nice piece of meat to roast for Christmas lunch.

Fifty-two years earlier (1865), Isabella (my great grandmother) had spent Christmas on the “Earl Russell” with her sisters on the voyage from Ireland.

Ethel’s’ sister “Lottie” was married by then, to Jim McKenna. Lottie and Jim were living in Russell Street, Toowoomba, so may have made the trek out to Westbrook Crossing with their two littlies, “Cis” (2), and Kath (almost 1), to spend the day with the family.

As we approach yet another hot Christmas day, picture in your mind’s eye the clothing of the day, and imagine what it would have been like for all of them, with no electricity, refrigeration or swimming pools.

In December 1917, our troops were about to spend their fourth Christmas at war.  The Queensland Christmas Box Committee had raised funds to send almost 30,000 gift boxes to “our boys” overseas.  Many country towns and Church organisations had also organised “Soldiers’ Sock and Comfort Funds” and “Christmas Cheer Collections”.

My great uncle Joe Schwartz (my grandmother’s brother), was spending his second Christmas away from home.  He’d arrived in France in October 1917 after a bout of illness in England, and would spend Christmas at “the front”. There is no doubt, my family would have raised a glass to him on Christmas day, and probably shed a tear and said a prayer.

Tommy Hill had cousins living in Toowoomba at the time, who were also feeling the repercussions of the Great War.  His cousin, Rose Lonergan was living in Helen Street, Toowoomba with her four daughters. Earlier that year, 1917, she had been notified that her husband Mat had been killed in action.  Her sister Marcella, had married Charles Redwood a well-known Toowoomba footballer and business man of the Toowoomba “Maltings” family.  Marcella’s brother-in-law Joseph Redwood had been wounded in France, and was in hospital in England for Christmas 1917 suffering severe gunshot wounds to his right arm and leg.

Marcella and Rose’s brother William Joyce, was a widower himself by now.  William and his two sons were living not far away in Neil Street.  William was the Manager at Gas Works in Toowoomba.  Perhaps William, Marcella, Rose and their families would have spent Christmas together.

There would not have been many Australian families who had not been touched by the tragedy of a war that no-one had imagined would last four Christmases.

So, on Christmas Day, let’s spare a thought for friends and family, past, present and future, and count our blessings.

Jacqui Rose Brock DipFam Hist

Lest We Forget


Matthew Jeremiah Lonergan was the husband of my first cousin twice removed, Mary Teresa Joyce, known as Rose. To put that into context, his mother-in-law Ellen Joyce nee Quin, was the sister of my great-grandmother Isabella Hill nee Quin.

Matthew was born in Gympie on the 7th December 1879 to parents Mathew and Margaret Lonergan nee Mullins.

Prior to enlisting in WW1, Matthew had previously served in the Boer War.  First of all serving four months in the Imperial Light Horse where he served as Galloper to Colonel White, before joining the ranks of the 6th Queensland Imperial Bushmen. (A galloper was an officer used by Commanders to carry messages).

Records show that Matthew returned to Australia in 1904 aboard the “Sophocles” from Cape Town.  However, he must have returned to South Africa, as a story in the Darling Downs Gazette of 4 May 1907, describes Miss Joyce travelling to South Africa to marry Mr Lonergan.

On returning to Australia, Matthew and Rose had four daughters together, Margaret (b.1908), Marcella (b.1910), Kathleen (b.1914) and Theresa “Tessie” (b.1915).

On 6 September 1915, at the age of 35 years and 9 months. Matthew enlisted in Brisbane. He was described as 5ft 8.5inches with fair complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair.  Prior to enlistment, he had been employed as an accountant at the clerical branch of the Railway Store Department in Brisbane.

Tessie, his youngest daughter, was just six weeks old when her father enlisted.

In May 1916, Mathew embarked for overseas service, arriving in Marseilles, France on 5 June 1916.  Serving with the 25th battalion 10th reinforcements, he was reported as “Missing in Action” at Pozieres, on 5 August 1916.

Pte M.J. Lonergan’s Red Cross file contains many letters from those who witnessed his death that day, when he was ‘hit by an enemy shell and death was instantaneous’.  However, despite many letters from his widow to the authorities, his death was not officially declared until 25 July 1917.

Rose Lonergan, left alone with four little girls, wrote to the department several times over the following months, and despite including several letters from eye-witnesses to the death of her husband, the response was that the evidence she provided was “not sufficiently authentic to warrant an investigation to be made”.  It was over a year after his death, that his widow was officially informed that he had been killed in action.

During this time, Rose and the girls had lived at several addresses including Holmview, Sandgate and Helen Street, Toowoomba.  One can only assume that she stayed with relatives whilst waiting to hear the news of Matthew’s death.

Matthew Jeremiah Lonergan’s name is included in the list of fallen, on the Toowoomba Fallen Diggers Mother’s Memorial, the Australian War Memorial and the Villiers Bretonneaux Memorial in France.  His remains were never recovered.

Photo:  Matthew Jeremiah Lonergan with three of his four daughters, Marcella, Margaret and Kathleen on his lap.  Photo courtesy of John Carroll.

Jacqui Rose Brock DipFamHist





Down Vanished Years


Just last week-end, I was visited by a client looking for some assistance.  Anna (not her real name) had a basic outline of her own family history. She had the birth, marriage, and death records for her family going back several generations, and she had come to me to help her put some “meat on the bones”.  Now, I must admit, as a Family Historian that is my very favourite part – being able to bring our ancestor’s to ‘life’.  “Anna” showed me the immigration records for her grandfather’s family, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that her grandfather had arrived in Australia on the same ship as my own great grandfather Schwartz.  Anna’s grandfather had arrived in Moreton Bay as a 4 year old boy, aboard the Fritz Reuter (pictured above) in 1878, along with his family, and my great grandfather Hans Valerius Schwartz.

This is when I was able to share the amazing world of Trove with Anna.  I recalled a series of articles I had used for my own family history, that had been printed in 1940-1941, by a gent in his 80’s, one Mr Charles Johnson, of Taylor’s Arms, New South Wales. The articles had been printed in the Macleay Chronicle in 1940 and 1941, and the series was called “Down Vanished Years”.

Although not related to either myself or Anna, Mr Johnson’s stories are a brilliant snapshot of his life from the 1860’s to 1941.  In them, he writes of the spike-helmeted Prussian Armies marching through his hometown in Denmark in 1864 and his young life at sea, working on sailing ships between the Scandinavian Ports, to Germany and Scotland. Orphaned at an early age, Mr Johnson worked as a labourer and eventually went to night school where he learned English and German, before heading to the sea.

But I digress, and that’s easy to do in Trove.  The most valid part for both Anna and myself, and anyone researching their family history who are looking at ‘why’ their ancestors may have come to Australia in the 1870’s, is Mr Johnson’s story printed on 15 January 1941.  He writes, “I came across a notice stating that free emigration was available to Queensland in New Holland for workmen from any part of Europe who were able and willing to undertake road and railway construction work, and it was further stated that suitable areas of land were obtainable on very favourable terms and conditions under a Government land settlement scheme for those migrants who desired to take up rural occupations”.  Mr Johnson, then goes on to describe his visit to the agent, where he was informed that the German sailing ship Fritz Reuter had been chartered by the Queensland Government to bring 500 emigrants to Brisbane. The only fee the passengers were required to pay was the equivalent to £3 in English money to cover a blanket, two plates, a pannikin, and cutlery.

Mr Johnson’s story then describes in detail the voyage of the Fritz Reuter, and the conditions thereon.  The story is amazing and very detailed and can be seen on Trove at Down Vanished Years 15 January 1941 and 22 January 1941, The voyage took 128 days.

Later editions of the Macleay Chronicle go into the Fritz Reuter’s arrival in Moreton Bay, and Mr Johnson’s life in Australia.  Although, not related to either of us, thanks to Mr Charles Johnson of Taylor’s Arms, we have been given a personal account of someone who lived in the same time as our ancestors and sailed to Australia on the same ship.

Gems like this can be found on Trove all the time.  So, I would encourage you to set aside some time to explore Trove.  It is a free service offered by the National Library of Australia.

If you would like me to help you find your ancestors please contact me.

Jacqui Rose Brock DipFamHist

IXL Family History

My most exciting google find

In my last blog I promised to write about my most exciting personal google find ever.  Well here it is.  I’ll give you some background first. My 3 x great grandfather, Carl August Schwartz was born in Büdingen in what is now Germany, in 1792.  As a young man, he moved to Copenhagen in Denmark.  I had often asked myself why he would have done that.  Was it due to war, for work, for love, or was there even a reason?  I journeyed to Büdingen in 2011, and asked staff and volunteers at the museum and archives there, and no-one had any answers.

Like many family historians, I often just randomly google the names of my ancestors to see if anything new appears.  I had been given the tip to use the advanced search option and select Danish as the language. To my shock, I couldn’t believe how many results came up.  Why hadn’t I known about this before?

I selected a link that looked interesting.  It was the website of Bruun Rasmussen, a Danish auction house, and there I found this treasure.  Two photos of the chess set my ancestor had made as his apprenticeship piece around 1815, and the following description.

Carl August Schwartz 1792-1858 was born in Büdingen near Frankfurt am Main. He moved to Copenhagen in 1813. He was familiar with the ivory turner trade since several members of his family worked as ivory turners. He followed his brother, Johan Georg Schwartz (1789-1864) who had started to work in their uncle Johan Adam Schwartz’s (1751-1835) workshop in Sværtegade a few years earlier. The chess pieces are traditionally regarded as being Carl August Schwartz’s apprenticeship piece. Provenance: The chess game has been in the family until now.

What a lot of information, and answers, in one short paragraph. Sadly, I was too late to bid in the auction, and as you can see, the website states: Provenance: The chess game has been in the family until now.  I was saddened to hear that news, but I felt as though I had won the lotto with the information it provided.  The chess set was sold for around $3000 Australian.  I contacted the auctioneers, but they were unable to provide me with the details of the purchaser, and unwilling to pass on my details.

So, my advice is, google regularly and remember google is now much much more than just a search engine.  Use the advanced search and change the language option to that of countries your ancestors may have lived in….it may just help you break down that brick wall.  If you’d like some help on using google’s advanced search please feel free to Contact me, or refer to some great resources I listed in my last post.

Jacqui Rose Brock DipFamHist


Great google tips

My name is Jacqui….and I’m a facebook addict.

A lot of people don’t like facebook, and sometimes I can understand why.  I like to think I’m a ‘careful’ facebooker, although I have been known to get up on my soapbox from time to time about things I am passionate about.

I’m a member of many facebook groups and pages.  Strangely, most of them revolve around genealogy, history and DNA.  I get a lot of information and inspiration from facebook.

Yesterday, I came across a post from Family History Daily called The One Google Search Trick Every Genealogist Should Know, and of course it piqued my curiosity.

I would consider myself to be a fairly experienced google user, but hey you never know.  I found the article very interesting, it didn’t actually teach me anything new, but it did remind me of a few tricks I hadn’t used for a while.

It did remind me, however, of a great story I often tell people about the absolute best thing I ever found on google in regard to my own family history.  Want to know more… well watch out for my blog tomorrow and I’ll fill you in.  The image on this page is a hint.

If you’d like to know more tricks about using google in your family history research, click on the link to The One Google Search Trick Every Genealogist Should Know.  Australian genealogist, Helen Smith has also  written a great book called Google: The Genealogists’ Friend which I highly recommend.