Create Your Life Story

I was sent a link to a very useful site by Ian Kath, who runs Create Your Life Story, in which he shows you how easy it is share your life stories in ways that will interest your family:

Greetings

I’d like to introduce to you a great site to help your readers or you to Create Your Life Story at http://createyourlifestory.com/

I’m showing in posts and podcast episodes how easy it is for them to record, edit and share life stories so they can create the genealogical content for the future.

I’m not selling only sharing

Thanks for your time

Best of Days

Ian Kath

CreateYourLifeStory.com
YourStoryPodcast.com
twitter – @iankath
twitter – @createlifestory

The site is well worth subscribing to.

World War I medals for an ordinary soldier

I have previously written about the service file Douglas James Stewart (1899-1918), downloaded from the National Archives of Australia’s website. The file is 61 pages long, and I was unable to do it justice in a single post.

Douglas died on 8th August 1918. In 1920 his father James Simpson Stewart apparently had a question for the Department of Defence:

Memorandum 6 Feb 1920

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718. Memorandum dated 6 Feb 1920.

What medals was Douglas entitled to? A copy of the answer is on the file:

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718. Reply to J.S. Simpson dated 13 Feb 1920.

The Victory Medal and the General Service Medal. The Victory Medal, at least was sent a couple of years later, and James signed and returned the acknowledgement of receipt:

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718. Receipt for Victory Medal.

James had also been sent the Memorial Plaque six months earlier:

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718. Receipt for Memorial Plaque..

James had a couple of questions after it had arrived:

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718. Letter from J.S. Stewart re Memorial Plaque.

In the reply he was told that the correct dates of the Great War were 1914-1918, and the plaque’s materials and emblems were described in detail:

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718. Replay to J.S. Stewart dated 5 Dec 1922.

The service record shows all of the medals and plaques Douglas was issued:

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718.

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718.

I wish I knew more about these medals and plaques – what they looked like, what they feel like in the hand. I just can’t imagine how Douglas’ parents felt when they received them in the mail back in Holbrook, NSW. Proud, perhaps.

Of course, four or five years had passed by the time they arrived. The surviving soldiers had returned, and life had gone back to normal, so perhaps each time one of these things arrived the devastation returned.

John Graham, transported from Scotland to the Colonies

Package from the National Archives of ScotlandI have written previously about my excitement when the package of copies of the trial records for John Graham arrived in the post. The trial records of transported convicts from Scotland are available to be copied, and are indexed by name in the National Archives of Scotland catalogue.

Let me tell you what I found. To recap, the arrival of John Graham into New South Wales was a bit of a mystery as there were no NSW convicts of the right age and no recorded immigrants who fit his circumstances. His death certificate gave the length of time he lived in the Colony of New South Wales as a fairly precise 46 years, meaning that he should have been 16 when he arrived here in about 1846. It also claimed that he was born in Scotland, and that his parents were John Graham, a bricklayer, and Ann Duffy. His widow was the informant. His marriage registration didn’t give his parents; nor did the parish register.

There was a convict by that name arriving in Tasmania from Scotland in 1840, aged 12. The likelihood of this being the John Graham in question was high but not certain.

When I found this convict on the National Archives of Scotland catalogue the entry very helpfully stated that his father was Peter Graham, a weaver. This was a bit discouraging but the other evidence was strong enough to make it worthwhile to order the copies.

The packet of copies arrived, and a large packet it was! Here is a single page, to show the format. Each page is labelled at the top, as you can see.

Inventory of papers in precognition

When I had time to go through the many pages I found the following:

  • a long list of stolen items acquired on 4 separate occasions over about 2 weeks
  • a detailed description of his acquisition of these items and how they were distributed. It would be possible, using a contemporary map of Dundee, to trace John’s movements over the period.
  • a list of the 5 other boys that John hung out with – “all common thieves and associate very much together”
  • extracts from 3 previous convictions for theft
  • statements given by a large number of people, including his father Peter Graham, his mother Rose Duffy, and his uncle Michael Graham, to whom John had given a stolen silk handkerchief
  • Peter Graham, a weaver, was aged 38 and resided at Smalls Wynd, Dundee
  • Rosie Graham or Duffy was aged 38 and very deaf
  • Michael Graham, weaver, was aged 27 and resided at Lyons Close, Dundee
  • Patrick Ward, weaver, and Alice Ward or Collins his wife, were lodgers with the Grahams
  • None of the defendants or the family members giving evidence could write
  • John pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 7 years transportation

Wonderful detail! I was very pleased to see that his mother’s maiden surname was Duffy, giving some link with the details on the death certificate given by his widow.

I am now more inclined to think that this transported John Graham, aged 12 in early 1840, is the same John Graham who died in 1892 after 46 years in the Colony of New South Wales. He was given his Free Certificate in 1846 and may well have headed straight to New South Wales in the same year.

His wife may well have thought that he was born in Scotland, but this convict was born in Ireland, according to the Tasmanian convict records. It would have been an easy mistake to make. John may not even have been able to remember Ireland at all, and certainly by the time he had done his time in Tasmania it must have seemed like a distant memory.

I may never be able to prove that this young convict grew up to be the man I am looking for. I do think that he is the closest match I will ever find, and I’m thrilled with the files I got from the National Archives and the evidence they contain.

Sources

NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Death registration of John Graham, 1892/3934.

Joint Copying Project, ‘The Register of St John the Baptists Wellington NSW – Marriages 10 August 1841 to 23 June 1857 and 17 July 1874 to 14 September 1874.’ Society of Australian Genealogists, 2008.Joint Copying Project, ‘The Register of St John the Baptists Wellington NSW – Marriages 10 August 1841 to 23 June 1857 and 17 July 1874 to 14 September 1874.’ Society of Australian Genealogists, 2008.

National Archives of Scotland: Crown Office Precognitions 1839; Precognition against John Graham, Thomas McKay for the crime of theft, habit and repute, and previous conviction; AD14/39/95.

National Archives of Scotland: High Court of Justiciary Processes 1550-1598; Trial papers relating to John Graham, Thomas McKay for the crime of theft, habit and repute, and previous conviction. Tried at High Court, Perth, 25 Apr 1839; JC26/1839/5.

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