Edward George Tunnecliff ~ an ANZAC all the same

Edward Tunnecliff (my first cousin thrice removed) was born in New Plymouth on 9th May 1886, the eldest son of George Tunnecliff (Jnr) and Alice Kine. He was living in Dover Road, Okato, with his brother Leonard, and farming land in Tataraimaka, when he was conscripted into the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Reserve in 1916. This First Division was made up of men between the ages of 20 and 45, who were British subjects, and either unmarried, or with no dependent children.

On his attestation on 18th September 1916, Edward was 30 years and 3 months old, 5 feet 7 1/2 inches in height, and weighing 158 pounds. He had a fair complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair mixed with grey. He was passed as fit, and a note made that his teeth “requires attention”.

He was posted to the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, B Company, for training at Trentham Military Camp. Within 26 days he was dead.

Overlooking the "Reinforcement" Military Camp at Trentham, in 1915

Overlooking the “Reinforcement” Military Camp at Trentham, 1915. Ref: 1/2-035323-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22693340

Trentham Camp, near Wellington, was built to house and train two thousand soldiers for World War 1. Eventual numbers reached more than 7000, and the damp, crowded accommodation saw a growing number of soliders struck down with respiratory ailments. The first few cases of measles in November 1914, escalated into an epidemic, with the camp registering over a thousand cases by the middle of 1915.

Wellington Hospital filled up with infected soldiers, and a nearby old fever hospital was taken over. Soon, this too was overflowing, and some kind of accommodation was required for those soldiers not quite sick enough for hospital, but still requiring a period of isolation before rejoining their unit. A residential home close to Trentham was offered by its owner Mr C.J. Izard for accommodating up to 25 soldiers1. After a storm demolished one of the camp’s “measles marquees”, Messrs Levin and Co. offered a large three-storied store at Kaiwarra, free of charge to the Health Department, for hospital purposes2.

Provision has been made at Kaiwarra for the recreation of the convalescents, and, as announced elsewhere, a billiard table has already been given them, but people anxious to make the isolation of the soldiers less tedious can yet find scope for their generosity. All kinds of games, such as deck-quoits, also books and magazines, will be received with gratitude.
Evening Post, 17 Jun 1915, “MEASLES EPIDEMIC”3

The general public rallied to help support the sick soldiers. Around the country, the newspapers were filled with articles and letters to the editors decrying the appalling conditions at Trentham.

World War I soldiers outside tents at Trentham Miltary camp, Upper Hutt, Wellington

World War I soldiers outside tents at Trentham Miltary camp, Upper Hutt, Wellington, 1914. Ref: 1/1-017536-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23074704

TRENTHAM HOSPITALS

Sir, – I feel it is my duty to let the people of Auckland know the condition of the soliders at Trentham as regards medical situation. The outside public know nothing of how the medical portion of this camp is mismanaged and neglected. There are at the present time over 600 cases in the hospital at Wellington, mostly measles or serious chest and lung complaints. The accommodation there is shockingly inadequate. Measles are sweeping through these long huts with great rapidity. The following is the monotonous routine:- A man feels ill and his chest is one mass of measles. The orderly corporal takes him, together with 10 to 12 others, down to the medical tent at 8.15am. Outside this small marquee the whole of the sick men from all the camp must wait. No matter what the weather is, no matter how ill they are, there they must stand, in mud often over their boot-tops, until their turn comes to see the doctor. I have myself seen men waiting thus in pouring rain for two whole hours. Worse than this, I have seen them faint with sheer exhaustion at such a trying ordeal. The invariable remedy, no matter what the complaint, is two pills, plus “excused from duties for the rest of the day,” or in the case of measles they are hurriedly rushed off to a hospital in Wellington. There they remain for three or four days until the infectious stage is over, and back to camp they are bundled again, weak and ill – to hang about on “light duties for a week.”
Yesterday (Friday, June 26) 650 men “reported sick” and some of them had to stand outside in the rain from 8.15am until after 11am. On Wednesday there was no doctor in attendance at all, and after a two hours’ wait the unfortunate men were forced to return. Three men died of measles last week, and there will be many more ere the winters is out unless the medical side of so large a camp is properly managed. In every tent and hut sick men are lying – some in high fevers, and all with wet coats and clothes hanging around, and some with wet clothes actually on their sick bodies. They report sick and are sent back again. The hospitals in Wellington are taxed to the utmost, and can take no more. The people of New Zealand, as long ago as last February, subscribed a more than generous amount for a permanent base hospital here in camp. Although the matter is of much urgency, and all these months have gone by, we are absolutely without a hospital except two ordinary sized marquees, holding not more than 20 beds. The public will be told that their hospital is “in course of erection.” It is, and in another two or, perhaps, three years it will be ready. Meanwhile we are pegging along in the utmost discomfiture, and God help the unfortunate who get ill! The camp authorities certainly will not.
A TRENTHAM SOLIDER.
New Zealand Herald, 29 June 1915 “LETTERS TO THE EDITOR”4

Eventually, after a visit to the camp from Prime Minister William Massey, the decision was made to relocate the majority of the soldiers in July 1915, and additional training camps were established at Waikanae and Palmerston North. Around 1300 soldiers stayed at Trentham.

The Report of the Trentham Camp Commission5 tabled in the House of Representatives on 27th August 1915, found that several causes had contributed to the spread of sickness:

  • aggregation of so many men in a confined space, first in tents and then in larger groups in huts, often in wet clothes
  • bringing into an already infected camp of large numbers of fresh troops
  • wetness of the ground because of inefficient surface drainage
  • no provision for drying clothes and boots
  • deficiencies in the hutment design, and their overcrowding
  • unnecessary exposure during sick parades, causing fatigue
  • inadequate provision for dealing with a rapidly increasing number of sick
  • the specially infectious character of the diseases
  • lack of sanitation

Due care and efficient measures were not always taken to prevent or minimise sickness or mortality, and there was no efficient system for the treatment of the sick, and no hospital accommmodation at the camp.

Testimony was given “as to the uncomplaining patience with which the sick men and the men generally faced the conditions arising not only from their ailments but from the inclement weather and the discomforts that ensued“.6

Later newspaper reports expounded the new measures that were being implemented, including the provision of a permanent camp hospital, to ensure the health of soldiers at Trentham. Unfortunately, cases of measles continued to appear, though the peak of the epidemic had passed. The following year, Edward Tunnecliff began his training at Trentham on 19th September. Just eight days later, he was admitted to the camp hospital, where he died on 14th October at 11pm. The cause of death was measles.

I’m not sure what would be worse for a parent – knowing your child had died needlessly in a local military hospital, and having to bury him less than a month after he’d left home; or knowing he’d died violently, in a battle on foreign soil, with possibly no known grave.

Edward takes his place on the New Zealand Honour Roll, along with 504 others who died while in training. He is buried at Te Henui cemetery, New Plymouth, alongside his parents.

Grave of Private Edward George Tunnecliff (1886-1916), Te Henui Cemetery, New Plymouth, NZ

Grave of Private Edward George Tunnecliff (1886-1916), Te Henui Cemetery, New Plymouth, NZ (Image: NZ War Graves Project)7

 

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

This post is my contribution to the 2014 Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day Blog Challenge.

  1. Evening Post, vol LXXXIX, issue 135, 9 June 1915, page 8; digitised version, PapersPast (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 22 April 2014).
  2. Evening Post, vol LXXXIX, issue 140, 15 June 1915, page 8; digitised version, PapersPast (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 22 April 2014).
  3. Evening Post, vol LXXXIX, issue 142, 17 Jun 1915, page 8; digitised version, PapersPast (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 22 April 2014).
  4. “LETTERS TO THE EDITOR”, New Zealand Herald, volume LII, issue 15956, 29 June 1915page 10; digitised version, PapersPast (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 22 April 2014).
  5. “TRENTHAM CAMP COMMISSION’S REPORT”, Dominion, vol 8, issue 2552, 28 August 1915, page 6; digitised version, PapersPast (http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ : accessed 22 April 2014).
  6. Ibid.
  7. New Zealand War Graves Project, in association with AucklandMuseum.com, digital image, (http://www.nzwargraves.org.nz/casualties/edward-george-tunnecliff : accessed 24 April 2014).

Sources:

Archives NZ. “TUNNECLIFF, Edward George – WW1 33480 – Army : Military Personnel File”; digitised file, Archway (http://www.archway.archives.govt.nz/ : accessed 05 Nov 2010).

Kohn, George Childs. “New Zealand measles epidemics, 1915–1916 and 1938.” Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence, Third Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Modern World History Online. Facts On File, Inc. (http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?
ItemID=WE53&iPin=ENPP469&SingleRecord=True : accessed 21 April 2014).

Ancestry.com.New Zealand Army WWI Reserve Rolls, 1916-1917 [database on-line] (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed 22 April 2014); New Zealand Expeditionary Force Reserve – 1916-1919. Microfiche 1-23.

Ancestry.com. New Zealand Army WWI Roll of Honour, 1914-1919 [database on-line] (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed 22 April 2014); The Great War 1914-1918, New Zealand Expeditionary Force Roll of Honour. Microfiche, 3 rolls.

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George & Elizabeth Tunnecliff, Grave 56 ~ Tombstone Tuesday

I was recently contacted by John Pickering, graveyard manager of St Mary’s Cathedral in New Plymouth (Taranaki, New Zealand). He is spearheading a project to repair all the old gravestones in the churchyard, and is trying to contact descendants of those buried, to help fund the repairs. Council funds are being applied for where there are no known descendants.

My great great great grandparents George Tunnecliff(e) and his wife Elizabeth Barber are buried in Grave 56 in the churchyard, and their gravestone is one of a number that require some TLC.

Gravestone of George & Elizabeth Tunnecliff(e), St Mary's, New Plymouth, NZ

Gravestone of George & Elizabeth Tunnecliff, St Mary’s churchyard, New Plymouth, NZ (Image: John Pickering)

The inscription on the headstone reads:

In loving memory of George Tunnecliff died 13 February 1912 aged 80 years also Elizabeth Tunnecliff died 24 February 1916 aged 86 . At rest.

John has written to a couple of descendants so far and outlined the work that is needed to repair the grave, and the costs involved. The concrete top is broken and the north side wall has fallen away, and the headstone itself requires a professional clean and application of lichen inhibitor. Because the churchyard has been designated a Category 1 historical site, only registered memorial masons can carry out the repairs.

The Dean of the Cathedral comments:
We believe that the churchyard should be a place of pride for the city and a fitting memorial to those buried there. Our plan is to restore every headstone, whilst being true to its age and style. There is much research that a well-kept and loved churchyard is far less subject to vandalism. In recent years we have seen no vandalism whatsoever, and we aim for that to continue.

All told, the concrete repair work and the headstone cleaning for George & Elizabeth’s grave will amount to around $600. Descendants are being asked to contribute towards the cost, and obviously the more of us that can chip in, the better!

So, are you connected to the family? Would you like to help?

There are several ways to donate a few dollars, but to make it easier, I’ve set up a GiveALittle fundraising page and donations go straight to the The Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary for the restoration of Grave 56.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to share more about George and Elizabeth, their lives in England and New Zealand, as well as their children and grandchildren.

Further reading: Isobel Ewing, New Plymouth Graves Need Work, Taranaki Daily News online, 20 May 2013.

Tombstone Tuesday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

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Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

At the foot of Croagh Patrick, 17 March 2012

At the foot of Croagh Patrick, 17 March 2012

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O’Rourke Family tomb, Dysert Burial Ground, Co Kerry ~ Tombstone Tuesday

A few kilometres down the road from Castleisland, on the way to Killarney, is Dysert Burial Ground. It is here where my great great great grandfather Michael O’Rourke, father of Bartholomew O’Rourke, is buried, along with other members of the O’Rourke family. An O’Rourke cousin in Australia told me about it, and how to find it, so last May I went off in search of it.

Dysert Burial Ground, near Castleisland, Co Kerry

Dysert Burial Ground, near Castleisland, Co Kerry

The family tomb is located just inside the gate, to the right.

Gate to Dysert Burial Ground, near Castleisland, Co Kerry

Gate to Dysert Burial Ground, near Castleisland, Co Kerry

O'Rourke family tomb, Dysert Burial Ground

O’Rourke family tomb, Dysert Burial Ground

The inscriptions are almost illegible. Thankfully, another cousin had visited the site in the early 1990s and deciphered the main one as:

Michael Rourke
+ sons JOHN, DARBY & MICHAEL ROURKE
A.D.1810
This tomb was erected by the above.

This appears to be Michael with his two brothers John and Jeremiah (Darby is a common nickname), and their father Michael.

An earlier transcription, from Albert Casey1:

Daniel Rourke, sons John and Darby and Ml. This tomb was erected by the above.

Michael and Daniel would look very similar on a weathered tombstone. Daniel is not a name that has been handed down in the family, so I’m tending to side against Casey on this one (for now!).

O'Rourke family grave, Dysert Burial Ground

Inscription, O’Rourke family grave, Dysert Burial Ground

An inscription on the headstone reads:

THE
O’ROURKE
FAMILY
R.I.P.

O'Rourke family grave, Dysert Burial Ground

Inscription, O’Rourke family grave, Dysert Burial Ground

The last person to be buried in the tomb was Jeremiah O’Rourke (1916-1976), my second cousin twice removed.

 

Tombstone Tuesday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

  1. Albert E. Casey, “Dysert Cemetery, Castleisland parish, MIs”, O’Kief, Cosh Mang, Slieve Lougher and Upper Blackwater in Ireland, Birmingham, Alabama, 16 volumes, 1952-1971, vol 6 pp.1927-28.
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Who Do You Think You Are? Live, London

I have just spent two wonderful days at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in London. I had promised myself last year that I would attend all three days in 2014, but with the days changing from Friday – Sunday to Thursday – Saturday, it was all a bit tricky, so two days again it was.

I had an early start on Friday morning to travel in from Kent in time for my first talk: Rosalind McCutcheon on Irish Poor Law records. It was a mix of background history and details of what records might have survived, all delivered in Roz’s inimitable style, and I’m hopeful I may find something for my Irish families. Next up was the “Celebrity Talk” in the main SOG theatre, though it differed in format this time, as it included the producers as well as Larry Lamb talking about the making of the show. It was a lovely insight into what happens behind the scenes, from the production point of view rather than just focusing on the celebrity’s experience.

Larry Lamb and WDYTYA producers, Olympia 2014

Larry Lamb and WDYTYA producers, Olympia 2014

The next talk I attended was Researching Australian WW1 Military Personnel given by Helen V. Smith, and it gave me some great ideas for further research on my Kiwi soliders. After a short wander around the exhibit hall, I listened to Stephen Scarth talking about PRONI online resources, and while I was aware of many of them, there are some exciting resources being made available soon. I’d also overlooked the very useful research guides they provide on their website.

I had booked an Ask the Expert session in the afternoon, and the military expert I requested gave me some very helpful tips on where to go next in my research. Looking around this area, it didn’t seem as busy as in previous years. Perhaps it was busier on the Saturday?

Definitely the greatest value for me this year was meeting lots of lovely genealogists, some of whom I only “knew” via Twitter. I’m always inspired by those making a living out of genealogy, and love how passionate they are about what they do. A “Tweet Up” had been arranged at the end of the day in the Hand and Flower pub across the road from the Olympia, and there were so many of us it got a little crowded in our spot at the back of the pub! I managed to chat to a few people, before heading off to dinner with some fellow IHGS students.

After a late night, Saturday morning came a little too soon, but after a mammoth breakfast and a good brisk walk to the Olympia from my hotel, I was ready for another day of genealogical delights. I only attended two talks this day, with the first being on the Scottish Poor Laws from Patricia Whately. She gave an overview of Poor Law legislation in Scotland, and the many records that were created as a result. Kirsty Wilkinson has compiled a list of those records that survive, which can be accessed (along with other resources) on her website : My Ain Folk.

WDYTYA? Live, Olympia 2014

WDYTYA? Live, Olympia 2014

After another couple of meetups, Tweet Ups and walk around the stands, I was off to my second talk of the day: Janet Few on Putting Your Ancestors in their Place: Sources for Reconstructing 19th Century Communities. I found this a great follow up to the recent One Place Studies course I’d just completed with Pharos, and I’m keen to get a hold of Janet’s new book, Putting your Ancestors in their Place: A Guide to One Place Studies.

Somehow I managed to sign up for not one but TWO online courses – just couldn’t resist the “show special” prices. The Pharos One Name Studies course included a GOONS membership. Bonus! The Palaeography course through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies was one I’d been looking at doing, and I couldn’t resist the 50% discount, plus fountain pen. Double bonus! Both start next month, so I shall be a little busy, I think.

I was disappointed to miss a couple of talks that were scheduled for Thursday, but luckily the one I most wanted to see has been recorded and can be viewed online: Maurice Gleeson’s Autosomal DNA – a step-by-step approach to analysing your atDNA matches.

Over the two days I met some fantastic people, caught up with friends, and learnt a lot from the talks and discussions. There are rumours that next year’s event will be at a different venue (Birmingham?), but hopefully I will be there. WDYTYA? Live will also be making an appearance in Glasgow this August, which will be especially handy for those living further north. A fabulous excuse to visit Scotland, if you really needed one!

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A story in a tattoo ~ Military Monday

Alexander Wright (1891-1956)

Alexander Wright (1891-1956)

It’s funny the things you overlook when you first read a document. Or even on the second or third time. I was in the middle of assignment work for my course with the IHGS, focusing on military records, and so had been going over what records and notes I had for my great grandfather, Alexander Wright, who fought at Gallipoli during World War I. He was one of the lucky ones who made it back home. And I’m lucky that he “left” the Royal Irish Fusiliers and joined up with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of war, as that means his service record survives!

Upon reading over his service record, something in his physical description suddenly jumped out at me. The description of his tattoo. I had skimmed over it before and had idly wondered what the “clasped hands” might signify, but it was only when re-reading it again recently, that I noticed the name that he had tattooed on his right arm: H. Cavender. And I suddenly remembered that I had seen that name before, in a census return.

Description of Alexander Wright on Enlistment (NZEF service record 10/800)

Description of Alexander Wright on Enlistment (NZEF service record 10/800)1

Alexander’s mother Mary Jane, brother Joseph and stepfather John Carroll were living in Deptford in 1911, at 37 Prince Street2. Enumerated there at the time of the census were:

John Carroll Head 62 married General Labourer
Mary Jane Carroll Wife 55 married Household work
Joseph Wright Son 24 single Telegraph Clerk
George Archer Boarder 27 single Foundry Worker
Hilda Cavender Boarder 17 single Tea Factory
Bridget Carroll Visitor 30 single Nurse St Pancras Infirmary
Cecelia Stokes Visitor 26 single Nurse Children’s Infirmary

Hilda was a boarder with the Carroll family in 1911, maybe because it was close to where she worked. There is a building called the Tea Factory in nearby Brockley, which was built in the 1940s to replace the old warehouse that had been bombed during World War II3.

In the 1901 census, Hilda was living with her parents Alexander and Mary at 354 Evelyn Street in Deptford4. By 1911, her father and stepmother were living in 36 Woodpecker Road5, about 16 minutes walk away from the Carrolls (thanks Google maps!). Maybe Hilda didn’t get on with her stepmother?

And then I remembered where I’d also seen the name Hilda – in a postcard to Alexander from his sister Mollie (Mary Freeth).

Postcard from Mary Freeth to Alexander Wright, probably early 1910s

Postcard from Mary Freeth to Alexander Wright, probable date 10 Mar 1908

“… How are you getting on? also Hilda. I hope she is well – give her my love…”6

Sounds like Alexander and Hilda might have been sweethearts. So what happened?

All sorts of scenarios have run through my head. Alexander deserted from the Royal Irish Fusiliers at some point after this and before 1914, when he mysteriously turns up in New Zealand, and enlists in the NZEF. Did he run away because he was miserable with Army life, or perhaps Hilda had taken up with someone else? Perhaps she became pregnant and he couldn’t handle the responsibility? His mother Mary Jane was from a military family and it would have been so hard for him to face her after deserting – what could possibly have made him do it?

Looking again at Alexander’s attestation form, on his Military History Sheet, it asks for his “Intended place of residence on discharge” and Alexander has stated “London”. So, he meant to go back.

Did Hilda wait for him?

In the June quarter of 1916, a Hilda Cavender married William H. Danson in Wandsworth7.

Meanwhile, Alexander had been wounded at Gallipoli and was transported back to New Zealand, being discharged from the NZEF on 21 May 1916 as medically unfit1. He married Elsie Nunns on 7 June 1917.

Military Monday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

  1. Archives NZ, “WRIGHT, Alexander – WW1 10/800 – Army”; digital image, Archway (http://www.archway.archives.govt.nz/ViewFullItem.do?code=22022458 : accessed 26 Nov 2010)
  2. “1911 England Census, John Carroll (age 62) household, St Nicholas Deptford, London,” digital image, FindMyPast, (http://www.findmypast.co.uk/ : accessed 14 Apr 2011), PRO RG14/2640, Greenwich registration district, Deptford East sub-registration district, ED 28, household 32, 02 Apr 1911.
  3. “The Tea Factory”, DPS Property Holdings, http://www.dpsproperty.com/gallerydetails.php?galId=3 : accessed May 2013.
  4. “1901 England Census, Alexander Cavender (age 33) household, Deptford St Paul, London,” digital image, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed 14 Jun 2013), citing PRO RG13/524, folio 79, p8, Greenwich registration district, Deptford North sub-registration district, ED 8, household 44, 31 Mar 1901.
  5. “1911 England Census, Alexander Cavender (age 43) household, Deptford St Paul, London,” digital image, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ : accessed 14 Jun 2013), PRO RG14/2608, Greenwich registration district, Deptford North sub-registration district, ED 14, household 62, 02 Apr 1911.
  6. Postcard addressed to Alec Wright, sent by Mary Freeth, dated 10 Mar 1908(?); digital image, original held by [NAME AND ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], granddaughter of A. Wright.
  7. “England & Wales, FreeBMD Index: 1837-1983,” database, FreeBMD (http://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/search.pl : accessed 2013), marriage entry for William H. Danson and Hilda F. Cavender; Jun 1916 [quarter] Wandsworth 1d [vol] 1462 [page].
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Who is the Bellevue Baby? ~ Wordless Wednesday

Bellevue Baby, Timaru, 1906

Bellevue Baby, Timaru, 1906

Bellevue Baby, Timaru, 1906 (reverse)

Bellevue Baby, Timaru, 1906 (reverse)

Wishing You
A very Happy &
Prosperous New Year
With love & best wishes from
all at “Bellevue”
This was taken when Baby was
6 months old. Dec 27th 1906

Wordless Wednesday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

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The Brosnan ~ Follow Friday

Seán Brosnahan, the Ceann Fine of the Brosnan Clan, now has a website:  The Brosnan. The exciting news is that he’s made available some of his historical work, including the whole texts of The Kerrytown Brosnahans and Thinking About Heaven: A History of Sacred Heart Parish Timaru, both of which are now out of print and very difficult to get hold of. No longer! His articles, mostly focusing on 19th and early 20th century Irish Catholic issues and experiences in New Zealand, make for fascinating reading.

Seán’s collection of photographs on the site include those from The Kerrytown Brosnahans, as well as some that didn’t make it into the book. There are also photographs and a video from the Brosnan Clan Gathering last year in Co Kerry.

Keep an eye on the site for news of Brosna(ha)n happenings around the world.

Follow Friday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.

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My Genealogy Year 2013 ~ Accentuate the Positive!

February already and I’m only just getting round to my first post of the new year. Too late to join in GeniAUS’s Accentuate the Positive geneameme?? I hope not! Last year Jill came up with this great way to celebrate the genealogical highs of the previous twelve months, rather than dwell on any lows.

Here’s how 2013 panned out for me…

Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary

Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary

An elusive ancestor I found was a likely candidate for my 3 x great grandmother. Her son Henry John Forrest Florey had a different mother’s name on each of three vital records: “Henrietta Florey (formerly Byford)” on his birth registration in 1862, “Elizabeth Ann Florey” on his 1863 baptism record, and “Henrietta White” on his marriage record in 1885. My ancestors seem adept at the ol’ smoke and mirrors game, but I think I have finally discovered who Henry’s real mother probably is.

An ancestor’s grave I found was that of my 3 x great grandfather Thomas Gaffney. To be exact, I think we have found the record of his burial and the plot location. To find his actual grave will require a spike, a spade, and a large amount of elbow grease. Unless, of course, it was one of the graves that was washed away in Manchester’s great flood of 1872.

An important vital record I found was my 3 x great uncle John Burke’s baptism record. This broke down a huge brick wall and has helped pinpoint the area in Co Mayo from where my Burke family emigrated in the 1850s. It was wonderful to share the discovery with a Burke cousin, who was just as excited as I was!

My 2013 blog post that I was particularly proud of was the one commemorating the gallantry of my (first, three times removed) cousin, Peter Gaffaney, mostly because of the research involved.

My 2013 blog post that received a large number of hits or comments was my Revisiting the Brosnahans post, marking my two year blogiversary.

A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was Google’s Hangout on Air. I haven’t quite figured it all out yet, but I managed to participate in one of Jill Ball’s GeniAUS hangouts in December and it was a lot of fun. My second attempt to join one last month didn’t work out so well, but I’ve since watched Mike Delagado’s immensely helpful video tutorial How to Join a Google+ Hangout for the First Time, so I am hopeful for the next time!

A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was all of them! I attended workshops at WDYTYA? Live in February, an IHGS tutorial weekend in March, the Exodus conference in September, and best of all – Back to our Past in Dublin with my father in October. I also learnt a lot from Relative Roots‘ three Genetic Genealogy Demystified webinars.

A genealogy book that taught me something new was Simon Fowler’s Tracing Your Army Ancestors.

The National Archives, Kew, London

The National Archives, Kew, London

A great repository/archive/library I visited was the Aldershot Military Museum‘s archive (by appointment only), and also the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock, both of which I hadn’t visited before. Even more exciting was my first trip to The National Archives at Kew, followed up by two more visits during the year. I made good use of the Society of Genealogists‘ library while attending several talks there, and checked out the new Kent History and Library Centre. And not forgetting my quick visits to the Valuation Office and National Library of Ireland while in Dublin. 2013 was a great year for ‘out and about’ research!

It was exciting to finally meet an O’Rourke cousin in Cork, a Burke cousin in London, and some Brosnahan cousins from New Zealand.

A geneadventure I enjoyed was my trip to the Brosnan Clan Gathering held in Castleisland, Co Kerry, in July. I think this would have to be the genealogical highlight of my year, meeting the aforementioned Brosnahan cousins and enjoying the amazing hospitality of our Irish kinfolk. It was a truly magical journey back to our “homeland”.

O'Rourke cottage, Ballymacdonnell, Co Kerry

O’Rourke cottage, Ballymacdonnell, Co Kerry

Another positive I would like to share is I got to see the O’Rourke family’s cottage in Ballymacdonnell, Co Kerry, where my 2x great grandfather Bartholomew was born, and the family’s grave plot where Bartholomew’s father, uncles and grandfather are all buried.

Thanks again to Jill for the opportunity to share my year of family history research and learning. You can read about the 2013 highlights of other geneabloggers through her GeniAUS website.

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Chief of the Brosnan clan

As part of the Brosnan Clan Gathering last month, a Ceann Fine or “clan chieftain” was inaugurated at the Festival Banquet. There were great cheers from the Kiwi contingent when Seán Brosnahan’s name was announced. (Not sure the ash stick will make it through NZ customs, though.)

Sean Brosnahan, the new Ceann Fine

MC Mark Daly and Fr Dan Riordan with Sean Brosnahan, the new Ceann Fine.

Seán is the author of The Kerrytown Brosnahans, a book about his East Kerry ancestors who emigrated to New Zealand in the mid 19th century, and lived in the area of South Canterbury known as “Kerrytown”.  Sean describes his initial journey to Ireland to find his ancestral roots, details his and the many other Brosnahan families that settled in New Zealand, and includes an extensive listing of the descendents of those first Brosnahan settlers.  Seán is Curator at the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Under Brehon Law the leaders of Irish clans were acclaimed by their kinsmen as custodians of the clan. This clan system formed the basis of society in Ireland up to the 17th century. The Ceann Fine was responsible for maintaining and protecting the clan and its property. This often meant leading his clan in battle on land and sea. In the old ages he was the military and political chief of his clan and the go-to person if someone wished to petition their regional king.
The Ceann Fine would also have held all sorts of social responsibilities to his clan members, including the fertility of the land and for protecting his clan against the blight and plague of any sort.
In the modern age he would provide an equally important role, that of unity and family identity, bearing importance on familial relations and establishing a deep seated sense of cultural pride. He will be often at times the only link one disparate sept of a clan shares with the larger sept, creating a sense of security and unity.
Brosnan Clan Gathering, Facebook page

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