Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kidnapped Children - China 1909

Last week I wrote a post about a photo I had found in amongst a collection from one of my mother's cousins. I had tried to read the writing on the back of the photo but couldn't make out the first word. I had made an assumption that the children may have been orphans but thanks to the Facebook group Australian Genealogy I now have an answer. The first word was crucial.

Sharon Brennan Personal Archive.

KIDNAPPED! This word quickly came in a reply to my posting a link to the blog post on the Facebook group. I looked carefully at the word and yes it appears to be kidnapped.

One of the next comments then gave me a link to a newspaper article from The Straits Times, titled Kidnapping Children dated 24th May 1909, p. 10. It appears that trafficking in children was rife at this time.

I have not copied the article as there were various copyright notices before I could access the article but it can be read online and I urge you to do so.

Complaints are fairly rife among the Chinese of the Colony, says the Honkong Daily Press, that kidnapping has become unusually prevalent of late, and though the matter is, as usual, engaging the attention of the police, there seems to be little redress or solace for the bereaved parents. It my be said of course, that with such a large proportion of Chinese within our borders it is impossible to expect to be free from many of the offences and crimes peculiar to China, and that kidnapping is one of them.....
The matter is one for the police, who are faced with a difficult task in attempting to track those malefactors and restore the stolen children to their distraught parents.

One can only hope that the Shanghai Military Police were successful in returning these children to their parents.

Uncle Ernie must certainly have had many stories to tell of his time in Shanghai. Fortunately, this photo which was sent to his brother Peter (Cyril) Dawson, gave me enough clues to discover some of the work he may have been involved in.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I'm finally 4

4th birthday card from my grandparents, Jim and Esme Moore.
Time certainly flies. Four years ago today I started my genealogy blog.

Like my second and third blogiversary I have rummaged through my archive (read boxes of stuff) and found my childhood birthday cards. There was an initial panic as I couldn't find the bag from a Fijian trip in 1971 which contained the cards. I had my husband looking in the roof only to later find the said bag inside a box in my study (where they should have been).

This one was from my grandparents Jim and Esme Moore.

The only things that ring true about this card are that I love red and have curly hair.

I have never been as close to a dog as the little girl in the card!

Looking for the cards has once again reminded me that this year I need to:

  •  concentrate on sorting and scanning my research instead of collecting more. (I still have boxes of information to sift through)
  • finally make a decision about how I am going to organise my photos and actually do something about it

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mystery Photo - Chinese orphans? 1909

Yesterday I was checking out some folders in my genealogy cupboard when I came across a bag with some photos that came from my great uncles Peter Dawson's house. There were many that I had previously seen, some that I knew about and ones that were a complete surprise. This photo was one of the latter. 

Sharon Brennan collection from Peter and Pauline Dawson.

Before I looked at the back of the photo, I wrote down what I could ascertain from the photo.

  1. The children in the photo are Chinese.
  2. There are 2 westerners in the photo.
  3. One of the men has a queue (plait). 
  4. According to Wikipedia it was compulsory for the men to wear a queue until the 1910's.
  5. I'm unsure about what is in the sack. Initially I thought it may have been food for the children, but I'm not sure.
  6. On second thoughts the sack may in fact be part of the clothing of the woman? whose hand is outstretched.
  7. Some of the children appear to be wearing a name tag.

The writing on the back gives some clues as to who the children were.

Keavefsford children -  all over China
brought back from Swalow South China
in baskets from the hold of Ship
20 in all

I'm not sure if I have transcribed this correctly.

My great uncle Ernie worked in Shanghai as a police officer from 1907 until 1912. He would have sent this photo to his brother Peter in Australia.

If there is anyone who knows who Keavefsford? children were I'd love to know. One wonders what happened to them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Christmas treat - British Newspaper Archive

Each year I try to give myself a genealogical treat. This year it is a one month subscription to the British Newspaper Archive. For the next month my research will concentrate on what goodies I can discover on this site.

This morning I discovered the birth announcement of my great, great grandmother Jane Smith Fleming who was born in Princes Street, Stranraer, Scotland on 29th October 1853.

Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Wednesday 2nd November 1853, p. 4

This Google Map view shows the end of Princes Street with Loch Ryan in the distance. I wonder what changes there have been in the street in the past 160 years?

I have previously blogged about Jane McColm's (Fleming's) death and the about the fact that she had 2 death certificates

I wonder what else I will discover?

Monday, December 15, 2014

My World War 1 Soldiers (4) - Lawrence Seabrook

Lawrence Seabrook  1898 - 1951

This is the fourth post in a series of posts over the next few years to remember all the men in my extended family who enlisted in World War 1.

Originally I had identified 26 soldiers who enlisted between 20 August 1914 and 2 November 1918.  However, with more careful checking this number has now risen to over 35. Of these five were killed overseas or died here in Australia.

Lawrence Seabrook was the sixth son of William Alexander Seabrook and his wife Eliza Grant Lumsden of Hobart. Like the majority of the Seabrook family Laurie worked in the building trade. By November 1914, he had been apprenticed to his father as a bricklayer for 12 months and had been a member of the Naval Reserve.

His enlistment papers state that he was 19 years old. However, his actual birth date was 10 November 1898, so in fact Laurie was only 16 years old. 

This attestation paper was signed 30th November 1914 and Laurie was assigned to the Field Butchery. It appears as though his correct age may have been discovered as the attestation paper has the words "discharged unsuitable 12/3/15" written in blue pencil across the page. Laurie was to reenlist later in the war.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey

Yesterday I was in my local bookshop and I saw the book, Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey written by Fiona Carnarvon, the Countess of Carnarvon.

Highclere Castle - 2005

I had to buy the book, not just because of my love of the series, but simply because one of my family may be mentioned in the book. Sure enough, the index indicated a hit. Page 82 has a mention of Dick Dawson. So even though the reference to Dick was one sentence in the book it had to become part of my personal collection.

One of Porchey's first decisions was to build up his brood mares and then send his youngsters to be trained by Dick Dawson at Whatcombe, who trained the Aga Khan's horses.......

The horseracing, breeding and training world is full of dreamers and eccentrics, driven men (it is usually men, and certainly was in Porchey's day) whose existence has been overtaken by the hope that one day, one of their horses may win a Grand National, or an Epsom Derby, and become a household name. The sort is full of individualists from all walks of life: thrill-seekers and gamblers, canny businessmen and sportsmen devoted to the turf. p. 82-82

Reading between the lines on page 84 is also a link to Dawson. The author, the Countess of Carnarvon discusses the Newmarket sale of the horse Blenheim to the Aga Khan. Blenheim was sired by Blandford who was owned by Dick Dawson and his brother Sam. Blandford is known in racing circles as one of the greatest sires of all time. Blenheim went on to win the Derby for the Aga Khan being trained by Dick Dawson. (Obituary of R.C. Dawson, London Times, 17 September 1955).

I have some photos taken from images at Highclere in 2005 showing Lord Carnarvon and Dick Dawson but am unsure whether I can produce them here. One is of the two men in front of a plane. Another is a caricature of both men which form part of a much larger number of caricatures.

It's always exciting to add books that have family mentioned in them to add to my collection.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My World War 1 Soldiers (3) William Vesey Dawson

William Vesey Dawson (390)  1892 - 1974

This is the third post in a series of posts over the next few years to remember all the men in my extended family who enlisted in World War 1.

Originally I had identified 26 soldiers who enlisted between 20 August 1914 and 2 November 1918.  However, further checking has now revealed a total of thirty five enlistment.  Of the thirty five, five were killed overseas or died here in Australia.

William Vesey Dawson was the fifth child of William Henry Dawson and his wife Bridget Mylan.  Twenty two year old Bill enlisted in Casino, NSW on 25th October 1914,  just a month after his older brother Ernest. Bill worked as a saddler and a general farm labourer. Like many young men from the north coast of NSW Bill (No 390) became a member of the 5th Light Horse.

William Vesey Dawson No 390
(Dawson family collection.)

Brothers, William Vesey Dawson and Ernest Lee Dawson. Photo taken at Alexandria
prior to embarkation for Dardanelles 9 July 1915. (Photo: Dawson family collection.)

Brigadier L.C. Wilson who later wrote The Fifth Light Horse Regiment, 1914-1919 stated that men were selected to join the Light Horse after tests in horse riding and shooting. 

Six weeks after enlistment on 12th December 1914, the Bill's Regiment went to Liverpool in Sydney and on 20th December they embarked on the SS Persic Transport No A 34. After a voyage of 42 days they arrived at Alexandria and immediately went to Maadi, near Cairo. It was here that the 5th Light Horse undertook training for mounted operations.

On 15th May, 1915 they left Maadi for Gallipoli and arrived at Cape Helles on the evening of 18th May, 1915. At 6:30 pm the next day they arrived at Anzac Cove. Troops were successfully landed on the morning of 20th May 1915 with no casualties. They spent the first day digging in and establishing communication trenches.

Wilson (p. 22-23) describes life on the Peninsula :

Normal life on the Peninsula embraced night post duty, night patrols, day observation, sniping, digging, wiring, ration and water carrying.... Night post duty insisted of watching tactical points or the trench system, to stop a rush, give the alarm and serve and listen for enemy movement...All ranks were ordered to sleep in their boots and clothes during the whole time we were on Gallipoli...It must be remembered that from the end of May, when we first went into the trenches, until the morning of the 20th December,...the Regiment was never for a day out of the front firing line, and that line was, in parts, only a matter of seconds from the enemy trenches.

While at Gallipoli Bill was part of the B Squadron Cookhouse. 

Informal group portrait of five cooks at the 5th Light Horse Brigade's B Squadron cookhouse. The cookhouse consists of an uncovered wooden structure built into a mound of earth. Hanging from the roof are four sides of mutton or goat. Identified is 390 William Vesey Dawson (later DCM), B Troop, B Squadron, 5th Light Horse, left, holding a knife and sharpening steel. A photograph in an album relating to the service of Captain Edward Oswald Straker, 5th Australian Light Horse (5ALH).

Bill Dawson was one of only 49 men from the 5th Light Horse who remained on the Peninsula from May until December. He was listed to evacuate on the night of 18-19th December.

He was later involved in military operations which culminated in the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917. It was here that he was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Acknowledgment was sent to his father William Henry Dawson. Unfortunately Harry had been dead for 2 years and the letter would have been received by his wife Bridget. 

4 October 1918

Dear Sir,

I have much pleasure in forwarding hereunder copy of extract from fourth Supplement, No 30664 to the London Gazette, dated 30th April, 1918, relating to the conspicuous services rendered by your son, No. 390 Company Sergeant-Major (temporary) W.V. Dawson, Camel Transport Corps (5th Light Horse Regiment)


"HIS MAJESTY THE KING has been pleased to award the Distinguished Conduct Medal to the undermentioned non-Commissioned Officer for gallantry and distinguised sservice in the Field: -

No. 390 Trumpeter (remporary Company Sergeant-Major)

W.V. Dawson

For conspicuous gallenty and devotion to duty. He showed great initiative and skill during the operation and set a splendid example to his men."

The above has been promulgated in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No. 150, dated 24th September, 1918.

Yours faithfully
Officer i/c Base Records.

Bill Dawson finally returned to Australia aboard the Argyllshire and arrived in Sydney on 13th April, 1919. He had spent 4 years and 138 days in the army. All but 80 days were spend abroad.


Brennan, S 1992Kilronan to Franklin and beyond - The story of Dr William Lee Dawson and his descendantsAM PrintingTamworth, NSW.

Wilson, L. Brigadier-General 1926The Fifth Light Horse Regiment, 1914-1919, Sydney.