“That’s one Small Step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

I heard Neil Armstrong say this as he stepped out of the moon module onto the moon; it is one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

It was July 21st 1969 and I was teaching Grade 4 and we’d learnt via the newspapers that the moon landing was going to be televised that afternoon.  Apparently the Education Dept gave permission for schools to close early if needed. In common with many schools, ours didn’t have a TV; in fact, the only electronic equipment the school had was a public address system and a 16 mm projector.  So we dismissed all the children and as usual,  most of them just walked home. Can you imagine the paperwork and organisation now if you wanted to dismiss the school early?


I went home with another teacher to watch it we didn’t have a TV at home.

Watching the moon landing and the astronauts walking around was just mind blowing and it was really hard to understand that we were watching it in real time.  By now, you’ve probably seen the footage and noted that it was not only B&W but also very blurry but it was still magic in our eyes.

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The voyage of RAAF 015-17 the Govilon

A short story written by Larry BAMFORD while on board the RAAF Marine Section boat 015-17

The “Govilon” rebadged as RAAF 015-17 sailed out of Melbourne on December 7th 1944 and was handed over in Pt Moresby for disposal in November 1945
Note: Larry enlisted in Brisbane in late 1939 in the RAAF and they allocated him to the Marine Section probably because he had been working on boats on the Brisbane River for a few years.  From 1939, he was moved up and down the east coast RAAF bases from Pt Cook in Melbourne to Townsville.
The Marine section came into being soon after the establishment of the RAAF in 1921 to provide rescue boats for trainee pilots flying over the sea, to take crew out to the seaplanes and to clear the area of debris before takeoff.  One article I’ve read said that there were 2000 men involved in WW2 and that the unit was disbanded after that war.

A few short months of married life with even shorter weeks just spent with my wife –seven weeks to be exact, had taken away most of my earlier enthusiasm for the sea, particularly in small craft and as the “Govilon” was no luxury yacht, just fifty six feet of utilitarian ugliness with the barest possible conveniences for the crew of six.  1940's Laurence BAMFORD and Marjorie HOUSE in Melbourn V2 lowres

I was willing to find any and every excuse a good one for prolonging that idyllic state in which I now lived.  A bed sitting room and use of [a] kitchen mightn’t seem much to some people but at that  time this was the most desirable residence I could imagine and there were to be times within the next year when that “home” would soon in retrospect to be even more heavenly.

At last the day arrived the Skipper, a W/O [Warrant Officer] with a world yachting cruise to his credit decided that what could be done to make a sea going craft out of an ex river picnic launch had been done and we cast off from No 1 North wharf in the Yarra River at 0130 Dec 7th 1944.  The weather didn’t look too promising with an overcast day and a S wind blowing force 2 but the barometer had risen slowly all the previous day to 29.90 and the forecasts were favourable.

By 0600 we were abeam of the West Channel Pile light in Port Phillip Bay.  Our biggest worry on this, the first stage of our trip now lay immediately ahead of us, that notorious mile wide stretch of treacherous currents and known as the Rip.  I had often heard of it from local fisherman without ever having seen it, I had acquired a wholesome respect for it.

We were lucky. Our calculations of our speed and time had proved right and we caught the last of the flood or as there was barely any breeze, we made the passage with no further worry.  Huge boils were to be seen in places even under those ideal conditions and it needed little imagination to realise just how bad these waters would become when the ebb reaches its maximum of 7 knots.  Here, I should explain that Pt Phillip Bay is a roughly circular stretch of water about 30 miles across at it’s widest part and with an average depth of about 15 fathoms.  The tides on the shores of Melbourne on it’s northern side being furthest from the entrance are uncertain as to height and periodicity being largely controlled by the winds.  At the entrance, however, with it’s inner end choked with sand banks and islands, the tides are semi-diurnal i.e. occurring twice daily & are calculable in occurrence at least. A peculiar feature of the Rip is that High and Low water occurs three hours before and after the slack owing to the huge volume and water imprisoned in the bay being forced out between Pt Lonsdale and Pt Nepean the rocky headland at either side of the Rip.1944 Govilon RAAF Laurence BAMFORD

To return to the story, a line of foam just a short distance to seaward of these two headlands marked the limit of the current and once beyond this boundary the wheel lost its kick and behaved normally. So that I was able to look around me. The sky was still overcast, but as there was only the faintest breeze everything was peaceful and Queenscliff on the Western side of the Rip looked quite picturesque with it red painted roofs, green herbage and it’s tall white columns and lighthouses set there to guide mariners from all over the world thru these waters into the calm and shelter of Pt Phillip Bay and so on to smoke and commerce of Melbourne as well as all the delights a modern city can hold for a shore hungry sailor.


At 0750/7/12/6 we set a course of S45E and streamed the log.  The day was still lightly o/cast but the sea was calm and with the glass falling steady the omens seemed good for the first open sea stage of our trip.  The morning was devoted by all hands to that inevitable “shaking down”.  Things which should have been in the cabin lockers were in the hold and the lockers were jammed with gear that would be wanted only rarely.  Our noon pos[ition] was Long 145 deg 03E, Lat 36deg 35S making our run since leaving the wharf a mere 57 miles.  At that rate, we were due for many nights at sea thanks to our hard working but hopelessly underpowered engine.

During that afternoon, the glass dropped slowly but steadily and by 1500 [hours] was down to 29.80 while the wind from ESE had ………….to force 4 altho’ the sky was clear but as there was still nothing abnormal about these conditions, we were not unduly worried.  By 1630, the glass had dropped to 29.78 and the wind had strengthened to E5 we brought the vessel up to 580E to meet the sea which was making ……….. with a short chop. One hour later the wind was blowing force 6 from the E and we began to wonder just what we were in for. When the wind reach[ed] force 7 at 18.30 and the seas were breaking not many of the crew were happy.  It was too soon for us to have got our sea legs and the galley, a mere box containing two primus stoves, let into the cabin wall and depend[ing] on a few 6” portholes in the cabin for ventilation was soon declared out of bounds by all hands. Neither the 2nd Eng[ineer]. nor the deckhand had been to sea before and I tried to give them a hand to get something hot but had to give up.  The skipper was on the wheel and when I told him of our plight, he handed over to me where I was quite happy and with the aid of the Chief, a man with an iron stomach like himself he nailed a fruit case astride the after bulkhead of the cabin and wedged our spare primus into it where he concocted a stew which was to become our mainstay at all times like this in the future.

The first necessity of food at a time like this is that it shall be easily prepared, hot, easily served and eaten and finally easy to digest. “Harold’s Stew” as we came to call this concoction had all these qualities.  First, it was a matter of emptying two cans of vegetables and one tin of M[eat] & V[egetables] into a large saucepan.  All this was precooked and ten minutes on the primus would get it hot so that even in the roughest weather it was possible to jam oneself in a corner and balance the saucepan on the flame.  Serving it meant dipping in with a big iron spoon and dumping the sticky loads onto a deep enamelled plate, the plate and it’s own stiffness ensuring that it would stay put with a minimum of sleight of hand tricks and lastly, being more vegetables than anything else it was kind to those uncomfortable stomachs to be found amongst us.  As Alain Gerbault (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alain_Gerbault) has mentioned several times in his books, it is best to keep meat down to a minimum.  Going to sea in small craft precludes the normal exercise of life and ….unless the diet is kept as bulky as possible elimination is likely to be difficult to the intense discomfort of the would be mariner or in my opinion, this is the cause of at least 80% of sea sickness.

9/3/71940's L Bamford RAAF

My night trick on the wheel was 2400 to 0200 and I had decided to get what sleep I could as soon as the evening meal was over – just in case I missed the rest of the night and it was just as well that I did.  About 10 pm the skipper came aft to wake me and told me that a hand was needed on the pump.  The same genius who was responsible for the design of our galley had decided that a #3 semi rotary pump would be adequate for a bilge pump in an addition to a small affair on the main engine that had obviously been designed by the maker to deal with any slight leak such as from a gland and generally keep the bilge dry under normal circumstances. These were not normal circumstances. Our craft was being thrown all over the ocean, chips left behind by the shipwright in what were now inaccessible parts of the bilge, were washed adrift to block valves and strainers so that after a couple of minutes pumping it was necessary to get to work with a spanner to clean the valves and strainer.  The strainers on the engine driven pump being completely inaccessible so that it was necessary to remove the whole of the suction pipe each time and unseasoned timber having been used in the combings before being subjected to quite a few of Melbourne’s scorching summers “Northerns” [so that] every sea that came aboard [and] ran thro as though the upper works didn’t exist..  Over the hand pump and before the wheel house was a skylight the full width of the housing a very nice place to have a sky light when riding at anchor in calm water but now it leaked just  as badly as the combings.  The pump was only a little above the engine room floor, now awash with several inches of water, and far too low to work from a standing position for very long so we took it in turns to sit there in the swishing water with a constant shower from above.


Our electrical system of 24 V for lights and radio was supplied by a bank of 16 plate batteries charged by two small aircooled petrol driven generators known in Air Force parlance as A.P.U.’s or Auxiliary Power Units, at times of power …………..that had found itself very handy for charging A/C batteries since they had given up their peacetime job of supplying a small quantity of light to a country house but completely unsuitable for our job. They had a floatless carburettor and depended on suction to bring the petrol up from the (base?) which formed the tank and so when ever the vessel healed which was every few seconds the engine either choked or steamed and stopped either way.  Our W/T op[erator] had to work to a set schedule and when he was sending at night the total drain was something like 15 X, a discharge rate that would soon flatten the batteries, but fortunately they were fully charged up to noon that day and he went off watch at midnight to reopen again at 0630 to get the morning “weather”.

At midnight the glass had fallen to 29.70 with an easterly gale at force 8 but by this time we seemed to have lost all feeling and reason now.  Everyone was cold, wet and tired and a cup of steaming hot coffee would have………..indeed at that moment but it was out of the question.  I took on the wheel at 0100 and stayed there until 0400 before going back to the pump and getting what rest I could in between time.

Our Second, a lad of 20 who until a year previously had added up figures in a bank ledger for a living and who but for the war would doubtlessly have been quite content to do so for the rest [of his life] showed his mettle that night.  This was his first sea trip and he was wretchedly sea sick, but in spite of this he insisted on doing most of the pumping, never missing a stroke even when vomiting and as there was plenty of water available at that time to wash the place out there was little chance of it becoming foul.

Sadly. this is where the story in his exercise book finished.  He and 5 other RAAF crew continued up the east coast stopping at all sorts of places till they got to PNG where they went to a number of places till they handed the boat in at Pt Moresby for disposal in November two months after the war finished.  However, he kept a very detailed log Larry kept of the journey which runs to around 30 foolscap pages and hopefully, I will transcribe it one day.


Wind speed info  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_scale

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Participating in RootsTech without leaving home (and at no cost!)

The Melbourne Cup of genealogy conferences, RootsTech starts in Salt Lake City in the US on Wed Feb 27 and finishes on Sat 2 March.


Many of us don’t have the money, holidays or health to make such a big trip to the US but there are ways for those of us staying home to participate. We can watch some of the presentations online in real time (live streaming) and in past year, they have put up recordings of presentations on their website in the days following the conference.

In the Gould Genealogy blog, Alona has listed all the presentations which will be live streamed and has kindly converted the US Mountain times to Australian EST so we only have to convert them to our region.  Thank you, Alona.

This year, you can also buy a Virtual Pass to access online 18 more presentations.  If you want to see every presentation on offer, here is the full programme.

This year for the first time there will RootsTech London 2019be a Rootstech held in London in late October which is handy if you happen to live there.  Here is the  introductory information.  I believe that there are 3 major genealogy conferences to be held in the UK this year.


In Australia this year in August we have something special to look forward to also, Gould Genealogy are touring Blaine Bettinger who is a USA expert on DNA.  The DNA Roadshow is something for us to look forward to.

DNA Roadshow



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Well, it’s finished now but we can still learn from it. I’ve been following it from my iPad thanks to a couple of my favourite bloggers who were there and shared their experiences with us.

Rootstech 2018

First of all, I follow GeniAus aka Jill Ball from NSW /  who not only wrote posts while she was there but has recorded short interviews with exhibitors in the Exhibition hall and people she met in the official Media centre.  They are available on her Youtube channel “Jill Ball”.   Jill included several photos in her posts to give us an idea of what it was like to be there.

Secondly is US’s Roberta Este’s blog DNAeXplained.  Roberta blogged in very great detail about who she heard speak (or not, if she hadn’t been able to get a seat) and who she met in the Exhibition hall . Her blog is alive with photos which I really appreciated; I particularly enjoyed the changing view of the snow capped mountains from her hotel. It’s great to be able to put faces to names you normally only hear about.  Although, how you ever find anyone when there are nearly 15000 people attending this major event, I don’t know.

Finally, we can also watch from the comfort of our own homes some of each day’s talks – check out https://www.rootstech.org/rootstech-2018-videos   There are 47 videos available to watch!

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2018 The Year of the Scanner

I don’t normally bother about New Year’s resolutions as I’ve never successfully completed them.  I find life tends to get in the way.

However, as I’ve had some time after a wonderful Xmas/New Year with the extended family, I’ve been doing some belated data entry and filing.  As a result, I realised that I can’t put off any longer a task I’ve been delaying for years.  I have to start SCANNING, Yes, scanning.  I do have 2 scanners so it’s not for lack of equipment but more the lack of determination and “stickability” as it is such a boring task.  I love researching and trying to work which resources to use to solve problems.  I love finding further info about people but the basic work bores me to tears – hence my lack of success in the scanning dept.

Like many people, I started this passion for my family’s history back in the mid 1980’s when you had to write away for certificates, visit interstate libraries to look at old newspapers (gosh, I do so appreciate TROVE – not only cos it is online but because it is indexed), visit interstate archives, BMD offices and go regularly to your own genealogy society and the local Mormon research centre.  These last two were great places to meet other people who shared your passion who were happy to offer help.  People starting now have many advantages but I miss those places.  They were very hectic on a weekend, I can tell you.


So as a result, I have several lever arch files full of certificates that I have purchased over the decades that I need to scan.  I always feel nervous when I go on holidays in case we have a fire but so far, it has been needless worry.  Of course, I also have many photos and slides to finish scanning too.

I have designed up a simple spreadsheet to track records as I scan them so I don’t waste time scanning them twice.  It looks a bit overwhelming but I’ll just plug away at it during the year.  I’ve also decided that it would be a good time to listen to my favourite genealogy podcast, The Genealogy Guys and their second one, Genealogy Connection while I’m working.

How do you handle the backlog of scanning?

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Naturally, Christmas preparation turns the mind to the past but I struggle to remember a lot of details about Christmas as a child in the 1950’s.  They were certainly much quieter and much less was made of the celebration. Another pointer to how less important they were, is that I don’t have a single Christmas photo from our childhood.  Whereas, I’m sure there are photos of every Christmas since my own family came along. Christmas always meant an extra Mass for the week but it was a great celebration with lots of carols.  After breakfast and looking at our presents, we would walk to our local church often wearing a new dress our nana had made.

IMG_4063 edited

We did always have a live Christmas tree, something we’ve done in our family till a few years ago; I do miss the marvellous pine smell.  I can’t remember much about what we ate apart from a roast chicken and a home made Christmas pudding.  Chickens were a luxury food and we only had one at Christmas time.  Other luxury food we only had at Christmas and birthdays was lemonade and ice cream.  Keep in mind that fridges were relatively new (we had an ice chest when I was younger) and small so the ice cream compartment was a narrow 2 shelves about 15 cms wide and similar in height.  The ice cream came in a rectangular shape that fitted into that shape and was enclosed in a waxed cardboard box.  This was before the use of plastics in packaging.  The only things you put in the freezer was ice cream and iceblocks – our fridge only had 2 shelves not three like this picture.

1950's freezer

Photo courtesy https://australiarememberwhen.net.au/

We were always tremendously excited to put our pillow cases on the ends of our beds before we went to sleep.  I still recall the huge excitement of waking in the morning to explore what was in it.  While I can’t remember any specific presents, I do recall we always got a bag of popcorn (another rare treat) and chocolate coins in silver paper which we loved.  We were the original nuclear family as we didn’t have any family in our state having only a grandmother interstate.  Christmas for most of my childhood was just with my immediate family but we still loved it.

I do remember that when we moved interstate, we did attend a few wonderful large, noisy gatherings at someone’s home.  It’s taken years to work out how my parents knew these welcoming people and as far as I can ascertain, they were relatives of the husband of one of my mother’s aunts – how convoluted!  From memory, it was the gathering of 4 siblings, their families and their parents – I’m ever so grateful for their generosity in inviting complete strangers to their family gathering. Those years stick in my mind as they were great fun for us.  There were big long trestles in the lounge and dining area with lots of children and adults.

One odd memory of those Christmas dinners was Dad in his work van driving us home in the dark with us children in the back.  As the eldest, I had to hold onto the door to stop it opening thus preventing us falling out.  We were on the floor as there were only 2 seats in the front for mum and dad.  No seatbelts for anyone; how times have changed.



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GRO in England announces another 3 month online PDF trial

It’s amazing what you can learn from reading other genealogist’s blogs.  This week some of my blogs contained the great news that for the next 3 months, we can order PDF copies of Birth and Death certificates for only £6.    Check out the details here.

I am very excited that I can buy more certificates for my money.  Not that I think English certificates are expensive at £10 when I compare them to Australian certificates (remember you have to research BMD by state and order certificates by state).  There is no overall Australian BDM except on subscription sites and you still need to order certificates directly at each state’s BDM website.

I had great fun yesterday and ordered 4 death certificates I wanted and it cost me just under $AU42 as the exchange rate is very much in our favour now.

The only disadvantage is that you do have to wait for up to 5 days for the PDF unlike Victorian BDM where you get instant gratification. But it’s much better than waiting 2 or 3 weeks for the mail to be delivered.  Needless to say, I’m now checking my email regularly this week.

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Wonderful seminar

I thoroughly enjoyed the “Researching Abroad” seminar last week with guest speakers, Irish/Scottish genealogist, Chris Paton and German genealogist, Dirk Weisleder at the German club in the city. They and Unlock the Past staff travelled from Brisbane to Auckland, back to the eastern states and finished in Perth on the weekend.

From Dirk, I learnt a lot about the effect German history has on the availability of records today.  As my ancestors came from parts of Germany that came under the control of the East German government after WW2, I am in big trouble as genealogists don’t know where the records are or if they have been destroyed.  And of course, with the extensive WW2 bombing, many records from the 19th century that we might be looking for were destroyed.  He was also surprised how women predominate in genealogy in Australia whereas in Germany, the majority are male.

From Chris, I learnt about Scottish resources prior to 1800, I didn’t realise that the Scottish records, census and legal system is so completely different to that of England and Ireland.  While familiar with many of the Irish sites, he mentioned there were a couple I needed reminding about for future research.  Chris very kindly had set up a tinyurl for us to pick up his notes which I find really handy when you get home and try to remember the name of a particularly interesting site.

For me, a highlight of this type of event is the opportunity to talk to people who understand the passion that drives us.  It’s wonderful to be able to openly discuss my research without getting the usual bored looks. I’ve realised that I rarely find a genealogist who doesn’t have something interesting to say.

We are lucky that Unlock the Past were prepared to organise this Australia wide tour at an affordable price to give us the chance to hear international speakers.  I know we can watch webinars and aren’t they marvellous?  But there is something special about sitting in an audience and hearing them live.  Also when they aren’t talking, we had the usual opportunity to individually ask them questions and I think most of us took that opportunity.  I know I did on 3 occasions.

Alona loves to collect the photos of bloggers at these events and this was no exception.  I was thrilled to be part of such an august gathering – check out her Lonetester blog here to see her photos of the speakers, the event and the bloggers present.  Chris Paton has posted some great photos on his The Genes Blog about the Adelaide leg here

There was great info available from tables set up and staffed by the Pioneer Assoc, SAGHS, SLSA, Open Book Howden and Lutheran Archives

Thanks to Alan, Anthea and Alona for organising this event and to Rosemary and Eric Kopittke who travelled with the event all around the country and made sure that we were on time and organised on the day.


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Irish, Scottish and German family history research roadshow coming in August

I was honoured but surprised when I received an email last week from Unlock the Past’s Alan Phillips inviting me to be an Ambassador for the upcoming 2 day “Researching Abroad” seminar in August.  I am such an intermittent blogger that I never expected to be doing this along with my blogging heroes.

We are talking about a 1 or 2 day seminar focussed on the British Isles and German research in Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth.

But I am more than happy to promote this series of talks as I can genuinely recommend the wonderful Chris Paton as I heard him speak on a 2014 UTP Genealogy cruise.  I never expected to have the opportunity to hear him again so I am personally thrilled to have the opportunity. I follow Chris’ blog, The Genes Blog and invariably learn of a new Irish, Scottish or British resource to investigate.

Chris is very good at sharing his exceptional knowledge of Irish and Scottish family history research.  He is a professional genealogist who was born in Northern Ireland and lives now in Scotland. He is the author of the number of UTP titles about Scottish and Irish research.

I am looking forward to hearing Dirk Weissleder speak as I have German ancestry and no likely opportunity to travel there so I’m hoping to pick up some ideas from his talks. Today, I found an interview GeniAus (aka Jill Ball) did with him at Rootstech earlier this year which I recommend to you.

We are very fortunate that UTP and Gould Genealogy are prepared to give us the opportunity to hear these 2 International speakers in our capital cities and Auckland in NZ.  I think the price is very reasonable when you compare it to other offerings.  The 2 day ticket costs $87 or the 1 day ticket is $57.

As a  keen researcher in Adelaide, I was able to attend the 2 day DNA seminar org by UTP earlier this year at our German club.  It is at 223 Flinders St in the city (between Frome St and Hutt St) and is fairly convenient for those travelling into town by public transport.  I looked at the Adelaide Metro site and it looks like you can get off the Free City Loop bus in Hutt St. I found that car parking wasn’t difficult either.

Check out the  Adelaide programme and booking details online or check out the details of the event in other cities.

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What are the chances?


I’ve been researching in Northern Ireland for months now using the FAN (Friends, Associates, Neighbours) technique to build up a picture of the extended family.

I have James and Mary FITZSIMONS who married in Portaferry in 1854 and had their children on the townland of Tullcarnan/Tullyharmon from 1854 – 1873 but then they disappear from the records.  I can’t find the deaths of the parents or marriages of the children.  I’ve wondered if they migrated as at least 4 of Mary’s siblings did?

Last week, I thought I’d take a fresh look at this family.

After some research, I thought I had hit the jackpot and was preparing to get up and do the geneadance of joy when I realised there were some discrepancies between the info I had verified during previous searches and my newly discovered info.

I found a 1901 census record of the widowed mother, Mary living with a married daughter, whose name was the same as one of the daughters of the original family.  Then I backtracked and found the death of a James I thought was her husband a few years prior to the census.  Fantastic!! BUT ….

Then I looked more closely at the death certificate and realised that while the townland name was correct, it was actually on the other side of the Strangford Lough.  Portaferry is on the Ards Peninsula, south of Belfast and bordered by the beautiful Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea.  Further research confirmed my suspicions that yes, there are 2 townlands in Co Down called Tullycarnan.


What are the chances that there were 2 FITZSIMONS families with parents of the same name both living on Tullycarnon but those townlands were on both sides of the Lough?  Or could it be that my FITZSIMONS lived on the one near Portaferry and then moved across the water to the one near Ardglass?  Or were there 2 families who accidentally were around the same age and just happened to live on the townlands of the same name?  My feeling is that the latter is true till I have further information.



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