Ancestry.com.au Blog » USA http://blogs.ancestry.com/au Where family history comes alive Mon, 06 Jul 2015 02:53:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Kris Williams: WWII – American Servicemen in Australiahttp://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2013/01/09/kris-williams-wwii-american-servicemen-in-australia/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2013/01/09/kris-williams-wwii-american-servicemen-in-australia/#comments Tue, 08 Jan 2013 22:15:59 +0000 http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=1820 The Japanese military attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, thrust the United States into WWII. It wasn’t long after that, Australia and New Zealand found themselves also under threat of Japanese attacks. While the majority of Australia’s soldiers fought alongside the British Royal Army against the Germans in the… Read more

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The Japanese military attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, thrust the United States into WWII. It wasn’t long after that, Australia and New Zealand found themselves also under threat of Japanese attacks. While the majority of Australia’s soldiers fought alongside the British Royal Army against the Germans in the Middle East and Africa, the Japanese made their way through South Asia and South Pacific with little resistance. It was then that Australia and the United States joined forces to stop their military expansion.

My grandfather was one of a million American servicemen who found himself in Australia during World War II. While Australians had popular Hollywood movies to familiarize them with American culture, Americans knew very little about Australia or its citizens. Our soldiers were in a foreign land trying to make sense of the currency, a new environment, unfamiliar foods and, of course, colorful Australian slang.

On my recent trip to Canberra, Australia’s capital city, I visited the Australian War Memorial. I was beyond impressed and moved by the Australian War Memorial’s collection and its presentation of the artifacts. The memorial was filled with detailed dioramas and paintings that depicted battles, along with pictures of soldiers paired with stories of their bravery. Some displays left me speechless, such as the restored planes paired with a large screen that played re-enactments of air battles which brought the aircraft’s history back to life. Another exhibit – a wall of thousands of names of soldiers who died in battle – was decorated with small red flowers called poppies. The wall left me with an overwhelming sadness that I could only compare to what I felt on my first visit to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

After spending the afternoon wandering through this shrine to Australia’s fallen heroes, my curiosity was piqued by a little blue book found in the gift shop. The book titled, Instructions for American Servicemen in Australia 1942 was reproduced from the original which was created by the Special Service Division, Services of Supply, United States Army, and issued by the War and Navy Departments Washington, D.C. Although our soldiers presence was mostly welcomed due to our countries’ common goal, that didn’t mean there wasn’t some tension. In order to try and avoid any unneeded drama, this small booklet was produced and issued to each American soldier arriving to Australia, familiarizing them with the Australian people, land, history and culture.

The book mainly focused on our similarities as relatively new countries with British roots. It described Australia as made up of proud, independent people who believed in the importance of personal freedom and democracy. A brief history was given of their involvement in past wars and their record as well-respected, brave soldiers who wouldn’t quit. All of the information covered in the book was used to build respect and a sense of common ground since they were qualities Americans also strived for and respected. More importantly, it stressed the fact we needed Australia’s help just as much as they needed ours.

While the book’s main purpose was to establish a sense of camaraderie between the newly arriving American servicemen and the Australians, at times it tried a little too hard to make that connection. I found some humor as it pushed our mutual love of sports and compared our carnivorous appetite. However, the part that really made me smile can be found at the back of the book, which covers Australian slang. After several of my own visits to Australia, it made me think back on all the words or phrases that ended in funny misunderstandings or left me scratching my head.

Having a grandfather who spent a great deal of time in Australia during World War II, this book was a fun little find. Sometimes it seems as though our loved ones’ service in the South Pacific during World War II isn’t covered as extensively as our involvement in Europe. Not only is this booklet a piece of history, it allowed me a look into the lives of our servicemen; I can only imagine the mixed feeling of excitement for those who had never left the country before, while also knowing there was a chance they might not come home alive.

Here was a book that was most likely issued to my grandfather that found its way into my hands, 67 years after he served, in the country he fought alongside. There is not one day that goes by that I haven’t wished I asked my grandfather more about his service and his time in Australia. I know he really would have gotten a kick out of my trips to the country he always wished to return to for a visit. It is small unexpected surprises like this that help me put his story together and make me like to think he’s still with me.

By Kris Williams
Twitter: KrisWilliams81

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Famous faces in the 1930 US Censushttp://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2012/02/17/famous-faces-in-the-1930-us-census/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2012/02/17/famous-faces-in-the-1930-us-census/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2012 01:35:14 +0000 http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=1438 What do funny man Mel Brooks, quizmaster Bob Dyer, and Winifred Patty Christensen all have in common?  They’re all in the 1930 US Census. Many of you will be familiar with actor and producer Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky in 1926) and you can see him appearing in the 1930 US Census (shown below), living at 365… Read more

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What do funny man Mel Brooks, quizmaster Bob Dyer, and Winifred Patty Christensen all have in common?  They’re all in the 1930 US Census.

Many of you will be familiar with actor and producer Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky in 1926) and you can see him appearing in the 1930 US Census (shown below), living at 365 South 3rdStreet, Brooklyn, New York, along with his brothers Irving, Leonard and Bernard and his mother Kittie.  Along with their age at last birthday it lists the nationality of their parents and their occupation.  It also lists the monthly rent as $24.50.  Mel’s father isn’t listed as he died in 1928.

Bob Dyer (born Robert Dies) was everywhere in Australian entertainment but perhaps he is best remembered as the host of Pick-a-Box for 14 years.  Bob was born in Tennessee and can be found in the 1930 US Census with his extended family in Davidson, Tennessee.  Bob lists his occupation as Vaudeville Actor – something of a contrast to his Carpenter father and Printer brother.

We’d be surprised if you’d ever come across Winifred before.  She was born Winifred Patty Harle in December 1889 in Scone, New South Wales to John and Martha Harle.  Winifred married Danish immigrant Jacob Christensen in Hamilton, New South Wales in 1914 and they had two daughters (Dorothy and Joyce) and made their way to California in 1920 aboard the Sonoma. Winifred and her family can also be found in the 1930 US Census living in 2320 Teviot Street, Los Angeles (shown below). 

Winifred became a US citizen in 1937 and died in California in 1975.  It is not known if Winifred ever returned to Australia. 

Winifred may not be famous like Bob Dyer or Mel Brooks but she’s someone’s ancestor – maybe she’s yours.  Census records from any country are always worth looking at – you never know how many missing pieces of your tree might be just a simple search away….

You can search the 1930 US Census for free on Ancestry.com.au from Friday 17 February to 11pm AEDT Tuesday 21 February 2012. Check out our latest video with Ancestry’s Brad Argent on the 1930 US Census and how it can help you track down missing ancestors.

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US Consular Reports of Marriages 1910-49http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2011/04/04/us-consular-reports-of-marriages-1910-1949/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2011/04/04/us-consular-reports-of-marriages-1910-1949/#comments Mon, 04 Apr 2011 03:06:54 +0000 http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=1018 Elaine Strang (of Michigan) and Frederick Donaldson (of Ohio) were married on 27 July 1916 by Reverend Lewis Hodous, authorized to join the couple by the laws of the state of Ohio. So why did the marriage take place in Foochow, China? Documenting the marriage of an American citizen (or citizens) overseas fell to US… Read more

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Elaine Strang (of Michigan) and Frederick Donaldson (of Ohio) were married on 27 July 1916 by Reverend Lewis Hodous, authorized to join the couple by the laws of the state of Ohio.

So why did the marriage take place in Foochow, China?

Documenting the marriage of an American citizen (or citizens) overseas fell to US consulates and embassies. In this case, Albert Pontius, the US consul at Foochow, provided a certificate of marriage bearing the seal of the consulate and recording the facts surrounding the marriage. The bride, groom, and minister were all involved in Congregationalist missionary and educational efforts, but you’ll find soldiers, travellers, and other assorted American ex-pats in these records as well.

Contained in this database are reports of US citizens’ marriages abroad submitted by US Consulates between the years 1910 and 1949. Marriage ceremonies conducted outside the US are subject to the laws of the country in which the individuals are married by civil or religious officials. Once the marriage has taken place, officers at the U.S. Consulate authenticate the foreign marriage document and report it, hence the collection of forms in this database. If the spouse is a foreign national they can then apply for U.S. citizenship. Some of the records are also accompanied by a letter regarding the status of the spouse’s passport application (whether it has been granted or denied).

Marriage certificates in the form of marriage licenses have existed far longer than either birth or death certificates in the US, which became standard on a national level in the early 1900s. Licenses were legally required as early as the 1500s in countries like England to document that neither of the individuals was married to someone else and that they were of age.

Information in these records includes:

  • Surname
  • Consulate location
  • Date
  • Birth place
  • Age
  • Spouse’s name
  • Local residence
  • Witness’s name
  • Marriage officiator

Search US Consular Reports of Marriages 1910-1949

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250,000 New African American Records to mark Black History Month in the UShttp://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2011/02/21/250000-new-african-american-records-to-mark-black-history-month-in-the-us/ http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/2011/02/21/250000-new-african-american-records-to-mark-black-history-month-in-the-us/#comments Mon, 21 Feb 2011 05:51:28 +0000 http://blogs.ancestry.com/au/?p=853 In honour of Black History Month in the US, Ancestry recently launched more than 250,000 new historical records documenting early African American family history. The new collections span more than a century and contain important details about the lives of African Americans who bravely fought in the US Civil War, document the transportation of slaves… Read more

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In honour of Black History Month in the US, Ancestry recently launched more than 250,000 new historical records documenting early African American family history.

The new collections span more than a century and contain important details about the lives of African Americans who bravely fought in the US Civil War, document the transportation of slaves to and from the prominent slave ports of New Orleans in Louisiana and Savannah in Georgia and include poignant first-person accounts from former slaves.

Ancestry’s historical record collection now contains more than 3.2 million African American slave records. As 88%of the United States’ black population in 1850 was comprised of slaves, when extrapolated to its current population, nearly 35 million Americans alone may find a slave ancestor in Ancestry’s African American collections.

The African American Historical Record Collection on Ancestry.com.au includes thousands of poignant stories that bring this part of American history to life. One story outlines how Solomon Northup was lured from New York to Washington, DC with the promise of a job in a circus. Instead he was kidnapped, put on a boat to New Orleans and sold into slavery. His liberation in 1853 prompted him to write “Twelve Years a Slave, 1841-1853,” which became both a popular seller at the time and an important historical document. The ship record of his transfer to New Orleans, which also lists most of the cast of characters from his book, can be found in Slave Ship Manifests from New Orleans 1807-1860.

The new collections form part of the 60 million records already included in African American Historical Record collection – the largest online collection of African American family history records available. Some of the new and updated collections are:

  • Slave Ship Manifests from Savannah, 1811-1860: Although the transatlantic slave trade was banned in 1807, the internal transportation of slaves remained, especially as the tobacco industry diminished in the North while the cotton industry boomed in the South. These port records document the arrival and departure of more than 10,000 slaves through the port of Savannah.
  • Slave Ship Manifests from New Orleans, 1807-1860: Another important Southern port, this collection includes records for more than 100,000 slaves who arrived or departed through the port of New Orleans.
  • Slave Owner Petitions 1862-1863: On April 16, 1862, President Lincoln signed an act abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia and allowing slave owners to petition for compensation for the loss of their freed slaves. These records contain the names of the slave owner and slave, description of the slave, claimed monetary value and more.
  • Interviews with Former Slaves 1936-1938: In the early 1930s, an effort began to document the life stories of 3,500 former slaves. The result is a series of moving, individual accounts of their lives, as told in their own words.
  • US Freedmen’s Bureau Records 1865-1878 (updated): The Freedmen’s Bureau was formed after the US Civil War to aid in reconstruction efforts. This collection contains hundreds of thousands of records relating to former slaves the Bureau helped find work, to establish schools, negotiate contracts, seek medical care, legalise marriages and more.
  • US Colored Troops Service Records 1861-1865 (updated): Approximately 178,000 African American troops served the Union in the final two years of the US Civil War. Their compiled service records include enlistment papers, casualty sheets, death reports and correspondence.

These collections are available to World Heritage members.

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