I think my first real link with Australia was in the 1960s when Dorothy Mitchell came to stay with us in Glasgow.  Dorothy is my mum’s cousin but her family had left Scotland for Australia in 1950 on the Ten Pound Emigration Scheme.  Dorothy was only about six years old at the time. My mother was about 17 and she recalls the day the family left Glasgow.

I remember very clearly as though it was just yesterday, the day we all gathered in the Central Station in Glasgow to see the whole family off on the start of their journey to Australia, a six weeks hazardous sea journey.  It was a very emotional time for all the family.  Uncle Harry played the bag pipes and everyone around us was saying their goodbyes to their families in tears, especially when “Will ye no come back again” was played.  I will never forget that day.

Uncle Harry002

Uncle Harry

Dorothy returned to Scotland for a working holiday when she was about twenty but her parents never saw home or family again.  She stayed with my Great Gran Chapman (who, Dorothy told me recently, used to sing hymns at the top of her voice all day long) and other members of our family.   She spent a couple of nights with us.  My memory of Dorothy then was of a tall, slim, pretty girl with long hair and a funny accent and, although I was probably only about seven years old at the time, I never forgot her.

Dorothy and Gt Gran Chapman

Dorothy with Gt Gran Chapman, while on holiday in Scotland

After Dorothy returned to Australia, the family lost touch.

In 1979, I came to Australia on a working holiday and ended up settling in Sydney then Perth.  I often wondered where Dorothy and her family lived but I never thought to ask my mum.

Last year my son, Kyran, and his partner, Vanessa, moved to Melbourne from Darwin to settle and have their baby (my first grandchild, Tommy).  During a conversation, my mum said to Kyran “look out for any Mitchells in Melbourne because they are family”.  I was confused when he mentioned this to me and I asked my mum about it in an email.  This was her reply –

My mum’s sister, Aunt Nan, married Billy Mitchell who was in the Merchant Navy, a very handsome young man.  They had three children – Billy, Dorothy and David.  You may have been too young to remember Dorothy who came over to Scotland.  She stayed with Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary and worked beside them for a while. Dorothy came to see us and Dad and I were decorating the lounge.  She was fascinated with us putting up wallpaper as they only painted their homes, because of the heat, in Australia.  They were billeted to Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. 

Mum had no idea what happened to the family and did not know Dorothy’s name if she had married.  She was disappointed when I told her there were thousands of Mitchells in Victoria.

Gran & Granpa Brown, Nan and Billy

Aunt Nan (front, left) with Uncle Billy (back, right) with my grandparents and Gt Gran Chapman (front, centre)

Aunt Nan, David

Aunt Nan with David

The Mitchells

The Mitchells

However, it planted a seed.  I was going to visit my new grandson a few weeks later.  How wonderful if I could find Dorothy.  But where to start looking?

I went straight to my family tree.  Ah, so that is where Aunt Nan fits into the picture!  That is who Dorothy is!  A few more pieces of the jigsaw slot into place.

I started at the beginning.  It took a while but I finally found the passenger list for the Mitchells leaving the United Kingdom and arriving in Melbourne in 1950.  From there I was able to find out that Dorothy (Dorothea actually) had married a Phillip Tocknell.  Luck was on my side.  Tocknell is quite an unusual name and I discovered an old newsletter online from a rotary club which mentioned both of them.  I wrote to the secretary of the club of the time, whose email address was on the newsletter, and asked to be put in touch with Dorothy.  A week later, I heard from her.



Dorothy and Phillip visited us at my son’s house.  They live close-by!  Kyran, Vanessa, Tommy and my daughter, Tayler, were also there.  Kyran was thrilled to introduce Dorothy to Tommy, her third cousin!  As soon as she stepped out of the car, I recognised her – even though it was more than 50 years since her trip to Glasgow.

It was a wonderful visit.  We exchanged photos and filled in gaps and it was lovely to be able to update my mum on what had happened to her Aunt, Uncle and cousins over the years.  Sadly Aunt Nan and Uncle Billy died some years ago – within weeks of each other.

Dorothy and Phillip's wedding

Dorothy and Phillip’s wedding with Aunt Nan and Uncle Billy on the right

Dorothy and I keep in touch (and she has been in contact with my mum).  We met up again when I visited Melbourne in January and we spent an afternoon together.  It felt odd to me lunching and shopping with a second cousin.  It was a novelty; I don’t have any family here in Australia to do these things with (other than, of course, my husband and children).

Dorothy and Phillip 2016

Dorothy and Phillip in 2016 when we met

Dorothy and Phillip’s daughter lives in WA and they plan to visit her very soon.  I am hoping to be able to spend some time with them and meet Megan – my third cousin, I believe?

War Time Evacuation


Glasgow was heavily bombed during the Second World War, particularly Clydebank, as that’s where the shipyards and many of the factories were.  Just after war was declared in 1939, thousands of children were evacuated from Glasgow to protect them from the threat of German bombers.  My mother was among them.  She was just six years old when she and her sister, Elizabeth, were sent to Kilhilt Farm near Stranraer in Scotland.  “Operation Pied Piper” relocated three million children over a few days.  This is my mum’s memory of that time (paraphrased) –

Elizabeth and I were very small children when we had to leave our parents – it is a time that will stay in my mind until I die.  We started off with our cases and gas masks, saying cheerio to our mum and dad who, like all the parents, were crying.  Dad and Aunt Cissie (Norma’s mum and my mum’s best friend) took us on a tram car into Glasgow Central Station. There were hundreds of children and parents there.  When we went to get on the train, it was the wrong one. We ran to find the right train, said goodbye to Dad and Aunt Cissie, having no idea why we were being put on a train, and shunted away from everyone.

Being very scared, Elizabeth, Norma and I were taken to a church hall in Stranraer where children were being taken away by strangers to dear knows where. Norma was then taken away.  NO-ONE CAME FOR US.  Finally a very nice lady took us to her house for tea and sandwiches then we were taken back to this empty hall until a man came to collect us and he took us away in a big car.  It was dark.  We were scared and very tired.  After a long run into the country, we stopped at this big house where we spent the next three years.

Mr and Mrs McCaig had three children – John, Sheila and Sam (who was a wee horror).  We went to the school in the village called “The Lochans”. I hated it!  Elizabeth and I were called “The Glasgow Keilies”.  The boys in my class were disgusting and every night I cried.  Poor Elizabeth was only 7 years old when we arrived and she had to be very brave and comfort me.

During our time there, Mum, Dad and Aunt Cissie came on a visit but we were not allowed to stay with them so we only had a few hours a day with them and we could not go home.  That was heart breaking for parents and children.


James Brown (1866-1915)


My (maternal) great-grandfather James Brown was born in Drygate, Glasgow on 19 March 1866.  He was the son of James Brown (1829) – a Muslin Singer Operator which I believe was a person employed in singing the nap off the muslin,  – and my great, great-grandfather James Brown, a weaver from Glasgow.

James Brown (my g-grandfather that is) did not follow his family into the cloth business but instead was a Blacksmith until the age of 23.  He then volunteered to join the Royal Navy in 1889.  According to his Certificate of Service, James was 5’6″ with brown hair and hazel eyes.  Well, I am around 5’3″ with brown hair and hazel eyes so there must be a definite family resemblance.

James Brown was an Armourer in the Royal Navy and spent time on different ships including “Excellent”, “Pembroke”, “Victory” and many more.  His conduct in the Navy was exemplary and in 1904 he received the “Long Service and Good Conduct Medal”.

Presented to James Brown on 14.8.1904

Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

James Brown married Jessie Freeland on 27 December 1893.  He was based at the Royal Naval Barracks in Portsmouth at the time while Jessie was a thread mill worker living in Glasgow.   They were married at Argyle Hall in Duke Street, Glasgow.

James and Jessie had 3 children – Jane Peden Brown 1897-1917; James Brown 1902 -1961 (my grandfather);  and Jessie Brown 1904 – 1972.

It was while serving on HMS Bayano en route from Glasgow to Liverpool on 11 March 1915 that my great-grandfather died.  He was 48.  I can only imagine he was home on leave before re-joining the Bayano.  His  ship was torpedoed  by a German U-boat (U27) without warning.  It sank very quickly with the loss of 195 officers and ratings.   It seems that, while several attempts have been made to at least identify the shipwreck, HMS Bayano remains unverified at the bottom of the sea.  James Brown’s body and those of his colleagues were never recovered.

HMS Bayano

HMS Bayano

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has recognised my great-grandfather, James Brown, and other seamen who perished during the war at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Plaque 8

Plaque 8

Plaque 8

Plaque 8

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

I am grateful to the The War Graves Photographic Project for supplying me with these precious photos.

This is a tragic story in my family history and unfortunately there was more tragedy in that family still to come.

More on 1956


Mum and dad's wedding group2031

This is a photo of my dad’s side of the family taken on my parents’ wedding day in 1956. What I have always loved about this photo is the flying ducks on the wall behind everyone!  It helps date this as a 1950s photo!

All but two (the two older children) have passed on now.  I can place everyone in this photo with the exception of the man front left.  I think he may be my grandfather’s brother but if so, I don’t know which one unfortunately.

Back right is my dad – the bridegroom – Robert Hendry Smith (1925-2012).  Next to him is his sister, Christina Cameron Smith (1922 – 1998).  Once again I searched for her under the name we knew her as – Christine – but discovered she was another Christina.  When looking for her death certificate, I found two certificates – one under Christine Smith and the other under Christina Smith.  As she is not on my direct line, I did not order it.  Perhaps it means there is one certificate but two possible spellings of her name.

Next to Aunt Christine is her husband, George Ian Duffie (1914-1971).   I remember Uncle George.  I was just 14 when he died (he was 57) and I remember the day very clearly.  He drove home from work and had a heart attack in the car outside his house.  Very sad as his three boys were still young.  Ironically, their youngest son, Stewart, the boy he is touching in the photo, also died young (about 47) from a heart attack in his car!  He in turn left two young teenage children.  In the centre of the photo is my cousin, Ronnie and then his brother Alan.

In front of Alan is my paternal grandfather, William Smith (1896-1982) with my grandmother, Jane Cameron(1890-1981).

I remember them all very clearly.  I just need to find out who the other man in the photo is but, at this stage, I have no way of doing that.  I may be able to do it by a process of elimination when researching the brothers.  One I know came to Australia and had a tomato farm two hours south of where I live.  But that is another story.

De Vos Almshouse, Bruges, Belgium

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De Vos Almshouse by Karla Mae

In a recent post about my children’s ancestors, De Vos family, I mentioned that it was believed that the De Vos family had built an Almshouse in Belgium.  I didn’t actually know what an Almshouse was so I set about finding out.  I love how we wade through old documents to find the information we need but I have to say how wonderful it is to sometimes have the Internet agt our fingertips.

Above is the De Vos Almshouse.  It was built in 1713.  According to my information, Olivier de Vos had already left for Ceylon by then so I wonder how much he had to do with the building of the Almshouse in Belgium.  Certainly it would seem he was making a lot of money in Ceylon so could afford it but it may have been one of his siblings.

I had expected to find out that an Almshouse was some kind of stately home and I was half right.   From the Middle Ages the wealthy citizens built Almshouses as free housing for widows, the poor and the elderly.  In exchange for free rent, the residents had to pray every day for their benefactor’s soul to be admitted into heaven when he or she passed away.  This was a daily duty and to ensure they didn’t forget, a chapel was always built in the courtyard of the property.  De Vos had eight homes originally but in recent times were converted into six.

Today, Almshouses are owned by the city and run by Social Services.  To live in one, you must be either old or poor and have been a citizen of Bruges for at least two years.

De Vos houses (2 of 6)

Two of the six De Vos houses still available

(Photos and some of my information was taken from the blog

A bit more of this other family…The Kent and De Vos Families


Charles Kent and his wife, Ida (nee De Vos) with their son, Charles (Frank) abt 1896

Charles Kent and his wife, Ida (nee De Vos) with their son, Charles (Frank) abt 1896

I think this is a wonderful photo!  The furniture, the clothing (I love the little boy’s outfit!) and their pose.  I particularly like the embossing at the bottom – Skeen & Co, Colombo.  This company was very well known and respected in Ceylon in the 1890s.
To me the picture is quite exotic and when I look at the lineage of Ida,  I can see why.  I am lucky enough to have the family tree of the De Vos family which is taken from “Genealogy of the Family of De Vos” as published in “The Journal of the Dutch Burgher Union”.  This was compiled in 1910 by Frederick Henry de Vos and revised and updated in 1937 by Mr D V Altendorff.

In the photo above are the great-great grandparents of my children (on their father’s side).  They were mentioned in my previous blog.   Charlotte Ida Elizabeth de Vos was born on 14 December 1871 at Trincomalee, Ceylon and married Charles Kent on 28 December 1895.  She was one of eleven children born to (great-great-great grandparents) Harriet Hunter (born in Scotland on 28 November 1837) and John George de Vos (born Ceylon on 5 June 1835).    His parents were (great-great-great-great grandparents) John George De Vos (born 1810) and Elizabeth Euphrosine Merciana Franke.  Going back another generation, parents of John George are (5th great grandparents) Petrus Geradus de Vos (Boekhouder – meaning accountant) (1762) and his third wife Susanna Petronella Van Dort (1790).  Petrus was born to (6th great grandparents) Pieter de Vos (Boekhouder) (1731) and his second wife, Magdalena Meyer (1744-1780).  Going back another generation, Pieter was born to (7th great grandparents) Pieter de Vos Boekhouder (1698-1734) and  his second wife, Christina Polnitz (1699-1750).  My children’s 8th great grandparents from this family were Olivier de Vos (1653-1699) and  Johanna Melchiors.  I believe he was the first of the family to move to Ceylon, travelling by ship in 1673.  And going back once more, Olivier’s parents (9th great grandparents to my children) were Victor de Vos (about 1612) and Maria Jooris (1614).

Being Dutch colonists, the De Vos family were able to take control of as much land in Ceylon as they wanted.  It was said that, at one stage, the family were very wealthy and owned up to one third of the island of Ceylon!

Two points of interest that I would like to follow up on – firstly it is said that there is a direct connection between the De Vos family and Baron de Vos Van Fleming who was created a Baron in either 1235 or 1325.

Secondly, information I have to hand says that the De Vos family built and donated Alms House in Bruges, Belgium in 1713.  Apparently it has been restored and is open for inspection as part of the National Trust.   Perhaps this is somewhere my children might visit one day.

Obviously I have more research to do on this family!

And now to another family…


Wedding photo of Agnes Long and Harold Frederick Kent

Wedding photo of Agnes Long and Harold Frederick Kent

Su Leslie’s posts about kisses and weddings inspired me to get back in to my family research and look at wedding photos I have in my possession.  Unfortunately, only two.  In fact this one does not belong to my family at all but to my children’s father’s family.

Harold Frederick Kent was their great-grandfather and Agnes Long, of course, their great-grandmother.  The wedding took place on 3 April 1926 in the Mount Pleasant Methodist Church in Ballarat, Victoria.  If I didn’t have the date at least I would know from the fashion that it was in the 1920s.

I was recently given the Kent family tree already researched plus some information about most of the family members.  However, I don’t yet have a feel for them – and maybe I never will as they are not my blood relations.  That remains to be seen.  From research originally done by Ronald Kent from Warwick, this is what I know about this photo.

Harold Kent was born in Colombo,  Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on 9 august 1901 to Charles Kent and Charlotte Ida Elizabeth de Vos.  He married Agnes Long who was born in Ballarat, Victoria to Dorcas Pearce Dunn and William Henry Long on 13 May 1899.

Born in England, Harold’s father, Charles joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment around 1887 and served in both India and Ceylon.   When the Battalion returned to England, he remained in Ceylon and joined the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers.  He married Charlotte on 28 December 1895.  At that time he was a Drill Instructor and by the time he was discharged in 1910 he held the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.

So how did Harold end up marrying a girl from Ballarat?  Well in 1910, the Kents left Ceylon and lived in Warwick in England.  There were 9 children in the family and they all attended good “public” schools.  Harold was sent to Kings Grammar in Warwick (the third oldest in England after Eton and Winchester).  The family then returned to Ceylon in 1913 and Harold attended St Joseph’s College in Colombo and then St Anthony’s College.  He excelled at school and was offered a place to study medicine at Cambridge University.  However, he never followed this up because all the places were first given to returning servicemen and he missed out.  Instead he became a Merchant Seaman.  He remained at sea for just a few years and then jumped ship at Geelong!  In an effort to get as far away from the ship as possible he took the first available train which took him to Ballarat.  Of course this is where he met and married Agnes.  As a point of interest, Harold became a painter and decorator and continued this until his death in 1975.

Harold and Agnes had six children including my children’s grandfather, (William) Frank Kent.  At this stage I don’t know much more about the marriage of Harold and Agnes other than that Agnes died just four weeks after her husband.

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