Thursday, October 11, 2012

Expert Q&A :: How to research Anzac war graves & ancestors

On Thursday, October 11 we were lucky to have the dedicated military historian and war graves researcher, Matt Smith, join us for an Expert Q&A on how to research war graves and Anzac ancestors. Please find the transcript of the Q&A and links.

Don't forget our Expert Q&As happen every Thursday night on the Inside History Magazine facebook page.

When: NSW - VIC - ACT - TAS: 8:30-9:30pm AEDT | QLD: 7:30-8:30pm | WA: 5:30-6:30pm | NT: 7:00-8:00pm | SA: 8:00-9:00pm | Weekly Thursdays

Matt Smith's project, Australian War Graves Photographic Archive, began in 2000, and is committed to procuring a digital photograph of every Australian War Grave and Memorial Commemoration worldwide. This commitment stems from a labour of respect dedicated to the supreme sacrifice made by our Australian military personnel. The searchable database at the core of the site was formally launched for Remembrance Day 2011. The site displays images of the commemorations, and offers a range of free resources to families and researchers of our war dead.

Summary of links from the Q&A:

Transcript of Expert Q&A - How to research Anzac war graves and ancestors, with Matt Smith

Our Expert Q&A with Matt Smith starts at 8:30pm DST. Tonight’s topic: How to research war graves and Anzac ancestors. Please ask your questions for Matt in a comment below & he will answer in a following comment.

Q. Sharon [October 10]: I might miss this week's session. My relative made it home but there is much of his life unknown. He enlisted for WW1 from Torrington, NSW. He came home, spent time in Cessnock. We have his war records but would like to know more of his life story. We know some up until Cessnock but then he moved to Perth and was at a distance from the family in Cessnock. He served in WW2 in and around Perth. I have had trips to Perth but never had time to investigate. He died in Perth. His war medals have gone missing for WW1 and he appears to have died with no money and no possessions. Nothing was sent to the family and it appears the family didn't ask. He is in an unmarked grave in Karrakatta. I have had a memorial done in Rookwood NSW so the family can visit but the details on the plaque are wrong and I haven't had a chance to correct them. So, my questions are - can I do any online searches on my uncle regarding his life in WA? How do I get the memorial fixed? Would it be the war graves people as they approved it? His name is Jack Warland. Thanks.
A. Matt: Hi Sharon, I am getting in early here before the Q and A starts officially. Firstly because I can't help myself and secondly because you might miss the session. That said, I can tell you that John (Jack) Warland was wounded during WWI, but after the war he was a member of the Australian Graves Detachment from April - August 1919. He was burying the dead in France and assisting with the development of the war cemeteries. As you mentioned, he served during WW2 in WA and was discharged in 1946. The first thing that I would do is to contact the Office of Australian War Graves - - (02) 6289 6510 and ask the questions about the status of his war grave in Karrakatta. That will determine if he should have an official headstone or whether the family opted out. If he should have a war grave, then they should provide one. You would need to have him assessed with birth certificate etc etc. Then I would check the census records for WA to see if they have him recorded and where he is recorded. There was a census in 1947, 1954, and 1961, following which it was every 5 years. If you can locate him, you can track him. Also the Births, Deaths and Marriage records would be the next step.

Q. Cheryl: Hi Matt, my great, great uncle emigrated from London to Australia. He died whilst in service with the 52nd battalion AIF on 4 Sept 1916 nr Moquet Farm. 760 Sergeant Charles Emerson Watling. I have his medal awarded in death (was hung in my dads room while he was young but he never asked who it belonged to!) and a photo of his grave. I have tried to search myself for a photo of Charles or even of his battalion for quite some time without success. Your help or advice with this would be so appreciated. Kind regards, Cheryl x
A. Matt: Hi Cheryl, Obviously the first place to start would be the Australian War Memorial collection -, I would follow with a simple Google Search - try some combinations of his name i.e. Charles Watling or Watling 52nd Battalion. Then I would try - Faithe Jones is the lady at the end of this one. Then follow the other leads such as Broken Hill connections, 52nd Battalion history, WA Archives - remember that the 52nd Battalion came from the 12th Battalion, so that is another connection. Hope that helps?

Q. Wendy: Hi Matt, I have been doing my family history for 2 yrs now and found information on my maternal grandfather Albert James Byron who went off as a cook in WW1 at age 44 in 1916 on the SS Afric, my mother was only 9 when he died and I have never ever seen a picture of him. I did manage to find he is buried in an unmarked grave at Rookwood and I did send off a letter last year to the War Graves Commission and have only just got a reply saying he is not entitled to have his grave site marked with a plaque as he did not see active service or died from war related injuries which I was disappointed to hear. Is there any other places I could try and find a photo of him? I would be very grateful for any assistance, thank you
A. Matt: Hi Wendy, great to hear from you. The Office of Australian War Graves should not have told you that he did not see active service, as that is totally untrue. He was on active service for two years overseas during WWI. And he served in the Boer War, albeit with a non-Australian unit. Here are two links for further research into his Boer War Service. He served in Kitchener's Fighting Scouts. His Boer War service is listed on this web-site - - Albert James Byron 2236 Trooper Served in 1st KFS. Joined Durban 16 Apr 02 Discharged 7 Jul 02 disbandment Johannesburg
Source: Nominal roll in WO127 OR - Victorian Wars Forum. A really common story, and very frustrating. Of course the Australian War Memorial is the first port of call for WWI photos, but if no luck there, try this book - Give Me Back My Dear Old Cobbers - 58th & 59th Battalions AIF, Robin Corfield. There are a lot of other connections if you need them. As the for his grave in Rookwood, I would ring DVA Office of Australian War Graves with some more evidence and check availability for a grave again. If they still say no, then contact Rookwood and place one yourself. I hope that helps?

Q. Linda: I have just checked the Commonwealth War Graves website, and was wondering what the 'Civilian War Dead" covered. I was particularly looking for Louie Riggall, a woman from Maffra, Victoria, who died France at the end of WWI. She was a VAD in the British Red Cross, working in a military hospital at Rouen, when she died of fever. After much controversy, she was NOT included on the Shire Honor Roll, as she was not considered "enlisted". Her family had considerable resources, and donated a plaque that is now in the Maffra Library (click for photo on flickr). On my search, I could not find a listing for her. I was wondering if she came within the scope of "Civilan War Dead", if she was in a military or civilian cemetery, and if the War Graves Commission cared for her grave.
A. Matt: Hi Linda, Lousia Riggall is listed under the CWGC. Click for her direct link. The Red Cross, YMCA, VADs etc etc are usually all listed as Auxiliary or quasi-military units.

Q. Christine: Do you happen to know of any records relating to pilgrimages by Australians during the inter-war years? 1919-1939. George Risdon Grimwade, there is a letter written about his death, where would I find this, please?
A. Matt: Christine Alexander, the best place to find these records is the National Archives of Australia. Go to and search for 'Pilgrimage' with the dates 1919 - 1939. I did a simple one just now and came up with some great ones. Not all are digitised, but it is a start! :-)
A. Matt: Christine, Not sure about the letter, but I have found this link:
A. Matt: Christine,
A. Christine: thank you, I wish I could remember the site, it is a collection of letters written by fellow soldiers and officers, about how their loved ones died and where and if they were buried. I actually know a lot about George, his parents carried a 70lb piece of granite to Gallipoli when they visited his grave in 1922.

Comment: IHM: Welcome everyone, thanks for joining us tonight. Welcome also to Matt. Please ask your questions for him in a comment below. Don't forget to keep refreshing your browser to see the answers and questions from others as they appear.
A. Matt: Hi Everyone!! Thanks for having me!
A. Matt: Hi All, It is easier to answer questions regarding individuals if you can provide a name and/or service number. :-)

Q. Link: I'm looking for info on my great grandfather, I have correspondence from the armed forces saying he was part of 1st battalion field artillery but when I search his name on the war memorial website I get nothing! I can find battalion history but no record of him, any suggestions?
A. Matt: Link, Can you throw a name our way??
A. Matt: Link, have you tried NAA for service record ?
A. Link: Hey Matt, His name was Earnest Walter Stanborough, His allotted army number: 205, rank of gunner and he enlisted on the 28th August 1914, He sailed to the mediteranean on the HMAT Argyleshire with the 1st Field artillery brigade! This is all we have!
A. IHM: Hi Link Miller, have you checked the Australian War Memorial Embarkation Roll ::
A. Link: No, I haven't checked this page, I've looked on the service roll! Is that "Allotted Army Number" the same as a service number? I'll have to check the embark list tomorrow, unfortunately I have to go to work shortly :(
A. Link: Thanks for your help guys, gotta go to work now, the search continues!!!!
A. Tim: A message for Link Miller - Your GGrandfather is recorded as 205 Ernest STANBROUGH (note the spelling of the surname). And also depending on who transcribed the documents his middle name varies between 'Walter' and 'Walker'. He also served in WW2 and both his service files have been combined into one at the National Archives. Click here to see the record.
A. Matt: Thanks Tim! Great Wingman!
A. Wendy: Yes and a very good 'digger detective' :)
A. Tim: I only hope Link returns here to view the information so his searching doesn't continue fruitlessly.

Q. Sheryl: Hi Matt, I am looking for a photo of Clarence Raymond Rudolph Gosper b.1889 5th June Australia. d. France (Bullecourt) 3rd May 1917 and haven't yet been successful. Any advice for me would be appreciated. Hi Matt, Sorry. Clarence Raymond Rudolph Gosper 6025 b.1889 5th June Australia. d. France (Bullecourt) 3rd May 1917
A. Matt: Hi Sheryl, It is difficult to locate images of individuals unless obvious like the AWM website. He is a Richmond NSW boy, so I would take that track - Perhaps approach a local Richmond Genealogist or historical group!

Comment: IHM: There's lot's of useful tools on the Australian War Memorial site ::

Q. Carmel: Looking for William George Fox of SA. He died 11 Nov 1917. Egypt would love to find a photo. He was the son of William George Cuttle but took on his stepfather's name. I am not able to find William George in the archives but have newspaper reports of his death.
A. Matt: Carmel, try this link -
A. Matt: Carmel, contact the Australian Light Horse Studies centre website -
A. Carmel: Thanks Matt, but why was my searches not finding him? I have found others without issues. Also I found records of one of my uncles, killed in WW1 which was the same as an inquest, with witnesses and details of his death. I believe it was a Red Cross record and found online. It usually takes me some time to track this record down, do you know if these are available for all who were killed?

Q. Monica: Do you have photos of men who served in WW1, e.g. enlistment photos?
A. IHM: Hi Monica Chappell, you can search the Australian War Graves Photographic Archive online at
A. Matt: Hi Monica, the Australian War Graves Photographic Archive holds photos of the war graves and memorial commemorations. Individual portrait images are being collected, but one of the best sources of 'catalogued' images after the AWM collection is here -
A. Monica: Thanks for the links but no photos for me there. :(
A. Matt: Monica, quite often to find a portrait photo of an individual we need to search at a town or suburb level, rather than a national or state level. Find a location that can link to the person and start there.

Comment - tip: Wendy: AIF Project is also a handy resource and Mapping Our Anzacs for photos in the Scrapbook, although they can be a little out with transription :) For eg, looked up a bloke from Picton NSW and MOA had Picton Cananada, when clearly his record stated NSW :) Google is great for Battalion pages and ancestors who have put war diaries and letters etc online. I've found some amazing stuff while researching :)
A. Matt: You are right Wendy!! We have to approach research with open eyes and don't always believe everything that you read or see in the first instance. Find some back up research or data to support.
A. IHM: Here's the link to the AIF Project for everyone here ::
A. Matt: The best thing about the AIF Project is the Embarkation Roll links and the fact that we can now search for a place of birth or origin. For that ease of research I am happy to trawl through a few mistakes. Great site! I use it daily.
A. Wendy: Agree Matt :) Have you looked up where you live now?
A. Wendy: Totally agree with you Matt, I was knocked over by how many photos were at our Historical Society when I started researching Wedderburn's WW1 Diggers and if there isn't one in uniform you may find them in Cricket or Footy Team photos or the Firebrigade it was popular with our lads. Please also contact the RSLs associated with your digger before and after service, have come across incredible portrait dedications. Our local CFA has huge portrait pics of their boys who served and a local flour mill even built their own memorial. If they were a teacher in Victoria check out Victoria Educations WW1 Book or contact me and I can look them up .... I know where 2 copies are :) Newspapers also printed lots of photos of Diggers so check "TROVE" under name and Battalion. Will list any more avenues when I think of them :)
A. IHM: Great advice, Wendy Stewart - I think we have to mention your FB page if we're talking about your research :: And another resource is ANZACs Online ::

A. Wendy: Thanks IHM We Will Remember Them is the page for our local reasearch project using the Wedderburn, Korong Vale and Woosang Memorials as a basis. WW1 LB began as a means to identifying the other 13 Tunnellers in the profile pic with my Great Grandfather Mannie Penneyston, he's front and centre. I may have id the young man at the back 2nd on left, he's missing half of his index finger and joined within days of Mannie. Anyway the page has grown beyond anything I imagined thanks to some wonderful people who are happy to share knowledge on all things military. I have had the great pleasure of sharing so many stories and have helped family 'discover' who the Digger is in their family :) On the project side I have been blessed with meeting several sons and daughters of 'Our Diggers'.

Q. Matt, What would be your top tips for researching your military ancestors?
A. Matt: First and foremost, have an idea of what it is that you are trying to achieve!!!! Do a Google search!!! :-) If it is an ancestor who died, check on the Australian War Memorial website –, or the Australian War Graves Photographic Archive website – – to see if they died or survived the war. Or go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission - If your ancestor survived or died, then the AWM is your best start. Then do a search on the National Archives website - for their service record. Then, in the service record, look for ‘place’ locations that you can identify in current Australia, or on the battlefield areas. These will assist with making sense of service. Look for the Red or Blue handwritten text in Service Files. This can provide the key for research links. Use other individuals that may have been in the same unit or at a location at the same time as your ancestor to assist with filling in missing information. Look to the Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files at the AWM website - Treat them with caution as to accuracy, but if you can corroborate a number of eyewitness accounts then there is a fair chance that the story is accurate. It is all relative though.

Q. Matt, What do you have in the pipeline that we should be excited about?
A. Matt: The biggest thing at this stage is the photos of the individual war graves and memorial commemorations of Australia’s War Dead that are being prepared for upload to the Australian War Graves Photographic Archive website – It is a slow process, but will be great when completed. I am undertaking research on the Australian Graves Detachment, Australian Grave Services and Imperial War Graves Commission between 1919 and 1926, which is turning up some great connections. And, for anyone interested, I will be leading a battlefield research tour to ANZAC Day at Villers-Bretonneux, France in April 2013. All are welcome. We will also be at Gallipoli for 10 days after that in mid-May. Contact me for details - Still in preparation stage but I can furnish details.

Q. IHM: Thanks for joining us Matt Smith. Well, we're out of time, we'll finish with one last question: What is your favourite or most moving story you’ve found in your research?
A. Matt: Thanks Inside History Magazine, I do have one favourite story that has stuck with me all these years of research and contact with people regarding military history.....A few years ago I was contacted by an elderly lady in Brisbane who was seeking information about her brother who was killed in WWII. She mentioned that he had been killed near the Philippines but she didn’t know any more than that. I was able to do a quick search and found out that he was buried in Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong. Sai Wan Cemetery was the nearest main Commonwealth War Graves receiving cemetery to the Phillipines at that time. He had been killed on a Merchant Navy vessel during the Battle for Leyte Gulf as an Australian Army anti-aircraft deck gunner. I mentioned to the lady that I had a photo of her brother’s grave and then I asked if she was ‘Letty’ or ‘Brenda’. She asked me how I knew her name. I explained that there were names listed on the grave within the epitaph. She was amazed to think that her mother had included the names of her and her sister on the grave in their shortened versions, when her whole life she was discouraged from being called anything except ‘Violetta’. So Letty was linked to her brother’s grave in perpetuity. I think that is priceless!!!
A. IHM: I have a feeling that you don't want to stop answering questions! Thanks again for joining us tonight! We'll get to any questions that need follow-up tomorrow and publish the answers and links from tonight’s session in a blog post this coming week. Thanks Matt.
A. Matt: Thank you Inside History Magazine and thank you everyone. If you have photos of war graves or memorial commemorations, get on touch at We can use them on the website!
A. Sheryl: Thank you Inside History and thank you Matt Smith.

Q. Kerryn: Both WW2 and WW2?
A. Matt: Fire away Kerryn!
A. IHM: What is your grandmother's brother's name Kerryn Taylor?
A. Kerryn: Morgan ADAMS. Regimental number 1903. He came home but died a couple of years later
A. IHM: Hi Kerryn Taylor, here are the details for Morgan ADAMS - Regimental number 1903 in the National Archives of Australia WW1 records. Click for record.

A. Kerryn: Thanks I have his service record he was 5th reinforcements 7 battalion but I can't find a company number. Perhaps there isn't one?
A. Wendy: Kerryn Taylor here's a link to the other guys that went over seas with Morgan. I had a quick look at his file and could not see a 'Company' just 7th Bn but I would imagine that some became his good mates :)
A. Kerryn: Thanks Wendy
A. Matt: Well done Wendy, that was my next suggestion for Kerryn!! Thanks!
A. Kerryn: I just found info on my 1st cousin twice removed on the Red Cross search link you gave. I put his picture on this wall earlier. They described him as dark haired and dark complexion ... Bugler William John Pike Morgan
A. IHM: That's great news Kerryn Taylor, time for a little happy dance? :)

Killed in action in the Australian Armed Forces Private William John Pike Morgan was in the 14th Battalion No 893 and was killed in Gallipoli 8/8/1915 - he was 18 years and 3 months old. He lived at McGuinness Street, Euroa with his mother and father Thomas Fitzherbert II and Sarah (nee McNay) and attended Euroa State School before joining the Victoria Railways in Seymour, Victoria. William belonged to the 10th Unit Volunteer Cadet Corps Jnr and Snr. William's brother Private Benjamin Robert Morgan, killed in Gernamy as result of P.O.A in Crete. William is bured in 6 Lone Pine memorial Panel 73. Source of Information: AWM 145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army.
From Kerryn Taylor, October 11 on Facebook. Lest We Forget.


Read the previous Expert Q&A transcripts:
[1]  Thursday, July 26 :: How to get the best from Trove Australia
[2]  Thursday, August 16 :: How to get the best from BDM Certificates
[3]  Thursday, August 23 :: Getting the most from NAA
[4]  Thursday, August 30 :: Interpreting photographs for family history
[5]  Thursday, September 6 :: How to get the best from
[6]  Thursday, September 13 :: Using Trove for research
[7]  Thursday, September 20 :: Today's toolkit for the digital historian
[8]  Thursday, September 27 :: Preserving your artefacts with NAA
[9]  Thursday, October 4 :: Studying and doing research at UNE
[10] Thursday, October 11 :: How to research war graves and Anzac ancestors
[11] Thursday, October 25 :: What's new at
[12] Thursday, November 1 :: How to research cemeteries in Sydney & NSW
[13] Thursday, Nov 8 :: Australian War Memorial - Lost Diggers
[14] Thursday, Nov 15 :: Getting even more from Trove
[15] Thursday, Nov 22 :: Getting the most from findmypast AU & NZ
[16] Thursday, Nov 29 :: Using NAA defence records
[19] Thursday, Dec 20 :: What's new at

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