A Heartfelt Letter – The Coffey Brothers

Maurice James Coffey, my 1st cousin 3 times removed, wrote to the officer in charge of base records of the AIF in 1932.  I found this letter in his service records held by the National Archives of Australia.

A brief transcription is as follows:

Dear Sir

Please supply me with the Regimental Numbers and units of my four brothers

Louis Johnstone Coffey Killed at Messines June 1917

Sylvester Plunkett Coffey deceased

Edward Daly Coffey died TB hospital Adelaide March 1921

Arthur Thomas Coffey enlisted at Albury NSW under the name of Arthur Everard and gave as his next of kin his cousin Thomas Plunkett of Bowna near Albury.  I am his next of kin being the eldest and only surviving brother.  Arthur died about 1923? after his discharge from the AIF in December 1919.

I wish to perpetuate the memory of my dead brothers who served in the AIF

Yours faithfully

Morris James Coffey

Late Lieut 10th Bn Inf AIF

Such a sad letter, to have four of his brothers who served in World War One all die at war or shortly after.

Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

They all got into some sort of trouble during their military service, whether it was going AWOL for a night, talking back to an officer or something more serious.  Several of the brothers neglected to mention on their enlistment forms that they had been convicted of criminal offences prior to their military service also.

There were seven brothers in the family altogether.  Christopher Augustin Coffey died when he was fifteen so didn’t serve and it doesn’t appear that Michael Francis Coffey (commonly known as Frank) served either.

Sylvester Plunkett Coffey’s wounds were such that he ended up with hemiplegia, the paralysis of one side of the body.  In one description it says that one eye was permanently shut, his mouth drooped, he drooled and had no use of his arm and that his leg was slightly improved.  It certainly paints a bleak picture of poor Sylvester.  I have found very little more information other than he returned to Adelaide and died in 1920.

So far I have been unable to find a reason for Arthur Thomas Coffey to enlist under a different name.  He must have used the name Arthur Everard after his military service as well, as his probate documents note both names.  I have yet to find any evidence that he used the name Arthur Everard prior to World War One.  In the above letter Maurice is under the impression that Arthur died in 1923 however this isn’t the case.  Arthur didn’t die until 1938.  Maurice must have found out his mistake as it is him who notifies Base Records of Arthur’s death.

Private Louis Johnstone Coffey

Louis Johnstone Coffey died in the Battle of Messines.

Edward Daly Coffey was in trouble with the law before and after his military service.

1920 ‘IN THE COURTS. SUPREME—CRIMINAL.’, Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 – 1931), 31 July, p. 34. , viewed 03 Jun 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165906753

Edward died not long after this on 22 Mar 1921.  His time in prison may have worsened his tuberculosis but it may also have prevented him from drinking which it appears was a problem throughout not only his life but that of his brothers as well.

As I find out more about the five Coffey brothers I am adding it to the RSL Virtual War Memorial.

A Is For Ancestry – A Poem About Me

A is for Ancestry,

B is for Blog,

C is for Crochet,

And D is for Dog.

E is for Excitement,

F is for Family,

G is for Genealogy,

And H is for History.

I is for Ilijah,

J is for Josiah,

K is for Kylie,

and L is for Layla.

M is for Microfilm,

N is for Needle,

O is for Obstacles,

And P is for People.

Q is for Questions,

R is for Rest,

S is for Searching,

And T is for Test.

U is for Useful,

V is for Visionary,

W is for Willing,

And X is for Extraordinary.

Y is for Youtube,

And Z is for Zig Zag.

Protect Our Cemeteries

When you’re next on a cemetery ramble please let the office or local council know if you see any graves which have significant damage, overgrowth of trees, weeds etc. We need to speak up to protect our cemeteries.

This is important the world over as more cemeteries are falling into disrepair, there is greater vandalism and grave reuse is happening more and more.  We’re losing our historic buildings, places and cemeteries at an alarming rate.  Soon we will have nothing left to pass on to our children and grandchildren….

Mary Plunkett – Continued

In my last post https://blog.kyliesgenes.com/2017/04/mary-plunkett-read-carefully/, I wrote about my 2x great grandmother Mary Plunkett.  The passenger list that I found is breaking down the brick wall which was Mary.

Things I have found:

  • Mary’s siblings – Ann, Luke, James, Susan, Rose, Catherine, Christopher
  • Mary’s parents – Thomas Plunkett and Ann Daly
  • Family possibly from County Cavan, Ireland
  • James Plunkett married Ann Jeffcott and moved to Albury, New South Wales, Australia
  • Christopher Plunkett moved to Albury, New South Wales, Australia
  • Ann Plunkett married Edward Jeffcott in Albury, New South Wales and moved to Victoria, Australia
  • Mary’s two eldest sons James and Thomas Hayward spent time in Albury Gaol
  • Susan and Rose married and stayed in South Australia

It’s so much fun taking down this wall brick by brick.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had a breakthrough of this size in my own family tree.

Mary Plunkett – Read Carefully

I recently started working on my own family tree again instead of just working on other peoples’.  I’ve set aside Tuesday nights for this purpose when I attend a local family history group.

I hadn’t got anywhere with researching Mary Plunkett, my 2x great grandmother, for a number of years.  I knew that she married George James Hayward in Adelaide, South Australia on 4 Sep 1849 but little else.

I looked at www.familyhistorysa.info, which I had checked before, but this time noticed in the list of children, of Thomas Plunkett, the letters M y.

Click the picture to see a larger version.

My is listed, on the site, as an abbreviation for Mary.  I had looked at this many times without seeing it.  I now have so much more to check to see if this is my Mary.  A pertinent reminder to myself to read everything carefully.

Shipwreck Survivor, Ellen Mary Chamberlain, An Incredible Woman – Part Two

Since publishing this two part post on Ellen’s life I now have photos of Ellen and her husband James.  I don’t know how old either of them are in these photos or where they were taken.


Ellen had only been married ten years when her husband, Captain James Welsh, became sick.  The newspaper said it was a long and painful illness, to which he succumbed on 22 Nov 1860.

James and Ellen’s daughter little Clara Elizabeth, born in 1860, passed away on 4th Jan 1861 just two months after her father died.

The following years must have been terrible for Ellen on her own with the three children.  Yet in August 1867 she enters into a new phase of her life. Ellen marries John Patten at her home in Rundle Street, Adelaide.  John, a widower, had four children of his own and with Ellen’s three makes seven children. They went on to have another six children together.  So it was a real case of yours, mine and ours wasn’t it.

John was a storekeeper and postmaster in Harrogate, South Australia with his first wife Mary they lived there for approximately six years.


Harrogate, South Australia

Ellen, John and family must have moved to Woodside shortly after their marriage as this newspaper advertisement in November 1867 is seeking tenants for Harrowgate Store and Post Office. The contact person is John Patten of Woodside.

Ellen and John’s first child, Alfred John Patten, was born in Woodside, South Australia in 1868.  Woodside is a lovely town in the Adelaide Hills now, but how was it for Ellen back then?  She now has a large family and is living in the country instead of the city she’d become accustomed to.

Newspaper records show that John continued as a storekeeper in Woodside.  Alice Patten is born in 1869, and died shortly thereafter in March 1870.

A newspaper record of 14 Dec 1870 shows that there were two storekeepers in Woodside at this time.

Could this small country community support two stores?
On 4 Feb 1871 “A Serious Accident” is reported in The Advertiser newspaper. John sustains a broken arm and dislocated collar bone while exercising a young horse.

I wonder what the treatments would’ve been back then? John must have been out of action for some time as it is only the following month that he is brought to the position of making assignment to his creditors. The newspaper account said that he had succumbed to the bad times.

25 Mar 1871 made assignment to creditors

Ellen and John return to Adelaide where next we find the family living in Glen Osmond where John is once again a storekeeper and postmaster.

There are many newspaper references to the Patten’s in Glen Osmond where Ada, Ernest, Percy and Mabel were born.


View of Glen Osmond taken between 1869 and 1889.

The last record that I’ve found of Ellen and John in South Australia is their daughter Mabel Eva’s birth in 1877. At some time they moved to Western Australia where their son Ernest Edward Patten married Mabel Louise Cargeeg in 1898.

John passed away on 18 July 1902, in Perth, Western Australia and it was some time after that that Ellen moved back to South Australia.

Ellen passed away on 8 April 1908 in Adelaide, South Australia.

This is my tribute to my great, great, great grandmother.  What an amazing life she had!