Monday, 30 November 2015

Arrivals from Scotland

Individuals have moved between Scotland and Lithuania since at least the sixteenth century. However it was only from the 1880s that significant numbers of Lithuanians began settling in Scotland. By the first decade of the 20th century there were several thousand Lithuanians living and working in Scottish coal mines and steel mills; the linked article from the BBC (click here) provides some background to their lives and communities. If you have a little more time, the linked educational video from (click here) may be entertaining.

Scottish Lithuanians migrating to Australia generally arrived either immediately before the First World War or during the 1920s. A feature of these migrants was that they tended to arrive in family groups; most had lived in Scotland for several years, in some cases for decades, and many arrived with spouses or children who had been born in Scotland.  Another feature is that many of these migrants had already anglicised or simplified their Lithuanian names. Here are a few examples of their stories.

Naturalisation records from the National Archives tell us about Antoni (Antanas) and Eva (Ieva) ALANSKAS who had arrived in Western Australia in 1912 with their three daughters. The parents had been born in Lithuania and lived in Scotland for 9 years, while the children (Annie Kathleen, Mary Cecelia and Maggie Veronica) had all been born in Glasgow. The family settled at Bellevue, near Perth.

The KAIRAITIS/PETRAITIS family had a somewhat different composition. Two brothers, Petras (Peter) and Vincas (William/Bill) Kairaitis had arrived in New South Wales from Scotland before World War One and settled at Blacktown, near Sydney, where they worked as dairymen. Anna Bauze's memoirs relate that by the 1930s they had been joined by their niece Nelly and her husband George Peters, their nephew Bronius and his wife and children, and their nephew Antanas (Tony) who was single. Bronius and Antanas used the surname PATRICK in Australia in place of the Lithuanian Petraitis.  Nelly, Bronius and Antanas had all arrived in 1928 from Scotland.

Another migration pattern is represented by the JESNER family. Isidor Jesner was a Lithuanian Jew who had left Tsarist Russia in 1904 at the age of 19, arriving in Hobart from Glasgow in 1911. Some time later he established himself in Lygon Street, Carlton (Melbourne) where his younger sister Lena joined him in 1928. Lena was aged 33, unmarried, had lived in Scotland for 17 years, and was initially employed by her brother as a domestic. Records at the National Archives suggest that Isidor also sought to sponsor the immigration of other Jesner family members.

William and Margaret DELADE (Vincas and Magdalena DAILIDE) arrived in Australia in the late 1920s with their daughter Natalie, settling at Dapto, New South Wales, where Vincas found work in the coal mines. As recounted in their published family history (click here for the earlier post), Vincas was born in Suvalkija (Lithuania) but left for Scotland in 1912 at the age of 19. Magdalena, on the other hand, had been born in Scotland to Lithuanian parents in 1898.

In Australia the Delade family were friends with another extended Scottish Lithuanian family - the AUGUSTUS/AUGUSTAITIS family. Pranas (Frank) Augustaitis had been born to Lithuanian parents in Scotland in 1892, reached Australia in 1924, and settled in Redfern, Sydney, with his wife Maggie and two sons. They were joined in Sydney by Frank's sister Bella who was married to Juozas PLAUSINIS/known as Joe MILLER; this family lived at Waterloo with their two sons (source: Anna Bauze's memoirs).      


Monday, 23 November 2015

Arrivals from America

Pre-WW2 Lithuanian arrivals in Australia came from a range of intermediate destinations, including continental Europe, England and Scotland, the Far East and South Africa. Some had merely transited through those places, others had lived there for years before embarking for Australia. This post will look at some examples of those who came here via North America. The linked Wikipedia article provides some historical background on American migrations to Australia.

Previous posts have noted a number of arrivals with North American connections: the three Anzacs Adolfas MISKINIS (Adolph MISHKINIS), William KALINAUSKAS/KALINOVSKY/KALIN and David MINOR; as well as Kazys BRAZAUSKAS (Key BRAZ); Edward Charles PHILLULE (PILIULIS); and Vincentas and Kazimiera ZVIKEVITCH.

Possibly one of the earliest stories with an American chapter is that of John Henry SMITH, who according to a record on was born in Klaipeda in 1825, married in San Francisco in 1850 and arrived in Australia shortly thereafter, possibly during the Victorian goldrush.  He died at Eaglehawk, Victoria, in 1885 leaving a wife and three children.

Carl (Charles) OSTERODE, born in 1878 in Tilsit, arrived in Australia in 1903 from San Francisco.  He lived in Queensland for a while but at some point decided to return to the USA; he died in Fresno, California, in 1949.

George BARON was born in Marijampole in 1874 but moved with his parents while still an  infant to the UK. He lived in London for 22 years, followed by 2 years in France, 2 years in Canada and 8 years in the USA before arriving in Australia in 1908. George lived at Manly (Sydney) and became a naturalised subject in 1923, giving his occupation as self-employed gem merchant. He was a single man and died in Sydney in 1929.

Frank BOBRE was born in 1881 in Vilnius and arrived in New York in 1907; he sailed for Australia from San Francisco in 1914. Settling in Rockhampton (Queensland) Frank and his wife raised 4 children. He died there in 1939.

Donnat (Henry) CAPLAN was born in Vilnius in 1893; he lived in the USA for 8 years before arriving in Australia in 1918. He settled in Melbourne, working as a carpenter, and died in St Kilda in 1953.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Victoria #2

Last week's post touched on the migrants of the 1920 and 1930s, and I'll continue on that theme with this post.

The majority of arrivals in Victoria with origins in Lithuania during this period appear to have been Lithuanian Jews (Litvaks) who clustered around inner Melbourne where a Kadimah (cultural centre) had been established in Drummond Street, Carlton, for example:

  • Judelis BEKESEFAS, known as Judah BEKESEFF; his 1942 naturalisation certificate shows that he was born in Vištytis on 7 July 1903; he was recorded as a single man, employed as a draper, living at Drummond Street, Carlton;
  • Mr I LEVINAS, a watchmaker from Lithuania, was on the passenger list for the Oronsay from London in 1930; his destination was Alma Road, East St Kilda;
  • Nathan NOSSEL, from the Kaunas region, notified his intention to seek naturalisation in the Argus of 6 November 1933; he was living at Barkly Street, East Brunswick;
  • Aisikas SEGALIS, known as Isaac SEGAL; his naturalisation notice in the Argus of 4 September 1935 shows that he was born at Žagarė, had arrived in the late 1920s, and was then living at Park Street, North Carlton.    

However, ethnic Lithuanians were also making their way to Victoria between the two world wars.  They did not necessarily settle in Melbourne; an earlier post noted Juozas Ruzgas and his son Balys who lived in regional Victoria before moving to Tasmania in the late 1940s. 

Another example was Vincentas and Kazimiera ZVIKEVITCH who arrived in Melbourne with their three children (daughters Kazimiera and Vincentina and son Albertas) in April 1929. A second son was born in Australia in late 1929, and the family then moved to Bayswater, east of Melbourne, where Vincentas became a market gardener. This family's story is special in that it is one of the very few so far uncovered where we have photos of both partners; the photos reproduced here are from their applications for alien registration in 1939.

Vincentas Zvikevitch was born in Joniškis on 15 August 1888, son of Kazimieras, a farmer, and Anelia. He married Kazimiera (nee Klemkutė) in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA, in February 1916 where he was employed as a mill operator. Kazimiera had also been born in Lithuania, in 1889.

Some time after the birth of Albertas in 1922 in the USA, the family made its way to Europe. In 1929 they sailed to Australia aboard the Ville d'Amiens from Marseille, France, via Colombo. We don't know why they were coming from France, although the internet does suggest a possible answer; there was a Zvikevitch family living in Marrakesh, Morocco. Perhaps Vincentas had planned to settle there?

The family did settle at Mountain Highway, Bayswater. Vincentas received his Australian naturalisation certificate in July 1941, which covered himself, his wife, and his two sons. Both daughters had been trained as tailoresses, the sons became mechanics. Albertas, who called himself Herbert, moved back to the USA as a young man, enlisted in the Air Corps during World War 2, then married and settled in Ohio but died there in 1976. Vincentas died in 1956 and his wife Kazimiera in 1971; both are buried at the Box Hill cemetery, Melbourne. At least one of their children is still living in regional Victoria and they are still remembered in the local Bayswater community; I noticed that prayers are offered at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on each anniversary of their deaths.


Monday, 9 November 2015


The 1933 Australian Census recorded 37 males and 22 females in the state of Victoria who stated that their birthplace was Lithuania. As noted in previous posts and comments, given the changing jurisdictions in that region during and after the First World War, others born there may have recorded their birthplace as Russia, Germany, or Poland.

As with the other states, the early Victorian migrants included a mix of pre-World War One arrivals and those who arrived in the 1920s and 1930s. The earliest arrivals to Victoria were probably Lithuanian Jews (Litvaks) fleeing persecution in czarist Russia in the 1880s.  Some of their stories are well documented elsewhere, for example:

An economic depression hit Victoria in the 1890s and may have temporarily put a brake on further migration, but in the early twentieth century a steady stream of mainly single men - Litvaks, ethnic Lithuanians, and others born in the region of Lithuania - started arriving and settling in Victoria. Many of them enlisted in the 1st AIF and served at Gallipoli, Egypt or the Western Front during the First World War and have been described in previous posts:

  • Samuel BRITAIN from Vilnius (see my post of 7 May 2015);
  • Harry COOPER from Kaunas (7 May);
  • Joe IPP from Kaunas (14 May);
  • Adolph MISHKINIS from Zarasai (30 April);
  • Reuben ROSENFIELD from Raseiniai (2 April);
  • Emerick SCHIMKOVITCH from Zarasai (21 May); and
  • Nathan WATCHMAN from Navarėnai (19 March).

In the 1920s and 1930s a new generation of migrants arrived, for example:

Jonas JAKOVLEVAS, born in Kaunas in 1897.  Naturalisation records at the Australian National Archives state that his father was Russian and Jonas had spent his youth in Russia, serving as a pilot in the Russian airforce in World War One before returning to Lithuania in 1921. He married a Lithuanian girl from Telšiai in 1924 and a son Alex (Aliekseij) was born in 1927. Jonas arrived in Australia alone at the end of 1929 and his wife and son followed 3 years later. By the mid 1930s Jonas was operating his own photographic business 'Ivan Studios' at 190 Bourke Street, Melbourne.

Kazys ZAKAS, born at Lygumai in 1898.  His naturalisation records show that he arrived in 1930 and that by the mid 1930s he was operating his own business as a 'knitting manufacturer' in Melbourne.

Metraštis No.1 (1961) records that when the first ship carrying World War Two DPs (Displaced Persons) arrived in Melbourne in 1947 the Lithuanians on board were greeted by two early migrants; Jonas Jakovlevas and a man identified only by his surname, Paliokas, who had been born in Ventė and lived in Australia since 1928 (p.10). That publication also records a story by one of the first DPs (Kazys Mieldažys) that that they were visited on the ship by Paliokas and also by Mr and Mrs Jakovlevas who subsequently sent parcels to some of the Lithuanians when they were at the Bonegilla migrant camp and later allowed them to use their apartment in Melbourne for music and song rehearsals as well as helping the newcomers in many other ways (p 24).

Monday, 2 November 2015

Lithuanians in the Australian Outback

Lithuanians, like most migrants to Australia, tended to settle in the capital cities or adjacent coastal fringe areas. There were some, however, who pursued their dreams in the more remote parts of the country. For some, the mining centres of Kalgoorlie (Western Australia) and Broken Hill (New South Wales) were favoured destinations which usually offered better pay, but more demanding conditions. A few others found opportunities even further afield.

This blog has already looked at some early Lithuanian migrants who spent longer or shorter periods in the outback, for example:

  • the Lithuanian Jewish families at Broken Hill (see my post of 19 October 2015);
  • the Lithuanian Anzacs who enlisted while working in remote locations of Australia, including William KALIN/KALINOVSKY/KALINAUSKAS at Cloncurry and John LOVRIAEN at Kalgoorlie (23 April); 
  • Father Paul ZUNDOLOVICH at Wilcannia and White Cliffs (31 August);
  • Charles ASHE/ Kazys ASTRAUSKAS at Kalgoorlie (29 June); and
  • Bruno GREITSCHUS at Offham Siding, Goolburra Station (16 April).

Here are two more stories of the men who settled in outback Australia:

Mykolas/Michael REPECKA - Mount Isa, Queensland

The township of Mt Isa, 1958
from the collection of the National Archives of Australia
 (NAA: A1200, L27995))
National Archives of Australia records indicate that Mykolas was born in 1877 at Kurkliai, near Ukmergė, and that he was later a resident of Vladivostok before arriving in Australia (probably around 1910). He settled in Queensland and in 1928 lodged an application to sponsor another Lithuanian, Julius CESIUNAS, to Australia. In 1941 he lodged a notice in the Townsville Daily Bulletin (30 July, 1941) advising his intention to seek naturalisation; he stated that he was a Lithuanian national who had been resident in Australia for 31 years. His naturalisation certificate was issued in March 1942, noting that he was a 64 year old labourer living at Coal Stage, Mt Isa.

Electoral Roll records for 1963 and 1968 show Mykolas in his later years as a resident at the Salvation Army Home, Riverview (Ipswich, near Brisbane).

Joseph MANJIKE - Broken Hill, New South Wales

The Barrier Miner (a Broken Hill newspaper) of 27 September 1929 carried a notice inserted by Joseph Manjike stating that he had been born at Vilnius, was of Lithuanian nationality, had been a resident of Australia for 18 years, and now intended to apply for naturalisation. He gave his address as 117 Chloride Street, Broken Hill. National Archives of Australia records throw a little more light on him: he was born on 28 January 1873 in Vilnius, his father Michael was a Lithuanian, he arrived at Brisbane on 20 August 1911 from Manchuria, and prior to settling in Broken Hill he had lived for short periods of time in Brisbane, Bundaberg, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. At the time he applied for naturalisation in 1929 he was a miner with South Broken Hill Mining Co and was aged 56.

Joseph had married Mary Antonoff (who had been born in Russia) in 1918 in Victoria and together they had brought up two girls and a boy in Broken Hill. However the Depression of the 1930s hit Broken Hill hard; many people lost their jobs and were forced to seek work elsewhere. That is probably why the 1937 electoral roll shows Mary Manjike still at 117 Chloride Street, but not Joseph; he was working at the Wurang Unemployed Wood Camp, 183 miles from Broken Hill, which was a community project established to cut and supply wood to unemployed families in Broken Hill. Sadly, the Barrier Miner of 23 July 1937 reported that Joseph Manjike was found dead at the camp the previous morning. He was 64 years of age and was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the Broken Hill cemetery; the Barrier Miner recording that the funeral "is expected to be largely attended by members of the Unemployed Union, who have been requested to march".  

The NSW Births Deaths and Marriages record lists Joseph Manjike's death and records his parents' names as Nicholas and Marcella.  

Monday, 26 October 2015

Tragic death of Lithuanian boxer in Broken Hill

The Sydney Morning Herald of 4 November 1933 carried the following news item on page 19:

Broken Hill, Friday
Sydney Ernest Sloan, a Sydney boxer, was remanded at the police court this morning on a charge of having feloniously slain Victor Cromberg, who died in hospital last night following a spar with Sloane.  Letters in the possession of Cromberg indicate that he was a Lithuanian, and that his relatives live overseas.

Cromberg had arrived in Australia around 1927, aged 17 or 18.  He may have been a Prussian Lithuanian from the Klaipeda region (known as Memel before 1923) as his parents had written to him in German.  Cromberg worked as a commercial traveller for Silk Products Ltd of Sydney and was also an occasional boxer who had fought in Sydney and Melbourne.  The previous week he had fought in Port Pirie (South Australia) before making his way to Broken Hill.  Aged 24 in 1933 he was athletic and a solid man, weighing 12 stone.

The Broken Hill press covered the death, including Victor Cromberg's background, in detail.  Cromberg was reported as having been most anxious to learn to box: The Barrier Miner of 3 November 1933 (p1) wrote that "He stated that 12 months ago he did not know the difference between boxing and wrestling, but was determined to learn boxing from the first steps".  In addition, "Cromberg was apparently in poor circumstances in Broken Hill.  He had very little clothing with him. There was only a small balance in his bank book.  Citizens who came in contact with the man during his short stay here stated that he was well informed and could talk on almost any subject."

It is tempting to speculate that Victor Cromberg's interest in boxing, at that time, might have been sparked by the success of another Lithuanian, Jack Sharkey, in the USA (see  Sharkey was the world heavyweight title holder in 1932 and 1933.

Sloan was in Broken Hill preparing for a scheduled fight on 4 November and had sparred with Cromberg on 1 November.  The next day Cromberg also sparred with Sloan; half way through the first round Cromberg was hit and fell backwards, his head striking the flooring boards.  He died later that evening in hospital; the post-mortem examination found a clot on the brain.  

The Coroner found that Cromberg's death was a most unfortunate accident.  Evidence submitted to the inquest suggested that even though Cromberg was wearing good boxing kit, including head gear, he fell heavily onto an unprotected floor and probably as a consequence sustained a sub-dural hemorrhage.  The Coroner recommended that the floor in question should be protected during future sparring bouts. Charges against Sloane were withdrawn; he was reported to have been deeply distressed by the accident and considering retiring from the ring.

Monday, 19 October 2015

A Lithuanian Jewish community in Broken Hill

Jews from Eastern Europe began arriving in Australia in the 1880s, following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881 and the subsequent introduction of anti-Semitic measures in the Russian Empire.  While around 2 million Jews emigrated to the USA during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first few decades of the twentieth century, the numbers reaching Australia were much smaller, probably a few thousand. Most of these were from Poland, but Lithuanian Jews (known as Litvaks) were also represented in this early stream of Eastern European migrants.

Most Litvaks settled in the major cities, but small numbers made their way further afield.  The mining town of Broken Hill is one such, perhaps exceptional, example.  Founded in 1883 following discoveries of huge silver and lead deposits, by 1901 the population had grown to 27,000.  At that time it was certainly one of the most dynamic places in Australia, despite being in an isolated part of the country, in far western New South Wales.    

Postcard of Broken Hill, around 1900;
 from the collection of the National Archives of Australia (NAA:C4076, HN17451)

The Broken Hill cemetery provides an interesting indication of the multicultural nature of the town's early years.  Of the 38 known burials in the Jewish section, around a third were either born in Lithuania or were their descendants (see A Guide to Broken Hill Jewish Cemetery, by Robyn Dryen at  For example:

  • Leopold NUROCK, born in Šiauliai around 1869, was an apothecary who arrived in Broken Hill in 1891 and died there in 1895;
  • Louis OBERMAN, born in Kedainiai around 1857, arrived in Broken Hill with his wife Lena and children by 1895 where he operated a fruit shop;
  • Leaha GORDON, born in Lithuania around 1843, widow, arrived in Broken Hill in 1916 to join her children.  Her son Leo Gordon (1879-1942) had been born in Kaunas and arrived in Broken Hill in 1911; he operated a grocery and mixed business there.

During the first half of the 1900s families with Litvak origins were a significant component of Broken Hill's Jewish community (estimated to have numbered around 250 during the 1920s and 1930s).  For example:

  • BUB (BURBAS); Simon/Simonas and wife Dobe (born in Židikai, around 1878), daughters Dveire and  Base; 
  • DUBIN (DEMBINSKY); Louis (born in Vištytis on 9 July 1880), wife Lisbeth, sons Rudy and Werner;
  • EDELMAN; Louis (born 1846 in Lithuania) arrived in Australia with his two oldest sons (Albert, born in Veikšniai, and Edward George) in 1889, followed by his wife Sophia and the other four children in 1891. They settled in Broken Hill in 1897; Albert later operated a grocery and drapery store and was a founder of the Synagogue in 1910;  Albert's son Alwyn Edelman died in Broken Hill in 2005.
  • GRIFF: Frank (born in Žagarė) arrived in Australia in the early 1900s from South Africa and became a prominent businessman as well as head of an influential Broken Hill family.  While Frank and his family relocated to Adelaide in the late 1930s, one of his sons stayed on in Broken Hill.

Other Broken Hill residents with Lithuanian Jewish origins or connections included the HYMAN (HEIMAN), PRESS and SILVER families.

Suzanne D Rutland, Edge of the Diaspora: Two Centuries of Jewish Settlement in Australia, 2nd ed., Brandl & Schlesinger, Sydney, 1997;
Suzanne D Rutland, Leon Mann, Margaret Price (eds), Jews of the Outback; the Centenary of the Broken Hill Synagogue 1910-2010, Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne, 2010.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Tasmania #2

Last week we looked at nineteenth century arrivals in Tasmania.  Here are a few from the first half of the twentieth century; in contrast to the earlier arrivals who were primarily mariners or convicts, the later arrivals were a more diverse group.

William KALIN/KALINOVSKY/KALINAUSKAS), a Lithuanian Anzac who had been born in Žagarė and trained as a tailor, enlisted in Queensland in 1916.  After the war, he led an itinerant life for a few years which including working as a court translator in Tasmania for a short while.  I doubt that the translating involved the Lithuanian language given the extremely small numbers of Lithuanians in Tasmania at any one time; most likely he was utilising his knowledge of other European languages developed during his service as as a interpreter in France 1917-1919.  He later established a tailoring business in Brisbane (see my post of 23 April 2015  and Elena Govor's Russian Anzacs blog post at for more details on William Kalin).

William SUSCAVAGE, born in Vilkaviškis in Lithuania, submitted a notice of intention to seek naturalisation which was published in The Mercury (Hobart) on 4 August 1927.  He stated that he was a Lithuanian national living at Catamaran, southern Tasmania, and had been resident in Australia for 13 years.  On the other hand, the UK outward bound passenger lists on show a William Suscavage bound for Australia in November 1925 on the Jervis Bay; he was listed as aged 40, retired, with an address in London at the 'Jews Temporary Shelter' in Whitechapel.  One explanation for this apparent discrepancy could be that he had been already resident for 13 years in the British Commonwealth as opposed the Australia.  

Stanislaus Paul SURVILLO, born in Kaunas, submitted his notice of intention to seek naturalisation in The Advocate (Burnie) on 28 September 1933.  He stated that he was a Lithuanian national living in Burnie and had been resident in Australia for 8 years.  In that same year his name also appears in The Advocate in relation to proceedings in the Launceston Divorce Court; records on show that he had first married in Queensland in 1928 and had remarried in Tasmania by 1936.  The electoral rolls show that he was an electrical engineer; by the early 1940s he was living in Sydney and a partner in a business manufacturing thermostatic expansion valves.  His later years appear to have been spent in Queensland.

Juozas and Balys RUZGAS: Metraštis No.1 (p11) records that a post World War 2 migrant had encountered this father and son living at Gretna, Tasmania, operating a sawmilling business; the report noted that Juozas had arrived in 1927 followed by his son Balys 1937, and that they were known by the surname ROSS.  The current records on suggest a slightly different story:

  • Juozas Ruzgas [born 1 February 1890 in Lithuania, location unknown] arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia, in June 1930.  The passenger list for the Oronsay listed him as a farmer from Lithuania, aged 40, and bound for Inglehope Siding, via Pinjarrah, Western Australia. That area was known for its timber industry and it seems possible he was on his way there to obtain work in the timber industry. Unfortunately for him the Great Depression was well under way and competition for jobs would have been stiff.  Interestingly, Juozas travelled with three other Lithuanians aboard the Oronsay - K Zakas, J Vainilavičius and I Levinas - but these three men continued on towards the east coast.  After some time in Western Australia, Juozas also made his way to the east coast and made arrangements to allow his son to join him in Australia;
  • Balys Ruzgas [born 6 February 1914 in Lithuania, location unknown] arrived in Melbourne, Victoria, in February 1938 on the Orion.  Both he and his father appear to have lived in Victoria for the next several years; Balys is recorded as having resided in Abbotsford (a suburb of Melbourne) and also having been associated with the timber industry in northern Victoria.  By the late 1940s he is in Tasmania, known as William Ross, and operating the Ross and Triffitt Sawmill at Rosegarland (near Gretna); that business partnership was dissolved in 1949 and the business subsequently was renamed the Derwent Valley Timber Company.  
  • Both father and son appear to have remained in Tasmania.  The 1954 electoral roll shows William Ross and his wife Lena still living at Rosegarland, with William employed as a sawmiller.  Juozas (Joseph) Ruzgas, who continued to use his Lithuanian surname, had a house at nearby New Norfolk.    

Monday, 5 October 2015


The island of Tasmania (formerly Van Dieman's Land) has been welcoming small numbers of people from Lithuania for almost 200 years, probably longer than any other part of Australia.  The earliest arrivals were often sailors: 

Stanislav STANKEVICH (Stasys Stankevičius would be the Lithuanian version of his name) from Vilnius was one of four sailors who absconded from the Russian ship Kreiser in 1823.  While the other three gave themselves up after negotiations, Stankevich remained at large (Elena Govor, Australia in the Russian Mirror; changing perceptions 1770-1919 (Miegunyah Press, 1997), p8).

Ernst ELSNOR who was recorded as a native of Lithuania (region unspecified) on shipping records arrived as a convict aboard the English ship John in 1833.  He had been a bookbinder in London before receiving a 7 year sentence for stealing two shirts (Luda Popenhagen, Australian Lithuanians, (UNSW Press, 2012), p15).

Frederick Robert SUPPLIES was a sailor born around 1834 in Memel, Prussia (now Klaipėda, Lithuania).  He married in Tasmania in 1855 and fathered four children but was drowned off New Zealand in 1863 while serving as second mate aboard the Hargraves (

Charles GRINING was also from Memel/Klaipeda and has possibly left the clearest legacy of all early Lithuanian migrants.  The following is courtesy of World Heritage Cruises ( which is located on the beautiful West Coast of Tasmania and operated by Charles Grining's descendents:

Charles Grining: 1837 (Memel) - 1922 (Strahan)
Source: (several public family trees)
Charles Grining was born in 1837 in Memel, Prussia (today known as ‘Klaipeda’, Lithuania). He ran away to sea at the age of 11, becoming a cabin boy. After many years at sea he arrived in Australia, finding work around the mining fields of Victoria where he married an Irish lass, Mary Minnock. Mary was born in Kings County, Ireland, in 1841, in an area known today as Offlay. They were married in Daylesford, Victoria, and raised eight children.
In 1872 the Grinings moved to Trial Harbour (then known as Remine) on Tasmania’s West Coast, where a ninth child was born.
Charles and his two eldest sons worked the Heemskirk mineral fields for about eight years, but on the night of February 26, 1887, their lives were changed forever. A massive bushfire swept through the town, destroying everything in its path and driving the residents down to the sea for protection. With the family home destroyed, Charles decided to move his family to the new settlement of Strahan.
After re-establishing in Strahan, Charles built one of the town’s early hotels and became a sea-farer once more, this time building boats to ply the waters of Macquarie Harbour. He is remembered as one of the more influential businessmen of the period.
Two of the Grining boys followed their father down to the sea – Charles jnr as a sailor and Harry as a boat builder who was to distinguish himself as a master of his craft, building, among other boats, many of the famous Gordon River punts used by the piners.

I found Charles' story particularly interesting because of a possible family connection: Tasmanian licencing records show that in 1898 Charles Grining was the proprietor of the Royal Exchange Hotel in Strahan while my wife's grandfather Felix Arthur Burns was the proprietor of the Ringville Hotel near Rosebery.  After a short while at Ringville Felix moved on to operate the Terminus Hotel at Mount Read for many years.  I think it is almost certain that Charles and Felix knew each other.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Migrations through Bremen, Germany

A few months ago while my wife Phyllis and I were in Germany exploring Hanseatic towns I visited Bremerhaven, the modern-day harbour of Bremen.  The port town is located by the mouth of the Weser river, on the North Sea coast, while the city of Bremen is about 50 km upstream.

There were two reasons for going to Bremerhaven.  One was that my parents had left a war-ravaged Europe from there in January 1948 bound for Australia and I was curious to have a look at the place.  Today only a few historic sites remain as most the town was rebuilt in the modern style after the Second World War; nevertheless, there are a few buildings which survived the war and which would have been visible from the docks in 1948.

The other reason was to visit the German Emigration Center (Deutsches Auswanderer Haus) which had been highly recommended in guide books.  It is located on one of the docks from which millions of people emigrated to the New World and sits in the middle of a very interesting cultural/historical waterfront precinct which includes a large Maritime Museum.


The Emigration Center showcases representative stories of more than 7 million people who emigrated from Bremerhaven to North America, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, and other places between 1830 and 1974.  Their stories are spelled out in a number of highly entertaining ways: at the start of your journey through the museum each visitor is given a 'boarding pass' which allows you to follow the story of a migrant leaving Germany and also of an immigrant who settles in Germany.  Coming from Australia I was allocated a German migrant family story which by coincidence also had a Lithuanian element:

The Center has a great selection of static displays, for example recreations of a Bremerhaven passenger waiting hall, an Ellis Island arrivals hall, Grand Central station in New York, sailing ship and steamer cabins, as well as hundreds of interactive displays (buttons to push, drawers to pull out, and of course your own audio guide).  I'm not surprised that soon after opening in 2005 the Center was awarded an European Museum of the Year Award for its realistic staging and multimedia concepts.

Many of the early Lithuanian migrants to Australia started their sea voyages to Australia from Bremerhaven or similar ports.  Their stories are not as well preserved as those of the German migrants highlighted in the German Emigration Center, but I'm sure there would have been many similarities.  Here are a few more images from my visit to the Center which, I think, help inform our study of early Lithuanian migrants:

Monday, 21 September 2015

Some updates

Thanks to everyone who has written to me or commented on this blog site since it started in February 2015!  Here are a few of the updates, amendments or corrections that have come to light:

Joe BROWN, Perth (blog post of 12 February 2015).  Thanks to Žydrė Pember, I now realise that the man who had introduced my father to Australian horseracing in Perth way back in February 1948 was probably Joseph Brown, born in Scotland in 1915 and the son of Juozapas LAZORAITIS, who had lived in Scotland for around 35 years before arriving in Australia with his family in 1928.

Alexander (Ksaveras) SKIERYS (post of 12 March 2015).  Thanks to Rosemary (Petraitis/Peterson) Mitchell for forwarding this great photo of Alex Skierys and Ellen (Petraitis) Skierys with their first two children Alex and Nelly, taken in Sydney in 1917.  Rosemary has some great family stories which I hope to share in due course.

Nathan WATCHMAN (post of 19 March 2015).  Thanks to Dana Grigonis for alerting me to additional information on this Lithuanian Jewish Anzac and to Simon Hill for agreeing to share the following:
Nathan Watchman was born Notel-Kalman Pelts on 2nd February 1884 in Virmenai, Telsiai, Kovno, son of Aron (Orel) Pelts and his wife, Iudes. They were part of an extended family of Peltses who lived in Nevarenai and the surrounding area, having come there in the 1870s from Plunge. Before going to Newcastle [UK] (to embark for Australia – see 1911 UK Census), Nathan visited his second cousin, Shneyer Peltz, in Dublin. Shneyer had gone to Dublin in the 1880s to work for a Mr Wachmann, and had changed his name because it was easier, to Simon Watchman - after this, any members of the family who came to Dublin had to change their names to Watchman, to avoid awkward questions! Simon Watchman was my wife's maternal grandfather.  Nathan’s birth details come from the Telsiai records. 

Jonas BALAIKA (post of 27 July 2015).  Balaika had returned to Lithuania in 1925, taking out Lithuanian citizenship and thus losing his Australian (British) citizenship.  He married and raised a family, surviving the Second world and the Soviet annexation of the country, but in 1947 expressed a desire to return to Australia with his family. An anonymous contributor has advised that she is Balaika's great granddaughter and that three of Balaika's daughters are still alive; it would be valuable to learn more of that family's story (please!).

Norman McLEOD (post of 10 August 2015).  The Latvian Government appointed Norman McLeod (not 'J McLeod' as recorded elsewhere) as the Honorary Consul for Latvia in Sydney in July 1931.  McLeod also attended Australian Lithuanian Society functions in Sydney as a guest of honour and served as Latvia's Honorary Consul until his death in June 1958.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Queensland #2

Last week's post outlined early Lithuanian migration to Queensland and mentioned one of those settlers, E C Phillule:


E C Phillule appears to have been an energetic personality.  My post of 8 June 2015 described two of his letters to the editor, one to The Telegraph (Brisbane) printed on 20 July 1917 and one to Karys (Kaunas, Lithuania) printed in 1920; both letters were strongly in support of Lithuania's struggle for independence.

Despite the very small number of ethnic Lithuanians there at the time, Phillule 'had great ambitions for the Lithuanian community in Brisbane in the 1930s', as described by Luda Popenhagen in Australian Lithuanians pp 24-25:
After arrival in Australia his first job was as a taxi-driver; he then purchased a service station, and eventually entered the import-export business.   He drew up plans to build a Lithuanian club at his own expense, and whose design would combine traditional motifs and contemporary architecture.  It was intended to function as a large-scale centre promoting Lithuanian culture to the greater Australian public.  The Australian Lithuanian Society .. [based in Sydney, of which he was an honorary member] .. was consulted about the plans ... Unfortunately, disagreements on administrative and technical details prevailed, and the project was abandoned.
After WWII broke out in 1939 .. [he was] able to assist Lithuanian migrants who arrived in Brisbane.  In 1940 approximately thirty Lithuanians arrived from Vladivostok. ... [They] were destitute and needed assistance to acclimatise to living in Brisbane.  The generosity of Paliulis and another Lithuanian businessman, Ruzgys, came to the rescue of many newly arrived Lithuanian families in Brisbane during WWII. 

Edward Charles Phillule's background before arriving in Australia is unclear.  He applied for British citizenship in Brisbane in July 1916, stating on his application for naturalisation that he was born on on 4 March 1881 in Chicago Illinois (USA) and that he was an American citizen by birth.  On the other hand, the headstone on his grave in Brisbane tells us that he was born in Lithuania.  I have not been able to confirm either claim.

His application for naturalisation also states that he arrived in Brisbane from 'Russia, Lithuanian' on 9 July 1915 aboard the 'Sant Albons'.  The St Albans did dock at Brisbane on that day, so it seems likely that he was indeed aboard, one of '20 Russians' whose names are not listed.  The St Albans sailed to Australia from Japan, so it appears that Phillule may have departed from the Russian Far East.  His spelling of the ship's name as 'Sant Albons' suggests a primarily Russian, as opposed to American, education.

Phillule married Lydia Annie Klatt in Brisbane in September 1915.  His application for naturalisation the following year shows that they were living on the corner of Hope and Melbourne streets in South Brisbane and that he was a shopkeeper.  His request for naturalisation was granted in August 1916.

By the mid 1920s he was operating a garage and auto workshop and had become a successful small businessman in Brisbane.  Trove carries numerous newspaper references to Phillule's business dealings, including advertisements for rental accommodation and automotive services; there were also fines for false income tax returns.  E C Phillule sold his Clayfield service station, locally known as 'Phillul's garage', for 4000 pounds in 1939.

He died in February 1945, aged 64, and was buried at Lutwyche Cemetery, Brisbane.  His grave displays two of the important elements in his life: his Lithuanian identity (the Lithuanian cross in the centre) and Freemasonry (the masonic symbols on the left and right).

Source: Australia and New Zealand, Find A Grave Index,
[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012

Notes:  The secondary records variously show this man's Lithuanian surname as Piliulis or Paliulis.  I have used Piliulis as per Metraštis No. 1.

Sources: Trove; National Archives of Australia;; Australian Lithuanians.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Queensland #1

Migrants with origins in Lithuania started settling in Queensland in the second half of the nineteenth century.  However it was not until after World War 2 that larger numbers were located there; for example, several hundred Lithuanian DPs (displaced persons) were brought to Queensland in 1948 and 1949 to cut sugar cane.  While most of these workers did not stay on the cane fields for longer than required, some settled further south and helped establish a Lithuanian community in Brisbane.

Probably one of the earliest migrants was Lewis FLEGELTAUB.  Born in the Suvalkija region in a Jewish family, he became a successful Australian businessman and died in Brisbane in 1897.  Trove and contain more details of the Flegeltaub family.

Previous posts have noted men with origins in Lithuania who enlisted in Queensland during World War I:
  • P. KALINAUSKAS/ William KALINOVSKY/KALIN from Žagarė who enlisted at Cloncurry and served on the Western Front.  After the war he eventually settled in Brisbane and died there in 1937;
  • Sigismund ROMASZKIEWICZ, a Russian Pole from Krekenava who enlisted in Brisbane and also served on the Western Front.  He lived in Brisbane until his death in 1949;
  • Gerard SKUGAR, a Pole from Vilnius, who enlisted at Rockhampton and also served on the Western Front.  
In addition the following Queensland ANZACS who are listed on the site appear likely to have had Lithuanian origins:
  • Jack/Ivan TRINKOON (TRINKŪNAS?) from Brisbane.  Although born in Riga (Latvia), his service records show that his father was from Vilnius;
  • Charles Anton GEDGAWD (GEDGAUDAS?) from Charters Towers, born in Libau/Liepaja (Latvia) is associated with very Lithuanian names; his mother Domicelė referred to him as Kasimir (Kazimieras). 

The interwar years saw small numbers settling in Brisbane and regional Queensland.  In contrast to other Australian ports, arrivals at Brisbane often came from China or the Russian Far East.  Most of these settlers had Jewish, Polish, Russian or Prussian heritage, for example:

  • Chane MILERIS, known as Noel Miller, had arrived in 1930 as a Lithuanian national and was living in Brisbane in 1938;
  • Abraham WEINER/Alfred WYNER, a Lithuanian national born in Courland (Latvia) arrived in Australia around 1913 and was living in Brisbane in 1939;
  • Jan/John DAPKEWITCH from Vilkaviškis had married in Harbin, China, in 1905. He died in Ipswich in 1941 aged 63;
  • Josephine RUCKMAN, a Polish widow from Kaunas with Lithuanian citizenship, arrived in Brisbane on the Yoshina Maru in 1923 with her two sons John and Felix and daughter-in-law Klara in 1943, aged 77, she was living in Mackay and one son was farming at Alligator Creek near Mackay;
  • Anton YUSKAN (from Lithuania but birth location not stated) married in Proserpine and died there in 1973 aged 84;
  • Veniamin SAMOLLOFF, a Lithuanian national from Kaunas, had arrived around 1925 and was living at Victoria Point, near Brisbane, in 1932;
  • Bruno GREITSCHUS, a Lithuanian national from Memel (Klaipėda), had arrived around 1925 and was working at Goolburra Station, Offham Siding (western Queensland) in 1937;
  • Frederich WEDRAT, also from Memel, had arrived in 1910 and was living at Chinchilla when he died in 1963, aged 73.
The 1933 Australian Census recorded 12 males and 3 females who had been born in Lithuania and were then living in Queensland; 4 of the men were living in 'tropical Queensland'.

Prior to World War 2 there was only a handful of ethnic Lithuanians living in Queensland at any one time.  Metrastis No. 1 (p10) records that Edward Charles PHILLULE (PILIULIS) wrote in 1938 that there had been five Lithuanians in Brisbane but two had died, one had returned to Lithuania, and there there were only two left.  The other Lithuanian referred to in that correspondence was probably RUZGYS (Australian Lithuanians, p25).

The first significant influx of Lithuanians to Queensland occurred in 1940 when 30 Lithuanian refugees with British citizenship arrived from Vladivostok aboard the Haitan.

Next week's post will look at one of the few ethnic Lithuanians living in Queensland at that time, E. C. Phillule. 

Monday, 31 August 2015

Paul Ephriam Zundolovich

The story of Paul Ephriam Zundolovich is one of the most remarkable stories of early Lithuanians in Australia that I have encountered.  For he was a Lithuanian Jew who not only became a Catholic priest - in itself this would have been highly unusual - but he also became one of the most respected pioneer priests serving outback and rural Australia.

His life was briefly summarised by Father T J Linane in From Abel to Zundolovich, Vol 1, 1979:
Paul Zundolovich ... was singularly a Lithuanian Jew, a convert to the Faith in Egypt, and recruited for the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese by Bishop William Hayden.  Ordained from Propaganda College, Rome, in 1891, Paul served in unglamorous places for over 40 years, dying at Moama in 1935. 

This photo of 'Father Paul', as he was widely known, during the First World War is from the first page of From Abel to Zundolovich, Vol 1.

Not much is known of Zundolovich's early life.  According to his WW1 attestation papers he was born in Mosėdis, Lithuania (he wrote this as 'Maished' - the yiddish version of Mosėdis - in the Telšiai district of the Kaunas gubernia) on 15 May 1865.  Somehow as a young man he found his way to Egypt, or perhaps Palestine, and converted to Christianity before undertaking theological studies in Rome.

He arrived in Sydney aboard the Austral in 1892 as a missionary priest and was despatched to Broken Hill, during or immediately after the 1892 miners' strike.  While in Broken Hill he probably had ample opportunity to make contact with the Lithuanian Jewish community there.

The rest of his life revolved around his priestly vocation, primarily in western New South Wales.  In 1895-96 he served as a chaplain at the Wentworth gaol, and by 1898 he was naturalised as a British subject and living at Wilcannia, responsible for the Wilcannia and White Cliffs region where he would remain for the next 15 years apart from annual breaks in Broken Hill.  In 1908 he travelled overseas to North America, and probably also to Europe.  In 1915 he was appointed to the town of Hay but that posting was to be of only short duration as he enlisted in 1916 to serve as a chaplain on AIF transport ships between Australia and Europe.  He was appointed to the parish of Moama in 1917 which he served until his death in 1935.

Monday, 24 August 2015

South Australia

Much material on Lithuanian migrants in South Australia has already been published by Daina Pocius on her South Australian Lithuanian History blog (  Daina has been posting since January 2008 and has amassed a huge amount of information; her blog was listed as one of the "50 blogs you need to read" in Inside History magazine's 2014 annual genealogy blog awards.

So, rather than replicate what has already been published on the SA Lithuanian History blog, what follows here is a brief commentary and summary of early Lithuanian migration to South Australia.

Lithuanian histories in South Australia before the First World War are problematic:
  • the story of Lithuanians amongst the early religious migrants to South Australia has gained much currency, both in Australia and Lithuania.  Luda Popenhagen (Australian Lithuanians, pp16-17), for example, wrote that the first Lithuanians to settle in South Australia were religious refugees from Prussia who arrived with other Lutherans aboard the Skjold in October 1841.  The Lithuanian VARNAS/VARNO family together with other German Lutheran migrants apparently established a new settlement near Adelaide, which they called Lobethal ('valley of praise').  This account appears to have originated from a 1958 article in the Australian Lithuanian weekly Mūsų Pastogė which reported research by Jonas Vanagas, the founder of the Lobethal museum.  However more recent attempts to confirm the existence of this early Lithuanian family have not been successful.  The search continues ..
  • another hint of early Lithuanians in South Australia appeared in the US-published Lithuanian Encyclopedia (quoted in Metraštis No 1, p11) which recorded that Lithuanians were employed in an Adelaide glass factory in the late 1880s  and that they had established their own club and chapel.  Again, this claim has not been verified by more recent research.

Previous posts have looked at the Lithuanian Anzacs who reached South Australia in the second decade of the twentieth century and enlisted there:
Of these, only Stanley Žygas settled in Adelaide after the war.

Nevertheless, there are fragments of information which show an earlier presence.  Previous posts have looked at nineteenth century settlers from the Memel (Klaipėda) region who came to South Australia, such as John RUSSELL (arrived 1859) and Otto REIGERT (married at Light Pass in 1886).  Later arrivals with links to Lithuania include:
  • Lena OBERMAN (nee Todras), born at Kedainiai in 1855, arrived in Australia with her husband Louis and son Joseph in 1892; Lena died in Adelaide in 1934 and Joseph in 1943 (source:; 
  • Frank GRIFF, possibly from Zagarė, who had arrived in Australia in 1904 and established himself as a successful businessman in Broken Hill, moved to Adelaide with his wife Sophie in the late 1930s (source: Jews of the Outback, pp 131-132
  • Jacob David GOCHIN, born at Papilė in 1883, married Hannah Morgenstein at Adelaide in 1924 (source:;
  • Antanas (Antone) VIRBICKAS, born at Aukštakalnis around 1888, arrived in Australia 1924 and worked as a wharf labourer at Port Adelaide at least until 1953 (source: Trove);
  • Frank (Pranas) ŠEŠKAS and Max Martynas KORALLUS were living in Port Pirie in 1928 (source: Trove).  

Metraštis No 1 (p11) refers to a 1953 article in Mūsų Pastogė which reported that there had been Lithuanians living in Adelaide in 1930 but that unemployment, poverty and hardship had forced most to move to the eastern states; by the early 1950s there were only a few of the early Lithuanians remaining in Adelaide. 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Kazys Brazauskas (Key Braz)

Kazys Brazauskas was possibly the first savanoris (volunteer fighter in Lithuania's battles for independence 1918-20) to settle in Australia.

The Australian Lithuanian chronicle Metraštis No. 1 records the following about him:

Kazys was born on 15 December 1898 in the town of Serėdžius in Lithuania.  His father had emigrated to the USA earlier and Kazys and his mother followed in 1912.

Kazys returned to Lithuania, joined the fledgling Lithuanian air force in 1920 and served there for two years.  He was decorated with the Volunteers Medal in recognition for his service during the struggle for independence.
In 1927 he emigrated to Australia, first settling at Port Kembla where he was employed as a technician at the power station.  He was unemployed for a while during the Great Depression, found work as a taxi driver in Sydney, and after a while was re-employed by the power station.  In 1932 he bought 7 acres at Engadine, south of Sydney, and built a home; in 1950 he purchased a 3 acre farm also at Engadine from which he earned a living growing flowers.

Kazys and Jadvyga Brazauskas (Metraštis No.1 p 17)

Kazys served as president of the Australian Lithuanian Society in 1939, the year in which the Society celebrated its 10th anniversary;  the celebrations were held at the Brazauskas property at Engadine.   His wife Jadvyga was also a member of the Society.


The Lithuanian volunteers site ( has a few more details about his place of birth and military service:

  • Kazys Brazauskas was born in Kalvių village in the district of Veliuona* and the county of Jurbarkas.  He served as a volunteer from 4 August 1920 to 5 January 1922, and was discharged as an American citizen.  [* Veliuona is only around 5km downstream along the Nemunas river from Serėdžius]

Luda Popenhagen (Australian Lithuanians p 159) records a meeting Sydney Lithuanians had with a visiting Lithuanian priest Fr P Bučys in 1928:
The participants convened at the Port Kembla home of the Australian Lithuanian Kazimieras ('Keys') Brazauskas.  No action, however, was taken to create a Lithuanian parish in Sydney as the Lithuanian migrants (relatively few in number) did not live in any particular area of the city.

Kazys Brazauskas died in 1980, aged 82, at Maclean in NSW; he was buried as Kazys Braz.  A public family tree on records that:

  • his wife was Jadvidga Ornatowicz, born in Kaunas in 1901.  She died in Maclean in 1984;
  • they had at least one child born in Lithuania; Kay Kazys Braz (1922-99).

Monday, 10 August 2015

Sydney Lithuanians, 1934

This photo, courtesy of Metraštis No 1 (p15), is of participants at the 1934 Lithuanian Independence Day celebrations in Sydney, organised by the Australian Lithuanian Society:

Presidents of the Society included:

  • Jonas Vedrinaitis (John Wedrien): 1929-31;
  • Antanas Bauže: 1933-36;
  • Jonas Vedrinaitis: 1937-38;
  • Kazys Brazauskas (Key Braz): 1939; and
  • Antanas Bauže: 1940-50. 

Luda Popenhagen (Australian Lithuanians, p22) records that:

The Honorary Latvian Consul, J McLeod, who was British by birth, was also the official representative of the Lithuanian government in Australia.  Consul McLeod and his wife began attending the Lithuanian Independence Day celebrations in 1934, and continued to be popular guests of honour.  From 1937 onwards the Estonian House in Sydney's city centre was used, as it was close to public transport and contained an auditorium suitable for banquets and concerts.

Popenhagen also provides this snapshot of the economic situation of Australian Lithuanians during the Great Depression [presumably based on Australian Lithuanian Society member records]:

  • 23% were wage or salary earners;
  • 14% were self-employed;
  • 11% were employers;
  • 12% were unemployed;
  • 40% were not in the workforce
(source: J. Kunca 'Lithuanians' in J. Jupp (ed) The Australian people; an encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins, 2001, p570)  

Monday, 3 August 2015

Sydney Lithuanians, 1914

This photo (courtesy of Metraštis No. 1, p14) is captioned 'a group of early Lithuanians on a picnic':

The same photo was reproduced in Luda Popenhagen's Australian Lithuanians and titled 'Lithuanian Australians picknicking in Sydney c. 1914, holding Lietuva, the American Lithuanian newspaper which published articles about Lithuanian migrants in Australia'.

We know that John Wedrien (Jonas Vedrinaitis) and Alexander (Ksaveras) Skierys had written an article to Lietuva, which was published on 16 April 1915; see the posts of 5 March and 12 March 2015 for their stories, and that of 14 June 2019 for more about the article they wrote.

I'm confident the man on the far left of the photo is John Wedrien and that the man sitting in the front row (looking down) is Alexander Skierys.

It would be great to identify the ladies and the other two men in this photo.

Perhaps one of the other men was Jonas Mickevičius (known as John McCowage in Sydney)?

Metraštis No 1 (p8) recounts a few elements of Mickevičius' story as told by John Wedrien:
  • he arrived in 1887 from the UK with his wife and one child, together with two other Lithuanian men.  The two other men soon returned to London;
  • his wife, who according to Vedrinaitis was the first Lithuanian woman to have set foot on Australia, died after 10 years here;
  • Jonas had met no other Lithuanians in Australia until a chance encounter with Vedrinaitis at a Sydney market in 1913 or 1914;
  • he operated a greengrocer's shop.

Other Lithuanians who were living in Sydney at that time included:
  • Jonas Balaika;
  • Aleksandras Daukantas;
  • Antanas Juknaitis;
  • Petras (Peter) Kairaitis and his brother Vincas (Bill) Kairaitis;
  • Petras Kazlauskas;
  • Pranas Maciunas (Franc Matzonas); and
  • Stasys Urniežius (Stanislaus Urniarz)

Monday, 27 July 2015

Departures #2

We first encountered Jonas BALAIKA in the 19 February 2015 post (a single man who had settled in Sydney in 1912 having previously lived for 5 years in England and 2 years in Canada).  The following story is based on his naturalisation file, held by the National Archives of Australia.
Jonas Balaika (left of picture),
in Sydney, circa 1920.
(Source: Metrastis No 1

Jonas was born on 13 December 1886 in southern Lithuania, near the city of Marijampolė and the current Lithuanian/Polish border, in the town of Kalvarija.  He would have left czarist Russia by 1905.  He arrived in Quebec, Canada, in July 1909 from Liverpool, England, with his occupation listed as cabinet-maker.  By 1921 he was working as a cabinet-maker in Sydney, employed by an auction house in Redfern, and living at 259 Cleveland Street, Redfern.  He took the Oath of Allegiance on 27 August 1921, thus becoming a naturalised Australian and a British subject.  He travelled overseas around that time, possibly to Lithuania, and is recorded as a passenger on the Ormuz returning from London to Australia in December 1922. 

By 1925 he had decided to permanently return to Lithuania, which had declared its independence in 1918.  He took out Lithuanian citizenship in 1926, whereupon his Australian Certificate of Naturalisation was cancelled.

Jonas appears to have survived the Second World War and the horrors associated with the German and Soviet occupations of Lithuania.  However he appears again in Australian files in 1947, living in the Marijampole region of Soviet Lithuania, aged 66, with a wife and 6 children.  He is recorded as Ivan Ivanovich Balaika and his wife as Anna Ivanova Balaika; the eldest child, Maria, is aged 20 (ie born around 1927) and the youngest child Kazimir is aged 8 (ie born around 1939).  

The reason for the Australian Government's interest in this family in 1947 was that Mrs Balaika had approached the Australian Legation in Moscow to ascertain her husband's nationality "as he desires to return to Australia with his family".  The Australian Government's response was that Balaika's Certificate of Naturalisation and Australian passport had been cancelled in 1926 and that he was therefore no longer a British subject; nevertheless he could apply for permission to return to Australia with his wife and family, however "no assurance can be given that the application will be approved".

Given that there is no further annotation on this record, it appears that the family did not pursue the option of applying to return to Australia.  Or if they did wish to apply, they were not allowed to return.

Today there are a number of people with the Balaika surname in the Kalvarija and Marijampolė region, but it is not clear whether any are related to Jonas Balaika.   

Monday, 20 July 2015

Departures #1

Lithuanian migration to Australia has not always involved one-way traffic.  It was not unusual for people to arrive in Australia, spend some time here, and then move on.

For example, probably several hundred World War Two Displaced Persons from Lithuania made their way from Australia to North America after they had worked off their debt to the Australian Government by completing their contractual 2 year employment obligations in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Overseas migration statistics published by the Australian Government in the late 1920s and early 1930s give us an indication of the mobility of earlier Lithuanian migrants:
  • 51 Lithuanians arrived in Australia during 1928 and 7 departed;
  • 13 Lithuanians arrived in Australia during 1931, and 7 departed;
  • no Lithuanians arrived in Australia in the first quarter of 1932, but 2 departed; 
  • 2 Lithuanians arrived in the last quarter of 1932, none departed;
  • 3 Lithuanians arrived in the quarter ended 30 June 1933, but 5 departed.   
Somewhat surprisingly both inward and outward flows continued as the Great Depression gathered momentum.  The landing requirement was raised in 1928 from 50 pounds to 200 pounds (while British immigrants needed only 3 pounds).  Assisted migration from the UK was suspended as unemployment became a major issue from 1929 onwards.  Soon there were reports of 20,000 British immigrants stranded in Australia.  The risks for non-British migrants would likely have been even higher.

Metrastis No 1 provides details of several Lithuanians who left Australia during the 1920s:
  • Stasys URNIEŽIUS - who we have already encountered in an earlier post on First World War Anzacs - returned to Lithuania in 1920;  
  • Jonas BALAIKA had arrived from England around 1912 and left Australia for Lithuania via England in 1922 (there will be more on this man's story next week);
  • ? ŠLEKYS, having arrived in 1928 returned to Lithuania the following year;
  • Vladas DAPKUS arrived in Australia in 1928 and was one of the founders of the Australian Lithuanian Society in Sydney, but left for Argentina in 1930 and from there for Lithuania;
  • J JASIUNAS, also one of the founders of the Australian Lithuanian Society, returned to Lithuania in 1930.

Sources: Trove; Metrastis No 1; Eric Richards, Destination Australia (UNSW Press 2008)

Monday, 13 July 2015

How many Lithuanians came to Australia before World War 2?

The short answer to this question is that we don't know and will probably never have exact numbers.  Apart from the Australian Lithuanian Society which in the 1930s had recorded around 100 members in Sydney, there is very little information.  However, we can make some reasonable assumptions.  And it's fun to speculate.

Certainly the numbers were not huge, but they may been larger than some people have imagined.  There were likely only very small numbers able to leave Lithuania until well into the second half of the nineteenth century (serfdom was only abolished in that part of the Russian empire in 1861).  Unlike the USA which attracted tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Lithuanian immigrants, Australia was not high on the list of potential destinations; during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries most migrants from Lithuania who headed west sought to establish new futures in North America.  Great Britain was often a stepping stone to North America, but many stayed on in Scotland, London, or Manchester.  South Africa was particularly favoured by Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews).  Argentina received probably 10 times more Lithuanian immigrants during the 1920s and 1930s than Australia had received in the century prior to the post World War 2 migration (my uncle was one of those who arrived in South America in 1926 from Lithuania).

Nevertheless, numbers in Australia grew during the early twentieth century, in parallel with the growth of the new federation:

  • The 1933 Census in Australia was the first to record Lithuania as a place of birth.  It tells us that a total of 235 people gave their place of birth as 'Lithuania'.  Of these, 155 were male and 80 were female.  While this figure can be questioned, e.g. some people with origins in Lithuania may have listed their place of birth as Russia or Germany (having in mind the respective empires prior to World War 1), it provides the only solid benchmark we have at this time.

  • The Lithuanian historian Adolfas Šapoka, while acknowledging the 1933 census figures, wrote in 1936 that there were around 2,000 Lithuanians in Australia and neighbouring countries (Lietuvos Istorija (History of Lithuania), edited by A. Šapoka, 3rd edition, published in Germany in 1950, p664).  Šapoka would have had access to estimates of the Lithuanian government in the mid 1930s.  He argued that many Lithuanians may have been listed under other nationalities.

  • The Lithuanian Encyclopedia (published in Boston, USA, between 1953 and 1969) claimed that in 1946 there were 1,000 Lithuanians in Australia.

  • Dr V Doniela in a contribution to The Australian Encyclopaedia (Volume 5, Australian Geographic Pty Ltd, 6th edition (1996), p 1932) wrote "Apart from a few immigrants in the 1830s and onwards, several hundred Lithuanian immigrants settled in Australia after World War 1 ..."

Ultimately it depends on how you define 'Lithuanians'.  If the term is used solely for ethnic Lithuanians then the numbers will be much smaller, in the hundreds; however if the term is used to include all people born in the territory of Lithuania (in particular the Litvaks) then they will be larger, possibly in the thousands.

Another issue is that of mobility.  Not all migrants remained in Australia:

  • Australian government statistics for 1928 recorded 51 Lithuanian arrivals and 7 departures (Morning Bulletin, 6 March 1929, p 14);   
  • by 1931, with the effects of the Great Depression being felt throughout the country, 13 Lithuanian arrivals and 7 departures were recorded (The Mercury, 16 February 1932, p 10)

The next two blog posts will look at some of those who came to Australia, stayed a while, but then left. 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Penniless Lithuanian noble ships son off to Australia

I thought this extract from an article in The Western Australian of 23 February 1929 was worth a mention as it touches on a few human-interest themes: Baltic nobility, youth emigration schemes to Australia, and famous connections:

 The Largs Bay Passengers
Among the passengers on the liner Largs Bay, which reached Fremantle from London last night were: ....
Mr Robert de Ropp, son of Baron de Ropp, a former wealthy landowner of Lithuania whose estates were confiscated during the wartime revolution.  He is proceeding to South Australia, and is the only Little Brother for that State among a party travelling on the boat under the auspices of the Big Brother movement.

The Ropp family was indeed a wealthy landowning power in Lithuania under czarist rule, operating several manorial estates.  They had probably arrived in Lithuania Minor with the Teutonic knights in the Middle Ages and stayed, gradually extending their influence. The statement in The Western Australian that the estates were confiscated during the wartime revolution is probably not correct, as the family appears to have maintained estates in Lithuania until the arrival of the soviets in the Second World War.  

The Big Brother movement (see link to the NAA's fuller explanation of the scheme) was a British/Australian youth migration scheme which paired the emigrants (Little Brothers) with adults in Australia (Big Brothers) who would provide support after their arrival.

Wikipedia, which cannot be relied upon as an accurate source but which nevertheless carries much valuable information, has this to say about Robert Sylvester de Ropp's early life:

Ropp was born in London, England, in 1913, the son of William de Ropp (originally Wilhelm von der Ropp) by his marriage to Ruth Fisher. The Ropp family had been land-owning barons in Lithuania. William was of Teutonic and Cossack descent, and although entitled to use the title of “Baron”, was perpetually in shaky financial circumstances. He had settled in England in 1910 and become naturalised in 1913. Ropp's mother, Ruth .... died in the 1918 flu pandemic.[3] Robert de Ropp had also contracted the flu during the pandemic, and by the time he fully recovered from its ravages he was seven years old.[2]  

.......   After Ropp's recovery from the flu, his father sent him as a boarder to a preparatory school ....... In 1925 Ropp's father, being in financial difficulties, could not pay the school fees and took him out of the school. His father also remarried, and the family went to live in the old baronial estate in Lithuania. Shortly after, Ropp's father obtained work as an agent for an aircraft company in Berlin and, taking his wife there with him, abandoned Robert in the rambling ruin of the family home, where he lived with a family of Latvians attached to the old Ropp baronial estate. He lived a rustic existence in Lithuania, left to his own devices and picking up the ways of the peasants.

Two years later, when he was fourteen, his father shipped him off to the semi-desert south-Australian "outback", to live with, and work for, a hardscrabble-farm family. Three years later, the farmer went bankrupt amid dust storms. Lonely and nearly penniless, hard-bitten Robert eventually made his way back to England, where one of his maternal aunts took him in. In a while, he moved in with his mother's cousin, Adeline, who lived in Dorking with her husband, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.[2]

  1. Community Trees. FamilySearch. 28 July 2009. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  2. Ropp, Robert S. de, Warrior's Way: a Twentieth Century Odyssey (Nevada City, CA: Gateways, 1995 and 2002)
  3. Office for National Statistics - Death Indices

Source:, [downloaded 10 May 2015]

Robert de Ropp appears to have led an interesting life; he went on to became a biochemist and academic in London, migrated to the USA in 1945, and from the 1960s while living in California developed his interests as a writer and teacher in the development of human potential and the search for spiritual enlightenment.  His father Baron William Sylvester de Ropp may have had an even more colourful life, including operating as a British spy while befriending Hitler: see the link to Wikipedia here.

Also here is a  link to an article on the Ropp family in the online Lithuanian periodical Bernardinai which references this blog post: 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Settlers in Western Australia

Migrants from Lithuania have been arriving in Western Australia for well over 100 years, yet I have found nothing published about the early (pre-World War 2) settlers.  So here's my contribution.

Previous posts in this blog have already outlined the stories of those Lithuanian Anzacs who had arrived as single men and enlisted in Western Australia, including:

  • Kazimieras ČEPKAUSKAS (Charles Cepkouski/Capouski), born in Arlaviškės (near Kaunas) in 1891, arrived in Australia at Fremantle in 1910;
  • Joseph JOSEPHSON, born in Vilnius in 1886, arrived at Fremantle in 1912;
  • John LOVRIAEN, born in Kaunas in 1889, arrived around 1909; and
  • Kazys VALUKEVIČIUS (Kazis/Charles Walinkevic/Volukavitz, born in Marijampolė in 1884, arrived in 1910.  
Several others also arrived and settled immediately prior to the First World War, including family groups.  The ALANSKAS family arrived in 1912 after having lived in Scotland for 9 years: Antanas (Antoni), who was born in 1882 in the southern Lithuanian region of Suvalkija, arrived with his Lithuanian-born wife Eva (Ieva) - who was also the sister of John Lovriaen -  and their 3 daughters who had been born in Glasgow, Scotland.  The family settled at Bellevue, now a suburb of Perth, where Antanas tended 50 acres and worked as a labourer and brickmaker (source: NAA records).

Perhaps one of the earliest arrivals with Lithuanian connections was Robert Carl Heinrich REICHEL, born in 1834 in Memel (now Klaipėda) who arrived at Melbourne from London in 1859.  He married in 1862 in Melbourne and settled in Victoria but around 1895 moved to Perth where he was naturalised in 1909 at the age of 74 after 50 years in Australia.  At that time he gave his occupation as woodcutter, married, with 8 children alive and 5 deceased.  Robert died soon after, in 1912 (source: family trees).

Another migrant with Prussian Lithuanian connections was Otto Bernhard RIEGERT, born in 1861 in Minjotai.  He had married in South Australia in 1886 but moved to Western Australia with his family in the first decade of the 1900s.  Otto worked as a school teacher and died in 1916 at York, WA (source: family trees).

More migrants arrived after the First World War, anxious to make a start in the New World:
  • Pranas ŠEŠKAS (Frank Seskas) from Kaunas was living at Muchea, WA.  By 26 May 1938, when he placed a notice in the Western Mail of Perth regarding his intention to seek naturalisation, he reported that he had been an Australian resident for 20 years; 
  • Liudvikas KURTINAITIS from the Marijampolė area was living at Northam with his Lithuanian wife Katarina and daughter Adelė when he placed his naturalisation notice in The West Australian of 12 September 1938, stating that he had been living in Australia for 9 years and 9 months;
  • Juozapas LAZORAITIS (Brown), born in Pilviškiai and living at Planet Street, Perth, stated in his notice in the Westralian Worker of 15 November 1929 that he had been in Australia for 13 months, and prior to that for 35 years in Scotland;
  • Zale ZAPOLSKI (known as Zalman Levi) born in Lazdijai in 1904 had been in Australia for 9 years and was living at Bayswater (Perth) when he placed his notice in the Daily News of  13 July 1939 (he went on to serve for Australia in World War 2, 1942-46);
  • Theodore Charef SHARP, born in 1876 in Kedainiai, worked as a salesman and died in Perth in 1940 (Source: family trees).
Kazys ASTRAUSKAS departed on the Osterley from London on 24 November 1928 in the company of the Marcinkevičius family.  However, after only a few months in Sydney, Kazys opted for Western Australia.  The passenger list show that he was 28 years old and his occupation was listed as farmer.  He also had left a family behind in Liudvinavas, Lithuania; 8 months later, having established himself as a carpenter at the Golden Horseshoe Mine in Kalgoorlie he applied to the Commonwealth for permission to bring his wife Albina, two young sons and sister-in-law to Australia; in April 1930 his wife and sons boarded the Orvieto for Australia.  Kazys later called himself Charles Ashe; he became a successful building contractor in Kalgoorlie and a third son was born in 1933.  In 1938 he sought permission to sponsor a good friend from Lithuania, Joseph Samulaitis of Marijampolė, to Australia, but it is not known what the outcome was (Source: NAA records).

With thanks to Daina Pocius of the Australian Lithuanian Community Archives for sharing her research results.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Dailidė family history

Late last year I was very fortunate to come across a marvelous new publication, a family history of William and Margaret DELADE who arrived in Australia from Scotland in the 1920s:

Tėvynės: The Homeland, a family history of Margaret and William Delade,
published in 2013 by Robert Staib and Roslyn Staib, Sydney
(see the National Library of Australia's listing here)

Not only does this book tell the story of William Delade (Vincas Dailidė) and his wife Margaret (Magdalena Deckerie/Dekerytė) as well as their extended families in Lithuania and Scotland, it also serves as a valuable resource for social and migration history.  It is a particularly significant contribution in that there have been so few Australian Lithuanian family histories published to date.

The 88 page publication is attractively packed with colour photos, maps and tables as well as a very readable text.  It was awarded 3rd prize in the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies' 2013 Alexander Henderson Awards for Best Australian Family History (see link here).

I particularly liked the outlines of political, social and economic conditions in late 19th century Lithuania and early 20th century Scotland which helped place migration decisions in context.  An interesting point was that the majority of the Lithuanians in Scotland had - like Vincas Dailidė and Margaret Deckerie's parents - come from the Suvalkija region of Lithuania.  The discussion of the Anglo-Russian Military Convention of 1917 which in effect forced most Lithuanian men in Britain to choose between conscription into the British Army and deportation for service in the Czar's Army, with profound consequences for the families involved, was illuminating.

The authors drew on a range of source material for the 13 chapters of the book, including apparently well-documented records of family memories, a visit to Lithuania in 2011, and an impressive number of referenced publications.  The book assists the reader with useful appendices on Lithuanian surnames, a family time line, a family tree, a list of all people mentioned in the book, and a comprehensive index.

My only quibble is with the use of the word 'Tėvynės' in the title: that word in the nominative form as used here means 'homelands' (plural), while the singular form would be 'Tėvynė'.  The mistake could have been avoided by checking with a Lithuanian-speaker.

Having left Scotland in the late 1920s, the Delades settled in Dapto NSW (near Wollongong) where William worked at the Wongawilli coal mine for 26 years; he died in 1978, and Margaret in 1980.  Contacts with other Lithuanians were probably intermittent, although the book includes a photo of William with fellow Scots-Lithuanian Frank Augustus (Pranas Augustaitis) and the Lithuanian chronicle Metraštis No. 1 records Vincas Dailidė as having been a member of the Sydney-based Australian Lithuanian Society.

Roslyn Staib (Margaret and William's granddaughter) and her husband Robert have produced a high-quality publication celebrating their lives which is also a great contribution to the history of early Lithuanian migration to Australia.  Hard copies of the book may be found at the National Library of Australia and the Wollongong Library; the Australian Lithuanian Community Archives also has a CD version of the publication, courtesy of the authors.