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.