Nels Glauder (born Nils Persson) 18 July 1846 – 22 June 1936

My grandfather’s grandfather was said to be a seaman from Sweden who settled in Forbes NSW, married a local widow in 1875, and had 5 children including my grandfather’s mother. The NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages (NSW BDM) records many of the significant details of his life once he was living in New South Wales. I say New South Wales because it is important to remember that at that time Australia did not exist as a nation and the continent was made up of separate British colonies such as Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.

Here are some details of his life once Nels had arrived in Forbes

1875Nels (29) marries Rebecca (30) in Forbes. Rebecca’s partner, John Higgins (42), had died a year earlier. She and her 5 young children were living on a farm on the Lachlan River 5km below Forbes.
Rebecca has 5 more children with Nels, including my Great Grandmother Christina in 1879.
1905Christina marries in Forbes
1905My grandfather, Kenneth Glauder Ferguson, is born in Forbes
1920Nels and Rebecca sell the farm and move in to town to live with Christina and family.
1922Rebecca dies in Forbes aged 77. The extended family move from Forbes to Sydney later that year.
1936My great great grandfather Nels dies in Sydney just before his 90th birthday.
1961My great grandmother Christina dies in Sydney aged 82
1989My grandfather Ken dies in Sydney aged 84

There are many other interesting details available concerning Rebecca’s first partner, John Higgins, their 5 children and the provenance of the farm they owned, so-called Esrom Farm. Sources are plentiful. As well as the NSW BDM there are newspapers available through the National Library of Australia’s Trove and the work of conscientious family researchers. But the story of Nels before he arrived in Forbes was more difficult to uncover.

Nels was born in Sweden so presumably 19th century Swedish historical records would be a challenge for me to understand. Also if he really was a seaman that would present further challenges. I have many ancestors who came to Australia as convicts or free settlers. Their migratory movements are well-documented – especially the convicts! But sailor ancestors can be difficult to track.

I did have one solid piece of evidence about Nels’ life in Sweden. In October 1880 Nels paid an immigration deposit for ‘Christina Glauder’, aged 28, domestic servant at an address in Sweden. The deposit was refunded in November 1881 so it seemed that Nels’ younger sister never emigrated to Australia. The address given is located in the Swedish province of Blekinge and this gave me a new direction for research.

To effectively research Nels and his origins I needed to understand two important issues:

  • Swedish traditional naming conventions
  • the importance of the Swedish navy and military service in the lives of the people of Blekinge

Traditionally Swedes used a patronymic naming system. A child would be given a surname made up of the father’s first name plus ‘son’ for a boy or ‘dotter’ for a girl. The FamilySearch wiki has a good article explaining it further. So, for example, if Sven Anderson had a son, the son’s surname would be Svensson. If he had a daughter her surname would be Svensdotter. So a nuclear family would have divers surnames. Note also that a woman did not usually take the surname of her husband. For example:

Parents:Sven AnderssonBengta Persdotter
Children:Nils SvenssonKristina Svensdotter

As a corollary you can also see that Sven’s father’s first name would have been Anders, while Bengta’s father’s would have been Per.

Initially this can be confusing because in English-speaking countries we are used to seeing all the members of a household with the same surname – usually the father’s. It is also relatively easy to follow surnames across multiple generations. Additionally, some Swedish first names are very common and so, therefore, are the surnames of their children. So if a village contains a few men named Sven there will be many children with the surname Svensson and Svensdotter but they may not be related. Some might be but you cannot rely on their surnames to indicate this.

During the 1860s and 1870s this patronymic naming system began to fall out of fashion. At this time many Swedes were migrating to larger cities or to other countries like Germany and the USA and chose to use a new non-patronymic name. This may have been an Anglicised version of their name, or a place name or their father’s ‘military name’ or something just made-up.

Which brings me to the subject of Swedish military service. It seems that Nels’ ancestors had lived in the province of Blekinge for many generations. It is located in the far south of Sweden not far from Denmark. In fact Blekinge was part of the Kingdom of Denmark from about 1026. During the 17th Century Sweden rose as a ‘great power’ and took control of Blekinge in 1658. Sweden needed men for its army and navy and used compulsory military service. Coastal provinces such as Blekinge generally provided men for naval service. In 1680 the city of Karlskrona was constructed as Sweden’s principle naval base. It has been suggested that Blekinge was chosen for such a large military presence because it had only recently become part of the Swedish Empire and so the loyalty of its inhabitants was suspect. Blekinge is much closer to Copenhagen than it is to Stockholm.

Adding https to my home web server

My downstairs web server is currently running Ubuntu 20.04, PHP 7.4, Apache 2.4 and WordPress 5.5. WordPress and Chrome have been nagging me about upgrading to https for some time. Initially I looked at it from the WordPress perspective but of course I self-host WordPress, together with a few other websites, so the solution has more to do with Apache than with WordPress. And so I found this excellent tutorial: How To Secure Apache with Let’s Encrypt on Ubuntu 20.04.

At Step 4 you run the Certbot software to obtain the SSL certificate and optionally add redirects to the Apache config files.

“Please choose whether or not to redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS, removing HTTP access”.

I wasn’t sure if my WordPress installation was ready to fly yet without http, so I said no. I would check if https was working ok and do the Apache redirects myself later. As it turned out I didn’t have to do the redirects manually. If you run Certbot again (you may as well install a new certificate) then say yes to the question about redirects.

The https installation worked but afterwards I noticed that the WordPress Site Health plugin was complaining about a few things, including:

  • The REST API encountered an error
  • Your site could not complete a loopback request

I spent a lot of time googling this problem. It is a common problem with many possible causes and fixes, none of which worked.

The second problem I noticed was that https was working from within my home network but not from outside. I assumed this problem related to the changes I had made to ufw and I spent far too long editing that. I also thought that Certbot may have mucked up my Apache config files. But of course neither problem had anything to do with Certbot or the tutorial. Eventually I realized I had forgotten to open up port 443 on my home router! This instantly solved both problems.

Cecil Ernest Sampson Byrnes in Changi POW camp

Cecil’s fate after the fall of Singapore had always been unclear. Recently I found out that the University of Melbourne Archive (UMA) had digitized their collection of Australian Red Cross (ARC) POW World War II enquiry cards. These cards were used to record requests for information, usually by family members in Australia, as to the whereabouts of prisoners of war.

It can be tricky to find the best place to search the card collection. The cards are owned by UMA. After digitization the collection became searchable via the Library repository. To get some background:

Here is a link to Cecil’s ‘Missing, Wounded and Prisoner of War Enquiry Card‘. For convenience I’ve copied a section of it below.

Australian Red Cross POW enquiry card for Cecil Ernest Sampson Byrnes
Copyright: University of Melbourne Archive

The information on the cards is very condensed so the UMA provides a list of the most common abbreviations.

From the card we can see that Cecil was a civilian, the enquiry came via the NSW branch of the ARC, and that he was initially in the Changi Camp before being transferred to the Enemy Civilian Internment Camp at Sime Road. The ‘next of kin box’ shows Lily’s contact address as 1290 Pacific Highway, Turramurra. Cecil is said to have been 51 years old, although I believe he was 49 at the time. His occupation is ‘merchant’ which is suitably vague. During the 1930s he was managing a tin mine at Panang but he was a certified accountant and had been involved in various commercial activities.

10-3-42 Cecil’s address is given as 15 Nunes Building, Malacca Street, Singapore. These photos from 1982 show the Nunes Building past its prime but in its day it was in an important commercial hub. To gain an impression of what the area was like during the 1950s I can recommend Naffi’s Reminisces of Dad, 1952-1960. This card entry mentions that Lily is willing to contribute to the cost of the cable. I wonder how much it was.

2-4-42 a cable is sent to Geneva requesting information.

13-4-43 and 21-6-43 a year passes. I don’t know what these entries mean. ‘Message from (B) S Byrnes over Singapore Radio – see ABC lists’. More research needed.

14-6-43 List CC12 advises Tokyo cables: interned in Changi. The mention of ‘mining engineer’ is plausible. In 1931 Cecil became a member of American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers. Looks like NSW ARC checked this detail with Lily as initially his occupation was given as ‘merchant’.

10-9-43 List WC26CC advises card received Washington POW Changi Syonan (Japanese for Singapore). This seems to confirm that Cecil is in Changi POW Camp.

31-5-44 another radio broadcast

6-12-44 a cable advises that Cecil had been transferred from Changi to the Civilian Internment Camp at Sime Road.

19-3-47 no further information available so the case is closed.

In the meantime the war in the Pacific had ended in August 1945 so presumably Cecil was released soon after then. Cecil appears to have been incarcerated for a total of 3 1/2 years, from the fall of Singapore in February 1942 until its liberation in September 1945.

Here is an interesting blog post describing the Sime Road camp.

And here is a listing for Cecil on the FEPOW website.

The University of Cambridge Digital Library has a collection entitled ‘Voices of civilian internment: WWII Singapore‘, which includes the ‘Changi and Sime Road civilian internment camps: nominal rolls of internees (RCMS 103/12/22)‘ which lists Cecil. Cecil’s camp register number is listed as 2013, card index number 305, age 49, occupation miner.