Almost had it!

Last week Wednesday (19 August, 2009) I went to the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland and viewed Despatches from United State consuls in Lauthala on microfilm from 1850-1854.

The reel I looked at were letters written by John Brown Williams, the first US government representative in Fiji, to the US government in Washington. It included information about US ships arriving in Fiji, as well as letters from other people to Williams.

Microfilms are usually hard to read but this one more so because it was all in cursive. The letters were also not in chronological order or any order at all.

I was browsing, just looking for key words, more specifically for Charles Rounds – my father’s mother’s father’s father. That is, my great great grandfather.

According to John Young in Adventurous spirits : Australian migrant society in pre-cession Fiji (1984), Charles Rounds arrived in Fiji n 1851 and had lived in Laucala (Rewa) for one year in 1856. (p. 55).

He cited his source as the Lands Claims Commission and Executive Council Sittings for the rehearing of Claims to Land, 1875-1887, papers relating to Claims held at the Fijian National Archives in Suva. Which was why I was looking through the microfilm from 1850-1854.

Finally I came across a letter from a captain of a whaling boat to Williams that mentions Charles Rounds along with others who deserted the ship. I printed out the first page of the letter but all I got was a blank page. So I went and got assistance from the Library Assistant. She managed to change the settings and I was able to print out the letter but after printing 3 pages realised that it wasn’t the letter I first saw!!!

I went back and forth but after what seemed like hours I still couldn’t locate it! Apart from the letters not being in chronological order, the microfilm readers at the Fryer Library don’t have frame numbers, so it was like finding a needle in a haystack.

I felt nauseated after almost 2 hours looking at the microfilm, so I gave up on my search. The library closes at five everyday except for Wednesdays when it closes at 8pm. So I only got Wednesdays and Saturdays to use the library.

This is my second attempt to find out when Charles Rounds arrived in Fiji. Last month (Saturday, 27 July 2009) I visited the State Library of Queensland and looked through PMB (Pacific Manuscripts Bureau) 248 and 249 Whaling logbooks, and other documents, copied in New England (USA) repositories part of the New England Microfilming Project for the log book of the Canton Packet.

By the time I managed to locate the Canton Packets log book for the year I wanted, I had been in the library for seven hours. I had gone to a workshop earlier in the morning on Convict History in Australia and spent the rest of the day looking up the Whaling logbooks. I ended up making notes of the first four pages only and will re-visit the log book again later.

First I have to go back to the Fryer Library and locate that letter I’m positive I saw on the Despatches from United State consuls in Lauthala microfilm. Then I can look up the logbook for the ship.

The reason I looked up Canton Packet in the first place is because I found while searching the New Bedford Public Library Whaling Collection Archives the following information:

Lay: 1/210 Ship Name: CANTON
Rigging: SHIP
Port of Registry: NEW BEDFORD
Whaling Ground: INDIAN
Departure Date: 06/28/1845
Return Date: 06/15/1847

Hopefully I find the letter I saw on the microfilm, if not I’ll be devastated!


Australian National University. Pacific Manuscripts Bureau. & New England Microfilming Project.  [19–]  Whaling logbooks and other documents, 1760-1871 [microform]

United States. Consulate (Lauthala). 1954. Despatches from United States consuls in Lauthala [microform] 1844-1890.

Young, John M. R. 984. Adventurous spirits : Australian migrant society in pre-cession Fiji. University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, Qld.


About Dulcie Stewart

#TeamFiji based in Brisbane. Artist/blogger/family historian.
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