My Grandfather - Thomas John James KENNEDY

by Sue Gorst,

With the publication of the article in the SMH on 3 November 2012 about the Waterfall Cemetery a missing page in our family history began to unfurl.

I wrote my first ever Letter to the Editor to share a little of our family history. The letter was published and the last ten (10) months have proven to be an exciting and emotional ride.

My mother's father, Thomas John James Kennedy was born on 28 September 1898 at Pambula on the NSW South Coast. He married my grandmother, Lydia Best on 27 July 1921 in Sydney. My aunt, Roma, was born on 8 February 1922 and my mother , Dell, was born at Parkes on 15 May 1923. Her father died at the Waterfall Sanatorium on 15 September 1923. My mother was not listed on his death certificate and my aunt was listed as one (1) year old. The death certificate listed his place of burial as Sanatorium Cemetery, Waterfall on 16 September 1923.

On his death certificate it lists him as being late of Pambula, on the Hospital Admission Register (more of that later) it says his address is Clarinda Street Parkes but in my mother's memories she writes:

"I came from Parkes. My father died when I was five months old. He was working on the railway in Goulburn. Then, Mum and my sister and I went home to Parkes to my maternal grandparents." (1998).

This was the only information we had. My aunt is still alive (aged 91yrs) and my mum died on 1 March 2012. Their mother also died of tuberculosis in Queanbeyan Hospital on 21 January 1936 (aged 35yrs). Mum and Aunty Roma often said that they never expected to make old bones as their parents had died so young!

About twenty (20) years ago mum applied for copies of her parent's birth and death certificates. After visiting her childhood home in Parkes (they moved to Queanbeyan in 1934) she and my sister tried to find the Sanatorium Cemetery, Waterfall but of course were unsuccessful.

After the publication of my letter the reporter at the SMH sent me links to Wollongong City Council and the photo archives at the State Library and the Powerhouse Museum. I was surprised at just how emotional this information made us and can now understand people's reactions on Who Do You Think You Are? as they uncover unknown family history.

Things have really started now to take on a life of their own. Most unexpectedly I learnt that my best friend's niece currently works at the Garrawarra Centre. She organised for us to visit the Centre and we were able to see the general direction of the Cemetery and to wander around and look at all the original Sanatorium buildings. My aunt has been so excited with what we have found to date and we are so sad that mum is not here to share our finds as it was her who was the prime mover in trying to track down information.

The really exciting break through was a visit to the State Archives in Kingswood. I now know he was admitted to Waterfall on 8 March 1923 (hence mum was listed on his admission papers). This of course prompts so many more questions. How did he get to Waterfall? Was it from Goulburn or Parkes? Did the family ever visit? Did he know that mum was born? Who paid the 4 pound burial fee? I have contacted the Research Officer at Parkes Library to start a search of the newspaper records.

Thank you to Wollongong Council for the professional and sensitive manner this has all been handled.

The biggest thing for me though over the past ten (10) months is that I no longer think of him, or refer to him as my mother's father - but now as my grandfather. It is a wonderful feeling.

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