Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Coming to Australia

Ironically it took migration from Australia to get me started on researching my Australia roots. How much easier it would have been to capture the oral and written history if I'd have started while still down-under. Nonetheless, start it I did and quickly discovered the Internet was built for the budding genealogist.  A recent article by a friend that described one of the stories of her family history prompted me to enter the archives and bring to life the story of one branch of my family.

Most of my lines come from fairly stereotypical sources: those transported from Ireland after the rebellion of 1798; those transported for petty theft in the early 1800s; assisted and unassisted immigrants from England and Scotland looking for a better life in the mid and late 1800s. There are plenty of interesting stories amongst them that tell about personal grief, struggles and triumph. However, there is one line that is out of the ordinary.

Helen Mitcheson Bloomfield was born in Cheshire in 1878 to Emma Lucy Bloomfield. The Bloomfields were originally from Suffolk and included a soldier in the 12th Regiment of Foot and a Colour Sergeant in the Royal Marines who'd participated in the disastrous expedition of the River Niger in 1841. Emma Lucy and family migrated to Brisbane from Middlesex sometime between 1884 and 1889 where they settled in the Toowong area of the city under the family name of Douglas.

Adam Nicolavich Koboroff was born to a Russian soldier Nicholas Koboroff and Swedish Mother Mary Grendalt (Maria Gröndahl) in the Bulgarian city of Varna (or Varnya) in 1872. Bulgaria was then under the protection of the Czar's government following a period of war. Interestingly some of the paperwork refers to Varna being in Southern Siberia. However, other documentation from his naturalization file confirms the city by the Black Sea as his place of birth.

Adam was a cook on the SS Polynesien when he jumped ship in Melbourne in 1902. He eventually made his way to Brisbane continuing to act as cook on local vessels run by AUSN plying the coastal trade.

It appears he taught himself English by way of a pair of English-Russian and /Russian-English dictionaries that I now possess. It contains many hand written notations that, unfortunately, don't shed much light on the man, but mainly concern the meaning and use of certain words.

At some stage he took a job as a handyman at the Douglas residence where he met Helen. Although unmarried she had given birth to a daughter Gladys. Rumour has it that the local pharmacist was the girl's father. Helen had returned to England to allow the scandal to dissipate before returning to Brisbane. Somehow the Russian migrant hit it off with the fallen Helen and in 1907 the two were married at the Methodist Parsonage in Toowong.

My grandmother was the second born in 1911 in Toowong. Shortly after the family moved to Sydney. Why this move was made has not made it through the passage of time. Adam took work at the Auburn Meatworks in Lidcombe. He stayed at this job until after WWI broke out. Not having been naturalized he was unable to stay on at the job and was also not fit enough for service with the military. He was able to find some work at the Liverpool Army Base but the pay was not enough to keep a family of six.

Beginning in 1916 he undertook the steps necessary to obtain citizenship which included verification of his original citizenship, advertisements in local newspapers announcing his intention to be naturalized, and the obtaining of character references. Like all bureaucracies the wheels of Department of External Affairs (which later became the Home and Territorial Affairs department) moved painfully slowly.

Given this was wartime then it's not unreasonable. However, for Adam and family there was no income and food was even rarer for them than the general populace during the Great War.
In 1917 the Czar was overthrown and in October, following the Bolshevik revolution, the Soviet Union was formed. Unfortunately, this meant that Adam's application was now invalid and a fresh application had to be made. Once again the required forms were filed, the references obtained, and the police reports completed.

After almost three years of waiting he received a reply stating that since the overthrow of the Czar and the establishment of the Communist state by Lenin, it was an Australian Government policy that applicants from the former Russian nation would be denied admittance to Australia. Adam responded with several desperately pleading letters including the following (spelling errors have been left in):

Dear Sir,

In November 1916 I have had the honor to make the application to you for naturalization but have got your reply dated by 1 December 1916 N 16/30502 by which you have informed me that at that time the certificates of naturalization have not been issued to Russians under fifty years of age according of the agreement between thier Majestys of the British and Russian Imperial Governments as the Allys in the war in that time.

But since then the present Russian Government (if it is right to be called a Government which is in the clutches of the usurpers) who brake all the treatys and agreements which have been made by the Government of his Majesty the Czar of Russia with her Allys.

So now wehn no any treatys or agreements between British and New Russian Goverment between British and new Russian Government I hope that His Majesty Australian Government would not force me to remain still a Russian subject notwithstanding that I have had nothing to do with my birth country ever since I emigrate to this country seventeen years ago. I came into Australia at 1902 as you can see it in my application mentioned above, and I have married at Brisbane to Australian in 1907 and have now six children who by the law of this country are the British subject by the birth.

From time of my landing in Australia I have been working for the A.U.S.N. Co. for eleven years on a cook, then three years for Sydney Meat Preserving Co works and when the war broke out I have tryed to enlist for the active service but was rejected for the reason of deficiency of Eye sight and after that in September 1916 I have enlisted as a privet for the Home Service at Liverpool Camp N.S.W. and was at service in there up to 27th of December 1918 (some time after demobilization of the troops)

So now I have the liberty to trouble you again with the request to grant my application for naturalization as I am in very difficult circumstances at present time not being naturalized for I can not get a proper employment without a certificate of naturalization notwithstanding that I have Military discharges because it is a general rule now in all Companys of the works (of the Land and Sea) to employ only the British Subjects so for this reason I have been without work ever since I left the Liverpool Camp and nearly spend all what I had safe for a rainy days, and now all my family and myself are on a eve of starvation but for my own self I donot care what will happen to me but I can not see my family starve for the sake of that I am the alien. So now I see only one way if my application can not be granted then I must beg of you Sir to do with me as Government is going to do with the prisoners of the war to repatriate me as I will sooner go to back and to try to do some thing for my wife and children because that is all what I have and love in this world sooner to be there than here to see them starved after all these long years of labour and over two years of the service to the King and the country. I was trying hard to get a job every where but it is no use. I can not get a employment without the naturalization papers and untill I will get them I won't be able to do any good for my family I must have a work to earn enough to keep my family and myself with food and cloths.

I hope Sir that you will let me know the result soon.

I remain your obedient servent Adam Kobooroff Lord Street Cabramatta N.S.W.

Supporting submissions came from local citizens who knew the family and took the time to write to the department.
  1. In April, 1919, a final recommendation was made via the following memorandum: Adam Victor Kobooroff, a Russian, 47 years old, and resident in Australia since 1902, applies for naturalization. In 1907 he married an Australian woman and has 6 children by her. Worked for A.U.S.N. for 11 years and for 3 years was with a Sydney meat preserving company. When the war broke out he tried to enlist, but was rejected by reason of deficient eyesight. After that in September 1916 Kobooroff enlisted for Home Service at Liverpool, New South, Wales; and served till 27th December 1918. He adds that he is in very troubelous circumstances. Through not being naturalized, he cannot obtain proper employment, not-withstanding his military discharges, only British subjects being employed. He has been out of work ever since. All his family and he are on the verge of starvation. If his application cannot be granted he asks that he be repatriated. 
  2. The police report is favourable. They say he has been most loyal and that he is an honest, hard-working man.
  3. The Defence authorities state while there is nothing recorded on their files against applicant, it would not appear desirable except in the case of returned soldiers with clean records and undoubted loyalty, that persons of Russian nationality should be granted naturalization at the present stage.
  4. Submitted
<signature illegible>

Case is one of service as a soldier, and  desire to go to the front.

Determination  [?] of Loyalty: no evidence of ever [illegible] of disloyalty


So finally Adam was able to swear allegiance to the crown and discard his Russian citizenship and his family was remained in Australia where the family of six grew over five generations to number over one hundred people. Several went on to serve in World War 2, some took to the land, many remained in Sydney, one was awarded an OAM. Adam discovered religion and founded a church that sat in the front yard of his Cabramatta home for several years when his fervour waned. His wife died in 1945 and he went on to live until 1951. His oldest daughter and my grandmother lived in that house until she was 97 before moving to a nursing home where she died just 5 months short of reaching 100.

You can read Adam's entire naturalization file on the National Archives web site. Just enter the keyword Kobooroff in your search of the site.

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