Seventh Year - No Itch
~ Society's membership grows
One of the joys of a multicultural society is the recognition of a forebear's contribution to the
making of Australia. While some ethnic minorities are prominent because they retain their
language, character sets, and cultural identities in music, dance and cuisine, there are other
less conspicuous but equally inventive pioneers with spirit and determination.
American 'migrants' have one million Aussies in their lineage today, a fact that often
disappears from the radar of ethnic recognition. They are a quiet minority, content on making
their mark, unobtrusively and without fanfare, yet, inquisitive about their past.
The Australian Society of American Descendants (ASAD) strives to locate these antecedents, thereby
placing them, and their roles in developing this great country. If you have a genealogy bent, you
have an edge, because you know the ropes when it comes to identifying rellies through the various
databases which exist. This fascination with the genes is often a catalyst to discovery of a North
The steady flow of interest in the Society is thus a two-way street - ASAD's history trove continues to grow
for posterity's sake, while ASAD has many tools at its disposal to assist others in their search for an
American ancestor. Quite often a mere description of a unit, platoon, air force insignia, becomes
the locater for a father, who left behind a gem, more than his war effort. Further back, the
surprises are made manifold as researchers fall upon a certificate with the words, 'born in USA'.
Most of these descend from gold miners from the fifties and sixties, and to the later finds in the
short-lived eighteen eighties.
No one should be surprised that at the Eureka Stockade, Australia's mini rebellion, so many Americans
took the frontline in the battle, confident of their success. This confidence may have been called
brashness, but Americans got things done. This can-do attitude was extant in enterprises they built
and civic involvement to the highest levels of government, in a rapidly growing Australian community.
2012 may be a year of completion in the first phase of the Society's development, but it sure is a pointer
to further expansion of the resources the Society is treasuring for our colourful American history to
the present day.
GUS MERCURIO ~ farewell friend and patron ... 2011
Long time supporter and Patron of the Australian Society of American Descendants
has departed this world, leaving a lasting memory to all who knew him.
Gus was a larger than life character in his films and in real life. He loved to speak about his past
with a passion and motivate others to follow their star on the rise. Gus's gravelly voice which he
received through a throat cancer, became his signature tune as a popular boxing commentator,
and on screen and television star, someone all Australians could identify as their own.
He started his career in the USA as a boxer coming from the big city of Milwaukee in Wisconsin.
He had some well-ranked fights but later found himself studying chiropractory and representing
the US team at Melbourne's 1956 Olympic Games. Seems he fell in love with the country and
wanted to hasten a quick return. The love affair with Australia never ceased as Oz became home.
He would travel between the two countries and tell his children and family in the US that he
was returning home to Australia.
While Gus was refereeing boxing matches and later commentated for the TV channels, someone
spotted his acting potential, matching him to a script searching for an American accent in
to retell Australia's history through film and television thereby providing recognition to the
thousands of Americans who migrated here to work on the gold fields. Gus was to fulfill
a life-long ambition to go into the movies, whilst Australians hankered for more of the
rough-tough-gun-toting Mercurio. He found a place in the heart of television viewers and the
love affair thus grew. His film career included roles in The Man From Snowy River, Matlock,
Division 4, Cash and Company, Homicide, Power Without Glory, Five Mile Creek,
Mission Impossible, and many others including Crocodile Dundee.
Gus Mercurio was asked to join the Australian Society of American Descendants as its Patron in 2005.
Executive Officer of the 'Society, Keith Smiley, said that Gus was only too happy to lend his
name and experience to ASAD's banner and reason for its existence. "He assisted with the
establishment of the Society and took part in the Society's Melbourne Museum's launch of
'Cowboys, Church Bells and Curtain Calls' . He spoke at length about the importance of identity
and belonging, and also believed the American immigrant should have a place in Australia's history
alongside other nationalities that have made Australia home. He thus became the living proof and
the Society's first Patron leading Australians into recognizing the positive contribution American
Australians have made to this country, said Keith.
"He was ever aware of other sacrifices made by leading Americans who have shaped Australia,
as well as those gaining in recognition for their vital contribution to the making of
this great country," Keith explained. Gus's wife Rita had been by his side for the past 40 years,
as she also celebrated the American Australian experience having been in the first West Side Story
production and becoming an Australian citizen. Gus died at 82 in December 2010 while in the
operating theatre. Farewell friend....
Thanksgiving dinners get thumbs up - Thursday November 25th 2010
What used to be an American or Canadian tradition is steadily gaining recognition in Australia as a reason for being thankful for what we have.
Thanksgiving Day is widely celebrated in the USA as a mark of appreciation based on the arrival and successful first harvest of the Pilgrims who left Plymouth, England, in 1620 bound for America. After a stormy crossing, and a sense of 'divine providence', they arrived in in Massachusetts in late November.
After a prayer service, the Pilgrims began building hasty shelters, unprepared as they were for the starvation and sickness of a harsh New England winter, nearly half died before spring. Yet, persevering, and assisted by helpful Indians, they reaped a bountiful harvest the following summer. The grateful Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends.
Edward Winslow described the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving in these words:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling [bird hunting] so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as... served the company almost a week... Many of the Indians [came] amongst us and... their greatest King, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought... And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet BY THE GOODNESS OF GOD WE ARE... FAR FROM WANT."
In 1789, following a proclamation issued by President George Washington, America celebrated its first Day of Thanksgivingto God under its new constitution. But it wasn't until 1941, when Congress permanently established the fourth Thursday of each November as a national holiday. The Day now gives thanks to all those who migrated who to America, and to the Native Americans.
In Australia many families set aside a day of thanksgiving, not to echo what the USA does, but to establish a time of thanksgiving here, as the Canadians have done. It is also a fact that an estimate of perhaps hundreds of American descendant families also bake a turkey in the oven, thankful to their American forebears. There are plenty of recipes on the net, so set aside the 4th Thursday in November or make your own day. Australia needs its own Thanksgiving Day, so write to your MP suggesting we adopt this meaningful day. As members of the Australian Society of American Descendants there is plenty to be thankful for - Australian are discovering their American roots and want to hold on to some of their traditions, just as Italians or Chinese, for example, might wish to preserve their pasts.
American gallery party, with guest artist
Sunday 22nd August 4-6pm; Michael Ross and Keren Dobia, live music, food and wine
- Keith Smiley
This free event which depicts American streetscapes and skylines will be held at the Obscura Gallery, 1st floor, 285 Carlisle Street East StKilda. For more details phone them on 9525 9377 or go toi their website: www.obscuragallery.com. The inspiration for Michael's exhibition came to him in a dream, he says. As he walked through the streets of New York, and down the beaches of Asia, places he had visited in his waking life, he saw the most fantastic cloud formations and colours. In his dream they were real, yet he was conscious of their implausibility. He finally found a way to express these extraordinary visions of beauty through photography. ‘10,000 Miles of Dreaming’ captures everything Michael wanted it to. With images from Melbourne, Cambodia and New York City (approximately 10,000 miles apart), Michael takes us on a visual exploration of the visions he encountered in his dream.
Kristina becomes Australia's second American Premier
Not since the days of John Jenkins* has an American ascended the dizzying heights as a State premier, but Kristina Keneally has become the 42nd premier in Australia's most populous state of New South Wales.
Born in Las Vegas, Nevada, Kristina lived most of her American life in Ohio, studied at the University of Dayton with
a Bachelor of Arts and later at the Marquette University where she was awarded Master of Arts in religion, something
she may need in the roller coaster politics of New South Wales. She was also a champion soccer player no
less and can take a rough and tumble. She arrived in Australia briefly in 1994, returned in 1996, two years later
having the first of two children and becoming naturalised in 2000.
Within three years Kristina had been elected to the lower house of the NSW State Legislative Assembly making her maiden speech to the House in 2003. She rapidly moved up the ranks to hold several portfolios before being
elected Premier, 42-21 votes, by the State Labor party room.
Kristina's father, John Kerscher, told her from an early age she shouldn't play ''like a girl''. As her school soccer
coach in Ohio, he urged his teenage daughter to go for broke.
''I was pushing her to excel,'' he told the Herald recently.
''I knew that if she didn't play like a girl, but played to her capabilities, she would be a very successful player.
Mothers from other teams used to say: 'That big blonde out there is playing dirty'. She wasn't playing dirty - she
was playing soccer the way soccer should be played.''
Substitute the word ''politics' for 'soccer' and you see where her sheer driving determination to reach the top
"Kristina has always had strong convictions," says her mum, Cathy Kerscher who told The Weekend Australian.
"And she wasn't afraid to speak up in front of her friends, or to do something about it." It's for that reason they
struggle to suppress a laugh at claims that the eldest of their three children, who was sworn in as NSW Premier
by Governor Marie Bashir, is a "puppet" for NSW Labor's dominant Right faction.
Kristina's husband Ben's uncle, author, Thomas Keneally said: "She's a woman of independent conscience, strong
and intelligent. And over time, she'll win the respect of people, I'm sure."
"Having shared a podium with Thomas Keneally on a book launch in Sydney, "says ASAD's executive officer, Keith Smiley, "nephew Ben may well have an influence on Kristina's life, and like his uncle, bring with it plenty of opinion, laughter and satire to go with the topsy turvy nature of NSW politics.
"On behalf of The Australian Society of American Descendants I wish Kristina and her family a warm
congratulations and hope that Kristina can make effective changes to the great State of NSW, like her earlier
American compatriot, John Jenkins, did for the State of South Australia," said Keith.
*The other American-born Premier, John Jenkins was born in Pennsylvania. and came to South Australia in 1878 and
began importing both American and English books. In June 1886 he was elected a member of the house of
assembly for East Adelaide and in March 1891 he became minister of education in the Playford ministry, and
exchanged this for the portfolio of commissioner of public works in January 1892. In May 1901, Jenkins became
premier, chief secretary, and minister controlling the Northern Territory. As premier he took an important share
of the work connected with ministerial bills, and among the acts he was responsible for were those providing
free education, the Happy Valley water-supply system for Adelaide, and the trans-continental railway. He also
played a major role in an agreement between the States about the River Murray, and in continuing attempts to
develop the Northern Territory. As chief secretary in Holder's government, he was also minister for defence and
had responsibility for the four South Australian contingents to the South African War.
Vale, Don Lane
The sad news hit Australians in October of 2009 of the passing of one of Australia's great entertainers,
Manhattan born singer Don Lane, the 'lanky Yank' as he was known. He was a very popular American Australian
who also brought humour and slap stick comedy to television audiences. Becoming a household name in the
seventies with The Don Lane Show on Channel Nine. He had earlier worked alongside Frankie Laine, Wayne
Newton and Sammy Davis Jr. The trio of Lane, Kennedy and Newton poduced the magic for Channel Nine in its high-rating days of yesteryear. Don Lane switched to Channel Ten for a late night program called Late Night Oz
and later became a sportscaster and brought prominence to American football as well as basketball.
His distinctive New York twang was recognised by all.
Don was an all-consumate cabaret performer and starred in Las Vegas as a headline act, after he had left
Australia for a stint in the USA. To his already busy crown was added ten Logis Awards in various categories,
always the darling of Australian viewers.
A memorial was held at the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club, and ended with Don's performance of
Once Before I Go on the final Don Lane Show which earned him his final standing ovation to audience tears
Seeking Confederate soldier descendants March/April 2009
Mr Jim Gray of the Sons of Confederate Soldiers is seeking to compile a list of
descendants of Confederate American Civil War veterans living in Australia for
archival purposes and submission to the international organization,
Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), Inc. in Columbia, Tennessee.
On behalf of the SCV, Jim says he desires to, "honour everyone and not
leave any names out, as "this is important to Australian heritage,
to all Confederate descendants everywhere and it will serve to honour
the memory of the veterans in years to come."
Descendants of veterans should forward their details to James Gray,
Sons of Confederate Veterans, 11 Corndale St., Loganholme, Qld., 4129
or email to
. Upon completion it will be forwarded to
the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. in Columbia, Tennessee.
Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday celebrated
The American Civil War of Australia Inc. celebrated the birth 200 years ago of US president,
Abraham Lincoln. The symposium was held at the Celtic Club 316 Queens St Melbourne,
on February 7th, 2009.
A perspective on the life and times of Lincoln, was presented by Paul Spencer who opened his address around the theme, 'Path to the Presidency - Lincoln's rise from failed congressman to the
Republican Party nomination.' Waren Ellem will then discuss, 'Lincoln and the Republican Party
and Sean Young presented, 'Lincoln and his generals', with concluding oration given by Len Traynor on, 'Abraham Lincoln, his ailments and tragedies'.
For more details, contact, Jeff Yuille on 0412523199 or 03 9748 7996 or email him on
New information emerges
from north east study
- 1700 names identified in research of mainly American men,
their wives and families
Research into Americans and Canadians who came to Australia during the gold rush era, 1850-1870,
have been uncovered in Victoria's Northeast, once the jewel in the State's fortunes.
The study which took over five years to complete has been compiled by veteran researchers Denise McMahon and compatriot, Christine Wild who both have claims to American heritage in the region.
The work focuses on miners, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, and workers who spent time in the northeast of Victoria. The study identifies and reveals the lives of over 170 men, describing the ups and downs of their often precarious lives as they sought their fortunes from the ground or from various businesses. Some remained in the Northeast while others moved out across Australia, while some Americans returned to the USA. One thing they all had in common was their contribution to the development of the Australia.
This is a fascinating account not previously seen about the men and women excluded in history books, now part of a painstaking analysis of primary and secondary data, a testament to the meticulousness of the authors. The publication has over a 1,100 pages of information, a tome in anyone’s language.
Mr Keith Smiley, who is executive officer of the Australian Society of American Descendants, says he believes this to be a significant find for American Australian history: "I laud the efforts of the pair, and the presentation of a fine piece of work about American cultural heritage in Australia. While the Society is busy searching for historical artefacts and the hitherto unseen yet important historiography of this lesser known of cultural groups in Australia, Denise and Christine are helping to illuminate the relevance of the contribution of Americans here, through identification and story telling," said Keith.
“American Fever, Australian Gold, as the study has been named, sets a tone of confidence in our cultural past, where the authors have left no stone unturned. The cooperative and selflessness of this research is adding to our knowledge base of multicultural Australia. I recommend this analysis to anyone who has an American forebear or who is interested in a rare insight to a lesser known group of Australians.”
Commenting on the difficulty of the research, author Christine Wild said: “Many men tried to escape us and brought us so much frustration, but not writer's block or even, for example, the tangled life of Harry or his surname, his ship listing, change of name, love affairs, illegitimate children and unfaithfulness, or imprisonment for forgery, would be allowed to escape our attention."
The authors cite the assistance of other historians and genealogists, along with data from personal letters and diaries of the time, keeping the surprises abounding. This fascinating account also reveals those who were criminals, bigamists, farmers, shopkeepers, coach proprietors, hoteliers, miners, entrepreneurs, adventurers, public-minded citizens and hard-working family men struggling to feed their families. Close to seventeen hundred names are mentioned in the narratives, where the reader is led to understand how these men were bound together by various forms of relationships, family, friendship, and business.
Acknowledging the important value of this study, Miami historian, Ms Arva Moore Parks commended their work. "Thanks to the internet, Australians, Denise McMahon, Chris Wild and I have become collaborators and friends. Because of their meticulous primary research and willingness to share, we have incredible, and heretofore unknown, information about one of Miami’s oldest families. Their William Barnwell Brickell in Australia was the lead story in the 2007 Tequesta, Journal of the Historical Museum of Southern Florida," said Arva. Arva is the author of more than a half-dozen books on South Florida, including Miami, the Magic City. She has produced films on Miami and Coconut Grove and has received several honours, including an Emmy from the Florida Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Arva is also a well-known American councillor of historical preservation.
‘American Fever, Australian Gold’ is available from the authors on CD in PDF format. It is fully searchable, having a comprehensive list of surnames which appear in the Contents. The work is aptly cited with an array of photographs complementing the text.
For further details, contact the authors, Denise McMahon or Christine Wild at
Or you can phone Denise on 0413 792 384 or Christine on 0400 524 864; or contact can be made through the ASAD's email:
or its website www.americanaustralians.org
The American Heritage in Australia exhibition at
Museum Victoria successfully concludes
The Richardsons from Wisconsin,
on display at the Museum
Thirty thousand visitors, many of whom are descendants of Americans, had an opportunity of seeing their forebears and others on display. Families with their children, old and young, came to the exhibition and the feedback was very positive. American immigrants finally receive the recognition they deserve in Australia, alongside other ethnic groups.
At the Launch of the Exhibition which was titled 'Cowboys, Church Bells and Curtain Calls', Dr David Greene, declared a milestone had been reached by acknowledging the contribution of Americans in general and the fact that Museum Victoria was the first to run an Exhibition about Americans.
The US Consul General, David Hopper, spoke about the special relationship America has had with Australia over the past 230 years and officially opened the Exhibition of American heritage in Australia which contained; photographs, artifacts, clothing, letters and other memorabilia. The Project coordinator, Keith Smiley, in his speech, brought together all the American descendants in the audience and provided a history of settlement, influence and impact that Americans have had in Australia since they arrived aboard the Captain Cook's, Endeavour ship. To cap off the event, American-Australian actor, writer and boxing legend, Gus Mercurio, spoke of his love for Australia, the country he calls home.
The media ran several articles in the press and radio coverage highlighted the exhibition through interviews and community spots.