It’s been a while since I’ve written an update on my family history findings – it’s been about 8 months! In the past couple of months I came across a new site, Archives Portal Europe, where I have since learnt that the National Archives Malta (NAM) are slowly making their archives available via this site. So far mostly only passport applications are available, with a fair few that have broken links, but have been advised that they are working on fixing this.
Over the past 15 months I have been delving into mum’s side of the family, mainly focusing on her father’s side, and have found a large amount of ancestors dating back to the 1100s! In between, I have been actively doing the same for dad’s father’s side, but have not found as much as what I have found on mum’s side. I focus so much on these two sides of the family as they are the ones I have found most on, and continue to chip away more and more. So a couple of months ago, I decided to do my ritual of re-googling those I don’t have much on. When I say ritual, every 3-6 months, I try my luck again to see if anything new pops up, which sometimes it does. Anyway, I searched my dad’s maternal side and as per usual, found nothing. I searched my mum’s maternal side and as I sat there waiting for Google to come up with something, up popped this Archives Portal.
I found myself saying to my computer screen, “get out of town!”. I found a passport application made by my buz nannu Wigi (Luigi, mum’s nannu on her maternal side) in 1915 with his intent travel to Australia! I cannot find the words to explain how big this is. Mum’s family, coming from Gozo, all of which were either house wives or farmers. I never really thought there would have been a possibility that they would have travelled other than to migrate, just like the Cremona’s migrating to Algeria.
The first thing that popped into my head was that he was to travel to Australia to serve in war. But surely, I would have heard a story of some sort that he did. So that then made me think, well maybe he never ended up actually going. I got onto the Australian National Archives and searched and searched through the passenger lists for this time. I found two lists that list a Luigi Vella. But this is all that is listed. His name. No DOB, no address, no nothing to confirm he is my Luigi Vella. Also the lists were from 1916 (not 1915 when he made the passport application).
I have one living great aunt (buz nannu Wigi’s daugher) zija Zarena. I thought, if anything, she would know something. I messaged my uncle in Gozo, and asked if he could ask her for me whether she knew anything about her father travelling to Australia. I went to sleep and woke up to a response 🙂
Luigi Vella did travel to Australia. He travelled for work.
I emailed my family friend who has knowledge of Maltese migration to Australia. I asked what the motivation would have been to go to Australia in 1915. As I already had knowledge that the majority of Maltese that migrated here to Australia worked either in the mines in WA or the sugar canes in QLD, I just wasn’t sure on the time period when this was popular. He confirmed for me that in this case, he most-likely went to work in the sugar canes. We found a passenger list dated 26th March 1915 with a Luigi Vella listed. The Orontes leaving London for Australia. Without having looked too much into this ship’s stop-offs, I know that it stopped at Freemantle and also Sydney… It may have stopped in Melbourne, and it may have gone up to Queensland – will have to look into this further.
I can only assume that this is him. My next step is to try and find some sort of a recruitment sheet, or some form of documentation that gives me more evidence of his work here in Australia.
You can imagine how excited I was to find something new. I’m even more excited to have found something new on mum’s maternal side as I didn’t have anything as yet.
Read Bużnannu Wiġi – Part II here.