Trove Tuesday – Frederick John Finn, a sad victim of Murphy’s Creek

16 May 2017

It’s Trove Tuesday again and I’m participating in the regular Trove Tuesday blog challenge. My aim is to do it at least once a month, and this is my second post for May.

Mary Finn sketch 1903

This time I am revisiting the sad death of Frederick John Finn, my first cousin twice removed (my great grandmother Mary Finn’s nephew). Frederick was the son of James Joseph Finn and Miriam Joyce and his life was not a long or happy one. James and Miriam had six children but three died very young, one an infant, one a toddler and one a five year old.

Frederick was only four years old when his mother died and his father James struggled to keep the family together. One can only imagine what it was like to lose his wife and have three young children to look after. In the end the children were placed in care and Frederick went to a family at Murphy’s Creek near Gatton on the way to Toowoomba.

Frederick was in State care when he was sent to work at Michael O’Connor’s dairy farm at Murphy’s Creek. On 29 December 1943 Frederick was sent to round up the milking cows on foot. When he didn’t return, O’Connor and his brother went to look for him and retraced Frederick’s steps back to the creek which ran through the property. The creek had been rising and by that night was over 10 feet above its normal level. Police were contacted and a search started but it had to cease when darkness fell.

On 7 Jan 1944 the Queensland Times (Ipswich) reported “after one of the longest and most intense searches ever undertaken by the Helidon police no trace has yet been found of the body of 14 year old Frederick John Finn who, it is believed, was washed away and drowned when flood waters came down Murphy’s Creek on Wednesday of last week.”

Searching Trove I located two articles relating to the police search for Frederick but nothing on them finding his body. Years ago I found reference to a newspaper article on microfilm after establishing that Frederick was buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton cemetery. I probably searched backwards from the date of burial but I can’t really remember what I did decades ago.

So why couldn’t I find the same article in Trove using “Frederick John Finn” as a search term? Given that I knew a year, that it was Queensland and the article would probably have “body found” in the title, I searched on those parameters. It’s a bit surprising to see so many ‘body found’ articles but once you add the year it narrows down. The title of the article was actually “Boy’s body recovered” but there were several references to ‘body’ and ‘found’ throughout. So if you are not finding something under a person’s name, try other keywords such as place or topic and narrow down to a year.

Queensland Times 8 Jan 1944 via Trove

Queensland Times 8 Jan 1944   via Trove

The Queensland Times on 8 January 1944 reported that Frederick’s body was finally found seven miles downstream from where he disappeared. He was found by his employer Michael O’Connor and another man, W Gill. The post mortem and inquest were held in Toowoomba which is probably why Frederick was buried in the Toowoomba and Drayton cemetery. His brother Daniel was serving overseas in the RAAF and I haven’t been able to determine if his father and older sister attended his funeral.

The Finn family has many sad stories, but I like to think that Frederick did enjoy his time working on a dairy farm in the  beautiful Murphy’s Creek area. Did he miss his family or was he too young to remember what his family was like before he was taken into care?

Once again Trove has managed to provide more insight into one aspect of my family history. Three articles, two discovered just by using a person’s name and the third by using other keywords to find how this story ended.

Poor OCR can  mean that relevant articles are not easily found so remember to think laterally and try different combinations of keywords including names, places and subjects. Thanks Trove!

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  1. Thanks for the link to a great Murphy’s Creek story….one of my One Place Studies interests. O’Connor rings bells…will have to give it more thought.

  2. Thanks Pauleen. Yes I wondered if you knew about this tragedy at Murphy’s Creek. I always forget to tell you when we meet up.

  3. I thought of Pauleen when I read your post – as expected she was on it right away.

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