Cornelius's Chest

Lila Latta (nee Kersley) and your author meet in LA on 6th January, 2010.  Lila left Australia as a young woman and spent many years travelling the world, finally settling in LA with husband Jack.  They have no children.  


Although I had heard many stories of Lila over the years I had never met her so it was a great joy to finally do so.  (Lila and my father were cousins).


Lila and Jack made us most welcome in their home for a couple of days and played both host and tourist guide.


Lila, we hope we can reciprocate on your next visit down under.


This was the first I had ever heard that my great grandfather Cornelius Kersley actually had a chest and that not only was it still in existence, but was actually still full.  Cornelius has been dead for 60 years!


So another trip to Melbourne and more family members to catch up with, this time Juanita Franz, who is also my second cousin.


The contents of the chest proved a wealth of information, it would appear he did not throw anything away.  After sorting through the Tatts tickets, the various receipts for household purchases and the like, the real treasures started to emerge.   Original place settings for family weddings, original birth announcements, many, many photos of his family and his nieces and nephews, correspondence  from a nephew during the Great War, memorials, death notices and much more.


Some of the more significant treasures are:--


A book entitled "36 Views - Sydney" which was sent to his wife Wilhelmina from her daughter Sylvia, and is dated 30th April, 1910.  The book contains beautiful photos of early Sydney, together with a pull out panorama of the harbour; (minus the bridge, the Cahill and the Opera House)!


A letter from his nephew John Burns written from his hospital bed in Heliopolis dated October 4, 1915.   On the same sheet of paper is the full version of "My Brother Wot Stayed at Ome" written in a totally different hand.  This poem or ballad is attributed to Tom Skeyhill and of Skeyhill it is said he was permanently blinded during a charge at Anzac Cove on May 8, 1915 and was evacuated to a military hospital in Egypt, he spent 77 days in hospital and "as a form of self-therapy, the meagrely educated Skeyhill began writing poetry, dictating his verses to the digger in the next bed."  Where did Cornelius's nephew John, obtain the poem - in his letter he says he "wrote it out" but  the handwriting is totally different.  A treasure indeed!


But in my opinion the most significant item in the chest was his bowler hat.  Still in almost perfect condition.  I never knew Cornelius; he died before I was born, but in just about every picture I have of him he is wearing his bowler and I proudly wore it too.

con & minnie aalice athomas John Burns1

Just some of the original memorial notices discovered in the chest.  These are to Cornlius's father, Thomas, his mother Bridget and Sister Alice.

But perhaps the two greatest treasures that were discovered on that trip to Melbourne were two new and wonderful families .

Juanita & Fred Franz, their daughter Desiree and two grandchildren.  Juanita and I are second cousins and we both share Cornelius & Wilhelmina Kersley as our respective grand or great grandparents.

Trevor Sawyer, his wife Mandy and 3 sons.


Trevor is the great grandson of Wilhelmina Kersley from her first marriage to Arthur Burrowes.

Trevor                                              Me                                       Juanita

Insert body text here ...


Cornelius's Chest, what a strange name for a page but imagine my absolute delight when another second cousin announced one day "that she still had Cornelius' s Chest"  


"What chest?" I asked.


"The one that he kept all his papers in, we were never allowed to touch it".