Dimitrius Fominas (1914-1984)
Nat Map Geodetic Survey Computer
Jim Fominas on Nat Map field work in the Northern Territory in 1950.
Image courtesy Andrew Murray.
Dimitrius (Jim) Fominas worked as a geodetic survey computer with Nat Map in the early 1950s. At that time he was employed by the National Mapping Section of the Property and Survey Branch of the Department of the Interior based at the Acton office in Canberra. (In 1951 the National Mapping Section was renamed the National Mapping Office.) It is uncertain as to when Jim Fominas commenced and ceased work with Nat Map but he was most likely with Nat Map from the late 1940s to 1954.
Jim had joined Nat Map as a recent arrival from Europe in 1948 or 1949 around the age of 35 years. The circumstances of his arrival are currently unknown. As an Australian resident alien until he was naturalised in November 1953 Jim Fominas was not eligible for permanent employment in the Commonwealth public service. Thus there were no Commonwealth of Australia Gazette notifications for Jim Fominas’s Nat Map employment which was most likely on a temporary basis.
As a geodetic survey computer Jim worked in the Records, Information, and Research Sub-section at Acton under long-serving officer-in-charge Albert Francis (Bert) Hurren whose Nat Map career ran from 1948 to 1975. In this position Jim was responsible for undertaking involved geodetic survey computations and for undertaking precise Laplace astronomical observations in the field and computing the results of such observations. Of course in the early 1950s all such computations had to be made by hand using tables of trigonometrical functions and logarithmic tables.
Stuart Highway Laplace observations 1950
As discussed in more detail in an article by Paul Wise at this link, in 1950 Jim Fominas led a three-man observing party (Trevor Trevillian and Graham Murray) that undertook precise Laplace astronomical observations at selected survey control stations along the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs to Darwin. The observing instrument was a Wild T4 astronomical theodolite. These are believed to be the first Laplace observations undertaken by National Mapping.
Laplace observations allowed the determining of latitude and longitude coordinates and azimuth from observations on selected stars (such as the magnitude 5.42 star Sigma Octantis). As well a precise theodolite, the observation routine involved the use of a star catalogue to obtain the astronomical parameters for the stars to be observed, a chronometer and an accurate radio time-signal (and stopwatch) to allow the recording of the exact time a selected star was observed.
Trevor Trevillian (Nat Map 1947-1981) with the Wild T4 theodolite at Anzac Hill Alice Springs when working with Jim Fominas in 1950. Image courtesy Andrew Murray.
Dmitri Fomin (later Dimitrius Fominas) was born on 2 August 1914 to Nikolai Fomin (circa 1869‑circa 1924) and his wife Zinaida Fomina (née Dauguvietytė 1887-1967). Dimitrius had one sibling, his older sister Natalija Baueriené (Natasha or Natalie) (Mrs Eugene Baueris) who was born in 1911 and died at Redfern in 2003 at age 92 years. Dimitrius stated he was born at St Peterborough (sic) in Russia. St Petersburg is at the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea) and at various times from its founding in 1703 until the Russian Revolution in 1917 it was the capital of the Russian empire. St Petersburg is about 650 kilometres north east of Vilnius the capital of Lithuania.
By at least 1925 after the death of his father, Dimitrius, his sister and their mother were living at the Dauguvietytė farm in Lithuania. The farm was near Kaunas, a city in central Lithuania at the confluence of the Neris and Nemunas Rivers about 90 kilometres west of Vilnius.
Unfortunately little else is currently known of Jim Fominas’s early life and his years as a young man. However, when he arrived in Australia Jim held the degree of Master of Engineering from Brno University, then in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic – Czechia). Jim was said to be fluent in seven languages.
Dmitry Fomin (standing far right) with this mother Zinaida Formina (seated), sister Natalija Formina (standing centre rear) and cousins at the Dauguvietytė farm in Lithuania in 1925. Image from Brigid Wick’s Fominas Family Tree on WikiTree website.
In a September 1953 public notice of his intention to apply for Australian citizenship, Jim stated he was of Lithuanian nationality, born at St Peterborough (sic) in Russia and had resided in Australia for five years; implying he had arrived in Australian around 1948.
On 5 November 1953 Jim Fominas and several other resident aliens were naturalised in a ceremony in the Canberra Court where they swore the oath of allegiance before Mr FCP Keane stipendiary magistrate. (Francis Charles Patrick Keane (1901-1971) was the Australian Capital Territory’s first resident magistrate and coroner. He served in that capacity from 30 November 1949 to 28 October 1966. Prior to this appointment FCP Keane was clerk of the court and titles office from 1930 and from 1939 was the registrar of the ACT Supreme Court.)
Marriage to Jean Johnston circa 1949
In 1949 Jim Fominas married Jean Mary Johnston (August 1928-September 2010) a stenographer who was then about 21 years of age. Jean was a daughter of Maurice Stanley Clinton (Pug) Johnston (1906-1993) and his wife Edna Eileen née Harding (circa 1906-1991).
Jean Fominas’s father Pug Johnston joined the then Postmaster General’s Department at Rylstone (near Mudgee in New South Wales) in 1921 and steadily progressed through messenger and telegraphist positions. Pug Johnston and Edna Harding married in Sydney in 1927. By 1948 the Johnstons were living in Canberra where Edna later practised as a chiropodist. Also in 1948 Pug left the PMG and soon after was appointed sheriff of the Australian Capital Territory. Afterwards Pug became the ACT clerk of the court and the titles office. He was appointed a justice of the peace in 1950 and served as deputy registrar of the ACT Supreme Court between 1957 and 1968.
From a 1949 electoral roll entry it appears that Jim and Jean Fominas were then residing at 40 Elimatta Street Reid. The 1949 roll entry lists only Jean who was then employed as a stenographer. As outined above Jim Fominas did not become an Australian citizen until November 1953 and therefore was not eligible to be listed on electoral rolls until after that date.
Jim and Jean Fominas were to have two children; both born around the early 1950s. Their son Nikolaus John (also called John Nicholas) was born in Canberra in November 1950. Their daughter Brigid Marie was born later. (Nikolaus Fominas became an engineering surveyor in Canberra. In recent years he was been involved with writing, cartographic work and oral history interviews with the Emeritus Faculty of the Australian National University. Brigid Fominas became Mrs Arnold and later Mrs Rolf Wick.)
In September 1953 Jim Fominas resided at 15 Robinson Street O’Connor. On electoral roll entries for 1954 Jim and Jean Fominas still resided in Robinson Street; Jim was listed a being employed as a civil engineer and Jean was engaged in home duties.
Sadly the marriage of Jim and Jean Fominas did not endure. From electoral roll entries for 1958 they resided together at Oatley after Jim moved to Sydney to work for the Central Mapping Authority. On the 1958 roll Jim was engaged as a surveyor and Jean was occupied with home duties. On 1963 electoral roll entries Jim remained as a surveyor at Oatley but Jean was listed as residing at 52 Bonython Street Downer and being employed as a secretary. Thus it appears that the marriage of Jim and Jean Fominas had broken down at some time between 1958 and 1963.
From Commonwealth of Australia Gazette entries, in June 1948 prior to her marriage to Jim Fominas, Jean Johnston commenced work as a 19-year old typist with the Department of Post War Reconstruction in Canberra. Still under her maiden name, in March 1949 Jean was promoted to a typist grade 2 position in the Department of Information. Here she provided secretarial services to the head of the Australian Film Board.
In 1967 after her marriage had broken down Jean Fominas rejoined the Commonwealth public service and was appointed as a steno-secretary in the Depatment of Territories. In 1971 Jean was promoted to a more senior position as personal steno-secretary to the permanent head (secretary) of the Department of the Interior (George Henry Warwick Smith CBE from 1970 to 1972).
Central Mapping Authority New South Wales 1954-1961
From entries in New South Wales Government Gazettes and in the 1954 Public Service List, Dimitrius Fominas was employed as a trigonometrical surveyor with the Central Mapping Authority of the Department of Lands from 25 November 1954.
In 1954 the section comprised Jim and four other trigonometrical surveyors or assistant surveyors including senior trigonometrical surveyor Louis Henry Anderson. Staffing in the section increased over the following years that Jim was there. Jim Fominas resigned as a New South Wales trigonometrical surveyor on 27 November 1961.
In the 1950s the Central Mapping Authority was based in Sydney and (as indicated above) on electoral rolls for 1958 and 1963 Jim Fominas resided at 31 Neville Street in the southern Sydney suburb of Oatley, close to the Georges River. Jim’s address was about 10 kilometres or so from Cooriengah Heights Road Engadine where his mother Zinaida Fominas was listed as residing in a 1958 electoral roll entry.
Around-the-world sailing attempt 1965
In an article in The Canberra Times in May 1965 Jim was reported discussing his intention to leave Sydney the next day and sail solo around-the-world in his 30‑feet sloop Zina II. In the article Jim was said to want to be the eleventh man and the first new Australian to sail around-the-world single-handed. However, it is not clear that the venture was successful as recent searches for Jim Fominas in various listings of around-the-world sailors of the 20th Century did not locate his name.
Marriage to Nuriti Ni Luh mid-1970s
It appears that around the mid-1970s Jim Fominas married Nuriti Ni Luh. A file listing located in the National Archives of Australia records collection with contents dated between 1973 and 1975 indicated that Nuriti was Jim’s fiancée. Nuriti is listed as Jim’s wife in his death notice but she was not listed with Jim in a 1980 electoral roll entry.
Move to Townsville
A 1980 electoral roll entry showed that Dimitrius Fominas resided at 222 Hugh Street Townsville and that he was occupied as a civil engineer. (The Hugh Street address is in the suburb of Currajong.) However, electoral roll entries for Dimitrius Fominas between 1963 and 1980 were not located. Thus it is unclear when Jim moved to Townsville.
Jim Fominas died at the Townsville General Hospital on 17 May 1984 after a short illness; he was 69 years of age. At the time of his death Jim still resided at 222 Hugh Street Townsville. He was survived by his second wife Nuriti (née Ni Luh) and his first wife Jean Mary and their children Brigid Marie (Mrs Rolf Wick) and Nikolaus John and by his sister Natasha.
Jim Fominas’s funeral service was held at the Woongarra Crematorium Chapel in Townsville on Friday 18 May 1984, it commenced at 1pm. On 23 March 2017, Jim’s ashes were re-interred at Woronora Memorial Park in Linden Street Sutherland (a south eastern Sydney suburb). Here Jim’s ashes were located in the Rose Garden next to those of his mother who died on 1 September 1967 at age 79 years.
Prepared by Laurie McLean in February 2019
Anonymous (1953), Naturalisation Ceremony, an article in The Canberra Times, Friday 6 November 1953, page 2; accessed from the National Library of Australia’s Trove search service at:
Anonymous (1965), Round-world sailor goes it alone; an article in in The Canberra Times, Saturday 22 May 1965, page 17; accessed from the National Library of Australia’s Trove search service at:
Anonymous (1984), Yesterday’s Weddings, an article in in The Canberra Times, Sunday 26 February 1964, page 16; accessed from the National Library of Australia’s Trove search service at:
Australian Electoral Commission (various dates), Searches for Fominas on historical electoral rolls between 1945 and 1980; accessed from the Ancestry website at:
Commonwealth of Australia (1947), Offices created in the National Mapping Section, Property and Survey Branch, Department of the Interior; promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No 55, 20 March 1947, pages 948‑950; accessed from Australian Government Federal Register of Legislation website at:
Commonwealth of Australia (1957), Maurice Stanley Clinton Johnston appointment as Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No 44, Thursday 8 August 1957, page 2392; accessed from Australian Government Federal Register of Legislation website at:
Fominas-Johnston (1950), Birth Notice in The Canberra Times, Tuesday 28 November 1950, page 2; accessed from the National Library of Australia’s Trove search service at:
Fominas, Dimitrius (1953), Public Notice of intention to apply for citizenship; in The Canberra Times, Saturday 5 September 1953, page 3; accessed from the National Library of Australia’s Trove search service at:
Fominas (Wick), Brigid (2016), Fominas Family Tree on WikiTree website; accessed at:
Hocking, David Roy (1985), Star Tracking for Mapping: An Account of Astrofix Surveys by the Division of National Mapping during 1948-52, a paper presented by Alan Thomson to the 27th Australian Survey Congress, Reducing Remoteness, held at Alice Springs, 23-29 March 1985, The Institution of Surveyors, Australia; accessed from the XNat Map website at:
Morley’s Funerals (1984), Fominas, Dimitrius (Jim), Death Notice in The Canberra Times, Friday 18 May 1984, page 16; accessed from the National Library of Australia’s Trove search service at:
National Archives of Australia (various dates), File listings for Dimitrius Fominas revealed from Record Search on National Archives of Australia website; accessed at:
New South Wales Government (1955), Appointment on probation of Mr Dimitrius Fominas, Trigonometrical Surveyor, Department of Lands (to take effect from 25 November 1954), in the Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales, Friday 9 September 1955, Issue No 100, Supplement, page 2721; accessed from the National Library of Australia’s Trove search service at:
New South Wales Government (1956), New South Wales Public Service List 1955, page 50; State Records Library Catalogue 1809; accessed from the New South Wales Government website at:
New South Wales Government (1962), Resignation of Mr Dimitrius Fominas, Trigonometrical Surveyor, Department of Lands (on 27 November 1961), in the Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales, Friday 5 January 1962, Issue No 3, Supplement, page 38; accessed from the National Library of Australia’s Trove search service at:
Tilse, Sheila (1996), Keane, Francis Charles Patrick (1901–1971), an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University Canberra; accessed from the Australian National University website at:
Webb, Melyssa (2014), Image of Jean Mary Fominas grave marker at Gungahlin Cemetery; accessed from billiongraves website at:
Wise, Paul Joseph (2017-2018), National Mapping’s First Laplace Field Work; accessed from the XNatmap website at:
Woronora Memorial Park (2019), Search for Dimitrius Fominas on Woronora Memorial Park website at: