Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meetings Across Time - Australian War Memorial - A fitting start to Congress 2015

Last Thursday, the opening of the 14th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry Congress 2015 was held in ANZAC Hall at the Australian War Memorial. Family Historians, Genealogists of all ages gathered together in excited anticipation among the magnificent old planes from the first and second World Wars, to meet old and make new friends.  

The Avro Lancaster MK Bomber "G for George" towering above the crowd set an imposing back drop for the evening and made a fitting setting for the opening of the Congress.

Wall of Poppies in the Courtyard.
Prior to the opening event I took the opportunity to take a tour of the War Memorial. It has been almost 12 years since I last visited the War Memorial. Why it has been that long, I don't know!

As time was limited, I head straight to the commemorative courtyard and the Roll of Honour that surrounds the Pool of Reflection and the Internal Flame, to search for the name of my great great Uncle Alexander McDonald who died on the 25 April 1915, while assisting his troops disembarkation at Anzac Cove, Gallopoli.  It didn't take me long to locate his name among the members of the First Field Company of Engineers.

The courtyard was glowing with thousands of red poppies that visitors had placed against the names of the soldier's from their family. School children, gathered around the courtyard, some placing poppies against solders names, others chatting among their friends and hanging over the balcony waiting for the "Last Post" ceremony that is performed every day at 5.00pm.

A hush fell over the courtyard as the officials took their place in front of the Hall of Memory. School children and visitors quietly stood around the pool of reflection waiting in anticipation for the ceremony to begin.

Pool of Reflection - Australian War Memorial
The emotional effect of this ceremony was remarkable, as the 200 or so children who had been skylarking and chatting among themselves only 10 minutes before were quiet and subdued, thoughtfully reflecting of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Representatives from each of the schools placed wreaths at the front of the pool of reflection. Then an elderly couple, either brother and sister, or husband and wife, assisted by memorial staff made their way carefully to the Pool of Reflection and placed a wreath of Australian flowers and red poppies gently next to the other wreaths.

It was obvious that they had made a special journey to the War Memorial and had arranged to place their floral tribute in memory of a relative.  As I wiped a tear from my cheek, I watched this thoughtful and solemn placing of their wreath and wondered if they were remembering the face of a long lost sibling or a father they didn't get to know.

The late rays of the afternoon sun reflected on the water of the Pool of Remembrance as the last post played.  All was silent and reflective!

With in minutes the school children and other visitors made their way out of the memorial, some reflective, others chatting with excitement at the prospect of the events of the upcoming evening.   As I made my way out to the front of the Memorial, I noticed the elderly couple from the ceremony outside, taking photos of each other.  Capturing another memory of a day that held a great significance for them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday - Expanding your Ancestor's Timeline

Near the end of last year I posted on the Worldwide Genealogy - A genealogical Collaboration  a blog on Using Timelines as a Family History Tool.  This article outlined how to set up a timeline in an Excel using all the important dates and events of your ancestors life. 

Ideally, dates for other family members would be included as well, e.g. birth of children, births/weddings/deaths of siblings, parents and grandparents, moving house etc. This timeline becomes a wonderful tool, giving you a visual picture and reference point of what was happening in your ancestor's life at any individual time. 

The second section part of the blog covered the additional section of the timeline which is placed adjacent to your ancestor's timeline. This timeline depicts events that occurred during your ancestor's life time and that may have influenced the course of their life.  This part of the blog received a number of comments asking for suggestions and resources that would assist with filling out this section of the excel sheet. 

This first part of the timeline depicts the important points in your family member's life, however, the section part helps to put your ancestor's story into context with what is happening around them. It helps you identify the external forces that may have influenced them or perhaps even changed their life. Events such as war, famine, closing down of a mill, changes in law can explain why an ancestor moved town, took up another trade, moved into the poor house or immigrated to another country. for example the "Irish potato famine" in Ireland or "The Enclosure Act" in England. 

In response to the inquiries on "how to source information for the second section of the excel sheet", I am following up on my first blog with details of some of the sources that can be use to build up the information I enter into the excel sheet. 

Part of Annie Shepherd (nee McDonald)'s timeline

Above is a timeline, recently developed to depict the events in the life of my great grandmother Annie Shepherd (nee McDonald) (1869-1955). Here are some of the resources that I have used to build up her story. 

One of the most valuable resources for researching the social history of your ancestors are the online Newspaper's and we are blessed with a number of excellent online Newspaper resources, eg TROVE, the British Newspaper Archive and Free Newspaper Archive for US papers. These sights provide a rich source of information, for example:
  • Obituaries - family names, where they lived, occupations, sickness, and if they died in an accident.
  • Accidents - if your ancestor died in an accident, it is quite likely you will be able to find an article about the death and the coronary inquest, for example Ralph Shepherd.
  • Search newspapers that were published around a major event in your ancestors life i.e. birth, death, wedding, enables you to see what else was happening in their village or district at that time, it can provide an idea of what the weather was like at that particular time or if their family was living in a time of famine or plenty.
  • Searching for details on the ship they traveled on, can give you information on the day they arrived at their destination, any troubles that were experienced through their trip, if there was any diseases on board, how many died on the trip, stories of other people travelling on the same ship and what happened when they arrived. 
Some events from Annie McDonald's Timeline 

Another valuable group of records are soldier's War Records. These provide information on enlistment and embarkation dates, the ports they stopped at on their way, where they were stationed, when they were ill or wounded, the hospitals they were treated in.  This information can in turn lead/link you to further discoveries, for example by searching the battles they fought in, the commanders of their battalion, the hospitals they were treated in, the ships they traveled on, diaries of other soldiers in the same battalion and so on.  For example, Private Roy Denning's published Diary, details the days before the landing at Gallipoli, and mentions Annie McDonald's brother Alexander McDonald. His account describes how Alexander was shot while he helped his troops disembark at ANZAC Cove.  

If your ancestor was a teacher the Public School Records can provide information on Public Service Records, school records for teachers, give details of where they taught and a short report on their appointments, complaints by parents and inspections. 

In Australia each state has an online site that provides information of mining leases and land ownership records. These records not only provide information and maps of the land leased or mined but also give details of others people they may be in partnership with or who their neighbours are. By researching these partners or neighbours you can find more information on the people living around your ancestor and events that would have impacted them as well.

Careful examination of  Census Records can be very rewarding, providing details on your ancestors social position, land they own, occupation, number of men they employed, the occupation of other family members. Also, look at their neighbours -  their occupations, did any of the family marry anyone in the same street, were there children the same age living next door,  it is possible that they went to school together, worked together? 

Council websites can also provide background on the history of the area your ancestor lived in. Many council websites have time lines attached outlining important events e.g. opening of buildings, introduction of tramlines, opening of picture theatre, establishment of council. A good example of this is the Leichardt (or Balmain) Council which provides a well resourced historical timeline.

Genealogical and Historical sites also provide wonderful resources on the social history of their district and the events that have impacted on the lives of the people who lived there. A good example of this is Burra History Society in South Australia.

Books and Diaries written about the industry your ancestor worked in, the town they lived in, events they took place in can be a wonderful source of information on the social conditions that your ancestor lived in and experienced. A wonderful example of this for me was when I was researching my husbands great great grandmother Elizabeth Rushworth, I discovered "Memories of Colne - by Margaret Cryer".  This book provided me with a wonderful sense of what the town of Colne was like in the time that Elizabeth was alive. 

Another resource that should be explored are Cousins.  Researching your ancestor's cousins can often lead to further discoveries about the family history, remembering families often lived in close proximity and they shared many experiences and life events together.

Finally, a resource that should not be forgotten are Cemeteries. These are an important part of our past, in fact you could think of them as a social museum providing insight into the times of our ancestors. Not only do they record the birth and death dates of our ancestors, they can enlighten us on relationships, and other family links, other surnames to be researched and sometimes their epitaph will provide you with a clue to an ancestor's personality.  Cemeteries provide clues to the development of the district your ancestor lived in, the cultural and ethnic influences, the dominant religious group and often times of troubles are highlighted when numerous burials are recorded around the same time.

These are just some of the resources that can be used to "plump" out the life time line of your ancestor.  Please share any others that you can think of!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sharing Memories - Mail deliveries in the Outback

My sister waiting for the mailman
For many, the daily visit from the postman, or trip to the post office to collect mail from the post box is of no significance.  However, for those who live in isolated area, the weekly (or sometimes less often) delivery of mail and supplies is an event of importance! For many this is the only link with the outside world for extended periods of time. Today I am Sharing my memories of our outback mailman.

I can still remember the excitement I used to feel, when we caught a glimpse of the cloud of dust advancing along the road to Nuntherungie Station (this could sometimes be seen for quite a few miles), that signaled the imminent arrival of the mail truck. Nuntherungie Station was between Broken Hill and White Cliffs and the mail truck would arrive at our homestead on Saturday mornings, dropping of mail and supplies on its way through to White Cliffs.

The first mailman that I can remember as a young girl was Mr Vincent, a short slightly rotund gentleman who was always dressed in overalls.  Every Friday he would load his truck with orders of bread, vegetables, fruit and other supplies, mail, newspapers and other supplies needed by the properties between Broken Hill and White Cliffs.  He would set out along the red dusty road, stopping at all the Stations along the way.

My sisters and I would await his arrival with great expectations, as he always had a small sweet treat for all the children along the way.  I remember relishing the "Cherry Ripes" that he would pass around when he arrived. As was the bush custom, my mother would brew a pot of tea and have a nice slice of sponge cake, or scones ready for Mr Vincent's morning tea. My mother would enjoy the chat over a cup of tea with our mail man.  Her life on a station was very isolated and it gave her a chance to catch up on news from Broken Hill, and the other properties along the road. 

Among the letters and newspapers there was our weekly subscription to comics for my sisters and I.  I would be on the edge of my seat waiting for the next installment of the school girl mysteries in "Girls Own" and my sisters would pour over their new copies of the "Jack and Jill" comic books.

Also included in our mail would be our next set of lessons from Blackfriar's Correspondence School. Our completed lessons from the previous week would be packaged up, ready for Mr Vincent to take back to Broken Hill, for posting to Blackfriar's head office in Sydney.
June 30 1950, Western Grazier

The truck arrival also meant we would have fresh bread for our sandwiches. The fresh bread that arrived from the Broken Hill Bakery would have to last the week.  So as you can imagine by the end of the week, toast was the best option.  Though I do remember my mother wrapping the loaves in a damp tea towel and heating it int he oven to freshen it up a bit.

Then there was the time when the rain came, and this quite often mean that the mailman would have difficulty getting through to make his deliveries, as the creeks would flood and roads would be cut.  On these occasions, my father would sometimes have to drive through with the tractor and pull the mail truck through a flooded creek or two (or three!).  Heavy downpours would mean that the mail sometimes didn't get through for a couple of days. 

Our outback mailman and his deliveries were very different to the mail delivery experienced by those living in town.  He was more than the person who brought letters and parcels.  His delivery of mail and supplies was also accompanied by news from the outside, a lolly shop experience for the kids and that little chat over a cup of tea for the isolated families along the dusty road between Broken Hill and White Cliffs.

Mr Vincent and his son, with their mail trucks at Nuntherungie Station

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Military Monday - Treasures from Aunty Glad's Suitcase - Postcards from WWI

Aunty Glad's Suitcase
Among the many treasures found in Aunty Glad's Suitcase is a wonderful collection of old postcards sent back to Australia by Angus and Malcolm Shepherd.

Each card has a unique story, as does the one I am sharing with you today.  Often the card's uniqueness comes from the message on the back, however, today's card's story comes from the verse and credit written at the bottom of the card.

The Song "It's a long way to Tipperary"  was a popular song sung by the soldiers during WWI. It seems that "A long way to Tipperary"  quickly became a favorite with the "Tommies",  It is interesting that at the bottom of the card there is a reference that the words to the song were printed with the permission of B. Feldman and Co, 2 and 3 Arthur Street London.  The words of the song are credited to Jack Jude and Harry Williams, with the Copyright belong to B. Feldman and Co.

Postcard from WWI