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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Family Recipe Friday - Nanna Carriage's Blackberry Jam

Late January through to February is Blackberry time in Australia. Blackberry bushes have long been recognised as one of the most noxious weeds in Australia and are the bane of many a farmer because of their tendency  to take over valuable pastures

However for those of us who delight in the bushes sweet succulent fruit it is a different matter.  Over the past 150 years or so, children have delighted in heading out to pick the berries in the summer time and bring them home for their mothers and grandmothers to make jam, pies and other delights.  

As I outlined in my recent post, Sharing Memories - It's Blackberry time! blackberry picking in our summer school holidays was something we really looked forward to.

We would head out early in the morning and pick the berries, bringing them back to our Nanna, Christina Carriage's kitchen, ready for her to make her jam.  The obvious next part of this story is the actual jam making, so today I would like to share with you Nanna Carriage's Blackberry Jam.

Nanna Carriage's Blackberry Jam

6lbs fresh firm blackberries
1/2 cup of water
4 tablespoons of lemon juice

Sort berries, to check there are no old, overripe or damaged berries.  Wash in a colander, drain and place into a large preserving pan or saucepan. Add water and lemon juice. Press the berries with a wooden spoon to release their juices. Place on a low heat and bring slowly to boil. Continue to boil slowly for approximately half an hour until the fruit is soft and liquid reduced.  

Add sugar (which has been preheated) to the berry mixture.  Stir till dissolved, then turn heat up and boil quickly until the jam sets when tested.

Pour the jam mixture into warm sterile jars and seal with airtight lids or jam papers. Label, date and store in a cool place. 

Nanna had some other tips for making good jam:

1. If you didn't have lemons, a peeled green apple can be added to the berries when cooking and this will aid in setting the jam.
2. Cook the fruit slowly, and only bring to the boil once the added sugar is dissolved. Remember it is the fruit that requires the cooking not the sugar, so low heat when cooking the fruit to soften, when the sugar is added heat is turned up to cook quickly.
3.  To test if the jam is ready,  drop a little jam into cold water in a saucer and push with finger, if the mixture is set and surface wrinkles it is ready.
4.  To sterilize bottles wash in hot water, dry thoroughly and then place into warm oven before filling with jam.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sentimental Sunday - Sharing Memories - It's Blackberry time!!

Black stained fingers and a purple grin!!

Yes it is blackberry picking season again.  My son and grandsons  had just returned from the swimming hole in the near by river and were delighted with the haul of blackberries they had picked from the bushes surrounding their swimming spot.  A large container of juicy black berries was proudly displayed, neatly packed into plastic container ready to deliver to Aunty Jo so she could make the family's favorite berry jam!   My grandsons had been hanging out for another jar of this jam, as the last jar had run out over six months ago.

Part of the Blackberry Haul
Their sticky fingers and stained smiles brought back childhood memories of summer holidays at my Nanna's (Christina Sterland Carraige, nee Lee) house in Milton, NSW.  My sisters and I,  and my cousins would head out from our Nanna's house early in the morning to collect blackberries from the nearby fields in the dairy farms that surrounded the small township.  

Dressed in old clothes, we would head off with buckets, gardening gloves, gumboots and long sleeve shirts (protection from the sharp spikes of the blackberry bushes). The youngest family members would tag along behind with smaller containers ready to assist. 

Those of us with long legs would climb over the fences and then help the youngest scramble over into the field.  We would make our way through the long paspalum grass, still damp with the morning dew. We were careful to not disturb the diary cows, flicking the summer flies with their tails as they munched on the grass.

At the bottom of the field we would find the large clumps of blackberry bushes, you could smell the sweet ripe fruit and see the clumps of black shiny berries hanging ready for the picking.   First things first!! testing if they tasted any good! We would all pick some of the berries and shove them into our mouths, sweet, juicy and warm from the morning sun! The juice would run down our chins as we grinned with delight.

Then Nanna's voice fare-welling us earlier in the morning would bring us back to reality "Don't  eat them all! Bring lots back so I can make some blackberry jam and blackberry pie!"  Visions of Nanna's chunky jam on fresh bread with cream and bowls of fresh berries topped with vanilla ice-cream spurred us into action. Buckets were placed strategically near the bushes and we started to fill up the smaller containers from the bushes and then carefully tipping them into the larger buckets. 

By mid morning the bedraggled group of cousins, full buckets in hand, arms and legs adorned with purple stains and scratches, faces glowing with a mixture of berry juice and a little sunburn would head back to Nanna's house.  Proudly the buckets would be placed on the bench in Nanna's kitchen! 

In a short time, with hands and faces washed, the band of cousins would all sit around the kitchen table and hoe into the pile of fresh sandwiches and large glasses of cold cordial that Nanna has prepared.  As we munched we would watch her wash and carefully weigh out the berries, preparing them for her part of the blackberry story - the jam making!!


Friday, February 6, 2015

Sepia Saturday - The Original McGregor Family Photo

In late 2013 when visiting my Aunt I was excited to discover a photocopy of a picture of the McGregor Family with the names of each of the members of the family inserted over the picture. This picture was a wonderful source of information on the family history and helped me break down a number of those "brick walls" that all family tree research come across.  I always wondered who had a copy of the original picture and who had been able to identify each of the family members. 

Just before Christmas last year, a distant cousin contacted me after reading my blogs on the McGregor Family. To cut a long story short, we met for lunch and shared family stories, photographs and memories. (he he!).  Among the photos that he had to show me was a copy of the original photo of the McGregor Family taken at the turn of the 20th Century.

Margaret and Jams McGregor and their family 1900 - Balmain, NSW
 My cousin was able to enlighten me on the person who had been able to identify everyone in the picture.  At a funeral in 1975 Stan Sterland, who at that time was the last person from this picture still living, wrote down the names of each person in the picture.  Stan is the small boy second from the right at the front of the picture.

I have to reflect on how fortunate we are that we not only have this wonderful family picture, but also that on that day in 1975 Stan was able to sit down and identify each family member and helped to keep the story of the McGregor family alive and to provide us with vital clues in tracing their history.
If you are interested, some of the stories of the McGregor Family can be found on these links

1. Walking in the Steps of my Grandparents- James McGregor and Margaret McPherson
2. The McGregor Family Bible
3. Mary Anne McPherson McGregor
4. Catherine McGregor
5. Isabelle Allan McGregor
6. Christine McGregor

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sentimental Sunday - Pic from Aunty Glad's Suitcase - Alexander McDonald

Time to share another treasure from Aunty Glad's Suitcase.  This time it is a picture of  my gg uncle Alexander McDonald's gravestone at Gallipoli.

Corporal Alexander McDonald died on the 25th April, 1915, while helping his troops embarking.

Recently, another descendant of another member of 11th Battalion who died on the same day brought to my attention, that Corporal McDonald was mentioned in Roy Denning's published Diary "Anzac Digger, an Engineer in Gallipoli and France",  He is mentioned a number of time in the early section of this book, up until his death.

Roy Denning describes the moment Alexander was shot. "Only a few seconds elapsed before the hillsides were alive with spiteful flashes the steel decks of the destroyer alive with hissing hot lead splashing fire and fragments in every direction.

The decks were soon running blood and slippery, Corporal McDonald was standing up calmly shouting orders when his voice trailed off in a gurgle and he crumpled to the deck. The Turks must have had machine guns trained onto the destroyer".* 

I was excited to find among the treasures in Aunty Glad's suitcase a picture of Alexander headstone, taken by one of my cousins when she visited Anzac Cove in 2000.

Corporal Alexander McDonald - 25 April 1915
* Denning, Roy and Lorna, 2004, Anzac Digger, an Engineer in Gallipoli and France, Australian Military History Publications, Loftus Australia, p.15.

Also may be of interest:
2013 Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day Blog Challenge - Alexander Joseph McDonald

Letter from Major McCall,