Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Five Generations

Five Generations

'Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations'.

On a warm October afternoon in 1955, many family members gathered together in Maryborough, Queensland, to celebrate the 88th birthday of Barbara Lena Nargar (nee Häberling). It was a special day for the tiny Swiss born lady, but not only because it was her birthday. In the same year, 1955, she had became a proud great-great grandmother and the eldest of five generations of family who were all together on this day in her honour.

A photographer from the Brisbane Courier Mail was present to record and celebrate the wonderful day when five generations of mothers and daughters were together. Since I was only eight months old and the baby in the photograph above, I do not recall the party, however, it is a wonderful treasure to have this photograph of my mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great great grandmother and myself pictured together. I kept this yellowed clipping from the Courier Mail in a 'treasure' box when I was a child and it is this same picture which led me to become interested in family history many years ago. Barbara Nargar, my 2 times great grandmother, was the first family member whose ancestry I set off in search of. Sadly, she died on October 30, 1957, two years after this photograph was taken and before I was old enough to know my 'little nana' as she was called. (Barbara Lena is pictured seated front right). From the script accompanying the photograph, I knew the year in which my 2 times great grandmother was born, however, my search for her arrival was somewhat misled, by her age being given as eight years when she arrived. She was, in fact, four years of age - but what is the journey in genealogy about without a few challenges thrown in!

Born, Barbara Lena Häberling, she was the second youngest child of Jacob Häberling, a bootmaker, and his wife Anna (Bosshard) from Zurich in Switzerland. Jacob and Anna Häberling departed from Hamburg, Germany and arrived in Maryborough, Queensland Australia on board the Reichstag in 1871. Travelling with their parents were their 5 surviving daughters, Rosine (14), Amalie Dorothy (9), Bertha Martha (7), Barbara Lena (4)and Herminnie Adele (2). Two children, Jacob and Rosetta had died in Switzerland before the family departed for Australia to make a new life for themselves.

Although I have successfully traced the Häberling family as far back as 1520 in Switzerland, I will leave that story for another day and write about the five generations of women pictured above. Barbara was a clever girl who spoke five languages, German and French amongst them. She worked as a court translator in Maryborough. Her talent for languages would have been a useful skill, as Maryborough was a popular destination for immigrants in the 1800's. On December 31, 1884, Barbara Lena Häberling married John Gottlieb Nerger [later changed to Nargar]. The couple first lived at Bazaar Street, Maryborough, near Brennan & Geraghty's General Store, which is now a National Trust Museum. John was away from home quite a lot as he worked as a timber getter at Tinana. Eventually Barbara settled in Howard Street, in a little home which she nostalgically named 'Zurich' and where she lived until her death in 1957.

The second eldest of Barbara and John's five children was my great grandmother, Lillie Herminnie Nargar, pictured back left in the photograph. Lillie was born in Maryborough on October 1, 1888. She married William Joseph Weston on the 23rd of August, 1907. They settled on a sugar cane and banana farm at Bauple not far from Maryborough. Lillie and William had three children, Hilda Lillian, Mervyn William and Dorothy May. Lillie was a strong woman and her faith and involvement in the Baptist church, saw her through some very difficult times. In about 1920, the family moved to Brisbane where they ran a fruit shop in Fortitude Valley. Not long after this move, William took up with another woman, whom he left Lillie for and who he later married. Lillie was left on her own with three children under the age of 11 and a fruit shop to run by herself. She became a well known and respected figure in Brisbane as the first woman to own and operate a green grocery store. During the Second World War, Lillie used her knowledge of the land to help the war effort by joining the Women's Land Army. Lillie eventually remarried, but sadly she died of cancer in July of 1966. My great grandmother, Lillie was a wonderfully caring role model for me as a child and I loved to visit her home at Lutwych to play in her rose garden.

Hilda Lillian Weston, my grandmother, was born on the 9 th of July, 1908. (She is standing at the rear on the right of the photograph). Hilda married Ian Cuthbert Reece-Hoyes in Brisbane in 1929. My mother, their only child, was born on the 24 th of September, 1931. Hilda and Ian took their young baby daughter to live in Auckland New Zealand when she was only a few months old. The marriage was not a happy one and Hilda divorced my grandfather in 1933 in New Zealand. Hilda was a champion figure skater on ice, and toured new Zealand, performing publically. Life was difficult with a young child to rear on her own and so Hilda returned to Brisbane, Queensland in 1936 where she lived with her mother Lillie so that she could work to support her young daughter, Alwynne Jean,( my mother) pictured right in New Zealand aged 5 years. Hilda Lillian died on the 4 th of September, 1992 aged 84.

My mother, Alwynne Jean Reece-Hoyes never really knew her father, Ian. Her stepfather, David Andrew Schmith became her role model and she retained a close relationship with him until his death in his 80's. Dave, as she called, him adopted Alwynne when she was 10 years old, although she always insisted that her name was Reece-Hoyes. Alwynne married Colin John MacDade in March, 1954 and I was the first of their three daughters. She was a dedicated music teacher and a devoted mother to her daughters, who were the focus of her life. Family was very important to my mother, and we made quite a few journeys to Maryborough to visit our relatives. Tragically, Alwynne became ill with Alzheimers Disease in her early forties and died on the 29 th of October 1995, having not recognised her family for more than thirteen years.

Pictured right, are three generations of family, my grandmother, Hilda Lillian, my mother, Alwynne Jean and myself, (and sister) at Maroochydore, on the Sunshine Coast where Hilda lived when I was growing up in Brisbane. This photograph was taken in about 1960.

My journey into family history began with a photograph entitled 'Five Generations'. The photograph may have inspired my passion for genealogy, however, the strong, self reliant and loving women in the picture, are my inspiration in life - my brave great great grandmother who brought five children accross the world to make a better life for them, my great grandmother, who raised her children and ran a business on her own and proudly wore the uniform of the land Army during World War II, my grandmother, with whom I spent all of my school holidays, and who shared my great love of books and reading, and my mother, who always put others before herself and sadly did not live to know her grandchildren.

Pictured right, are myself, my mother and my sisters, standing on the steps of the house named 'Zurich' in Howard Street Maryborough. With us is one of Barbara Lena's daughters, Elsie and her husband who lived in the house after Barbara died. This is the last trip we made to Maryborough before my mother became ill.

I am the family face;
Flesh perishes, I live on,
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,

And leaping from place to place
Over oblivion.

Thomas Hardy 1840-1928 'Heredity' 1917


  1. I love multi-generation photos!
    Thanks for sharing! ;-)

  2. Hi I am a great great grandaughter of Elizabeth Gibson Cramb nee McDade who lived in Red Hill. My mother & I would be interested in making contact. My mum has always told me family lived in a house below the water tower in Paddington. The photo of your grandmother Elizabeth is similar to one in our family. my email address is tsmoshudis@yahoo.com.au