Friday, March 23, 2012

'Memory is the Diary that we all carry about with us' - Oscar Wilde : "The Importance of being Ernest"

'When thy mind 
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies' - William Wordsworth 1798

Temple Hill - the original house.

There is nothing so likely to retrieve memories of the past than a visit to the places of our past. A trip to Temple Hill, Laggan, near Crookwell, NSW, rekindles fond memories for my husband, of carefree childhood holidays on the MacDonald family farm. Far from his busy life in Sydney, he and his brothers, discovered a new world of weeping willow lined creeks, horse riding, old family graves and life on the sheep farm on which their paternal grandmother spent her childhood.

 In addition to being a significant element of our family history, past places are an integral part of our identity. The places of our past are the keepers of a wealth of memories of our own lives and life stories. Our memories and stories are important sources of our history.

Temple Hill - 2012

I have made a point of returning to as many significant places of my past as possible to record them photographically for family history purposes. Each time I retrace my steps through life, I am astonished at how many memories are recaptured. 

Myself aged 22 months sitting on the gatepost of my first home at 24 Crescent Avenue.

I returned to the home in Brisbane, where I was born and where I lived until aged seven, a few years ago to find it much changed from the days of my childhood. Seeing the house after many years of absence, brought back memories I had long forgotten, but memories which afforded me a wealth of anecdotes to record for my children, grandchildren and future generations of family historians. Photographs from the past graphically record our visual history, however, our personal anecdotes delve profoundly into the fabric of our lives and enrich our own biographies significantly. It is important to record our own history, the events which we witness and experience,  as reliable first hand or primary sources.

My father and myself at my first home at 24 Crescent Avenue Enoggera, Brisbane

24 Crescent Avenue in 2011- and a new generation of father and child..

24 Crescent Avenue, Enoggera in Brisbane, was the home of my earliest childhood memories until the age of seven years. I can remember my sister being born there, the large sandpit my grandfather built for me and the cubby house complete with coloured timber louvre windows which my father lovingly constructed. The house was a green colour and my cubby house was painted to match it. This was where I, as a determined four year old, dragged a wobbly bench to the fence, to climb upon so that I could chat to the neighbours. I did this, of course despite my mother's warnings and fell backwards hitting my head on the concrete exactly as she had predicted. The memory of the pain has long since vanished but my mother's patience and concern as I was rushed to hospital to have my head stitched, remains with me. It was in this home that my father made a table and two small chairs for my sister and myself. In the kitchen of this home I laughed until my sides ached, as my mother sang the song 'On top of Spagetti' to me. In this wonderful family garden I picked grapes from a home grown vine and bananas from the trees which shaded my sandpit. I ate fresh tomato sandwiches on backyard picnics with my mother. I peered through my backyard fence to watch in wonderment, the military drills at the Enoggera Army Barracks onto which my yard backed. Every Saturday I watched  marching girls who competed at an oval near my home and dreamed longingly of joining them in their shining buttons, white boots and tall hats. I climbed trees and played happily on my twin swing. Our first television arrived in the home at Crescent Avenue, amidst great excitement and took pride of place in the lounge room; the room at the top of the steps behind my father in the picture above. My memory tells me that these were good days. I was afforded great freedom to roam the street in which I lived. The baker delivered fresh bread and delicious fat cream buns, the Soft Drink Truck delivered Creaming Soda and Sarsparilla and children raced noisily into the street in response to the sound of the icecream van's bell. 

Swinging with my sister, left and cousin, right. My bedroom window pictured.

Those were the halcyon days when children were 'safe'. I often walked alone to the local shops aged only five years, to buy items for my mother. I recall clearly a day on which I purchased sweets with the money my mother had given my to buy something else. Punishment was 'dealt' by my father who chased me round and around the house in Crescent Avenue, never once catching me although looking back now, I have no doubt that he could easily have done so. The past, often holds memories which are not so happy, and this is a part of who we are, equally as much as those which are sanguine. Crescent Avenue was the place where I first encountered danger. Afternoons were spent playing with local children, in a park at the end of the street, until a tragedy occurred. A council trench in which we were excitedly digging a 'cave' collapsed, burying and killing one of the local boys I was playing with. I was five years of age. When I was six years old,  my best friend was hit by a car and killed crossing a road on her way to play at my home at Crescent Avenue.. As I gazed at my old home, on my visit, I could almost see myself aged six, standing at the gate awaiting my friend's arrival and hearing from a neighbour of her accident.

My Fourth Birthday at 24 Crescent Avenue Enoggera.

I have far too many memories to relate them all. Many childhood memories have only re-established themselves since my visit to my old home. Some of the momentous events of my childhood occurred when I lived at Crescent Avenue. I began my education at the Ashgrove Memorial Pre-School at the age of three years. When I revisited my old Pre-School, I suddenly recalled that the treacher's name was Miss Lightner. Memories flooded back, of jumping on the jumping board, of the smell of home made glue and of sitting at small tables and chairs for lunch - always a choice of Vegemite or Peanut Paste (outside Queensland called peanut butter). I started Primary School from this home, walking the very long walk which took me past the tennis courts where I began tennis lessons at the age of four years, to Oakleigh State School. This was the same school my father had attended until he went to Brisbane Boy's Grammar School. I re-visited Oakleigh State School on the same day that I went back to Crescent Avenue. 

Oakleigh State School

Walking around the grounds of the Oakleigh State School some long forgotten memories returned. I had won an art competition at the age of six years and my prize was a much treasured stamp album which I have to this day. I remembered the swimming lessons which I dreaded in the school swimming pool. Not because I hated swimming. I loved it but my mother loved to sew, and I was the only child in the class wearing a particularly floral and very frilly two piece swimsuit rather than the standard blue school swimsuit. As I stood looking at the swimming pool I could remember the feelings of that small five year old wanting desperately to stay in the change rooms. As I reached the play area, I could physically feel the same sense of humiliation which had long ago gripped me whilst playing on the see-saw in the playground when I was in grade 1. On that particular day, I had taken to school, my precious walkie-talkie doll. She was named Florence, for my paternal grandmother, (even at the tender age of 5 I was introduced to the traditional Scottish naming patterns!). Florence's hair had previously fallen out, (no doubt from excess brushing), and my mother had replaced her long blonde hair (to my disappointment) with a short curly (completely unbrushable) orange wig. As I soared gloriously high into the air, on the see-saw, Florence's wig detached itself from her head and flew across the playground. I may as well have lost my own hair, such was the complete embarrassment I felt as I was lowered to the ground, a very bald doll clutched to my heaving bosom and sobbing loudly while a  group of older boys ran around the playground laughing and waving Florence's flaming curls wildly. The awkwardness of some moments seem to have a perturbing way of rebounding to disturb our tranquil memories!
 [Postscrip: Florence's wig was firmly adhered with super glue that very night and I still have her, complete with orange hair.]

Oakleigh State School.

At the age of 7 years, my family built a house in a newer suburb of Brisbane, called The Gap. While our home was under construction, we lived with my paternal grandparents at 16 Garfield Drive, Paddington Heights. From this lovely old home high on a hill with a view all over the city, I entered a new world of catching trams to the Bardon State School where I was one year ahead of well known Genealogist Shauna Hicks. 

My Grandparent's Home at 16 Garfield Drive, Paddington 2011.
 I cannot possibly recount all of my childhood memories here, as there are so many, however, I do record them. Each time I revisit my past homes and other places from my past, more memories are triggered and I write them down. By recording my stories, I am ensuring their reliability as a primary source. If my stories are passed on orally to my children and they later recount my anecdotes, they become secondary sources and will be less reliable.

When I visited the Garfield Drive house pictured above, it was undergoing a renovation and was vacant. I took the liberty of taking a cutting from the large Frangipani tree which I remembered my grandmother planting and it is now growing in my garden in Sydney. Every time I look at the  pink and white flowers on my Frangipani tree, I think of childhood days spent playing hide and seek amongst the plentiful purple Hydrangeas in my grandmother's wonderful garden, swinging in the big old hammock, picking rosellas and persimmons to make jam, and climbing the huge mango tree growing in my grandparent's garden.

Standing outside the Paddington house, I recalled an event which I had long forgotten. Next door to my grandparents, lived a policeman by the name of Terry Lewis. Late one night a burglary occurred across the street from my grandparent's home. My grandfather heard much yelling and  screaming and he took it upon himself to chase the burglar right down the hill and around the block with no thought to his own safety. The next morning I accompanied my grandfather as he knocked on the door of Constable Lewis's house to report the incident, believing that his neighbour must have slept through the event. The policeman laughed and told us that he had a policy 'never to get involved in such things'. Some years later the same policeman, Terry Lewis became Police Commissioner of Queensland. I only recalled this memory though when revisiting the house in Garfield Drive. 

The garden now, that my mother planted at our home in Marrall Street, The Gap, in  the 1960's.

Another garden which my mother planted at our home in Kenmore.

My last family home,at Jindalee, Brisbane during the 1974 Brisbane Floods.

Last year I wrote a blog post about the memories which the 2011 Queensland Floods evoked for me when I revisited my old home in the badly flood effected suburb of Jindalee (in both 2011 and 1974). Sights, sounds and even smells from the past have the ability to awaken sleeping memories of the past. Family History is our search into the past so recording our memories of our own past is an important way of preserving the past for the future. Visiting our home at The Gap conjured for me, memories of threatening bushfires, red-bellied black snakes, ticks, stinging nettles and happy days swimming in the creek which ran through our property. A visit to the home in which I lived from the age of 11-14 years on 12 1/2 acres at Pullenvale, ( we moved a few times!) rekindled memories of exploring the bush, horse riding, snakes, picking fruit from our orchard, making rafts in the lagoon behind our house and cracking macadamia (Queensland) nuts picked straight from our trees. I have taken my children to all of my past places and told them the stories from my childhood - some humourous, others moving, some painful but all so much of my past and my own identity. For me, personally, revisiting the places in my own past, is a fascinating way to make memories come to life.

Riding my tricycle at 24 Crescent Avenue.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Brick Wall Blunder... Cognomen Erratum!

Cognomen Erratum - Understanding Records and Avoiding Mistakes

Photograph Sharn White ©Copyright 

Loosely speaking, my inexperienced Latin translates (I hope) as 'A mistake of name'.  It is not often that knocking down a stubborn genealogical brick wall results in anything other than elation. Depending on the age of the brick wall or the length of time it has been blocking the tantalizing path  to the next generation, elation can range from a broad smile to shrieks of merriment. But beware - there are pitfalls to premature excitement. It is wise not to jump to conclusions hastily and VERY important to understand the records that you find.

Photograph Sharn White ©Copyright

Whilst tracing my family tree, I have demolished quite a few brick walls. In the midst of the thrill of razing a previously steadfast brick barrier in Lincolnshire, England and whilst adding several generations of family to my tree, I  learned that no matter how many years experience one has researching family history, there is always something to learn. 

On my maternal side of the family tree I had traced my Morley family line back to  John Morley (1756-1824) and his wife Esther Hardy. Tracing Esther Hardy's ancestors presented no obstacle. I quickly found her father Richard Hardy, born on March 6, 1717 in Lincolnshire, England and her grandfather William Hardy, my 7th great grandfather, who was born in about 1680 also in Lincolnshire. It was while searching for the family of  Esther Hardy's mother Alice Collingwood that I came up against a solid genealogical Brick Wall blocking my path to the past.

Photograph Sharn White ©Copyright

Often, I find that it is advisable to leave a Brick Wall alone for a period of time, and when I return to my research, I hope that new records might have been released or that I might find a clue that I missed when searching previously. For my Collingwood ancestors, I had a marriage record for Alice Collingwood to Richard Hardy on March 6, 1743 in Long Bennington, Lincolnshire, located in the Lincolnshire, England Extracted Parish Records  on as well as in the England Marriages 1538-1973 on the FamilySearch website.  A family member had confirmed this record as well, whilst in England. 

Late one night, I finally burst through my brick wall and found the birth of Alice Collingwood as well as her siblings born to parents Gulielmi and Maria Collingwood in Claxby (near Alford), Lincolnshire. The birth records for these children showed their names to be Alicia, Maria, Elizabetha and Lucia. It appeared that Alice Collingwood's real name was Alicia and that this was the reason for the trouble I had encountered when searching for her birth. Looking at the names of my ancestors, I felt a rush of elation as I suspected I may have found the origin of my olive skin which tans very easily.  In Summer when very brown I have been asked by many people if I have Italian ancestry. Seeing such names of my ancestors  as Alicia, Lucia and Gulielmi, excited me into believing that I had made an exciting discovery. Surely I had found Italian or Spanish or some other unanticipated and exotic ancestry?

Marriage record for Gulielmi Collingwood and Maria Richardson

I became even more animated as I read the names of children from two earlier marriages of Gulielmi Collingwood. By wife Isabella he had a son Johannes and by his first wife Anna, Gulielmi had two daughters named Maria and Sara. Collingwood was obviously not an Italian surname, however, I became convinced that somewhere in the ancestry of this family was an intriguing lineage.

When I found the marriage record for Gulielmi Collingwood and Maria, I was surprised to find that her surname was Richardson. Somewhere in their background though, I was convinced I would still discover the exotic ancestry that I was now expecting.

 After a long night of searching Lincolnshire records and quite energised by my find, I finally fell asleep amidst thoughts of possibly one of my most exciting family history finds.  In the middle of the night, awakened by a barking dog, however, a revelation struck me heavily, like a brick from my genealogical wall. Instantly and almost certainly, my optimism about my having glamorously unexpected ancestry evaporated, as it occurred to me that the records I had found could very well have been written in Latin. This would explain the English surnames of Collingwood and Richardson coupled with Italian sounding names such as Lucia and Gulielmi. 

A search first thing the next morning confirmed my devastating suspicion. The names Maria, Gulielmi/Gulielmus, Alicia, Lucia and Elizabetha were exact matches for the Latin equivalent of English names. Further research into English church practices, revealed that until 1733 most English Church baptism, marriage and burial records, including those of the Anglican Church, were written in Latin. 

In my excitement I had overlooked also, a marriage record for Alice Collingwood's parents in the Lincolnshire, England, Extracted Parish Records. This record corroborated my fading hopes of discovering romantic and foreign origins. The marriage record showed the couples' names to be William Collingwood and Mary Richardson. Their children were therefore named Alice, Mary, Lucy and Elizabeth. Definitely no Italian there!

Lincolnshire register of Marriages, 1538-1837.

So as it turns out my Collingwood family from Lincolnshire, England were English. There was not one exotic Italian or Spanish ancestor lurking in the Wolds of Lincolnshire. On the bright side I have added a 7 times great grandfather to my tree and learned something about English Church records. Of course, the puzzle of my olive skin still remains to be solved. Perhaps in my ancient Scottish ancestry there is a Roman somewhere. And I still haven't ruled out a Norman connection. I will keep searching.......