A near miss in Coolangatta: Sepia Saturday 243

Sepia Saturday 243This week’s Sepia Saturday 243 is one of those topics where a personal theme leaps to mind. Every family has its story traditions and family anecdotes, perhaps even about get-rich schemes and near misses.

Unidentified (1914). Illustrated advertisement from The Queenslander, December 5, 1914, p. 59. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1914). Illustrated advertisement from The Queenslander, December 5, 1914, p. 59. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

All my life Dad used to tell the story of “the one that got away” in our family. My grandfather who I’ve written about before, worked for the railway all his working life. At one stage, perhaps around 1900-1910, he worked on the rail line that went from Brisbane city to the interstate border at Coolangatta. I don’t know about other countries, but here in Oz, a twin town (as opposed to towns twinned with overseas), is one that has a matching town on the opposite side of the (state) border. Coolangatta is one such town, sitting right on the border of Queensland while across the Tweed River sits its twin, Tweed Heads. One of the quirks of these twin towns becomes obvious with the start of daylight saving each year. Queensland doesn’t “do” daylight saving (no, I’m not going there with that topic!) so for six months or so, Coolangatta is 30 minutes behind Tweed Head. Could be handy if you urgently need shops which close promptly at 5pm.

Tweed Heads, showing railway passengers walking down Bay Street into Wharf Street. Queensland (or Federal) Hotel, Coolangatta, is on the right. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 1905

Tweed Heads, showing railway passengers walking down Bay Street into Wharf Street. Queensland (or Federal) Hotel, Coolangatta, is on the right. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 1905. http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1914). 18 residential and business sites at Coolangatta for sale by auction in the Tweed Heads Hall on Easter Saturday, Queensland, 1914. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1914). 18 residential and business sites at Coolangatta for sale by auction in the Tweed Heads Hall on Easter Saturday, Queensland, 1914. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Dad told me that while Grandad was working on the Gold Coast railway line they used to fish for stingrays in the river using star pickets…those long metals poles with three sides. Personally I think that was a bit unfair on the fish, to say the least, but it is still a part of local lore.

But the one that got away wasn’t a monster fish, rather the real estate deal that might have made the family fortune. The story goes that he was offered a beach front block of land at Coolangatta for a tiny sum, £100 springs to mind. Given that property on the Gold Coast now sells for seven figure amounts, we were dazzled by what might have been, not to mention the sheer bliss of living within sight and sound of the surf and the ocean. But it was not to be, and perhaps even if it had, Grandad would no longer have had the money to buy the land that our family lived on for 96 years….the turn of the fate wheel.

Unidentified (1900). Greenmount Beach, Gold Coast, 1900-1910. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, www.trove.nla.gov.au

Unidentified (1900). Greenmount Beach, Gold Coast, 1900-1910. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, http://www.trove.nla.gov.au

Coolangatta has never been the glitzy, glamour (tarty?) queen of the Gold Coast, that role was left to Surfers Paradise. That didn’t stop Coolangatta’s nearby beach, Greenmount, being a big hit with families as a holiday destination. I recall that we had only one holiday at Greenmount, compared with the several we took up the coast a little at sedate but beautiful Currumbin.

Pauleen at the Porpoise Pool, Snapper Rocks.

Pauleen at the Porpoise Pool, Snapper Rocks.

Apart from the attraction of sun, sand and surf at Greenmount, one of the big “pulls” during the 1960s was the Porpoise Pool run by Jack Evans at nearby Snapper Rock. It was de rigeur to visit the attraction and see the trained dolphins leap from the pool to catch their fish. (You can see a video here). Afterwards it was almost inevitable to have a photo taken with Sammy the Seal, another feature of the attraction. In this photo of me I would have been about 12.  I remember that rainbow top, which Mum sewed, very vividly especially the texture of the fabric.

Part of the reason our family was able to visit the border towns was because of the railway line. Dad’s annual railway pass made it possible for us to travel close to our destination – an important factor as we had no family car. The lack of a car was unfortunate also because, dare I say it as a loyal Queenslander, there’s some spectacular scenery and beaches just south of the border….an area our own family grew very fond of in later decades… I wrote this story about it a while ago.

It’s always good to know that families aren’t the only ones to have near-misses…Queensland Rail closed the line to Tweed Heads in 1961 and to Southport in 1964, no doubt due in part to the increased numbers of people who owned their own cars. Decades later they had to rebuild the same line to cope with just some of the burgeoning commuter traffic. The one that got away indeed.

Don’t forget to visit the other Sepians to see which beaches they’ve visited or how they interpreted the image.

PS: I’ve just noticed something my sub-conscious may have latched on to earlier. The man in the suit in the foreground reminds me of a photo I have of my grandfather.

 

A conjecture of Callaghans from Courtown

Follow the pretty pink lines for X-DNA.

Follow the pretty pink lines for X-DNA.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had my autosomal DNA tested through Family Tree DNA. It wasn’t until a 2nd cousin had hers tested and Mum also agreed to being tested too, that my results started to provide some clues to the past.

There’s still heaps to do and I’m still pretty confused, but a few of the closest links are looking like they tie back to/through my Callaghan ancestors in Wexford.

Some link to both Mum and to me, but others only to Mum. My conjecture on the latter is that either (1) the DNA jumble has given them some of the DNA segments of Mum’s that I didn’t inherit –after all Dad had to get a look-in with 50% OR (2) they are further back in the line from me so the common segments aren’t large enough.

The Callaghan line is one I’ve done virtually nothing on, for no reason that I can explain. Mary Callaghan married Peter Sherry (later McSherry) at St Michael’s church in Gorey, Wexford on 27 February 1881 and the witnesses to the wedding were John & Kate Turner. A few years later Peter and Mary would follow his parents and siblings to Australia. I must admit from time to time I’ve wondered if any of Mary’s siblings also followed them.

St Michael's Catholic Church, Gorey, Co Wexford where my Sherry family were married and baptised. © P Cass 1992.

St Michael’s Catholic Church, Gorey, Co Wexford where my Sherry family were married and baptised. © P Cass 1992.

All I know so far of Mary’s ancestry (from her marriage entry) is that her father’s name is David and he was a fisherman. I had checked with the priest at Gorey who told me that the Callaghans had not been part of their parish. My hyphothesis then was that perhaps the family came from nearby Courtown, just 4 kilometres east of Gorey and a fishing port.

Searching the National Archives of Ireland’s 1901 census shows three men named David Callaghan in Wexford, all living in Courtown Harbour. In fact the Household Returns show they are all in the same house of which the head is David Callaghan, a fisherman, 67 years old, Roman Catholic and illiterate. Living with him is his daughter Bridget, aged 33; his son, also David, aged 27 and a fisherman, David senior’s daughter-in-law Kate, a widow, aged 37 and their son David #3, aged 7. All are illiterate except Kate and the 7 year-old David. John, Patrick and James were all fishermen but they could all read and write, unlike David’s family.

The Enumerator’s Abstract reports them as living in Courtown Village, Ballaghkeen North Barony in the parish of Ardamine.

extract of the household return for the Callaghan family in the 1901 census, from the National Archives of Ireland free-access site. http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai001281019/

Extract of the household return for the Callaghan family in the 1901 census, from the National Archives of Ireland free-access site. http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai001281019/

It was the enumerator’s House and Building Report (page 2), that alerted me to the fact that living next door to David’s family is John Callaghan and his family. From the household return John Callaghan is 62, living with his wife Catherine aged 60, sons Patrick 32 and James 23, and daughter Elizabeth Redmond 34, her husband James 35 and her daughter Mary. It seems likely, but yet to be proven, that John and David are related in some way.

According to the House and Building report again, the houses in the Courtown Harbour village are predominantly of 2nd class standard, constructed of brick/stone with slate/tile/metal roofs, 5 or 6 rooms and 3 windows at the front. The Return of Out Houses and Farm Steadings show John Callaghan has 5 outbuildings, an unusually large number, which are reported as a dairy, piggery, fowl house, shed and store. This makes me wonder if he’s perhaps supplying the village rather than just his own family’s needs, as 4 households kept a piggery, 7 a fowl house but John was the only one with a dairy.  Next door David Callaghan had no outhouses but his family occupied six rooms while John’s had only five.

The standard of the village’s houses becomes apparent from a reference in Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland:several good slated houses and other buildings have been erected on the quay…”  There is also an interesting local history which has some invaluable clues into life in the area over the decades[i].If you’d like to see some old images of Courtown they are available on the National Library of Ireland site here.

Although the Courtown area had excellent fishing for many years, over time the industry diminished and that would certainly have affected the Callaghan men’s income generation and financial independence. By the time of the 1911 census, Kate is registered as the head of the household living her son Davi #3, with her father-in-law David, 82, and his daughter Bridget, 44. Kate is listed as a widow so David #2 has died between 1901 and 1911, perhaps at sea.  I can find no record of his death in the Irish or English indexes[ii].

Having found John and David Callaghan living in adjacent houses in 1901, I wondered if their residence in the area was long-standing so I turned to the Griffith Valuations. The Ask About Ireland site offers this wonderful resource with digital images and the original maps. Sure enough, there was an Anne Callaghan living in the village with a house and land of £1 per annum rateable value. Her landlord was John Oughton, the very person whom we know to have built the harbour-side cottages mentioned by Samuel Lewis. Also in the village was a John Callaghan with a house only, valued at £1 and also owned by John Oughton. No ages are provided by the Griffith Valuations and since Anne is the lease-holder it is most likely that she was a widow (though not necessarily).

The Griffith Valuation Map 1853 for Ardamine parish, from Ask About Ireland. http://griffiths.askaboutireland.ie/

The Griffith Valuation Map 1853 for Ardamine parish, from Ask About Ireland. http://griffiths.askaboutireland.ie/

Perhaps it’s indicative of the declining fishing industry or just the life of men who survived the harshness of the elements, but the Callaghan crew make regular appearances in the Petty Sessions records in FindMyPast. At present the Gorey, Wexford records only cover the period between 1900 and 1911. I’m betting that when there are more released the Callaghans will feature again….I’ll certainly have my fingers crossed! So far the charges relate to drunkenness, drunk and disorderly, one charge of common assault by David Callaghan on John Callaghan (not prosecuted), and several for John Callaghan regarding non-payment of harbour dues. The beauty of these latter entries is that they refer to John Callaghan owning three fishing boats, Fame, Lizzie and Gance (?).

I had also wondered if any of the Callaghans had joined the British Merchant Navy or the Royal Navy, especially during the years of World War I. I believe this entry for David Callaghan, born ~1891 is in fact the same David Callaghan living with his parents and grandfather in Courtown in 1901 and serving on HMS Tempest in 1915.

Another invaluable entry is John’s excursion in Wexford gaol for drunkenness in 1883[iii]. He is described as a fisherman of Courtown and is 40 years old, consistent with his estimated DOB from the census. He is described as 5ft 7.5inches tall, with black hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion. Plainly the Callaghans hadn’t got on board the Temperance pledge started by Fr Theobald Matthew in 1838, which the nuns were still pushing when I was at school. I rather wish David had had a stint in jail as then there’d be a description of him…perhaps when the remaining petty session records, if available, have been indexed.

Anne Callaghan also “got a guernsey” in the prison records [iv]. She was charged with larceny for the theft of a chemise and admitted to the Wexford Gaol on 3 August 1877. She was 5ft 2.5inches, with hazel eyes, black hair and a fresh complexion. She had no trade and it was her first time in gaol. She lived at Courtown Harbour making it pretty likely she is the same one mentioned in the valuations. (Although I sourced these through my FindMyPast world subscription, the indexes are also available on FamilySearch and the images can be seen at an LDS Family History Centre near you).

Courtown on Google Earth.

Courtown on Google Earth.

Where to from here with this research? Well this is all very circumstantial, something I would always warn against, but I’m walking on the wild side here. Ultimately I need to check the Riverchapel parish records but these are not available through Family Search on microfilm or digitised, but only through the National Library of Ireland….a “to do” addition for my next Irish holiday whenever that may be.

These are merely my hypothetical suggestions for one of my ancestral families with definite links, or rejections, to be discovered in the future. Come back later to learn more of their BDM chronology and a scandal that I discovered in Google books.

I’ll leave you with an extract from a delightful poem, The Harbour, by Irish poet Winifred Letts. I wonder if this is how our Irish forebears felt, especially my Mary Callaghan McSherry.

THE HARBOUR

I think if I lay dying in some land
Where Ireland is no more than just a name,
My soul would travel back to find that strand
From whence it came.

I’d see the harbour in the evening light,
The old men staring at some distant ship,
The fishing boats they fasten left and right
Beside the slip.

[i] The Windswept Shore, a history of the Courtown District. Kinsella, A, 1994.

[ii] Sources accessed FindMyPast.com and FreeBMD.org.uk

[iii] Irish Prison Registers: 1790 – 1924. http://search.findmypast.com.au/record?id=ire%2fprisr%2frs00018281%2f4492715%2f00743&parentid=ire%2fprisr%2frs00018281%2f4492715%2f00743%2f008

[iv] Irish Prison Registers 1790 – 1924 Prison Registers Wexford Prison General Register 1873-1878. Book 1/40/2 Item 2

Sepia Saturday 242: A costume fan

Sepia Saturday Aug 14Last Saturday’s Sepia Saturday 242 theme was fans, costumes etc in which host and coordinator Alan amused with his comments:I have never been a fan of fans. Whether they are slats of painted paper or those large metallic jobs that whirr around and threaten to lift your hairpiece into space, I would never volunteer to act as secretary of their fan club. 

Some of the fans I've inherited or been given.

Some of the fans I’ve inherited or been given.

Unlike Alan I live in the tropics where overhead fans are a necessary feature of our homes and any sudden absence of power makes you notice they’ve come to a silent standstill. When the humidity builds any hand-held fan works to combat the heat…beautiful hand-held ones or just a piece of paper. So I’m a fan of fans indeed.

I’m also a fan of national costumes having grown up in Brisbane with the influx of post-war migration. The annual Corpus Christi procession would see Catholics from various nations from Poland to Yugoslavia wearing their national dress proudly. Being a serious religious event I have no photos from those days.

70,000 Attend Corpus Christi. (1951, May 28). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50103012

70,000 Attend Corpus Christi. (1951, May 28). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50103012

Zurich032 copyHowever, today I want to share with you an unexpected event we encountered on our first youthful trip to Europe. We had arrived in Zurich as a natural progression in our “grand tour” and by pure chance, came across their end of winter parade in which the various guilds wore traditional dress. It was an amazing experience seeing these centuries-old traditions still in play. It was equally amazing to hear some young women backpackers, backs to the parade, bemoaning the boredom of Zurich!

Zurich020 editedAs people marched through the streets, family or friends would dash over to present them with bunches of flowers. An Aussie male in those days wouldn’t be seen dead carrying flowers but these men carried their floral gifts with aplomb.

Let me share this procession with you as a slide show – after all that’s the traditional way of sharing photos from a holiday.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the parade everyone made their way to a nearby park where an artificial snowman was ceremoniously burned to symbolise the end of winter. I still have the little snowman pin which I got there ….or was I given it? Mr Cassmob made friends somehow with three men from one of the guilds (blacksmiths, perhaps?) who shared their drink with him.Zurich 00snowman edit_edited-1

My poor tattered snowman.

My poor tattered snowman.

Altogether it is such a great memory of our early life together and the grand adventure of our first, but not as anticipated our last, trip to Europe. The internet tells me this festival still exists and is called the Sechseläuten festival and and the snowman is called the Böögg. It is normally held on the third Sunday and Monday in April, so if you’re planning to be in Switzerland in April sometime why not add it to your to-see list.

Why not pop over to the Sepia Saturday site to see whether others are fans of fans or costumes.

 

 

Genealogy World Photo Day Challenge

genealogy-photo-challengeBeing behind with my blog reading seems to be a chronic condition these days so I’m pleased that I spotted Alona’s post about the Genealogy World Photo Day Challenge proposed by The Family Curator. While I was there I decided to purchase Denise’s book, How to Archive Family Heirlooms, which comes with excellent reviews. I’ve got heaps of sorting to do and certainly hope it will help.

Back to the photos…the other day in my Book of Me story I’d included some “Then and Now” photos of our first home in Papua New Guinea. It reminded me that a few years ago I’d participated in a “Then and Now” activity run by our ABC when we walked the Darwin streets matching up old photos with the current image….good fun.

Inspired by all this, here are my collaged images for the Genealogy World Photo Day Challenge.

Image 1: my grandparents’ house, then (c1930) and now (2012)Then and now 29 Bally St low res

Image 2: my grandparents, Denis and Kit Kunkel, with my Dad as a boy then as a man: Then c1920s and “now” c1944.

Collage Norman Denis Kit Kunkel

Image 3: left: Mum and I in the same position, and in the same chair, near the stairs of my grandparents’ house; right: me, Mum, my great-aunt Emily, my aunt Mary and cousin Patsy, with the stairs in the background.

farrahers Kunkel Melvin

Thanks Denise for the inspiration, and fun, of this challenge!

World War I and the Wellington Quarries

It’s so long since I wrote my monthly post for the Worldwide Genealogy blog that I’m a day late…oops. This blog is a great international collaboration initiated by Julie Goucher from Anglers Rest and participated in by family historians from around the world. If you haven’t ever visited it, why not do so, as it’s got such interesting and varied stories. And while you’re there, sign up for future posts or add it to your RSS feeds.

I decided to make this month’s topic the story of the Wellington Quarries in Arras, northern France. The Kiwi tunnellers were heavily involved with this, so I’m hoping this will be of Trans-Tasman interest.

 

Time for a coffee break: the Book of Me and our first house

Book of meJulie Goucher from Anglers Rest blog has been running a series called The Book of Me for some time. My good intentions came to naught some time ago and I haven’t written on many of the topics. This week’s topic, though, is about “your first home” and Julie has given us free rein to interpret this any way we like, and it seems I’ve gone off for a gallup. I’ve written previously about my grandparents’ house and a little about my home growing up, but today I thought I’d like to share with you the story of our first home together as a married couple. It’s turned into a long yarn, so take a tea break and settle in for a read.

P1170161Mr Cassmob and I married many decades ago in suburban Brisbane. Two weeks later we flew to the then-Territory of Papua New Guinea where he had grown up and had a job with the Education Department in Alotau, Milne Bay. The departure at Brisbane airport was wrenching and full of tears all round – I have a clear memory of one of my male friends from uni standing with my girlfriends weeping on each shoulder. Port Moresby was to be our first stop on my first “proper” flight. I was “armed” with my new entry permit, issued in my married name, probably the first such document, come to think of it.

The heat hit with a soggy smack as we disembarked the aircraft and I remember smell of the tropics, and that the local ground crew were dressed in lap-laps. Absolutely nothing was the same as I was used to and it was all such a massive change after my life in a working class Brisbane suburb. We spent a few days in Moresby with my sister-in-law who was then studying at the new University of Papua New Guinea but we were keen to get on with our new life together.

Milne Bay Province is on the south-eastern corner of Papua New Guinea. Image from Google Earth.

Milne Bay Province is on the south-eastern corner of Papua New Guinea. Image from Google Earth.

The view of Milne Bay from the relaxation area under the house, circa 1968.

The view of Milne Bay from the relaxation area under the house, circa 1968.

We flew into Gurney airstrip in Milne Bay in a Piaggio aircraft, a cosy nine-seater, though that would have been pretty squashy.  For once, luckily, we were the only passengers and the weather was clear that day[i]. We collected our luggage from the bush-materials shed which served as the arrival hall. I remember our drive into the town of Alotau from Gurney through dense trees with glimpses of the Bay and occasional villages, crossing the three or four unbridged creeks that were part of the journey. And then we were there…our new home!

Strangely I found Alotau much less confronting than Moresby even though it was such a small town of a few hundred people and an even smaller expat community. I guess the magnificent scenery went some way to mitigating the rest of it. We were to spend our first months as a couple in the house of my parents-in-law, who had been posted to Moresby for a few months (why, I don’t recall). In most respects it was a typical government-issued house of the era, and very like Darwin’s high-set houses.

THEN: The Cass family's first home in Alotau, taken soon after the move from Samarai 1968.

THEN: The Cass family’s first home in Alotau, taken soon after the move from Samarai 1968.

What was unusual was its spectacular location with a view over Milne Bay. Alotau was a newly-established town, purpose-built when the government decided to move the Milne Bay District headquarters from the island of Samarai to the mainland. The Education Department had an allocated government trawler, used to do school inspections in the remote far-flung islands of the district, for which Mr Cassmob Senior was the District Inspector.  As such he was able to choose where their house would be built in Alotau… sounding a little colonial? The story goes that he took the trawler up the bay and pointed to a fabulous spot with views of the Bay in front and, at the back of the block, of the cloud-draped mountains. Only the District Commissioner had a better view <smile>.

The house itself was on metal stilts to catch the breezes, reminiscent of many Brisbane houses but much more open and more “flimsy”. Louvres ran the length of each room and were floor-to-ceiling. At the lower level they were metal louvres, but at the top they were glass. The walls were a fibro-like construction and the floors were beautiful polished timber. The kitchen, dining room and lounge were essentially an L-shaped open plan with the stairwell coming up adjacent to the kitchen wall. It had three large bedrooms and a bathroom with a basic shower.

NOW: The old Cass home in Top Town, 2012. The verandah upstairs is an addition as is the fencing on the bottom level.

NOW: The old Cass home in Top Town, 2012. The verandah upstairs is an addition as is the fencing on the bottom level.

Government houses were issued with furniture from Government Stores. It was perfectly functional but would never win any design awards. Simple aluminium tables and chairs, ditto the beds, and a reasonable but basic lounge suite. Mr Cassmob Snr was skilled with his hands and had made some lovely wooden bookcases and coffee tables. Most of the houses were of similar designs which made it easy when you moved from one place to another – just put everything where it “belongs”. You made the house your own by the memorabilia and decorations you used and the soft furnishings you’d sewn. It it was always interesting to visit someone else’s house to see their style…and you never had to ask where the bathroom was <wink>.

THEN: Part of the much loved gardens 1960s - 1970s.

THEN: Part of the much loved gardens 1960s – 1970s.

One humungous difference from my earlier life was that, along with the borrowed house, we had house staff. Poor Jimmy….what a challenge he had with the new sinebada[ii]….I probably drove him demented. I had known in advance that the kitchen oven was a slow-combustion stove so I’d asked my aunty Bonnie, who knew about these things, how to work with them. She had told me that I needed to keep the heat pads down (or was it up?) on the elements to keep the heat in. Jimmy had the opposite view so we spent weeks putting them up and down in turns. How ridiculous! I should have just let him get on with it! On the up side he also chopped the wood for the oven so we didn’t have to worry about it until our next house when we chose not to have house staff.

NOW: You can glimpse the mountains at the rear of the house. Sadly the hibiscus plants are no more. Taken 2012.

NOW: You can glimpse the mountains at the rear of the house. Sadly the hibiscus plants are no more. Taken 2012.

Under the house was an open space with a relaxing area where we’d have an evening drink and nibbles, a Cass family tradition. Around the back of the stairwell was the open-air laundry with its high-tech twin tub washing machine.

Mrs Cassmob Senior was a mad-keen gardener and their garden was a delight. She had lots of hibiscus growing and had even imported some from Hawaii, especially a lovely lilac one. She passed her love of flowers on to her children so I have her to thank for the flowers I’m given regularly.  Each day Jimmy would pick a hibiscus and put it in the upside-down fish-bowl-vase on the dining table.

Bougainvillea not hibiscus, but you get the idea.

Bougainvillea not hibiscus, but you get the idea.

Milne Bay is very wet and the jungle reached up to the garden’s boundary with ferns and staghorns. I don’t think I fully appreciated the beauty of that garden in those days. I think my mother-in-law enjoyed spending time in it. She was born a country girl, and with her husband away for long periods on the trawler, and children away at boarding school, it probably gave her relaxation away from

her own job as a teacher at the primary school across the road.

Nowhere in PNG had television as well so our entertainment was self-driven, or a movie at the Cameron Club (don’t get excited, not as flash as it sounds). There were no restaurants so we had friends over for dinner and vice versa. There were four trade stores with a minimal variety of items, rather like something from an old Western-style movie. No department stores like TC Beirne’s, David Jones, Myer or McWhirter, no walking from the Valley to the City looking at which particular item suited best. Doing some sewing on my mother-in-law’s machine? Need cotton? Don’t worry about colour matching – choose between black and white and maybe one or two other colours.

Milne Bay, Alotau

This shows the main street of Alotau in 2012 with far more shops than were there in our day. Above the power lines you can see the line of houses where the Cass family lived…theirs used to be the last one in the street.

Major groceries were ordered in by mail from Samarai, where the “big” shops were still based because of its place on the shipping lanes, and they came in to us by trawler. Meat and other freezer goods were ordered from Moresby and came in by plane – when the clouds weren’t socking in the bay. You can imagine the potential for confusion with three Cass families spread around PNG – we’d wind up with each other’s freezer accounts…and as for our government staff files!

The Cameron Club promoting everyone's favourite tipple. We used to go to part-open-air movies here weekly.

The Cameron Club promoting everyone’s favourite tipple. We used to go to part-open-air movies here weekly.

The Alotau power system was only on for 18 hours a day so we also had kerosene lamps, and torches, handy for the hours between midnight and six. We would have to rush home from the movies at the Cameron Club to get the coffee made before the power went out.

Although the phone system had recently progressed from the previous radio telephone (over), it was erratic, expensive, and unless you wanted to share your conversation with the whole street, not worth bothering with. Instead I wrote regular lengthy letters to my parents and friends back in Brisbane. Unfortunately I have none from those early days, not even the first letter of 19 pages I wrote to Mum and Dad. And did I mention that in those early months, during the Wet Season, mail didn’t arrive when the plane couldn’t get in?

So much of that time disappeared from my memory in the overwhelming changes that I was adapting to and I really wish that I had some of those letters to remind me, or had written a diary. Before that first year was out I had come to love Papua New Guinea despite its challenges…it had become home. This was part of the reason we made a trip back in 2012…always risky to revisit a place but we still loved it. You can read some of those stories herehere, and here.

A long story from me, as always, and not just about our first house, but as with family history generally, it’s about context.

Milne Bay women dancing at the Kenu and Kundu Festival, Alotau 2012.

Milne Bay women dancing at the Kenu and Kundu Festival, Alotau 2012.

[i] Flying in PNG is notoriously risky as this website shows http://aviation-safety.net/database/dblist.php?Country=P2. Strangely it doesn’t include the one in Milne Bay that occurred soon after we arrived there.

[ii] Roughly translated, a white lady, now more often called dimdim.

Spring cleaning my blogs

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jacqueline_Logan_-_Make-up_Instructions_3.jpg Image from Wikimedia Commons.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Jacqueline_Logan_-_Make-up_Instructions_3.jpg Image from Wikimedia Commons.

 

The other day Luvvie Alex from Family Tree Frog suggested we tweak our blog this weekend.  Geniaus also thinks it’s time for a mini-makeover. Don’t they know it’s not spring yet? So why are we spring-cleaning our blogs?

At first it all seemed too anxiety-provoking but I’ve been tweaking away today. It’s a bit like going to the day spa…you feel so good you think it will be Elle Macpherson you see in the mirror, but nada, not so.

Some months ago I removed all the old awards and many of the themes and memes images. I don’t need them – they show in my “memes and themes” category anyway.

What’s survived the cull?

  • Kiva Genealogists for Families link – because it’s important!
  • The Translation icon so my posts can be read by non-English readers especially anyone interested in my German research
  • The link to my own Beyond the Internet series from 2012
  • The blogroll with links to my other blogs
  • The much appreciated Inside History “Top 50” badges from 2012 and 2013 and the Family History Magazine badge 2012
  • My comments image because the exchange between reader and writer is part of the fun
  • The Geneabloggers badge – go team!
  • The flag image as a ready-reckoner for me to see where my readers originate

What’s changed?

  • removed the tag cloud on this blog because it was cluttered but left it on my East Clare blog so people can easily see names and places.
  • changed the Categories from a list to a drop-down menu to declutter the space
  • the search facility on the side bar is gone – there’s already a search option on the top right
  • removed the blog links icon as I have a page for these links anyway
  • resized some of the images so they take up less space and for consistency
  • cleaner social media buttons at the bottom of each post (thanks Geniaus for provoking me into finding what was under my nose!)
  • Drop down menu on my Resources tab for blog links, online and offline resources, and a link which gives all my Beyond the Internet topics
  • Resequenced the tabs on the pages menu (below the image).

Ambivalence

red question markThe main thing I’m ambivalent about is removing the break-down of categories. Will people even notice the option is there with the new drop-down box? What do you think?

Overall

Generally I’m happy with my blog theme. I previewed quite a few WP templates and none suited my purposes as well.

The images roll over randomly so it doesn’t get boring in that regard and I can always add more.

In the past I’ve changed the background to cleaner, easier to read colours.

The blog has lots of pages so since first posting this I’ve modified the resources to be a drop down menu. I’ve also managed to prioritise them differently so overall it looks less cluttered.

And, yes, my blog links need to be updated…so if you think I’ve forgotten you by mistake, please send me a comment.

Okay, deep breath! I’ll be brave and ask what you think of my mini-makeover?

A winter excursion to the Top End?

I’ve been having a frivolous conversation on Facebook with my friend Sharn from Family History 4 U and Family Convictions and her overseas mates. The topic has been about Australian vernacular expressions and how they can be so easily misunderstood by non-Aussies. It finally occurred to me that I’d done a series of Aussie-isms in my April A to Z challenge in 2013 along with a virtual tour of Australia’s tropical north.

So if you’re in the mood to escape some chilly weather (the rest of Oz) or a summer chill out (northern hemisphere), why not go for a virtual excursion to the Top End where it’s presently a cool 22C (72F), and learn a little about our weird way of talking.

Yellow Waters in Kakadu National Park, NT.

Yellow Waters in Kakadu National Park, NT.

My Tropical Territory and Travel blog has been terribly neglected lately but I’m hoping to get some posts up soon about our recent adventures overseas.

And I’ve just discovered something else -you go to bed and overnight WordPress drastically changes the design for posting new stories! Uuuugh!

Have you noticed, too, that you can hit the like button under someone’s comment if you thought it was interesting, humorous etc?

My response to NFHM 2014 Geneameme

NHFM GeneamemeHere is my own response to my National Family History Month (NFHM) geneameme. I’ll be collating all the responses in a couple of weeks but if you want to read them in the meantime you can check the links in the comments.

  1. What are you doing for NFHM? This meme is my contribution to NFHM. There’s not much happening in the NT and I’ve been caught up with live-family activities when some of the online activities have occurred. I’ve registered for Shauna’s Golden Rules of Genealogy Webinar. Meanwhile I’m working at getting my blog back on track after a few disrupted months and my “To Do” list just keeps getting longer.
  2. What do you hope to learn in NFHM? Anything to help with my family history –new ideas/ inspiration. I’m checking out Shauna’s 31 activities list to see what inspires me.
  3. Have you any special research projects on the go? I’ve recently done some German research for an American descendant of a Dorfprozelten family. It’s also time I got back to my East Clare Emigrants blog and add more of the news stories I’ve collected from Trove. I’m also working on a paper I’m giving at Queensland Family History Society on 4 October. Geniaus has just reminded me, in her response, that I’m supposed to be doing One Place Studies for Dorfprozelten and Broadford…something that is kind-of progressing with my East Clare blog and ad hoc Dorfprozelten posts.
  4. Do you research at a family or local history library? As and when something needs to be followed up offline these days…not as much as in the pre-Trove, pre-internet days.
  5. Do you do all your research online? Not at all…I love offline research but being a long way from my main research places means that it occurs sporadically.
  6. What’s your favourite place to store your family tree? I’m a bit weird and retro – I like to keep a lot in hard copy though I also keep digital images and documents. I’m still sitting on the fence with this. I don’t have my tree online at all…I figure my blog is my “cousin bait”.
  7. If offline, which genealogy program do you use? Do tell us its strengths/weaknesses if you like. I’ve used an Australian program, Relatively Yours, for decades because it was an innovator in making it possible to store more than base biographical data for people. It still allows for more challenging relationships than some others. Its weakness is that because of its quirkier data I find the gedcoms don’t always import well. However I also have copies of Family Historian and The Master Genealogist. The challenge of having decades of stored information is entering it all into a program….excuses, excuses.
  8. How do you preserve your family stories for future generations? I’ve published my Kunkel family history as a hard-copy book and I’ve also printed off family histories for some of my other families, just for my own family’s reference. Mainly I now use my blog to tell the stories of my families, and others I research.
  9. What is your favourite family history research activity? The actual research and problem solving. I like that it keeps your brain active and keeps you in learning mode.
  10. What is your favourite family history research place/library etc? That’s like choosing between your children! Queensland State Archives followed by Queensland State Library or one of the Queensland family history societies. Locally I’ve been a big user of the Darwin Family History Centre where I can read any of the microfilms I order in through Family Search.
  11. What is your favourite website for genealogy research? Trove and whichever one addresses the problem I have to solve at that time. I flip between Ancestry, FindMyPast (world), My Heritage, com and Family Search. For Scottish research you can’t go past Scotlands People.
  12. Are you part of a Facebook genealogy group? If so which one? A few: Clare Genealogy Group, Wexford Genealogy Group and our Dorfprozelten Diaspora group. I also have lots of my genie friends I follow.
  13. Do you use webinars or podcasts for genealogy? Any tips? My favourite is Maria Northcote’s excellent Genies Down Under. Tips? Invent more hours in the day to find more time to listen to more of these, and others.
  14. Do you use social media? I’m on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkdIn though I think I’m very neglectful of them as I try to balance my time with them against my research priorities. You’ll find me by name or as my aka, cassmob. I also love reading blog posts and use Feedly to keep track of them.
  15. What genealogy topic/class have you learnt the most from this year (webinar/conference/seminar)? This is a tricky one and rather than single out one I’d say the presentations on the Unlock the Past cruise in February. You can find my posts here. I thoroughly enjoyed the final talk by Chris Paton on his fascinating study of Ruhleben Internment Camp.
  16. Do you have a favourite research strategy to knock down your brick walls? I like to revisit my notes occasionally because things make more sense retrospectively. I’m not a believer in searching once and never again because I think you find new things on revised searches. My top tip would be to branch out to your ancestor’s kin and friendship network as that may be what helps you out.
  17. Have you used DNA testing for your genealogy? Yes I’ve done the family finder test with Family Tree DNA.
  18. Have you made cousin connections through your DNA tests? There are lots of reasonably close matches but it’s sometimes difficult to pin down the connections. I recently had my mother’s DNA tested along with an Irish-descended cousin. Another 3rd cousin has also had hers done so I can see where we overlap – I find having known rellies makes it easier to start unravelling the potential. I hope to write a post on this soon.
  19. Do you have a wish list of topics for NFHM 2015? I’d be interested in a webinar on oral history and more offline options, though I’m hoping to be closer to more societies by NFHM 2015.
  20. What do you most love about family history research? The thrill of the chase and slowly unravelling a sense of what an ancestor might have been like by unearthing records about their lives and times.

National Family History Month 2014 Geneameme

NHFM GeneamemeNow I’m back on my blogging feet I felt the need for a meme….after all, it’s ages since we had one! What better time than National Family History Month (NFHM)? Tucked away in the Top End I don’t have quite the smorgasbord of options available interstate, so this is my contribution.

Here goes, who wants to meme with me? I’ll collate the answers in a couple of weeks to give you time to participate around other events…hopefully it will be fun, easy and quick to complete.

Don’t forget to leave a link to your post in the comments!

  1. What are you doing for NFHM?
  2. What do you hope to learn in NFHM?
  3. Do you research at a family or local history library?
  4. Do you do all your research online?
  5. What’s your favourite place to store your family tree?
  6. If offline, which genealogy program do you use? (do tell us its strengths/weaknesses if you like)
  7. How do you preserve your family stories for future generations?
  8. Have you any special research projects on the go?
  9. What is your favourite family history research activity?
  10. What is your favourite family history research place/library etc?
  11. What is your favourite website for genealogy research?
  12. Are you part of a Facebook genealogy group? If so which one?
  13. Do you use webinars or podcasts for genealogy? Any tips?
  14. Do you use social media? eg Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn
  15. What genealogy topic/class have you learnt the most from this year at a webinar/conference/seminar?
  16. Do you have a favourite research strategy to knock down your brick walls?
  17. Have you used DNA testing for your genealogy?
  18. Have you made cousin connections through your DNA tests?
  19. Do you have a wish list of topics for NFHM 2015?
  20. What do you most love about your family history research?