My thoughts on David Malouf’s A First Place

David MaloufI’ve just begun an e-book of short stories, A First Place, by David Malouf. Absorbing stories written by Australians always seem slightly disorienting, so accustomed are we (or is it only me?) to reading books whose settings are elsewhere. Which came first, the sense that “other is better”, leading to the exodus of much of Australia’s talent, or the relative weighting of other and local?

One story, A First Place, is about growing up in Brisbane and how its particular topography and lifestyle defines not only who we become as adults, but how we think. That certainly gave me pause for thought, and I can’t decide the merits of the case, but is that because it’s part of me?

Brisbane is a hilly city – not mountainous, just hilly, where travelling by car or foot anywhere involves the negotiation of hills. From a large-scale view, the hills are not so obvious, it’s when one is on the ground that it becomes so much more apparent. One of the earliest things a Brisbane learner-driver has to come to terms with is hill starts in a geared car. After nearly two decades of living in flat-as-a-tack Darwin I sometimes forget I have to change gears or use more power when going up a hill. Our geography does change our daily patterns.

Taken from a hotel in the CBD, this view is to the south.

Taken from a hotel in the CBD, this view is to the south.

Malouf posits that the topography of the city means “it shapes in those who grow up there a different sensibility, a cast of mind, creates a different sort of Australian”. The hilliness of the city means that its residents miss the long vistas of flatter cities like Adelaide or Melbourne. They become accustomed to new views at every rise, and this may make them restless in the absence of variety, as well as precluding a clear map of the mind. I’d suggest it might also inculcate a sense of mystery in the same way that a door into a garden, rather than shut you out, makes you more curious what lies behind…or is that, once again, the Brisbane girl in me? He’s certainly correct that it gives the legs a good workout, especially if you grew up relying on Shanks’ pony to get you everywhere – something that’s noticeably absent from Darwin’s flatness, and the laziness that tropical humidity generates.

He also talks about the river’s unusual snake-like twisting through the city: one of the reasons the flooding a few years back caused so much damage, as it has in the past. Add to that the relative lack of bridges forcing the traveller to negotiate twice as many suburbs as a direct route would allow.  The river conspires to shut off vistas as do the hills, but I think it also opens up a sense of a city of two sides on both banks.

Brisbane River snakes through the city and here, the CBD. You can see some of the bridges, two of which are new.

Brisbane River snakes through the city and here, the CBD. You can see some of the bridges -the one in the centre is a new pedestrian bridge, called the Kurilpa Bridge (or the Knitting Needle Bridge as I do).

Now that the river has become an active character in the Brisbane landscape with the arrival of the City Cats (ferries) along with the riverside walkways, it does open up the city in a different way. In much the same way as the hills, it makes you wonder (if you don’t already), what is round the next corner. No wonder a river tour has become so popular over the past decades.1113 Brisbane river and ferry stop

The hills and river combine in a story my father has handed down. I often wondered whether it was something he’d made up, even though it made eminent sense, until a friend whose father was also a born-and-bred old Queenslander confirmed the same story. In the pioneering days, the drays would travel across the city along the ridges of the hills when the river was in flood. My father did much the same when my cousin’s house was in imminent risk of flooding back in 1974, helping him to get his belongings up to the ceiling before the flood hit (reaching very close to the ceiling – two floors).

The Story Bridge at sunset, a city cat, and in the distance my school, one of Brisbane's heritage sites.

The Story Bridge at sunset, a city cat, and in the distance my school, one of Brisbane’s heritage sites.

As Malouf says, Brisbane has a radial design, striking out from the city centre. In the days when few families had their own car, this meant that setting out on a journey could make two suburbs seem immeasurably far apart, and mystifyingly disconnected. This is how I experienced visits to my grandfather at Buranda from Kelvin Grove, or family friends at the outside reaches of Mt Gravatt. It wasn’t until we acquired a car, or until I travelled more by car, that the geography of the city started to make sense in a quite different way. The CBD of the city may be suitably laid out in grid-fashion (and flat) but not the rest of the place. Motorways (and bus lanes) cut through suburbs like knives now, but the new tunnels and underpasses generate a lack of knowledge of the landscape above, until one pops out, bandicoot-like, at the other end, hopefully in the right place, or somewhere you recognise and can navigate from.

Although not in a very hilly street, the home my grandparents lived in is a good example of the Queenslander style of house.

Although not in a hilly street, the home my grandparents once lived in is a good example of the Queenslander style of house.

Malouf also has a theory that Brisbane’s tree-house-like homes, built on stilts to accommodate the hills and introduce breezes, affect the psyche of those who grew up there.  His argument is that their openness, with doors always ajar, introduce an element of not-seeing, not-hearing as appropriate to the circumstances. The timber of the building moves in a way that brick structures do not, and are more vulnerable to climate as well as protecting the family from it. I’m not entirely sure that I agree with his thesis on the effect of Brisbane (or more accurately, tropical, housing). It seems predicated on a particular type of house, the old Queenslander with its encircling verandahs rather even than post-war timber housing, and certainly not on the more modern brick bungalow or two-story house. On the other hand, doors are only shut here because of air-conditioning so perhaps he has a point.

“Under the house” is a different world from that above where all serious living takes place. Home of the household washing machine, tubs, wringer or boiler, Dad’s workbenches and the kids’ play area, it has a sort of wondrousness about it as well as a daily practicality. It offers the chance to explore what Malouf calls “a kind of archaeological site”, hosting as it does all sorts of odds and ends that have found their way to rest there, as well as on-going practical items. This space certainly features prominently in my childhood memories of both my own home and that of my grandparents next door. I used to love using my grandfather’s vice to crack the Queensland nuts (now known as macadamias) which grew on our tree. Usually enclosed by timber battens, “under the house” is both open and yet secure. Surely this experience is different from those for whom a basement may serve similar functions?

Malouf asks himself “what habits of mind such a city may encourage in its citizens, and how, though taken for granted in this place, they may differ from the habits of places where geography declares itself at every point as helpful, reliable, being itself a map”. I suspect it gives your internal GPS such good training that ever after you are more able to understand other places.

The Brisbane River approaches the city from the west.

The Brisbane River flows out to Moreton Bay -you can see the Gateway Bridge here, dwarfed by altitude. Very kind of the pilot to take the river and city route that particular time -doesn’t happen frequently, and then you have to have the camera ready too.

If a good writer’s goal is to make one think, and challenge our internal assumptions, then Malouf has achieved this for me today.

Have you thought about the impact of the geography of where you grew up? Do you think it has affected how you see the world psychologically and emotionally, your habits and sense of the world’s geography.

Book: A First Place, David Malouf. Random House 2014. A collection of personal essays and writing from David Malouf to celebrate his 80th birthday. This includes the following short story: A First Place. 1984 Blakelock Lecture.

Like so many cities, Brisbane has its own sight-seeing ferris wheel. Adjacent is the Cultural Precinct.

Like so many cities, Brisbane has its own sight-seeing ferris wheel. Adjacent is the Cultural Precinct.

Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Day 2

After the excitement of boarding and meeting people on Day 1, Day 2 was all about learning from, and listening to, the variety of presenters on the cruise. I can just see that we are going to have quite a work load when we get home following up all the tips that have come our way.

So who and what was on our learning smorgasbord for the day?

Chris Paton: British and Irish Newspapers

Chris kicked off the conference with his usual lively delivery of a topic near to our hearts – the family treats that lie hidden in newspapers. He listed various options overseas and reminded us not to forget the Gazettes for London, Edinburgh and Belfast. He also talked a little about Broadsides on the National Library of Scotland site: 1 page papers with 1 story: “sale of a wife” anyone?

Not as well known as the British Newspaper Archives are the Welsh Newspapers Online, Manx National Heritage, the Scotsman Archive and Irish Newspaper Archive.

Key message: Check which editions of the paper has been digitised or microfilmed as it will affect the content you are likely to find. This is something I discovered re Australian Women’s Weekly editions on Trove which appear to be the NSW edition, so Queenslanders won’t necessarily find their edition of social pages.

Jill Ball: Beaut Blogs –what makes one stand out from the crowd?

Jill is another dynamic and engaging speaker who relishes her topics. She shared her perspectives on what makes a great blog and showed us examples from the blogs she followed. If you’ve been ambivalent about blogging, it’s likely that Jill will persuade you. There were a few takers on lessons about setting up a blog.

Jill says “content is king” and a blog should provide unique fare, catchy post titles, an opening hook, consistently solid work and be a joy to read, informative and fascinating…not a lot to ask!

Key message: Check out  Inside History’s Top 50 Blogs Inside History’s Top 50 Blogs to see which blogs they recognise as fitting the “beaut blog” criteria.

Helen Smith: Document Analysis

Helen offers great advice on really studying every element of a document or certificate rather than jumping to the one item you were hunting for eg a maiden name. It’s so easy to just miss important elements so transcribe the document exactly as it appears then analyse it and it may reveal nuances that you didn’t at first see.

Key message:  Look, really look, at your certificates and documents. Transcribe them and study them again.

Rob Hamilton: What does Freemasonry offer genealogists?

I knew from nothing about freemasonry so I found this an interesting presentation though I suspect from a particular perspective. Rob showed how symbolism can reveal much about our relative’s involvement in a lodge. Using examples it was obvious just how much detail we can obtain from membership records. You may find the details of their Lodge on funeral notices when Lodge members were asked to attend.

Key Message: Write to the secretary of the Lodge where you ancestor was a member and ask for information.

Noeline Kyle: Forced and Voluntary emigration to Botany Bay: how to research women

Noeline’s talk focused on the earliest female immigrants and their lives. Unfortunately I have no female ancestors who fitted this timeframe but, to an extent, her messages about their lives apply to our later immigrants as well.

Key message: Noeline has a great book available through Unlock the Past, dense with information on tracing female ancestors. It’s well worth buying in book or e-book format and it’s called “Finding Florence, Maude, Matilda, Rose”

Kerry Farmer: Immigration arrivals in Australia from 1788

As if we weren’t all replete after our delicious dinners in the restaurant, Kerry served us up food for our minds at this post-dinner presentation. This was a great talk dense with information and covering the vast diversity of immigration to Australia. We were reminded, among other things, to consider that our ancestors may have fudged their ages to meet the age selection criteria to obtain government assistance.

Key message: Buy Kerry’s upcoming Unlock the Past book on Immigration. This will be a goldmine of the information we were provided with in this presentation. I know I’ll be buying one!

cabin bedGood night, sleep tight

Notebooks filled and brains overflowing with information we retired for the night with lots to think about. Melbourne in the morning and more on-the-ground research opportunities for some people.

No fancy photos today people as I didn’t even look out my cabin door today…busy, busy. Nor did I remember to photograph any speakers.

Australia Day Challenge 2014: C’mon Aussie

I promised no flag-waving.

I promised no flag-waving.

G’day cobbers, how’re you going? Hope you’re feeling grouse. Australia Day is coming up so it’s time for another dinkum-Aussie challenge. Since quite a few of us are gearing up for the next Unlock the Past cruise, I thought I’d make it a quick and easy geneameme for those who wish to participate, eh.

Let’s see how deep your roots go into our Aussie soil. Do you have Australian Royalty?

If for you Australia Day is Survival Day, tell us your family’s story and show up our Johnny-come-lately status.

The geneameme comes in two parts: one to test whether your family is ridgey-didge and the second to show us how Australia runs in your veins, without any flag-waving and tattoo-wearing. Shout it out, be proud and make everyone wish they lived in this wide brown land of ours.

Feel free to add and subtract and even add a short story at the end. The world’s your oyster, so have a go! C’mon Aussie C’mon C’mon.

092 Termite mounds and gum tree copyCLIMBING YOUR FAMILY’S GUM TREE

My first ancestor to arrive in Australia was:

I have Australian Royalty (tell us who, how many and which Fleet they arrived with):

I’m an Aussie mongrel, my ancestors came to Oz from:

Did any of your ancestors arrive under their own financial steam?

How many ancestors came as singles?

How many came as couples?

How many came as family groups?

Did one person lead the way and others follow?

What’s the longest journey they took to get here?

Did anyone make a two-step emigration via another place?

Which state(s)/colony did your ancestors arrive?

Did they settle and remain in one state/colony?

Did they stay in one town or move around?

Do you have any First Australians in your tree?

Were any self-employed?

What occupations or industries did your earliest ancestors work in?

Does anyone in the family still follow that occupation?

Did any of your ancestors leave Australia and go “home”?

NOW IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU

What’s your State of Origin?

Do you still live there?

Where was your favourite Aussie holiday place as a child?

Any special place you like to holiday now?

Share your favourite spot in Oz:

Any great Aussie adventure you’ve had?

What’s on your Australian holiday bucket list?

How do you celebrate Australia Day?

I’ve just realised that entirely coincidentally I came up with 26 questions for 26 January…how bizarre is that!

Feel free to post your responses any time in the coming week and I’ll collate them on the Australia Day holiday. Please leave a message about your post in the comments (WP.com doesn’t like linky lists). Otherwise use twitter tag #ozday2014. Thanks for joining in mate.

Thanks to Rebel Hand for inspiring me for the midnight inspiration to set up this challenge, following in the 2013 steps of Helen Smith and Shelley from Twigs of Yore in 2012 and 2011. ( Psst, there’s still scope for someone else to add another, non-geneameme, challenge for the day).

Book of Me: Prompt 8 -Time Capsule

This week Julie has thrown us a curved ball with Prompt 8 for the Book of Me: Time Capsule. Julie suggests that we consider:Book of me

who we’ll have in mind to inherit the time capsule

whether it will be a virtual capsule or a real one

why we chose that person(s) and when we intend them to have it

She also mentions that we may want to leave a capsule with our home’s heritage for someone who later lives in your house, or another to celebrate and anniversary or event, as was done last year for the Queen’s celebrations. If we use a real capsule, what will choose and why.  Julie’s also got a link on this topic on YouTube here.

We have the option of doing Prompt 8 quickly, or taking our time and doing it over weeks or even months. There are occasions when I wonder if we’re just fighting time and ageing or if it is ego-centric to hope our life’s detritus will mean something to anyone else. On the flip side, there’s that wish all family historians hold dear, that we had some special ancestral item, diary or letters….and then I think, perhaps it’s not all about us after all. Perhaps it’s about capturing a slice of normal life for history, rather than the big picture that formal history will focus on.

At the moment the nearest thing I have to a time capsule is my memory box which has many of my bits and bobs from over the years. Nothing of any financial value at all but a trace, of sorts, of my life so far. What is required is some system to be brought into it, and perhaps notes as to why I thought each thing is important or relevant.

I’m going to be taking my time to reflect on how I want to do this project and what I want to include. Some of the topics might include:

How the workplace changed over the past 40 years (in my field)

Memories of places we’ve lived and visited, and/or why travel has been important to us

The meaning of some of the inherited objects we own. Little or no financial value but each item can bring a flood of memories to me…but at present will mean nothing to anyone. Will leaving some story with them, give them meaning to anyone else I wonder?

What will they go in? I don’t know but it will have to be transportable easily and also waterproof is my first guess, at least while we live in the cyclone-prone tropics.

It might even be a book of blog posts relating to our lives eg this Book of Me.

Meanwhile if you want to read a brilliant post on this topic why not visit Kim at KK Genealogy.

Follow Friday: Informative and inspiring posts

As you know I’ve been out of the loop for the past six weeks or so, in fact 2013 has been quite disruptive in terms of blog reading. Even more so in terms of commenting so I’m frantically trying to catch up. So please forgive me if you haven’t seen me visit, I may have been one of those “ghost” visitors who read but don’t comment.

You may have been doing better than I have, but these are just some of the posts I’ve found interesting. There’ll be more to come as I nibble my way through the pile.

Angler’s Rest’s Remembrance Day Photo Collage not to mention Julie’s block buster success with the Book of Me, Written by You which has taken off like a rocket with genies and writers alike. You can write publicly, you can write privately, on paper or computer….and while the series has reached Prompt 7, you can still join in and start writing….I have.

Jill Ball on the 18th Annual Computer Conference for Seniors and an intriguing post on “journaling” for your family history: innovative and challenging ideas, thanks Jill!

Judy Webster from Queensland Genealogy on the new options for BDM searching in Queensland (great news!)

Isn’t this a gorgeous garden by Gigi Thibodeau of Magpie’s Fancy, complete with gardening tips.

The Armchair Genealogist brings us Four Steps to a Family history Timeline.

Julie from Angler’s Rest on the Inclusive vs Exclusive Genealogy debate. And also the Right to do Genealogy debate (I wrote my own post on this while on holiday and lost it to the iPad….ooops)

Researching Limerick from Crissouli at As They Were. Also her tip about the new Destination Australia site.

Good links and tips from Aillin at Australian Genealogy Journeys about Autosomal DNA and from Olive Tree Genealogy on Understanding your DNA results.

GeneaMusings gives up info on what databases Mocavo searches.

Thomas MacEntee on backing up your genealogy data and a link on how to opt out of Google’s use of your name and photo with ads. Have you added Thomas’s Hack Genealogy blog to your reading list?

How about Kerryn’s post on Generationism – have you got all the current Gens sorted in your head? Kerryn discovered she was a Generation Jones. I’m relieved to discover I’m a still a ridgey-didge Baby Boomer. Also intrigued that GenY covers such a broad span.

Helen from Helen V Smith’s Keyboard reminds us that it’s time to think out our genealogy Christmas gifts. But if you want a non-genie present, how about this dreamcatcher from Molly Moo –I thought it was really cute.

For the Queenslanders: John Oxley Library’s Indigenous Languages Map and Company Records at QSA (I’ll be checking these out)

And if you have Donegal ancestors, how about the Atlas of County Donegal  as mentioned by Irish Genealogy News or Gould Genealogy’s recommendation of the Biographical Database of Australia.

And an older post, contemplating the topic of Historians Ask: Who is our audience? from Stumbling through the Past.

And thanks to links on others’ blogs I’ve found some more free clip art or stock photography at rf123 and FreeDigitalPhotos.

“As They Were” Questionnaire on Family History

Image from Microsoft Office clipart.

Microsoft Office clipart.

Crissouli from As You Were has asked fellow bloggers to respond to this questionnaire. The objective is to use the variety of responses to help field questions from new or thinking-about-it genealogists. Crissouli does so much for others the least we can do is help out, so here’s my response. Why not help out with your own feedback?

QUESTIONNAIRE

1. What is the most important detail you want to find about your  ancestors?

Knowing about their daily lives in Australia and where they originated overseas. Obviously I need names and dates before I can go down this path, but it’s my ultimate goal for my ancestral families.

2. Do you buy certificates?

Absolutely!! I really don’t know how research can be done without certificates, either bought, borrowed or buried in archival sources. When our children were younger and the family budget was committed, I’d ask for them as Christmas, birthday, or Mother’s Day gifts.

3.  Do you belong to a paid subscription site, if so, which one/s?

Yes: Findmypast is my favourite but I also have Ancestry. I’ve used others in the past but not currently.

4. What has been your ‘best’ find?

The latest snippet of discovery? But if we’re talking about pivotal finds, then the church record for the marriage of my George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien. I posted about why it was so important here. Or perhaps actually finding Mary O’Brien from County Clare.

5. Who is your favourite ancestor and why?

Maybe the one who has been giving me the greatest challenge most recently.

6. What are you looking for on a regular basis?

Any little snippet of information that sheds light on my ancestor’s lives. And I’m still searching for some immigration records even after 27 years.

7. Do you belong to any genealogy group, or family history society?

Yes, currently Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory and the Toowoomba & Darling Downs Family History Society. I’ll rejoin the Genealogical Society of Queensland and the Queensland Family History Society when I return to Queensland to live. Societies have so much to offer the new, and continuing, researcher to expand their knowledge and skills.

8. Do you belong to any Facebook or other social media genealogy groups? Would you join if there was one available?

Yes, but I’m not as active as I could/should be. Geneabloggers is my main social media group.

9. Have you ever volunteered to transcribe, index etc.? Would you be interested in doing so?

Yes but not for a while. Time to start again?

10. What is your personal reason for being involved with genealogy/family history?

I started because I wanted to know where my German surname originated and who I inherited it from. What’s kept me going are curiosity and the ability to keep learning about people, history, society, and technology. I can get just as engaged in researching a friend’s family history as my own.

And, for what it’s worth, some general advice to budding researchers.

Knock on effects from the demise of Reader

Are you missing Google Reader to keep up with all your favourite blogs?

I certainly am, and it didn’t help that it’s demise coincided with over a month away from home, going flat chat on a task. Once you get behind it’s a very slippery slope to catch up, that’s for sure.

Prior to the the dreaded 30 June deadline I had imported my links into WordPress Reader and also into Feedly. I’d even practiced using them as well. But still my heart lies with Reader. It was so easy to keep up via the iPad and short comments were manageable.

Recently I happened across one of the geneabloggers who uses Bloglovin (sorry I’d give credit if I could just remember whose it was!). So now I’m sampling that as well.

I do like Bloglovin’. I’m finding it a little easier to keep up with the reading and commenting and it gives me an added push by sending off a daily email of published posts (which I could also do with Feedly).

Of course what doesn’t happen if I flip between the programs is that they each don’t recognise that I’ve already read a particular post, so I do need to settle down to use just one. At the moment I’m leaning towards Bloglovin’.

The further complication is that we have an original iPad which won’t let me upgrade the ios to cope with many of the apps I want to use. So now my smart phone is given the job to keep up with the blog reading.

So to all my blogging friends, I apologise for neglecting you lately (well a while actually) but it doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest. Hopefully before long I’ll be back on track.I'm sorry

How did you resolve the dilemma of Reader’s demise?

Family History Alphabet: U is unique

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. We’re on the slippery slope near the alphabet’s end as we look at the U attributes.

Our family tree is unique to each of us and our siblings.

U is UNIQUE: It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that while our families have universal traits, each one is unique. We also talk about our “family tree” as if it’s generic to many people whereas in fact, each individual shares a particular family ancestry only with their siblings, as unique as a snowflake. Branches of their ancestry may be shared with many others but our “tree” is unique.

U is for UNDERSTANDING: Closely related to empathy when we try to understand our families’ responses and behaviours and not judge them by 21st century values and mores.

It’s all about understanding…

Understanding our families within their time frame and the place they lived is important if we’re to reach a balanced perspective on their lives.

U is for UNIVERSAL in two senses: Our ancestors were very human and their frailties and foibles are universal to human-kind. We’re universal also in our concern for their experiences and universal in our desire as family historians to know more about them.

 U is for UBIQUITOUS:  The traces of our families are ubiquitous from graveyards to churches to archives. It follows as night follows day that we too are ubiquitous as we hunt down those much desired clues and stories.

U is for UNIFORM: As we work through our research we try to maintain a consistent approach in the details and rigour we apply to our search, as well as how we report on family stories.

What have irises got to do with family history? They’re rhizomes.

U is not always UNIFORM:  We talk about our families and family trees as if they follow a neat family structure universally uniform across each family. In fact most families have tree anomalies: children adopted out or in; same sex relationships known or hinted at; divorces; deceased spouses (often more than one); and melded families.

In short our families can be messy and so writing their story can be challenging.

If you haven’t read the post, R is for Rhizome, by guest blogger Dr Chad Habel, on the Seeking Susan~Meeting Marie~Finding Family blog, can I recommend you pop over and have a look. Chad’s proposal that a rhizome rather than a tree is a more apt descriptor for our messy families. I certainly like the tree image better, but the rhizome concept works better. On the other hand, a field of irises or heliconias….

What U attributes do you think we need as family historians?

Images from Microsoft Clipart.

On who I am: the story of my genes

The other night as I lay in bed, unable to sleep, I was reflecting on how much our name defines us. One thought led to another as my mind followed the genetic path of my ancestry: each family, their names, occupations and religious affiliations. Their successes and failures, what made each generation unique.

I may have carried the Cass name for many decades, since I was a young adult, but I am not a Cass in my bones and nor will I ever be. My own inheritance is different and is not to be denied.  I’ve tried to capture that essence here.

Generations of Kunkels
Bavarian and Queenslander
From Laufach and Dorfprozelten
To Ipswich and the Fifteen Mile
Innkeepers and pork butchers
Railway workers and farmers
Multi-cultural marriage
Queensland pioneer.

O’Briens from eastern County Clare
Townlands of Ballykelly and Killaderry
Famine survivors and emigrants to the
Faraway land Down Under
Ipswich and Murphys Creek
Farmer, wife and mother
Strong women
Keepers of the Faith.

Elusive Gavins
From Ballymore, Kildare and Dublin’s slums
Bullock driver in Queensland’s west to
Dalby, Toowoomba and Crows Nest
Gardener in Queensland’s garden town
Grandparents to war heroes
Garrulous yet obscure
Catholic to the core.

Centuries of Kents
Through the villages of Hertfordshire
Publicans, farmers, and labourers
Anglican workers in Sandon
Methodist despite the pubs
Emigration as a family
To Pre-Separation Queensland
Their Ipswich lives hidden by time.

One solitary Partridge
Founder of a large Aussie family
Born London but from the Forest of Dean
Groomsman, carpenter and builder
Worker of colonial timbers
Occasional undertaker or publican
But regularly insolvent
Pre-Separation pioneer of Ipswich.

Hibernian Sherrys of unknown counties
Sherry, McSharry or McSherry
To Tullamore, Wicklow and Wexford
Builders of railways in Ireland and in Queensland
Tracks follow their family lines
Through the furthest reaches of their new home
Yet ever loyal to an independent Ireland
Queensland Hibernians.

Melvins from the docks of Leith
Generations of seamen
Dollops of confectioners
Entrepreneurs and businessmen
International travellers
Proud Scots, Presbyterian and Methodist
Ipswich, ChartersTowers, and Sydney
Back in the soil of England.

McCorquodale or McCorkindale
Embedded in Argyll but displaced to Glasgow
Emigration of the family to Brisbane Queensland
One son a builder of Canberra
Pipers and highland dancers
Caledonian festivals
Judging or scooping the prizes
Proud Scots through and through.

The female line through my genes
The Sims at Backrow, Bothkennar
Fishermen Callaghans in Wexford
Murphys from Davidstown, Wicklow
A railway line of Sherrys
Farmer Furlongs from Tullamore
North Shields merchant seaman Gilhespy
The Reeds, miners in Northumberland and Durham.

Each and every one of these genetic lines has contributed to who I am. As I look at these photos it’s easy to see why I am tall: George Kunkel, the McSherrys, Mary Callaghan McSherry and William Partridge.

My A to Z challenge: what’s it all about about?

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

This is how I introduce each post, but really, what is it I’ve been trying to achieve? There are, as I say, two strands to my stories: family history and travel. Mostly it’s the former with occasional sprinklings of the latter.

Those who’ve been reading the A to Z posts (well most of my posts) know that I don’t really do short and sweet. I probably could, but it’s not a priority. I want to tell a story, which is why I much prefer the description of family history to genealogy. In this particular challenge I decided I wanted to talk about the places of significance to my family history, wherever they are in the world. I wanted to describe the place, give some sense of its essence (if I can manage it) and explain why it’s important to my family history.

Rather like the 52 weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series, this theme has been an opportunity to bring a collection of writings together which I can leave for my family, so they know the places of importance to our family tree. Obviously I also hope that some elements of the stories will be of interest to my readers, however if that was my only purpose I’d probably only focus on one place for each letter and leave it at that…more likely to be a small meal rather than a buffet.

Some of the elements include more recent family history because it occurred to me that even our children possibly don’t know all the places their paternal grandparents lived and we visited. An unanticipated outcome from the series is a “to do” list for future research.

My intention is to batch this theme with the 52 weeks posts from 2011 and put them in a book. I’ve already done this with Blurb for my general 2010-2011 posts but I wanted to keep the thematic posts separate. Much as I like technology and instant access around the world, at heart I still believe books will survive longer. Maybe I’m wrong, but then I’ll never know, and anyway I’ll have done my best.

As to the travelogue, mostly it’s pure self-indulgence with the excuse that it keeps the story alive, and hopefully my readers entertained. Australians tend to be travellers, but even so we’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel a fair bit. Neither of us was born with a silver spoon in our mouths, rather we decided that travel (and family history) was important enough to prioritise so that we had no regrets. While we have informal bucket lists, that’s as much about going back to places as exploring new ones. Let’s hope there are yet more adventures ahead.

Meanwhile if you enjoy dabbling into these posts and reading a little about the people and places, I’m pleased. I really feel my readers are part of a community to which I’m proud to belong. I thoroughly enjoy getting your insight and comments. Thank you!.