S slips into Sandon and Strachur

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). My goal is to hand down the stories of the important places in our family history, and some travel memories, to our family.

S is for Sandon (Hertfordshire, England)

Sightseeing in Sandon © P Cass 2010

Sandon, Hertfordshire was the home of my Kent family for a couple of centuries and for at least some of this time they were publicans in Red Hill and Roe Green, nearby hamlets in this parish. Last year I talked about my discoveries in the enclosure records and how they helped knocked down some brick walls in my research.

Sandon remains a rural area, reflecting its agricultural heritage, but it’s also now in the “stockbroker belt”, close enough to commute to London and there’s no shortage of houses with heritage listings and big prices. The village seems to me to lack a “centre”, other than the old church which stands imposingly, solidly. Somehow the lychgate appeals to me as an entry point. The house opposite used to be a pub when we first visited, but no longer. I love the pond across the way with its ducks…very restful.

Roe Green is similarly peaceful, revealing only by its buildings that there’s a long history here. There’s a village green where no doubt cricket is played in summer, horses being walked and a general air of tranquillity; who wouldn’t want to live here.

S is for Strachur (Argyll, Scotland)

Strachur church.

My Morrison family lived in Strachur on Loch Fyne for many years on a farm called Inverglen. Like my Sim ancestors in Bothkennar, they were more established than others family lines, being involved in local business and community as well as farming. Luckily for me one of my 2xgreat-aunts was with the Morrison family on the 1841 census as a small child. I’d have liked it to be the 1851 census with relationships stated, but I’m reasonably sure that she was with her grandparents.

Some years ago we met a very elderly man from the Morrison family in Strachur, but at the time we couldn’t be sure of our relationship. We loved that he offered Mr Cassmob a whisky (at about 10am), which he accepted to be hospitable. As several fingers of single malt were poured Mr Morrison announced he never touched the stuff…needless to say I was the chauffeur that morning. Mr Morrison had a memory of meeting a Fergus McCorkindale, a person who at the time meant nothing to me. It was only later that I established he was a grandson to my great-grandfather through his first marriage and so my grandmother’s nephew.

Outside Creggans Inn is a plaque commemorating the spot where Mary Queen of Scots came ashore.

I’ve posted about Loch Fyne and how it feels like home to me. Sometime I’d love to see it on a clear blue day rather than in its grey winter clothes with scarves of fog and cloud. One visit we stayed at the historic Creggans Inn in Strachur, with its view across the loch to Inveraray. We were amused during our stay when the waitress slipped us some fresh raspberries to accompany our porridge, with the injunction “don’t tell cook”.

S is for Sadds Ridge Road (Charters Towers, Queensland)

World War I discovery in Milne Bay, Papua

Sadds Ridge Rd sign

I wrote previously how my husband found this old street sign on a coconut plantation near Gurney in Milne Bay. This is where Australian troops were stationed around the time of the Battle of Milne Bay. We’ve always assumed it was a souvenir that a soldier too with him, but have never been able to unearth anyone who might know more.

Did you have a relative who went from Charters Towers to Milne Bay?

Racing through R in Retford, Rotterdam and Rocky

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). Today I am going to keep comments on each place succinct and refer you back to earlier posts.

R is for Retford (Nottinghamshire, England)

Grove St, Retford where Susannah Cass had her school for ladies. © P Cass 2006.

Mr Cassmob’s Cass ancestors lived in Retford where his 2xgreat grandmother Suzannah Cass and her sisters ran a school for young women with her sisters. The women lived in the adjacent area of Moorgate. Back in 2006 we had a great time on this particular leg of our family history adventures. You can read about it here.

R is for Rotterdam (Netherlands)

My 2xgreat grandfather, Laurence Melvin, worked as a merchant sailor, travelling between Leith and the northern European ports. He was a young man, with a wife and three small children, when he took ill on one of his voyages. He died overnight and is buried in Rotterdam. I’m not sure I’ll ever know precisely where.

R is for Rockhampton (Queensland)

Rockhampton was the Queensland hub for my McSherry/McSharry ancestors after they arrived in 1884/1883 respectively. Last year I posted about discovering the sale of my great-grandfather, Peter McSherry’s estate on Trove. More recently I wrote about how his mother, Bridget McSharry, had a boarding house in Rockhampton and the hardships she experienced in her new Queensland life, and the on-going mystery and brick wall of her husband, James McSharry.  Peter, his wife Mary, and mother Bridget are all buried in the Rockhampton cemeteries. Although I’ve visited Rocky briefly in recent decades, for me the mental associationis stopping there on the Sunlander train, and Dad making a mad dash to get us beautiful fish and chips for our lunch.

St Mary's Rushden is just delightful. © P Cass 2010

R is for Rushden (Hertfordshire, England)

Although my Kent (name, not place) ancestors belonged to the Sandon parish in Hertfordshire, it’s likely they also visited the Rushden church from time to time as it was just as close to the Red Hill area of Sandon. I too have visited this church several times over the decades. It may only be “just another 14th century church” to quote a family member, but I love its simplicity and its peace, tucked away up a lane. When the daffodils flower in the churchyard among the graves it is simply lovely. The village has many gorgeous old homes with timber work and thatched roofs. I’m also enamoured with the name of the local pub The Moon and Stars. In one of those flights of fancy I usually never apply to my ancestry, wouldn’t it be nice to think my Kent publicans might have worked there once.

Beyond the Internet Week 2 (belatedly): Ancestral homes and their history

My good intentions to publish this in week 2 were derailed by house-hunting interstate so, with my thoughts locked on real estate, it seemed appropriate to talk about ancestral houses and what we can find out about them beyond the internet.

My ancestor's inn in Dorfprozelten stood where the bank is on the left of the image. Sad as it is that it was demolished only about 40 years ago, the street remains much as it was so I could get a good sense of where my family lived.

For most of us a high point on our ancestral wish-list, is to actually see our ancestors’ homes. Sometimes that’s possible because they’re close by and still standing. Sheryl’s transcriptions and comments on her grandmother’s diary illustrate how personal documents can highlight the day-to-day usage of the family farm or house, but even just seeing the building can give us great excitement.

It was 19th century land enclosure records from the Hertfordshire Archives in England that gave me the necessary clues to identify the precise location of my ancestor’s pub in Sandon. I told this story here.

This stone wall is actually the remains of the old O'Brien house in Ballykelly townland, Parish Kilseily. How would I have known that without the knowledge of the inheritor of the property? You see the land they lived on in the header images for my blog - the red roofed shed.

Don’t forget, too, that there may be LDS microfilms for your ancestor’s original parish which may tell you about their house or land eg parish vestry minutes can be a wonderful source of information. In the online world, Heritage-listed property information gave me more details about the structure of the building and google rounded it out with some clues into its more recent life.

An underutilised resource, both offline and online, are the cultural heritage studies undertaken by many Shire Councils in Australia.

A view of the back of the old kitchen on the Kunkel property framed by the old fig tree.

These may make mention of your family’s home or property and it may be worth asking if there are unpublished reports on individual properties even where they are not mentioned in the final report. I was very fortunate when the current owner gave me a copy of the Cultural Heritage Study by Gatton Shire Council which referred to my Kunkel family’s farm at the Fifteen Mile. It makes mention of the kitchen outbuilding as a “slab building…of local significance”. Similarly the huge old fig tree that overlooks the cottage and kitchen, is a “significant fig tree” and is tied to the wedding photo of my grandfather’s sister where the whole family gathers underneath it.

The stone steps at the Kunkel property at the Fifteen Mile, Murphys Creek.

The study found that the stone steps to the cottage were a later addition, and yet they so exactly mirror the ones found in George Kunkel’s home village that I wonder. I confess that further investigation of cultural heritage studies is still on my to-do list though many references can be found on the internet. Time and being able to visit the local records office can be stumbling blocks but a phone call may reveal whether such reports exist.

Of course many of us can’t get to see our ancestors’ homes for one of two reasons (1) they’re too far away or (2) they’ve been demolished. In these cases we’re dependent on old records (some available online) to tell us more about them: newspaper articles, old photos or local histories. When the digital British Newspaper Archives was opened up recently I found a news article about my great-grandmother talking a little about troublemakers on their farm…because I’d seen the property I could envisage what was happening. Back on the internet, old online maps, Google earth or street view enable us to see houses, streets and places far away from where we live.

Similar stone steps in Dorfprozelten worn down by decades, if not centuries, of use.

Local archives host a vast array of records, some of which are likely to help with the history of your family’s homes. Queensland family historians are very fortunate that they have access to wonderful records of their ancestor’s land selections outside the urban area. As part of their selection, our ancestors were required to improve the property and the records that arose from this process are invaluable. You will find when and where on the block your ancestors built the land (especially useful if it no longer exists), a description of the house, what fencing they’d done, what crops and animals they had on the land and the like. On George Kunkel’s land selection it makes mention that there was a “four roomed cottage” with the “selector’s wife and family residing during the last five years” in compliance with the residence requirements. Does this mean that George was elsewhere or simply that the family’s residence was continuous while he may have been off working on the railway or pork butchering? As always each discovery seems to lead to more questions. It’s worth remembering that even if that house no longer exists, the paper records in the archives retain the story of its earliest life. You may never see a photograph but you will have a mental image of your ancestor’s home and how they lived their lives.

These records are held at the Queensland State Archives and no doubt similar records may be available from other archives. Local heritage centres and libraries may also provide further clues. It would be interesting to hear from other regions and countries about the resources they’ve found to fill out the story of the ancestral homes.

Week 3’s topic, coming up in a day or two, will also be house-related.