Ring the Bells -Upcoming Christmas Geneameme

It’s been a long while since we’ve had a geneameme and I thought it might be fun to  do a Christmas Geneameme-after all it’s not as if we’re busy or anything <smile>. If we get participation from readers around the world it will be a fun way to learn how others celebrate Christmas.

Do you want to join in? I’ll be posting the geneameme on 2nd December, the start of Advent, and will collate all the responses on Sunday 16th December so there’s time for people to get involved.

Maybe you haven’t been involved in a geneameme and aren’t sure what to do….

Here’s how the Geneameme works

Copy the list from my 2 December post into your blog

Add your comments after each question (writing your comments in a different colour/italicised makes the responses easier to read).

Try to add more than a yes/no answer so we can learn more about everyone’s experiences.

If there’s something I’ve missed feel free to add another question/comment.

Please leave a link in the comments section of my blog or on Google+ or use a #xmasgeneameme Twitter tag. (Google alerts aren’t always reliable).

On 16th December I’ll post a link to all our posts. (I figure after that everyone will be in manic-Xmas-preparation mode, or maybe travelling).

HAVE FUN!

If you don’t have a blog you can still participate by sending me a comment with your responses (or to my email -see the right hand bar on the home page).

Lost in DNA

Lost in a world of DNA.

This week I’ve finally looked at my Family Finder (autosomal) DNA results from Family Tree DNA. I’m a genetic novice so I’m in a state of complete confusion wishing I’d paid more attention previously. You wouldn’t think I’d ever done science as I sit bewildered by it all.

WHY FAMILY FINDER?

Y-DNA is out because my father is deceased, I have no brothers and neither did he. I could go wider to cousins but I “know” my ancestral paternal line from documentary evidence – always assuming no surprises like adoptions/playing away etc.  I’d still like to have a couple of cousins for genetic comparisons on this line but I have no first cousins on this line at all

Matrilineal DNA (MtDNA) and X-DNA are also less of an issue because I again “know” what my line is, even though there’s more work to be done the conventional way. I do have a few first cousins on this line though two of them I haven’t seen since I was about 10. My only uncle on this line had no children…another brick wall on the Y-DNA chart.

Autosomal DNA seemed to be the best strategy for me, enabling me to look at my other 22 chromosomes and their genetic matches.

WHAT WAS I HOPING FOR?

Like anyone (pretty much) with Irish ancestry I hit a brick wall around the time of the Famine, with the limited availability of records. There are also a number of lines for which I only have parents’ names (from shipping lists) and a few where I have nothing before them. These are all at the 6th or 7th generation level, which would bring in 4th or 5th cousins – this seemed just right for the Family Finder DNA test.

MY WISH LIST WAS:

  1. To link with someone who has Sherry DNA from Ireland (I have nothing pre-1860).
  2. To perhaps find descendants of Philip Joseph Kunkel (my 2xgreat uncle)
  3. To learn whether my Furlongs in Tullamore are genetically linked to the Wexford family
  4. To see if I got any new “hits” on my Partridge line enabling it go back further.
  5. Any other connections that arose.

WHAT DID I GET?

As anticipated, no 1st or 2nd cousins, as yet anyway. I suspect there’s some bias in the database in that more Americans are being tested overall (well there are more of them than Aussies anyway). Many of those tested seem to have long lines in the US, making close relationships unlikely….I hadn’t anticipated this, logical though it is.

FTDNA did find three matches at the 3rd cousin level. That’s pretty close as we should share a genetic link at the 2 x great grandparent level. My best link is to someone simply listed as “F” with no further details. We have the greatest overlap of 60.29 cM and a longest block of 32.09. How frustrating not to be able to contact them.

I’ve contacted the other two 3rd cousins and they have replied but so far there’s nary a suggestion of a family link in their tree that I can determine. Can you tell the why I’m getting confused?

I got a fair number of 4th cousins and have contacted some of them. Initially the e-book by the Genetic Genealogist suggests that at this level, the DNA overlap could be coincidental (IBS –Identical by State) rather than due to biological inheritance (IBD or identical by descent). At this point I went back to focus on my 3rd cousins. However FTDNA’s FAQs suggest that their statistical modelling ensures matches are IDB not IDS (FAQ 12). So that makes both 4th and 5th cousins worth investigating in more detail.

ANY SURPRISES?

Firstly I thought I was going to have a pretty DNA image to play with…should have read the manual first.  However I’ve downloaded the raw data which as yet is purely Double Dutch, as they say.

My pie chart for documented ancestral birth places.

I also used the Population Finder tool and got something of a surprise. I expected all of mine to be in the Western European category. To a large extent this was correct BUT I also got another 4.43±1.52% from the Middle East.  This percentage compares very closely to my German ancestry which suggests to me that it’s this line which originates in the Middle East. This was a surprise as this is one of my longest lines which I can trace back to Bavaria in the early 1600s.

My population finder map from Family Tree DNA.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

As well as the list of 4th cousins, I also have a whole gaggle load of 5th cousins who I will need to investigate further. Some people have email contacts and some also have surnames of interest and GEDCOMs uploaded. I’ll work through those first.

I’ve had a play with the chromosome browser and put my closest/best matches onto that. Of course the elusive “F” reveals a good block of common DNA! I can only hope they come looking for me.

QUESTIONS:

Does anyone know if the Population Finder map will show highlighted areas in continental Europe or always just the UK?

Has anyone used GEDmatch for further comparisons? If so what were your experiences?

 SUMMARY

So there it is, my first foray into the world of genetic genealogy! I feel rather as if I’m in the deep end with my nose barely above the water line while I should be in the toddler pool. There’s much to learn and I’ve been very grateful for Kerry Farmer’s Unlock the Past book on DNA for Genealogists. Seems like I have a lot more reading to do so I can understand this better. My reading will include a number of my Genimates who have written about this topic. Now I have my results, I’ll be more able to see how they can help me with ideas etc.

 Have I misunderstood anything/made a mistake in the process here? Please jump in and let me know. Also feel free to share your experiences with autosomal DNA.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Names

It’s quite a while since I’ve participated in the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun series by Randy Seaver from Genea-Musings but it looked like fun and I had a bit of time so here goes (and yes, it’s no longer Saturday).

The challenge for this week was:

1)                Go to the Baby Name Wizard site and see how popular your name was over the 20th century, and how popular a baby name it is today.  

Image from Wikipedia Commons.

My name, Pauleen/Pauline is very much a generational name. The only mitigating feature is that my family decided to spell mine differently. I like to say that it’s the Irish way, like Maureen, Kathleen or Colleen. The truth was rather more mundane but it works for me <grin>.  There were no entries on Baby Name Wizard under this spelling so I reverted to the normal version, Pauline.

I was a little surprised to discover that the height of my name’s popularity was in the 1910s when it was ranked #134, possibly because of the movie series, the Perils of Pauline.

The name has virtually flat-lined in the US today but retains #38 in Belgium, #57 in Germany and #328 in Norway, which is kind of weird really. Perhaps it’s a case of my German heritage coming through?

2)  What does your name mean?

Pauline is the diminutive of Paul so really means “little little” –which is ironic since I’m quite tall, and no longer quite thin. Apart from which I have a complete antipathy to the misogynistic St Paul. Definitely a double whammy misnomer! I don’t have a second name so I’m stuck with what I’ve got. Eventually I realised I’d have liked to have a variation of Catherine –a name which runs in all my family lines –and the very name my mother want to avoid…ironic isn’t it.

 Also check out your spouse, your children and your grandchildren 

As suggested by Randy, I looked at my husband’s, children’s and grandchildren’s names as well which was interesting. I’m not going to list their names in this post but here are some of my findings:

Mr Cassmob: An old-fashioned name with cyclical popularity: #41 in his birth decade but now sitting at #192.

Daughter #1: A name which peaked in the 1880s and flat-lined in the decade she was born. The alternate name we’d thought of doesn’t rank at all, yet there are three daughters born to our friends who have this name. She’s not on a name-winner because her second name is almost as unpopular, and no, neither of them is “weird”.

Daughter #2: Peaking in the 1980s and #33 in the decade of her birth, we obviously hit upon a more popular name this time round.

Daughter #3:  Her name was in the top 10 in Australia when she was born (not why she was given the name), and the graph reflects this with a US position at #13.

The grandchildren are also variable with the eldest grandson not even on the scale, while our granddaughter’s name is top of the pops at #1. Our youngest grandson’s name sat at #98 the year he was born, so they’re spread across the spectrum.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet“. Did Mr Shakespeare have it right?

Beyond the Internet: Week 45 Tithe records and maps

Beyond the Internet

This week I’m writing Week 45 in my Beyond the Internet  series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and this week’s topic is Tithes and Tithe Maps.

Attentive readers will note that I got ahead of myself the other day by posting Week 46….that’s what happens when (1) you get behind and (2) you’re keen to get to the end. There are some overlaps between valuations and tithes in that assessment of land and property was common between the two and was done by an approved assessor and subject to appeal.

So what exactly are Tithes and the Tithe Maps?

Tithes were essentially taxes charged on the value of produce and labour from properties to fund the operation of the parish of the established church. In early years the tithe payments were mainly payable in goods or produce. Such was the scale of the tithe collections that huge tithe barns were sometimes built to store the produce which had been tithed. The National Archives provides a comprehensive and expert guide here.

However over time it became increasingly common for the payment of tithes to be in currency rather than goods, and this became the requirement after the introduction of the UK Tithe Act of 1836. The assessment was undertaken by independent commissioners and resulted in large scale maps and valuations of each person’s property holdings, whether as a tenant or owner.

These documents provide the family historian with the opportunity to learn not only the value of their family’s land (rented or owned, remember) but also its specific location.  They are also important because with the inevitable time lags it enables links between the census, the tithe schedules and maps. and the Ordnance Survey maps.

Tithe Barn, Leigh, Worcestershire, England. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

The Tithe Applotment records in Ireland are even more valuable because in the absence of 19th nominal census data, they provide one of the key ways of tracing family in the pre-Famine era. Unfortunately many families farmed land which was not of sufficient value for them to have to pay the tithes, leaving them hidden from us. The payment of tithes towards the upkeep of the established Church of Ireland certainly caused consternation in Ireland for those Catholics who were liable to pay the tithes.

How can these records help us?

As with valuations from Week 46, these records can do one of two things: either break open aspects of our family history, or simply add another piece to the puzzle. They will tell us:

  • Whether our ancestors owned or leased their land and property
  • Who the landlord was
  • Whether their land ownership, and hence possibly their economic circumstances, changed over time, by comparison with other records
  • What type of property they owned
  • Who their neighbours were & their relative wealth within the community
  • Whether they owned/leased one or more properties

Where can they be found?

As with so many other records, more and more is becoming available online, or able to be ordered online. However the following sources will be useful to see the original documents:

  • The regional records office for the county where your family lived
  • The National Archives (England/Scotland/Ireland)
  • Parish chest records (check out what’s available on the Family Search site for your family’s parish –this can be very helpful for those living overseas).

You might also try a newspaper search through the British Newspaper Archive (available by fee) or through the 19th century British newspapers (available online from the National Library of Australia, or equivalent, with your NLA library card) to see if there is any mention of the tithe assessments in your family’s parish.

Remember every little snippet of information helps us build up a picture of our ancestral families and can sometimes open up a whole new perspective and field of research.

The liability for tithes in the mid-19th century may be inter-linked to the enclosure of land in the parish. You can read my ancestral discoveries on enclosures here.

Have you made any discoveries about your family by using tithe records and maps? Why not share them on your blog or in the comments? 

Are there additions/clarifications/corrections regarding Tithe records which would be useful to other readers?

From Week 47 (the next post), we’ll move into resources for occupations.

 

Beyond the Internet: Week 46 Valuations and Council Rates

Beyond the Internet

Today I’m posting Week 46 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and this week’s topic is Valuations and Council RatesUnfortunately I’m running late with a couple of weeks due to our recent trip back to PNG and family commitments so will be playing catch up over the coming week or two.

Once upon a time when I was helping with adult education classes on family history I used to suggest that one way to think about finding research resources for our ancestors, is to reflect on our own interaction with the public record. It’s surprising how many of these we have in common with some variations. Valuation records are one of these on-going resources which were touched on briefly back in Week 3 of this series.

Through the centuries it’s been necessary to tax people for the services they, or their community, use whether it be for workhouses, poor relief, support of the clergy or more recently public services such as roads, libraries, water etc. One of the ways taxes have been assessed is on land or property owned or leased by individuals, or businesses. These days this would usually translate into your local government rates or taxes. You may find them listed as council rates (more recently) or valuation rolls (in the UK) depending on where or when you’re searching.

WHY USE VALUATIONS?

These records can potentially tell us a great deal about our ancestors, for example:

Whether they owned or leased their land and property

  • Who their landlord was
  • Whether their land ownership, and hence possibly their economic circumstances, changed over time
  • What type of property they owned
  • Where their property was within a street
  • Who their neighbours were & their relative wealth within the community
  • Whether they owned one or more properties

 WHERE TO FIND THEM?

State or national archives in your home country or your ancestor’s country of origin

  • City archives (eg City of Sydney archives– now available online)
  • Local reference libraries
  • Parish records especially for older periods (check out what’s available on the Family Search site for your family’s parish).

 WHAT DISCOVERIES HAVE I MADE WITH THEM

The locations of my McCorquodale 2xgreat-grandfather’s residence on the Ardkinglas estate in Argyll

  • Landlord information for my Kent ancestors and changes of property
  • Location of the Dorfprozelten Germans and other families in inner suburban Sydney.
  • Details of my Kunkel, Kent and Partridge ancestors properties in Ipswich, Queensland.
  • The residential location of Mr Cassmob’s McKenna family in Melbourne, and hence its economic circumstances.
  • Tenancy and later ownership of my Irish ancestors from Co Clare, and subsequent inheritors of the land.
  • Probable residence of my Sherry ancestors outside Gorey, Wexford.

Ireland is a very specific instance of the importance of valuations as the Griffith Valuation remains one of the critical ways of tracing Irish families prior to 1901.

Valuations can also be used to complement other records such as wills, land documents, census enumerations and the like. As always comparing information from different sources provides us with a richer picture of our ancestors’ lives and permits us to critically assess each record’s data.

 Have you used valuations to good effect in your research?

Have a look at these posts by other family historians about how they’ve used valuations/council rates (this is just a sample):

Family History Fun

Becoming Prue

Genealogy in New South Wales

Genealogy’s Star (a slightly more indirect reference)

Milne Bay: Our Heritage Places Tour

One of our priority activities in Alotau was to hire a taxi driver to take us around the town to see our old familiar places. Eddie was educated as a health worker with a degree from the Divine Word University and his English was excellent (as well as probably being his third language) so we had a good chat along the way.

Before we start I should explain that in those pre-Independence days of the Australian administration of TPNG, the government issued specific houses to its employees, based partly on status, and partly on need. They also had full authority to move employees to wherever they were required –not unlike being in the military I suppose – so you could find yourself relocated with minimal notice….or rumours spread that you were leaving when you weren’t, come to that.

 FAMILIAR PLACES & MEMORIES

 Up Red Hill

 The main street up to Top Town, as it’s now known, is now called Tawara Hill Rd. Once upon a time it was unsealed, red clay through which your car or motor bike slipped and slid during the wet season. It was a killer-hill, very steep, so no surprise we didn’t walk it even though we had no car in those days.

 House #1: Top Town, Dalai Heights Rd, western end

The old Cass home in Top Town.

We were invited into the garden of my parents-in-law’s former house where they lived when Alotau first became the district headquarters in 1968. The story goes that my father-in-law, as District Superintendent for Education, stood on the deck of the Education Department trawler (the Kamonai) as it stood offshore, and selected their house block for its scenic outlook. Its proximity to the primary school at Red Hill where my mother-in-law taught was no coincidence either. Colonial days!

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

The house is no longer the last in the street, but it was a thrill to see it once again. I remembered the covert disputes I used to have with Kaye’s haus boi, Jimmy, who insisted the heating pad for the slow combustion stove should be put up on the hooks while I’d been taught by my aunt that it needed to be down on the hot plates. A more experienced sinebada would have known better than get into a silly argument like that with long-term house staff. Every day Jimmy would bring one of Kaye’s beautiful hibiscus (some imported from Hawaii) into the house where they were placed in an upside-down fish pond thingy. They only lasted the day but were quite spectacular.

Thank you Vincent for your kindness and openness in letting two complete strangers come into your yard. He probably thought we were quite mad when Mr Cassmob mused on how his father had the driveway built at a particular angle, or the drainage he’d also had constructed. I, on the other hand, visualised the photo of my future-husband sitting in the open area beneath the house getting ready for his day’s work at Gili Gili Plantation.

 House #2, Top Town (Dalai Heights Rd, eastern end)

Not much to show of Cass house #2. In fact it looks like the remains of an Irish wall.

This one nearly stumped us as we hadn’t lived in it for more than a couple of months. Unfortunately it was largely obscured by the curved driveway lined with plants. We remember it for those mornings when we’d wake up to butterfly devastation by our cat Tabitha who was a balletic leap-er, who would then shred her catch, and the in-laws’ dachshund, Tinka, who loved nothing better than shredding a box of tissues. You can imagine the chaos on the floor.

Not to mention chopping wood for the slow combustion stove, and hence hot water for washing etc, while violently morning sick and observed worriedly by both cat and dog!

This house is also famous for the kerosene lamp which exploded early on New Year’s Eve morning, when I was many months pregnant. Mr Cassmob woke to a sea of glass and flames across the lounge room floor and eventually found me in the kitchen starkers as my nylon nightie had partially caught fire. One local responses: from the Agriculture man “Someone’s shot his wife”; another “why is Pauleen running down the street?” Short answer – to the health worker!

Masurina Lodge, Middle Town

Masurina Lodge, now owned by the Abel family but formerly a guest house started by Glyn Wort.

Once I’d seen the map of Alotau and its Middle Town area, I suspected that Masurina Lodge was formerly the Glyn Wort guesthouse where I’d worked briefly. Sure enough when we rocked up to reception and enquired, one of the staff was able to confirm my guess. Now much bigger and flasher it was weird to remember how each morning the cook would bring us fresh cake for our tea-break. Just as well that job came to an end quite quickly or I’d have quickly lost my then-thin appearance.

 House #3, Middle Town, Bagita St

The view over Sandersons Bay from opposite Cass house #3.

This was the house to which we were moved with a small baby, our final house in Alotau. We were a little miffed because it had limited under-house space where I could hang the baby’s nappies…rather important in the wet season when there was no such thing as dryers.  On the flip side it had a fantastic view over Sandersons Bay and Milne Bay in general, so swings and roundabouts.

We were living here when the government told us we were to move to Goroka. In the family folk lore this came about because the District Superintendent for Education in Goroka wanted a new district clerk (Mr Cassmob) while the DS in Lae decided he wanted a new executive chair more! On such whims are our lives changed <smile>.

Sandersons Bay in the early 1970s.

When we pulled up outside this house, with its little sales stall of drinks and betel nut/buai, we were amazed to be welcomed by the whole family who lived there. Astonishingly they had taken over the house only a couple of months after we left for Goroka (from whence they had come). The house had been their home ever since. When we left the house in a mad rush, having had only a week to get packing crates made and our belongings packed up and ourselves out of there, we’d made arrangements for our cat to be adopted by friends at the high school and her kittens to be also shared out. For 40 years I’ve worried whether that happened and whether the high school kids contracted to clean the house had done so.  Unless the family was sparing our feelings it seems my fears have been unfounded so it’s a concern I can now lay to rest.

We were all quite blown away by this coincidence and had a long chat with the extended family. One brother had also met Mr Cassmob’s brother briefly from when he’d visited while working on a short-term consultancy with the Eastern Star newspaper.  I have a great photo of us with the family but I won’t publish it here as I don’t have their permission. Thanks Jessie and family for greeting us so warmly!

 Cameron Club

The Cameron Club promoting everyone’s favourite tipple.

It was hot and we were tired so we only had a quick visit into the Cameron Club. Situated right on the Bay it was the setting for some fierce squash matches as well as our Friday night movie venue. With only 18 hour power we would finish the movies, jump into someone’s ute, race up Red Hill and switch on the kettle for coffee and light the kerosene lamp before the power went off at midnight.

 The Movie Theatre, the Government Offices and the Shops

Alotau’s main shopping street only held 4 trade stores in the old days: Chan’s, Cheong’s, Denis Young’s and ??

We suspect there’s an arsonist at work in Alotau as several large and important buildings have burnt down.  The Government Offices, opened in late 1970, burnt down a few years ago so there’s now a vacant block where they once stood.

Similarly the “new” movie theatre built by a man called Geoff Masters also burnt down…something of a mystery since we remember it as being besser block. It was built during 1970 and we remembered going to a “Ball” there as well as Mass every Sunday, the latter being interesting as the floor would be covered in buai spit from the movies the night before. Betel nut or buai is a popular habit, sort of like tobacco chewing,generally not appealing to Western eyes. When spat out it looks like blood on the ground. The movie theatre was eventually replaced by the new Catholic church, with the stained glass windows I posted about the other day. It wasn’t completed until either late 1971 or early 1972 after we’d left, but we reckon we might own one of the bricks <grin>.

The shopping precinct in those early days of Alotau comprised four trade stores – sort of like an old-time general store. It’s bigger these days but still restrictive in what’s available.

An early 1970s aerial view of Alotau with the approximate location of our houses marked.

Milne Bay: The People and Old and New Friends

In Moresby our big adventure is ahead of us and we’re as excited as two-year olds (thanks for the photo Jan!)

Yesterday I spoke about our return to Milne Bay after 41 years. Today I wanted to share some of our personal highlights, and the ensuing memories, with you.

Like two excited two-year olds we waited for the plane to take us back to Milne Bay. Despite a flight delay, the excitement and memories didn’t abate as we landed at the much-improved Gurney airport with its formal building – so very different from the bush materials place we knew “before”.  Initially I’m going to tell you about the people we met and later about the places, so hop on to share our journey.

The Festival dances and canoe races will feature on Flickr or Tropical Territory when I get them organised.

THE PEOPLE

The old familiar, gentle handshake of Papua New Guinea, shared by almost everyone you meet along with an exchange of names.

I love this image of the young boy enthralled by his cultural heritage.

Where else could you walk safely down the street at 6.15 in the morning and have every single person say “hello” and “how are you?”

 Where the taxi drivers introduce themselves, even on a short trip, and on learning that you had once lived in their town take a real interest in who/how/when/where/why.

Where the lodge staff quickly learn your name and are ever friendly and courteous even though incredibly busy with the festival.

Where an accidental interpersonal collision (due to me being preoccupied looking at something) results in a “sorry aunty”.

Where the local people will make sure you get a good view for your photo or tell you about the dance group, and really care that you’re having a good time.

Who wouldn’t love Milne Bay?

Where you can have an extended chat with a carver from a distant island who has come to town to sell his hand-carved artworks…a man who is a mechanic in another part of his life.

Where the churches are packed on Sundays with those educated by missionaries of various denominations.

Where people willingly invite you into their homes and gardens when they know you used to live in their house.

Milne Bay is the answer to all these questions. Very different from PNG’s well-deserved reputation in other centres, Milne Bay people remain as friendly and courteous as they have always been. We never once felt even slightly unsafe.

Milne Bay: where tradition meets the 21st century and everyone enjoys the spectacle.

But there were also a couple of positive interchanges in Moresby apart from those tremendously welcoming hotel staff:

Where the “meet and greet” man for the fancy hotel launches into Pidgin when he knows you once lived in Goroka and treats you like a wantok (relative), introducing you as such to the security guard on the gate at the international terminal.

Mr Cassmob silencing the hotel bus (including an airline pilot) with some comment about flying on a QANTAS Empire Airways Sandringham flying boat in the 1950s.

 OLD FRIENDS-NEW FRIENDS

In Alotau we stayed in a place called Napatana Lodge and one of its strengths was its staff while the other was the opportunity to make new friends in the open bar/dining area/informal lounge.

A vibrant and enjoyable Friday night social dinner at Napatana Lodge in Alotau.

We had barely arrived when we headed to the lounge for a cold drink and some lunch. Another couple were already there and greeted us. Further enquiries revealed that John and Judith had not long arrived, but also that Judith and Peter had known each other as children on Samarai where her father had been the District Commissioner! How amazing and what great exchange of stories and memories took place. A highlight of our holiday!

A contemplative cat in the sunshine in the haus wind guest lounge.

Not to mention that we all had a great fondness for cats so we seemed to constantly have one or other of the Lodge’s kittens on our laps. If Judith was here she’d tell you how evil Nanna took the tuna dish from one VBK (very bad kitten). I still maintain it would have exploded if it kept eating, Judith <grin>

Thanks to Judith’s discussions with one of the Lodge cooks, Diana, we learned about another family connection. Diana comes from an island called Logeia off Samarai. She remembered that when she was seven, Mr Cass (THE Mr Cass, not Mr Peter Cass as he used to be known) had come to the island to do a formal inspection of her mother’s teaching. Les had a pretty formidable reputation so this seems to be why it stuck in her mind. Diana and the kitchen and bar team also set out a wonderful spread for dinner each night, including beautiful floral and fruit arrangements. The atmosphere at the Lodge was just so companionable.

Hours of work to create a tropical ambience with frangipani and palm fronds.

The connection with Diana also led to calls to Samarai where we met two men who had been in my brother-in-law’s class and taught by Peter’s mother. Mr Cassmob also met another of the guests who he’d last known through work in Goroka: truly it can be a small world.

We also met other sets of people from a variety of places and heard about their travels and where they’d visited: all very interesting with fascinating stories (Hello to Kim and Lyn, Andrew, Ian and Anne,and Phil). Because we were attending the Festival and most of us were photoholics, we kept tripping over each other either at the Festival site or at the Alotau International Hotel where we’d migrate for a cold beverage, lunch, and a rest-room break during the day, because it was the closest venue.

There were a number of chilly South Pacific export beers enjoyed over the hot days of the festival.

Jeff took us on our boat trip to Samarai and he and Mr Cassmob had much to talk about as both had lived there around the same time (including reminiscing about picking up fresh loaves of bread and picking out the centres).

As we walked around the small island we met others who wanted to know why we were there and what we remembered of the place. My memory was sketchy as I’d only had a couple of brief visits years ago but of course it was like an old movie for Peter. Sadly, but perhaps not unexpectedly, the family’s house no longer survives, but we were able to admire the wonderful view they’d had to the government wharf and over the water to Logeia. We knew that the island was a shadow of its former self when it was a thriving government and shipping hub so were not shocked by the ghost-town aspects of some areas.

Mr & Mrs Cassmob (aka Pink Hat Lady) enjoying every minute of their return to PNG…and (mostly) avoiding sunburn.

One of the aspects of Milne Bay which we noticed is that it is no longer one homogenous ethnic group. Workers have come in who were born in other provinces, and some have married Milne Bay people.

You have probably gathered just how much we loved being back in this wonderful place, and how much the people added to that enjoyment.

I’d love to include images of the friends we made but without permission to publish I haven’t added them here.

Return to Milne Bay

Seven days in Papua New Guinea (PNG), seven days home in Australia. A short enough time you would think, but somehow our world has shifted ever so slightly on its axis. It seems that we have been reinfected with the PNG virus. Our normal life seems vaguely strange as we try to reacclimatise to all our normal activities. Thank heavens for family and grandchildren to ground us back here.

We landed at Jacksons Airport in Port Moresby on 31 October, 34 years and 2 months after we last flew out in a Boeing 747 Jumbo “going finish” (left permanently) to Australia. For me it was the end of 8½ years of a challenging discovery of another world vastly different from my pre-marriage life in suburban Brisbane. For Mr Cassmob he was leaving his home, probably forever. He was an emigrant as surely as our ancestors were when they left their home countries for the new world.

Mr Cassmob returns to PNG 34 years after going finish.

A book I’ve been re-reading called Territory Kids (author Genevieve Rogers) highlights that for children who grew up in the then-Territory of Papua New Guinea, their exotic life was the norm. They had not previously been acculturated to Australian life as their parents (or spouses!) had. For ten years Mr Cassmob had lived the life of a dual citizen, much of the year spent having a “civilised” Australian experience in school or university, then returning to his life on a frontier once or twice a year. He had built up some emotional calluses to protect the constant transitions. It was me who burst into tears one day in Mass in 1978 when the organ sounded briefly like the sound of kundus (drums).

When we planned this return-to-PNG trip we had considered that so much might have changed we’d be disappointed or disillusioned. Returning to a much-loved place can be an emotional hazard. What we hadn’t bargained on was that we might settle back so quickly into our relationship with it, and be in thrall to its charms.

Overlooking Jacksons Airport from our hotel: the plane is a feature.

Jacksons Airport had changed yet much remained familiar, not least the overlooking outline of Hombrum’s Bluff, part of the Owen Stanley Range. There were new terminals and new aircraft on the apron including far more helicopters than we used to see –presumably used in part by the mining companies. We had chosen to only overnight in Moresby –its reputation has never been good but it is now violently unsafe. It seemed easier not to navigate that issue –we’d lived there for four years so we knew it well and didn’t feel the immediate need to return.

It was while lolling in the pool at the very flash, very expensive, but critically, very safe, hotel that we made our first friends of the trip, Keith and Jan from England. This was their second trip to PNG and they’ve had some amazing adventures which you can read about on their blog, Claremont Globetrotters.

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

The main focus of our trip was to revisit Alotau in Milne Bay on the south-eastern corner of Papua New Guinea. Mr Cassmob regards this area as his “place”: that defining environment in which we grow up. For me it was to be a trip of rediscovery, 41 years after leaving the Bay, despatched by the government to live and work in the Highlands.

Not the bush material hut that we once knew.

I thought I’d been so overwhelmed by the vast differences between Brisbane and Alotau in my 18 months there (not to mention being uprooted from friends and family) that I hadn’t remembered Milne Bay well.

To my surprise I found I was quite wrong. There were things I hadn’t remembered, such as the mountains visible at the back of my parents-in-law’s house, but then that was easily explained by the fact that it had been the Wet Season when we lived there and the cloud descended so you couldn’t always see the clothes line, let alone the mountains! And yet, so much looked and felt familiar: the essence of the place was still there, in situ and in my memory.

Napatana Lodge, Alotau.

Milne Bay people have a tradition of friendliness and courtesy and we were delighted to find that hadn’t changed at all: everywhere we went we were greeted by those we passed, taxi drivers chatted and told us of their families and their own stories and happily we met people with connections to our past.

We had scheduled our trip to coincide with the National Kenu and Kundu (canoe and drum) Festival and perhaps that helped make for a more welcoming atmosphere but I think what we saw was the people’s traditional courtesy.

Of course we had to have a souvenir of the Festival.

When we lived in Alotau, in those pre-self-government, colonial days, there were about 100 expatriates and 1000 local people. It was a newly formed town built for the administration of the district when Samarai became too small.

Alotau and the surrounding area has grown a great deal and there’s now 10,000 people living there. We remained a very small minority of white faces amidst the brown and one of the things I especially liked about the festival was that the Papua New Guineans enjoyed the dancing, canoe racing and other festivities as much, if not more, than the visitors.  It felt like a festival for them, to which we’d had the privilege of being invited.

From a commercial point of view, more expatriate visitors would no doubt be welcome, but hopefully that will not change the engagement of the local people. In 2013 they will celebrate the 10th festival and a cruise ship is scheduled to arrive to coincide with it, I only hope that the voyagers recognise what a privilege it is to share in these traditional activities.

Coming up: Sights, sounds, memories and more.

I’ll probably post more of my photos on Flickr than I will here but I’ll let you know when that happens –some sorting and prioritising to be done.

Lest We Forget: the Battle of Milne Bay

As you know we’ve just returned from Papua New Guinea, and in particular Milne Bay where we spent most of our time. We had lived there for a couple of years after our marriage but Mr Cassmob had also spent his teenage years in the district, when home from boarding school, and he regards it as his “place”.

It always shocks me how little known Milne Bay is within the history of World War II, while Kokoda gains a much higher profile. Despite contradictory stories, it was in the Battle of Milne Bay that the Japanese suffered their first land defeat, proving they were not invincible. Following the rapid domino effect of their overthrow of the Asian countries such as Singapore, this battle gave hope that their forces could be defeated. While there is now no indication that the Japanese forces intended to invade Australia, there’s little doubt that an enemy force ensconced in Papua or New Guinea would have been cause for grave concern and fears for Australia’s security. This year has been the 70th anniversary of the battle.

The Battle of Milne Bay was a relatively short but difficult campaign exacerbated by challenging terrain, heat and the hazards of malaria. It raged up and down the northern coastline of Milne Bay exactly where we were visiting last week and where we had lived in the 70s. The major air base was on Gili Gili Plantation where my husband worked briefly in the late 60s (see the story of his discovery of a wartime artefact here).

Rather than give you chapter and verse I’m going to show you the images of the War Memorial near Alotau and also the information plaques which tell the story of the battle. You might also be interested in the images on my Tropical Territory blog which show the stained glass windows in the Catholic Church in Alotau, honouring those lost in the battle.

The map shows the range of the battlegrounds. Alotau, the provincial headquarters, where we’ve just been, is slightly to the left of the arrow.

The memorial overlooks Milne Bay: a far more tranquil scene than 70 years ago.

The Australians gained great support from the local people who risked much to help them.

Lest we forget

Image of poppies from Wikipedia.

In Memoriam: Crows Nest Memorial to those who gave their lives in World Wars I and II. The memorial includes the names of Cpl French VC and my grandfather’s cousin, James Gavin.

Home again

In case you’ve been wondering why my responses to comments have been a bit slow lately it’s because we’ve been having a great adventure: our first return to Papua New Guinea since we left in August 1978.

We had an absolutely fantastic time and met lots of people including some who knew Mr Cassmob’s parents or his brother and one lady who he knew on Samarai.

We spent most of our time in Alotau in the Milne Bay Province which I wrote about back in the alphabet series in April here. It was such fun we’re wondering why we haven’t been back before.

I’ll be sharing some of the stories and photos soon on this blog or on Tropical Territory 

but for now I just wanted to say I’m back in Darwin and looking forward to catching up on other people’s blog writing from the past couple of weeks.

Talk soon.

Pauleen