123rd Carnival of Genealogy: Birthday Parties

I’m not a big party person but birthdays are special and always a great reason to celebrate with close friends. My baby book records that I spent my first birthday quietly…which set the theme for others to come I suspect. By my third birthday I had three little friends, Mum and her friend.

My birthday is inconveniently in the midst of our summer holidays and frequently as a child the friend-supply would be a little light on for partying. However my non-holidaying neighbourhood friends would be invited as well as occasionally my cousins. Mum always made delicious cakes and biscuits which was certainly a bonus and we had a good time! I think that’s why to this day I much prefer to have a small gathering of close friends and cringe at the thought of even a medium size group of party-goers.

Pauleen looking cute (!) in blonde curls and a bow. It looks like the 3rd birthday party because it’s the right group of children.

There was one birthday as an adult when I nearly came a social cropper. A friend and work colleague had invited us to a dress-up party celebration. The day rolled round and it all seemed more trouble than it was worth to get gussied up and party on. Social responsibility eventually took over and off we went – only to discover on arrival that it was actually a surprise birthday party for me! How embarrassed would I have been if we hadn’t bothered going?!  We had such a good time that we didn’t get home until the wee hours –something which scandalised our teenaged children and took some living down!

Happy birthday to Jasia whose November birthday inspired this Carnival of Genealogy theme.

Carnival of Genealogy 118th edition: Reading

How could I possibly ignore this month’s Carnival of Genealogy topic of reading. Jasia has posed the following questions:

Do you come from a family of readers? What kinds of reading material was typically found around your house when you were growing up… fiction books, comic books, poetry, the Bible, magazines, cookbooks, prayer books??? What do you like to read now? Do you give books as gifts? Are you a fan of eBooks? The lazy, hazy days of summer are right around the corner and many of us will be reaching for a good book to read on the hammock or on the beach. What do you recommend?”

Reading with my grandmother while Granddad watches on.

When you walk into someone’s house for the first time, do you have to contain your curiosity about what’s on their book shelves? Do you think twice, mentally reviewing the trust-worthiness of the person in front of you, before you lend a treasured book? Do you look at pictures of houses and living rooms without a book in sight and wonder what’s wrong with the people who live there? If so I suspect that, like me, you have an incurable illness called readeritis.

Actually I don’t come from a family of readers – my reading gene comes from my father. Mum was always too active to sit and read other than her evening prayer books. My own children learnt early that reading was as important to me as food and drink. Luckily I married a man who understands that once my nose is in a book and I have the reading bit between my teeth, there’ll be little point in trying to get my attention until I finish the final page. Many’s the night I’ve gone to bed because I’m tired, only to be still awake hours later finishing my book.

Al fresco reading -I’m surprised I looked up given how close how little of the book was left to read.

As a child I envied a neighbouring family who had one small glass-fronted bookcase. I loved being taken by them in their car to the local library which was inaccessible by public transport. Heaven was going to high school with its diverse smorgasbord of books and I was a virtual glutton as I gobbled them up. Being at high school in the city I was also able to join the School of Arts where I had a wide array of fiction to choose from and developed a teenage devotion to Seventeen magazine which opened my eyes to life as a teenager in America.  Books were compulsory items on my birthday and Christmas wish lists and I was never happier than when I got a new book I’d been hoping for, or indeed any new book. With Christmas and birthday both falling in the midst of the long summer school holidays, there was every opportunity to find a shady, cooler spot to sit and read. This habit of books as gifts is an engrained part of our family’s tradition and our grandchildren already have a severe dose of the reading virus. Even the three year old takes his book to his bed for the afternoon quiet time/nap.

Reading a pop-up book with our daughter one Xmas.

It is a case of “be careful what you wish for” as we try to contain my book collection to the available bookcases in the house. Like coat-hangers they seem to multiply so that no matter how many you give away, the bookshelves are still overflowing.  This is one of the reasons that I’ve turned to e-books for some of my reading. I’ve been surprised to discover that I can get just as engrossed turning the virtual pages as I did with the real thing. I was amused recently when I rang my hairdressing salon. The person who answered turned to my own hairdresser and said “it’s Pauleen, who reads the little book (iPad)”. They seem to find it a tad strange that I sit there, colour on my greying hair, reading blogs or books on my iPad.  What else would I do, I ask?

My obsession with family history has affected my obsession with books so that now I read more and more reference books or historical books. My reading-for-relaxation has changed from fiction to blog-reading with occasional bouts of midnight mania when I get into a good book.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been revisiting some Australian books from my Insights into Australia post.   So far I’ve read A Town Like Alice, The True Story of the Kelly Gang, Harland’s Half Acre and They’re a Weird Mob and I’ve started on Foreign Correspondence.

To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries. A C Grayling, Financial Times” (in a review of A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel) [i]

O is for Oceans and Oban

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). The focus today is on migration to Australia.

O is for OCEANS

A sketch showing life on board for emigrants in the 1870s. State Library of Victoria IAN24/03/75/40 copyright expired. Searching Picture Australia for emigrant+ship will give you images of ships of the era.

My ancestors crossed the oceans wide to come to Australia braving the oceans’ hazards, health risks on board, and a new world. We can’t really imagine what they went through, cheek by jowl in the sleeping quarters, mixed with people of other nationalities and even counties, with whom they’d had no exposure prior to the emigration depot with all its own challenges. Just imagine the Babel, or babble, of the different dialects, including Gaelic, Irish, and English regional accents. Then put them all together on one small ship (averaging around 600 tons in the 1850s) and expect them to negotiate their mess arrangements and sleep in a hammock with others so close. Throw in the wild seas, anxiety and excitement about their future lives, and the potential for boredom and its surprising there wasn’t more dissension.

It was certainly one way to prepare them for what was ahead. For all that the emigrants to Australia had so much further to go, they were actually well looked after by the arrangements put in place by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners (CLEC) with required lists of clothing, specified dietary standards, a surgeon to supervise their health and a matron to take care of their other welfare. Education was often offered but not always availed.

The Irish were unusual in that Irish women were as likely to emigrate as men, atypical compared to other nationalities which either exported single men or families. Even where these women appeared to travel alone, a closer look at the shipping records will reveal there may have been cousins or neighbours on board. In the later years of emigration, they would have family in Australia who may have sent their remittance for emigration. It pays to look beyond just the name you’re researching to see who they may have travelled with…they weren’t as alone as we sometimes think.

My ancestral migration to Australia is spread from the 1850s through to 1911. This graph gives some indication of the family pattern -only two people travelled without known family/friends. © P Cass 2012.

Pondering on my post from Saturday about the precious packages my ancestors would have brought with them, I decided to have a look at their travel and migration status: who they arrived with, and whether they had family in the colony. Even this is deceptive because it only looks at their relatives, not at their broader social connections such as people from their home village. George Kunkel, for example, is not known to have had any family here before he arrived, nor did any arrive after him (chain migration) that I know of. However there were quite a few people from his home village living quite close by in Queensland. Did he arrive after them or before? Either way he wasn’t entirely alone, there was the solace of some compatriots.

How did your families arrive, alone or in a family group? Did it change depending on when they arrived?

To quote an unknown immigrant Mary Anne, writing home:

There are no backdoors in Australia to creep out as you must take everything as it comes when you get here.”[i]

O is for OCEANS OF CONSOLATION

Important reference books for migration research to Australia in particular.

If you have Irish ancestry in Australia there are two books you really must beg, borrow or steal (just kidding!). They are Oceans of Consolation by David Fitzpatrick, an analysis of letters from Irish immigrants and Richard Reid’s Farewell my Children which I posted about last year. Also worth looking at are any of the little Invisible Immigrant series by Eric Richards with chapters by Richard Reid.

Fitzpatrick uses the emigrants’ own letters to tell their story of settling into a new land. I particularly liked some of the comments from Biddy Burke, an immigrant from Galway to Moreton Bay. She commented “you must think it was hot when the plaits (sic) on the dresser should be handled with a cloth[ii] She was intrigued rather than horrified by the mixture of religions and races[iii], showing the adventurousness of those who made this journey.

Fitzpatrick argues that the migration decision was a family one, but my research suggests this may not always have been so. Wills tend to indicate that at least some emigrants went where they thought it would suit them best. The decision by some emigrants to come to Australia even though other family members had already emigrated to America suggests they were clear about what opportunities they wanted to pursue.

O is for OBAN (Argyll, Scotland)

Early morning over Oban's harbour, March 2006. © P Cass

Back in March 2006 we were in Oban, planning to visit Mull the next day. In the middle of the night we got a phone call from daughter #2 to tell us that my mother-in-law was dying. Now a B&B is not the best place to get this kind of news (is anywhere?) so we had to skulk down to the harbour to make calls on the public phone to get the whole story and try to arrange flights before the B&B came to life. Suffice to say that those who helped us on that occasion have our gratitude: the B&B owners who didn’t hold us to our three day booking, the staff member on the desk at one of the harbour-side posh hotels who helped us with internet links, and Emirates who made and held our booking until we got to Glasgow, unlike our national carrier. That morning at sunrise we saw seals in the harbour and as we made our way back into Glasgow, the skies were clear blue and the snow on the hills was magnificent…a blessing in a strange kind of way.

The Scots may not be effusive but we couldn’t fault their wonderful support. We were home within 48 hours and could have made it sooner had we not been a bit far from Glasgow airport, and thankfully we made it in time to say our goodbyes. Sure this is recent history, but as I want to publish this series of posts for our family and descendants, I wanted to tell this story, and checked my husband agreed.

Imagine what it would have been like for our ancestors to finally receive a letter telling them of a parent’s death, months after it had happened. Would they have sensed something pivotal had happened or would that barrier have passed when they left their family behind in the homeland?

In the A to Z challenge, Julie at Anglers Rest is continuing the story of her 20th century travel to Australia and her family’s links to the land Down Under.


[i] Haines, R. Life and death in the age of sail, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2003, page 190

[ii] Fitzpatrick D. Oceans of Consolation, Melbourne University Press, 1994, page 149.

[iii] Ibid, page 148

Carnival of Genealogy – 116th edition – Catherine McCorkindale

My grandmother, a girl on the verge of young womanhood, looks at us sidelong from her position beside her mother, yet her gaze is direct and intense. I see echoes of myself in this photo, taken when she would have been about 12. This makes it likely that the photograph dates from around the time of the 1901 census, when the family was living at 3 Bolton Drive, Mt Florida, Glasgow. Catherine McCorkindale, second daughter and sixth child of Duncan McCorkindale from Argyllshire and Annie Sim from Bothkennar in Stirlingshire, was usually known as Kit by her family, yet on this census she is called Katie, obviously her childhood name.

Kit and her family were said to move often because with all four of her brothers expert pipers, the noise of their practicing was too much even for their Scottish neighbours! She was always so proud of her family’s Highland heritage, and taught me early to love the sound of the pipes and the music of the reels, even though she generally disapproved of dancing. She passed on her love of all things Scottish (except religion!)…not a good combination with the Irish Catholic ancestry on my maternal side.

As a child, Catherine attended the Cathcart Mt Florida school and among my heirlooms is her hard-bound Merit Certificate from the Scotch Education Department in April 1900, though she is still a scholar in 1901, aged 13.[i] Kit would become a dressmaker like her mother and older sister Belle, but unfortunately no oral history has survived about where or how she worked at this trade in Scotland. I certainly hope she was not forced to work in the inhuman conditions of some Glasgow factories.

Kit’s father died suddenly in 1906 and in 1910 Kit, her mother, and most of her siblings emigrated on the Perthshire to Australia where her two older brothers (and unbeknownst to us, an uncle) had already settled. Catherine and her sisters are recorded on the Queensland immigration cards as domestic servants, arriving as assisted immigrants. The family settled in Brisbane, where Kit is known to have worked for David Jones’ store as a dressmaker. David Jones was one of the more up-market department stores so presumably her needlework skills were good, as evidenced by her lovely wedding dress, which I assume she made. I’m also fortunate to have heirlooms from this time in her life – her treadle sewing machine and pair of silk pyjamas she made.

Catherine met my grandfather at a Christmas party when he asked if he could get her a drink (almost certainly non-alcoholic). I don’t know what year they met but it was possibly around the time of World War I, and it’s thought that my grandfather visited some of her relations while he was serving overseas in 1917-1918.  Even on his return the couple did not marry quickly and it’s difficult to be sure why that was. It may have been due to religious differences because my grandfather was brought up a Catholic. It may have been because he continued to contribute to the upkeep of his youngest siblings, orphaned in 1901. I’ve often wondered if he feared the consequences of marrying young and having too many children – the cause, in part, of his mother’s early death.

Dinny and Kit married in the Ithaca Presbyterian Church, Red Hill on 29 April 1922. None of Denis’s siblings were witnesses and his non-Catholic marriage was certainly a problem for many of them. As a result their social circle revolved around Kit’s family. My grandparents lived in the same house all their married life and were our next door neighbours. I spent lots of time jumping the fence to be with them both and I have very fond memories of my grandmother brushing my hair and talking to me. Her hairbrush (minus bristles) is another of my “treasures”. Catherine lived to see my marriage and the birth of her first great –grandchild. She died on 19 December 1971 aged 84.

This Carnival of Genealogy post was inspired by Jasia at Creative Gene. The challenge was to honour a woman from our family tree by starting with a photograph and telling the story of the photo or a biography of the woman. I chose my grandmother.


[i] Scottish education was compulsory from ages 5 to 13.