Monday, 17 October 2016

An Unlucky Police Constable

 I would like to tell you a story about my paternal great grandfather who was a police constable in the far north eastern region of New South Wales from 1880 to 1916. In 1900 he fell victim to a slight misadventure which caused him some notoriety in the district. At the time, he was stationed in Casino, a small town about 30 or so miles inland from the coast. In September of that year he was escorting a prisoner from Lismore to the Casino Goal when the prisoner got away from him and escaped into the bush. This incident was widely reported in the newspapers both locally and further afield. It appears that it even prompted some amusement in the town. It was reported in one of the local newspapers that a cartoon depicting the event had been displayed in the front window of the local Town Hall. However, the incident was treated seriously by his superiors and he was charged with neglect of duty and required to appear in the Lismore Police Court to answer the charges. During the court proceedings the details of the incident were given. A prisoner, after his conviction of assault in the Lismore Court, was being escorted to Casino to serve his sentence. Halfway between Lismore and Casino the prisoner was handed over to the care of my great grandfather. During the journey, when they reached a place called Naughton's Gap on the Casino road, they turned down a short track. There was dense scrub along this track and when they got to the top of a small hill the prisoner rushed his horse in front of the constable. While trying to catch up, the constable's horse stumbled several times and the prisoner, taking advantage of this, jumped off his horse and escaped into the thick scrub. My great grandfather said he went into the scrub looking for the prisoner but was unable to find him.

My great grandfather was fined 2 pounds 4 shillings for this incident because the court said that the evidence showed neglect on his part. A number of factors went against him in the case. It was shown that he had not been using a halter and leading the prisoner's horse as was the usual procedure with prisoners who were considered troublesome. Also, he had failed to follow instructions. When the prisoner had been handed over to him he had been given instructions stating that as the prisoner was considered “crafty and treacherous” care should be taken with him. However, my great grand father was not completely disgraced by the incident because it was noted in the court that he was held in high esteem as a painstaking constable.

A number of years later in March 1906 my poor great grandfather was unfortunate enough to be involved in another prisoner escape. This time two prisoners escaped. My great grandfather was now working in Lismore and was the police constable in charge of the Lismore “lock up”. Two prisoners who had been charged with burglary were under his supervision in the “lock up”. They were in the exercise yard at 7pm when he checked on them but when he returned between 7.30pm and 7.45pm they were gone and one of the bars on the top of the yard had been bent so that they could slip through and escape. They were later arrested in the Lismore township and it was reported that upon their arrest they stated that it was Saturday night and they were just having a night out.

My great grandfather was again required to appear in court to answer a charge of neglect of duty. This time the case was dismissed because it was stated by the court that the bars through which the men escaped were hollow and could be prised apart in a minute and that also there should be a guard at all times over prisoners charged with serious offences. At the time that this incident occurred my great grandfather was often called away from the cells because his duties also included answering the telephone in other parts of the police station as well as doing the rounds of the town on “town duty”.

When I was a child I did hear my grandfather sometimes jokingly refer to a family member who was a policeman and had allowed a prisoner to escape, but there was never much detail given and I had no idea that he was referring to his own father, my great grandfather. However, many many years later when I became interested in my family history and began to do my research I discovered the wonders of Trove and was able to discover the real story behind the rather vague one that I had heard as a child. Just by typing my family surname into the Trove search page I was able to come up with a wealth of information about this story. Trove certainly enables us to bring our ancestors to life. I attended a seminar on Saturday on a completely different subject and one of the presenters kept reminding us that Trove is our friend. I couldn't agree with her more.

The seminar I refer to was organised by The Genealogical Society of Queensland and the topic was Ireland: Church, Famine and Immigration. My great grandfather, the police constable, was born in London in 1856 and came to Australia on the Ben Cruachan in 1878. His life was vastly different from the people we heard about at the seminar on Saturday. His father was a barrister and he was brought up in a fairly well to do family. It appears that he came to Australia for adventure rather than as a result of poverty, famine or criminal conviction. However, amongst my paternal ancestors who came to Australia, he is the exception rather than the rule because all the other ancestors were Irish and came to Australia as convicts and refugees from famine and poverty.

The seminar was extremely interesting and informative and gave me lots of clues for further research. I will let you know in future blogs of all the gems I am sure I will be able to find as a result of attending this seminar.

As for my great grandfather the police constable. If he had any other misadventures in his line of duty I am yet to discover them. He continued as a police constable in charge of the Lismore “lock up” until a few months before his death in 1916 at the relatively young age of 59.   

Monday, 10 October 2016

Where were you when .... ?

I’ve previously written about putting our ancestors’ lives in context so that they become more meaningful, especially when we’re writing a family history or a biography of a particular ancestor. The importance of context came home to me earlier this year when I read a book which focussed on events in a particular period. It caused me to think (yet again) about how to write up my research.

1960s montage
For instance, can you remember where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing, when significant events happened on a local, national or even global scale in your own lifetime and the impact they had on your life. As a baby boomer, I clearly remember the Beatles emerging on the pop scene in the 1960s and I can still sing along to many of their songs. The Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969 was, depending upon your time zone, either on my birthday, the day before, or the day after. Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech on 28 August 1963 still sends shivers down my spine. President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on 22 November 1963 in Dallas shocked the world. From these events you can see that the 1960s was a significant period of time for me, as I moved through my teenage years, left home for college and eventually ended up living and working in London - a far cry from my semi-rural roots in the English Midlands. Pinning events in our lives to more widely reported occasions helps us create anchors not only for writing our own life story but also a family history.

Bill Bryson’s book, One Summer: America, 1927, describes  a huge number of momentous events that happened in just a few months in the middle of 1927, giving the background as well as the aftermath and subsequent impact on the future development of America. These included the competition to be the first person to fly non-stop from America to Paris, which was eventually achieved by Charles Lindbergh; the peak of Al Capone’s reign of terror in Chicago; the phenomenal success of baseballer Babe Ruth; the invention of television; the decisions that ultimately brought about the Great Depression. 

Bryson’s books are so rich in detail that I find it preferable to read them in small chunks. What set me thinking, though, was whether my ancestors, if they lived in New York in June 1927, trekked out to the airfield to see Charles Lindbergh take to the air? Would they be wondering if he would be successful and eventually return or would he be lost forever like many of his fellow aviators who attempted the crossing. If they lived in England or elsewhere in America, were they among the rapturous crowds who welcomed him home after his epic flight? You could create a timeline of your ancestors’ locations and see if they coincided with Lindbergh’s tours. 

Back to Bryson’s book, I was impressed by the number of notable events that happened in a short period of time in one year and the subsequent global impact of some of them. As the lives of most of our 19th century ancestors were probably fairly circumscribed by the rhythm of agricultural or industrial processes, it is possible that events such as wars, or the coming of the railways or the discovery of gold, could have thrown their lives into turmoil. Perhaps this explains many of their actions, such as leaving rural areas to work in the industrial centres, or migrating half-way across the world to start a new life. 

I have another Bryson book on my bookshelf, At home. A short history of private life. The blurb on the back cover says 

“The history of household life isn’t just a history of beds and sofas and kitchen stoves, as I had vaguely supposed it would be, but of scurvy and guano and the Eiffel Tower and bedbugs and body-snatching and just about everything else that has ever happened. Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.” 

In the book he takes a journey around his own house, an old rectory, wandering from room to room considering how the ordinary things in life came to be. Each chapter deals with a particular room and discusses the things in it, how they came into existence and when.

This picture of the original bark hut home
of Mr and Mrs Tucker is from State Library
of Queensland, 2172947
An old rectory in rural England is fertile ground for such investigation, but what if you had ancestors who arrived in the early years in Australia. How did they build their rough bark huts in the bush; what did they do for cooking, water and sanitation?  Many land grants were dependent upon erecting a dwelling, fencing the land, and producing crops, which proved to be too big a task for some migrants. 

So, rather than just saying where your ancestors lived, do some research on what the place would have been like in the 1800s. Also research the natural disasters that occurred while they were there, such as floods or bush fires, crop failures or pest invasions. See if you can find early newspaper reports or diaries of those who lived in the area. They all help you to build up a picture of what life would have been like. 

As you can see, I enjoy reading non-fiction and both of the books mentioned above came to me courtesy of my daughter. They were found on the non-fiction shelves in retail bookshops, which are so often crowded out by massed copies of the latest fiction blockbuster. So, don’t only rely on Google or Wikipedia for all your background information, take the time to visit your local bookshop or library and browse the non-fiction shelves for interesting reads; these can not only add to your understanding of your ancestors’ lives, but also generate ideas on how to write their story.

Until next time. 


Sunday, 25 September 2016

A Super-gene?

Current DNA research suggests that the descendants of plague survivors share certain genetic changes, described as super-genes, that may extend life expectancy by providing protective 
immunity and resistance to certain cancers and auto-immune diseases.  The theory interests me because two of my Italian ancestors may possibly have died of plague,  My 8x-great-grandfather Michele and his son Giovanni died on the same day at ages 85 and 54, respectively. Their deaths could be attributable to factors other than plague – an accident of some kind involving father and son (perhaps a hunting accident); or wounds sustained in battle (Italy's history is littered with countless wars of territorial conquest and retribution); but their deaths on 26 February 1729, suggest that they may have succumbed to a catastrophic illness - a localised plague epidemic.

The first recorded plague pandemic (an epidemic affecting countries around the world almost simultaneously) began in Constantinople in the 6th Century, killing one-third of the city's population and spreading, over the next three years, to southern France, the Rhine valley and Iberia (Spain), eventually causing the fall of the Roman Empire. The second pandemic in the 14th Century killed one-quarter of the population of Europe (including 60 per cent of people in the British Isles), while the 19th Century pandemic originated in China, spread to Hong Kong and then to Australia; there were 12 major outbreaks of plague in Australia from 1900 to 1925, with 1371 cases and 535 deaths, mostly occurring in Sydney (Curson P.H. Times of Crisis: Epidemics in Sydney 1788-1900. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1985).  

Pandemics cause social, cultural and economic upheaval but are relatively short-lived - because they kill almost everyone who becomes infected.  In the years between the second and third plague pandemics, localised outbreaks occurred sporadically throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa owing to increases in population density (crowded living conditions = more people available to
succumb to the infection) but also to changes in agricultural practices, from small-crop farming and single-animal husbandry to concentrated production of single species crops and animals to produce domestic surpluses that could be traded for other staples. These developments led to further expansion of trade routes which, in turn, made the spread of disease more likely.  In medieval Italy, trade routes expanded inland from the port cities of Venice, Florence and Genoa, connecting previously isolated hamlets with the urban populace.  These changing social and economic conditions prevailed in Italy during the 1700s, when Michele and his son Giovanni lived in a small village about 70km northeast of Venice.  

The causative agent of plague is the Yersinia bacillus endemic to certain rodent populations; flea-infested rats spread plague over long distances.  But in medieval times disease (and especially plague) was viewed as God's judgement upon a wicked world, evidenced by the fulminating nature of plague that resulted in a mortality rate of nearly 100 per cent.  There would have been nothing more frightening than the appearance of blackened swellings in armpits and groin, a raging fever quickly followed by gangrene of the extremities, delirium and death within 48 to 72 hours. Whole villages were wiped out.  Early accounts of plague-ridden populations contain chilling descriptions of corpses stacked up in lane-ways because there were no grave diggers to bury them, no clergy to perform burial rites.

Fifty-something Giovanni was almost certainly the primary provider for an extended family that included his ageing father Michele.  Giovanni would have dealt with merchants and may even have plied the trade route to Venice, increasing his exposure to both human and animal vectors of plague. Giovanni's comparative youth and presumably strong physical condition may have delayed the onset of infection but Michele, weakened by old age and possibly by pre-existing illness, would have succumbed more readily. Giovanni's sons, with under-developed or compromised immune systems, may also have succumbed (their death dates are unknown), but the fact that father and son died on the same day is, to my mind, more than coincidental, and the familial relationship is key to my belief that they died of plague because communal living conditions of the period in which they lived would have been ideal for the spread of fleas.

Plague had drastic and permanent effects on the social fabric of the entire world. Food production was severely disrupted because there were fewer hands to grow and harvest food.  Famine usually followed a plague epidemic. The number of plague deaths reduced the number of available marriage partners at a time when producing children was essential in order to prevent extinction of an ancestral line (or an entire cultural or national grouping). Mating between survivors provided benefits – it reduced the pool of potential plague victims by strengthening the immune systems of the resulting offspring. The plague bacillus also benefited: successive plague outbreaks killed fewer and fewer people, ensuring the survival of the bacillus - it couldn't live without a host to infect and needed time to reinvigorate; this, along with scientific and medical advances, explains the episodic nature of contemporary plague epidemics (the most recent in the 1950s that killed more than 15 million, most of them in India; Butler T. Plague and Other Yersinia Infections. New York: Plenum Medical Books, 1983).

The widespread social and economic disruption that accompanied plague pandemics altered cultural distinctions between communities and between the nations of the ancient world (Rosen, W. Justinian's Flea: The first great plague and the end of the Roman Empire. New York: Viking Penguin, 2007).  Accounts of the medieval plague pandemic, such as Boccaccio's Decameron (1348), contain vivid descriptions of  'the pestilence', as plague was then known.  Contemporary studies of the consequences of plague have increased our understanding of the epidemiology of plague and led to improvements in public health policy and the development of pharmaceuticals to combat infectious disease epidemics.

For my family, the consequence of the 14th Century plague pandemic may be the legacy of a super-gene that confers survival benefits on those of us who carry it, courtesy of Michele and Giovanni.

Geraldine Lee

Monday, 19 September 2016

Healing Your Family Patterns

 A few weeks ago I acquired a bookcase specifically to hold all my family history and genealogy notes, documents, folders, books and other paraphernalia. The bookcase is tall, narrow and old fashioned looking and is perfect for that purpose.

I am not a tidy or methodical person much to my disappointment. These are qualities which would be great for my hobby and pastime of family history research. However, the acquisition of this bookcase will allow me to keep everything in one place. Well, that is the theory anyway.

As I was gathering everything from various rooms and shelves and bookcases and other nooks and crannies I came across a book that I had bought about ten or twelve years ago. The title is “Healing Your Family Patterns. How to access the past to heal the present” by David Furlong, published in 1997. I was delighted to rediscover this book. I hadn't completely forgotten about it but at the same time I had not looked at it or thought about it for years. At the time of purchasing it I was completely intrigued by the author's claim that patterns from past generations can continue to affect us today and that healing the imbalances in these patterns is crucial to the health and well-being of not only ourselves and our families but even future generations. At that time the idea truly resonated with me because I was going through some difficulties in my own life but it also made me think about some vague but unsettling feelings that I had about my own family. Nothing sinister or nasty but just a lack of closeness, a holding back in some way. For example, adults whispering when it came to the mention of some deceased family members and also a complete lack of knowledge or an unwillingness to talk about previous generations. At the same time I had only just begun my journey into genealogy and family history and it spurred me on to persevere and to gather as much information as I could so that I could try out the techniques suggested in the book.

This book has two parts. Part 1 discusses ancestors in general terms. The author states that the underlying themes of their lives are similar to ours in their concerns about family members, health, financial security, relationships and so on. He suggests that their experiences in these matters may have influenced subsequent generations. Part 1 also discusses the role of ancestors in Religion and Myth, it explores the role of DNA in our genetic makeup and what impact our genetic inheritance has on us, and it shows how to set up a particular type of family tree chart called a genogram. A genogram allows you to see family patterns through the generations: not just naming patterns but patterns in careers, relationships, illnesses, causes of death, coincidences and so on. These charts could take some time to prepare because there is a lot of background information required and that is why the author suggests that you gather information not only about your 14 primary ancestors (your parents, grandparents and great grandparents) but also their children, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. This may seem daunting but it is quite surprising how much of this information is available and often comes to you unexpectedly when you are doing consistent research. There will be gaps in your knowledge but these can be accepted for the time being and filled in at a later date as more information comes to you in the course of your research.

Part 2 of the book gives instructions on how to clear or change any harmful patterns or energies that may be making life difficult for you or other members of your family. The method usually involves sitting quietly in a type of meditation and focusing on a particular ancestor or ancestors and then following the steps that the author sets out for each healing exercise. The names of some of these healing exercises are “to send healing to one of your ancestors, “ to send love to one of your ancestors”, “to bring healing and release to the ancestors”, “to free up the ties of past patterning” and “to determine the balance of energies between the two halves of your family”.

When I first read this book I couldn't wait to get started on contacting my ancestors. I must admit I didn't set up a genogram. I didn't even know much about the lives of my grandparents let alone my great grandparents. However, I did feel that there was a lot of sadness and anxiety associated with the First World War. I knew my maternal grandfather had served as an Anzac in this war and family stories suggested that before the war he had been a happy man, renowned in the district for his whistling. Family legend implied that he came back greatly changed. He suffered from nervousness and anxiety and was rarely heard whistling. My mother often spoke about the effect of the war on him. So, when I decided to do the first of the exercises in the book which aims “to access the dynamics of one of your ancestors”, I thought that I would concentrate on my grandfather. To my surprise however, no sooner had I begun the exercise when his mother, my great grandmother, came very prominently into my focus. I even felt her sitting beside me. She was dressed in a heavy, black, high necked dress and seemed to impart a feeling of great sadness and a life of hard work and sorrow. I knew very little about her at the time apart from her name and the details stated on my grandfather's birth certificate. I still don't know a lot about her life but I do know that her husband died very young leaving her with 6 children aged 2 to 16 and pregnant with another child who was born a few months after his death. I was very moved by this experience and it really brought home to me that our ancestors are much more than just names and dates on certificates. I think it was the beginning of my interest in researching the history of the times in which each of my ancestors lived. This, I have come to realise will be a life long project as there is so much to discover about times past.

In the book, the author David Furlong suggests that at first we need only go back as far as the past three generations. He says that it is these generations that would be exerting the strongest patterning on the present generations. However, in my family I feel that I need to go back one more generation to my great great grandparents. In my family history, in that generation, there are convicts, a female famine orphan and refugees from the devastating effects of famine in Ireland. This poverty, suffering and hardship must surely have had an impact on the generations that followed.

I realise that the ideas in this book may not be for everyone. Many people may think that the life of an ancestor could not possibly have any influence on their life today and that the healing techniques suggested may seem too spiritual or “new age”. However, family therapists and ancestral healers are beginning to speak about patterns of behaviour and experience that flow through generations and appear to cause disharmony and repetitive patterns of dysfunction. They say that the first step to changing these patterns and clearing blocked energies is to become aware of them. I can see many unhelpful patterns in my family which have been repeated through the generations and I am very open to the idea that there are ways in which I could clear and change them for this generation and future generations.

I believe that the lives of our ancestors are part of us and their stories are within us and I also believe that loving our ancestors for the people they were goes a long way to healing the past. I believe that everyone who is researching their family history is already doing this by recognising and naming their ancestors and documenting their lives. You have only to attend a family history session or seminar or a research library and listen to people speaking about the details they have discovered about their forebears to know how important they are to them. They speak with pride and awe of the achievements, survival stories, quirkiness and yes, even the bad behaviour they have uncovered. In my opinion, there is great healing power in doing this because we recognise and honour those who went before us and who have made our lives possible. However, for those who would like to go a little deeper into discovering family patterns that may be making life more difficult than it need be for the present generations I think that undertaking some healing rituals could be a very meaningful task. I am definitely going to continue with it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The family at leisure

Do you know someone who has been caught up in the Pokemon Go craze? or maybe someone who spends a lot of time on Facebook or Instagram or other form of social media? I'm not a fan of social media or computer games, but my daughter recently introduced me to a couple of games to play on my phone while I’m on the train or waiting for something else. I even helped her to catch a few Pokemon, while she drove. She’s giving this up when she reaches 100, which will be very soon. She has other more traditional interests such as quilting and beading, which contrast markedly with the computer-based activities. Allocating leisure time to computer games differs significantly from my activities in years gone by and certainly those of earlier generations.  

I am a member of an organisation which caters to those who are retired or semi-retired; it offers groups for those interested in activities as varied as gardening, scrabble, mahjong, theatre and movies, books, dining, tours, walking. If anyone asks me what my interests are I usually answer genealogy/family history and reading. Sport has never played a part in my life, but this is not the case for many.
How did our ancestors pass their leisure time, if they had any? It’s worth remembering that, dependent upon the time period, they would have had to rely on candles for light at night. No electricity meant no radio or TV, certainly not a computer. 
Pigeon sheds at the
bottom of the garden
One of my grandfathers, a coalminer, bred and raced pigeons; my dad took this up when he was young. I have an early newspaper record of him when one of his pigeons won a prize. In later years he won other awards, which my mum proudly displays in her glass-fronted cabinet. Like his father, and many of his ancestors, my dad was a coalminer and pigeon racing must have been a fantastic release for those who spent so much of their time underground to be out in the fresh air.  As well as the camaraderie of the pigeon club, members had to consider breeding, detailed computations of winners and losers, and manual tasks such as cleaning out the shed. 

My paternal grandmother was a dressmaker and she had an old-style treadle Singer sewing machine on which she used to make a lot of clothes and other things. She didn’t do as much of this as she got older. This is not her in the photo, but it may as well have been. Her other craft pastime was crocheting and she taught me how to do this.  A talented pianist, she rarely used sheet music, playing by ear. One aunt knitted everything from children’s clothes to sweaters as well as suits comprising a jumper and skirt.

An English pub
Time outside work was really devoted to ‘doing’ something rather than just sitting, apart from the time spent over a pint or two at the local pub, that is.  Where I grew up, leisure revolved around family and friends either in the home or in the local pub. Men played games, such as cards, dominoes and cribbage, in the local pub – again a way of maintaining friendships and relationships.

Activities were productive: the focus in the garden was to grow vegetables for the family table rather than produce lovely flowers; keeping chickens for their eggs, as well as to eat, helped the family to manage its food budget. We also used to sell fresh eggs to several friends and family members, which provided a small source of income.  

Walking and cycling were the main forms of transport, rather than leisure activities, although I remember going for walks on weekend summer evenings with my parents and brother and sister. Living in a semi-rural area provided opportunities for my dad to identify the various birds and trees for us. The long summer nights during school holidays meant we didn't have to get up early to go to school the following morning, so as a special treat we would stop off at the fish and chip shop on the way home.    
Just as technology has changed our working lives dramatically, it has also impacted on our leisure time. Do you remember what you did when you were young? Have any family leisure activities come down through the generations? do they tell you something about the character or nature of your ancestors? You’ll find reports on a wide range of activities in local newspapers. They are worth following up to learn more about what our forebears preferred to do, rather than what was necessary. Also take the time to dig out your own certificates, medals, and other items such as statuettes and rosettes, to help you document your prowess and achievements. 

Until next time


Sunday, 11 September 2016

It Is a Great Time to be Irish!

For many years if you mentioned you had Irish research the other person said how sorry they were for you as "everything had burned".

While it is true that many records of great use to family historians were destroyed in the Four Courts Fire, it is not true that everything was destroyed.

Over the last number of years more records have been digitised and placed online including the 1901 and 1911 censuses. (Sadly only fragments of previous censuses have not survived)

Civil Registration Certificates

Previously you have had the option of purchasing historical certificates: Births >100 years ago, Marriages >75 years ago and Deaths >50 years ago.

Today (8th September) is the official online launch of a fantastic resource. The digitised historical civil registration record images are in the process of going online for download as a PDF (whole page) for free (free as of 8 September 2016).

The Treasure Trove site is the Republic of Ireland Irish Genealogy site

Click through to the search Civil Registration and of course I search for Quested (remember I run the Quested One Name study, always happy to find them anywhere anytime!)

You will need to acknowledge you are not a robot and fill in your name before you will get the results.

Note you can search all at once but unless you have a very unusual surname it is probably not the best way to go. (Quested gave five entries three deaths and two marriages).
Three results were returned. Click through on the name and as you can see there is the word image at the bottom of the result. Click on that and you are taken to the full page PDF of the civil registration records.

Currently the site is still in the process of uploading the images and my other two deaths in 1867 and 1868 are not yet available.

There are a number of other resources available on the site or links to other search pages of interest.

Yes certainly a great time to be Irish!

Remember the Genealogical Society of Queensland also has subscriptions for a number of pay sites that you can access at the rooms that also have Irish records such as Findmypast with many digitised records and also an increasing number of Irish Newspapers. Just another benefit of being a member!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Family History Gems Hidden in Plain Sight

Hello again – it seems that my first effort at blogging a couple of months ago was alright, as I have gotten another invite to write the entry for the 5th Monday of the month.  So here goes ….

Many murder mysteries often have vital clues “hidden in plain sight” for the protagonists, and the reader/viewer, to miss noticing right up to the critical moment.  Things like a letter hidden in the pages of a book on a shelf right by where the body was found or the like.

Finding information about our family histories is sometimes similar to a murder mystery. Vital information can often be hiding in plain sight, in that the information we seek has always been where it is, but we have not looked “there”.  Yet.  We don’t look because we often think that there could not possibly be any worthwhile information in that place or any reason to look there.

I beg to differ on that point.  I have learnt the hard way.

I am an interloper in Queensland.  My parents brought me here as a child in 1963 from Melbourne, Victoria.  My parents, myself and my two brothers are the only members of either my maternal and paternal lines living in Queensland.  All the other rellies, apart from an uncle and cousin who came much later, were “stay at homes” in Victoria.  I have known that fact for the past 53 years.  It is irrefutable, so why would I bother to look for information in Queensland, eh?

Well …

A little while ago I was checking out the online indexes for inwards passengers on the Queensland State Archives website.  I was looking for a record for someone else, but while I had the item on screen, I also looked for Clydesdale’s – my maternal line.  I was shocked to find that there were indeed some listed.  In fact, one fellow, Andrew Clydesdale and his family were related to me.  So were all the other Clydesdales listed, as all Clydesdales are, to some degree – we just have to prove it.  It is not a large family, though it is wide spread. 

I was surprised to see them here, as I would have expected them to have gone to Victoria, where they had relatives already established.  The reason may have been because he was a printer and had a job offer in Queensland.  As it was he rose through the profession and ended up at one stage as either the Chief Editor or Owner, or both perhaps, of the Telegraph newspaper in Brisbane in the 1930s or so – still to be fully proved.

A second surprise regarding Andrew Clydesdale occurred just a couple of weeks ago.  I was in the GSQ Resource Centre idly browsing the bookshelves while waiting for someone I wanted to talk with to finish a mobile phone conversation.  I came across an old book on Glasgow history printed in 1899.  As my Clydesdales came from Glasgow, being bakers there, I took it down to see if there was any mention of them in it.  There wasn’t.  Then I happened to notice the inscription on the front fly page.  “To Andrew Clydesdale from his good friend Tom Henry, Glasgow, 1902”.  Well!  Knock me down with a feather! You can’t get better than that, can you?  Here was an item that had been owned by my ancestral relative, sitting on the shelves for goodness knows how long, of the society that I am currently president of.  And I never knew.  You can’t get much more hidden in plain sight if you tried.

The third occurrence - things always come in threes, don’t they? – also concerns Queensland State Archives.  I was idly searching through their online catalogue one day while waiting for some records to be retrieved, when I thought to put in my own surname, Doherty, just to see what came up. I did have the occurrence of the Clydesdales to spur me on here, though this was some time after that.

Again I was shocked to find a record that was related to me.  The first name on the results list was that of my father!  What on earth was he doing there with a letter in a Queensland Government departmental file.   For a few years after our arrival in Brisbane my father worked in several jobs for other people.  In about 1966 he decided to work for himself and took the plunge, purchasing a news- paper delivery run in the Moorooka area.  Initially it was just the delivery run, and his office was the family garage, then he leased a shop on Ipswich Road, becoming a proper Newsagent.  He then tried to apply for a Casket Agency to sell lottery tickets, and had some difficulties in obtaining it, as there was another shop on the other side of Ipswich Road already selling Casket tickets.  That is what the letter is about, explaining the reasons why people didn’t want to cross the road to buy their tickets – too much traffic basically, even back then.  The letter also contains a potted history of his business and some local history of the area.  I lived through that, even working in the shop, helping my dad wrap papers for delivery, and selling newspapers after school – I was a “paperboy” - but I wasn’t paying attention – I was a teenager!  This was all really good stuff, which I never expected to find where I did.

So the moral of this blog entry is, no matter how irrefutable your personal knowledge of your family’s history, whereabouts and activities might be – look in every repository you can possibly think of and have access to!    

You just never know what might turn up.

Geoff Doherty