Christmas is a time for getting together with family and eating and drinking and sharing presents. Sometimes I dread the big family Christmas because family members don’t always get on, and perhaps you do too.
It can also be a good time to find out more about your family and getting them interested in the research you are doing. Don’t waste such an opportunity!
This year we will be gathering in Orange at my mother’s house for a few days. My mother grew up in Blayney, which is not far from Orange, and so we are planning a bit of a family history tour. The teenagers of the family will be able to see where their Gran lived and went to school, and may get their first experience at cemetery searching if they are lucky. The Millthorpe Museum is known to contain portraits of my g-g-grandparents William and Elizabeth Grace Goode, so I hope it’s open!
My cousin Peter has knowledge passed down from our uncles about where our g-g-grandfather Richard Eason’s first mud house was built. Richard arrived in the Colony of New South Wales as a 20-year-old in 1850 and settled in this area after first spending some time with an uncle in Maitalnd. I have found this first 40 acres of land on the NSW Lands Department parish maps and Google Maps and I’m hoping that it agrees with Peter’s information. We can then go on to find the land that he subsequently purchased and passed on to his sons.
Even if we can’t find the exact pieces of land it is important to get a feel for the place where your ancestors live. I live in Sydney and I grew up in Dubbo, so I am not familiar with Blayney, the place where my mother, and two generations before her, were born and grew up. Towns get bigger over time but the countryside doesn’t change much and some of the old buildings are still there.
I am hoping to get my mother and her brother talking about their childhoods and what they remember of their grandparents and aunts and uncles. Do they have any stories that their parents or grandparents told them? My mother usually “can’t remember” when I ask her on her own, so I am hoping that with her older brother and sister-in-law there they may spur each other on. My sister and cousin also were told stories by our grandmother which I am hoping they will share with all of us. I may have to take a recorder, since I don’t take shorthand!
I will also tell them what I know from what I’ve discovered through the records. My direct g-g-grandmother through the female line, Margaret, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand as a four-year-old with her family, including a new step-mother, from Scotland. Auckland was just a village next to the water in 1842 and she grew up with the town. I have a photo taken of her with her daughter Sarah and Sarah’s first daughter Amy, my grandmother. For such a photo to have been possible either Margaret had to travel to Australia or Sarah had to have taken the baby back to New Zealand. What a life she must have had!
I have collected a lot of photos of some of my ancestors over the years. I will take my laptop with me, which contains all my research and the photos and documents that I have scanned over the years. The laptop can be plugged in to a reasonably recent TV to show photos that everyone can see at once. I will also take my scanner with me in case anyone has photos or documents that I don’t have.
I have also started searching for old photos of places where my ancestors lived. Do a search on Picture Australia, the website of the National Library of Australia devoted to images of Australia’s past, which includes photographs, objects, maps, and works of art. Typing “Blayney” into the search screen gives 140 results showing photos past and present from many different sources including the State Library of NSW, National Archives of Australia, Flickr, and others. I’ve found the cafe in Melbourne where my parents lived when I was a baby using this site, and I found it that it burned down. Try it out!
When you get together with your family this year try to make it a more meaningful experience for everyone by including your ancestors!