Stories in Sepia

‘History’ at High School bored me. Learning about old kings on the other side of the world felt so removed from my young life that I quickly grew to loathe history classes. The teacher did not help to bring life or relevance to the content….yawn!

But as an adult my interest in history has developed from reading books like: Into the blue: boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before by Tony Horwitz (also known as Blue Latitudes); Beethoven’s hair; an extraordinary historical odyssey and a scientific mystery solved by Russell Martin; and other books where historical stories and facts are given further relevance and detail through a contemporary lens.

Delving into my own family history over many years has drawn me in and I am now intrigued by the many lives that were lived before – people who are now dead and buried. A grim description; but yesterday I discovered a podcast titled Dead and Buried that “showcases underground history and true crime from the streets of Melbourne.” It is part of the Melbourne Ear Buds Network.

“Dead & Buried is a podcast about Melbourne history for people who don’t yet realise they like Melbourne history.”

This podcast series is well presented and edited by Lee Hooper, Phoebe Wilkens, Carly Godden, and Robin Waters. The additional comments by others provide credibility, depth and interest to the stories. I am really enjoying listening to these vignettes of days gone by and hope they release series two soon.

My own family history has grown in recent months with the help of the My Heritage software and the Ancestry Library Edition database. The My Heritage app is easy to use and free to a point. Putting in your own family tree is very easy and then ‘matches’ are found to link with others who have provided research in linking trees. Some of this requires payment, but the wealth of information that can be seen is amazing and has enriched my own research and legacy scrapbook.

Photos in particular can be seen and while it is important to make sure the photo is correctly assigned to the right person, these images are real treasure. Unfortunately I did find two photos of my paternal grandparents incorrectly assigned to others in the previous generation who happened to have the same first names. I tried to contact the person who placed the images into Ancestry but it went to a broken link. Most probably the person does not use the account anymore. It is a shame to see this kind of error published as fact, especially when I know it is incorrect. Once checked and validated though these sepia images are gorgeous and give beautiful illustration to my family history.

Smith_wedding_corrected

From left: Standing; Euphemia, Margaret, Alexander, Jeanie, Helen, Catherine. Seated; Lily, Jeanie (Granny), Daisy (possibly taken at Penshurst Victoria)

Some years ago I had been shown an enlarged photo of a family wedding in Penshurst Victoria. It is a beautiful scene, with the stern matriarch sitting centre surrounded by family, with the women wearing gorgeous ‘Picnic At Hanging Rock’ style dresses. I had always wanted a copy of this image but it eluded me, until recently. I found a labelled version amongst some old files of my parents. So I had it all this time without realising. The stern matriarch Jeanie Fleming Smith sitting in the centre is my great great grandmother if my family research is correct. Jeanie is my great grandmother I believe. I will need to refer back to my tree to confirm the details and find a date.

Advertisements

My Family History

Surrounded by piles of photos, prints and digital, and indebted with family facts and stories, I struggle to shape it into a sensible narrative.

IMG_7865

Curating the family history is a challenging exercise and yet I am enthusiastic to weave it together for prosperity and for anyone who might someday wonder.

This is something that has interested me for many years and I have been on some previous fact finding missions that revealed things we didn’t know. I love to find out about our origins and the lives of our ancestors. I can name three ships that brought different branches of the family to Australia: The Hampshire, The Shand, and The Niagara. I love to see the photos of ancestors to spot the family resemblances that crop up unexpectedly.

Not a ‘scrap-booker’ by nature I think that ultimately a hand crafted personal creative book would be a beautiful result. In the meantime I have begun to do a simple storyboard using PowerPoint to set out my narrative. There are obvious important gaps that need to be filled somehow.

So I think about others in the family who have compiled remarkable genealogies that are relevant and interesting to my story. One of my father’s cousins has passed away now and I wonder where that wealth of knowledge is now. Another cousin of my husbands father must be very old now if not also passed away – where is her lovely story and impressive pedigree charts now? Another – my cousin is contactable, but that branch of the family story is well documented already, so not as pressing.

Some of the old photos are gorgeous but without captions the identities are a mystery. ‘A picture tells a thousand words’ but also presents many questions; such a who, where, when, why.

This historic photo for example is of the family of Smiths who lived in Portland Victoria Australia. One of the boys is my paternal grandfather.

Smith_family_in_Portland_1920

Family members who knew them previously identified the others in the photo. A scribble on the back of a print states that this photo was taken in 1920 in Portland, just prior to the family being ‘separated’. The father and mother of this family are not in the photograph because they had both passed away. I know the story and it is a tragic tale that I will include in my personal family history when the time comes.

Meanwhile my investigations continue and I try to wrangle this precious pile of pictures into something interesting and useful.