All at sea

This post is for my friend  Bailey Boat Cat http://baileyboatcat.com/ and his beloved Nocturne.

For the past few weeks I have been immersed in family history. Perhaps immersed is too mild a description; it’s more like drowning or struggling to keep my head above water, amidst a sea of facts and documents and wild guesses and endless possibilities…. so, that James was a cordwainer and that James was a postman and the other James was a dairy hand. Or were they? And what about that Robert; farm servant and agricultural labourer, or were they  two, different Roberts? And then, there are the Marys and the Elizabeths and the Marys and the Elizabeths and the Mary Elizabeths, who are sometimes occupied with nothing and sometimes with ‘domestic duties’. Domestic duties? What is meant by domestic duties? Is that short hand for the bearing and rearing of a dozen offspring, in as many years, all confusingly named James or Elizabeth or Mary or Elizabeth Mary and James and Robert or Robert James. After a couple of hours of research, I am begging my forebears to throw me the lifeline of a Hortense or a Hermione,  even a Phryne (Fisher, if possible ), but the best I get is an Isola, which isn’t a bad effort.

Isola? Isola! How did a little girl, born in New Zealand, to Scottish parents acquire the name Isola? Does it mean Island or Isle? I may find out one day but, in the meantime, my mind has sailed away to islands and how we, the families of now and before, travelled from one set of islands to another, on ships and boats with marvellous, exotic names.

In our family history, I find a list of boats, ships and sailing vessels that have held, for varying lengths of time, small portions of our life stories, as travellers and adventurers, workers and servicemen. Here is a small selection of  some of the names: Bolton, Caroline Agnes, Zambesi, Zealandia, Waikato, Mokoia, Neuralia, Ulimaroa, Warrimoo, Pinkney, Adi Rewa, Matua, Tofua, Oriana, Ratu Bulumakau and Seaspray . Each of these vessels has a fascinating story and a genealogy and lineage of  her own. Many of them were sent to watery graveyards or to the hell of a scrapyard. An ignoble end to the fine engineering and craftsmanship of the craft that made possible much of our family lore.

For those who are curious about maritime vessels, here are a few links.

http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?131733

http://digitalnzgeoparser.tripodtravel.co.nz/map/photograph-of-the-ship-mokoia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Pinkney_%28APH-2%29

http://www.nzmaritime.co.nz/matua.htm

This is a photo of myself (the little blonde curly-haired child) with my brother and mother, on board the Matua ( I think) circa 1957. Possibly en route from Fiji to Sydney or New Zealand or, maybe, both.

Matua? 1957?

Matua? 1957?

http://www.ssmaritime.com/Tofua.htm

(note the punkah louvre forced draught ventilation on the Tofua)

http://www.ssc.com.fj/seaspray.aspx

http://www.castawayfiji.com/

This photo was taken aboard the Seaspray (still alive and well, I think) on a trip to  Castaway Resort, circa 1967.

On the Seaspray to Qalito Island

On the Seaspray to Qalito Island

Anchor note: I didn’t  know this when I started my research but I have since discovered that August is New Zealand Family History Month; happy coincidence.

http://www.aucklandlibraries.govt.nz/EN/Events/Events/Pages/familyhistorymonth2013.aspx

From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.

  • Pt. III, The Theologian’s Tale: Elizabeth, sec. IV
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84 thoughts on “All at sea

      1. mmmarzipan

        Yes, we were out on our own boat (which was purchased from a very old Swedish man who had kept it in wonderful condition, but could no longer enjoy it the way he used to, unfortunately) this summer in the archipelago here. I am guessing he had some nice family adventures on it. We also cruised to the Norwegian fjords and I am not sure about the history of our vessel, but I can imagine that the people that live and work along the coasts there have many a tale to tell of sea life; both their own and their ancestor’s!

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Sounds absolutely beautiful. Maybe, one day, you may want to post about your boat. (Perhaps you have already.) As I have mentioned before, I am not a good sailor but I love the details and workmanship of boats and the concept of ‘shipshape’.

  1. Swithland Studios

    I could not attach images to my comment but I have put on Flickr a water colour painting of the Tofua done by E.A. Walkin in 1938 and also the cover page for a Freemason’s meeting programme held aboard the Tofua in July 1917 while in port at Freetown, Sierra Leone on the way to the Western Front. The link to the flickr set is: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zl3lsd/9605269048/in/set-72157635246206181/lightbox/

    You certainly did a lot of sea travel – the only boat I have been on besides the Cook Strait ferry was the M.V. Bradbury on Lake Winnipeg plotting soundings on drawings for the channel dredge. The Bradbury is now in a maritime museum in the town of Selkirk near Lake Winnipeg. I guess a part of both of us resides in a museum somewhere!

    Reply
      1. Swithland Studios

        It is strange to read about the Japanese assisting the ANZACs in WW1. My head is full of the WW2 activities of Japan.

        The story is that my first Douglas ancestor to Canada from Jedburgh, Scotland sailed with a wife and one child in 1820 with the loss of another born and died at sea. I have not been able to find the name of the ship so far.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          It is strange. I am sure I was never told that bit of history at school. 1820 is an early sailing. I expect you will trace it eventually 🙂

  2. baileyboatcat

    Oh I absolutely LOVE this post! How pawesome are the photos of you and your mum on Matua and Seaspray! You’re so cute! And a seasoned sailor!

    It’s amazing what you’ve been able to find out about your family. My mum’s grandma has asked her to find a photo of her birth mother (she was adopted). It’s complicated though because unfortunately in the last few years she’s passed away and we can’t go directly to the family to ask for one for fear of upsetting people since grandma was born after an aggression and we’re not sure if any of the family know about her and she doesn’t want to upset anyone.

    We are super duper busy this month but in September we will start our search for the photo…

    Thank you so much for sharing your sea travels with me!
    Bisous Bailey

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Bailey, I loved sharing my sea travels with you. However, I would have been a much happier sailor in my time if I had had a beautiful life jacket like yours, close at hand. No one seemed to care about important things like that. I do hope you find that photo. I am sure you will be able to ‘sniff’ it out eventually.

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Thank you. If it is one of yours Bailey I will have to stop eating chocolate and slim down a bit. Plenty of time to do that as it will be a long while before I am on a boat again.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Now there’s a thought! Some have already put their experiences on film. Although the topic of this documentary is disturbing, it is an excellent account of the complexities that arise from a colonial childhood. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzozLHu_Oxw I didn’t know the Scotts personally but one person I did know who has made her life in film is Cynthia Beatt http://www.invisible-frame.com/en/home/ and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078849/

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Indeed it is, but the film itself is a wonderful piece of work. I haven’t read the book but I am listening to parts of it via the radio at the moment. Fiji has been through some rough times and it has been heartbreaking for those of us who knew a different, though not necessarily better, Fiji. We all hope, though, that Fiji will thrive.

  3. Heather in Arles

    How amazing. I am so fascinated by your family stories and understand how overwhelming it can be as my companion is doing much the same this Summer. We put so much stock in the sound of a name, don’t we? As if it really implies part of who we are??

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Does your companion remember to come up for air? I get so absorbed I sometimes forget which country, or which town ,I am in; a bit annoying for the rest of the household 🙂 Naming is a curious business. I look at the list of children in a family and feel that perhaps the first six names were important or significant, but, by the time child 14 or 15 arrived, the child was important but the name was immaterial. ‘Well, that John has left home, so let’s just call this one John. Too tired to think of anything else, anyway.” Nowadays, in a modern household, where children are usually few and far between, the name we choose for each child becomes so important. Thanks for being fascinated with my family stories. I think we all have wonderful and fascinating stories to tell 🙂

      Reply
      1. Heather in Arles

        In looking at these photos again, I thought how exotic your story is–and yet it is normal to you and yours! But yes, I do agree that we all have something of interest to share whether we realize it or not. Fourteen or fifteen children! And I didn’t even manage to have one!

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Yes, the number of children is quite astonishing to my modern perspective, but the children didn’t all survive. Some lived a few days, or a few months, and others died in their teens or early twenties. I feel sure that some of my forbears (the mothers, that is) died as much from broken hearts as anything else. Some family members were childless too, and, in one case, were given a sibling’s child to care for. So many stories! And my story is mostly normal to me until I realise that I have only a very small peer group who shared that special colonial childhood with me. There are only a dozen or so who know immediately what I mean about a certain beach or a certain school experience. Perhaps you feel something similar about your particular experience in Arles and falling in love with Remi etc. Who in your peer group shares a similar journey with you? And that makes me wonder how those forbears of mine managed to tell their strange new stories to the folk back in the old country. Now ENOUGH! My reply is becoming a post on its own. Thank you for your sweet attention to my stories. I love it.

  4. lagottocattleya

    I’m impressed by the quality of the photos – just like many other bloggers say here. I was born in 1957 and my family have very few photos from those years. I know that some of my relatives left for America during the draughts and the difficulties here in the early 20th century. I only know that one of them was a painter (landscapes and nature) and I have thought many times of doing research about those who emigrated…I guess maybe when I’m retired I will give it a try.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      How exciting to have a painter in the family tree. That reminds me of the time that I read ‘painter’ as occupation on a great uncle’s records. I was so excited until I realised he was a regular house painter and not an artist painter 😀 I am not sure why we have so many photos; perhaps it was because we were far from family and my parents wanted to keep the folk back in New Zealand up to date with our life in Fiji.

      Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Indeed! In the early days the slide photos had to be sent away (to NZ perhaps?) to be developed. When they arrived back in the mail, it was very exciting to see how they had turned out. And then there would an evening where we would get out the slide projector and look at the new slide photos and also look at some of the older ones too. Ah, how we amused ourselves before computers and digital photography 😀

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, a few interesting things come to light but there is a lot of routine boring stuff too. I like trying to find photos or old paintings of where the ancestors once lived. Some places in England and Scotland have changed very little over the years and are probably much the same as when my forebears lived there.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It’s lovely how haiku connects the world. I was thinking the other day that ,if my elementary school had used some of your Haiku lessons, I would probably have a much better understanding of poetry than I do. And I would be less afraid of trying to write poems.

      Reply
  5. Forest So Green

    I inherited some old family photos and I found that the black and white photos are in good shape but the color photos faded terribly. Good luck with your research 🙂

    Reply
  6. pleisbilongtumi

    Very interesting story. I am also in research on my family root at the moment. Thank you for nice writing and I am amazed by the photos you have been keeping in such good condition.

    Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I can’t remember when colour prints became easily available. I know when I got my first camera in about 1969, I was using black and white film.

        2. pleisbilongtumi

          My brother purchased a camera in 1969 and I borrowed it for our high school’s cross country event when the color film still not available in the city. were you at high school too in this period? 🙂

  7. tiny lessons blog

    Lovely photos – lovely you and the blond curls! I am so impressed by your research. I have thought of starting my own but not yet had the time (or so I put my excuse). Maybe I need to reconsider…what you have been doing and uncovering is fascinating!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I so wish I had those fair curls still. And, oh, yes the amount of time required for this type of research is daunting. But with the blog system or something like Ancestry.com you can do the family tree in small pieces and then leave it for awhile, if you wish. Perhaps your visit to your father will be an opportunity to delve in to some history. Sounds a bit grim….but a nice place to start is by the headstone of a relative in an old churchyard. A small meditation, a small conversation with the past and………away you go……:)

      Reply
  8. lensandpensbysally

    I understand how captivating and consuming it is to investigate family history. As you said, it also is fulfilling and staggeringly engaging. The Internet provides such opportunities to piece together the narrative. And what a bonus that you can work in tandem with your sibling.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It is a bonus to have another family member helping with this project. I think I would find it too large an effort to do it on my own. Besides, my sister is really the natural keeper of the family story. Every family has a natural story teller /keeper and I think she is ours and I am the number one assistant 🙂

      Reply
  9. Mrs. P

    I love the picture of you on the Seaspray and have always had fond moments on water travel no matter how big or small. Surprisingly there were no fishermen in the family genes as i feel like I am at home when on the water.

    I do understand the dilemma of common family names and struggled through five generations bearing the same name but eventually it all sorted out. Like you, I was thrilled to run across the name Azuba in my line. Though it was quite different I was unable to obtain much information with it, most likely because it was a female name rather than male.

    I copied a paragraph from this link heraldry.sca.org/loar/1989/08/lar.html which also strongly suggest Isolea comes from islands but they won’t state so positively. “Isolea di Bari. Name only. The letter of intent noted that the submittor had provided documentation for a daughter of Francesco Sforza named “Isolea” or “Isotta:”, citing a book from “Facts on File Publications. The submittor’s paperwork indicated that a copy of the relevant page should have been forwarded to Laurel. It was not, leaving us in something of a quandary on whether the name was in fact a manuscript misreading or not, since the original source was not given (a number of popular works from “Facts on File” are notorious for miscitation. . .). In this case, where “Isotta” is normally the diminutive of “Isolda”, which is very similar to the cited form in the hand of the day and “isolea” would normally be an adjectival form derived from the noun “isola” (=”island”), we feel we have to be cautious and pend the name until a copy of the documentation is forwarded to Laurel.”

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Now there’s an interesting name; Azuba! Did you find the origins of that name? Thanks for all the information on Isola; I didn’t realise there were so many variations of it. It could also be a variation or misspelling of the popular Scottish name Isla, which also has its origins in an island (Ilay). Finally, I hate to admit this, but I am a terrible, terrible sailor. When I am at sea, seasickness is my middle name 😦

      Reply
      1. Mrs. P

        I hadn’t ever thought to look up the name and so I just did, it has Hebrew origins which are biblical and there are two general meanings 1) abandoned and 2) forsaken. But an interesting note is that the tradition is to name after a family member (not the parents) generally the father’s mother and secondly the mother’s mother. Which gave me a clue as to how I can locate her family which I have been unable to do so far. I did find another Azubah that I believe was a generation back so now I can go forward and see if there is a connection.

        If I ever have the opportunity to travel your way then we can watch the ships from the shore, I enjoy that as well and it won’t make you sea sick. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Oh good; watching ships from the shore is much more my thing. I will be glad of your company. Very interesting discovery about Azuba, the meaning and the use of the name. She is no longer abandoned…..you are on her trail, connecting her up to her family.

  10. Katherine's Daughter

    How did you do your research (web, etc)? I am curious about my own family tree although my younger sister did do some research while we were in Greece five years ago.
    Beautiful pictures of the boats and sea- thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      At the moment, most of my research has been through the library system (online) and also using a wonderful site we have called Papers Past which has digital copies of old newspapers. The other day I tried Ancestry.com on a trial basis. I am not sure how I feel about that yet. Glad you enjoyed the boat photos 🙂

      Reply
  11. YellowCable

    It sounded to me like you were drowning in the deep sea 🙂 I am impressed by the picture quality of the old pictures that you have (1957 and 1967). Both are well preserved and well re-captured to be viewed again here.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I was! I needed a life jacket for my journey through history 🙂 The photos were on slides which is why they have lasted so well. Do you remember slides and slide projectors?

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you. The family history certainly offers some interesting insights. It surprises me that, given the tough living conditions, many of the older generation still lived to a great age.

      Reply
  12. ordinarygood

    I have been making forays into my family history too of late. I am on the trail of a mother of an adopted child. It was only late last year when searching for a death and burial that I learnt of this adopted child into the family. In a curious twist, I know the biological father but the biological mother is sealed up thus far.
    As for names I have a rarity in “Pemley”. It would seem that her name began as Pamela or Pemela but “evolved” to Pemley over time.
    The addiction of Genealogy certainly helps winter days go by quickly.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It is addictive! But very satisfying now one can do so much research online. My sister and I are working together on this via the internet. We have found a few surprises; to us, at any rate. Pemley is an unusual, outstanding name. Some of the birthplaces I have found are wonderfully complex and interesting.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes! When I stopped to think about it, I was completely astonished by the amount of sea travel we used to do. Not just my generation but the ones who went before as well.

      Reply
  13. Sofia

    Very sweet photos! Oh, so your family travelled a lot by boat? How come? I know I have relatives – my grandmothers fathers siblings – many of them – emigrated to america. I want to know more about it.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      We certainly did do a lot of sea travel. I am sure you would find it very interesting tracing your family’s move to America. There is a lot of information available online now.

      Reply

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