Tag Archives: family tree

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

Gathering stories at the modern hearth

In some traditions, winter is a time for families to gather round the hearth and sing and tell, and retell, their stories. It is winter here and, appropriately,  I am busy  recounting, recording and researching family history,  stories, myths and legends. It is fascinating ‘work’, but very exhausting for a scatterbrain, like myself, who has a disinclination for the orderliness and systemic approach needed for successful genealogical study. What that means is that I keep forgetting names and dates and things like which person is my great-aunt and which person is my great- aunt’s second husband’s brother.

Anyway, I do the best I can, and hope that great-aunt’s second husband’s brother, dead for ever so many years, will forgive me 🙂

As I find information, I tell it to my family. Some of my regular followers may remember that I am the only one of my family in Christchurch. The rest of my immediate family live across the ditch, better known as the Tasman Sea, in Australia. So, for story telling, we cannot gather round a true hearth. Instead, we gaze in to the glow of our individual computer screens, and the investigation and celebration of our common narrative begins. (We would do Skype video if our broadband were faster and cheaper! ) There is laughter and sadness  and a plethora of memories, and, sometimes, as we chat, we gain new insights and knowledge. Other times, we become confused and lost in trying to understand the whys and wherefores of  our family roots.

Here is a typical Skype conversation of an evening. This one concerns a death notice I found for our great great grandmother who was referred to as a relict.

“[31/07/2013 12:56:52 a.m.] Sister: i like in the papers past the death notice “a relict of”
 Me: yes
 Me: yes
 Sister: it sounds like a relic
Me: it is
Me: it means a left over
Me: a relic
Sister: like u r old and left over frm thr couple that was
Me: a remnanat

Sister: heheeheh

Me: remnant
Me: also widow, or dowager
Sister: omg it really truely means it
Sister: hilar
Me: Ye s\
Me: hilair

Sister: okgtb
[31/07/2013 12:58:29 a.m.] Sister : nite nite”

The conversation happens after midnight, my time, and has no regard for grammar, for punctuation or for spelling; it is free-form, as if we truly were side by side discussing our latest find in the family story.

Here is another story time from our modern-day hearth, the computer screen. This time, my mother and I are engaged in a tale of her meeting with royalty.

“[25/07/2013 9:41:54 p.m.]  My Mother:  you all know the story of how I was introduced to Lord  Louis ofcourse
Me: You can tell me again
Me: because I probably don’t remember it properly
My Mother: well Gwen was sick and Uncle Ernie decided to take me along to the Civic Reception for the Mountbattens ,I was introduced and Lord M gave my hand a shake   very Royal  it was all over very Quickly really I think they were on their way back to England
Me: What did you wear?
My Mother: probably my best dress it wasnt an evening affair
Me: what was your best dress? Do you remember? Did you need gloves and a hat?
Me: It must have been a quiet visit to Christchurch because nothing is coming up about it on the internet
My Mother: No Ithink it was rather informal really and very short Idont recall my dress  or having hat or gloves”

And thus the conversation went, and the strands of family history were considered and sorted and reworked, much as though we were by the fireside of old, working together on the spinning and weaving of sturdy, new cloth  to keep us warm in the days ahead . Through some further investigation on my part, I was able to tell my mother, later, that the Mountbattens made a fleeting  visit to Christchurch in 1946. And we, my mother and I, went on to recall the time she and my father  met Queen Elizabeth, on a walkabout,  in Christchurch in 2002.

Much of my mother’s Christchurch, the physical structure of it, was destroyed by the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.  The churches she knew, the schools she went to; all rubble.  However, I was very pleased to be able to tell her, from my recent family research,  that the home where she spent the first  years of her life is still standing. As is the adjacent building which was her father’s first shop in Christchurch. The building, which is currently home to a hairdressing business, is being repaired and strengthened to new earthquake standards. So not all is lost to time, and, just to be sure this piece of our history will be around for future story telling and reminiscing, I took some photos and uploaded them to the web, my flash drive and my external hard drive.

© silkannthreades