Family Photos

The prompt for Week 8 of 52 Ancestors is 52 weeks is Family Photo. So many photos in this category, which one did I treasure the most. My eyes turned initially to the oldest and then I thought it is easy to overlook the treasures that are being created in your own lifetime so I have chosen a family photo taken in 1957.

1957 Biggs children

The Children of Charles and Hazel Biggs. Margaret Rose, Colin John (holding Anthony Roy) and Carolyn Mary. The photo was taken in the lounge room of the family home at 34 Highgate Street, Bexley in 1957.

 

It was a big event to have our photo professionally taken and we were dressed in our best clothes. Colin in his school uniform and Margaret and I in our dresses beautifully and lovingly made by our mother. Don’t be fooled by that perfect looking young man in the middle, he was always full of mischief and on the go. It is a wonder that they managed to get him to sit still for the duration of the shoot or at the very least taken the photographer’s camera apart to see how it worked.

I can remember looking at the portfolio of photographs and all us kids deciding that it had to be the one with our little brother Anthony crying. As far as we were concerned that was pretty well all that he did at that stage of his life.  He did prove to be worthwhile a little later in life as the perfect baby doll for Maggie and me to dress up and play with. I am sure that is how he developed his good humour and his patience and tolerance.

So good to grow up in a loving family and still all be “together” and enjoying our own families nearly 70 years later.

 

Love

The prompt for 52 ancestors in 52 weeks was Love. So many ideas sprang to mind but one particularly stuck. As anyone who knows me knows I love family history. I love the quirkiness of some of my “finds” when I am researching and one of the greatest places for those sort of finds is Trove. I came across this piece written, for “The Worker” a local Wagga Wagga paper, and printed in the 2 August 1906 edition.

It set me to wondering if the basis for the story may have been my Great Uncle Frederick Biggs. Click here for a link to his story. He was a traveller, selling pianos and other musical items and it may have been possible that Wagga was part of his territory. I can’t prove it one way or the other but it did make me chuckle and wonder…

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Am I a Shute or a Doherty?

In December 2014 I sent away my DNA for testing to Family Tree DNA. Like so many others I wanted to learn a little bit more about my family background, cultural history and genetic makeup. There were lots of matches, and it helped me to track down links to my Dad’s family.

When Ancestry became a significant provider in DNA testing, I decided to send a sample off to them as well. My tree which had grown through hard research was on Ancestry, and the thought of easier matching through their site enticed me. Once again lots of matches and connections made to cousins across the world. The thing I didn’t expect was to find that despite all the well-documented research and my mother’s own oral history the information was incorrect when it came to her parentage.

My mother was born on 5 September 1914 with a loving mother, Hazel Annie Shute (nee Chisholm) and her father, John (Jack) Doherty who cherished her from the day she was born. When my mother was 24 years old her mother, Hazel Annie, died from a long and debilitating illness. Her father, Jack shared his daughter’s grief at the loss of the woman he had loved for the past 25 years.

Two years later, in 1941, before my mother’s marriage, her father sat down with her to explain that he was not her biological father. He gave her a copy of her birth certificate which stated that William Shute, the man her mother had married in 1914, was her father. My mother was heartbroken. Her response was that as far as she was concerned Jack would always be her father despite what any piece of paper said.

Hazel & Pop copy

My mother, Hazel Edith with her father, John (Jack) Doherty

Despite my own sadness at finding out that my Pop was not biologically connected I continued my research and found documentation and two scandalous articles in “The Truth” that detailed my grandmother’s split from her husband and the subsequent case for support of her and her child. It is so difficult to describe the deep sorrow I felt at finding the evidence to prove Jack Doherty was not my biological grandfather. My grandmother’s story and details of the newspaper article can be found by clicking on this link.

When my Ancestry DNA results arrived, initially there were no surprises, but I did connect up with a few more cousins.  It was only last year that I was stunned to discover another match and that I had a close cousin that I knew nothing about. After contact, we were able to work out that we were related through Jack Doherty and his sister Kathleen Doherty.

Like my older, brother Colin (who despite all evidence refused to believe that Jack Doherty was not his grandfather), and my sister Maggie, I cried tears of joy that not only could we claim him as our Pop because of his love for us but now we had the evidence to prove he was our biological grandfather.

Why did they not declare that my mother was his daughter? It was more than likely that this decision was taken due to the consequences of illegitimacy. My mother’s birth and the announcement that she was illegitimate would have met with a hostile reaction from relatives including her uncle who was a strict Baptist minister.

Australia followed England’s law on “bastardy” which was harsh. These laws were not changed until 1926, but that did not change attitudes even well after World War 2. An illegitimate child was literally parentless at law, and even the subsequent marriage of the parents could not legitimise the offspring. To provide her with a secure childhood and remove the stigma of illegitimacy and the social, legal and emotional consequences it would have been felt that this action outweighed any impact this may have on her later in life. I like to think that Wiliam Shute agreed to this but I will never know.

I am now waiting for results from the Shute family line to confirm that William Shute was not my grandfather. Life is strange and full of surprises.

52 weeks for February

Well here are the prompts for February and my mind is running in circles thinking about what I will write:

Week 6 (February 4-10): Surprise
Week 7 (February 11-17): Love
Week 8 (February 18-24): Family Photo
Week 9 (February 25-March 3): At the Courthouse

Now all I need to do is settle down and get myself focused, no problem there …. or maybe just a bit!

 

At The Library

One of the things I am seriously addicted to is libraries. This addiction started when I was only five years old with our regular family visit to the local library to choose our books. To me it was like entering a wonderland, all the books just waiting for me to browse and even better being able to take a new selection home every week. Where school failed to interest me, there were books to fill the gaps in my education, stories to entertain and a world of information just waiting to be explored.

If anything my addiction only increased over the years and when it came time for retirement, and a chance for a tree change, top of the list of must-haves in the location we moved to was a library. We hit the jackpot when we moved to Bowral as we have three and an interlibrary exchange program as well.

Family history research has increased my library time even though it often means “going to the library” through my computer. In this regard, the National Library of Australia would have to the best place to go. There are millions of online resources, books, images, newspapers etc., readily available at no cost. These resources have proved invaluable in shedding light on various members of my family. The digitised newspapers have led me back through time to what life was like in the 19th and 20th Century in Australia and solved many of the puzzles about my family heritage and the lives my ancestors lived.

An in-person visit is also a treat. The National Library of Australia is located alongside the scenic Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. It is the largest reference library in Australia, concentrating on material relating to Australia and the Australian people. The first time I went there I expected to see bookshelves crammed with thousands of books, but with almost 17 million books, most of the books are not on display. A check of the index to place an order for just a few books (!) and before too long they are delivered. It is here that I found books written about my Shepherd family and the life experienced by the gold miners of the 19th century.

I would highly recommend a visit if you are in Canberra … I am sure it must be time for me to return again as well.