#52 Ancestors: Nurture

The trigger word for this week was Nurture and it seemed appropriate with Mother’s Day almost here. Instead of a mother though, I have examined the life of one of my “maiden” grand aunts, Emily Biggs.

It is so easy to overlook the lives of these unmarried women when doing family history as they had no descendants, but it is often the case, that these women who were regarded by society as unfulfilled spinsters held the family together in tough social and economic times and that is certainly true in the case of my unmarried grand aunts.

Emily and her older sister Alice, raised my father and his younger brother after their mother was admitted to Callan Park. When their youngest brother, Francis turned to them for support they continued a family role of being capable, responsible and loving carers to his sons as well as a major source of support to their brother during a terrible situation.

Alice Mary Biggs

Alice Biggs c 1912. Photo in Biggs family collection

Emily Biggs

Emily Biggs c 1912. Photo in Biggs family collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Emily and her sister Alice had a great impact on my father and his brother Fred and I think of them with kindness and thanks that due to their care and concern the two young boys grew into wonderful, loving and caring men. Thank you so much Aunty Em and Aunty Al.

To read more about Emily click here 

#52 Ancestors: Road Trip

It was not until the early 60s that my family owned a car, and the meaning of the word road trip came into existence for us. By that time there were only two little fledglings left in the nest, my 6-year-old brother, Tony, and myself a somewhat temperamental 13-year-old.  These road trips almost seemed like a rite of passage as I changed from a child to an adult wanting the security and support of my family but fighting for the need to be independent.

49 Holidays mum tony carol

Our Vanguard and Mum with a couple of swim stars

Our two-tone Vanguard built like a tank and appropriately named after a British battleship, had a spacious interior, a heater (no air conditioning in those days) and no radio (although as anyone in my family will tell you I was not averse to singing whether appreciated by the rest of the family or not). The car would be loaded the day before all ready for an early start on the big day so that we could “beat the traffic”.

nrma

An NRMA strip road map. MAAS collection 2011/73/1

My father was not a confident driver, and he took his job preparing for the trip and keeping his family safe extremely seriously. Apart from servicing and fastidiously cleaning the car including making sure the rubber strip was hanging from the bumper bar to prevent car sickness (did that really work?) he also made a trip to the NRMA to order strip maps for our specific journey. Not only did they tell you what route to take and distances between towns but also exciting places to visit. On every trip, I hoped that I would be allowed to hold the maps which were like the holy grail to me. How proud I was to be trusted with them making sure we would not get lost and telling Dad about every approaching curve in the road.

While it is almost traditional for siblings to fight when on a road trip, whether it was the roominess of the rear seat or the large difference in our ages it seemed that I grew closer to my little brother during these trips sharing the scenery as it zoomed past without having to fight for a window seat. Maybe it was because he put up with my singing and didn’t try to take possession of my road maps?

My mother’s role in all of this was to see bags were packed with appropriate clothing and most important of all the provision of refreshments for our journey. The cake tin, chock-a-block with homemade cake and biscuits, a thermos of tea, homemade sandwiches or a loaf of bread and “the makings” and cold drinks packed into the boot with instructions to make sure “it’s easy to get to”.

30 Caravan Tony

Mum and Dad with Tony at Coffs Harbour Caravan Park

Arriving at our destination was only half the fun. My Dad was a cautious driver making for a slow trip with pulling over for tea and a snack and stops at places of interest. My Dad was certainly an early adopter of what we today call “slow travel” where it is not just about the destination but the journey as well. As part of that philosophy, we would naturally turn off the road to a motel or a caravan park after four or five hours driving (including stops) with the standard comment from Dad “that’s enough driving for one day”.  Instead of flying past the small towns that dotted the coast it always allowed time for us to see the “sights”, try our luck at a bit of fishing off the pier or have a dip at the local beach.

These trips created the most beautiful memories for me and are also part of our family’s story. When I think of my parents the memories of these road trips seem to bring them to life. Did they know they were creating cherished memories, that would last not only long after the end of the journey but all through my life?

 

#52 Ancestors: At Worship

St Thomas Enfield

St Thomas Anglican Church, Enfield

Down through our family history, the connection to religion and church has been strong whether they were dissidents in 18th Century England (my 4 x great grandfather James Biggs from Potterne); leading the establishment of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland (John’s 4 x great grandfather, The Rev George Maunsell from Carlow in Ireland); being an itinerant Wesleyan preacher in the untamed bush of New Zealand (my 2 x great grandfather, Joseph Wilson Chisholm); or coming as immigrants to a new country and finding a place to worship (the Henderson family).

 

After immigrating to Australia, my 2 x great grandfather Thomas Henderson, his wife Margaret and their children worshipped at the Church of St Thomas at Enfield after they established themselves on a farm at Strathfield. It is also where my great grandfather Stephen Biggs married my grandmother Margaret Henderson on 19 February 1859.

Built of sandstone in the style of a typical English Village Church it is in the grounds of St Thomas that you will find the graves and headstones of many pioneering families including the final resting place of many of the Henderson and Biggs family who were the roots of our family in Australia.

anna grave

The headstone of Stephen Biggs, his wife Margaret and their daughter Anna in the cemetery of St Thomas Church, Enfield

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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Biggs family in 18th Century

Over the past few weeks I have been completely immersed in all things 18th Century. From rereading some of Austin’s novels, lots of historical records and the most wonderful treasure of a book Mary Bacon’s World: A farmer’s wife in eighteenth century Hampshire , it is written by Ruth Facer and is based on and includes many extracts from her diary. So now I have “receipts” for every thing from curing an argue to pickling walnuts.With the past couple of rainy cold days I have taken a step back in time or climbed another limb on the family tree to put together my 3 x great grandfather, James Biggs’, story who was born in 1764. If you would like to read about him click here.