I was only a young child but I clearly remember sitting around the kitchen table covered with a hand-embroidered tea cloth and the remainders of an afternoon tea. The tea set used was our good china and I think it was possibly the end of a Saturday afternoon tea with our Aunty Rose.
It was one of the few occasions when my mother shared her memories of her mother, my grandmother, Hazel Annie, and being curious about our family even at a young age my ears pricked up and I sat transfixed as Mum explained how she had been shown by her mother how to read the leaves.
It was a simple process, Make a pot of tea with proper tea leaves (no tea bags allowed) and let it steep, pour into a cup ( a china cup and saucer, not a mug) without straining, When finished with just a small amount left in the bottom, swirl the cup counterclockwise. Tip the cup upside down onto the saucer then turn it over and look at the pattern of the tea leaves. The pattern the leaves form will tell your fortune. Unfortunately, I couldn’t work out any patterns in the leaves as a child and have to admit it is a skill I certainly don’t have today. If you would like to try it yourself there are many websites and books as for me I would need the how to read tea leaves for dummies.
There is no doubt in my mind that my mother was just a little bit psychic and with her creamy coffee coloured skin, black hair and exotic looks she would have been a perfect gypsy. That mother’s skill in knowing your children so well meant we rarely escaped from being found out when we had been up to mischief. Her skills extended further than just her family. She was open hearted offering a shoulder to cry on, a willingness to lend a friendly ear and provide comfort whatever the source of pain. Maybe she was not psychic and able to tell fortunes but those of a naturally skilled counselor.
So now when I drink my morning cuppa, brewed with boiling water and real leaves I think of my Mum preparing a pot of tea in an age-old ritual that is involved in making the perfect brew. It makes me smile when I think about that chat over a cuppa and how maybe it was not just a friendly gesture but a little bit of magic.
There are many reasons why my ancestors remarried but the sadest story of multiple marriages belongs to my 3 times great grandfather Daniel Chisholm. His first wife Sarah was a fit young woman of 24 years and pregnant at the time of her marriage to Daniel in 1829. Women in this period saw childbearing as their fate and duty and as was expected she gave birth to eight children during her seventeen year marriage until her death from puerperal fever in 1846.
Left a widower with five surviving children Daniel remarried withing six months. His wife, Ann Bradshaw was 15 years younger than Daniel and 29 years of age at the time of their marriage, She had two children, the second child died when six months old and she died in the same quarter of the year. Her cause of death is unknown.
Once again Daniel remarried within six months to Martha Wilson (possibly a relative of his first wife). When they married in 1850 Daniel was 48 and Martha was twenty years younger. Their marriage lasted 17 years until her death in 1867. Martha had six children, dying following the birth of her last child Milton.
Daniel did not remarry. As well as losing his wives, it appears that only five of his children survived to adulthood. It is difficult to understand such a high mortality rate in this day and age. We have much to be thankful for where modern medicine is concerned. I am also extremely thankful that one of his surviving children was my 2 x great grandfather, Joseph Wilson Chisholm, who established the Chisholm line in New Zealand. Without him I would not be here today!
If you would like to read more about Daniel click here
When my grandfather, Jack Doherty, met my grandmother, he was an itinerant worker and boarder in her mother’s home in Brisbane around 1913. He dearly loved her but she was separated from her husband, William Shute, who had returned to outback Australia so the relationship was not without problems. When Jack left to find work my grandmother Hazel Edith Shute (nee Chisholm) gave him “a photo in remembrance” of herself dated 2 November 1913.
On the back of the postcard/photo Hazel had written a poem that shows how deeply she had fallen in love with Jack.
Think of me at morn Think of me at night Think of me when far away And never forget to write
Think of me when you are happy Think of me when you are sad Think of the girl (Hazel) who dearly loves you Perhaps the thought will make you glad Eight little letters make three little words Forget me not (I love you)
The old old story ever new I have told my love for thee in these lines would tell again how dear thou art to me.
Yours always Hazel
Attempts at reconciling with her husband, William Shute, failed during November and she once again remained in Brisbance while he returned to Outback Queensland.
It appears that Jack returned to celebrate Christmas with Hazel and her family and it was at this reunion that their relationship was cemented and was to become life long. My mother was conceived aound the 20th December and DNA tests have confirmed that Jack Doherty was her father. The life story of Hazel Annie Chisholm can be read by clicking here
One of the family heirlooms that I treasure is a pair of plates that I think of as Harvest plates. They are majolica glazed bread platters with a moulded corn pattern and “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” in relief around the edges. My mother treasured these plates and they were only used on very special occasions. I especially remember them being brought out on Christmas day for our family feast. She told me they were from the Chisholm side of the family and were probably given to my great grandfather and great grandmother, Alfred Wilson Chisholm and Sarah Ann (nee Wood) as wedding presents.
The plates were of a very popular design used by a number of potteries in both Australia and NewZealand. I have received a comment that the bread plate was made at David Agnew’s pottery called ‘Sandhurst Pottery’ at Bundanba, Qld. in the period 1886-1911.
It looks like I will now have another area to research once restrictions ease and the museums are open.
Bread platter, ‘Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread’, earthenware with majolica glaze, David Agnew’s pottery called ‘Sandhurst Pottery’ at Bundanba, Qld. in the period 1886-1911. From the Biggs family collection.
We all have those school photos where we are lined up in rows with our classmates for our annual school photo. It is nice to look back on them and wonder what happened to all of our fellow students.
For my Mum, her early years of school in Brisbane were not happy ones. With her coffee-coloured skin, that turned a few shades darker from playing in the sun, and black hair she drew the attention of the school bullies who decided that she was an “Abo” and not worthy of their friendship. I can imagine her tears as the word’s and behaviour that were cruel and thoughtless made her feel ashamed and humiliated. Such overt racism was prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries and, it is not difficult to imagine the psychological damage that such loathing towards her caused making her feel less than her classmates.
Her parents did all they could to make her feel proud, telling her she was really an Indian princess (think of the sari’s I could wear if that were the truth!) and finally removing her from the State school and placing her in the local Catholic school where thankfully she was accepted for the beautiful young girl she was. By the time they had moved to Sydney, she had a large group of friends and recognised that the comments from her childhood were meaningless.
My research and DNA results confirm that my mother was not Aboriginal, nor any other dark-skinned race. I have to admit to being a bit disappointed at this as it would be wonderful to have such ancestry. The dark colouring comes from her Scottish Chisholm heritage with many of the NZ Chisholms sharing the same colouring.
My Mum was probably around eight years old in this school photo, attending Dutton Park Primary School in 1923. She is the fifth child from the left marked with an X (Mum did this so that we knew which one was her).
Has anything changed much? I had to laugh when my daughter came home from High School one day (yep, she has the olive skin and dark hair) to say that the “Greek” girls thought she was one of them and wanted to know which part of Greece her family came from!
Mulled over this trigger word a bit as there were so many choices. I decided that I would share one of my favourite photos of my Mum, Hazel Edith Biggs (nee Chisholm). Before she married she worked in a cakeshop and it is here that my memory lets me down so I hope my siblings can remind me. I think the shop was in Beverly Hills and she managed the shop front and sales assistants. Mum is the one in the middle marked with a small x. She remained a life long friend with the owner who I think was called Sid Ward. Anyway here is the photo … I can almost smell the cream buns!
After writing about my grandmother’s brother with the trigger word of ” sister”, it seemed appropriate to look at her only sister Ethel Edith Chisholm.
My mother remembered that the two sisters did not get on and she recalled having no contact with her aunt after they left Brisbane to live in Sydney. Once again I turned to the “Chisholm Cameos” written by Audrey Barney to find some clues to her life.
With the trigger word of ” brother”, it reminded me of my grandmother’s “missing” brother. I think it most likely that the connection was severed when her brother became a Baptist minister.
My grandmother, Hazel Annie Chisholm, had separated from her husband after less than two years of marriage. She began a relationship with a Catholic who was the love of her life and my grandfather. When she sent her daughter to the local Catholic school I imagine that this would have been the final straw for Albert who had wholeheartedly become a Baptist. This would have meant strong opposition to divorce and the holding of anti-catholic/papist sentiments.
Thanks to his granddaughter, Robyn Rayner and the Chisholm family researcher, Audrey Barney, it is now possible to share his story. To read more about him click here
As I go through the family tree and look at all the members of my family that fought in conflicts around the world I feel so sad for all those young men whose lives were lost or their futures irreparably damaged by war. Another family member who I have not mentioned is from my mother’s Chisholm side of the family. Robert Stanley Chisholm was one of my New Zealand first cousins and like my Uncle Roy, he joined the RAF during the Second World War and lost his life flying in a bombing raid over Europe. You can read more about him by clicking here.
The one brick wall that causes me the most grief is for my 4 x great grandfather Hugh Chisholm. Even my Chisholm family history mentor and cousin Audrey from New Zealand haven’t been able to help me crack where he was born. I know from my DNA and the link is in Scotland but I can’t seem to shift him from England when he married in Yorkshire in 1795. He was a miner so I am now checking all records that I can find with the name Chisholm or similar who had an occupation as a miner as it was a job that was almost automatically taken up by the children. Fingers crossed something comes to light