Knitting

With winter well and truly here, the urge to knit has taken over. It is a very soothing and satisfying way to spend a cold winter’s day. As I was knitting, I remembered that the needles I was using belonged to my Mum and while they have little dollar value I do treasure them.

knitting mum

It would have been a rare thing for any family to purchase a knitted garment in the 1950s. My Mum knitted for the entire family, everything from baby jackets, school jumpers to thick pullovers for the outdoors, her hands always busy with her knitting needles. Everything was knitted with love, and that seemed to make anything she made extra cuddly and warm.

Mum knitting_2 copy

Even when Mum was in her nineties, she still continued to knit, and many of the family received her lovely coathangers. She also made a special one for her oldest granddaughter Jeanine to hang her wedding dress on.

coat hanger

As for Mum’s needles, I have been remiss in failing to teach my daughter how to knit, so I am not too sure who will end up being the keeper of the knitting needles. I do know that my sister in law is wonderful at crocheting and I will have to pass on Mum’s crochet needles to her. Like my Mum, every stitch Michelle does is made with love, and I have been fortunate to be a recipient of one of the beautiful crocheted blankets, so I know that she will carry on the tradition.

knitting

#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?

 

DNA

DNA can be somewhat of a contentious and confusing issue but for someone like me it is incredibly helpful and slots in well with solid research when tracing a family tree. DNA has shown me that you can’t always believe oral history handed down through the family and you can’t always believe the formal documentation that more often than not you use for proof.

It was thanks to a DNA test that I “met” a very close match online. I thought I had thoroughly researched my family history over three generations but this relationship did not appear and given the match, it should have. I have a huge amount of collated information, oral family history, birth certificates, court notes, newspaper articles that I have used to prove that William Shute, my grandmother’s husband, is my grandfather. My match was descended from the Doherty’s so we compared notes/trees and realised that my Shute connection was unlikely. A descendant of my supposed grandfather William Shute kindly agreed to have her DNA tested and there was no match.

My grandmother separated from her husband very early in her marriage and to all intents and purposes Jack Doherty became her husband and my mother’s father. My mother was told that Jack was not her biological father when she had to provide a birth certificate on her marriage. Her birth had been registered under William Shutes name probably to ensure her legitimacy. My mother was very distressed to be told that Jack was not her biological father but she always regarded him as her father and the man that had raised and loved her.

For me, this makes DNA testing worthwhile and our family celebrated the confirmation that our Pop was definitely our biological grandfather as well as the Pop we loved. I can imagine this would not be the experience in other cases and why some are wary of having their DNA checked.

Brick Wall

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

Prompts for April

Just so I won’t get lost decided to post the April prompts on my blog.  Now to think about what I am going to write.

Week 14 (April 1-7): Brick Wall
Week 15 (April 8-14): DNA
Week 16 (April 15-21): Out of Place
Week 17 (April 22-28): At Worship

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.