Sunday, 2 February 2014

Bravery, Curious or Necessity?

Many thanks to Jill for swapping days with me. The post you are about to read is not in fact the post I had planned and written. The reasons for writing this one will become apparent as you read on!

When I first started being curious about my heritage I was in my early teens and my curiosity was about my paternal side of my family history. I know marginally more now than I knew then, more than thirty years on. I recall asking a few questions, getting nowhere. According to my journal this is what I thought

"12th October It appears there is a mystery here, although I do not understand why. Mum and Gran are saying nothing and neither are the Aunts. Curious and one day I will find out. Whatever it is, it surely can not be that bad. Frustrated. Signed for the hockey team and managed to break my glasses."

That curiosity never went away. It bubbled under the surface until I was in my late teens when I began visiting my Great Aunts (referred to as the Aunts above) on my own. Back then though I wrote up the notes after the visits, so it was as I recalled the details. In the mid 1980's I started being more obvious about my note taking and the Aunts loved it.You can read more about that at my Where it all started post. I would arrive with notebook, a few pens, a treat for us to consume and a treat or request from the Aunt I was visiting.

Rose Marshall (nee Butcher) 1900 - 1994
The best visit was in 1993 when I managed to get two of my Great Aunts in the same room; my Grandfather's oldest sister Rose and his youngest sister Doll. I also invited along their first cousin Ivy. We had a brilliant time. I loved it, they joked, laughed and turned the afternoon into a journey of their early years. Rose teasing Doll, all that sisterly affection of yesteryear flooding back.

It was a magical afternoon and we all had a great time. Now, none of them are here. They are missed daily and are often in my thoughts as they spent many hours with me telling me information and listening to my hypothesis and my discoveries. Nothing was more frustrating when I told the eldest of the sisters, Rose a major discovery to me, for her to respond, " yes that is right." When I asked why she had never said, she responded with the wise retort of "you would have not discovered it for yourself and that is the point of your journey is it not?"

Do you ever wish you could have bottled the wise, support and knowledge of your relatives? I do. Yesterday I sat with my Mum in hospital. She is fairly poorly but on the long, windy and uphill path to recovery. I looked at her hands. Aged with the trace of arthritis and commented that she had Aunt Rose's hands. Mum looked down and said yes and then we started thinking about the family members, those we knew and know and who looks like and has the traits of others. It was a fascinating conversation and one that exhausted Mum.

I came home and wrote eight pages in my journal, the comments I could recall and the comparisons we made. So many of the family genes are repeated because I have a rather large amount of safe intermarrying. On researching, my Grandparents were sixth cousins although they did not know that in their lifetimes.

I then reflected on the travelling my early ancestors did. How did they feel when a member of the family decided to move on? It is no doubt that I have that traveling bug, (I am acutely aware that I should be in warmer climes right now.) What was the catalyst for that move? Was it curiosity? Were they brave? Necessity even or perhaps a bit of all three.

I firmly believe we need to understand the social, political and economic standing of the Country and community that our ancestors lived in.

A branch of my Ellis family migrated from Elstead Surrey to Geelong Victoria Australia in 1854. I have, over the years traced various descendants. We have corresponded, stayed with each other and bridged those gaps that separated our ages and locations in order to share the facts of our common ancestors. That is such a marvellous feeling. I wonder what John Ellis who migrated in 1854 would have thought of that? The reality is that the actual concept of returning home was financially out of the grasp of the family. The fact that over time we have invented planes to enable us to reach those destinations in about a day rather than the months it took them by boat in cramped conditions is a testament to the curiosity of mankind.

Wall of John Ellis' farm building
Copyright J Goucher October 2012
When I was in Geelong in October 2012, I stood by this old wall. To the average person it means nothing. It is quite simply an old wall.

To me and the Ellis family descendants it is the last remaining evidence of the farm and house that was lived in by my ancestor John Ellis and his family.

The wall represents John's desire to provide for his family. His bravery, curiosity and a lifetime of hard work.

Until next time.


  1. lovely story, your Aunts sound wonderful

  2. What a wonderful resource, your journal. I so wish I had one.

    1. I have just caught up on a few of my responses from the Book of Me. Here is the response about Diaries and Journals -

  3. Such a thought provoking and emotional post, Julie, and beautifully written. I know exactly what you mean as I know next to nothing about my grandmother's early life - not even the name of her mother, as I have been unable to trace a birth certificate - my major brick wall. I was close to my mother and aunt, but never asked the right questions at the right time (perhaps a bit afraid to raise what I sensed might be a sensitive issue?). Now it is too late. I did wonder if she might be illegitimate, but her father's name (deceased) is given on her marriage certificate. With good wishes to your mother for a steady recovery.

    1. Sue, don't take too much notice of the father's name on the marriage certificate. I have researched illegitimate children for several clients, and in almost every case there was a father's name on the marriage certificate. Sometimes it was a stepfather, and sometimes it was pure fiction.

  4. I don't know if I could restrain myself if a family member asked a question that I knew the answer to, as your Aunt Rose must have done. Journals are wonderful. I wish I'd kept one consistently. I enjoyed this post. Glad you and your mum had a chance to talk about family.

    1. Kristin, That restraint was so typical of her. That strong fortitude was amazing. Even when her sight was really poor she would instruct a particular tea set to be used and would know if you didn't. How she knew I don't know but she did. She knew SO much. She was the "head" of the family and when she passed away she left such a gap. Yet the knowledge she passed on and the love she shared was very special. I probably gained more details from her about the family than her own grandchildren did.

      That said, I was bought up as a matter of course visiting my Great Aunts from an early age, whereas some of my cousins did not. It is only when you become an adult and get older do you realise the full value of those special times.

  5. Beautiful Julie, thank you for sharing. Your Aunt's sound like wonderful women

    1. Sharon, Indeed my Aunts were wise in their own ways.

      Rose was the eldest who maintained her position with her siblings even when they were all elderly ladies! I once heard her tick off her younger sister Nell who was exactly 10 years younger than she was. The ticking off was due to the talking through the results of the cricket test match.

      Doll was the youngest. Very proper and liked things just so. She would routinely call her older sister Nell by the nick name of Nelly which Aunt Nell absolutely hated. Aunt Doll was also my Godmother. She was very close to my Grandfather and like her sister Nell, as she ended her days asked for my Grandfather.

      The bonds with siblings I think are never really broken and I do find the calling for siblings very curious. Perhaps though there are bonds that we as historians never really fathom, understand or are even aware of.

  6. I love that you were smart enough to write notes up of your visits with your relatives. Oh how I wish I had done that. I can't wait to read more. You have such a wonderful way of telling a tale.

  7. It's a lovely story, and also a rather beautiful old wall!

  8. Beautifully written story. I am encouraged to interview my dad's best friend this week.


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