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Chasing down those Fairfax Ancestors….. June 16, 2017

Posted by Robbie in Musings.
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Some time ago I wrote about tracing back the women in my family especially as the name Fairfax had popped up as a middle name throughout the generations.  Currently I’m having a little break from study – next semester’s units don’t start for a few weeks yet – so I thought I would continue the task begun with the unraveling of those Fairfax, Kirkby and Welch intermarriages.

Rigorous examination of the marriages of the various daughters over the generations have revealed quite a few more Fairfax middle names as well as a whole new (to me) branch.

My 4x Great Grandfather, Benjamin Fairfax (b 1758) married twice – to Dorothy Kirkby (b 1766) and to her younger sister Mary (b 1768).  Mary became my step 4x G grandmother as well as already being my 4x great aunt.  Mary gave Benjamin two more children to add to the five borne by Dorothy.  Those two children became cousins as well as half aunts and uncles.

Following down and across the generations,  I’ve discovered a whole raft of family out there – a family that supported and cohabited across three generations when the child bearing aged women didn’t survive. Benjamin’s daughter Charlotte (b 1789) lived to ripe old age of 82 and over time, took in her nephews and nieces, her widowed brother and his grandchildren.  All this time, she was herself kept busy as a grocer and storekeeper in Mile End Old Town.

For a short period around 1841, she was living with two of the Richardson sisters in Wellclose Square, daughters of my 4x great Grandfather, David (b 1746) and one of his other wives (he had four!)  The Richardson family lived in Wellclose Square in Wapping right through the 1800’s and possibly longer – that’s another piece of detective work that awaits.

I had managed to bring  most of the lines down to the period covering the first and second world wars, so I thought I would look for any that had served and had not come home.

I found Henry James Fairfax (b 1859).  Henry was the great grandson of Benjamin and Mary and that made him my 3rd cousin twice removed.  Henry was the eldest of seven children – and like the rest of the family was ‘in the trade’ – he was, for most of his working life, a grocer’s assistant. His father had been a commercial traveller as was one brother and their interests lay in spices and ‘farinous materials’ – that’s flour to you and me!

Henry never married and remained living with his mother and other unmarried siblings until at least 1911.  There must have been a touch of the mid life crisis happening as he made a complete shift into the Merchant Marine and became a steward on a steam freighter.  He was certainly too old to have been considered for active service at the outbreak of WW1.

Extracted from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission files

 

Henry was a Londoner – its probable he couldn’t swim.  He was the only casualty when his cargo ship, the Peninsula, was torpedoed by U-46 and sunk in the Bay of Biscay on 25th July 1917.  Henry’s name can be found on the Merchant Marine memorial, Tower Hill. He was 57 years old.

 

 

 

Diploma of Family History May 13, 2017

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This week, the University of Tasmania advised me that I was eligible to graduate with this Diploma.
Returning to study was quite a step as I had not indulged in a formal educational environment for the best part of 40 years; as a student, that is. This course was delivered entirely online so there was a learning curve that involved learning to navigate the online delivery system as well as slipping back into the discipline of regular study.
Discipline??? Me?? Never… I was the most disorganised student, always leaving it to the last minute and in many cases, just scraping by. This was going to be a challenge to undo all those bad habits and unpleasant memories associated with school.
Fast forward to now and I’m itchy…. to get moving with the next round of study! The Diploma is finished but there’s a chance that there may be some ‘advanced’ units in the future. In the meantime, I’ve racked up a few other Arts units which may well lead on to something else. In between time, there has also been the opportunity to do a unit or three in the Health faculty. So what have I done? Just to keep my hand in, I’ve enrolled in two more units for Semester 2 this year – Arts and Dementia Care and Foundations of Arts and Health.

Some of the study already completed has been focused around the effects of ageing and dementia – and how we can equip ourselves with the means to prevent this invasive disease of the elderly.  Keeping learning is something we can all do to keep our brains healthy and active – the learning of a musical instrument or a language are highly recommended but any learning will do.

So here I am, warding off the effects of ageing, attempting to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and having a great deal of fun at the same time.  Try it yourself, you might be surprised that you discover a whole new purpose in life.

 

 

Define your Dash…. January 11, 2017

Posted by Robbie in Musings.
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When this line popped up in my Twitter feed, I was sucked in.  I had to go and see what this was all about. It seems that there’s a challenge been started to define the bits of your life that fall between the two dates that bookend your life – birth date and death date.

Memorial Plaque for Marion Dawkins 1918 - 1997 at New Ballarat Cemetery

Memorial Plaque for Marion Dawkins 1918 – 1997 at New Ballarat Cemetery. Image by R Stockfeld 2013.

I had to think about this for a bit – here I am spending hours each day or so ‘defining the dash’ of my ancestor’s lives, but I spend no time at all thinking about my own experiences, memories, stories, achievements, failures, the joys or sad moments. My first reaction was that this was a rather narcissistic exercise, then I thought it would be time wasted as no one would be interested.

The idea of this challenge is that you put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard – and write once a week. Now that for some would be a challenge in itself but the proposal contained lots of handy hints about topic areas you could address if inspiration failed you. By the end of the year, you would have put together 52 little vignettes that would tell others something about you and your life in that time represented by the dash.

I made the first move – I acquired a notebook.  That was the easy bit.  So far the notebook has just found its place on a table somewhere and hasn’t managed to tempt me to sully its virgin pages as yet. The discipline of regular writing isn’t something that comes naturally to me: I often start with good intentions and fail to follow through.

So, its off to read that blog post again recommending this activity taking note of those prompts and perhaps managing story number one this week (and to make the resolution to catch up on the other weeks I have missed!)

 

Saturdays in the Sun July 11, 2016

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Its the depths of winter here in Central Victoria.  This morning there was ice everywhere, mist in the valleys and early morning smoke from kitchen stove hanging in the air. It was crisp and bright with promise of a cold but clear day.

This is about as far away from summer as you can get.  I decided that I would spend the day scanning, sorting and filing some of the family archive images.  Despite my resident feline’s best attempts at disruption, I managed to get a small of work completed.

This image caught my fancy:

Day at the Beach Web

At a rough estimate, I would suggest that it was taken about 1959-60 and would have been somewhere like Sandringham beach.  The young man to the left of the image is my immediately younger brother, and I am the young lady in the fetching ruched bathing costume.  There are no annotations on the image to identify the other children but I suspect that the gentleman is a neighbour – his profile was almost instantly recognisable to me even after all this time.  The other children would then most likely be his two eldest sons.

Then there’s the odd dark mark in the sky….. Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

It was possibly a grain of sand on the lens…. whatever it was, it prompted memories of the brouhaha that always erupted with reports of UFO sightings.  Reports of strange lights, odd shaped flying crafts and weird looking creatures were a regular feature of news reports of my childhood.  I wonder whether the ease of access to affordable cameras and photography as a skill being more popularly spread post World War 2,  led to this explosion of ‘falsified’ images purporting to represent theses extraterrestrial beings.

Classic summer experiences of childhood like these bring back the pain of too much sun…. I was, more often than not, red raw by the end of the day.  There was always a tube of zinc cream about – but my fair skin just didn’t appreciate too long an exposure. These days,  I prefer wild beaches in the depths of winter.  No people about…. no sticky sand flies….. no risk of sunburn!

 

Study…. July 1, 2016

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I’m often asked why I spend so much time on researching family history – not just mine, but other people’s families as well.  History of any sort has always been something that I have enjoyed.  Whilst at high school, I took every history class I could.  I attended high school at a time when classes were streamed with either a Maths/Science emphasis, Humanities or Commercial emphasis.

Those in the Maths/Science stream were invariably tagged as the bright kids, the Humanities tended to average but creative and the Commercial were going to be the early school leavers. The Commercial stream subjects included Home Economics, Typing and Shorthand; subjects I could never have imagined myself needing or wanting to study.

I fell into the Humanities basket – creatively average!  I hated the languages but was forced to study them right through to Year 12. I also just managed to scrape through to Year 12 in the basic Maths class which was also compulsory.  Where I had some choice was in the History areas. Over the latter years, we could choose – and I chose them all.  Everything that was offered, I did.

I’m not good with the dates or the major wars – that sort of History isn’t captivating.  What fascinates me is the how people lived, what factors influenced  their life choices, how world events could affect the ordinary person, how did the not-so-ordinary person function within the society’s strictures, customs and expectations at any given time.  The list could go on and on.

At one point, I spent a great deal of time looking at the history of people marginalised by their sexuality or their calling – there’s not a lot of people about who would read for ‘entertainment’ histories documenting the dire fates awaiting homosexuals in the 18th Century if they were discovered. Such reading enabled me to understand the influence of the church on the law, societal standards and double standards, impacts of industrialization in UK and Europe and how women could be financially independent at a time when they were still regarded as property. So illuminating!

Is it any wonder that, when I discovered that the University of Tasmania was offering units of online study in Family History,  I jumped in boots and all?  I haven’t studied formally for the best part of 40 years.  I wasn’t going to let that stop me although I doubted whether my research and writing skills would be of the required standard, let alone my computer skills.

It seems I needn’t have been too concerned.  I was up to the mark – and I have developed somewhat of an addiction to study.  I have to date completed three units of the Diploma of Family History and am currently enrolled in two more. There are three more to complete for the Diploma and my name is on the list for those.

Just because I could, I have also undertaken three units in the Health Sciences field and a Photography unit in the Arts stream.  My results have all been pretty good – High Distinctions – although in the Diploma we are only given an ungraded pass as a final result, we are marked and graded as we complete each assessment.

Why am I doing this?  Why not? Just because I am technically a “Senior” doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to broaden my horizons, expand my skills, meet new people and generally want to be challenged by the unknown.  I want to learn – so why not learn about something that intrigues and delights me?

I can hear the observant muttering “But what about those Health Science units she mentioned.  What’s that got to do with family history?” Good question.  They were offered and I thought that I might give them a try after having successfully completed the first unit of the Family History diploma. They hooked me in too as they were just as much about answering some of those questions posed earlier. What factors influence how people behave/eat/exercise?  More opportunities to explore social issues in a health science environment couldn’t be ignored. Besides, they helped out with better equipping me as an effective volunteer in the health and aged care sector.

So, one creatively average high school student has evolved into a multidisciplinary mature aged university student.  I’m studying History, Art, Health Sciences and English across three different study plans online at a Uni I will probably never set foot in and I’m having the time of my life!

I’ve realised, having got to the end of this post, that my real reason for writing was because I had received the latest unit results today.  I wanted to celebrate my achievement.  Instead I’ve reflected – that English class must have taught me something after all!

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