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Back to Study time… February 1, 2018

Posted by Robbie in Musings.
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Its hard to believe that today is February 1st and that we are already one month into the new year. All my resolutions to spend the summer break finessing some of the lines of research I had pursued over the last year have disappeared in the heat haze.

Next week I begin a short course offered as MOOC through FutureLearn and the University of Glasgow:

Early Modern Scottish Palaeography

So – what’s Palaeography?

According to Wikipedia, its the study of ancient and historical handwriting – see their entry here.

What does this mean for a family historian? Let’s face it, the typewriter, printer, computer etc are all relatively modern inventions.  Not everything we might wish to examine appears neatly completed in Times New Roman and easily read.  If we have been successful in tracing our family’s line back to a time where all documents were handwritten in a variety of styles and on a variety of surfaces, we will find ourselves challenged to interpret them even if they are in a language we are supposed to understand.

Being able to interpret historic writing styles in handwritten documents will give us much better access to the content of original material which we should hopefully decode with enhanced skill thus reducing the risks of errors in our research.

It’s an additional skill in our repetoire as researchers and historians, and continually building that investigative skill set can only serve to broaden our knowledge and understanding resulting in better quality research results.

There is still time to enroll in this course – follow this link to the information page: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/ems-palaeography While you’re at it and on the FutureLearn site, you might like to consider the University of Strathclyde’s short “Introduction to Genealogy” course as well.

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

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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

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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!

 

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