ANCESTORS BURIED IN CARDBOARD BOXES
Today I exhumed my forbears, dusted them off and took a pleasurable trip dowm memory lane. Before you decide that the buriel practices in my family are somewhat odd, I must explain that as I come to the end of any branch of the family tree, often because I encounter the dreaded 'brick wall', I carefully archive my predecessors away in well labelled boxes. With so many people to find, it is easy to become preoccupied with placing names on the tree and forget about the people.
I usually like to discover more than just a name. Once I have found an address through Census or Birth, Marriage and Death records a google search can reveal much about the address: if it is a freestanding house, a business or even the address of a bank as in the case of the afore mentioned great uncle Rex. He was often off cruising in his large yacht or busy acting as the Air advisor to the Nizam of Hyderabad (in the days before it became a part of India in 1948)so his addresses included a Swiss bank (does that sound supicious?) George V Hotel in Paris among others. Clearly uncle Rex's addresses were a clear indication of the type of life he led, especially his Marwell Hall address as this was a home owned once by King Henry VIII which he gave to the Boleyn family. A google image search provided wonderful images of Marwell Hall as well as uncle Rex's steam yacht 'Warrior', which sadly was requisitioned by the British navy in 1939 and sunk in the English channel in 1940 by 50 german planes. (yes it WAS that big!)
Now, how did I get onto uncle Rex again. He keeps popping up. I was talking about the ancestors in the cardboard boxes....Today, I decided to dig some of them up. I pulled the family photographs out in order to scan them to my computer. A job I have been meaning to do for some time.I still haven't done it. With every old photograph that I gazed at, so many thoughts filled my mind. I marvelled at the changes in fashions over the generations. I am certain that my great great grandmother, would not have approved of my casual attire of jeans. She came to Australia in 1871 from Switzerland as a 4 year old. I thought of her, as I studied the 5 generation photo that appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail in October 1955 when I was 8 months old. The occasion was her 88th Birthday being celebrated in Maryborough. I suddenly wondered, how often does the five generations occur? In my case it was all females. myself, my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother and my great great grandmother. All mothers and daughters.
I spent a wonderful day pouring over pictures of old homes and farms, cars and even buggies, weddings and baby pictures. Needless to say no scanning was done but I am determined not to leave the forbears 'buried' in their cardboard boxes for so long again. I recognised people that I had not previously known the identity of since last viewing the photographs and discovered clues to lead me in new directions. Over the years I have gathered family photographs from a number of family members and sometimes from unexpected sources. Email is a most useful tool. My motto is 'Be Bold' Send an email. Whether it is information I am looking for or photographs, I email everyone! I mean, they can only say no! And some do. I have generally found in genealogy that people are extremely generous.
The old saying,'two heads are better than one' is so appropriate when it comes to family history. Someone else often has that missing piece that enables you to put the puzzle together. Recently I was looking for information about my husband David's great grandfather in New Zealand. We knew a little from a brief encounter with a half cousin some years ago with whom we had lost contact. I emailed almost every library in New Zealand. A kind librarian in the Christchurch library, sent my email on to the Hawarden library, where another librarian sent it on to the Waipari Historical Society. The kind president there, John, cycled to his local library the very next day to look for the information I needed. I had previously been quoted $900 for this research by a professional researcher. John found some of the information I needed, but what was most amazing, was that he found someone who knew quite a lot about the family I was searching for. Coincidentally it was the cousin we had met years before. He now knew much more about the great grandfather he shared with my husband through two different marriages. There's that 6 degrees of separation!!
Back to uncle Rex (I can't help it: he is very intriguing), I recently emailed an Air Museum in the UK. They had a moderate fee for information about the secret airfield that uncle Rex had built on the land at Marwell Hall. When the researcher at the Solent Sky Museum discovered something notable, that he had previously not known about this airfield, he was so excited that he waived my fee. I didn't mind at all!
Some libraries have an 'ask a librarian' service which can be really helpful. I have been sent parcels of photocopied material at no charge through this service. The State library in Brisbane only permits you one question per year. I suppose the librarians need to go home occasionally!Don't worry if you forget and ask too many in any one year. Trust me the librarian will let you know: 'Mrs White. You have already asked your ONE question for this year. Please kindly remember, you are only permitted ONE question.' Hey, a year is a long time. It's easy to forget. Actually, I knew that I had already asked my one question but I didn't really think they kept tabs!
Well, I must go and study the death certificate that arrived from England today. It's great uncle Rex's. I'll have a new address to google and perhaps a clue as to how he came to be the Viscomte de Borenden after declaring himself bankrupt, after not being paid by the Nizam of Hyderabad for flying in all those nice guns and ammunition to help Hyderabad from being gobbled up by India. Not to mention his arms trafficking for Israel and 'activities in France' post WW2 ( he was suspected of transporting displaced persons).
Do I seem obsessed with uncle Rex. he was, after all a 'Great' Uncle! MI5 didn't share my sentiments however and the 'Guy Liddell Diaries' (head of MI5 during the war) is full of objectional ponderings about him. I have so much more to discover about his colourful life. It will be some time before great uncle Rex is buried in a cardboard box! Sharn