Monday, November 2, 2009


Today I exhumed my forbears, dusted them off and took a pleasurable trip down memory lane. Before you decide that the buriel practices in my family are somewhat odd, I must explain that each time I encounter a dreaded 'brick wall' or seemingly the end of a search for ancestors, I carefully archive all information regarding my predecessors away in well labelled boxes. When I next resume a search for any particular ancestor I have my notes and sources at hand. 

With so many people in one's ancestry to find, it is easy to become preoccupied with placing names on the tree and forget about the people. I 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 my great uncle Rex. Between operating a secret airfield at his Hampshire property during WW2, cruising the Mediterranean 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) Uncle Rex Morley Hoyes' addresses included (somewhat suspiciously) a Swiss bank, George V Hotel in Paris, Tangiers, Marjoca in Spain, Berlin among others. Clearly uncle Rex's addresses were a clear indication of the type of life he led. His Marwell Hall address in Hamphsire, was a home owned once by King Henry VIII which had been gifted to the Boleyn family. A google image search provides wonderful images of Marwell Hall and of the 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 old family photographs out in order to scan them to my computer - a  job I have been meaning to do for some time. Scanning was postponed, however, as every old photograph I looked at told a story about my ancestors. I marvelled at the changes in fashions over the generations. There was a wondeful photograph of my  great great grandmother Barabara Lena Haberling who came to Australia in 1871 from Switzerland as a 4 year old with her four daughters and son taken in the 1890's. I found five generation photo that appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail in October 1955 when I was 8 months old. The occasion of that photograph was my great great grandmother's 88th Birthday celebrations held in Maryborough. I suddenly wondered, how often does the five generations occur? In my case our five generations were 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 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. The email is a most useful way to connect to others. My motto is 'Be Bold' and 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 though I have generally found regarding genealogy people are extremely generous.

The old saying,'two heads are better than one' is most 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 earlier but with whom we had lost contact. I emailed almost every library in New Zealand with a request for information. A kind librarian in the Christchurch library, sent my email on to the Hawarden library, whereby 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 was asking about. John not only kindly found much 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. After that round about generous journey, quite incredibly my new contact turned out to be the cousin we had met years before. He knew much more about the great grandfather he shared with my husband through different marriages. There's that 6 degrees of separation!!

Back to uncle Rex (I can't help it -he is most 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 and sent me the information.

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.' Infairness to myself, 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 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! 


  1. Hello
    I would like to contact you regarding Rex Hoyes. I run the marwell History group and have worked at Marwell for many years.
    Regards Kieran
    Contact: or

  2. Hi there interested in Rex Hoyes I have old film of the warrior connections with sir alfred butt
    sue forsey

  3. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris
    Happy 8th Blogiversary!!!!