Monday, December 31, 2012

Accentuate the Positive 2012 Geneameme

Accentuate the Positive - 2012 Geneameme

Thankyou to fellow geneablogger and friend "Geniaus" aka Jill Ball, for creating her wonderful end of year geneameme.     In a year which has been extremely busy, but as always, genealogically exciting, Jill's genememe provides geneabloggers with an opportunity to look back on the genea- year and to reflect on our 2012 unearthings, detections, locations, authentications, experimentations, calculations and if fortunate, our verifications.  2012 has been an exceptionally significant year for me as my eldest daughter and her husband extended the family tree by one tiny beautiful baby branch! So here is my 2012 POSITIVE Geneameme!

1. An elusive ancestor I found was Berthrum GAIR, also spelled Barthrum (which could have been a Latin spelling for his name). Berthrum was born in 1579, in Morpeth, Northumberland, England. My Gair line of ancestors had been resting with Roger Gair born in 1742 in Northumberland, for some years and it was only this year that I made a substantial breakthrough which led me on the trail of my 9 th great grandfather Berthrum, of whom I must say, I have become quite fond. In 1599, at the age of 20 years, Berthrum married Eliza LAWSONN. Berthrum was a Bailiff of Morpeth. He was a law enforcer similar to a sheriff and from records I have found through the National Archives, his duties would have included the enforcing of County Court judgements.

2. A precious family photo I found was a photograph of my great great grandfather, John Gottlieb NERGER. I discovered this photograph through a connection on and this was a most exciting find because family anecdotes had reported that ALL photographs of my Swiss born g g grandmother Barbara Lena Häberling and her Australian born (from German parents) husband John NERGER were destroyed in a backyard bonfire after their deaths! NOT the kind of family tale one likes to hear. The surname NERGER was later changer to NARGAR to make it sound less German.

The photograph of John Gottlieb NERGER

3. An ancestor's grave I found was a very exciting find. Although not actually the grave of an ancestor, the grave pictured below is of a tombstone erected by my convict great great uncle, Laurence FRAYNE on Norfolk Island in memory of his good friend and fellow convict, William Storey. Laurence (also spelled Lawrence) Frayne was the only convict to leave a detailed and well written account of the harsh punishment received by the Norfolk Island convicts. This document is held in the Colonial Papers in the Mitchell Library in Sydney.  Laurence Frayne disappeared from the Maitland area in 1846 and it is unknown what became of him. I would like to think that this man who was sentenced to 7 years in Dublin, Ireland for stealing a piece of rope at the age of 17 years and who repeatedly attempted to escape the harsh treatment he received in the Penal System in the Australian colonies, finally did escape to make a new identity for himself and to live out the rest of his life in peace. This grave is a most tangible reminder of my g g uncle's existence.

The grave in the Kingston Cemetery, Norfolk Island erected by Laurence Frayne

4. An important vital record I found was a record which I discovered in November of 2012 in the Queensland State Archives. A basic search for the name John NERGER, resulted in a find in the 
Reformatory School for Boys Index, 1871-1906. To say I was surprised to find my two times great grandfather in a reformatory school record, would be an understatement, however, when I saw the actual document and performed further research, a story most distressing unfolded before my eyes. John Nerger, was sentenced to 5 years in the Brisbane 'reformatory school' for being 'Neglected'. He was 12 years old at the time of his sentence and the record stated that he had been in an orphanage. Since his mother had quickly remarried after the death of John's Prussian born father, Gottlieb Nerger, and had four more children, there seemed to be no explanation as to why my gentle great great grandfather, a breeder of prize canaries in his later life and a timber cutter, would have been placed in an orphanage. His full brother George, two years his junior was brought up with his mother, step father and half siblings. A much more distressing discovery awaited me as I researched the history of Westbrook Reformatory School and learned that at the time of young John's 'sentence', the school was an old convict hulk named the Prosperpine, which was moored in the Brisbane River. I found the heartbreaking to read the record which showed that John, spent a full 5 years on board this hulk. The positive side of this discovery is that I have a full description of my two times great grandfather as a 12 year old boy and now a great deal more fascinating research ahead of me as I endeavour to discover which orphanage he was placed in and at what age. 

5. A newly found member who shared my family history was a third cousin who lives in Chicago, Illinois, USA. This cousin who descends from the youngest sister of my great grandfather, John MCDADE, from Glasgow, Scotland, contacted me through my blog. We are now firm friends on Facebook and I have also come to know, her siblings and another cousin who lives in another part of Illinois. Agnes McDade, their Great Grandmother, immigrated to America and lost contact with her brother, my great grandfather, John. We have come full circle now, exchanging photographs and family stories and discovering that we share similar personality traits, especially our sense of humour!

6. A genea surprise I received was whilst in Toowoomba recently and visiting the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society, I discovered that several of the very kind ladies who volunteer there, had found a newspaper item from 1864, which led me, with the help of old maps, to find the land which my three times great grandfather, Gottlieb NERGER purchased in 1860 in Drayton, Toowoomba. I had not known that he had owned a farm so this was exciting news indeed and as I was in the city of Toowoomba, Qld, I went in search of the land and walked upon it.

Part of the land which was my g g g grandfather's farm in Jellicoe Street Toowoomba.
(now part of the land is a park) ©

One other particularly exciting genealogical surprise for me in 2012, was having my blog FamilyHistory4u  named as one of the 50 top Genealogy Blogs in Inside History Magazine. Appreciation of the hours of research and writing which contributes to each and every blog is always a great thrill for me.

7. My 2012 blog posts that I was particularly proud of were two of the posts I wrote for the 2012 Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge composed by Cassmob (Pauleen). Two posts, in particular, challenged me to commit myself to some considerable research on topics which both interested me and about which I wanted to gain some insight into. These posts were, 'N for Negative Evidence' and 'R for Relationships - Confusing Cousins. Hopefully, through my blog posts, I helped to clear up a few misunderstandings for others and as for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of the research and the writing. 

8. My blog post that received a large number of hits or comments was, a post which I published on Jine 3, 2012, entitled, "Brick Wall Blunder - Cognomen Erratum". This particular post related to understanding records and avoiding mistakes. The topic of the cursed brick wall enticed around 20,000 views, which for my little  blog is something of a record. It was this post which inspired me to set up my Brick Walls Facebook page (which I must admit I have not had as much time as I would like to administer... so here's to more time for Brick Walls in 2013)

9. A genealogical tool I enjoyed using was my Flip Pal scanner. Oh the joy of seemlessly scanning large maps and documents which once upon a pre Flip Pal time I would have sticky taped together. I could do an advertisement for Flip Pal....I'm THAT impressed!

10. A genealogy conference from which I learned something from was - I always learn something from every single conference I attend! In 2012, there was more than one genealogy conference from which I came away with considerable new knowledge. One excellent conference was the 13th Australasian Heraldry and Genealogy Congress, held in Adelaide in March 2012. Apart from the enormous amount of fascinating of information I received (especially regarding forensic DNA - fabulous!) , I enjoyed a wonderful time with a fantastic group of 'beaded' geneabloggers, who are always happily visible at conferences bedecked in bright plastic genea beads! (Thanks to geniaus for those wonderful New Orleans beads. Plastic they may be but I treasure them!) The single most valuable thing I have discovered at genealogy conferences.congresses/fairs, is that there are many wonderful friendships to be made amongst the generous and enthusiastic people who attend these events in a shared pursuit for knowledge.

11. I taught a friend how to research her house history. I have completed a number of local house histories which will be appearing on the website of my local historical society and in their second book. 

12.A genealogy book that taught me something new was ( there are too many to name here, but one stands out in my mind). Carole Riley published a book through Unlock the Past, the topic of which was Australian Land Records. I found her book to be an excellent source of information and extremely well illustrated and easy to understand.

13.It was exciting to finally meet and to put faces to many names I know so well online, ( please forgive me if I leave out your name as I met SO MANY of my online friends in 2012 that I am bound to leave someone out), Judy Webster, Helen V Smith, Kerry Farmer, Shauna Hicks, Alona Tester, Tanya Honey, Pauleen Cass, Kylie Willison, Chris Wright, Seonaid Theresa Harvey Lewis, Rosemary Koppitke,  Audrey Collins, Ben and Cassie Mercer, and many more. A very special day was spent in Adelaide with Judy Webster and Helen Smith when we journeyed together to the 'German' town of Hahndorf, near Adelaide, followed by an exceptional sunset coffee at Glenelg. Nothing to do with genealogy but a wonderful day to remember.

2012 was a very positive genealogy year for me. I made many exciting discoveries, I extended the branches of my family tree and that of my husband's. I visited the Ellis Island Immigration museum while I was in new York visiting my new grand daughter. I had the hair raising experience of  setting off from NY to Hyde Park on the wrong bus (a long story) ... in search of a large model of the yacht "Warrior" which sits in the Vanderbilt Mansion and which belonged to my great uncle in the 1930's AND I was rewarded with a private tour of the mansion AND a visit behind the scenes to actually see up close and photograph the model (not usually permitted). I found the land and graves of ancestors and visited these places and monuments. The most momentous 'find' for me in 2012, was the finding of third cousins ( I can work out the exact relationship now thanks to my blog!) who live in the state of Illinois in America. Despite that prior to 2012 none of us knew of each others' existence, we have now become firm friends on Facebook. We have shared family photographs and families stories. 

Model of the Warrior in Frederick Vanderbilt's bedroom ©

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy new and genealogically prosperous year. Thank you for your friendship. I look forward to another year of journeying into the past and although I am returning to my studies in 2013, I am determined to keep blogging! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My 2012 Christmas Geneameme

2012 Geneameme - We Wish you a Merry Christmas

Thankyou to Pauleen (cassmob) of the Family Across the Seas Blog for her kind effort in putting together a Christmas Geneameme. Christmas is a time of the year so much centred on family, so what better a time to think about the traditions and activities which were a part of your own life growing up as well as your own family now. So below is my personal Geneameme in answer to Pauleen's questions.

1. Do you have any special Christmas traditions in your family. 
Growing up in Queensland, Christmas time was often spent at the Sunshine coast where my maternal grandmother lived. Christmas lunch was cold meats and salads galore and my mother's home baked Christmas cake, pudding and fruit mince pies with a special brandy sauce. When we spent Christmas day with my Irish maternal grandmother who lived at Paddington Heights, in Brisbane, Christmas lunch was a hot traditional lunch and always followed by her unforgettable home made ice cream with a Christmas pudding made from a recipe which came with her family from Ireland when they arrived in Australia in 1912. 

Now that I have my own family, we have carried on the tradition of having a cold Christmas lunch which suits the hot Australian climate much better than a hot meal. We bake the ham and roast the meats on Christmas Eve to place sliced on platters on Christmas day which are accompanied by lots of different salads. Dessert has become quite a tradition since my daughters spent a Christmas in New York some years ago. They always make a traditional Pumpkin Pie. We have many allergies to foods in our family so we don't have a Christmas pudding made from mixed fruit. Along with the pumpkin pie we have a dessert called Plum Clafouti, ( our version of a plum pudding) always baked by Siobhan, Pavlova ( it IS an Australian tradition!) a big fruit platter with all the delicious Summer fruits and berries on it as well as a Gingerbread House which is demolished throughout the afternoon. When my children were younger, we were dragged out of bed before 5 am to 'see what Santa has brought'. (Hmm I never would have guessed!) 
We play Christmas carols as we bake and there is a lot of laughter in the kitchen!
One tradition that we have in my home is the decorating of the Christmas tree. We play Christmas carols while we decorate the tree. Each year we try to think of a theme for the tree.
An important tradition in my family is to give to someone less fortunate each Christmas. We buy gifts for children who will not receive anything for Christmas and each Christmas we think together of someone to help. At Christmas time we have sponsored children through World Vision. This Christmas, as we did last year we will all make a loan through an organisation called Kiva. 

2. Is Church attendance an important part of you Christmas celebrations and do you go the evening before or on Christmas day?
My children attended Catholic Schools so Church attendance was always an important part of our Christmas. I love Midnight Mass and then when arriving home having fruit mince pies and listening to Christmas carols. there was so much excitement in the air. It's a wonder anyone got to sleep at all. Going to Church on Christmas day at Mass was always a favourite with my children as all the children were invited up onto the alter to see the baby Jesus who had been placed in his crib in the manger. 

3. Did you or your children/grandchildren believe in Santa?
I believed in Santa as a child but when I had my own children, I decided that it was better not to lie to them. FORTUNATELY, my husband didn't agree and I am so glad that they grew up with Santa. My children were very creative and every single Christmas they ALL four of them left Santa a letter and a list of questions (usually very long). And every single year Santa kindly replied (in very scrawly writing co- incidentally in a very similar style to my own!) and answered EVERY question. I have all those letters and we often pull them out and have a good laugh. "What are the name of your children Santa?" "What is Mrs Clause's favourite colour?" "Which is your favourite reindeer?" "Do you wear socks Santa?" "What do you wear the rest of the year?"  I'm betting that none of YOU know what Santa's attire is when it's not Christmas.....My first grandchild is only 7 1/2 months old but I hope she will grow up believing in Santa as well.... and I will definitely be suggesting she write to him!!!!!!

4. Do you go carolling in your area? The suburb where I live has a Carols by Candlelight event every year and I have often attended, candle in hand,  but I have never been carolling in the street. My children and I have often gathered together on Christmas Eve with guitars, flutes, piano, banjos etc and played and sung Christmas carols. I have CD's of Christmas carols playing in my home for all of December. LOUDLY! I like to get into the Christmas spirit.

5.What's your favourite Christmas music? I come from a very musical family. I love Christmas carols in general. I have a CD playing right now...  "All I want for Christmas"  sung by Mariah Carey, which was a hit in one of my favourite Christmas movies, "Love Actually". 

6. What is your favourite Christmas Carol? I think my favourite carol would be "When a Child is Born", especially when sung by Il Divo. I also love a Christmas song called "This is Christmas" sung by Kate Ceberano and Ronan Keating. It is a beautiful song. 

7. Do you have a special Christmas movie/book you like to watch/ read?  I had a special Christmas story book as a child and so did my children. it was called "The Night before Christmas". "Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse..." 

8. Does your family give individual gifts, gifts for the littlies only, Secret Santa, (aka Kris Kringle)?
When my children were at primary school, it was a tradition for each class to give Kris Kringle gifts. That was a highlight in their year. At home they had Santa sacks with presents from Santa and a wrapped gift from us. Now we all give each other gifts. I found it hard to give up the Santa sack tradition, although I am pleased that they finally realised that really Santa didn't spend a lot more money on them that I did!

9. Is your main Christmas meal indoors or outdoors, at home or away?
For many years, as my children grew up we shared Christmas with a large extended family ( up to 60 people) and we never had Christmas lunch at our own home. For the past few years we have had a smaller Christmas in our home. We have our main meal in the middle of the day but have delicious nibbles put out all morning. We have bought a large table now which seats the whole family plus partners. 

Answered in question 1.(Christmas Food.)

14. Do you give home-made food/craft for gifts at Christmas?
I used to give home made gifts but find I no longer have the time to bake, sew or make gifts. Sad really. One year I hand painted lovely jars and filled them with home made biscuits. Another Christmas I made hand made writing paper (I even made the paper!) and decorated it with each person's initials and flowers painted on it. When my children were younger we made calendars which they drew and painted on each month, although two years of that task and they rebelled! I used to do quite a lot of silk screening so I made gifts which I silk screened original pictures onto or T-shirts with silk screened artworks on. These days I buy all my gifts but at least one daughter has carried on my tradition (yes you guessed it - Siobhan - who made the gingerbread Christmas tree decorations). She bakes beautiful shortbread and gingerbread or cakes to give as gifts to her friends. I used to bake gingerbread decorations each year for the Christmas tree until one year my son, Hamish made himself very sick when he ate every decoration in one sitting!  

2012 gIngerbread cookie decorations

15. Do you return to your family for Christmas or vice versa?
Both of my parents passed away quite some years ago in Brisbane, Queensland, sadly. My children do not remember spending Christmas with them. We spent a few Christmas days with one of my sisters when she lived in Sydney at Hunter's Hill. Those were very special Christmas days. Each Christmas is spent with members of my husband's family. 

16. Is your Christmas celebrated differently from your childhood ones? If yes, how does it differ? 
My childhood Christmases were almost always spent away from home since my maternal grandmother lived at Maroochydore, a beach on the Queensland Sunshine Coast. My cousins and I always performed musical items for our parents and grandparents at a pre Christmas gathering. often my father who was a brilliant pianist would join in as well as my uncle who played the clarinet and saxophone.  My sisters and I practised harmonised songs to sing. Christmas was always very musical.
My children are convinced that it has been my dream to have them perform together playing musical instruments and singing. ( Well you can't say I didn't try!) The only time they do this is at Christmas and I love hearing them. it reminds me of my own Christmases as a child.

17. How do you celebrate Christmas with your friends?
The street where I live, until recently every year had a Christmas street party. Everyone took along something on a plate and drinks. It was a wonderful way to meet new people in the street. We tend to celebrate Christmas more with family than with friends, although there are usually a few Christmas 'drinks' or parties to attend. I try to meet up with friends for coffee before Christmas to catch up on 'news'.

18. Do you decorate the house with lights? A little or a lot?
I decorate the inside of the house and decorating the Christmas tree has been a special tradition involving Christmas carols and plenty of fun. 

19. Is your neighbourhood a 'Christmas Lights" tour venue?
My own neighbourhood is not one where many people put lights on their houses but  a neighbouring suburb attracts thousands of visitors to view the amazing streets of Christmas lights every Christmas. I love to drive by and have a look. Some of the homes have a 'wishing well' to donate money for charities. 

20. Does your family attend Carols by candlelight singalong/concerts?
When my children were younger we always went to Carols by candlelight events. My suburb has one every year held in The Village Green (a large park). A nearby Seventh Day Adventist Hospital conducts  carols by Candlelight evening each December which my youngest daughter Briallen, has sung at. 

21. Have any of your Christmases been spent camping?
Camping is a popular way to holiday in the great outdoors of Australia and although I have camped many times as  child I have never spent a Christmas camping.

22. Is Christmas spent at your home, with family or at a holiday venue?
At home or at the home of a family member.

23. Do you have snow for Christmas where you live?
In Australia, Christmas occurs in the Summer season so it is usually very hot weather. The backyard swimming pool is very popular on Christmas day! One of my daughters' favourite Christmases was spent in New Jersey, USA a few years ago when there was a heavy snowfall. They built a snowman in the front yard and ice skated in Central park. My daughter, Rhiannon now lives in new York so perhaps she will see snow for Christmas.

24.Do you have a Christmas tree every year?
Absolutely! We have made it a tradition in my family to think of a theme for the tree each year. That does mean that we have collected a lot of decorations but we do recycle and it is amazing how easily you can turn the simplest thing into a decoration. this year the theme is 'French Rustic'. We have used lots of hessian for bows on the tree and natural decorations, keeping the colour scheme simple - natural and white with a touch of silver. Last year our theme was 'birds' and the year before that it was 'a winter wonderland'. 

25. Is your tree a live tree or an imitation?
There is nothing more 'christmasy'  than the smell of a fresh pine tree at Christmas but unfortunately I and several of my children are allergic to pine trees so our tree has to be an imitation tree. I have tried to make sure it is as realistic as possible. As a child our tree was always real. (I sneezed a lot at Christmas!) and we used to drive to the Glasshouse Mountains and cut down a small tree from the pine plantations. I'm sure now, looking back that those trees were not meant to be taken by the public but that night time excursion was always a highlight of my growing up. I guess I'm a bona fide Christmas tree thief! Not surprising seeing I have 5 convicts in my past.......

26. Do you have special Christmas tree decorations? 
See question 25.

27. What is more important to your family, Christmas or Thanksgiving?
In Australia we don't celebrate Thanksgiving so Christmas is very important as a time for families to celebrate together. Since I have become good friends with new found cousins (third) in America, however, Thanksgiving has taken on a whole new meaning for me!