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Category Archives: Family history

another big one

I was musing the other day that this is 2017. It’s 100 years since my mother was born. In my family, we like to celebrate these big occasions. Dr B and I are often the ones who prepare the presentations.

That means I have to get busy with scanning photos, calling for scans and/or copies of photos from cousins and other family members – I can’t think of any friends who are still alive – and getting down and dirty with some sort of large format word processing and/or database to produce a timeline for display. See, that’s a couple of knitting projects worth of time already lost to a better cause, although any genuine coverage of my Mum’s life will include many handknitted articles so there’s still that connecting thread.

Still can’t get photos to work properly, so will wish you all the best with your big occasions, too 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2017 in Family history

 

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a different kind of silence

Nonna's wonderful clivias

Nonna’s wonderful clivias

The other day I wrote in our annual Christmas letter that, “One by one the elders are leaving us and it’s beginning to feel mighty breezy at the top of the family tree.” i could have added that it’s also pretty quiet.

A fortnight ago, Nonna died peacefully in a local Palliative Care ward. The same day, a friend died in a different part of the country, also in a Palliative Care ward. A few days later, another of the elderly cousins in Italy joined them.

We made sure that Nonna had a good send-off. We sat with her during those long hours of her last days and we sang to her, all of her songs that we knew and a few newer ones that she loved. As we were all standing around the grave at the end of the ceremonies, looking at the magnificent arrangement of lilies – always her favourite flower, whether to receive or grow – YoungB started singing one of those songs, one in which colours are mentioned. I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute.

Addio, Nonna, thank you for being part of my family and welcoming me into yours. May your spirit be resting peacefully somewhere where there are lots of flowers and plenty of singing.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2016 in Family history

 

an even bigger sideways wallop

Addio, Maurizio; your final ride was on a road something like this.

Addio, Maurizio; your final ride was on a road something like this but on the other side of the world.

On Thursday morning we woke to devastating news from Italy: one of the cousins had been killed in a motorbike accident. Yet again, plans for future meetings and shared learning went out the window. We’ve been a bit of a mess ever since.

Yesterday, however, YoungB and his fellow-student girlfriend, Dr B and I spent a delightful day: exhibition, lunch at one of YoungB’s favourite and highly-recommended burger joints, coffee at a chain we probably have – or should have – shares in by now, then a short reception prior to the local premiere of an Italian-Australian film (happily, set in Dr B’s part of northern Italy), showing at a nearby cinema and part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2016. After the film, a Q and A session with the director and her producer husband (information here), and a chat with YoungB’s Italian professor who was also in the audience, it was dinner time. We trundled across the road for that, then hiked back to the car. We had coffee and cakes at a same but different locale (Glynde) before finally coming home some eight hours after setting out.

We were all physically tired but somewhat restored in spirit, even if poor YoungB’s feet were hurting after the amount of standing and walking he’d done in totally inappropriate shoes. End-of-season sales saw that situation remedied this morning, so he went off to watch soccer while Dr B and I pottered about at home: he in the garden, I in the laundry. Oh, the thrill of it all 🙂

But the burning question I’m asking myself is, can I knock up a dress before Thursday’s AGM? I’m tired of winter, tired of being cold, fed up with wearing trousers and not that fond of the idea of a skirt. A dress? There’s potential in the idea. You know me, it’s unlikely to happen. But it makes me feel a little less inadequate to have it as a sort of non-plan when my knitting doesn’t make sense to me because every time I pick it up to do any, there are interruptions. Never mind. We’re alive and well and aren’t we lucky to have that?

 
 

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today the memories, tomorrow the tears

Sprigs of rosemary for remembering

Sprigs of rosemary for remembering

Today Dr B and I attended my cousin’s memorial gathering. Tomorrow YoungB and I will attend his interment. There were some laughs today and will doubtless be a few tomorrow, too. But on the whole, it will be real as we watch the coffin descending in a way it wasn’t today when our attention was focused on poor speakers and funny photos of a much younger man. Death is like that. It’s not only a great leveller, its (nowadays all-but mandatory) accompanying slideshow brings hilarity and heartache in about equal measure: a particular t-shirt, a wildly 70’s set of (naturally) auburn-coloured sideburns – they were impressive, I must say! – and children you never knew as children now young adults with whom you share a blood tie, the experience of grief, and little else.

In the photos I have – few enough, for all the years, because, when we were younger, photos were things for occasions not the everyday; and this particular occasion was my 21st birthday – he’s wearing a cardigan I know to have been handknitted by his mother. I can guarantee there was love in every cabled stitch 🙂

As to progress on my own knitting for an hour a day, either the socks for Dr B or the beanie for middle Uncle? Yeah, no. I’ll get there. Just not yet awhile.

 

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1, 2, skip a few, 99

Dan's 65th birthday

This is probably the last family photo I have. It’s nice to see all of us being silly 🙂

Dear Mum, Youngest Aunt and I arrived at the answer by different methods – neither straightforward; you know we’re like that with arithmetic – but we agreed that, had you been still alive, this June we would have celebrated your 99th birthday.

You died well short of reaching that, and more than half our lives have been lived without you: without your smile and your wonderful baking (I occasionally get a real craving for one of those tasty, hearty egg-and-bacon pies with the light-as-air pastry, or the fabulous melt-in-your-mouth shortbread), your razor-sharp memory for sometimes obscure poetry, the weekly chinwag as to tricky questions in the Crossquiz (as it was then) and whether we’d reached excellence with the Target word, and the high-scoring Scrabble games, not to mention the occasional hand of whisky poker played for the killingly extravagant stakes of one- and two-cent pieces (legal tender in those days).

Yes, we’ve missed you, but you’ve missed so much, too: the family’s travels, the weddings, the grandchildren you’d been hoping for, all the accolades and awards across the years, and let’s not forget the music. You’ve missed a lot of singing and music-making at family get-togethers and Christmases. Middle Aunt and I still dust off our piano duets at Christmas, in what has become something of a ritual.

But you’re never truly far from any of us. For me, I see you in YoungB’s smile that’s so much like yours. I thought of you often when he was a rower, because the high school you once attended has a rowing program nowadays and our marquees were frequently alongside each other. You’re probably raising your eyebrows, wondering why I don’t mention that I see you when I look in the mirror, or every time Middle Aunt and I sit together at parties and confuse people who don’t know us well. Yes that’s true, and we laugh about it.

I see your work and evidence of your organisational abilities in the Lunchbox recipe book I use all the time. And I wish I could ask you about the everyday recipes you whipped up that I cannot remember (and that aren’t in the Lunchbox). I’m sure you knew how much I hated raisin biscuits. They were marginally nicer than the spice biscuits, both of which you baked far too frequently, as far as I was concerned; but you wouldn’t believe how often I’ve tried to find a recipe for raisin biscuits. I’ve proved they’re not fruit jumbles. That’s all I’ll say.

As well as that, I have your sewing machine (I think I can truly claim it as mine by now, but it was yours before it was mine). I have many of your knitting needles and and patterns. And I can knit, thanks to your teaching me (although I acknowledge that the Great Aunts helped). I still use my first-ever knitting needles. Although I can’t knit as quickly as you, nor do I have the same easy rhythm – and ditto those comments with regard to the Great Aunts, too – it’s true that most of the time I get there.

I’ve learnt that there’s much truth in your wisdoms that a blind man would be pleased to see it, that any small improvement renders the situation better than it was, and that if you’re out there doing it then you’re streets ahead of someone sitting at home. I often remind myself about the Devil and the tailor, shorten my thread accordingly and then squint at the needle just the way you did. I chastise myself for using sewing needles that would double as crowbars (your term again). But, heck, how are you meant to thread anything with a smaller eye?

We do these things. Life goes on. I repeat your words, which were probably those of your own mother, and so it continues down the generations. Every now and again, we add up the numbers. And this year we reached 99.

 

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just when you thought you were making headway

Twice, you say? If only it were so simple!

Twice, you say? If only it were so simple!

Family research is always fun. It’s so easy to get sucked into following leads. I did that when researching my maternal grandfather. It entertained me to pretend it was real research that I could use to write a convincing story (I could have, easily), but I knew there was no point tracking down a soldier even if the name were the same and the age about right, because my grandfather was severely colourblind. He would never have made it past the enlistment queue. I’ve also found a duplication of names in my maternal grandmother’s line that caused me to wonder about bigamy until I looked more carefully at the dates.

Then someone posts that little graphic illustrating how many direct ancestors you’re trying to find. Yeah. It’s a lot! The graphic also makes the point that you’re related to everyone. Twice. Should I just give up now?!

In fact, I know our relationships are considerably closer than simply being related to everyone twice. We have a little matrix that we use to calculate cousins – it comes in useful when you’re trying to explain to someone who has no idea about anything much beyond first cousins – that tells me one ancestral couple were first cousins once removed. What does that do with all the following relationships? How far are they skewed? Or do you just note that the siblings were also cousins?? And how do you manage that same complicated relationship when another level of cousins marries back into it? Related only twice? I wish!

And how far do you trust the family tales? I wouldn’t dispute that there’s at least a grain of truth in all of them, but without original parties to consult – or even elders of the clans whose memories might be sharper on those points – how do you sift the fact from the fiction? When you can’t find arrival records, is there any way of checking whether the dates you have are at all likely? As I say, it’s fun and it’s time-consuming and that so much is available on various websites nowadays facilitates checking where possible. Most of the mystery is to be found at the point where it’s not possible. Back to the hunt I go 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2016 in Family history

 

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not ablogogising

Best bib and tucker, ready to visit my colleagues

This is not QUITE 21 years ago. YoungB aged about six weeks, all dressed up in his best bib and tucker. We were on our way to visit my workmates.

No, I’m not ablogogising. Not one bit. Life is settling down after a remarkably bumpy start to the year. You’ve probably all seen the meme along the lines of January having been a practice month? Gets my vote. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get back to my computer to do something frivolous once in a while. It’s been all work, work, work. I now have to do some more work, work, work scanning photos for a DVD presentation for YoungB’s – gulp! – 21st birthday. That cannot possibly be true. But there you are. It is. He’s still just as cute 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in Family history

 

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