Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Introduction Letter: What would you say?

In the Internet age we take communication for granted. 

We use email, Facebook, the phone and even at times write a letter to communicate with each other.

We share (some people rather too much information) online about what we are doing, and put up photos so the concept of not knowing people is not an easy one to consider.

Imagine you are a parent whose son is marrying a girl in another state or country.

You have never met her or her family, you only know what your son has told you and the girl’s family also don’t know you. They have had a short engagement of five months and the wedding is fast approaching. You will be attending the wedding.

You want to write a letter to her parents introducing yourself. 

What would you write to introduce yourself to the girl’s parents?

Imagine being that person in the past, in this case 53 years ago which doesn’t seem that long ago but phone calls were not something you made as a usual thing. People did not always travel much.

Below is the letter written to introduce herself by Lillian Smith, my grandmother.

Lady Gowrie Legacy House
12 Jersey Road
Strathfield, NSW
1 March 1961
Dear Mr and Mrs Busby,
I have tried many times to sit down long enough to write to you but as you will realize it isn’t easy, in a position like this. Seeing that the children will soon be married and no longer our responsibilities we will have the chance of meeting and getting acquainted, at the wedding. I had hoped David would not think of marriage for a few years but as they are of age and have prayed about it, and feel it is the real thing, there is no more to be said. I guess you feel the same. It seems strange doesn’t it to think they are old enough, we watch them grow up and think of them as children, then all at once they are adults. I do trust that all will go well for them, and that God will spare them to have many happy years together.

I don’t know if there is anything you would like to know about us, giving your daughter to a young man is not easy, I guess, especially when you don’t know his family. David’s father was a wonderful man. He broke his neck and back getting ready for the D-Day invasion. His father was a grand man also, he died 6 years before my Husband was killed.
My own Father was a Station Master on the British Railway and served 53 years unbroken service. His father was also on the Railway. We never had any money to spare but we had big home which was open to all, there were six boys and six girls in my family and we all took our friends home, my parents expected it. We had a very happy family life. I was very disappointed at having only one son, however I shall soon have a Daughter. The Lord always supplies our needs if we wait.
I ran a long splinter down my finger yesterday so my writing isn’t all it should be, please excuse it.
I do hope you are feeling better in health Mr Busby and that you are not too anxious about the choice your girl has made. David has always been a very self-reliant boy, at 3 years old he would collect his teddy and be in the dugout in record time. As the years went by after my Husband’s death he gradually became the man of the house. 

At 11 years when we moved into our first Australian home, he laid the lino with me and did repairs, helped with the garden and housework, more like a boy of 18. When he was 15 he started on the Railway and after just a few months asked for country relief, often he would be on level crossing gates 16 -20 miles from anywhere, in a small room out in the bush alone for 12 hour shifts sometimes where there were snakes and things he had never been used to. He did so well they transferred him to Metropolitan relief when I moved from Goulbourn to Manley. He made good progress there also and after getting five certificates and having to mark time for 18 months he decided to join the Military for 3 years. In some ways this may have been good, but in other ways it wasn’t so good. 

However it was his life and in June he will finish his 3 years and as far as I know go back to the Railway. I think boys go through a silly stage, and have crazy ideas about cars and making money etc but I believe it happens to most boys. It certainly did with David but I think I can safely say that he will take great care of your girl. He is so like his father in many ways and if I can help them in any way I can , you can rest assured I will do my best, as David will be on the Railway they will travel cheaply or free, so you will not be separated from her altogether.
I had better close, if there is anything you would like to know about us please ask and very soon now we will meet, I trust you are both well and feel happy bout Violet’s future.
God Bless You
Yours Sincerely
Lillian M. Smith
Busby smith wedding group 1961 001
L-R Walter and Gladys Trost, Violet Smith nee Busby, David Smith Lilian Smith Alf Garnet?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Mrs Fancy Tart is coming to tea and the end:

Tonight was the last night of the 5th Unlock the Past cruise. 

Just the final presentation by Eileen  Ó Dúill and a cracker it was. "Mrs Fancy Tart is coming to tea: making sense of family stories" 

We all have family stories that seem OK but when you start researching them things don't quite stack up and there are a variety of reasons for this and perhaps the one below is the most common.
We interpret or put filters on things according to our own knowledge, experience, beliefs and culture.

We do have to be aware of this when we are researching our ancestors as how things are done today can be intrinsically different to how our ancestors would do something, this can be as simple as the fact married women hold jobs now and yet this is really a comparatively recent occurrence.

The expectation that all members of a family contributed to its income, including the six year old is not part of our modern thinking but an agricultural family living in England would have had the six year old helping as he could, whether it was gleaning kindling or scaring off crows.

Eileen gave us an entertaining yet thought provoking talk for our last presentation.

Then it was time for the prize draw!

Lisa Louise Cook helped draw the prizes. 

Including a prize donated by Lisa of a year Premium membership to her podcast which was won by Paul Blake! 

 There were a number of prizes and the above is a group photo of most of the winners

The presenter on the 5th Unlock the Past Cruise
L-R: Mike Murray, Lesley Silvester, Lisa Louise Cooke, Rosemary Kopittke (behind), Helen Smith, Marie Dougan, Sean Ó Dúill, Eileen Ó Dúill, Paul Blake.
Missing from the above photo is Jackie Depelle who is shown below in her finery

Then we adjourned to the deck for a group photo. Getting a group together for the photo is always an interesting exercise and even with all our efforts not everyone managed to be in the photo but the majority were present.

Marco Polo crew who helped with the 5th Unlock the Past Cruise L-R: Tony, Julie, Katie, Marco 

This cruise was the smoothest behind the scenes conference experience of the five I have done so far and it is due in a major part to Julie Thompson and her team. Nothing was too much trouble for them and it definitely made our lives easier. I'd love to kidnap them and have them as part of the team on every cruise!

The other people who make the cruise a pleasure are the Unlock the Past conference attendees who came, heard the presentations, interacted in the Research Help Zones and shared their experiences with each other and us. The interactions, networking and genealogical sharing of information is a large part of the fun to be had as you know the person you are talking to understands your own genealogy addiction. No rolled eyes or trying to sidle away in boredom when you start talking about a new record source you have found and they get excited when you talk about demolishing that brick wall!

After the group photo we headed back inside for a cocktail party get-together as our final function. Thanks Julie for organising this, it capped the cruise perfectly! So I will leave you with some images of us enjoying ourselves at this function. Until the next cruise out of Sydney in October which unfortunately for me I am not attending but I will be on the one after that which is out of Perth in January 2015 going to Albany the leaving point for the first contingent of ANZACs. Appropriate in 2015 the 100 year commemoration of Gallipoli.

Then the next after that will be the Baltic cruise in July 2015 so just a little while to wait!

The esteemed Julie relaxing and chatting at the party.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Final Stop Honfleur

Our final tourist stop on the 5th Unlock the Past cruise was Honfleur in France. 

This has particular significance for me as one of the excursions was to a site of one of the Normandy D-Day landings at Arromanches. 

My grandfather died during World War Two as a result of a training accident in the preparation for the D-Day landings and 2014 is the 70th anniversary of those landings and of his death.

On the way to Arromanches we stopped at Ranville War Cemetery one of the many, many War Cemeteries in France. It is beautifully maintained but a sobering place with the rows and rows of graves.

There are a number of graves of soldiers in the churchyard who were the first soldiers killed. These were not moved to the War Cemetery when all the other soldiers achieved their last resting place.

Among the soldiers graves in the churchyard are also some German soldiers.

Sadly there are a number of unknown soldiers, just some of those people who will never be named.

At Ranville War Cemetery there was the entryway with this enclosure. Within this alcove there was a list of the soldiers buried within the cemetery and their location which i was perusing when Rosemary took this picture.

The sky was a bright blue which seemed quite wrong when you were walking around the cemetery, it seemed as if it should have been grey in memory of all the lives lost.

From there we went to Arromanches, one of the D-Day landing sites. Gold was the code name for this  D-Day landing beach that Allied forces used to invade German-occupied France on 6 June 1944. The primary D–Day objective there was to establish a beachhead. 

This was crucial for the deployment of the artificial Mulberry harbour which was a major engineering feat and you can read more about this  here.  Without this harbour and unloading site the Allies would not have been able to have a continued supply of equipment for the offensive.  The building of the artificial harbour was done in secret in a number of sites in England then taken across and set up. Quite amazing!

At Arromanches there was also this quite lovely carousel and thank you Rosemary for these last three images as my camera battery decided it had done enough work for the day.

We were visiting the museum which told the story of the Mulberry Harbour and the Landings.

The skies had darkened a bit by this time and we saw the first showers of the entire cruise while we were on the bus back to the ship.

Once back on the ship it was time for "Manorial Records" with Paul Blake which was another informative talk. I have used some manorial records in from Ashford in Kent which is the area where I have my earliest Quested in my One Name Study. Paul's talk was on at the same time as Jackie Depelle's talk on "Ideas for researching nonconformist ancestors" which was a shame as I also have a number of Non-conformists in my tree but the only way of having all the talks would be to double the length of the cruise.

Then it was time to listen to Lisa Louise Cooke on "How to reopen and work a genealogical cold case" which again took you through re-looking at your data to see how to break down those brick walls. This was opposite "Matchmaking and marriage customs in the 19th century rural Ireland" with Sean Ó Dúill which I would have liked to have heard but again a matter of choices.

Then a short break before the closing activity of the which I'll talk about in the final post about the cruise.