Saturday, 27 August 2016

A Patchwork of Memories

Week Four in the National Family History Month Blogging Challenge looks at the idea of country or place in family history including what makes a place special or unique.
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One of the assignments in the University of Tasmania Family History unit, Place, Image Object, was to create an annotated map of an area important to your family history. This was to be a creative activity where participants chose materials to create their map. A short reflective statement was to accompany the annonated map / artwork created. This proved to be a challenging assignment as the examples provided appeared to relate more to artwork rather than history but I took a deep breath and did the best that I could.

Although the presentation of the material was a challenge the exercise, from a history viewpoint, was worthwhile. I was seven and in grade 2 when we arrived at our new home in Edinburgh Street, so I based my assignment as an observation of the area as seen largely through the eyes of a child. As I thought about my chosen site I recalled many memories of my childhood and the process caused me to think about how the area had developed from market garden to suburbia. I named the assignment A Patchwork of Memories.
Patchwork of Memories
I chose to look at the a section of the suburb of East Bentleigh which my family moved to in May 1955, an area which several years earlier had been market gardens. This area, locally, also has the name of Coatesville after the name of the primary school established in August 1953. The school was originally South Oakleigh State School but was renamed Coatesville in 1955 after Councillor Leslie Robert Coates. The post office, lawn bowls club and tennis club also use the name Coatesville.

When doing research for this assignment I discovered, on the State Library website, a Collins Street Directory 1952 map of the area showing a blank space for the area where we were to live, go to school, attend church and shop.
Map of part of East Bentleigh 1952 - Collins Street Directory
I created a very basic map for the assignment showing the initial changes made to the area by 1955.

The area on both sides of Mackie Road had now begun to be developed with the addition of streets, a shopping centre, school and church.
Google Maps shows the area today as suburbia
My family moved from rental accommodation in an established area to a brand new house, purchased via a war service loan, built on a developing housing estate. As already mentioned, the area had originally been market gardens. An article in The Australasian in 1906 describes the market gardens in Moorabbin with crops grown  including potatoes, cabbages, carrots, turnips and cauliflowers. Artichokes were grown in the Coatesville area as at one stage as my parents and neighbours found artichokes in the garden for many years. When we moved to Edinburgh Street there were hardly any completed buildings in the street apart from our house, the house on the Mackie Road corner belonging to the family who had owned the local market gardens and a house on the Tambet Street corner.

Other houses were being built nearby and gradually the area changed from green furrowed paddocks with a few houses to streets of houses, made roads and lots of people, including children. The paddocks were places to explore, make cubby houses and daisy chains. The sound of building was prominent during the day but once the builders left, the new structures became play areas for children. We spent hours clambering over these wooden structures forming the intial frame of what were to become rows of brick veneer houses.

For a child the nearby school was an important place. Being only two streets from home it was a short walk to school and in my senior years at primary school I often went home for lunch. Initially Coatesville was the only state school in a rapidly expanding residential area and consequently the class sizes were large until new schools opened at South Oakleigh and Valkstone. When Valkstone State School opened two grade four classes from Coatesville were each day bussed to the new school for their lessons. My memories of primary school include learning to play skippy, hopscotch, swapcards, shelter sheds where we often played but also watched movie films with blackout curtains over the doors, lessons via radio piped into the classroom, school milk each day, ink wells, ink monitors and boys flicking ink soaked blotting paper across the room, rows of desks, blackboard monitors, marching into school to the beat of a drum after assembly, school marching team, inter school sports at Oakleigh, swimming lessons at Brighton baths, learning maypole dancing and the school fete each year. There was also a vacant paddock next to the school (it later became part of the school grounds) where we were not allowed to play but, of course, we did.

The church was where we went to Sunday School - hundreds of children attended each Sunday - attended the Girls Friendly Society (GFS) each week, played in our GFS basketball team, went on the annual Sunday School Picnic (often in a furniture van to places such as Ferntree Gully) and, of course, the Church fetes.

The shopping centre was also two streets away in the opposite direction to the school so I was allowed to go to the shops for Mum to purchase her copy of the Women's Weekly from the newsagent or to buy a bag of broken Nice biscuits from the Grocers. At the Milk Bar we were occasionally allowed to buy an icy pole or a small bag of mixed lollies which we chose from the display cabinet.

Being a new area creating a garden was an important activity and we watched the transformation of the area when lawns were planted, trees began to grow and there was colour from newly planted flowers. Planting a  liquid amber in the front garden proved to be an unwise decision but it did have pretty leaves in autumn.

I don't remember this but according to my mother Edinburgh Street was the first of the smaller streets to be a made road. I do, however, remember the bread and milk being delivered via a horse and cart. One of the boys in my class used to sometimes skip school to do the rounds with the man delivering the bread. For many years each Spring, when there was heavy rain, our section of Edinburgh Street used to flood. Children from all the houses would play in the water until a neighbour pointed out that it may not really be a healthy activity. New neighbours who had just planted their lawn were also not impressed.

In the 1950s there were two firework nights each year - Empire Day (later Commonwealth Day) on 21 May and Guy Fawkes Day on 5 November. These were the days when we could go to the shops and buy fire crackers. It was a community event with neighbours often coming together to let off rockets, fountains, catherine wheels set in holes in the fence, light bungers and wave sparklers in the air. One year we had a bonfire on the evening of the school fete.

Fetes were also community events with people working together to raise money for the school or church. I have memories of Mum making cakes all day for the fete and we would also make toffees and cocnut ice to be sold. Our next door  neighbour spent months sewing aprons and other items for the craft stall. There were always lots of stalls, food to eat and rides. As children, fetes were something to look forward to.

The move to East Bentleigh was a great adventure for a seven year old. This was a time of freedom, a time to explore and to make friends. It was also the building of a new community. 

For our assignment we had to try and capture the feelings of the area in our annotated map. I chose to use Popplet to create my map.
Annotated Map in Popplet -
Using the 1952 map and images I also created a Patchwork of Memories illustrating recollections of my childhood in this new environment. An annotated version of A Patchwork of Memories was also produced in Popplet.
Annotated A Patchwork of Memories in Popplet -
Although this assignment caused initial angst it proved to be a useful exercise in thinking about the importance of place in a family story.

Coatesville (place) - eMelbourne
Bentleigh East - Wikipedia

'Coatesville State School' in Vision and realisation: a centenary history of State education in Victoria. (1973) volume 3 page 492
Coatesville Primary School website
Coatesville Primary School - Know your schools website

'Market gardens at Moorabbin' - photo 1953 - Victorian Places
'Through the market gardens', Moorabbin in The Australasian 25 August 1906 - Trove

 Collins street directory 1952 - State Library of Victoria

Annotated map in Popplet
Annotated A Patchwork of Memories in Popplet

Monday, 22 August 2016

War Widows' and Widowed Mothers' Association of Victoria

The Week Three theme for the National Family History Week Blogging Challenge relates to the First World War, particularly events in August 1916. This post is not strictly on topic however when you look at the huge number of deaths of Australian soldiers in 1916 the establishment of a support group for the widows and widowed mothers of those who died is important.
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The first meeting of the War Widows' and Widowed Mothers' Association of Victoria (WWWMAV) was held in Melbourne in May 1922. After the First World War a number of support groups were established for war widows and / or widowed mothers but most of these groups have disappeared over time. In 2016, although the membership is shrinking, the War Widows' and Widowed Mothers' Association continues as a support group for its members.
When my father died in 1984 my mother was contacted by the local branch of the WWWMAV and her membership of this organisation continues. For many years she has been secretary of the local branch. The age of the membership is currently around 90 +, give or take a few years, but the ladies continue to meet regularly when health and other commitments allow.

Towards the end of 2003 a decision was made at a WWWMAV State Council meeting that the ladies would like a history of their association to ensure that in the future there would be a record of their organisation and their activities. My mother suggested (volunteered) that I should undertake the project so much of 2004 was spent reading the minutes, newsletters and other papers that had been kept (unfortunately minutes of the AGM prior to 1948 are missing). I also conducted a small survey of sample WWWMAV members as well as reading background material available in books and online about events affecting the lives of widows and widowed mothers during and after the First World War. In 2005 the Patriotic Funds Council arranged for the publication of War Widows and Widowed Mothers Association of Victoria: the first 82 years and copies were made available to members.

Although legislation such as the War Pensions Act 1914 paved the way for the payment of a pension to widows, and later widowed mothers dependant on their sons who died serving overseas, the pension was well below the basic wage and women with children, in particular, faced financial difficulties. A decision was therefore made to form an organisation to promote the cause of war widows and widowed mothers. Inintially, as stated in the WWWMAV constitution, the group worked towards attaining the betterment of pensions, amenities and concessions for war widows and widowed mothers and their families as well as the promotion of fellowship, interest and co-operation among members with help and advice wherever possible to the bereaved. This group has proved to be an important network. During and after World War II the WWWMAV quickly absorbed and assisted a new generation of widows and widowed mothers.
Plaque in Birdwood Avenue, Shrine Reserve (Monument Australia)
Twenty-nine branches of the WWWMAV were founded throughout Victoria though a number have closed over the years. The Association has been governed by a State Council. Statewide events included an annual State Conference, an annual Get-together Luncheon and an annual Pilgrimage to the Shrine. The WWWMAV also produced a monthly publication, Remembrance, for members.

Caring and sharing can be seen as two major functions of the Association as the WWWMAV works as a support group for its members. Branches hold regular, often monthly meetings which may be followed by a speaker or a product demonstration. Bus trips to a variety of destinations have been a popular activity. In the past many groups also organised holiday trips for members. Branch anniversary and Christmas celebrations have also been important and well attended functions and in many cases have also been attended by members of neighbouring groups. Especially after the Second World War when the existing group membership was joined by younger members, often with young children, an annual Christamas Treat for the children was organised.

When WWWMAV was established visiting patients in repatriation hospitals was an important role of members. Members continue to visit their members who may be hospitalised and regularly check on the needs of members who are unwell. The WWWMAV has maintained a close association with Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital including members attending services at the hospital.

Anzac Day and Remembrance Day are special days of commemoration with members often attending services at the Shrine or services organised by their local RSL. An annual pilgrimage to the Shrine was a regular event. The WWWMAV branches work with their local RSL branches and also with local Legacy groups.

From the early 1950s WWWMAV funds purchased holiday homes at Rosebud and Olinda and later at Ferny Creek allowing members and their families the opportunity of affordable holidays. In 2004 ownership of the remaining homes at Rosebud was transferred to Carry On Victoria. Seventy-five thousand dollars was also been placed in a trust fund with the interest used for an annual nursing scholarship at Federation University, Ballarat.

Support, care and companionship remain key elements of the WWWMAV as well as providing information for members regarding benefits and services. At meetings and other functions it is never forgotten that the current members are widows of men who served in Australian forces.

The membership may be aging but the WWWMAV plays an important part in the lives of its members, providing the opportunity to form friendships and share experiences. To quote one of the members replying to the survey question - why she joined the Association - "Lovely club, wonderful girls, great friends."

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Challenges of Working on the Land

The Week Two topic for the National Family History Blogging Challenge is to honour our working ancestors and the challenges they faced in their occupations.
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Many generations of my family have owned and worked on properties primarily in New South Wales and Queensland.The early settlers to the colonies were often granted or purchased parcels of land. When Dorothea Mackellar wrote of 'droughts and flooding rains' in her poem, My Country, the experiences she described were faced by family members who lived in outback Queensland and NSW as well as family members with smaller properties near the Hawkesbury River.

An example of how challenging being a landowner can be can be shown through the experiences of George Hutton (1850-1936). George was born in Bath, England and at the age of 19 came to Australia. Initially he worked on a number of properties in western Victoria and southern NSW before his father arrived in Victoria to investigate settling there. The contrast between life in Bath and life in rural Australia must have been dramatic for George however I suspect he treated it as an adventure, initially anyway, as he spent the rest of his life in this country.

George helped his father in the early establishment of a property in Lilydale before deciding, in 1874, to go north to Queensland to work as a cattle drover. The next time we hear of him he had purchased (with financial assistance from his father) a sheep station, The Troffs, near Parkes.

Articles in Trove refer to the prices obtained at the wool sales and also note that George was a Pasture Director of the Forbes Pastures and Stock Protection Board in the 1890s. There is also a report of George purchasing additional sheep in 1888.
Forbes Stock Report January 13 included information that 2000 ewes on the 6th January had crossed the river travelling from Grawlin Plain to The Troffs.
Australian Town and Country Journal Saturday 21 January 1888 p4
George's brother, Arthur, joined him to help run the property. Lack of water was a problem for property owners and in the early 1890s rain was limited. However worse was to come in the form of the Federation Drought which occurred between the years 1895 to 1902.
Federation drought 1895-1902
The five years preceding Federation had been intermittently dry over most of the country. Very dry conditions set in across eastern Australia during the spring of 1901, and became entrenched over the following months. As the drought worsened, enormous sheep and cattle losses were reported from Queensland, and many rivers dried up. The Darling River at Bourke virtually ran dry, while Murray River towns such as Mildura, Balranald and Deniliquin - at that time dependent on the river for transport - suffered badly. The Australian wheat crop was all but lost. Rain in December 1902 brought temporary relief, with a more substantial break in autumn 1903. The long drought and its severe climax in 1902 had devastated stock numbers, and began focusing attention on planning for irrigation, especially in the three states through which the Murray River flows. Australian Yearbook 2008 - Natural disasters in Australia.
The family property, The Troffs, was sold and George needed to find new employment. His wife, Annie, moved to Sydney and took their two daughters with her but George elected to remain in the Parkes area where he became a Rabbit Inspector for the Molong Pastures Protection Board.

As we all know the introduction of rabbits to this country was a disaster for property owners. Rabbit Inspectors were therefore appointed to check that property owners were complying with regulations to minimise the spread rabbits on their properties. Articles in Trove show that monthly meetings were held which included reports from the Rabbit Inspectors.
Rabbit Inspector Hutton reported that he had travelled 304 miles since the previous meeting, and had made 45 inspections. He reported ten holders to be unsatisfactory, and recommended three owners for prosecution. The board decided to lay poison in reserves at a cost of £25, and to prosecute three holders reported by Inspector Hutton.
Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 23 December 1914 p9
According to the Sands Directory, George was still a Rabbit Inspector in 1926. It was around this time that he left Parkes and spent the rest of his life living with his daughter and her family on their property in Western Queensland.

While trying to make a living from the land in his new country George discovered that the environment provided many challenges difficult to overcome no matter how hard you perservered.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Exploring census data

As part of National Family History Month,  held in August, a challenge was issued to write a post on a selected topic each week. The topic for Week 1 was a Census Story.
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Recently, as part of the Convict Ancestors course, I  reseached one of my convict ancestors, Mary Bateman, who arrived in New South Wales aboard the Lady Juliana in 1790 and was then sent to Norfolk Island where she lived until her family relocated to Hobart Town in 1805. On Norfolk Island Mary had married George Guest, a First Fleet convict. The New South Wales Convict Death Register shows that Mary died in April 1829 and was buried at St Luke's, Liverpool, NSW.

We know from newspaper reports and correspondence in Historical Records of Australia that Mary and her family travelled to Port Jackson in 1806 as opportunities for education for the children in Hobart Town were limited. It seems, however, that Mary did not return to Hobart Town with her family. There are a few reports mentioning Mary and her husband, who made frequent trips to Port Jackson, in Trove however I needed to rely on the muster and census records to try and piece together what happened to Mary.

Mary's name, sometimes under Bateman and sometimes under Guest, is recorded on the New South Wales population Muster for 1811,  the New South Wales Settler and Convict List for 1818 and the New South Wales Musters of 1822 and 1825. The last two records show that Mary was at the Lunatic Asylum in Parramatta. The New South Wales Census 1828 then shows that Mary had been transferred to the Lunatic Asylum at Liverpool. She died there the following year.
Tuesday 9 August 2016 is Census Night when once again the Australian Bureau of Statistics is asking householders to complete the Census of Population and Housing. From the early days of the settlement of the Colony of New South Wales, officials carried out and relied on census data to record information about the convicts, former convicts and free settlers in the colony. The initial surveys were known as musters but by 1828 the term census was being used.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics website has an article on Colonial Censuses and Musters while the State Library of Victoria has a useful guide on Early Australian Census Records.  The links at the top of the SLV guide page provide specific information for each state.

Fortunately much of the early collected data up to the 1841 New South Wales census is available for the use of historians, including family historians, via online databases such as Some census reports (not the data) is available on Historical Census and Colonial Data Archive. Some of this data can also be found on microfiche. The first Commonwealth Census was held in 1911. Initially the census was taken every ten years but since 1961 has been held every five years.

During the second half of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century the census records were destroyed once the data had been collated into reports. This policy has changed since the 2001 census resulting in those filling in census forms being able to indicate if they want their information to be kept in secure storage for one hundred years when information may be released for general research. Those of us investigating the history of family members in the UK are likely to have used data from census records from 1841 until 1911 and are grateful that this information is now readily available.

Those of us using the available census information for family history research know that the data about family members varies. The later British census forms now available online provide quite detailed information about households. However even the limited information to be found on some of the early colonial muster and census forms can still provide a new, sometimes unexpected, piece of information leading to further research. Census information can be a really useful research tool.

NB: A useful link that has just  appeared - Australian Census 1828 and 2016
Also Census Musters Guide