Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Snapshots of an adventurer: Alexander William de Friez

This week's prompt for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is "favourite photo".  Now, I don't think I can say these photographs of my grandfather, Alexander William de FRIEZ, are my favourites, but they are very special to me.

Alexander William de Friez c. 1930
Original held by author
The earlier one shows a young man at early adulthood - calm, contained, with a hint of mischief about his carefully-controlled smile, as though he must contain his energy for the duration of the photographic episode.

He certainly had huge energy!  Alex was born in Bristol in 1907, the second son in a family that would contain 2 boys and 2 girls.  His father, Charles de FRIEZ, was a master mariner, employed by the Port of Bristol Authority as a ship's pilot in the notorious seas of the Bristol Channel.

Alex grew up among a sea-faring community, but his first sea voyage would take him, in 1925 at the age of 18, half-way around the world to Melbourne, Australia, as a "younger brother" in the "Big Brother" initiative, one of the many schemes that evolved after World War 1 to bring young men to Australia to ease housing and food shortages and unemployment in Britain and to rebuild a depleted workforce in Australia.  Alex completed his contracted 4 years of labour in the program in 1929 just as the Great Depression began to be felt in Australia.

Just a year later, in 1930, Alex was living in Mackay in Queensland and working as a labourer.

By 1936, he was in Bundaberg, receiving am aircraft pilot's licence from the Northern Rivers Flying Club, and working at the Bingera Sugar Plantation.  It was here he met Kathleen McDonald, the daughter of the Plantation's carpenter, and they married in 1937.

Alex and Kathleen together had many adventures in life including dairy farming, raising a daughter and adopting a son, free-masonry, surviving Darwin's Cyclone Tracy, building homes for local people on Thursday Island, singing and performing, world travel, and more!  These adventures will form the content of many more blog posts, I'm sure!

Alexander William de Friez, c. 1975
Original held by author
For now, let's fast-forward to retirement.  In this second photo, taken around 1975, Alex is older, more relaxed, with a weathered face showing evidence of his adventures.  He still has that hint of mischief about him, and I remember how his blue eyes seemed to sparkle with life and curiosity and fun.

Sadly, for a man with so much zest for life, Alex began to experience dementia in the mid-1980's until his death in 1992.

Because of his travels and his many and varied interests, and my own entry into adulthood, I didn't spend enough time with him and - like many family historians, I'm sure! - I now wish that I had carved out more time to listen to his stories and to enjoy his humour and wisdom.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Where to start: my research plans for 2018

I've been taking some time to finalise my research plans for 2018 mostly because I've had to remind myself of what I've already achieved in previous years, and where I'm up to!

So, after doing that, and considering other things that will be happening this year, it makes sense to me to focus on just 2 generations of my ancestors - my grandparents and their siblings, and my great-grandparents.

All of them are deceased, so I have no personal stories or interviews to start with.  And, over the years, I've found much of the framework of their lives - dates of birth, marriage, death, etc.  But the stories, the details, the realities of their lives are still largely unexplored.

The families I want to research are:

1. Maternal Grandfather, Siblings, and Parents

2. Maternal Grandmother, Siblings, and Parents

3. Paternal Grandfather, Siblings and Parents
4. Paternal Grandmother, Siblings and Parents
There are still some gaps in biography among these lists of names, and there are plenty of stories to research and tell.

This is where I start, and what I focus on during 2018.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Kick-start your motivation: visit a cemetery

If I need a motivational boost for my family history endeavours, I head off to a cemetery.  Reading the inscriptions on the gravestones, wondering about the lives and loves of those who now lie at peace, sets my imagination free, and I remember again why I enjoy family history so much.

The enjoyment is even better when I can also fulfil a photo request from a fellow-genie.

Tarwin Lower Cemetery
Photo taken by author
Today, I visited Tarwin Lower Cemetery in South Gippsland to fulfil a photo request from Find-a-Grave.

Before I left home, I found information about the cemetery, and interesting stories about some of the early burials (for which records still exist) on Australian Cemeteries.  (If you don't already know about this site, it's awesome!)  I also learned that finding the cemetery might, in itself, add a touch of mystery to my trip.

I gathered my supplies and headed off.  To my delight, I had little difficulty finding the cemetery, thanks to Google Maps, or the grave-site I was searching for and quickly took a few photo's to send off to - I hope - a very happy genea-mate.

Then I just wandered.  There's something very peaceful and calming about a cemetery, and this is no exception.  There are lots of trees, giving plenty of shade, and adding that lovely "shush" sound of wind through their leaves.  It's quite a large piece of land with plenty of space between each section, and the trustees have installed a number of lovely wooden benches, where it's very pleasant to just sit and take in the ambience.

I do feel a bit sad when I see the dilapidated state of some grave-sites, such as the one pictured here. In addition to the overgrowth of vegetation on the surface of the grave, the weather has played havoc with this stone, and the inscription is almost illegible - just a few bumps in the surface to show there was ever anything there.   I wonder where the families, who once lavished care and thought on the resting-places of their loves ones, have now gone - lost to time, relocation, and the busy-ness of life probably.

And, I came back from this visit (like I always do) with a refreshed interest in the stories of my own ancestors, and renewed motivation to find out all I can about them, and to record it for the generations that will follow me.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Welcome 2018 - new year, new goals

I have been absent from my family history and from blogging for too long.  Over the last 18 months, I've experienced some very difficult health and life concerns which involved me relocating across 2 states and 2500kms, having to find new employment, and generally having a fairly unhappy and stressful time.

That's now behind me and I'm ready to move forward into this new life, and to rediscover my interest in my family history research.

Figuring out where to start is a bit of an issue, though, because I have lost sight of where I was at.  So I began with a rather messy mind-map of the areas I want to pursue, then moved that into some broad goal areas.

1.  Research grandparents and great-grandparents in detail
I'm going to follow a limited version of Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over and revisit all the research I've done on my grandparents and great-grandparents.  There are still mysteries to solve, and I know there are citations and sources missing.  I also want to understand their life stories in greater detail.  So, despite the attraction of those "shaky leaves", I intend to focus on these 2 generations during this year.

And, in case you're interested, their names are:

  • Eric Ormond Weymouth (1908-1989)
  • Gwendolyn Mary Grace (1912-1976)
  • Alexander William de Friez (1907-1992)
  • Kathleen McDonald (1901-1976)
  • Walter Josiah Weymouth (1871-1954)
  • Margaret Jane Seymour (1875-1922)
  • Sylvester John Grace (1881-1955)
  • Rachel Elizabeth Norris (1893-1963)
  • Charles de Friez (1873-1936)
  • Florence Reed (1882-?)
  • John Edwin McDonald (1869-1956)
  • Emily Jane Cook (1867-1951)

There's plenty there to keep me interested and searching!

2.  Organise what I already have
Like many genealogists, I have papers everywhere.  I have originals mixed up with certified documents mixed up with photocopies and downloaded images.  I have photos unlabelled and in mixed-up boxes.  I have memorabilia just sitting in drawers.  I have stacks of negatives and slides (remember them!) that haven't even been looked at! I have 3 trees in different locations with different information in them, and I have various back-up versions in different locations and I'm not sure which is the most recent.

I have a lot to do!

Part of my time and attention this year must go to scanning, sorting, labelling, correctly storing, and caring for the items that support my research.  I must also decide on a primary tree, then match others to it, and I must figure out a suitable back-up plan.

3.  Improve my family history skills and knowledge
This is self-explanatory.  I know a fair bit about how to research, where to research, what to look for, etc, but there's always more to learn.  I'm not particularly comfortable with technology and much prefer to use pen-and-paper, but maybe that's not the best way anymore.  And there are so many options - podcasts, webinars, blogs - available now (and many are free), that it's almost a crime not to make use of them.

4.  Give back to the genea-community
I've been a member of Find-a-grave for some years now, but in recent times I haven't responded to photo requests.  That needs to change.  I've received so much information from so many people and I need to "pay it forward".

I'm also a member of my local genealogical society, but again haven't contributed much in recent times.  I'll be looking for ways to change that this year.

5.  Family project - gravestone for my ggmother
In the course of my research, I've located the cemetery and burial site of my great grandmother, Margaret Jane Seymour.  Sadly, she doesn't have a stone or marker on her grave.  I don't know why - that's one of the mysteries I'd like to solve.  But, I do know that I want to provide her with a gravestone, and I'd like others of her descendants to be involved in that process.  I have some ideas about it which I'll share as they evolve.

6.  Write, right?
There are many reasons to write about my family history journeys and there are many eminent genealogists and family historians urging us to do so.  So, I'm going to try, beginning with my blogging.  In previous years, life has intervened and my blogging is one of the casualties of getting busy and overwhelmed.  I hope to manage that better this year and post something at least monthly.  I'm also hoping to try some other ways of recording what I'm doing and what I find, to keep my family informed and maybe interested.

So, that's my plans for 2018, at least for genealogy.  What are yours?  I'd be interested to know what others are up to :-)

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Identify your Ancestor in that Photo! Challenge - Day 3

I'm following along with Lisa Talbott Lisson's challenge to see if I can identify the people in this photo.

My previous posts are here and here, if you'd like to see what I've discovered so far - which isn't very much, I'm afraid!

Lisa's tip for Day 3 is to search Google for any matching images, just in case another researcher is perhaps on the trail of this family.  Unfortunately, I didn't get any matches.

However, closer inspection of the photo has revealed to me that the man on the left is wearing what I think is a Salvation Army uniform.

I've searched around a bit and the Salvation Army's site advises me that the organisation commenced work in the Australian colonies of South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria between 1880 and 1882.  So the logical conclusion is that the photograph must have been taken after those years.

So that's where I'm up to now - still not close to a conclusion, but further forward than I was.

My next steps will be to:

  • contact my cousin for ANY more information I can get;
  • research whether any of Thomas' and Mary's children were members of the Salvation Army or married a member of the Salvation Army.

I wonder what Day 4 will bring?

Merry Month of May Movie Meme

Over on her blog, Pauline has challenged fellow bloggers to take part in her Merry Month of May Movie Meme, and who am I to refuse her?

She has provided a list of questions and here are my answers, which took longer to do than I thought!  Hope they are of some interest :-)

Here we go:

What’s the earliest movie you can remember:
Bedknobs and Broomsticks - a Disney movie that we went to see during school holidays at the old Theatre Royal in Mackay (Queensland).  I think I was about 10 years old at the time.  I'm sure we'd been to the movies before that, but I don't recall it.

Where did you go to the movies (place or type of venue):
Clearly, the Theatre Royal was one of the places I went to.  I remember it seemed very "posh" to me, having been originally built in 1912 and upgraded in 1936.  There was lots of plush carpet, gilt mirrors, and beautiful upholstery - but sadly it was all demolished in 1990.

Theatre Royal Mackay, 1970's
Exterior (above) and Interior (below)
Both pictures are from the archives of Mackay Regional Council and the Mackay Historical Society

We also went to the Civic Theatre in the main street of Mackay, which was also a bit getting a bit rundown - though I thought it was very sophisticated :-)  And then, there was the drive-in :-)

Did you buy movie programs:
No; I don't think they had them!

Did you take in food and drink (and what did you like):
I think we had ice-creams and I do remember rolling Jaffa's down the aisles when I was older (hehe)

Movies of your teenage years:
Jaws; Alien; Rocky; Mad Max; Saturday Night Fever; The Sting; Smoky and the Bandit; Kramer vs Kramer - so many!!

Do you remember how old you were when you went unsupervised:
I think we always went into the cinema unsupervised.  My brother, sister and I had to stay together though.  Mum would always deliver us to the cinema, and collect us from outside.

Mischief you got up to in the movies:
See above reference to Jaffa's!  That's about it, I think.  I do remember getting into BIIIIIGGGGG trouble when I went to the drive-in with a group of friends - I was about 17, I think - and a "dusk-to-dawn" showing was happening.  We were supposed to leave after the 11.00pm finish and be home by midnight, but we opted to stay for the rest of the night and I didn't get home till almost 6.00am.  This was before we even had a phone in our house, let alone mobile phones, so you can imagine the state my mother was in!

Did you watch movies at home:
Every Saturday night, we watched "Disneyland" for whatever was on.  I remember endless episodes of "Lassie"; there were movies like "The Love Bug".  And during the Christmas school holidays, there was always "Summer Holiday" with Cliff Richard, lots of westerns with John Wayne and Gary Cooper, and occasional Elvis movies too.

What was your favourite movie to watch at home:
As a child, it was probably "Sound of Music"; now it's the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy :-)

Do you prefer to watch movies at home or at the cinema:
I enjoy both.  I still love the "occasion" of going to the cinema, buying tickets and snacks, racing in for the best seats, the big screen and the big surround sound.  And I also enjoy watching movies (on DVD) at home with my family.  I don't enjoy watching movies put on by commercial TV stations because I can't stand the ads!

Does your family have a special movie memory:
We have a family tradition that, every year, we go to the cinema on Boxing Day and see whatever new movie has been released.  It's always a lot of fun and a nice relaxing way to wind down from Christmas Day :-)

Movies you fell in love to/with:
Nothing that I recall.

Favourite romantic movie theme music:
No idea!  I'm not very musically-aware, and can never identify music or songs or themes.

Favourite musical movie:
Rocky Horror Picture Show

Which movies made you want to dance/sing:
Rocky Horror Picture Show; Mamma Mia; Grease; Saturday Night Fever; Fame - to name a few.  Not that I can actually sing, but I love to scare my family with the noise I make [LOL]

Do you watch re-runs or DVDs of old movies:
Not re-runs (see above reference to annoying ads), but certainly I watch DVD's over and over again.

Do your children/family enjoy the same movies:
Yes and no.  Across the generations, we all love "Lord of the Rings", "Grease", "Sound of Music", "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert", "Love Actually".  But the younger ones are really into some of the "rom-com's" that just make me cringe.

What’s your favourite movie genre now:
Probably fantasy, and gentle comedy ala "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and its sequel.

Did you read the book before or after the movie:
Neither.  I read books.  If they happen to be made into a movie, then I generally don't want to see it.

Which did you enjoy more, the book or the movie:
See above.

What’s the silliest movie you’ve seen (silly funny or silly annoying):
Silly annoying: anything with Chevy Chase in it - remember those terrible 'family vacation' movies he did.  Ugh - makes me shudder just to think of them!

Pet hate in movies:
Background sound and music that overpowers the dialogue; and 3D movies - hate'em!

A movie that captures family history for you:
This might be a bit weird, but I think it's "The DaVinci Code" - the search for clues in strange places, the frantic confused search that keeps us looking for that next bit that will reveal all, and the great desire we have to be connected to our families and to our past - however strange that turns out to be.

If you could only play 5 movies for the rest of your life, what would they be:
Oh my goodness, how to choose [gasp] ... "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (which I'm totally counting as 1); "Love Actually"; "The Castle"; "Pirates of the Caribbean" (another trilogy which I'm counting as 1 hehe)  - no, there's too many to choose from.

Favourite movie stars (go ahead and list as many as you like):
Johnny Depp; George Clooney; Liam Neeson; Meryl Streep; Judi Dench; Maggie Smith; Alan Rickman; Patrick Stewart; Ian McKellen; Cate Blanchett; Emma Thompson - I'm much more partial to English and Australian actors and movies than I am to American efforts.

Well, I think that's it!  Thank you, Pauline, for the prompts.  It's reminded me of a few stories that I need to add to my "book of me" :-)

Monday, 23 May 2016

Identify Your Ancestor in that Photo! Challenge Day 2

I'm joining in Lisa Talbott Lisson's challenge to help identify the people in this photo.

You can read my first post here, explaining the little bit I know about the provenance of the photo.

The second step that Lisa suggests is to identify the type of photograph.  She lists 5 options. Since this photograph is a digital image downloaded from, all I can do is offer a "best guess"!

I do have some other photographs - not of the same people - with that similar sepia/cream colouring.  The extreme right edge of the photograph can just be seen, and it looks like it is attached to thick cream card. So I'm opting for a cabinet card.  Lisa advises that these were popular in the 1860's-1890's ... I wonder if that was also the case here in Australia?  Some further research is in order, I think :-)