Book of Me: Prompt 9 -Halloween/Hallowian

Book of mePrompt 9 for the Book of Me is all about Halloween, which is appropriate given that it occurs in week 9 of our project. This will be a traditional event for many of my fellow bloggers, however Down Under it’s been a non-event until quite recent years: another commercial opportunity or just fun for the kids? I’m so cynical.

Julie’s questions were: Have you ever participated in a Halloween event? When was it? Where was it? What did you dress as? Trick or treat? My answer to each of these is “no”.

So my first thought was to pass on this week’s prompt but wait, there’s a lateral solution.

The Story Bridge is part of the school's geography and student memories.
The Story Bridge is part of the school’s geography and student memories.

Our good friend Wikipedia has an answer to what Halloween is all about. It celebrates the eve of All Hallows or All Saints, the day when the Christian churches remember their saints.  It also records that the celebration  initiates the triduum of Hallowmas, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.

The front altar of the All Hallows' Chapel

The front altar of the All Hallows’ Chapel

This is much more familiar to me for a number of reasons. It was always traditional in our house to go to Mass on All Saints’ Day (1 November) and also on All Souls’ Day (2 November) to remember all our family members who had died and gone before us. Actually this makes All Souls’ Day a pretty good feast day for family historians to celebrate. No particular year stands out because going to Mass was just one of those things you did on a weekly (or more regular) basis.

All Saints’ Day or All Hallows’ Day is also important in my family history because I went to a school called All Hallows’ in Brisbane, now in its 153rd year. In fact three generations of women in my family have attended the school over many decades and given its name 1 November was of course an important day in the school’s calendar. To be honest I can’t recall that we did anything exceptional on the day (it was after all shortly before our annual state-wide exams) but we certainly went to Mass in the school chapel. By the time our daughters attended the school it had become traditional for the whole school to have the day out having fun at one of the water parks in town.  I guess they probably also went to Mass in the chapel as well (must see if any of them remember)

The school chapel has an amazing atmosphere and without being spooky evokes generations of women who have worshipped there.

When I was at All Hallows’ the school’s quarterly newspaper was called The Hallowian and it was a more light-hearted reporting of what was happening in the school than the formal end-of-year school magazine.

I’ve been looking at old copies from when I was at the school and have been intrigued by the diversity of the stories from totally frivolous (and fallacious!) stories about the new prefects, in-depth social commentary, welcomes to the New Guinea students who had arrived to study there, and the usual mix of charity, drama, cultural and sporting activities. I was particularly taken with the stories about the school’s buildings and grounds, so now I’m scanning them for posterity (perhaps something for my time capsule?)

Interesting to see the ideas for holidays in the day. I used to skate at Mowbray Park ice rink.

Back to the more temporal celebration of Halloween, we were in New England one year in mid-November, and traces of Halloween celebrations in garden decorations or florist’s windows. That’s probably my closest direct connection to Halloween.

Happy Halloween to all my mates and Happy All Hallows’ Day to my fellow AHS students.

Pumpkins on a Boston doorstep 1992.
Pumpkins on a Boston doorstep 1992.

Ethics and all the Rs

Some weeks ago, Geneablogger guru Thomas MacEntee posted on a comment he was asked at a lecture: “Do we have the right to do genealogy?” Instantly my mental knee bounced forward and I responded with “Definitely! Why is it different from any other hobby or sport which comes with risks and benefits?

With a little more pondering I could see the question had more nuances than at first appeared. My initial post was written, atypically, on the i-Pad and, mercifully for the first time, disappeared…my mistake, oops. Events of the day overtook it and I never did get back to it, concluding that it was old news.

Still the topic continues to haunt me along with related posts, and so, for better or worse, you get my reflections. For me the issues of rights to research can never be considered without the dual aspects of responsibility and respect.

Image created in Microsoft Office Word.

Image created in Microsoft Office Word.


Each of us inevitably interacts with forms, paperwork and government legislation. We know our vital records disappear into the government’s maw of data. We also personally protect our biographical data carefully in this day of identity theft.

I think our ancestors were equally aware of the collection of personal information of this sort. This is why I don’t think they’d be too distressed to find that we may be able to collect this data. Their astonishment would probably be reserved for the reality that we can actually find all those personal needles in the data haystack after so many years. Little could they imagine our digital era with all its options.

Knowing who we are across time is something that tugs at mind and heart for many of us, and it’s not unreasonable to want to know who those ancestors were who contributed to our make-up. Perhaps society’s greater understanding of the impact of social and family influences, not to mention the essential significance of DNA on our biology, contributes to our expectation that we have a right to know who, and what, lies in our ancestry. We also place such emphasis on surnames as they relate to identity, and our paternity, that our name also defines our very selves. So to raise another vexed question, why are women expected to forgo their individual identities when they marry? Why can’t we all be Scottish and use both surnames?

So far, so good. For me, this collection of biographical data and identification of ancestors is our genealogy. There may be skeletons in the closet which our ancestors would prefer we didn’t know about but they were likely well known in their community at the time, or at least by a handful of people. My great-grandfather could hardly be too horrified that I could learn about his run-in with the law: after all it was splashed across the pages of the newspapers for months.

I can, however, readily imagine their astonishment that we can identify illegitimacies, “early” marriages, separations, bigamy or divorce with comparative ease but I suspect their greater astonishment would be that we care about it at all, along with a small gasp of horror that we are unearthing their long-buried information “skeletons”.


Along with the sometimes scandalous biographical data, those who are dedicated to their family’s more textured history pursue information about day-to-day lives and wider social context.

It might be easy to get caught up in the collection of myriad data but we are dealing with peoples’ lives and their stories. We have dual responsibilities: to treat their stories with respect rather than salaciousness, and to consider those descendants whose personal fabric may be threatened by the revelation of not-so-pleasant secrets.

Are we picking out only the scandalous, gossipy bits which reflect poorly on our ancestors? Or are we revealing them as human beings with weaknesses and strengths much like our own? Have we weighed up any potential bias in the family stories we are told in oral history?

Much depends on our approach and I’m grateful that I’ve only rarely come across a family historian who is focused on the scandals and negative gossip above all. We owe it to our ancestors to be generous with their faults and apply the “do unto others…” rule.

As to those family members still living, where do our obligations lie?

As family historians we have a key responsibility to record the family story and the details we find with accuracy and careful consideration, so others can come behind and see why we’ve reached our conclusions. Does that mean we always have the right to burst open secrets that we come across?

I believe not, and it comes to a question of ethics. Inevitably we learn things that many people do not know. My view is that if we don’t have proof we shouldn’t publicise what we find, or state clearly that it’s anecdotal. Equally we should keep a confidential record of what we’ve been told and by whom. Some of this will hinge on whether the information is in the public record but we must be conscious that we are dealing with people’s lives, both the living and the dead so I will not alter my data, but I may choose not to publicise it if it will have a detrimental effect on a living person. Changing social values may make once-was-scandalous into something that’s now acceptable.


I’ll give you a couple of examples from my own research.

The official birth records revealed that my grandfather’s sister had two illegitimate children. One died in a “baby farm” and one was put into an orphanage. I traced the children of the latter person purely based on surname (luckily an unusual one, and also luckily it had never been changed). At the time I published the family history I asked the family if they wanted to be identified in the story. Every one of them agreed, somewhat to my surprise, and they were very happy that they and their father had been acknowledged as family members. An inclusive outcome.

A related discovery came with the release of the orphanage records by Queensland State Archives, and online at that. I knew the family had desperately wanted to know their grandfather’s name and it was clearly documented in the records. This was some years later, after my book had been published, and I was ambivalent as to whether to pass the information on. My further research revealed that the father still had descendants in a small rural town in Queensland.  What impact would it have if I revealed the name? Eventually I contacted the daughter with whom I’d had the most contact and passed on the name without any further details. My rationale was that the information was actually available on the internet, with some careful searching, so it was “out there” for anyone to see. I’m still not entirely sure that was the correct decision though the daughter was relieved to finally know more of her ancestry.


Apart from the elements of respect I’ve mentioned above, there’s another about which I have a habit of beating the drum and it’s another case of “do unto others”. Sharing with fellow researchers can be a wonderfully collaborative process. It can also be frustrating and disrespectful. Do you acknowledge where you get your information or photographs from? Another person or indeed an official record? Have you got permission to share someone’s photos with the wider world? Is it subject to copyright?

Apart from the bread and butter biographical data, most research information is gleaned by the researcher’s determination and expertise. If someone has shared information with you, it should be acknowledged and cited. In the wider world failure to do so is called plagiarism.


This is a debate that’s also been raging over the geneablogging community in recent weeks. Should genealogy be the preserve of every “Tom, Dick or Harry” or should it be reserved only for those with qualifications, training and expertise?

I feel equally strongly about this question. We should all have the opportunity to research our families and document their stories. However this comes with the responsibilities mentioned above to do careful, well-documented research. We can’t/shouldn’t just opt for a family anecdote that’s disproved by the records but which we like better. We need to move beyond the internet as our research progresses to learn more and compare sources. We can’t happily rely on Ancestry’s “you don’t need to know what you’re looking for” motto and just pluck “leaves” willy-nilly for our family tree.

Perhaps this is the ground-zero of the debate: that there’s far too much lack of understanding that research information does not drop like ripe fruit from a genealogy orchard somewhere. This seems to be correlated with a similar lack of understanding that it requires the researcher to get down and dirty among the records, and to pursue the leads themselves. Professionalism does not, in my opinion, require some alphabet soup behind your name. It comes from one’s approach to the research, integrity of the researcher and their data, and acknowledgement of sources.

I opt for inclusive, but I’m also something of a fanatic about integrity and rigorous research.


Many of us are beavering away at Angler’s Rest’s Book of Me, Written by You, either privately or publicly. Julie has inspired us to document our own stories so they can be passed down to our descendants. She’s come up with some great prompts (and we’re only up to week 9), that hadn’t occurred to me previously, even though I’ve been following this obsession of mine for yonks. No doubt she’ll have some more curved balls for us in the coming weeks.

BUT….we all happily assume that by pursuing our family trees, telling the family stories, and now documenting our own, that our descendants will be as thrilled as we would be if we’d inherited similar information from our ancestors.

Is that the case and does it matter?

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure my children rarely dabble in my blogs. They’re at that stage of life when career and families are all-consuming. Will they care in the future? Is my obsession actually counter-productive? Have I absorbed all the potential research oxygen? Do they assume I’ll have done it all, leaving no questions unanswered?

I think these are pertinent questions because it may affect how we approach our research. Would I stop if I thought no one would care in the years to come? Probably not, but that may be a reflection of my own obsession with the process and the findings.

I’ll leave you with Neil Diamond’s “Morningside” with its refrain “for my children”, which always calls these thoughts to mind. (If you don’t know this song you can listen to it here)

Apologies for this long-winded post, but I hope it provides some food for thought or discussion. If you agree or disagree why not leave a comment?

Monday Mentions: More blog posts of interest

As I mentioned I’ve been trying to catch up with my blog reading and have come up with more posts which I found interesting and/or impressive. If you haven’t read them you may also find them useful.

Julie (Angler’s Rest) announces the Society of One Place Studies.

Kim from KK Genealogy has written a wonderfully evocative piece for the Book of Me’s Prompt 9 on Time Capsules.

Alona (Lone Tester) suggests we should check out Facebook for the myriad local history pages that are blossoming there.

Jana’s Genealogy on Rootsmapper, a tool to help with mapping where your ancestors lived.

Have you ever pondered the meaning of cousins once removed etc? Wonder no more, as this post explains it quite simply.

Toowoomba & Darling Downs Family History Society has completed more indexing of the Toowoomba Chronicle, check this link and also their sidebar.

Want to know how to use Digital Imagery as a Tool for Historical Research? Follow the Archives Outside link on this topic.

Or tips on photo management from Genealogy’s Star.

A sad reminder on the Return of Childhood Killers by Historians are Past Caring. If you doubt their impact on families in recent memory, you should read Catherine’s personal story on Vaccinations.

One Cool Site’s Timethief, suggests how we can craft quality blog comments.

John from Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections (revamped title) has some interesting links for us on Welsh records, an interactive 19th century London map, and the UNESCO Memory of the World project.

Unlock the Past has a new book which interests me on London and Middlesex Family History Sources Online…..Xmas is coming <wink>

Clare County Library: New History of Corofin Parish will appeal to anyone with ancestors from that area.

And then there’s James Tanner’s Genealogy’s Star blog: I’m not going to pick out any one post. If you don’t follow James’s posts, why not go over and have a look. It’s rare for me to find one that doesn’t make me think.

From a Facebook post by Inside History: Google tools you didn’t know existed ….I certainly didn’t.

For my fellow grammar fiends, this article recommended by Liv Hambrett is intriguing. English really isn’t the same everywhere.

Hope you find some of these mentions useful or just plain interesting reading.

Book of Me: Prompt 8 -Time Capsule

This week Julie has thrown us a curved ball with Prompt 8 for the Book of Me: Time Capsule. Julie suggests that we consider:Book of me

who we’ll have in mind to inherit the time capsule

whether it will be a virtual capsule or a real one

why we chose that person(s) and when we intend them to have it

She also mentions that we may want to leave a capsule with our home’s heritage for someone who later lives in your house, or another to celebrate and anniversary or event, as was done last year for the Queen’s celebrations. If we use a real capsule, what will choose and why.  Julie’s also got a link on this topic on YouTube here.

We have the option of doing Prompt 8 quickly, or taking our time and doing it over weeks or even months. There are occasions when I wonder if we’re just fighting time and ageing or if it is ego-centric to hope our life’s detritus will mean something to anyone else. On the flip side, there’s that wish all family historians hold dear, that we had some special ancestral item, diary or letters….and then I think, perhaps it’s not all about us after all. Perhaps it’s about capturing a slice of normal life for history, rather than the big picture that formal history will focus on.

At the moment the nearest thing I have to a time capsule is my memory box which has many of my bits and bobs from over the years. Nothing of any financial value at all but a trace, of sorts, of my life so far. What is required is some system to be brought into it, and perhaps notes as to why I thought each thing is important or relevant.

I’m going to be taking my time to reflect on how I want to do this project and what I want to include. Some of the topics might include:

How the workplace changed over the past 40 years (in my field)

Memories of places we’ve lived and visited, and/or why travel has been important to us

The meaning of some of the inherited objects we own. Little or no financial value but each item can bring a flood of memories to me…but at present will mean nothing to anyone. Will leaving some story with them, give them meaning to anyone else I wonder?

What will they go in? I don’t know but it will have to be transportable easily and also waterproof is my first guess, at least while we live in the cyclone-prone tropics.

It might even be a book of blog posts relating to our lives eg this Book of Me.

Meanwhile if you want to read a brilliant post on this topic why not visit Kim at KK Genealogy.

Sepia Saturday 199: All Hallows’ and King Lear

sepia sat 199This week’s Sepia Saturday theme is largely theatrical, or as Alan puts it “the desire to dress up, lark around in public, utter words that you would not normally recognise”. My photo this week seems to perfectly capture this though I admit it was those rather strange beards and hair the prompted my thoughts first.

When I was in high school it was traditional for my all-girls school to stage a production of the Shakespeare play which was out set text for our Year 12 exams and in our year the play was King Lear. Naturally if you’re in a girls-only school the male roles have to be played by girls, and of course you would first target those with a suitably male altitude. This is how I first found myself cast in the role as King Lear….a very short experience as it was deemed (entirely correctly!) that my aptitude for such a pivotal was deficient. I must say I remember being rather relieved and was happily replaced as Lear by a friend, of similar altitude but much greater aptitude.

The King of France, All Hallows' production of King Lear.

The King of France, All Hallows’ production of King Lear.

Soon after I found myself demoted to play the character of King of France, who marries Lear’s just-disinherited daughter Cordelia. Such is the long-term impact of the play that I no longer recall any of “my” words but I found this speech by France which I rather like:

Is it but this,–a tardiness in nature
Which often leaves the history unspoke
That it intends to do? My lord of Burgundy,
What say you to the lady? Love’s not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from the entire point. Will you have her?
She is herself a dowry.

Perhaps we should only read Shakespeare when we’re older and can better understand the messages that are being declared. And, for the record, this play was my first and last venture into the theatre as a performer, rather than an attendee.

I have a photograph of the whole cast, but as I pondered the copyright issues, and the privacy issues of those who could be easily recognised, I discovered a way out of my dilemma. On the school’s website is the same photo of the cast (click and look at King Lear 1965 in black and white)…check it out…it has some pretty impressive beard and hairstyles happening, not to mention the clothes. It would be accurate to say this was an amateur production, but trust me, there were no lapsed standards permitted.

As I recall all the theatre activities were performed by “girls” from our year from art work to lighting and back of stage, though I think the costumes mostly came from the school’s stash, no doubt acquired over the decades. I can tell you, though, that my glorious jewels were entirely my own, and my silver chain of office was part of a belt my mother had worn, and indeed that back in those skinny days I could wear…I still own a few links of it, just for the memories.

Also among my personal memorabilia is a copy of the booklet for the play and on the back are the signatures of my friends and other characters. I’d love to include a copy of that booklet….if I only knew where it had migrated to. I need a better system for scanning then re-storing things to their rightful place.

Have a look at the links on this week’s theme to see how other Sepians have approached the topic. And now I have to consider whether I have a previous Sepian post which would merit being put forward to next week’s historic Sepian 200th post.

The Book of Me: Prompt 7 – Grandparents

I’ve decided that Prompt 7 of the Book of Me, Written by You series will be largely a private post, partly because I’ve written on this topic before, and partly because I want to draw out further nuances with my family alone. Julie provided us with these dot points for discussion:

What were their names?
Where were they from?
Were they related? – Cousins perhaps
Where were they born, another Country or state/area?
What did they do?
Did you know them?
What was your relationship with them?
If you didn’t know them have you researched about them?

My maternal grandparents (top row) and my paternal grandparents as young people (bottom row)

My maternal grandparents (top row) and my paternal grandparents as young people (bottom row)

Over the last few years I’ve often posted on my grandparents, especially those who lived next door to us. I was pretty lucky as I knew three of my grandparents into my teens or early adulthood and while my maternal grandmother died youngish, I still have faint, fond memories of her. Sometimes I wondered if they were figments of my imagination but on further discussion with my mother it turns out that I had indeed remembered the stories correctly even though Grandma died before I turned four. Her photo was always on display in my parents’ bedroom too, so it always seemed she was part of my life.

I wonder how many people are fortunate enough to know their grandparents well. Certainly in Darwin’s transient population many children grow up seeing their grandparents only a couple of times a year, or more rarely. Our grandchildren are among the fortunate few who have their “oldies” on tap.

So a very brief synopsis of my grandparents’ origins:

Irish Catholic  +  formerly Methodist, 2nd/3rd generation Queenslander (Scottish/English background)

2nd/3rd generation Queenslander ex-Catholic (Irish-German background) + Scottish Presbyterian.

Grandparents origins

Can you see there might be potential for religious and national tensions there? There is a common thread among the men, though, with the railway being the link.

Origins Great grandparents

I thought I’d put this together in a graph as it makes it more visual, and then because I couldn’t leave well enough alone, I also drew out their ethnic background.

You might want to read my earlier stories about my two grandfathers Denis Kunkel and James McSherry.  I haven’t written as much about my grandmothers, Catherine Kunkel and Laura Melvin, but I did write about Laura’s sister, Emily, who served as a de facto grandmother to me in my childhood.

I also wrote about my grandparents as part of the Fab Feb Photo Collage, another reason for not duplicating what I’ve written. And no, nary a cousin or relation among them…one of the advantages of all that migration perhaps. Even though I knew each of them I’ve also done a lot of research on them over the years.

Follow Friday: Informative and inspiring posts

As you know I’ve been out of the loop for the past six weeks or so, in fact 2013 has been quite disruptive in terms of blog reading. Even more so in terms of commenting so I’m frantically trying to catch up. So please forgive me if you haven’t seen me visit, I may have been one of those “ghost” visitors who read but don’t comment.

You may have been doing better than I have, but these are just some of the posts I’ve found interesting. There’ll be more to come as I nibble my way through the pile.

Angler’s Rest’s Remembrance Day Photo Collage not to mention Julie’s block buster success with the Book of Me, Written by You which has taken off like a rocket with genies and writers alike. You can write publicly, you can write privately, on paper or computer….and while the series has reached Prompt 7, you can still join in and start writing….I have.

Jill Ball on the 18th Annual Computer Conference for Seniors and an intriguing post on “journaling” for your family history: innovative and challenging ideas, thanks Jill!

Judy Webster from Queensland Genealogy on the new options for BDM searching in Queensland (great news!)

Isn’t this a gorgeous garden by Gigi Thibodeau of Magpie’s Fancy, complete with gardening tips.

The Armchair Genealogist brings us Four Steps to a Family history Timeline.

Julie from Angler’s Rest on the Inclusive vs Exclusive Genealogy debate. And also the Right to do Genealogy debate (I wrote my own post on this while on holiday and lost it to the iPad….ooops)

Researching Limerick from Crissouli at As They Were. Also her tip about the new Destination Australia site.

Good links and tips from Aillin at Australian Genealogy Journeys about Autosomal DNA and from Olive Tree Genealogy on Understanding your DNA results.

GeneaMusings gives up info on what databases Mocavo searches.

Thomas MacEntee on backing up your genealogy data and a link on how to opt out of Google’s use of your name and photo with ads. Have you added Thomas’s Hack Genealogy blog to your reading list?

How about Kerryn’s post on Generationism – have you got all the current Gens sorted in your head? Kerryn discovered she was a Generation Jones. I’m relieved to discover I’m a still a ridgey-didge Baby Boomer. Also intrigued that GenY covers such a broad span.

Helen from Helen V Smith’s Keyboard reminds us that it’s time to think out our genealogy Christmas gifts. But if you want a non-genie present, how about this dreamcatcher from Molly Moo –I thought it was really cute.

For the Queenslanders: John Oxley Library’s Indigenous Languages Map and Company Records at QSA (I’ll be checking these out)

And if you have Donegal ancestors, how about the Atlas of County Donegal  as mentioned by Irish Genealogy News or Gould Genealogy’s recommendation of the Biographical Database of Australia.

And an older post, contemplating the topic of Historians Ask: Who is our audience? from Stumbling through the Past.

And thanks to links on others’ blogs I’ve found some more free clip art or stock photography at rf123 and FreeDigitalPhotos.

The Book of Me: Prompt 1: Who am I?

Pauleen query 3On a day to day basis we rarely reflect on who we are, only responding to specific enquiries from those we meet for the first time “where do you live?” or “what do you do?”. To each enquiry we are likely to answer in slightly different ways, perhaps not wishing to disclose too much detail to strangers, or adapting our responses to what their other level of knowledge is. Do they know Brisbane? In which case I may name a suburb and school. Do they know Australia? In which case I may say I come from Queensland but live in the Northern Territory. These enquiry-responsive answers are equally worth reflecting on in our ancestor’s lives and documentary responses.

Only over time do we reveal the weft and weave of our lives to selected and trusted friends, and oft-times the information slips out sideways in other conversations, so it seems quite confronting to tackle Julie’s first prompt in the Book of Me head-on. Prompt 1 suggests we ask ourself the question “Who am I” at least 20 times, or more if we feel so inclined. I’ve been ambivalent about responding to this prompt publicly, and will probably add other comments to my private post, but ultimately I realised regular readers of my blog will have deduced virtually all of these “who am I” answers.

Over the years I have had many roles and experienced many things, not all of which may be current today but which have intrinsically influenced who I am today.

  1. I am a wife, mother of three adult daughters and also grandmother of three. I don’t plan to go on about this here but family underpins my life and none of it is taken for granted.Pauleen with Louisa Rach and Bec 1979
  2. I am a daughter, an only child and, on my paternal side, an only grandchild to my grandparents who lived next door. Not surprisingly I don’t really “get” sibling relationships except mainly as observed in my own children. I had few aunts and uncles, all of whom are now deceased. I also have few cousins, two of whom are now dead and two I wouldn’t even recognise as they have always lived far away.
  3. I am a feminist. As a teenager in the 60s my experiences were very much affected by the emerging wave of feminism, which slowly worked to give women equal opportunities and to be able to use their talents in the formal workplace as well as in the home. Those vastly different working conditions have slowly changed over the decades and I like to think that it helped make my daughters’ choices wider and more possible.
  4. I am a friend and I have a cluster of really good friends. I’ve never been one to have many friends, rather a few close trusted friends who know and accept my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been surprised to find that some of my blogging mates have become friends as well – perhaps not that really surprising when we get to know so much about each other.
  5. I am intrigued by migration. As a young girl my school absorbed a large number of post-WWII migrants and ever since I’ve been fascinated by where people come from and why. This curiosity also guides some of my research questions.
  6. I am an Australian. Not in a card-carrying, flag-waving, heart-crossed kind of way, but in my love of our nation’s wide open spaces, its huge blue skies, its flora and in a small-i indigenous love of “place”. I don’t agree with everything our nation does or says any more than I always agree with friends or family. Sometimes I’m even ashamed of our behaviour in the world.

    I did occasionally change my hair, and look demure.

    I did occasionally change my hair, and look demure.

  7. I am no longer regard myself as a Catholic but for much of my life Catholicism played a huge role in my life. It has fundamentally affected how I see the world both in a positive and negative way. Religious divisions were a thread (or threat?) to be reckoned with. I came to my teenage years on the wave of John XXIII’s ecumenical movement which again formed how I saw the world, and responded to it.
  8. I am an All Hallows’ “girl”. The high school I attended so intrinsically affected who I am and how I’ve approached my life that it has to be mentioned here, and I’ve written about it in other posts. Funnily enough my earliest family history collaborators were both past pupils of the same school, though then geographically remote, and a generation older than me.
  9. I am a University of Queensland alumni, both staff and student. I have been in love with the place since I first visited as a teenager and spent many years of my life there one way and another. As a research administrator I had the opportunity to work in and across a number of universities.
  10. I am a travel-tragic. This is a no-brainer to anyone who reads my Tropical Territory blog. Actually I might be just a tourist, not a traveller, but either way I relish the opportunity to see the world’s places and people and even though we’ve been fortunate to go many places we’ve only scratched the surface. Luckily for me Mr Cassmob is also a travel-fiend. Growing up working class before the era of cheaper travel it never occurred to me that I’d have these kind of opportunities so I’m eternally grateful.
  11. I am a photographer. I have no skills as an artist but I have always loved to take photos. This is how I record the places I see and the people and events in my life: a photographic diary.
  12. I am an obsessive family historian. I’ve been researching now for over 27 years (hard to believe) and there’s always more to unearth about my ancestors’ lives. I can equally happily help my friends with their genealogy as well. I like to combine family and local history.
  13. I am a writer and a blogger. I never really thought of myself as a writer until I got deeply enmeshed with family history but now I’ve written the stories of a few of my families as well as their emigrating peers, and I’ve published one family history. My blogging allows me to share my writing, family history and photography passions.
  14. I am a micro-migrant. Although I’ve never lived far from my origin, I’ve uprooted my life twice, once as a young adult to Papua New Guinea and once, much later, to the Northern Territory. I know people do this all the time, but when you consider it requires settling to new places and building new relationships it takes some effort while being a very pale shadow of true migration.
  15. I am a life-long learner and inspired by new ideas. Although my career focused on the practical and here-and-now, I’ve always wanted to see how things can be done better, and liked to acquire new skills and knowledge. Even though I’m now retired I find that blogging and family history research offer innumerable opportunities to continue to learn daily. I (mostly) love learning more about new technology and enjoy using it.

    I got my love of cats from my Dad, along with my love of reading.

    I got my love of cats from my Dad, along with my love of reading.

  16. I am a lover of animals and a complete cat obsessive. Although I love most animals (hmmm, not snakes), cats are my true love and my life just wouldn’t be complete without one.
  17. I am in love with nature and the wonders of the natural world. I’m not a “twitcher” but the sighting of a bird or hearing its song can make my day.
  18. I am a huge fan of gardens and flowers, and luckily for me, so is Mr Cassmob. Really can you ever have too many plants?
  19. I am a book-addict. As a child I could never get enough books to satisfy me: a good birthday or Christmas was one with a book present. “Be careful what you wish for” they say, because now bookcases threaten to overtake the house.
  20. I am a lover of a wide variety of music except very modern genres.
  21. I am not a shopper…I don’t have the “girl gene” and can’t do “shop till you drop” but you can lose me in bookshops, computer shops, garden nurseries or hardware stores.
  22. I am not into fashion at all, but I love house design books and magazines and love to tweak our “nest”, and particularly love art and tactile arts.
  23. I am a sometimes-crafter, former maker of family clothes, and occasional follower of whims hence why I’ve been learning glass-bead making.
  24. I am a human being with my own unique personality, flawed like everyone else, but always trying to do my best, succeed or fail.

The Book of Me: Prompt 3 – What I look like

Just as I was heading overseas in early September Julie from Angler’s Rest launched her Book of Me challenge, or perhaps it would be more apt to call it an opportunity to leave a record of our lives for  our descendants. My own plan is to write much of this on a private blog, though every now and then as the mood takes me I will publish my post here as well. I’m jumping the gun and starting with prompt 3 which asks us to describe our physical selves: clothes size, scars, eye colour, hands and fingerprints., and no, you don’t need to know my clothes size!Pauleen 3rd bday crop 1952

There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead”. This certainly described me as a small child but I wasn’t so keen on the implication that I was sometimes “horrid”…but if you can’t beat ‘em, take ownership of the tag if you must!

Check out the freckles.

Cute with freckles, and still fair-ish hair.

As a small child I had curly blonde locks, oh so cute. As I grew older the curls and the blonde disappeared and my hair turned brown and very straight. In an attempt to get the curls to come back I remember Mum took me to a hairdresser in the Valley (upstairs near TC Beirne’s department store) in the hope that the right cut would bring back the wave. Sadly for many years that was not the case, and frankly I hated those haircuts which looked far too boy-like to me, and as if a bowl had been placed on my head and the perimeter of my hair trimmed to match.

Over the years my hair took on a gingery-auburn tinge, not surprising since two of my aunts were “carrot tops” and when Dad was a young man he had black hair and a ginger moustache…..I guess it was my Irish/Scottish gene pool coming through.  Those of a certain age will recall that red hair in a woman was not considered a “good thing” ….come to think of a recent Prime Minister I guess it’s still largely unacceptable.

I think I inherited my hair gene from my Scottish grandmother because it’s very thick, like hers, and when I finally give up on visiting my hairdresser’s salon, it will no doubt be as white as Grandma’s was. At the moment, sans-dye, it would probably leave me looking like the human equivalent of a raccoon, and they don’t even live in Australia. Mum was right – the wave did indeed come back eventually and I have what my friend calls “wash and wear” hair, just as well since I have no patience (and less skill!) for blow-drying and styling.

Pauleen at Greenmount 1969I’ve also made it simple for my descendants to track me through the years. No constant changing of hairstyles and colours for me: whole decades go by with the same style and then regress to an earlier one. Perhaps when I’m 80 I’ll have a basin cut again?

Through my growing up years, my startled freckles were also a feature of my appearance, and even more so when I was sick as those spots just stood out like neon lights against my white face. Mercifully over the years they’ve faded and now aren’t all that apparent though they’ve left me with the propensity for severe sunburn and skin cancers.  Hence the now-faded Zorro-scar that slices its way across from around my mouth across to my ear and down to my jaw line. At the time (nearly 10 years ago now) “they” told me that the surgeon had done a good job…..”yeah right” I thought but indeed it is now largely indiscernible. Either way it was a lucky escape and better than “pushing up daisies”.

Dad low res at schoolFor two thirds of my life I was skinny as a stick with long, lanky legs. Never did I imagine it would be possible to fatten this particular greyhound but sadly I was wrong and no longer do I look like a “long drink of water”.  Throughout high school, when we had to line up for marches etc, we would be arranged by height. This made it super easy for me: I went to the top of the queue where I swapped places year-by-year with the other giraffes, my friends mostly went to the far end of the queue and we idled our time waiting for umpteen others to be precisely altitude-ranked. Have you ever realised how advantageous it is to be able to look over the heads of vast crowds to find your family/friends, or even where you’re going?

Check out the freckles and bi-coloured eye.

Check out the freckles and bi-coloured eye. I look amazingly like my Dad in this one.

I don’t think I’ve started shrinking yet, though I wouldn’t be so sad if it happened to my waistline. Unfortunately I don’t think the red wine and partiality to sweet-treats help (I blame my confectioner great-grandfather!).

When you were a child did people say to you “oh you look like…..”? In my case they’d say “oh you look like your mother” until they saw me with Dad when they’d change it to “oh you look like your father”. My daughter describes my hands “as great big German hands” which I think is rather unkind, both to me and the Germans. Certainly I didn’t inherit my mother’s dainty hands so I guess Dad, and the Scots, Germans or Irish have to be blamed …perhaps it was the nature of their work that did it.

As to my handprints: well there’s been enough scanning of fingers and thumbs by Immigration and Emigration in Tanzania and Uganda to make me feel rather like a convict-in-waiting.

My eyes are a little strange though it’s not immediately apparent. Mr Cassmob’s chat-up line at uni was “did anyone tell you that you have beautiful blue eyes”….pathetic I say, especially as he’d follow it up with saying he hadn’t said it either! For the good reason that my eyes are sort-of-green with one half of one eye being a solid light brown. If that sounds weird I remember a second cousin who had 1½ blue eyes and half a brown….by comparison green and brown looks quite normal….it is one way of getting people to stare deeply into your eyes.

A recent photo taken in Nairobi.

A recent photo taken in Nairobi. I think my haircuts make it easy for my descendants.

As a child I had a very bad habit of chewing my nails which lasted until my early teens. These days when I manage not to break them, and keep taking my calcium tablets, and have/do a manicure, they can actually look rather nice…though I have to say it tends not to last too long. On the plus side I wasn’t too badly plagued with teenage zits and spots so overall I came out ahead.

My dainty feet are the horror of Italian shoe salesmen who (just) refrain from laughing out loud when I ask for my size shoe….the equivalent of “oh no Madam we don’t make them in that size!”. Well they do, but they export them to Australia or America, where they sell for a vast sum of money.

So there I am, a once-blonde, now potentially raccoonish woman of a certain age, with a scar on her face, overweight but still with long legs and a great altitude. And, as they say, I’ve still got my own teeth (thanks to my fabulous Brisbane dentist!), my hair is still wavy (and pretends to be reddish), and I’m not pushing up daisies….I reckon I’m on a winner!

Not sharp but interesting from the background, and those lanky legs.

Not sharp but interesting for the background, and those lanky legs.

Kenya and Kiva

Image purchased from Shutterstock.

Image purchased from Shutterstock.

Have wondering where I’d vanished to? We have been adventuring in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, spending time with two of our daughters, one of whom lives in Nairobi, and seeing all sorts of wonderful animals from A to Z. We had a great time of it but must admit to being a little weary after the adventures.

We found the Kenyan people so friendly and engaging, and also very keen to better their lot in life. We who are used to conventional shops for all our necessities, or even our wants, were amazed by the sheer variety of products available on the roadside, each little stall or activity run by an enterprising individual. Admittedly we had flash-backs in part to visits to Bali over the road-side furniture manufacturing and stalls, but there were still significant differences. Whole stretches of footpaths had become garden pot sales areas, or mini (or not-so-mini) plant nurseries.

606 roses 2

Two dozen roses for about $5 is a good deal.

The abundance of roadside flower stalls with utterly magnificent roses and all manner of cut flowers was such a temptation, and while as a tourist one can’t usually take advantage of such things unless staying put for a few days, we were spoiled by seeing great arrays of them in our daughter’s home, and for a ridiculously cheap cost. Did you know that many of the flowers you see on display in Europe’s hotels and restaurants come from Kenya, especially near Lake Naivasha where the poly-tunnels are huge? Neither did I until the impact of the Nairobi airport fire made it clear.

The airport fire occurred about a month before we were due to arrive. It was certainly different to be processed by immigration in a marquee, though by the time we returned from Zanzibar, the newly built multi-story car park had been transformed into a very efficient arrivals hall. Having checked in, cleared immigration, and with “no guns beyond this point, on our outgoing flights, we headed for our departure lounge, which for each flight remained in a marquee or large tent, rather making me wish I’d dressed more casually given the heat in the confined space. We were taken by the inspirational signage near the baggage bays saying things like “every bag you lift raises Kenya up”. Not sure the men who unloaded the bags the first day were quite “on the page” with that one though <smile>. Kiva1

Business is done in all sorts of places, with little grocery and clothes shops everywhere. I saw quite a few micro-finance lenders’ offices which of course reminded me of Kiva. I’ve previously been reluctant to provide loans to those simply on-selling goods, but now I realise just how critical this is for people’s economic survival. I’ve also wondered from time to time why teachers might be applying for loans when they already had good jobs. That question was answered for me by a friend who is working as a teacher’s aide in Uganda. The monthly salary is an absurdly low amount and much lower than other career options. A gardener in a unit complex might have a reliable job, but his wages are very low and any medical expense, or the cost of a family funeral, will play havoc with the family’s budget and savings.

The impact of Jomo Kenyatta airport's fire.

The impact of Jomo Kenyatta airport’s fire.

And so, with a fair bit of credit in my Kiva account from repaid loans, I’ve made several loans to hard-working Kenyans. If you feel motivated to join Kiva, you don’t have to support Kenyan loans, but do have a look at the Genealogists for Families Team to see just what great work has been done, in a very short period of time. Full credit to Judy Webster for setting up this team in honour of her father.

Another reason for providing our support for Kenyans on Kiva right now, is that they will be doing it tough as the economic impact of the Westside mall terrorist attack hits home. Sadly it’s likely that it will also impact tourism numbers to the country and ordinary Kenyans, working hard to provide for their families, will suffer. We were in Nairobi, staying less than 500 metres away, when the assault took place so it was very much “there but for the Grace of God” for us. Sadly 67, or more, people were not so fortunate. The knock-on effect will be huge as people curtail their trips to the shops and stay out for shorter times. Everyday Kenyans rallied to support those injured in the attack, or the families of those who were killed, with their prayers, support and blood donations, irrespective of their religious affiliations.

Mr Cassmob and one of our Samburu guides, Anthony.

Mr Cassmob and one of our Samburu guides, Anthony.

Our final safari, to Samburu, overlapped with the final days of the siege and the guides were already concerned about the impact on their livelihood. We can honestly say that the siege did not ruin our enjoyment of Kenya and all it has to offer.

Ordinary Kenyans were so inspiring with their commitment to learning more (languages, skills etc) and improving their lives. We would visit again tomorrow – after we catch up on our sleep.

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So if you’re on Kiva, or if you’ve been thinking about joining, why not provide your support to Kenya at this difficult time and show the people the world is thinking of them. The image on my sidebar will take you to Genealogists for Families.

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting photos and stories from our Kenyan travel on my other blog, Tropical Territory and Travels, and you’ll soon see why we absolutely loved this amazing experience.