Ordinary People


O2020My ancestors were all what might be termed “ordinary people”, none achieved great heights of achievement other than to work hard, raise their children well and engage with their communities.

It’s not that I have the Australian distrust of “Tall Poppies“, simply that my research means that I’d be shocked if I’d found a field of poppies in my family tree. As you know I’ve been sharing quotes from the Brainy Quote website with most of my posts but today’s search was both disappointing and depressing, offering mainly dismissive concepts of any community’s grassroots people apart from only a couple I endorsed. Instead I’m going to indulge myself and add a quote from the Acknowledgments to my own family history, Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family.

Kunkel book cover cropThere are two ways to look at a family tree, as genealogy (the begets or begats of the Bible), or as the story of families living in a particular period of time and experiencing all the challenges of the period, influencing their family life and outcomes, just as they play their individual or family role on the greater stage of history. The names of the so-called “little people” are rarely recorded in the history books but they are the cannon fodder of wars, the workers who build a nation, and its railways, the families who make up its people.

So let me introduce you to my ancestors, those “Ordinary People” whose lives led progressively to my own.

Paternal line

Maternal line

You can see why this quote resonates with me and why I write this blog:

I want to keep telling stories of ordinary people. Margot Lee Shetterly, author

Do you descend from a line of “Ordinary People” or do you have “Tall Poppies” in your family forest?

Do you love telling the stories of your ancestors?

6 thoughts on “Ordinary People

  1. “Tall Poppies” is an unfamiliar “-ism” for me. I looked at the link you provided. From that… It seems to mean people who are very skilled at what they do(?), while “cutting down the Tall Poppies” is either {1} derisive toward such people, or {2} considered self-deprecating when the ‘cutting down’ is applied to one’s own self.

    I think?

    I’m not sure! Idioms are tough to translate, both linguistically and culturally.

    But to your question: I think I come from a pretty long line of Ordinary People, a few of whom overcame extraordinary obstacles in life to do what they chose to do. My great-grandmother witnessed the death of her father and sister in a barn fire. She became a teacher at the age of 16. Somewhat ordinary, yet extraordinary.

    I know several ‘average’ people who have above-average abilities in specific arenas, most of which being fields that the average Joe has no knowledge of or interest in. Does that make them a Tall Poppy?

    Perhaps taller than the Petunias, anyway. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I smiled at the thought of Ordinary People in the Petunia Patch 🙂

      Your great grandmother certainly did remarkably well to overcome seeing that horrendous sight and experience.

      Hmm, tall poppies is a tricky thing to explain. It goes beyond being very good at one thing and veers into the realm of recognition or international/national reputation. Eg if you know of HUgh Jackman, the Aussie actor who lives in New York…he could be considered a tall poppy except that he’s so down to earth. It includes an element of “acting above one’s station in life” or thinking you’re better than everyone else. I hadn’t realised how hard it is to explain…built into the Australian gene pool and colloquialisms.

      Cutting them down implies they need to brought back to earth or normal status of ordinary people. Kind of the reverse of America’s philosophy of aspiration to be better/the best. And yet often we do perform above our weight population wise, but you’d best make sure you don’t show off,or brag about it.

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  2. Mine are exactly like that, Pauline. Parlourmaids, dressmaker, miliiner’s cashier, music shop dealer, one or two teachers probably the highest qualified! Lots of ag labs and domestic servants.
    Margaret (Moxon)

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  3. My family tree has many ordinary people but I think those who set out on those long voyages in sailing ships into the unknown, so far from their origins quite extraordinary. What brave souls they were.

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