Aunts, Uncles and Cousins

This is a combined post for Family Tree Frog’s National Family History Month blog challenge and Geneamusing’s Saturday Night Fun on Favourite Aunts.

When I see my grandchildren’s close relationships with their cousins, and hear of the tight links others have with cousins, I’m a tad jealous of those bonds. With families geographically dispersed, and apparent family fractures over the generations, cousin links weren’t so significant in my own family.

For some reason this week my thoughts turned to my favourite aunt and then to my cousins. Dad was an only child, so no close relatives on that side. On my maternal side, I had three aunts living and one uncle who died before I was born. Unbeknownst to me, (and mum),  I also had a half-uncle from my grandmother’s first marriage. I have a grand total of eight cousins.

Mum (Joan), Grandad McSherry, Joey, Grandma, Melda, Mary, Bonnie.

Mum’s eldest sister was Mary. I had two older cousins from Aunty Mary and her husband Uncle Pat. Pat was a baker and I wrote about his war and work experiences here. The family was peripatetic to say the least. We would see more of them when they were living within distance of Brisbane and I remember visiting them at Tugun on the Gold Coast and in Cairns on trips to the north. Cousin Jimmy had various issues which could make him a challenge to deal with even though he regularly asserted I was his favourite cousin. Jimmy was a bower bird who specialised in collecting stamps, cameras, and vast collection of spoons. His sister Patsy (Patricia) was some years older than me but also very kind to me. When I was in my early teens, she was living in an all-women hostel at New Farm and I remember going for an overnight stay and being given a manicure by Patsy and her friends. Patsy was a milliner and used to make beautiful hats. Both Patsy and Jimmy have now passed on, along with their parents.

Aunty Mary, Uncle Pat, Dad, Mum and Pauleen on a trip to Cairns in the 1960s.

Aunty Bonnie and Uncle Alan lived on a farm on what was then Brisbane’s outskirts. We saw them occasionally, depending on their farming schedule and transport as we would have to catch buses to visit. They were the family who we were most likely to spend some time with around Christmas and even once going camping at Noosa together. My two older cousins in this family were book-ended in age around me and I was, and still am, closest to my cousin Alan. His sister also went to All Hallows’ and was in the classroom next to mine with a rather tyrannical Irish nun as a teacher. For some reason we were never very close. Their two much-younger siblings, both girls, are closer in age to my daughters. All three girls look so much like their mother, minus the red hair.

Bride and groom: Uncle Alan and Aunty Bonnie. Joan is the bridesmaid.

My aunt Imelda was sadly widowed as a young woman not long after her first marriage. She remarried and she and her husband Wally, lived in Cairns. I recall only seeing her a small number of times, possibly because, apart from geography, she and mum didn’t get on. I can’t remember ever meeting Uncle Wally. They had two sons – cousins I wouldn’t recognise if they knocked at the door – unless they looked like their mum.

Melda and family.

Mum was very attached to her eldest sibling, brother Joey and has many fond memories of him. She was devastated when he died of peritonitis not long before her 21st birthday. Years later the daughter of his widow’s subsequent marriage came to live with us for a year to get specialised medical treatment.

Joey and Mary as little ones, probably early 1920s.

So who was my favourite aunt? Can you guess?

Well it was Aunty Mary who was so kind to me over many years, always sending cards during difficult times. I was privileged to give a short eulogy at her funeral. She was a linchpin in the family, being the eldest girl, and stayed in touch with the various branches, mainly on their maternal side, given fractures on the paternal side. Mary had a great sense of humour and a most infectious giggle that I can still hear. She loved sewing and craft and had the patience of Job when it came to making tiny doll’s clothes. Reading was another great love and took greater preference to housekeeping. Mum wasn’t impressed but of course this made Mary a woman after my own heart. Her family was so important to her and she would do anything for them. Although my grandmother died when I was four there was something about Mary that reminded me of grandma – she was a gentle soul.

Of all the siblings, mum is the only one still alive and has already passed all the longevity stakes in my family trees.

I’m wondering why Aunty Mary and Mum were looking so contemplative here. They were very close.

How about you? Do you have tons of cousins and a favourite aunt or uncle?

The family history month blog challenge is to reflect on life in lockdown. I’m taking a very liberal interpretation, and writing about the various things that have given me cause to think during these quieter, if challenging, times.

It turns out I wrote a blog post on this very topic back in 2013. If you want to see what I wrote then, you can see it here.

14 thoughts on “Aunts, Uncles and Cousins

  1. Oh Pauleen – this is a great post. So many beautiful photos, particularly the one of you! Cousins and aunts were far and few between in my family. I have precisely one cousin and I had one aunt who thankfully I adored. I have been delighted to acquire a number of 2nd +++ cousins through my family research and am so excited when I can add another to the list. Thank you so much for participating in the NFHM blogging challenge.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Alex, I now feel I have a proliferation of cousins and aunts 🙂 I’ve been thrilled to meet my second cousins too and build up friendships. That photo of me is so very 60s 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a super post, Pauleen. No doubt trawling through your photo archive dredged up many memories for you. I was also an only child as Mum and Dad both came from large families so I had many aunts and uncles. I was thoroughly spoilt by that generation who weren’t too good at breeding so I only had seven first cousins two of whom died in infancy. When I was an adult I found out about two others who had been adopted out. I am thrilled that my children enjoy a very close relationship with their aunts and uncles and cousins, seeing them all at our get togethers and on shared holidays is heartwarming.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was vaguely surprised to discover I had photos of my Cairns cousins which I think came via Aunty Mary. Geography has a lot to do with how much opportunity there is for cousins to bond and, like you, I love that excited exuberance when they see each other each time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pauleen,
    I only had one aunt, Margaret, who was my mother’s sister. I had no uncles but since researching dad’s DNA matches I now find I actually have 4 half uncles and 3 half aunts on his side of the tree. I have met only one of them though.

    Mum and her sister were very close despite the difference in age and in 1965, both their families went on a three month holiday around Australia – fantastic way to get on with my two older cousins.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sadly I have no Aunts and Uncles still alive. Out of the 6 direct uncles and 3 direct aunts and their spouses. I do have lovely memories of them all, although my namesake one was very strict. We also had lots of ‘pretend’ Aunts and Uncles who took on the role as well. Close family friends, all deceased. The good old days, hey, when we sat around the piano together and sang the old songs. I have quite a few cousins now — some close, some almost unknown now. The oldest in their 90s. What I do love is that my children are in close contact with their five cousins although 3 are overseas in USA and Germany. Social media is certainly a boon for that.


  5. Have finally resolved my issue with commenting on WP blogs! Great photos and many memories. I had to open my genealogy software to count the 25 first cousins I had. We were not close, all living in SA but widely scattered. Some of my older siblings occasionally catch up with some of them. My children have 30 first cousins but as we never lived in SA after their births, they know some on my side well but have only fleeting knowledge of others especially those on my husband’s side.


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