Alex Daw (aka FamilyTreeFrog) has set up a weekly blog challenge for National Family History Month 2016. I like blogging challenges as they usually get me writing about topics that I might not normally do. Week 4‘ s challenge is:
Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar in her poem My Country talks of a “sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains”. What does “country” or place mean to your family? What makes your place unique or special? What are the features or landmarks that stand out in your family history?
To me the places my families lived has always been important. In fact I have always tried to visit every place they ever lived and this has led to a lot of travel around Australia in every state except the Northern Territory. The only places I have yet to get to is the Western Australian goldfields around Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie and the old mining field of Hightville/Ballara in north western Queensland.
Most of my families were miners and not surprisingly some of these places were, and still are, remote and not easily accessible. While it is really good if you can visit a place in person, the next best thing is to see if someone is able to visit the place for you. After I discovered that my great grandfather Thomas Price died in an accident at Hightville near the Wee McGregor mine in north western Queensland, I made contact with the local historical society. Someone went out and took a photo of the Hightville cemetery for me and although there is no individual tombstone for Thomas Price, his name is on the historic plaque.
The more distant photo clearly shows how remote and isolated the cemetery is while the close up lists all those buried in the cemetery. To get to this cemetery you need a four wheel drive and a very good map so I suspect we will never visit in person. There is a better chance of getting to Kalgoorlie some day, if we plan for a dedicated holiday there.
One of my first dedicated family history holidays was to Moonta on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia where my two Cornish great great grandparents married in 1865. Driving down from Brisbane in an air conditioned car seemed like a very long trip yet the family did the trek from Moonta to Copperfield in central Queensland ca 1867. How did they do it with four young children and how long did it take? They didn’t have a lot of money so I suspect it was a difficult journey and one can only admire their dedication to move to a place offering more work. The family ended up on the gold fields of Charters Towers which we also visited on yet another driving family history holiday.
Just last week for a talk in National Family History Month, I went back to Petrie’s Creek (now Nambour). Another set of great great grandparents settled there in the 1880s and as we drove around, I found myself thinking about what it looked like back then. How hard it would have been for them trying to establish a farm in virgin country, and having their children some distance from Brisbane. We can learn a lot about what a place was like at a particular time by using post office directories and almanacs and reading local histories.
Place is important in family history and if you can’t convince other family members that visiting places our families lived in Australia is a fun holiday, then do the next best thing and research the place as it was when our ancestors lived there. It’s a great way to learn more about their lives and the hardships they may have faced. Thanks Alex for another great blogging challenge.