Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent Calendar - Christmas Eve

How did you, your family or your ancestors spend Christmas Eve?

There are a number of things about Christmas Eve that I remember vividly.  We always sang Christmas Carols around the Christmas Tree before we went to bed on Christmas Eve.  Of course there was also the obligatory shortbread and glass of milk left out for Santa, and a carrot for the reindeer.
As I got older we used to go to the local Carols by Candlelight service at the football ground.  This was always held on Christmas Eve.  It was good old-fashioned community singing, where everybody joined in with the (usually) Salvation Army choir and band.  As a teenager I remember that we went to the carols, then returned home and sat up with our neighbours and waited till midnight, then we opened our Christmas presents!
I also went to Midnight service at Church on many Christmas Eves.  This was always a special service which I really enjoyed.  My grandmother often took me to Midnight service at her Church.
Carols By Candlelight - Myer Music Bowl c 1980
Another annual event on Christmas Eve was the Carols By Candelight held at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne.  As far as I can remember we never went to the Music Bowl, but we always tried to watch it on television if we were at home, and especially when we were at my grandmothers.  She sang in a choir called "The Argus Singers", and they were part of a massed choir that sang at the Music Bowl Carols.  Again, it used to be a night of good comunity singing - now it is a showcase for modern day 'artists' who quite often massacre the traditional carols and / or sing 'new' Christmas songs that just don't have the same feel to them.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Calendar - Christmas At School

I remember that we always celebrated Christmas at Primary School - making Christmas decorations, Christmas cards, various other Christmas themed activities.  I also remember we used to sing lots of Christmas songs.  I only remember one Christmas pageant (for want of a better word).  It was when I was in Grade 1, so I had been at school for just one year, and all the Infant classes were crammed into two rooms which opened up with concertina doors between them.  We all sang Christmas Carols and there were probably some children dressed up for a Nativity performance.
At Sunday School I remember dressing up for various Nativity performances too.

When I became a teacher myself I loved Christmas in the classroom.  From 1st December it was fair game.  I always drew a large Santa picture on the blackboard, and all our activities (where possible) were Christmas based.  None of the big schools I was teaching at had Christmas Concerts, but both small rural schoos did.  My favourites where the ones at my first rural school - because there were only two full time teachers and 30 or so children we went all out.  Even some of the parents put on acts.  The annual Christmas Concert was a big attraction for the whole community - everyone came.
At the end of the festivities the children all chanted for Santa to pay a visit, which he always did armed with a small gift for each child.
A wonderful country supper was then enjoyed by all.

Advent Calendar - Holiday Happenings

Often times December to mid-January birthdays and anniversaries get over shadowed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year holidays. So we’re going to shine a spotlight on those family members and ancestors this time around. Select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/or anniversaries on your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys and gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples.

Lindsay George Arnold GOOD DCM
Beryl GOOD, nee WALSH
December / January Birthdays and Anniversaries? Do they come in any other months? Our first grandchild, Avalon May CROMB, was born on December 4th - she has just turned 15 (now 16). Where have the years gone? Our daughter-in-law Janine Maree ROBERTS (nee GIRI) had her birthday on December 13th. My grandmother Beryl GOOD nee WALSH was born on 5th December 1903 and died on 2nd August 1996. My grandfather Lindsay George Arnold GOOD was born on 13th January 1897 and died on 14th January 1965. My husband's birthday is January 3rd. My step-daughter Karen Lynette CROMB, nee ROBERTS, has her birthday on 26th December. I was first married on 5th January 1974, and my second marriage was on 17th January 1998. All in all December / January are full of holiday happenings for our family. 
(First published December 2010)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Calendar - Fruit Cake, Friend or Foe?

A decorated cake  - but not quite like mine
Did you like fruitcake? Did your family receive fruitcakes? Have you ever re-gifted fruitcake? Have you ever devised creative uses for fruitcake?

Over the years I have decorated a number of fruit cakes for Christmas. Usually I would make the fruit cake a week or so before Christmas and although it was tradition to put almond icing on the cake no-one really liked almond icing so I would just use royal icing. Then I would paint a santa picture on the icing using food colouring. Usually we had all had so much to eat by the time we got to the Christmas cake that no-one felt like eating fruit cake. I haven't got any photos on my creations. And I haven't decorated a cake for a number of years. 
(First published 2010)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Advent Calendar - Christmas Cookies

Did your family or ancestors make Christmas Cookies? How did you help? Did you have a favorite cookie?

I don't recall that my grandmother made any cookies especially for Christmas, but my mother has always made shortbread.  As I was growing up I seem to recall that the shortbread was mainly at Christmas, but nowadays Mum makes it all year.  She still uses the same recipe she used when I was little.

Here is her recipe:

Ingredients:        Butter – 8 ozs (250 gms)
                          Plain Flour – 10½ ozs (330 gms)
                          Icing Sugar – 3½ ozs (110 gms)
                          Cornflour – 2 ozs (65 gms)
                          Vanilla – ½ tsp (a dribble!)
                          Salt        - pinch (optional)
Method:  Cream butter and sugar.  Add vanilla.  Work flours in until a pliable paste.  Flatten out (do NOT roll) to 3/8" (1cm) thickness.  Cut into pieces and bake in a moderate oven (1800) for 20 – 25 minutes.

Note:  To make good shortbread you must knead the dough till it comes clean from your hands.

It is beautiful shortbread!  Mum often gives it as a gift to friends and relations.
I have used the same recipe to make shortbread at Christmas time, and intend doing so again this year to give some to our neighbours.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Advent Calendar - Holiday Parties

Did your family throw a holiday party each year? Do you remember attending any holiday parties?

No, we didn't have Christmas Parties that I remember when I was growing up.  However, for a number of years my husband and I held a pre-Christmas drinks party.  We would invite all the local friends that we had perhaps not seen very often during the year.
For the past couple of years I have not felt well enough to worry about hosting a party, but last year I decided we would give it a go.  I sent out invitations early November, for a party in the first week of December, thinking that would get in before most other Christmas Parties.  Wrong!  Most of the people we invited were unable to come due to prior commitments.  Then, of those who did respond in the affirmative, one couple got held up at a grandchild's dance concert on the day and didn't make it, and another couple had a funeral to attend on the day.  So this year I decided we weren't going to try to compete with all the other end of year festivities that people seem to be drawn into.  I did think of having pre-Christmas in July drinks, but July came and went too quickly for me to do anything but think about it.
Also in recent years there has always been a work Christmas break-up function to attend.  These are usually great fun, and often involve a Kris Kringle of one sort or another.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Advent Calendar - Santa Claus

Did you ever send a letter to Santa? Did you ever visit Santa and “make a list?” Do you still believe in Santa Claus?

My brother and I always wrote a letter to SantaI don't remember whether Santa ever wrote a letter back!  I continued the tradition with my daughter. I still have a couple of letters from Susan to Santa which he must have left lying around.  Of course, the letters contained the wish-list.  We were also taken to visit Santa in various shops.  I don't have photos of me with Santa, but I do have many of my daughter as she paid the mandatory visit to Santa.
When my mother was a child she knew her parents didn't have much money - and the year her friends were starting to doubt the existence of Santa my mother had proof positive that he did exist.  When Mum found a beautiful doll under the tree she knew there had to be a Santa because her parents could never have afforded a doll like that.
My parents cleverly got around the problem of multiple Santas, and also how to explain why Santa brought some children very expensive presents while others got less.  All of the Santas that we saw at Christmas parties, in the shops etc. were Santa's Helpers.  As for the presents, the main present we got was from Mum and Dad, and it was the smaller presents in our stockings that came from Santa.
I remember the year I learned about the secret of Santa - I went snooping looking for presents.  I found a case under my parents' bed, full of toys.  I told my brother - who promptly told my mother!  Mum told me I had spoiled the surprise - yet it had never occurred to me that this meant Mum and Dad "helped" Santa each year.  I may have cottoned on when I saw those same toys in our stockings (that's where Santa left the presents from him), but as I'd only had a brief look in the suitcase even that might not have spoiled anything.
I have a wonderful photo of one of our granddaughters - squealing with delight when Santa visited a Christmas party we were attending.
Do I still believe in Santa?  Why, of course .........

Monday, December 05, 2011

Advent Calendar - Outdoor Decorations

Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go “all out” when decorating? Any stories involving your ancestors and decorations?

I don't recall that it was the done thing to decorate the outside of the house as I was growing up.  About the closest it came to was that many houses had a lighted Christmas Tree in a window facing the street.  In fact my brother and I made up a game called, obviously, Christmas Tree - a kind of spotto we played on long car trips at Christmas time.  Each time we saw a tree we called out C, or H, or R etc. until we had seen enough trees to spell the words Christmas Tree.  First one to spell it was the winner.
Now, we put up some coloured lights outside on the verandah and in trees and the garden, but most of our decorations are inside.  Our neigbours however, go all out!
I love travelling around to look at the decorated houses, and we usually do this every year.  Some years we have been in Bendigo at or near Christmas time and there are some spectacular street displays there which have been well worth the time and effort to look at them.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Advent Calendar - Christmas Cards

Back to the Advent Calendar where I began this blog in earnest - this time for 2011.
The prompt for today:
Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?
My immediate family has always sent Christmas Cards to family and friends.  Often, perhaps unfortunately, it is the only contact we have with some friends all year.  But at least they know that they are thought of and remembered.
When I was little we would use the cards we received in  scrapbooks, or to make cards of our  own.  We also took the cards to school where they were used to make cards for mum and dad. (Obviously this was done the following year!)
The cards we received were always displayed around the loungeroom.  I don't remember any particular tradition regarding Christmas Cards, except that they were always part of Christmas.
Unfortunately I don't have any cards from years gone by - although birthday cards were always kept and pasted into an album.  A tradition I continued for my own daughter.
Nowadays I still send cards to family and friends - about 80 each year.  I also send (in addition to a 'real' card) an e-card to those friends and family who have internet access.  I try to make sure my cards are done and posted in the first week of December.  For those we don't have much contact with during the year I also include a letter which reviews our year.  Whilst this is done on the computer I personalise them by using mail merge.  I have a data document set up with individual names and a section for family specific chat.  So everyone gets the main letter, with their names printed at the beginning of the letter, and most have an extra paragraph or two that is specific to that family - perhaps asking about a family member, or commenting on something that is only significant for that family.  Therefore, my Christmas letter is as personalised as a mass-produce letter can be.
I also send a card to each of my grandchildren - just for them, rather than them being included in the family card.  I know our daughter saved the cards when the girls were younger, but I'm not sure if she still does.  I'm not sure whether our daughter-in-law ever kept the cards.  Our other daughter has yet to produce any grandchildren, but I'm sure she would keep cards if and when she becomes a mother.
I do keep a record of who I send to, and who sends us cards.  Usually the two lists are the same - but there are some people who I send to who never send cards.  If someone sends us a card and I haven't sent them one I will do so and add them to my list for next year.
I do keep all handmade cards, and occasionally an especially beautiful card just for sentimental reasons.  When I was teaching I used to let the children in my class cut up last year's cards to make cards for their family.  I have also used pictures from last year's cards to make gift tags in the current year.
I have strings around the loungeroom walls on which I hang the cards to display them.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

On-line Security

The perennial question!  I have spent many hours agonising over this.  Should family history details be available to all via the Internet (or for that matter a published book)?  Just how great is the risk of identity theft?  I would have said I am extremely careful with regard to on-line security - yet my credit card has been 'hacked' twice, or rather, I've had two cards hacked, my original and the replacement less than two months after I got it.  I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm sure it has nothing to do with my family history on-line.  I believe it is pretty unlikely for someone to stumble upon my wiki without doing a search for specific name that exists in my data - if they know the name they are probably related.  As I do not record current addresses I think it highly unlikely that someone could put together a name and birth details etc. from my family history PLUS current addresses and other relevant information and have enough to create a new identity.  In many cases for living people I don't even have their birth dates - I seem to know more about my dead relatives than the living ones!  As for the risk to credit cards from my data - impossible - the thief would have to have card numbers from other sources and successfully put the two together.  And if they have a card number from another source they don't need any info from my family history.  I think the biggest threat comes from people accessing the information and adding it to their own as gospel, and perhaps never seeing corrections or additions that I make so that their data may be incorrect.  Others may see their information and assume it is all fact.
I have data in three places on the net - GenesReunited, my wiki and  It is only available to people I approve through GenesReunited - but they can download a GEDCOM of the data making it an easy process to 'steal' my info and add it to their own. is a Public Member Tree, maybe I should make it Private so only invited people can see it - if they want the info they can easily add it to their own tree, but on a person by person basis, so it is pretty time consuming. The good thing is that Ancestry does not publish data on living people, not even names.  The bad thing about that is that it creates a false impression about a family. My wiki is open to all - I did password protect the pages for a while, but then I found that a Google search would show up relevant reports, but not the site itself so visitors wouldn't see my requests to maintain privacy etc. So, after much deliberation I have removed the password. With the wiki it means all info has to be typed in by hand as the reports are in .pdf format, not GEDCOMs, so not an easy task. 
There is also the question of obtaining permission from others to use their data.  It is virtually impossible to contact every living descendant.  I have certainly asked permission from all people who I know have contributed lots of data.  But I had a case the other day where someone I had never had contact with, but who was in my tree, contacted me to say she had given the info to one of my many fellow researchers for private use, not wholesale publication.  So, to respect her wishes I have privatised the descendants she didn't want on the web.  I have also done this for a couple of other major contributors who have asked for details to be kept private.  I do not like to publish a database where every living person is listed as Private - it looks so messy.  Also, some  living people don't object to details being available, and some people want recent generations hidden even if they are deceased.  My solution is to make some individuals Private so their places are 'held' but with no names or other details.
I am perfectly happy to share info with fellow researchers - after all we need all the help we can get.  That's why I decided to put my work on the internet.  It is a convenient way to let relatives who are interested see what I have discovered.  But is is also an easy way to share with fellow researchers who may also be able to give me new information - and the web search engines have to be able to see my site in order for new contacts to be made.  If I bite the bullet and pay for my wiki site I can make it by invitation only, but search engines won't see it either.  However, sharing, and outright pinching data are two different things.  If I have been given information by someone I credit them in my sources, and if I've got lots of info from them I acknowledge their assisstance in my wiki General Info pages for each surname.  But I know of at least one woman who was given permission to access my GenesReunited Tree - she has 'nicked' the lot (even the branches that are NOTHING to do with her lines) and published it with her own research on her other lines on a web page.  To top it off, she has some marriages in the wrong order where there have been multiple marriages.  I have contacted her and asked her to modify the data, and to make corrections to some errors that I have discovered in my own data.  I also chided her somewhat for not acknowledging the source of her information in any way.  Naturally she has refused to respond to my requests, and the errors still remain.  I know it is my work because she has my exact wording in several obvious places, such as a place of death as being the Ab....... Invalid Asylum (because I couldn't make out the exact name when I first entered it).  Another tree I found on also obviously comes from my data - don't know where he got it, but again there are some since discovered errors, but when I asked him where he got the info, and asked him to correct the errors he blocked all messages from me and didn't respond.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Go To Sleep My Baby

And of course Billy Blunder reminded me of an even more special song - a lullaby in fact. My mother used to sing it to me when I was little, and I sang it to my daughter and my grandchildren when they were babies. Apparently it is the chorus to a song called "Wyoming". The midi that follows is the whole song, but about a third of the way through it goes to the chorus - and these are the words:
Go to sleep my baby
Close your pretty eyes
Angels up above thee
Watching dearie from above the skies
Great big moon is shining
Stars begin to peep
'Tis time for little picaninnies
To go to sleep

Still brings tears to my eyes to hear it. I hope I can sing it to Susan's children one day.

Billy Blunder

This blog may well turn out to be a bit of a history of my own life, as well as being about my family history journey. Doing some surfing on the net this morning - well, actually, I was looking to update a couple of links on this blog - and I suddenly remembered a song I used to sing when I was in Prep grade at school, and which I subsequently taught to my own infant classes. It was Billy Blunder, although I don't know that I ever knew it by that title - I think we called it Big, Black and Shiny or maybe One Rainy Morning.
Here's the words:
One rainy morning
Without any warning
A large umbrella crossed the street
Big, black and shiny
Covering someone tiny
And all that we could see were two small feet

In and out the traffic
Dodging here and there
That umbrella went with a Don't-Care air
I said in wonder
Who is that down under
Hugging that umbrella like a teddy bear

Apparently there are more verses, and it was actually a road safety song, but these are the only two verses I ever remember singing. Tried to find an audio version, but no can do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Another exciting discovery

I didn't make this discovery - rather it was made by Terry Cantwell and the Southern Ocean Exploration team. They discovered, after 76 years, the wreck of "TSS Coramba". This was the ship which foundered with all hands lost on 30th November 1934. My grandfather, John Loring SULLIVAN, lost his life along with 16 other crew members including the Captain.
This newspaper article tells the story.

However, there is more to tell. While we were on holiday I saw, for the first time, a life buoy from the "Coramba" at the Maritime discovery Centre in Portland. Then, on the day the above article was in The Age I actually touched the bell of the "Coramba" at the History Centre in Port Fairy. There was also another life buoy at Port Fairy. These, and the bell, and a derrick, had been washed up on the shore of Phillip Island after the "Coramba" sank.

Exciting find

While we were on our recent holiday to the Western District we went to the old Wool Store complex in Portland. There was a market, a furniture store, and an antique shop in the complex. As we walked through the main entrance I noticed a large photographic print for sale, hanging on the wall. It was of an old sailing ship, with sails furled, tied to the wharf at Portland. Closer inspection revealed the name of the ship - "Joseph Sims". My heart skipped a beat, because my great grandfather, John Joseph SULLIVAN, had been Master of the "Joseph Sims" (and I later realised my grandfather, John Loring SULLIVAN, had also served on her.) Trouble was, the print was priced at $400, and was somewhat 'fuzzy' because it had been blown up too large. So although I was very tempted we didn't buy it.
When we got home my dear husband began searching the internet for an image of the "Joseph Sims" - lo and behold, after much searching, he found one on the State Library of Victoria site. It was beautiful, and out of copyright. I now have a 20" x 30" print on my wall!

My wiki

(click on the image to go to the wiki)
The other family thing that has kept me busy is my wiki. I was looking for a way to easily share information with fellow researchers. I decided on a wiki. I'm rather proud of my Branches and Twigs. It is so simple to update, if a little time consuming. But I am learning shortcuts all the time.
Originally I password protected the pages so I could maintain some control over who saw the content. But I have, after much deliberation and soul searching, removed the password. Several reasons - my main concern was that people might misuse the information if it was open to anyone and everyone. But then I discovered that a Google search would return the actual documents from the wiki (rather than the wiki page itself) which effectively by-passed the password requirement. And there was nothing to stop someone who had been given the password from misusing the info, or claiming the research as their own. I have had this happen when I gave a lady access to my tree on GenesReunited - she copied the lot into her own tree and put it onto her website with nary a mention of where she got the information. Worse still, she has refused to respond to my messages to her. At least with the wiki everything would have to be hand entered, as I don't add GEDCOMS, only pdf documents and web pages. Also, I have been contacted by several previously unknown fellow descendants and by making the wiki too private I would miss these opportunities. I have told all fellow researchers that if they want anyone privatised I can do that on an individual basis, rather than supressing details for living people as that makes the resulting reports very clumsy and quite useless. Most people are happy to see where they fit into the descendants. Also, I never add current addresses or phone numbers (except my own) so it is only names and dates that could potentially be used for identifying purposes - and perhaps surprisingly I have more unknown birthdates for living people than I do for those gone before. Hope I'm not being naive, but I think I have made the right decision to remove the password. I am still contemplating paying for my wiki so I can make it that only members can look at it - but apparently that also prevents search engines 'seeing' my wiki so I wouldn't get hits from people who don't already know about the wiki. A real problem to know what to do for the best.

It's been a while

Well, I started this blog in response to a post (somewhere) about family Christmas memories. But I haven't touched it since. Thought it was about time I did. I have certainly been involved with family history research this year - so much so that I am beginning to suspect my husband is right and I have developed RSI in my right arm. Something is certainly giving me curry, and I hate the thought it might be the computing, meaning I should cease and desist for a while.
I have really got into lately. I've been a member for a few years, but really only used it as a source for information. I hadn't uploaded a family tree. But then I became intrigued by the adverts promoting the notion of 'hints' so, as the ad said - I typed in a few names and up popped a little leaf....! I soon made connection with lots of other trees which contained the same people I was researching, and in many instances I was able to add new people to my tree.
But I also found a) it was too easy to become a name collector - I was adding people so remotely connected it wasn't funny - did I really want these people in my tree, did I need them? I'm still in two minds, because they ARE connected. But b) I was also finding obvious errors - even in families of which I had no direct knowledge. But certain facts just didn't 'jell'. And there were lots of cases where people had obviously added the information from a 'hint' without really reviewing what they were adding. For instance,my great grandfather was shown in a couple of trees as having a total of four wives - one (correct) married in England and then moving to, and having children in, Australia. But at the same time as the Australian children were being born he was supposedly in Canada, marrying (at different times for each) three other women, and having children, in Canada, with them. A jet-setting bigamist in the late 1800s - I don't think so! There are many other cases where the wrong place of death or birth has been recorded - the real event might have been in Newcastle, England, but a hint has shown Newcastle, USA, or because someone of the same name died in the same year but in a different country they have assumed it is the same person. I fear for the future of online genealogy when these sort of mistakes are being perpetrated and more worryingly perpetuated as people add incorrect and unchecked information to their own trees. The internet is a blessing for family historians in so many ways, but it is also a trap for the unwary. Thank goodness allows Comments to be added to individuals in trees so at least others can be alerted to the errors.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Advent Calendar Grab Bag - Christmas Day Memory

Every Christmas morning for years I listened to "The Small One" as told by Bing Crosby on the radio. There was a presenter called Peter Evans who played the story every year without fail - perhaps it was actually on Christmas Eve morning. But it was certainly much looked forward to every year.

Click on this YouTube video to hear the magic words.