About me

I’m a migrant. I’ve spent most of my life half a world away from my extended (and sometimes, nuclear) family.

Me, at around 8 months.

Me, at around 8 months.

Cut off from the rhythm and security of the tribe, the clan, the whanau – and without the rituals of Christmases and birthdays that familial ties tend to engender, I also grew up with no real sense of my place in the world, and an overwhelming need to create my own rituals and celebrations.

It didn’t help that as well as moving countries, we also moved house regularly and so by the time I dropped out of school three days into the sixth form, I’d lived in about nine different houses in five different locations and was on my sixth school.

This isn’t a “poor me” story. I’m a big girl now, responsible for my actions and emotions and for making my own choices. One of those choices has been to research my family’s history.

I’m not quite sure quite how it began; and there is probably no single explanation, but a constellation of small things. My grandmother’s death a few years ago severed the last link with a generation, and while I felt I knew her well, I regret I didn’t’ ask her more about her life.

My brother and I outside our first house in New Zealand, probably around 1968.

My brother and I outside our first house in New Zealand, probably around 1968.

My mother has always been a great storyteller and I rely on her for so much information, but that’s only part of the family and I’m a bit estranged from my dad.

Part of it is my age. I noticed when I first got excited about family history and started telling people about it, friends over forty were equally excited and often shared their own stories; the under 40’s kind of glazed over or looked furtively around for the exit.

Certainly the fact that I can access so much information on the Internet has had a huge impact. But however I got to this place, I’m happy to be here. I’m excited by the processes – detective work really, and I’m thrilled when I find someone new to add to my tree.  And as I’ve written about before, I am happiest of all when I can learn something about the lives of my ancestors – put flesh on their bones.

Part of that is my background and education. I have a MA in Sociology and a MIS (Master of Information Studies) in Librarianship. Most of my professional life has involved research and writing in some form or another and the sociologist in me needs social history – “the big picture” that for me gives context to my ancestors’ individual lives.

I also enjoy the community of family history researchers – both virtual and physical. I’ve joined the New Zealand Society of Genealogists, and have begun attending the wonderful workshops and seminars run by the librarians at the Auckland Libraries’ Research Centre.

Who will comfort the mothers, weeping for their lost sons? A collage I made based on the stories of two great uncles - one of mine and one of my partner's.

Who will comfort the mothers, weeping for their lost sons? A collage I made based on the stories of two great uncles – one of mine and one of my partner’s.

Finding ways to tell my story is an important part of the process. I enjoy words, but I also have a need to make pictures. I’ve tentatively begun to make collages that include images and fragments of text that help me make sense of my past. I want to continue this process.

Shaking the Tree’ is important to me. It’s both the record of my work and a conversation I’m having with other people. Some are people I’m related to and who know the characters in my stories and may be inspired to share their own, but there are also many others – you perhaps – who might be interested in your family, and your stories. I won’t get to meet many (any?) of you in person, but I feel I know some of you already from the wonderful, funny, sad and poignant accounts you share of your past and the characters who peopled it.

For my mother: a reminder of the strong women who bore us and for whom we were named.

For my mother: a reminder of the strong women who bore us and for whom we were named.

I intend to “keep shaking” my tree and sharing the leaves and fruit that fall.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

162 thoughts on “About me

  1. Pingback: Day 70: Get Nominated for an Inspirational Blog Award | How to Cross an Ocean

  2. Somehow I saw a piece of myself in your story. I am a migrant too. Every year, I have a feeling that soon the tides will move me again where fate destined me to go. Just like you, I wish I asked more my grand parents their stories and more importantly made a record of all if it. It is already too late cause I lost them too. All I have are my memories and what my parents have recounted. This is inspiring, “I intend to “keep shaking” my tree and sharing the leaves and fruit that fall.” We share your dreams my friend.

    • Thanks; hearing from other bloggers and knowing we share similar histories and stories makes blogging so much more enjoyable.

  3. G’day Su thanks for dropping by my blog and welcome to my world. I always wished I had asked and listened more to my Mother and you are so fortunate to be able to track the family history. WordPress is an ideal format to pass it on

  4. Hi Su. Thanks for following my blog. Nice to meet you. It’s one of life’s great quests, isn’t it, searching out our connections. Being something of a prehistorian I tend to delve a little further back than family, and it’s all a bit intangible. It was only as I was reading your ‘about’ that I realised that the poem I’d just posted in the Playing with Space poetry challenge could also be said to be about migration. A love the way one thing leads to another on WordPress. Good luck with your research.

    • Hi Tish. Great to meet you too. I think you’re right about the longing for connection; especially now that we are often so physically disconnected from the “old” ties of kinship, tribe, nation. In Maori society it is considered necessary to know one’s genealogy and in NZ we often use Maori words to describe various social groupings. Ironically, they seem to work better for our melting-pot society. I really liked your poem “Pliny the Elder said it first” – it got me thinking about connectedness and displacement; issues that are (as you’ve gathered) important to me. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog. 🙂

  5. your ‘UP’ photo brought me here once I picked up on the NZ connection. I’m 30 years gone from the long white cloud but Maui’s hook is getting stronger. I’ll be interested to follow your journey. BTW I think your blog title is inspired.

    • Thanks! And thank you for following my blog. I’d noticed your Wellington photos, but figured you were UK-based. Maui’s hook for us took the form of a small child that we wanted to give a “Kiwi upbringing”. He’s 15 now and starting to spread his wings. Now the “auld fella” and I are thinking about moving back to England in a few years.

  6. You remind me of my daughter – probably the same generation. She also had to put up with frequent moves as a child and through her teenage years. My husband was in the Air Force and we were often posted. And I see you’ve done well with your studies since, as she has.

    • Thank you; and thanks for visiting my blog. We moved, not because of my dad’s job, but because my mum is a gypsy. She’s been back and forth between New Zealand and Scotland, Scotland and England … Even now in her 70s she’d still, deep down, probably like a mobile home (with a driver these days) and no ties to anywhere.

  7. I’m like you.. I love to travel but I want a home base to return to all the time. I often wish I’d asked my Irish grandmother more but she died when I was 15. I hope to go to Ireland soon to see where she came from.. Maybe even get some information on her life.. Good luck in your journey 🙂

  8. I love your collages reflecting your family history!! I have a bit of a NZ connection–I’m still in touch with the family who hosted me as an exchange student in 1969. We have exchanged visits several times over the years, including my extended family members visiting them in NZ. My sister and I love researching our roots together, and do a genealogy vacation every couple of years if we can.

    • Thank you Sandy; I’m trying to get back into a collage I started ages ago, but I’ve found out a lot more about the people in the meantime and my theme doesn’t seem to work anymore. But I think once I begin throwing some paint around, something will come. Where in NZ did you stay? It’s great that you keep in touch. I’ve got a genealogy holiday planned for later this year and am desperately trying to figure out how I’ll get to all the places I “need” to go in the time available. Thanks for visiting my blog.

      • I lived in Balclutha the year I was in high school there. When I visited again in 2009 we arrived 40 years to the day from my previous arrival. My host brother lives in Invercargill, and after a week of ‘family’ visiting, hubby and I did some Lord of the Rings touring–what a kick!! All in all one of our most fun vacations in 37 years together. (Although Italy is dearer to my heart.)

  9. I haven’t been to Balclutha (shamefaced confession, given how small NZ is). In fact it was only a few years ago I even went to Dunedin! I live in Auckland. The LOR scenery is pretty amazing and I do love the South Island.

    • Thank you. I’d like to publish something about my ancestors – long way to go for me yet though. Thanks for visiting my blog.

  10. I just found you because I wanted to see who was reading my stories. I am new to blogging. You are so right about the “glazed over look” that so many have when I discuss my findings. However, I hope that someday some of my descendents would want to know about me. If we don’t dig, then who will ever know our story.

    • Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I totally agree with you – the research and story-making we do now will be valuable in the future. And in the meantime, blogging about it means we can share with others who “get it” about what we’re doing. That’s my favourite part – so welcome to the gang!

        • Thank you. I only wish blogging had been around sooner; it definitely feels like “my” medium. I love the freedom to write about whatever I choose and the sheer democracy of putting it out there to see who will respond and to what. I also love meeting so many wonderful people who also blog. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the kindness bloggers show each other; and – especially in the case of the family history bloggers – the excitement we can feel when one of our number makes a discovery or breaks through a brick wall. I’ve taken to referring to you all as my cyber-whanau (whanau is a Maori word that loosely means family, but encompasses so much more than we traditionally think of as family). Thanks again.

  11. Pingback: Looking for Giles aka Private Victor Rowles 1896-1915 | Tish Farrell

    • Hi Tish. Thanks for your lovely comment about my blog. What a wonderful, rich story you’ve uncovered. I enjoyed reading it very much and found myself wondering about Giles/Victor and what took him to Australia, only to die much closer to home. ANZAC Day is hugely important to Kiwis and Aussies, so it’s a bit of history we’re taught a little about. Those poor young men were given an impossible task and it’s no wonder so many died.

  12. Thanks for visiting my blog and for giving me to opportunity to see this story. I read a story in Sundays Melb Age newspaper about Tina Arena who is a well known singer in Australia. She didn’t move around like you did but she felt that as an adult she was never really accepted in Australia mostly because of its Anglo Saxon dominance. Tina was raised by ;Italian parents in Australia. As with all immigrants there is an enormous disconnect with extended family and then there is the issue of assimilation – or not? In the article she described how France has embraced her talent, she received a high merit award, is a successful singer and how they understand her latin background (unlike Australia). I totally understand and see where she is coming from. The roots are strong. I wonder when it will be that our country is not dominated by one particular culture?

    • Hi Anne. Thanks for your comment; you are right about the huge disconnect and how it affects us. So many of the people I’m meeting doing family history are migrants like me, trying to understand the multiple cultures we spring from. One of the things I like about looking backward at -even my own – history is seeing how much cultures do change over time to embrace new people and ideas. I don’t know about Australia, but I think NZ is much less Anglo Saxon now than it was a few years ago, at least in our informal, lived culture. A good thing, and something I hope we continue to see.

      • I think it will take at least one or two more generations for Australia to accept that someone of asian or european appearance is in fact Australian. We are a multicultural society in Melbourne but there is still a big divide. I remember when Neighbours featured it’s first Italian Australian they overlaid Godfather style music.
        Anyway I want to leave on a high, it was nice talking and goodluck with your search.

        • I think you are right; and it is probably the same here, particularly with Asian immigrants. I don’t think I’m particularly racist but I’m still sometimes surprised when people of Asian ethnicity have Kiwi accents! I think that’s partly a result of a very large “bulge” in immigration in the last few years.

          Interestingly, I remember once going through the index of churches in the Melway and marvelling at how many different faiths were represented. It seemed so multicultural compared to NZ. But I guess what we see from the outside is quite different to what we experience living inside a culture.

          Thanks for stopping by and for your insightful comments.

  13. Only just getting into genealogy after discovering that my Great Grandfather left Hull when he was 21 and sailed to Australia…..he was gone almost 30 years and no one in the family knows what happened to him in those intervening years! Will be following your blog to get some research tips as, even though I’ve been a student at UQ for 4 years and I’ve just hopped on Ancestry.com I’m still hitting a lot of dead ends!

    • Hi; thanks for following my blog. Hopefully it will be of some help. When did your great grandfather leave England? I found some records about my great, great grandfather who was a merchant seaman in the 19th century on the NSW government mariners’ records website ( NSW Govt. Mariners’ Records. http://mariners.records.nsw.gov.au). My gg grandfather was a Scotsman who seemed to spend most of his life in the merchant navy. I’ve found accounts of him in Chile and Australia during the 1870s-1880s. By 1891 he was in a lunatic asylum in Fife, Scotland suffering from syphillis he probably contracted while in the navy. He died in the poorhouse in 1903. I hope your great grandfather had a better life. Look forward to hearing about it as your research progresses.
      PS: best research tip I got (and it’s one we should know from academic study but it’s that bit that’s boring and easy to overlook) – document your sources as you go! Even the dead ends so you don’t have to revisit them next time you dig into that bit of the family!

  14. I’m pretty good at documentation as I’ve just finished a 4 year degree in Lit and History, my rellie dosent have an intial and has a very common surname so I’ve been down a lot of rabbit holes! At the moment I’m working backwards again because he did return to Hull, cashed up and married very quickly. It’s the decades he was away that no one knows anything about! I think I definitely have him on a ship list/immigration into Australia but he’s listed as an able bodied seaman. Some one has suggested that it might not have been his profession but a way to get a ships passage instead. The only other evidence that he even came here is that he wrote a letter to his sister saying he was emigrating to QLD – the record I have has an arrival in Brisbane, but then sailed on to NSW, then I think I have the right Taylor on an Australian census for 1891 on the Gold fields…..which might explain some of the cash! But its still a bit of a dead end as I can’t find anything for him emigrating back to the UK!

  15. Great idea! I love hearing my grandmother’s stories about growing up during the war and I’m sure one day I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren about growing up without t

      • Hi Alana. Thanks for visiting my blog. It will be interesting to hear kids’ reaction to the idea of a world without the Internet. I remember years ago trying to explain to my son – then aged about six that when I was young TV was in black & white, and we only had one channel. He looked completely dumb-founded then asked me what the channel was called? All I could say was “television.”

  16. I enjoyed reading your about page very much. I think we all want to leave our fingerprint with those who are close to us. Elders years ago rarely spoke of family things. I suppose it’s the reason why many people are researching their geneology and writing their memoirs. Everyone has a story. We all want to be counted in the world of humaness.
    Good Wishes for your journey to discovery.
    Isadora

    • You are very welcome; I really like some of the recipes on your blog, and am keen to try them out of the holidays. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  17. Love your collages and I am looking forward to reading more of your blog. As you have probably gathered from your visit to my blog, I am another who often feels ‘disconnected’ and unsure of my place in the world 🙂

  18. It’s very true, we get more interested in our roots as we get older, and I also wish I knew more about, and asked more questions, when my grandparents were alive, ask as much as you can about your relatives while they are still around.

    • Thanks Joan. This is a sentiment I am hearing so much. I’m determined to do something about it – not only with what’s left of my family but also to maybe create a project to collect other people’s family history stories. It’s so much easier these days with smart phones!!!! Thank you for visiting.

  19. So you decided to join the small clan of Uncle Spike followers, sometimes known as The Spikey’s….

    I really appreciate you wanting to become a new follower, after all, there are many many interesting and entertaining blogs out there.

    Anyway, I hope you like my upcoming posts and if you get bored one day, maybe you’ll enjoy trawling through some of my older stuff too.I have added plenty of categories now to help readers. If you have any likes, dislikes or suggestions about my blog, by all means let me know, either through ‘comments’ or via email. Always welcome reader input 🙂

    Thanks again for your vote of confidence, and hope you have a great old day…

    UNCLE SPIKE
    uncle.spikes.adventures1@gmail.com

  20. Amazing how strongly you feel the need to find out the deep,deep roots of your family.As a sociologist you know better than anybody else the real value of family.Can’t imagine how societies would be without the institution of the family.One feels really empty when they ignore the history of their ancestors.Even ignoring the history of your country makes you feel a foreign body in society.
    Wish you the best of best and good luck.I’m certain sure one day you’ll know every little detail concerning your ancestors.
    Doda

    • Thank you Doda. My appreciation of family – both as a concept and my actual flesh-and-blood has taken a long time to emerge. I regret that I wasn’t more interested while my grandmother was still alive, but am grateful for the renewed and strengthened connection that my “digging” has given me with my parents. It’s also helped me find some brand new (sometimes quite distant) relatives and let me experience the joy of an ever-expanding family.
      Thanks again, Su.

  21. I love your blog but am (benevolently) jealous of all the old photos you have . . . . for EVER I have been wanting to learn of my family’s heritage & history, on both sides . . . but I lack a lot of biographical/statistical information . . . when I found out we’ve got a kleptomaniac in the near past I sort of lost interest 🙂

    • Thank you 🙂 I do treasure my old photos, but have to admit that the collection from my side of the family is miniscule compared to my husband’s! It’s always about finding that next bit of information isn’t it … so many brick walls that, realistically, are only covering dead ends anyway. The most interesting (and easy to research) ancestors are often the “bad boys” (and girls) – I have a great, great grandfather who had caught syphilis while in the navy (where he seemed to spend a lot of time drunk and in trouble) then spent time in a lunatic asylum before dying in the poorhouse. There is SO MUCH documentary evidence of his life compared to my nice, law-abiding happily-married ancestors. Sigh 🙂

    • It helps to have Scottish ancestors. The Scottish government has done a wonderful job preserving documentary heritage (guess it’s worth many, many tourist $$s).

  22. Thanks for stopping by our blog 🙂 We are extremely interested in learning about our family history so have only just started dabbling! Keen to see what information you are able to unfold in your research 🙂

    • You’re welcome. I think Australian records are pretty good, so you should be able to find out quite a lot quite easily. I discovered that with both my Scottish ancestors and my husband’s Kiwi ones. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Levi. I’m impressed by your relatives’ searching abilities and persistence. I doubt I’ll be able to go any further back in my family tree, because my ancestors were landless and so beyond parish christening, marriage and death records, their lives were not well documented. But there is so much still to know about the lives of the people I can identify in the 18th and 19th centuries – I’ll be busy for a while. Thanks again 🙂

    • Thank you Karen; I need more hours in the day to do all the things I want to. One of the things I enjoy about blogging is how online communities form and inspire us all to do a little more, and a little better. 🙂

  23. Nice to meet another so passionate about family history. I have researched mine and found relies in New Zealand Australia and Denmark. Thanks for the pingback on the phoneography challenge.

  24. The drive you describe to dig is indescribable to others… It can only be explained in your own heart, yes? I hope you still have the time to document – time really flies.

    • 🙂 that’s so true. I go through phases of just wanting to know more, and others of wanting to write about what I know. The trick (and I haven’t found it yet) is to balance them, so I document and describe as I go; which would save me loads of effort but just doesn’t fit with the flow of the passion.

      • Yes that’s true. But of course what I know, and what I do, don’t always co-incide. Sigh! I make work for myself, but on the other hand, this project is meant to be fun, and it’s fun for me to work this way. 🙂

  25. Pingback: My Ancestor was a Chut: More on Dutch and English Jews « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  26. Hello,I saw you mentioned David Skinner Ramsay married Mary Fisher.

    I know that his ancestor was Capt.James Low of Madras Native Infantry.I do have a lots information about your ancestor,Capt.James Low in Penang.

    P/s contact me at – winsonsaw20032000@yahoo.com

  27. This is such an amazing project/passion. I wish I had asked my grandparents, and my father, more about my family history. I know very little and that saddens me because lately I’ve felt a need to connect with my roots. Collaging is a wonderful way to express yourself and I find your blog really inspirational! thank you for your kind comments on mine and although our journeys may seem different, I think we’re actually alike because to me we’re both on a quest to find out who we are and where we came from.

    here’s to our journey!
    ~x♥
    Lauren

    • Hi Lauren. Thank you so much. I think you are right; our journeys are similar in many ways. As I’ve gotten into this project, I’ve realised that in one way or another, many many people are estranged from family, or community or culture. However we choose to try and reconnect, the journey is an amazing one. I so hope that you find and make connections that give you joy and peace. I’ve found they can come out of the most unexpected places. Yesterday I had an email from the great grandson of the doctor who attended my great grand aunt when she gave birth to a stillborn daughter, and then died of eclampsia. It’s a long, messy story, and one that I’ve been feeling very sad and angry about. Having a stranger reach out to me, one who is as connected by a fine thread of descent as I am; well it was an amazing feeling. I hope you can experience these moments too. And I’m looking forward to sharing your journey. 🙂

  28. I laughed our loud–your comment about the under 40’s is so very true! We’re on a similar quest, so I’m so very happy to have discovered your blog. If you have a moment, check out my July 4th post, which features our fabulous Half Moon Bay librarians.

  29. Hi Su, so there I was, skiing the interweb, bored, then remembered my daughter, Melany saying, put your name into Google and see what happens.So I did. Imagine my disbelief upon seeing my Gran and Grandad, Kate and auld Eck staring back at me. It would seem you’re gran was my aunty Maggie. My dad was George Alexander, I am George David Cruden.
    I had a free trip down memory lane for which I am so grateful. Kate was indeed indefatigable. The baby she raised after the breakup of his parents was in fact me. The picture of you,your mum,gran,Kate and Eck was taken in the back garden of 15 Pottery Street in the Gallatown, pronounced Galltin,with a soft ‘t’.The shed in the background housed grandad’s mobility mini,pale blue, and lots of stuff. It also doubled up as my gang hut. Among their many business interests such as the pub in the Milton,chip shop etc.was the Harbour Hotel at the foot of The Path in Kirkcaldy where I grew up and discovered that I too have that wanderlust gene. A few weeks ago I was contacted by one Liz Mansfield who it turned out is my cousin, her father being my uncle Sandy, Maggie’s brother. You probably know she lives in Australia.There’s certainly something in this synchronicity malarkey. I sincerely hope you and yours are just dandyho. If I can fill in any details please just get in touch. I’ve been living in Houston Renfrewshire for the last 20 years and I still have itchy feet.

    • Hi George. Thanks so much for getting in touch; it’s brilliant to hear from you. I have memories of going to Pottery Street in the mid 60’s – before my parents moved to NZ.

      I’ve been in touch with Lorraine and she’s shared some brilliant photos on FaceBook. Your grandad was really special to my mum; she always talked about him a lot, and I know so little about him and great gran. My told me about the chip shop and the pub (and in fact I went there last year when I was back in the UK on holiday), and Mum talked about living at the Harbour Hotel (although I may have that wrong). Did they run it as a hotel?

      I only got to know my gran when I lived in the UK in the 90s, and although I spent lots of time with her and my Auntie Cath, I didn’t ask all the questions I have now, because they didn’t occur to me then. I remember your cousin Liz; she came to stay with us in NZ when I was a kid. She brought her daughters Mandy and Trish who’re around the same age as my brother Craig and me. I’ve met Mandy again as an adult when we visited your cousin Sandy’ ex, Edna and her daughters in Melbourne. They’d also visited us in NZ and we’d met up again when they were in the UK one time and I’d just gone to live there.

      Edna and Sandy have a grandson called Jonathan who is a day younger than my son, and we have this lovely photos of “all the girls” (Edna, my mum, Valerie, Carolyn, Mandy and me) with our two little boys both descended from a single set of great great grandparents.

      I wonder if the itchy feet is a family trait? Mum’s terrible at not staying put – while my dad is much more settled. I grew up mainly in NZ, but spent nine years back in the UK. Now my son’s about to finish school, we’re thinking of moving again. Part of my would like to live in Scotland again – I loved being back last year – but there’s a big part of me that’s Kiwi now too.

      I’m bound to think of plenty of questions once I’ve signed off from this (it’s always the way), but I do have one question now. Do you know anything about your grandad’s older sister? Her name was Jane (Jean) Morrison Cruden. She was born in 1887 (three years before great grandad). After the 1901 census, she seems to disappear a bit from the record. I think I found a marriage for her in 1924 in Middlesburgh (based partly on the name of the child from that marriage), but nothing more and English records aren’t as easily accessible as Scottish ones. My mum didn’t know anything about her.

      Also, would you mind me adding you to the family tree. Because I don’t really know the living family well, I’ve got big gaps in the generations 1-2 before me because the records aren’t available and I just don’t know who to ask. I don’t even know your dad’s birth year?

      Anyway, I’ll stop blethering on. It is lovely to hear from you. Hopefully we can stay in touch. Cheers, Su.

  30. Hi Sue, apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Of course you can add me and mine to ‘the list’. Your research has provided me with some really interesting reading. The revelation that granny used to go to work on the back of a motorbike explains a lot. I think uncle Jim was a despatch rider during the war, my old dad built specials, aka bitsas, both my brothers had bikes and I am the ageing hippy with the long hair, tattoos, and I will never give up my bike. There’s a company here that specializes in bike tours to New Zealand which I’ve looked at, maybe an excuse to look again, how cool would that be?

    • Hi George. No problem! It was mum that told me about great gran on the bike. I never knew her well, but I don’t have any trouble believing it. I knew your dad was a mechanic — he kept my mum’s car on the road long past it’s use-by date!! My partner has a Katana he’s owned for about 30 years; recently repaired after years in his parents garage. He’s just bought another one, slightly newer model. Boys and bikes …. NZ’s a pretty good place to ride and there are quite a few organised events too. A friend of ours writes for Kiwi Rider (think that’s the name) and he’s always turning up with some bike he’s “testing” for an article!!!! Have you beeen to NZ before? Your Uncle Jim came and visited Mum and Dad once, must have been the early 80’s I guess.

      Will email you with questions about the family tree stuff when I get a minute.

      It is really cool to hear from you.

  31. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. I really enjoy your blog and find it both helpful and interesting. I’ve learned a great deal from your writing, research techniques and insights. I love how you tell a story!
    To accept this award, please:
    1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to that blog.
    2. Share seven things about yourself.
    3. Nominate 15 bloggers you admire (or as many as you can think of!).
    4. Contact your bloggers to let them know that you’ve tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award
    Congratulations! I have posted my nominations at:
    http://genealogysisters.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/one-lovely-blog-award-a-wonderful-surprise/
    Cheers, Maryann

  32. Thank you for telling us so much about yourself and your families. You have given me inspiration to just get on with it all. The researching, writing, and most of all the sharing of photos, stories and family heirlooms.

    • Hi Nola; thank you for visiting and commenting on this page. I’m glad if my words inspire you to research, write and share your stories. I really believe that — especially in an age where we often live so far away from members of our family — it is really important to collect and share our stories so that they aren’t lost, and to help remind us that we belong to a great extended whanau that stretches back — and forward — in time.

  33. Hello! Found my way here via a circuitous route (all blogs must link up in the end – some variation of the six degrees of separation thing). I’m much more interested in my family history than I used to be, though my activity has been mainly sorting out what we have than any actual research – as well as persuading my mum to write her memoirs so that all her stories are not lost. John has also recently become interested in his family tree, so maybe when he retires (if ever) we’ll take it up more seriously.

    • Hi Anabel. I decided a while ago that 40 is the magic number for family history interest. When I first started researching and being so enthusiastic I had to share my discoveries with everyone, I found that friends over 40 were interested, and usually had their own stories to share. Those under 40 just glazed over! Blogging has been really helpful to me; I’ve had quite a few distant relatives get in touch, and also people with quite unexpected connections to my stories — like the great grandson of the doctor who delivered my great grand aunt’s stillborn daughter.

      • Yes, I was probably in my 40s when I started being interested! We’ve also had emails from distant connections both through me doing an online tree and my Mum’s blog. There was a surprise for us (descendants of an illegitimate child of my dad’s grandmother) and for others – a woman whose great-grandfather was one of my mum’s uncles. He and her great-grandmother, whom she had known, had split up but she couldn’t accept that even though my mum was a living witness. And indeed, we have his death certificate because my grandfather arranged his funeral as all his family had moved south with his wife. So an open mind is essential!

        • I’ve thought a lot about handling and sharing the surprise discoveries. My mum has been my main source of information to begin research, but a lot of what I’ve found has contradicted what she has believed.
          She’s been quite good about it, but I suspect if my grandmother had still been alive, it might have been a different matter!

        • It sometimes depends what age you learn it – my mum believed the uncle who left his wife lived with a housekeeper, because that’s what she was told as a child. When she was an adult she worked that one out!

  34. That’s so true. My mum said her mother told her that the aunt I mentioned who’d died in childbirth had died of a broken heart. My grandmother was 13 when her aunt died, and because the aunt wasn’t much older, they’d been like sisters apparently. I wonder if my grandmother knew her aunt was pregnant at the time? She was very concerned all her life to “keep up appearances”, so I can’t imagine her letting on the truth. But I suppose she must have known it, or at least figured it out as she got older.

  35. OMG! I didn´t know of this other blog of yours! So glad to have found it now, Su, this is so amazing!! An aunt of mine also tried herself with genalogy, she came as far back as the early 1800s and proofed that part of my family were Hugenots who fled from France and Napoleon and found rescue in Berlin. Genealogy is such an interesting and wonderful thing!! Looking very much forwad to read more from this blog 😀 Sarah xoxo

    • Hi Sarah. I’m so glad you like it. Family history is my not so secret obsession (besides art, coffee and stopping bugs from eating the Cavolo Nero in my garden). I’m fascinated by how others become interested in their own families and the joy people get from sharing their stories. The Huguenots suffered terrible persecution and became really widely dispersed. In Dublin there is a little Huguenot cemetery on/near St Stephen’s Green. I was originally surprised to find it in such a strongly Catholic country, but I gather that the English rulers of Ireland at the time we’re welcoming, and it seems that the refugees were welcomed and their skills greatly appreciated. Would that we could say that today.

      • Hi Su! Sadly my aunt stopped her research when her second child arrived and hasn´t found the energy to pursue it further since then. What´s funny is that she chose to research her husbands family (he´s my mom´s brother) instead of her own. We are very grateful for everything she found out so far as most people seem only to know about their family til their grandparents. I wished I could have questioned my maternal grandparents for more details though, but as you know they died when I was too young to have such interests. It´s sad how this knowledge can be so quickly lost.
        I didn´t know that the Hugenots fled as far as Ireland! I really have to do some more reading in that matter, I feel 🙂 And you´re absolutely right about the refugee situation…
        Your blog and especially that picture of your mom holding your son has given me the idea to digitalize all of our old pictures! I hope my mom can give me as much information as possible about who is on them! This will be a big project, I gather 😉 But I´m looking forward to it 🙂

        • I know what you mean about feeling you’ve missed an opportunity with older relatives. I knew my grandmother really well, but still never asked her much about her life. I get information from my mum, but often find that her version of events isn’t very accurate. I didn’t know much about the Huguenots until I lived in England. The English textile industry got a huge boost from Huguenot immigration, and I found out that they migrated as far as the US and South Africa.

        • Can´t help thinking about in what way the new immigrants could “proof” themselves so that people would not be so opposed to them… The Huguenots were lucky in that respect especially with the Industrial Revolution on its way, I think. But it´s sad that there always needs to be a reason to welcome other human beings…

        • It is terrible that new immigrants have to work so hard for acceptance, but it is human nature I guess to be a bit mistrustful of difference. I get so angry at how easily people forget the huge contributions of migrant groups; whether it is in doing the low-paid jobs that locals don’t want, or in bringing new skills and ideas. My parents immigrated to NZ with my brother and I, and it was a decision that allowed them to own a house, educate their kids (including university which was free in those days). My dad and I are the only ones still in NZ and we remember and appreciate this country’s generosity and welcome of my family. I wish we were a more welcoming, generous society today.

        • That´s exactly it! There´s a lot to gain from migrants for any society. The last “wave” here in Germany was in the late 60s and early 70s when many people from Turkey arrived here and did those low-paid jobs no one here around wanted to do anymore. Then Germans were thankful and happy for them. 20 t0 30 years later that changed when the kids of those migrants tried to get a job here, too! Of course, most of them are german themselves being born here but differences in names and appearance clearly stated them as “foreign”. I´m meeting the same prejudices (my mom is german, but my dad is egyptian) and it really is not funny, especially since I don´t speak a single word arabic (he was too busy working at that time).
          I think many germans emigrated to NZ too – and still do, though it seems to get harder to do so now. Times clearly have changed – both for the worse and the better. Hopefully the latter will prevail someday!

        • I hope so too, but I’ve just been reading about the rise of racially-motivated attacks in the UK since Brexit and I am even more saddened than I thought I could be.

        • That´s terrible! I´ve noticed this anti-foreign people movement already a couple of years ago when I was visiting my aunt who lives in England near London. Sadly she´s pro Brexit 😦 I think it´s a huge mistake on so many levels that people don´t even realize yet. Those attacks are simple proof to that fact and I really hope that it will be possible to change that discision yet. From what I´ve read many already regret voting pro Brexit…

        • Yes; I think many people voted to leave just to register a protest with “the system”, thinking their vote wouldn’t count. It’s sad that people become so alienated from the political system that to do so seemed like a good idea. I have pro-Brexit family members and it’s pretty horrible when issues split families. In NZ the 1981 Springbok Tour (South Africa’s rugby team visited NZ to play), split the country into those like me who saw it as endorsing apartheid and protested, and those who said “keep politics out of sport.” The Falklands War split my family too. The coming months will be really interesting, but scary too.

        • I couldn´t agree more! It has become a sad fact that most people are not as familiar with their own country´s politics as they used to be. Although access to it has become so much easier nowadays!
          It was definitely the right way not to support the plays in 1981. It really is so distraughting when politics split families. 😦 Wish my aunt would come around but she is quite stubborn that way and convinced Britain is better off on its own. I just don´t understand how people can reject the idea that´s standing behind the EU…

        • I know how you feel. It’s hard not to see the rise in racially-motivated attacks in the UK as just more evidence that the “leavers” were motivated not by intelligent, reasoned understanding, but by racism and fear. Meanwhile, in my country, families continue to live in their cars because housing has become so expensive and despite official statistics showing an increase in the gap between rich and poor, the government continues to deny there are any problems. It’s like we’re being led by a bunch of people walking around with their fingers in their ears, humming loudly to drown out the sounds of protest. And our mainstream media let them get away with it. Aaagh!

        • I didn´t know that about New Zealand! That sounds so terrible!! It´s not exactly the same case here in Germany, but the gap between the poor and the rich is also increasing very much and there´s no end. It´s awfully difficult to get a job – even a badly paid one! Having an university education doesn´t help anymore either as I´ve learned the hard way 😦 There´s something gone terribly wrong and the picture you painted with your words about those people sticking their fingers in their ears and singing la-la-la is so absolutely right! It could be funny if it were not so serious… I understand that you´ve got a degree in politics (facebook) so your insight in all this must even be more frightening than it is already to me!

        • I know what you mean about tertiary education not helping young people get jobs any more. My son has chosen not to go to university because he hates the idea of being burdened with student debt, especially as he doesn’t really know what he would want to study. He has found a job thankfully, and it’s one he loves, but many of his friends are making coffee and working in shops. They are poorly paid and feel they have little chance to save money, let alone ever buy a home. My parents would never have been able to afford to send me to university. Education was basically free in my day. I could do a Masters degree and still afford to eat. And of course, there were jobs at the end of it. Although I studied Sociology and Politics and ended up working in marketing. 🙂

        • I absolutely understand why your son is chosing this way – I often wish I had done the same!! Also I think it´s better to live a little right after you´ve left school and see then if going to university is the right choice. He´s so young, if he ever changes his mind there´s still a lot of time! 🙂 It´s funny: my mom always thought that getting me that kind of education would make things easier for me, and now it turns out that is doesn´t! I don´t regret my time studying though, but I just wish that I could get a job with it. It seems very likely that I will end up working in a whole different sector just like you 😉

        • My parents were the same way Sarah. They both left school very young and had absolute faith in the value of education. In their generation though, it was well-founded faith. I think part of the problem is that these days tertiary education itself is just another business, and in the desire to grow the business by having more students, courses began to exist offering degrees in things that were formerly learned on the job. And the marketing of education has led to more people believing it is essential to their career prospects. So we have too many people with “degrees” that bear little resemblance to the kind of education nicer sites used to offer but also little practical experience. I notice that the idea of placements and internships has grown and it kind of makes me laugh because it’s recognising that the real skills needed are those learned in a job. Sorry; this has turned into a rant. It’s something I feel very strongly about. I hope you find satisfying and well-paid work. Happy weekend 😃

        • No need to apologize, Su! I love discussing these things too! 🙂 And you´re absolutely right – tertiary education really has become just another business it seems 😦 I presently am in the process of considering writing a doctoral thesis just to increase my chances at getting a job, the problem is though that everyone seems to do this nowadays and it could well be that the time I invest doing this (which will be a couple of years surely) is yet another misspent… I would much prefer getting a nice job without that! Aarrgh!!
          P.S. Followed your link to those great recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and they are just amazing!! Going to try out some of these in the next weeks!! 😉 Thank you!

        • If you were to do a doctorate, what would it be in/on? Quite a few of my friends have PhDs, but they mostly did them straight after their Masters’. Most are academics, except for the engineers. I seem to know a few Drs of Engineering and mainly they are in industry; in management rather than engineering ironically. It is a tough one; theses always seem to take much longer than expected. The boy-child’s godmother’s PhD took about 14 years all up — but there were exceptional circumstances. Let me know how you get on with the 3 good things recipes. I’m always interested to hear about meals people cook. I think I’m a food voyeur. 🙂

        • That´s the best way to do it, I think. I made my master two years ago and fear I might be slightly out of touch with my academic writing style… But then I was hoping to get a job as a scientific assistant that would include me writing the thesis. Now I´ve come to realize that also seems to be part of the past as museums and universities require for you having made you thesis already before! I´ve got some ideas on what it could be, but they are not fully developed. I love architecture and wrote my master about Norman Foster´s Gherkin and other related buildings in Europe, so it might well be that I would write about architecture again. But I also like paintings very much and there´s always a lot to theorize about those, so maybe it´s going to be that way? I still am not sure and need to do some research before presenting my idea to a professor. This already will take a while! And I am aware that writing it will at least take up 2-4 years when I´m lucky!
          Haha! Being a food voyeur sounds incredibly awesome! 🙂 Maybe I should add that to my CV! 😉

        • Wow! I’d love to know more about your Masters thesis. I think that if I had lots of money I would find some little niche area of knowledge and just study for the rest of my life. I used to tell everyone I’d study medieval church architecture, but now I’m not so sure 🙂 I hope you manage to work things out, and can move ahead with your plan. 🙂

        • Haha! If I had lots of money I would exactly do the same!! 🙂 I just love to learn!!
          My masters thesis in general compared the design and functionality of Foster´s Gherkin with Jean Nouvels Torre Agbar in Barcelona and Rem Koolhaas´ Rothschild Bank in London. I also concentrated on public reception of these building in different media (the Gherkin has been written about sooooo much in this regard and as I´m sure you´ve noticed is depicted a lot in british films and series). The ecological aspect (green architecture) was also part of my work. All in all it took me two years 😉 so I just know writing my doctor will at least take twice as much time 😉
          Medieval architecture is one hell of a study! But it´s so fascinating, I can understand why you would pick that 🙂

        • That sounds so interesting — for me, especially that you looked at public perception. I originally studied sociology, so I look at everything through that sort of lens. I have to confess something of an ulterior motive in picking medieval church architecture; I’d have to travel to Europe, as there are no churches that old in my part of the world. 🙂

        • Thank you, Su! 🙂 I had a bit of difficulties boxing the idea of my masters thesis through ´cause it had this interdisciplinary approach 😉 But in the end my prof loved it and gave me the best grade there is!! Sometimes it pays out to look over the rim of your coffee cup and try out something different 😉
          Haha! Yes, I imagine it being kind of impossible finding medieval churches in NZ 😉 How clever of you to choose it as a would be study subject! 🙂 That´s also why I studied Art History – visiting every possible museum or art gallery doesn´t rise any eyebrows then 😉

        • Ah, great minds think alike! I have a friend who switched her academic interests from rural sociology to international tourism so she could do more interesting “fieldwork.” Let’s just say she is an inspiration to me 😃 I think multi-disciplinary work is so much richer than research that stays within one area, with all the dogma and personalities and theoretical fashions that take hold in each sphere of academia. Are you interested in sustainability; because there are so many areas around aesthetics and public perception with regard to sustainable and green buildings — and that definitely has global research potential.

        • I totally agree with you! I´m interested in so many different things and that was well reflected in my studies 😉 Your friend´s switch sounds absolutely fascinating!
          I met many people who are quite narrow-minded in that respect. Unfortunately this is still the prefered way in many universities here 😦
          I am very much interested in sustainability!!! It´s such a wonderful topic! The combination from aesthetics/public perception is exactly the thing I want to research! And you´re right, I would definitely love to go global with that! But again: most professors here prefer for their students to keep their theses simple. I assume it will be again a tough thing to convince someone to let me do it 😉 Sadly my prof retired already, he would probably have liked my idea…

        • I get the desire of professors to “keep it simple.” The temptation to try and study everything is great, and it does tend to hijack a project. I know a few grad students whose thesis topics were too vague or too big and they really struggled to finish them. I know I was guilty of that with my MA thesis. I look at it now and it’s a rambling chaotic mess. When I did a Masters of Information Studies a few years ago, I was much more pragmatic with my research project. I stuck to a very simple question, chose a methodology that I knew would be easy to implement and actually managed to turn out something my supervisor liked in the time available. It’s not my magnum opus, but it was sooo much less stressful than my first dissertation. Maybe you can find a prof with a particular area of interest that you’re also into, and see if there is a way you can make a dissertation out of one part of her/his research questions/areas. That’s quite common in engineering (and probably other areas) where getting the degree is more important than the topic and there are lots of projects around waiting for people to be matched up to one. Good luck 🙂

        • So it´s possible to improve one´s research habits over time 😉 Good to know! I was hoping it would be.
          I get the “getting the degree is more important than the topic” idea, though I simply would have to choose something that fascinates me, otherwise I might stop writing before it´s actually finished 😉 When I´m looking at some of my essays now, I don´t know how I could ever think they were good!! 😉 I would rewrite them instantly if it were possible and necessary 😉 Luckily I´m still quite happy with my thesis but give it another couple of years – or the finished dissertation! – and that will probably change, too 😉

        • I know what you mean about choosing a topic that doesn’t really make your heart sing. I wasted a year of my MA on a thesis topic that, in hindsight, was laughably inappropriate to my interests. I made absolutely no progress whatsoever.

        • Thank you, Su! I imagine it will be! We´ve got lots and lots of shoe-boxes and photo-albums. It will be tough getting through all this stuff. I think it´s something for rainy evenings 😉

        • Wow; that is a lot of photos. I have about 100 “heritage” photos that my parents have given me. These date I guess from the 1970s back to about 1911. The Big T’s family has some older than that; really formal studio portraits taken in Germany probably in the 1880s — we know the place from the photographer’s Mark, roughly the date — but we don’t know who the people are.

          Happy scanning. Hopefully you’ll get lots of rainy nights. 😉

        • It rather is a large collection, though unfortunately I don´t know most people that are shown there and they often lack descriptions and dates on the back.
          Wow! I would love to see those studio portraits! I studied art history and specialised on early photography which is one of my many passions 🙂 It´s wonderful that you have them, that´s very special indeed. A friend of mine is also interested in this kind of thing and showed me pictures from her family dating back to the First World War – the terrific thing was that she shows very obvious similarities with her ancestors! 🙂

  36. Hi Sarah: here is the link to one of the German photos that I posted a while ago. https://suzysu.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/wordless-wednesday-yet-another-mystery/ It would be amazing to know more about it. I know what you mean about family resemblances. I found a photo of my grandfather as a teenager and his face was so like my son’s. I had never thought that the boy-child got his looks from that part of the family, but the similarity was striking. 🙂

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