Friday, March 27, 2015

Congress 2015 in Canberrra is well underway!

The 14th Australasian Congress of Genealogy and Heraldry  #AFFHO

Keen Genealogists enjoying the Congress Welcome Function at the Australian War Memorial
Congress 2015, is well underway and so far, for me it had been a whirlwind of meeting up with old friends, putting faces to  internet genea-friends,  enjoying the fabulous talks and attempting to make my way around the terrific variety of exhibits in the hall. 

After registration and collecting our Congress badges, lanyards, timetables and of course, the very special blogger beads which Jill Ball so kindly purchased while in Salt Lake City at Rootstech.

My Congress 'goodies'. Image Sharn White

Congress attendees were welcomed on Thursday evening, 26th of March, by means of a function held at the Australian War Memorial. With so much happening aound us with regard to World War One anniversaries, a more poignant venue could not have been chosen. Standing  with wine in hand, in the presence of G for George a huge Lancaster, with a string quartet adding to the ambience of the evening, nothing could have been more perfect.  A special treat was a wonderful large screen film about World War One Pilots which could not have failed to leave anyone watching unmoved. 

G for George WW2 Lancaster Image Sharn White

Felloe Bloggers Jill Ball and Jackie Van Bergen Image Sharn White

Congress welcome at The Australian War Memorial Image Sharn White
Canberra has put on its finest Autumn weather to greet Congress 2015 attendees and the Congress is well underway now after one day of fascinating talks and an exhibition hall filled with interesting exhibitors. 

NEXT POST: Day 1 of the Congress

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

When Places Change... The Search for a Hotel in Sussex Street.

When Places and Place-Names Change - Finding the Homes of ancestors.

I have been very fortunate when looking for ancestral places. Most of the places my ancestors came from have not changed enough to prevent me from finding the place where they lived. Buildings may have changed but the streets and street numbers have remained relatively the same. If you visit Main Street in Cumbernauld, Glasgow, where my paternal grandfather was born, you will find it much the same as it was when he left Scotland in 1923. My paternal great grandfather's flax farm in Brookend, County Tyrone remains quite undeveloped and so I can see it much as it was when the family lived and farmed there until 1911.  My Swiss ancestors who arrived in Australia in 1873, came from Ottenbach near Zurich. In 1850, the population of Ottenbach was 1,169 and by the year 2000 the number had only increased to 2164 and the town hasn't changed much since my Häberling family  lived there.

Main Street, Cumbernauld. Copyright Texas Radio and the Big Beat. Licensed for reuse under ©©
Brookend, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Photo courtesy Pat Grimes ©

The tiny town of Ottenbach has not changed much. Image ©©.

When places change significantly, and when land, buildings and entire areas are resumed for new use, whether it be for redevelopment for industrial purpuses or for the construction of new housing, or office developments, or for freeways to be built, when houses, buildings and streets disappear, it can present a significant challenge to family historians when attempting to locate the places where ancestors lived. 

Darling Harbour 1900. Image licensed for reuse under ©©

Darling Harbour 2015 Image SharnWhite ©©

I was confrontedwith a situation of this kind last week when I set off in search of the location of a hotel owned in the mid nineteenth century, by the ancestors of Linda Seaver, wife of my genea-friend Randy Seaver (author of the well known blog Genea Musings ). 

I met fellow blogger and american genealogist, Randy Seaver and his wife Linda in person for the first time, while attending the Rootstech 2015 Conference in Salt Lake City in February this year, although we had known each other through social media for some time. Randy mentioned to me that Linda's ancestor, Alexander Whittle, had been the licencee of a hotel in Sussex Street, Sydney, prior to his departing Australia and heading to the Californian Gold Rush. On hearing this, and having a particular interest in early Australian history, I offered to take photographs of the location of the hotel, which had been known as the Lancashire Arms.

I knew that much of the land in this part of Sydney had been resumed yearsago for  redevelopment, for the construction of the exciting Darling Harbour precinct, so I did not expect that the original building would be still standing, however, I did not realise that the significant changes to the streets and general area surrounding Sussex Street near Darling Harbour, would proffer such an enthralling challenge when it came to finding the mid 19th century location of the Lancashire Arms. I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey on which this search has taken me. I have learned much more about life in this wharfside area of Sydney and crucially this excercise has encouraged me look at alternative ways to find an address when an entire precinct has been altered and streets completely vanished. I have written a number of house histories, so I am very familiar with tracking down altered street numbers,  but this was my first intriguing case of a missing street.

Sussex Street shown on Google Maps
Below is a description of the location of Sussex Street in Sydney's CBD.
  1. Sussex Street, Sydney
  2. Sussex Street is a street in the CBD of Sydney, Australia. It runs north-south along the western side of the city, between Hickson Road and Hay Street. It is in the local government area of the City of Sydney. The street is 1.7 km long. Wikipedia

Sussex Street runs right behind Darling Harbour, Sydney,  to the left of this photo. Image SharnWhite ©©

From information given to me by Randy Seaver, I knew that Alexander Whittle was granted  his Publican's Licence for the Lancashire Arms hotel, on June 21, 1848. The document shows the address of the hotel to be Sussex Street and Union Lane, Sydney. Finding the location of the hotel at first looked to be a simple matter ... until I struck a problem...  when I searched Google maps, no Union Lane existed anywhere near Sussex Street. When I went into the city and walked along Sussex Street, my walk confirmed that indeed Union Lane no longer exists. I realised that if the information on the Publican's Licence record was correct and if in the mid 1800's a Union Lane had run off Sussex Street I needed to find where it had been in order to pinpoint the location of the Lancashire Arms.

Darling Harbour as it exists now, is a busy waterfront leisure area and a popular place for tourists to visit, with its many restaurants, the Maritime Museum, Sydney Aquarium and Chinese Gardens among its attractions. In the 1800's, Darling Harbour (first named by English settlers as Cockle Bay for its abundant source of seafood) was the main wharf and port for shipping in Sydney. Market Street Wharf (on which the Sydney Aquarium now sits), was built in 1826 and the harbour flourished and grew to be a bustling convergence of industry, trade and shipping. 

Darling Harbour in the vicinity of the Lancashire Arms. Image SharnWhite ©©

Randy Seaver's information showed that amidst the hive of wharfside acitivity around Sussex Street in June of 1848 Alexander Whittle was granted the Publican's Licence for the Lancashire Arms. This hotel was one of a number of hotels in Sussex and surrounding streets which were an important hub of social life for the workers, sailors and inhabitants of Sydney's wharf area.

A list of Publican's licences in 1849, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Monday April 9, shows the names of licencees for 26 hotels in Sussex Street, including Alexander Whittle and the Lancashire Arms with the address given as Sussex Street but with no number.

Darling Harbour Wharves c 1900 looking across Darling Harbour from Pyrmont. North to South is from left to right. Image Wikipedia ©©


In order to compile as much information as possible about the location of all hotels in Sussex Street, I decided to look at the lists of all Publicans' Licences granted for hotels in Sussex Street in the years before and after 1849 to see if this provided any information about the locations of the hotels. State Records NSW has a searchable online index of Publican's Licences, 1830-61. The citation for finding this record at State Records is NRS 14401 [4/82]; Reel 5062. An image of the 1849 Publican's Licence for Alexander Whittle can be found on cited as Butts of publicans’ licences, 1830-1849. NRS 14401, reels 5049-5062, 1236. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

In the nineteenth century, The Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers, were in the practice of publishing lists of Publicans' Licences. I was familiar with  this because I had discovered that one of my convict ancestors was granted a publican's licence in Singleton in 1864, through newspaper searches. As I searched available lists of Publicans' Licences  around the time that Alexander Whittle had the Lancashire Armsa distinct pattern began to emerge. Comparing the 1849, 1851 and 1853 list of Publicans' Licences in the Sydney Morning Herald on the Trove website I noted excitedly, that the hotels were listed in the same particular order in each year in Sussex Street. The street names in the lists were oredered alphabetically but no street numbers were provided. Interestingly,  I observed that the hotels were listed in the exact same order on each list, give or take a few hotels appearing or disappearing. Hotels which were located on the corners of two main streets were listed under both streets as, for example, Darling Harbour Inn - Sussex Street and Market Street (1849 list). It became apparent as I perused the lists, that although no street numbers were given, the hotels were listed in order of their location in each street.

In Sussex Street, the hotels that were listed on corner addresses of streets adjoining Sussex, were listed from Erskine Street through King Street, Market Street, Market Wharf, Liverpool Street, Druitt, Bathurst, Dickson, to Goulbourne. In every list despite hotel and licencee names changing and new hotels appearing, this street order was the same. By following the corner streets on a map, I was able to see that the hotels in Sussex Street were listed from the Nothern end to the Southern end. This was  a significant breakthrough in determining the location of the Lancashire Arms by looking at where it was placed in the list of Sussex Street hotels in the Publicans' Licence lists published in the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Following the hotels that were listed on corner streets.. a pattern emerged.
 In the 1849 Publicans' Licence List, the Lancashire Arms hotel was the sixteenth hotel recorded on Sussex Street and was shown to be between the Governor Bourke hotel on the corner of Market Street, and The Hope and Anchor hotel  on the corner of Sussex and Druitt Street. This suggested that to me, that the hotel was possibly situated between Market Street and Druitt Street. Taking into account that odd and even numbers are not necessarily opposite each other in any street, I still had a hunch that the hotel would be not far from my pinpointed bearing.

Dragon boat racing on Darling Habour, now a recreational area, near the location of the Lancashire Arms hotel. Image Sharn White


Whenever I am looking for information regarding ancestors or the community in which they lived, I always to look beyond my own family and investigate the community they were a social, religious and economic part of, for clues about them or their lives. Following this same procedure, I looked for information regarding the hotels and other  notable buildings which had been close to the Lancashire Arms hotel on the 1849, 1851 and 1853 list of Publicans' Licences. Searching newspapers of the time, I discovered street numbers for some of these hotels. Numbers for some of the hotels confirmed my theory that the hotels were recorded by name from the northern end of Sussex Street to the southern end in the Publicans' Licences Lists. Charlton's Hotel on the corner of Sussex and Market Wharf was number 116 Sussex Street. The Labour In Vain hotel (possibly the best hotel name ever!) was number 181/189 (both numbers appeared in news accounts). The Lancashire Arms hotel had appeared in the Publicans's Licences List between these two hotels, so I felt that I was getting closer to finding a more accurate location.

One of the last surviving old sandstone hotels in Sussex Street, The Dundee Arms, 171 Sussex Street ( c1860) Image Sadarka ©©

I searched for information in newspapers about Sussex Street hotel owners themselves. Family notices such as obituaries and marriages can often include addresses and other evidence relevant to a search for ancestors. I unearthed fascinating anecdotes about political getherings and coronial inquests that were held in hotels in Sussex Street, and discovered murders that were committed outside several others. Some of the news items, however were most helpful in providing me with street addresses and I began to map out where a number of the Sussex Street hotels and other buildings had been situated. Unfortunately (or fortunately) there appeared to be little in the way of grizzly murders, coronial inquests or political happenings at the Lancashire Arms, however, I did allow myself to think that I was getting closer to finding out where Alexander Whittle's hotel would have been. 

Further confirming my theory that the Lancashire Arms was on the southern end of Sussex Street was information included in a news article in an 1849 edition of the  Sydney Morning Herald, which stated that the Draper's Hall hotel was 'situated in Sussex Street south". Drapers Hall was listed immediately after the Lancashire Arms hotel in the 1849 list of Publicans' Licences.

I found that the former Commercial Stores, now heritage listed, which still exist in Sussex Street today, were numbered 121-127 in the 1850's. These buildings are located at the northern end of Sussex Street close to King Street and so at the opposite end to where I placed the Lancashire Arms.

 'Sussex Street at Grafton Wharf', original image produced by Kerry and Co studios, Sydney, c. 1884-1917. Powerhouse Museum Collection, No Known Copyright.

I consulted a number of websites, which I will list at the end of this blog, to research changes to street names in this area. A significant discovery was that in 1875, a street named Union Street had been changed to the name of Fowler Street. Now, at last, I had found evidence of the existence of a Union Street (not Lane). No reference was made regarding its location, other than it ran between Sussex and Kent Streets. I believed this to be a significant find, however, as the address was given in 1849 for the Lancashire Arms as Sussex Street and Union Lane.  Since most hotels which graced the corner of two streets at the time Alexander Whittle and his family were at the Lancashire Arms  gave their address using two streets, I felt that the Union Lane in the 1849 Licence document was very likely to have been Union Street. Now I just needed to find out where Union Street was located before the Darling Harbour Resumption of land began in 1900, which transformed, over time, a busy working wharfside area into an iconic leisure precinct which attracts many tourists to Sydney.

My research into the Darling Harbour resumption of land led me to a website where I found maps of the area from 1900. This was  an exciting find, because right there on Map K was Union Street running off Sussex Street just near Druitt Street. This was almost exactly where I had thought the hotel to be located, albeit it slightly further south than I had imagined. The map actually shows the location of the Hope and Anchor hotel which I had established as being near the Lancashire Arms.

Sussex Street in 1900 

The Hope and Anchor Hotel  on the corner of Sussex and Druitt Streets and Union Street off Sussex Street 

The conclusion I have reached, in the lack of any further evidence, and reliant upon the address of Sussex Street and Union Street being correct on the 1849 Publican's Licence, is that the Lancashire Arms was located in the block on Sussex Street between Druitt Street and Bathurst Street which puts its original location at around number 270-284 Sussex Street, or close to those numbers.  If you walk along Sussex Street just past the intersection of Sussex and Druitt Street and after number 284 Sussex you will find a lane called Druitt Lane. Druitt Lane is not registered as an historically significant laneway in the City of Sydney Management of Laneways Policy  , and there are no buildings historical consequence nearby so I have not been able to ascertain whether this may have been Union Lane originally. Certainly. I am convinced that it is very near the location of the Union Street or Union Lane mentioned in Alexander Whittle's Publican's Licence of June 21, 1848. 

On my next visit to NSW State Records, I plan to see if I can find more information with regard to the Lancashire Arms through a search of old maps or records, now that I have narrowed the paramiters for my search. 

A google search of the numbers 270-284 Sussex Street will allow you to 'walk' the section of Sussex Street where I believe Alexander Whittle's hotel was located.  On my next visit to the CBD in Sydney I will photograph the buildings in the area. Alexander Whittle and his family left Sydney for the lure of the Californian Gold Rush. In doing so his descendants, who might have continued to live in or around Sussex Street, avoided the outbreak of bubonic plague in the wharfside Sussex Street area in 1900. 

223-225 Sussex Street  and Druitt Lane during the bubonic plague outbreak 1900 Image ©©

Places change for a a variety of reasons. Buildings are transformed through change of ownership, entire precincts may be redeveloped and adapted for new use. Change can be instagated for economic or political reasons, as they were after WW1, when many German street and placenames were replaced by non German names. Change inevitably impacts present day searches into the past and family historians often need to think outside of the box when researching places where ancestors lived. Researching the community your ancestors lived in, investigating the lives of the people who lived near your ancestors, and exploring the history of change in the community can all help in your search for places where your forebears lived.

Below are some resources for assisting you to locate places in Sydney in precincts or streets which have changed or been redeveloped. I am certain that similar websites and sources are available for other cities, towns, suburbs and rural areas. Local history groups and libraries are an excellent place of reference for information about localities and the change that has taken place in them.


USEFUL SOURCES FOR RESEARCH IN SYDNEY  (Atlas of the suburbs of Sydney)      (History of Sydney Street)       ( Geoscience Australia - Placename Search)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

THE LIST SO FAR....So This is Christmas Geneameme Bloggers

List of Blogs which participated in the So This Is Christmas 2014 Geneameme


Thankyou to the bloggers who are joining me in sharing precious childhood Christmas memories through my Christmas geneameme. The following blog posts are filled with most varied and entertaining Christmas anecdotes. For anyone who hasn't yet participated but wishes to do so, just leave me a link to your blog and I will add it to the following list of blogs and bloggers.

You Are Where You Came From   - Kathleen Scarlet O'Hara Naylor

Family history across the seas  - Pauleen Cass

Shauna Hicks Family Enterprises  - Shauna Hicks

GenieQ    - Helen O'Connor

lonetester HQ  - Alona Tester

That Moment in Time  - Chris Goopy

A Rebel Hand    - Frances Owen

Monday, December 8, 2014

So This is Christmas - and what have you done? My Christmas GeneaMeme

I My Response to my So this is Christmas and what have you done Geneameme?

Throughout the next few weeks of December, I will be publishing and updating a list of bloggers who participated in this Christmas GeneaMeme. Please leave a comment on my blog or send me a message if you wish for your blog to be included in the list. Some bloggers have already responded so I had better get moving and write my own response. Here is my own So This is Christmas Geneameme.....




Christmas, when I was a child, was always a time of year that I looked forward to with great excitement. Christmas in my home, was regarded as a religious celebration in that we always attended a church service on Christmas morning. I do recall as a very young child, thinking it unfair that I had to to go to church just after opening my lovely Christmas presents! From the age of 7 I sang in our church choir and my favourite time to be a chorister was during the Christmas service. I remember feeling very proud wearing my light blue chorister's gown and singing Away in a Manger, Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful with the children's choir on Christmas morning. Christmas day was spent with extended family, enjoying a delicious lunch at the home of one or the other grandparent. My favourite Christmas days were those where both sides of the family gathered together, although this did not happen often. My paternal family was very musical and Christmas day spent with my McDade grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins was a day of concerts and singing. Christmas Day with my maternal grandmother always meant a swim at the beach in the afternoon, because she lived at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. This was always a much anticipated Christmas afternoon acitivity, since Christmas Day in Australia usually means very hot weather. My mother and my paternal grandmother were both amazing cooks so Christmas was very much about scrumptious food!


Very few Christmas days were spent in my own home as a child. My maternal grandmother lived on the Sunshine Coast, a drive of two and a half hours in those days (or longer if the car wouldn't make it up Buderim Mountain [showing my age here, for those who recall travelling to the North Coast years ago....]). We often spent Christmas at Maroochydore, but on those occasions, my paternal grandparents and cousins sometimes traveled north to have Christmas lunch with us. Other Christmas lunches were held at the home of my paternal grandparents at Garfield Drive, Paddington Heights, in Brisbane. One Christmas Day when I was 13 years old, my family, my parents and two sisters and myself, had Christmas lunch at the Aero Club at Archerfield where my father was a club member. I am not sure why we did that (my mother had cancer around that time so perhaps it was to save her from cooking) but I do remember thinking that it didn't really feel like Christmas day without my mother's lovely home cooking. 


As a child, my sisters and I always left out  delicious refreshments for Santa. After all, he did have a very long night and Australia was one of his first stops before heading all the way over to the other side of the world. So we fed him well. Our family tradition was to leave a plate of delicious fruit mince pies baked by my mother. They had a thick brandy sauce to accompany them. Santa also received a nice cold soft drink (fizzy drink for my American friends) to help him on his way. Not forgetting the reindeer, we put carrots and lettuce out. All of this was placed near the Christmas tree and Santa must have had quite an appetite because never once left even a crumb behind.
Pauleen Cass in her Christmas Geneameme post reminded me that we also left a Christmas beer out for the garbage collectors and the milkman. 


Today, my family has an artificial Christmas tree, but during my childhood we decorated a real tree every Christmas. The smell of a fresh pine tree to this day, evokes  childhood Christmas memories for me. The highway  to the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane was bedecked with an alternate patchwork of pineapple plantations and pine forests and a more perfect place to cut  a Christmas tree you could not find.... so every December, at night,  my father drove us north along the Bruce highway where Christmas trees grew in abundance seemingly just for the taking.. There we joined other families also searching by torchlight for their perfect Christmas tree. As a child, I didn't once wonder why we always went Christmas tree hunting at night by the light of a torch or why we didn't simply cut down a tree  in broad daylight....Only later did I I realize that  my early childhood Christmas trees were saplings growing amidst state pine forestry plantations. The small trees we and other folk cut were mere saplings seeded from the larger trees and would have never been needed for timber, but  I can't help chuckling at my father's audacity! I have such joyous memories of  joining other families search ing for Christmas trees by torchlight in the eerie shadows of giant pines at the foot of the Glasshouse Mountains.  For me, the simple joy of cutting down our own Christmas tree, was an exciting adventure to look forward to every year. 


One of my favourite things to do as a child, in the months leading up to Christmas, was to make Christmas decorations to bedeck both the Christmas tree and our home. Each December, our house was filled with paper, glue, glitter and an assortment of other craft essentials. Towards the end of the school year, which is in December in Australia, hot classsrooms resounded with the sound of happy childrens' laughter as tired teachers abandoned learning in favour of Christmas craft activities. At home I created glittering decorations from dozens of gold and silver milk bottle tops strung together by means of a needle and thick coloured thread. Foil lids were washed and saved all year with the great anticipation of transforming these everyday items into wondrous Christmas ornaments. Milk bottle lids were also easily fashioned into pretty bells to be hung on the tree. 
Milk bottle lids such as this were used to make decorations Image Wikimedia ©©
Every piece of colourful wrapping paper from the previous Christmas was saved to make bright paper chains to bedeck the tree. Patiently my sister and I cut many even strips of paper and glued the first one into a circle. Each subsequent strip was joined to make long paper Christmas chains to be draped around the Christmas tree and also hung from window to window in our home.

Image ©©
Possibly my favourite Christmas decorations to make were paper lanterns. This involved folding and cutting and gluing a piece of paper into a lantern shape and adding a paper or string handle to hang it from a branch of the tree. 

paper lanterns Image labelled for reuse ©©
I am certain we must have had other Christmas tree decorations and ornaments but the only ones I can recall now are those colourful homemade decorations which adorned our tree year after year. Decorating the tree was a family affair although I don't recall my father helping. Sometimes he played Christmas carols on the piano while we sang and placed our decorations on the tree. 


My first home, where I lived until age seven, had a Christmas tree growing in the front yard so each Christmas, my parents put lights on it. At our next and subsequent homes we put a Wreath on the front door but no other outdoor decorations were used. When an umbrella tree grew high enough in our front garden at Jindalee, my mother decorated it with tinsel. I remember my father taking us for a drive to see a street where the owner of one house had put many Christmas lights outdoors. It seemed like a fairy wonderland to me as a young child.I don't recall homes or indeed entire streets being decorated with lights and decorations as they are in many places these days. Probably the highlight of each year for me as a child was a trip to the city centre to see the large Christmas tree which sat wondrously decorated in front of the City Hall.


Christmas cards we received were always hung on string on the wall between two windows in our lounge (living) room. My mother was the person who sent Christmas cards to family and friends. My sister and I made Christmas cards for family members. We loved craft activities so this was something we looked forward to each Christmas. 


When I was a child my 'Christmas stocking' was a pillow case which my mother had sewn and embroidered a Christmas design on the front of. We called these our Santa sacks. Our names were embroidered on the pillow cases as well. I carried this tradition on with my own children, although they also had a traditional stocking as well which an elderly neighbour made for them each. A stocking may be more traditional but I must say I didn't ever feel we missed out with our pillow cases....  Possibly because it takes quite a few toys to fill a pillow case! Our 'Santa sack' pillow cases were left at the foot of our beds and we awoke to find them filled on Christmas morning. Usually in the Santa Sack we found toys, books or things useful for our holidays at Maroochydore, such as goggles, flippers and snorkels, or a beach ball, buckets and spades, beach towels and bags as we grew older or other small gifts. I  recall thinking how amazing it was that Santa somehow always knew that we were having a trip to the beach and so provided us with appropriate gifts. One present, each Christmas, was wrapped and left under the Christmas tree and this was from my parents. When I was aged nine, I remember the excitement of receiving my first camera. But for the 1974 floods, I would still have the photographs I took with that camera on our Christmas holiday that year. 


Our immediate family opened presents on Christmas morning ( far too early for my parents I recall). Other gifts from grandparents were opened after lunch.
Our extended family all exchanged Christmas gifts and these were small presents such as brush and comb sets or jewelery boxes, books  or cars and trucks for my male cousins. My paternal grandmother, right up until her death aged 93, when blind, made our Christmas gifts. Each year we cherished the lovingly crocheted tops, dresses, bags, bikinis she made for us. As we grew older, she made items for our glory boxes and these were our Christmas gifts from her. I still have the beautiful tea towels she hand embroidered and crochet edged (I have never been able to use them) and the doilies, table cloths that she sewed. Some have been thoroughly made use of but I have kept a few items to pass down to my children.

One of the TeaTowels embroidered and edged by my grandmother.  Image sharnwhite©

Crocheted flowers on a 'hostesss' apron my grandmother made for my glory box Image sharnwhite©


My favourite Christmas present is easy to remember for two reasons. The first is that I had desperately wanted this present for many years but was told I must wait until I was twelve years old to be responsible enough to own it. It was a bicycle. Little did my parents know that I had been riding a friend's bicycle all around the locality in which we lived for some years. I was a competent rider but I couldn't tell them this because I was forbidden to ride until the age of twelve. The second reason I recall this gift is that my ten year old sister received a bicycle the same Christmas. As excited as I was to finally have the bicycle I had asked for every Christmas since I was seven, my joy was dampened by the fact that my sister not only received her bicycle two years early, but I was thoroughly convinced that her bright red bike was much prettier than my black one. I never let my parents know that I was disappointed and in the end it was much more fun riding with my sister than on my own and my disappointment was short lived. We lived on 12 1/2 acres on the outskirts of Brisbane and the very hilly roads were made of dirt and not sealed. Our father insisted he drive behind us when we first ventured on to the road. My parents, having no idea that I had been cycling on friend's bicycles for some years, could not believe how quickly I took to bicycle riding! 


Since my family was musical, Christmas gifts sometimes consisted of a musical instrument. One Christmas I received a flute and another, a guitar. I was pleased to learn to play these instruments, however, throughout my entire childhood years,  all I really wanted, was to learn to play the piano accordion. My Scottish born grandfather had taught me to play a small button accordion which he had brought to Australia from Glasgow and I desperately wanted to learn to play a 'proper' piano accordion.  This was one instrument that neither of my parents liked so there was never going to be an accordion sitting beneath the Christmas tree for me. I persistently put a request for an accordion in my letter to Santa every year and each Christmas I was certain that somehow my mother had been in touch with him to cancle my order! 
This was not the vision my mother had in mind for me..... Image Wikimedia ©©


At Primary School, each year I gave my teachers a Christmas present. I think these gift were usually handkerchiefs.  Now, after reading the Christmas memories of  others in their geneamemes,  I can't help thinking that our school teachers were possibly not as excited about Christmas as we children were, with the prospect looming each year of taking home all those hankies!  My close friends and I exchanged small gifts, however, I don't really recall what these were. 


With a mother and a paternal grandmother who were both excellent cooks, Christmas was always a time to enjoy scrumptious food. My grandmother who had been born in Northern Ireland, carried on her Irish family tradition of cooking a hot traditional roast turkey and vegetables for lunch on Christmas day, followed by a boiled plum pudding. Finding a threepence or a sixpence (later five cents ) in my piece of pudding was the highlight of Christmas lunch. My grandmother's custard, ice cream and Christmas shortbread stand out distinctly in my Christmas food memories. She passed on to me her secret recipes for these tasty treats after I married, and I will pass on the recipe to my own daughters. 

Christmas lunch at the beach  home of my maternal grandmother was much as mine is today - a cold lunch befitting the hot Australian Christmas weather. Ocasionally we enjoyed lunch outdoors if the day was not too hot. Usually our North Coast main meal in the middle of the day, consisted of a variety of cold meats, ham, turkey, chicken, pork, and many and a great variety of delicious salads. Mum was a very inventive cook! My mother spent the weeks leading up to Christmas day, in a frenzy of  cooking. There were Christmas cakes, fruit mince pies with brandy sauce (a recipe I dearly wish I had  asked for before she succumbed to Alzheimers in her late forties), coconut ice, fudge, turkish delight, and many other Christmas delicacies. My mother's salads were legendary among our family  and friends and her homemade mayonnaise is another recipe I wish I had today. 


My grandmother's shortbread recipe is still used today at for a Christmas treat in our home. It is still the best shortbread I have ever tasted!

Image Wikimedia Creative Commons ©©


When I was a child, each Christmas Eve we gathered as a family to admire the Christmas tree bedecked with splendid home made decorations and colourful Christmas lights (I had no idea then that it had been unlawfully obtained) and we sang Carols together. Either my mother or my father played the piano to accompany us and I remember when I was around 12 years old, my sister and I played the guitar to accompany the piano. My sister and I practiced singing harmonies for weeks and we often gave a small guitar accompanied concert for the family. Music was an important part of my family's life.
On Christmas Eve, before bedtime, we children placed our Santa sack pillow cases at the foot of our beds and tried to stay awake for as long as we could to see Santa arrive. One sister has always claimed that she caught a glimpse of Santa Clause in his red suit climbing out of the bedroom window (in Australia not all homes have fireplaces or chimneys) and who knows? Isn't it a good thing to have a little magic in life to believe in...

Did my sister see Santa? Image Wikimedia Creative Commons ©©


As a child I had two favourite Christmas carols that I sang incessantly around the house. I must have driven my family crazy! They weren't the usual childhood favourites, such as Away in a Manger or Jungle Bells or Silent Night. The song I sang the most was The Holy City.  I simply adored this Christmas Hymn which I had learned in the church choir and it still stirs emotion when I hear it.

My other favourite Christmas song was I saw Mummy Kissing Santa Clause.  


In Australia, the school year ends in December, and the last day of the school year was always spent having a Christmas party. Each child took a plate of party food to school and school uniforms were abandoned for the day. Children exchanged gifts with friends and teachers, and I remember many of these days as being much fun. 
My father's work parties were always very much child focused. When my father worked for Massey Ferguson Santa Clause arrived at the party every year on a tractor and gave every child a present. Hay rides in a wagon pulled by the tractor followed. 

Me, aged 5 at a Massey Ferguson Christmas Party © sharnwhite

I was fortunate to be involved in quite a few activities as a child so the month of December was a very busy one with parties to attend for Ballet, Tennis, Girl Guides and Gymnastics. 


I studied ballet, tap dancing and Irish dancing as a child and each year we had a ballet Concert just before Christmas. Along with other young dancers from the Audrey Buchanan Ballet School, I danced a number of times in the Christmas Pantomime which was held every Christmas at the Brisbane City Hall. Prior to each of those pantomimes I always had a vision of myself being given a part which required a flowinglong tutu or princess gown but... alas, I was from memory, a mouse, a Christmas present and a red striped candy cane. On a high note, I do get to boast that I danced with the Queensland and Australian Ballet Companies. If prancing around as a little grey mouse or struggling to dance at all in a tight red and white candy cane costume counts.....

I finally got to wear a tutu! Image sharnwhite ©


I was very fortunate that as a child, my maternal grandmother lived at Maroochydore, on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. I don't remember ever spending a school holiday, especially the long summer Christmas holidays at home. We had several holidays with my paternal grandparents, one at Caloundra  on the Sunshine Coast and another at Labrador on the Gold Coast. The Christmas holidays were a time of complete freedom. I grew up in an age of innocence at a time when children could wander freely about, without fear of danger. My sister and I walked to the beach on our own aged  7 and 9 years. We swam in the surf and rode inflated tubes on the waves. We ate ice-cream on the way home and got into trouble for staying too long in the sun and getting sunburned. I knew many of the local children and together with them, we played in the high sand dunes that lined the surf beach. At Cotton Tree, where the mouth of the Maroochy River reaches the ocean, we frolicked in the calm water. As we grew older a roller skating rink nearby became a favourite place to spend our time. My father didn't always have work holidays around Christmas time but when was able come with us, I loved going boating and fishing with him in the Maroochy River.  My Christmas holidays were idyllic. I look back on those days and I am very grateful for my wonderful Christmas holidays.


I don't have a very early memory of Christmas day itself, but I do remember  attending a Massey Ferguson Christmas Party when I was only four or five. It may even be the one I am pictured in below. Santa Clause arrived on a big red Massey Ferguson tractor which was very impressive! I recall being too shy to go up to Santa Clause to receive my present, and my father taking me by the hand and walking with me. I also remember wanting my ride on the hay wagon pulled by Santa's tractor, to go on forever! If it was the party I was attending in the below photo that I'm remembering, then I have other less happy childish memories. I was five years old and had lost my front two teeth. I did not want to be photographed because of this and I refused to smile properly. I also was upset that day that my mother had pulled my fringe back off my face. I did love my new blue and white dress which my mother had sewed especially for me with its lovely white broderie anglaise apron over it. That Christmas dress was probably my favourite childhood dress. 


CHRISTMAS 2014....

Friday, November 28, 2014

So This is Christmas, and what have you done? ... My Christmas GeneaMeme


Image in the public domain ©©

PLEASE LISTEN HERE for Christmas cheer....

December and the festive season is almost upon us. Decorations already adorn the shopping centres and some very organised friends and family members have posted some beautifully decorated Christmas trees on Facebook. Thinking today that it is high time I urged myself into the Christmas spirit I decided to devise a Christmas GeneaMeme while listening to Carols.... Genealogy memes are a wonderful way to record your Christmas traditions and memories for your family, so I hope that you will join me in responding to my prompts. The prompts are merely suggestions. Please fell free to answer any way you wish. Your answers may be as brief as one word or as loquacious as takes your fancy and please don't feel as though you must answer every prompt.

If you decide to participate in my 'So This is Christmas" genealogy meme, simply copy and paste the following prompts to your blog or facebook, or just write the headings and responses,  and I hope that you will enjoy a trip down the Christmas memory lane. I have provided a link above to Christmas Carol  'So this is Christmas' sung by Celine Dion, to put you in a festive mood while you write....

I will compile a list of  your GeneMemes and post the links to them on my own blog so please leave me a message if you would like your Christmas GeneaMeme published. 

Wishing all my family and friends a very Merry Christmas Season,



Was your childhood Christmas a religious one? Did you go to Church? Was your Christmas a large family festivity or a small occasion? Who did you spend Christmas Day with?


When you were a child did you celebrate Christmas in your home, at a grandparents house or did you travel or go away on holidays and have Christmas away from home?


As a child did you write a letter to Santa or leave out food and/or a drink for him? Did Santa have milk and cookies at your home or did he find a refreshing beer to help him on his merry way? And don't forget the reindeer!


Do you recall your childhood Christmas tree? Did you have a real tree? If so, do you remember where the tree came from?  Do you recall going out to get the tree? When did your family put the tree up? Who decorated your childhood Christmas tree? (see the prompt below for decorations) Have you carried any of your family Christmas tree traditions into your adult life?


Who decorated your Christmas tree when you were a child? Did you help? Did you make or buy decorations. If you made your own decorations perhaps you might share a description of them here. What were your favourite decorations?


Did you decorate your house or a Christmas tree outdoors, or put decorations on the roof of your house? Did you put up outdoor lights? Do you remember anyone in your neighbourhood putting up Christmas decorations outdoors?


When you were a child did you give and receive Christmas cards? Who sent cards in your family?
Was there a special place where you displayed the Christmas cards your family received? What did you do with your Christmas cards after the festive season? Were they used in craft activities or were they kept?


Did you have a Christmas stocking as a child? Was your 'Christmas stocking' a pillow case or a real stocking? Where in your home did you put your stocking out?  Were all your gifts placed in your stocking or did you have some wrapped under the tree?


Who gave you Christmas presents when you were a child? Did you receive presents from  Santa, your parents, from other family members, family and from school friends? Did you make any Christmas presents for others when you were a child? Can you recall any gift that you made? When did you open your Christmas gifts?


Was there one Christmas present which stands out from your childhood as your best ever gift? What was it and had you been waiting for many years for this gift?


Did you ever have an unrealistic Christmas present that you wished for but did not receive?


As a child did you exchange gifts with your school friends? Did you give your teachers presents? Looking back now, can you recall any of these presents?


What kind of special foods did your family have on Christmas Day? Did you have a hot meal or cold as is often the case with an Australian Christmas which occurs in the hot summer month of December? Where did you eat - indoors or outdoors? Did you have a picnic or was your Christmas meal a formal occasion? Did you have a favourite Christmas food? was there a particular Christmas food you didn't like?


Was there one very special Christmas food from your childhood Christmas  that you still have the recipe for or have carried on the tradition of making? Whose recipe was this Christmas dish?


Did your family have any special traditions when it came to celebrating Christmas? Did you have bon bons on the table? Did you say grace before eating? Was your Christmas a special celebration of a cultural background? Perhaps your family went caroling or went to a Carols by Candlelight evening?


Do you associate music with Christmas as a child? Did your family sing Christmas carols together? Were you in a choir that sang Christmas carols? In what other ways was music a part of your childhood Christmases?


As a child, did you have a favourite Christmas song or hymn? Do you still enjoy listening to is now? Have you passed this Christmas song on to your children?


Christmas is often a time for festivity and parties. What Christmas parties did you attend as a child? Did your parents have work Christmas parties, or neighbourhood or street parties? Were you invited to these? If you were involved in group activities such as Scouts, Girl Guides or Sporting Teams, did you have end of year, Christmas parties?


As a child did you ever take part in Christmas concerts, Pantomines, Nativity Plays or Band Performances?


On your  Christmas school holidays, what did you do? In Australia, the Christmas break falls in summer so it is the longest break of the school year. Did you spend the holidays at home playing? Perhaps you holidayed at the beach, went camping, skiing or travelled? What activities do you remember doing? In countries where Christmas falls in winter, how do you remember spending your Christmas break as a child?


What is your earliest Christmas memory? What do you remember about the day?

                                                     A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS
 Image  Wikimedia Creative Commons ©©