Friday, 27 December 2013

Accentuate the positive

This is my first time participating in a geneameme! Thanks to Jill from GeniAus for posting some questions to get me going.

In 2013...

An elusive ancestor I found was: my maternal great-grandfather, Frederick Edwards, the story behind my blog's title. He'd previously seemed to just appear out of thin air at his wedding. It was through a very roundabout means of checking out neighbours and previous addresses that I found him, and it's turned out to be quite a tale of Victorian illegitimacy, drama, multiple families, mistresses and bitchy codicils in Wills! 

A precious family photo I found was: my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Edwards, Frederick's mother. This was kindly shared by a distant cousin who is also descended from her. 

An important vital record I found was: the death certificate of another great-great-grandmother, Eliza Hewitson nee Bye. I knew she'd died between 1881 and 1901 but didn't know which death was hers. It turns out that my mother had the certificate, obtained from the BMD registrar in pre-internet days! Eliza died in 1893 from "Exhaustion of Mania with Epilepsy" in the London County Lunatic Asylum, Ilford, when her youngest child (my great-grandmother Sadie) was only five. Now I need to research precisely what Exhaustion of Mania might be in modern terms. 

A newly found family member who shared: the same cousin who came up with Sarah Edwards' photo also shared her father John Edwards' Will, as well as lots of other family information. There have been many others, though, including a third cousin of Rohan's who shared a precious photo of their great-grandparents' wedding in 1892!

A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was: the Family History Feast at the State Library of Victoria. Apart from the deeply moving and fascinating story of the lost Fromelles diggers, I learned a great deal about the records which the Public Records Office of Victoria might have in relation to soldier settlement, which will help with Rohan's grandfather.

A great repository/archive/library I visited was: the Public Records Office. Not only did I get to view one Will and three inquests, which were all a great help in my family tree research; I also got to read and touch the Geelong Assisted Immigrant Remittances book recording the deposits for Rohan's great-great-grandparents to emigrate to Australia. I didn't expect to be handed the actual book, for some reason! It was very moving to see the actual X "mark" and to learn precisely where in Ireland they came from.

A geneadventure I enjoyed was: transcribing the letters home which Rohan's grandfather, Percy Byrnes, wrote during the First World War. The process opened up so many emotions. It was fascinating to read Percy's little travelogues describing the voyage as well as England and France; we learned about the Australia of 1916, as well as the countries he was writing about, through him. It was also tremendously moving to read his words to his mother, trying to comfort her - while his letters to his father were much more frank, and also insistent that his father looked after "the block" and planted what Percy told him to! The way Percy was virtually mobbed by English girls was greatly amusing, and it was so interesting and sad to research all the other boys from Nyah district he mentioned and to find out their eventual fates. I am proud of the finished product and it has opened up so much understanding for us about the family; I hope that we will eventually make the letters public either by publishing them or through blogging.

The letters were saved by Percy's mother, Annie Louisa, and we visited her grave in Swan Hill and thanked her for it. I feel I know Percy so well now, and am looking forward to working on the next stage of his adventure, his life in politics!

Another positive I would like to share is: finding that there is a genealogical community and there are people who will be generous in sharing their information and their discoveries! I'm only new to the community, but in turn I hope to help others through my own discoveries.

Thank you, Jill. To tell the truth I was feeling a little discouraged about my family history work after discovering someone who was rather possessive of a mutual ancestor and criticised that I made information public; this is a great meme to end the year on and realise that there is still so much wonderful work to look forward to! 


  1. Vanessa, Thank you so much for joining this activity. The positive for me is that I have a found you as well as your blog that I have now added to my RSS feed.

  2. Hi Vanessa. What a great year you had. Those WW1 letters/postcards are very moving aren't they? My sister-in-law found some postcards recently in her mother's care and whilst we enjoyed researching who they were from, it was very sobering. You can see them on my blog here I do hope you get to publish your letters...particularly given that this year is the centenary.