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Archive for the ‘Family Stories’ Category

Have you had your DNA tested?  I haven’t, but I’m tempted.  I considered doing it in the past, but balked at the cost.  A friend had hers done ten years ago, and she never managed to access the website that would give her detailed information.  I’ve read that different companies can give different results about your ethnic heritage, and that rather put me off.

One of my readers is thrilled that her DNA test led to the discovery of a previously unknown half-sister, but I don’t expect any such revelations.  Recent contact with a remote cousin has renewed my interest in genealogy and DNA tests.  I know these can be done through Ancestry.com.

I thought I could access Ancestry,com for free through Christchurch City Libraries, but when I checked I found they have a special library version which can be accessed only at a library, not through your home computer, and it doesn’t offer the full range of Ancestry.com facilities.  Sadly DNA kits and results are one of the exclusions.  My genealogical research has been dormant in recent years, but I had always thought that when I finished paid work I would transfer my Brother’s Keeper database with its 4,000 names on to Ancestry.com.  I’m now considering whether I might do at least some of that at the library.  I’m reluctant to pay for an Ancestry.com subscription, and I’m uncertain whether I want to get hooked on genealogy again.  It can be addictive and expensive!

Jane Tolerton has written an excellent book about my war hero relation, and an Australian history professor has written a book about my grandfather.  Those stories I know about my ancestors I’ve  recorded in the Family Stories category of my blog, mainly between 2007 and 2009.  A friend researched her family and wrote an excellent novel about them, but I’ve no ambition to do that.  However, I would be pleased to make contact with new relations, and to know which of the seven daughters of Eve are my foremothers.

I wonder if my DNA
would lead me on new paths today?

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We were very fond of the chooks we had in Auckland.  Starting with Brown Shavers liberated from a fowl factory, we moved on to Chinese Silkies (both black and gold), and even an English game bird.

Brown Shavers

All the hens were confined to an area of the back garden, from which they occasionally made daring escapes.  They kept us supplied with eggs, and provided pleasant companionship.  One hen would happily ride around on Stephen’s shoulder.

By the time we were preparing to leave Auckland we had just one chook left, and I sent a message out among our friends to see if someone would offer this geriatric chook a retirement home.  Marion from Coromandel generously offered sanctuary on her small farm and we duly drove down to install Henny Penny in her new abode.

As we sat and sipped tea and chatted I admired the flock of quail which wandered across the driveway, and was taken aback to be told they were considered an annoying pest.  Marion said she often shot them, and indeed had a freezer full of the little corpses if we’d like some.  We hastily declined this offer, preferring to enjoy the sight of live quail.

After we’d settled in Christchurch we received a postcard from Henny Penny to say that she was happy in retirement and had even been enjoying some attention from the resident rooster.  She made no mention of any quail companions.

I’m fond of birds of any feather
and wish them harmony together

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What’s the oldest item you have in your possession?  I have two different items that are relics of my Rout family.  Both were given to me by distant relatives the first time I met them, rather than being handed down through my parents.

William’s New Testament

The first is a New Testament presented to my Great-Great-Uncle William Rout when he left Tasmania for New Zealand in 1884, by the “boys of the Bible and 1st Classes attending Princes Square Congregational Sunday School”.  It was given to me by two elderly women cousins in whose home he’d lived up to his death in 1932.  William is a special uncle because he is the father of Ettie Rout.  These cousins also gave me a letter he wrote in which he mentioned Ettie.  When I first met them they immediately recognised me as family because, they said, I have the Rout nose.

The second item is a pair of Bodley teacups and saucers which once belonged to my Great Grandmother Susan Tunnecliffe Rout.  These were given to me by Joyce Tolerton, my first cousin once removed, when I visited her in Russell in 1985.

Susan’s cups and saucers

They may well have been a hundred years old then, and they are hand painted with handles attached by hand.  Joyce also gave me several postcards written to her 1907-14, by my Grandmother Mabel Rout.  In one of these she mentions Georgie aged three (my father).

All of these are important family mementoes.  With the recent wildfires near Nelson I pondered what possessions I might take if I had to evacuate hastily in an emergency, but none of these family items were immediately on my list.  While I’m fond of them I’m not sure my daughters would consider them as important as I do, or even remember they exist.

They have significance to me
these relics of my family

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How often do you see a memorial to a woman?  In Christchurch we have two prominent ones.  At the top of the Bridle Path is the Pioneer Women’s Memorial, opened in 1940.  Beside the Avon/Otakaro is the Kate Sheppard Memorial which honours the women who worked so hard for women’s suffrage.

Kate Sheppard Memorial

Mind you, they waited a hundred years for this recognition!

In Victoria Square there’s a tulip tree planted to honour my cousin Ettie Rout.

Ettie’s tree

When I went to the Ashburton Domain in the early 1990s I was pleased to discover a tree planted in 1910 to honour Florence Nightingale.

In Lincoln, next to the library is Miss Bartle’s Green.  Miriam Annie Bartle lived in a cottage on this site from 1949 to 1990.  She was the Matron’s Assistant at Lincoln College from 1952 to 1961, and her cottage was overlooked by a magnificent oak tree.  This tree has been preserved thanks to the efforts of local residents, including Diana Morton who is remembered on a plaque beside the wooden seat.

Miss Bartle’s Green

Lincoln College is where my brother did his teaching country service in the late 1950s.  I wonder if he ever met Miss Bartle.

What other memorials to women are you aware of?

An area arboreal
is Miss Bartle’s Memorial

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Long ago when my father died my mother went to a medium seeking a message from him.  She was told that he considered the whole idea of messages from beyond the grave to be a load of tommyrot.  Mother said that was exactly the phrase he would have used.

My mother was always keen to experience different forms of religion, and when I was in my early teens she took me to a meeting at the Spiritualist Church where a medium gave messages from people who had ‘passed over’.  The medium, who was a middle-aged woman with a soft Scottish burr, told me I would be going on a long journey – surely a reasonable guess for any young teenager, and I did travel to Australia the following year.  The woman from whom the message was purported to come said: “You won’t know me, but ask them about Elizabeth.”  I’d never heard of any Elizabeth, but when I asked my mother she said that had been her pet name for her mother, the grandmother who died before I was born.

My Grandmother Ethel, aka Elizabeth. Portrait taken 1910

I found the whole experience disturbing, and have never since wanted to consult a fortune teller of any ilk.  When my eldest daughter was born Mother wanted to pay to have her horoscope professionally cast, but I declined.  Like many people I used to idly read my horoscope in the newspaper, but stopped doing so after a trip to Stonehenge Aotearoa, where I was told that because the stars have changed position since mediaeval days I’m a Sagittarius, not a Capricorn as I had always understood.

Have you ever had a prediction that came true?

Can anyone tell what will be?
The future is a mystery.

 

 

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What’s your most memorable experience in the back of a car?  Well, there are a few occasions from my teens that I don’t care to share with the whole wide world.

The one experience that comes to mind and is suitable for public consumption happened when I was three or four years old.   In fact it’s one of my earliest memories.  The whole family was travelling from Christchurch to Invercargill.  I’ve no idea why, and no memory of that southern city.  Some of my father’s Rout relatives are from there and maybe we were making a rare visit to extended family?  It’s the only time I can remember being in a car with both my parents, and presumably my brother, although he’s not specified in this memory.  The car, not specified either and not apparent in any surviving photographs, may have been old and perhaps not entirely roadworthy.  I was sitting in the back seat, and as we were going over a bumpy bridge the wheel beneath me came free, I went down with jolt (no seat belts in those days), and I bit my lip which bled.

Presumably the wheel was re-attached, or a spare installed, and the journey continued,  My memory is of being given an orange to suck – not ideal with a split lip.  This incident is one of many that I wish I’d thought to question other family members about when they were still alive.  So many childhood memories lack details I’m now curious about.  I’ve never been to Invercargill since, but maybe I’ll visit one day, preferably not in the back seat of an unreliable car.

‘When starting on a road-a-thon
make sure your wheels are firmly on.

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What’s the most expensive thing you own?  What was it like to buy it?  These questions got me thinking.  A house and car would be the most expensive things I own, but once bought they’re not often changed.  We bought our current home 32 years ago, still love it, and hope to be here forever.  We did buy a new (to us) car three years ago, only because it was no longer economical to repair the old one.

The only other expensive items I can think of are furniture and overseas holidays.  I’m not an avid consumer, and try to live frugally.  However there is one ‘frivolous’ purchase I’ve been quietly seeking for some years.

One of my mother’s prized possessions was a table lamp always referred to as the White Lady Lamp.  My brother in Australia had a similar lamp at his bedside – it must be something in the family genes.  When my mother died I inherited her White Lady Lamp, placed it on a shelf in the lounge above the TV, and always had it on in the evening.  I consider the image to be of Diana/Artemis, a goddess I admire for her ability to set and reach goals.  My mother used a homemade fabric shade which had become tattered, and I replaced this with an attractive stained glass shade.

When The Earthquake struck the lamp fell to the floor, the shade was shattered, and the electric fitting which ran down the centre was broken.  I took it to an electrician who pronounced it beyond repair.  Now my White Lady sits on the shelf bereft of her Lamp.

I’ve looked at TradeMe and in antique shops, but so far have not found a replacement for this 1950s lamp.  If I did I’d buy it, move the Lampless Lady to another spot, and once again bask in the light of a White Lady Lamp.

‘I think perhaps some day I might
buy a new lady lamp that’s white.’

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