Monday, 23 January 2012

Genealogy notes 13-20 Jan 2012 - end of the journey

Thanks to those people who have been commenting on this blog either directly or through Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. It's always good to know that someone is reading it!

After my idyllic stay at the Jamberoo Pub, we went on to Ulladulla where we spent two days with Max's brother and checked out some nice places to live including Tabourie Lake and Burrill Lake. Now we are wondering if Port Macquarie will be too hot and wet although the Ulladulla area is a little cool for January. The only thing we agree on is that we want to leave Melbourne and move to a much smaller town, away from the traffic madness of a capital city.

We then continued on down the coast and originally planned to stop in Eden but we have been there many times, so pushed on to Mallacoota in Victoria. We have only been there on day trips while passing through so it was good to stay overnight although there was no mobile phone coverage and incredibly windy. We usually cook outside or use the camp kitchen/bbqs but the wind was whipping up a bit of dust so we went to the Mallacoota Hotel for dinner (very nice seafood platter for two and three times cheaper than Melbourne and other places we've been). The stars tonight were absolutely brilliant as there is very little light as Mallacoota is so remote.

Next day we stopped in remote Cann River for an early lunch and unbelievably I had more mobile phone coverage there than I usually get at home (outskirts of Melbourne) so I'm not sure how they roll their networks out! One can't go past a Cann River pie and we didn't - not sure how many Cann River pies I've had over the last few years that we have been doing this trek through Victoria/New South Wales but it's quite a few! We weren't disappointed and after satisfying our pie lust, we moved on towards the Gippsland Lakes which are the largest network of waterways in Australia.

Our friends have a remote property just outside of Paynesville (apparently the boating capital of Australia) and they invited us to stay for a few days. Their place is a haven for just about every bird you can think off. You could spend all day watching the galahs, crimson rosella and lorrikeets and at night you have the owls and possums and other wildlife moving around as well. The fish weren't quite as plentiful but we did manage a feed of garfish which were incredibly tasty once you managed to remove the backbone.

They do a lot of their travel down there by boat so we did the trip into Paynesville by boat and also down to Loch Sport as well as visits to various of the islands which are also breeding colonies for the many species of birds that make the Gippsland Lakes their home. We even had a picnic breakfast on one island, you take all your rubbish back with you and the eco-toilets were interesting. I could have done without the very big hairy spider running across the picnic table as were eating, but then I wouldn't have known that I can still move that fast!

Eventually all good things come to an end and we said goodbye for the trip back across Melbourne and home to Hoppers Crossing (five weeks away and just over 5,000km). The pile of snail mail was unbelievable, but our good neighbour had mowed the lawn for us so that didn't look too bad. Unpacking the caravan was a chore along with washing it down, doing the laundry and going out to the shops, paying the bills and so on. How quickly life returns to normal!

My 'to do' list is several pages long - I have an article to write for Inside History, a Twigs of Yore challenge blog to write for Australia Day, four talks to prepare for the Unlock the Past War Comes to Australia tour to Darwin and the genealogy seminar on 25 February, two presentations to finalise for the AFFHO genealogy congress in Adelaide at the end of March, not to mention getting the house ready for sale! At least the time will go quickly and who said retirement is boring with nothing to do - they obviously weren't a genealogist. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Genealogy notes 2-12 Jan 2012 Still following in ancestral footsteps

One thing that has surprised me on this trip is the varying range of mobile phone and internet connections as we move from place to place. Sometimes I have been unable to connect when I fully expected to yet in small remote places I have been able to. One thing I do know, if all capital city people had to experience the varying and frustrating cover like regional people, then I suspect our communication systems would improve speedily!

Before we left Tweed Heads, New South Wales (see last Diary post), we visited the North Tumbulgum historic cemetery as my John and Sarah Finn family moved to Tumbulgum after they sold their farm at Nambour in Queensland. The cemetery is literally on the side of a small mountain in the middle of a rainforest and not quite 20 years ago there was an effort to reclaim the cemetery from the rainforest and signs explain the history of the area and the cemetery. However it was obvious we were the first people to visit in quite a while and the trees and other vegetation have grown even more and the mosquitoes were very hungry! It reminded me very much of Walhalla in Victoria but it's not in a rainforest.

We also took time out to visit Grafton again as another one of my families, John and Helen Carnegie moved there from Brisbane in the 1860s and early 1870s (only then they were temporarily using the surname Stanley) before they moved back to Toorbul in Queensland and restarted using the Carnegie name! Both John and Helen Carnegie are buried in the historic Toorbul cemetery and their gravestone is the only surviving one. I actually have a photograph of it before it was broken.

From there we moved on to Coffs Harbour and stopped at Boambee for the night. As Coffs gets bigger, the smaller towns around it seem to become suburbs and we nearly drove right past the caravan park as we were thinking south of Coffs not in it!

Then we arrived in Port Macquarie a place I have visited many times over the years and is now firming up as one of our options of retiring to. Although I will say it is a very busy place in the Christmas/New Year period, usually we are there outside of the holiday season. The weather was great, although a little humid some days and even a bit cool on others (but then the whole east coast seems to have been cooler this January). There is lots to do here but one of our highlights was an afternoon cruise on a real Chinese junk through the various waterways and we were even followed by a school of dolphins which was good to see.

We had to keep moving on so after four days we headed south and did the big detour around Sydney and finished up in the Southern Highlands, overnight at Moss Vale. This is another family area where my Thomas and Elizabeth Price first went to after arriving in Sydney in 1878. I can track their movements as they had a child in various towns (with my grandfather Henry Price being born in Nattai near Mittagong in 1887) before they moved down to the Shoalhaven area. As we drove down the incredibly steep escarpment via the Illawarra Highway and Macquarie Pass, I couldn't help wonder how they travelled down it in the late 1880s.

We stayed two nights in Shoalhaven Heads and spent our days exploring this very scenic area and again visiting the various places my Price family lived before they left for Charters Towers in Queensland. I also spent time speculating on the fact that if they hadn't done this, Henry Price would never have met Alice White and my mother (and me) would never have been born. It was quite chilly at night for January (although the weather reports said that it was unusual weather) but we still left with Port Macquarie our firm favourite to retire to.

After a look around Kiama where another Price child was born, we headed to Jamberoo where Max was meeting up with his brother for a bit of bush camping which is not quite my style. I am currently booked into the historic Jamberoo Pub and Motel enjoying the peace and quiet and catching up with my emails, writing some long overdue blogs and generally relaxing (although the cockatoos are a bit noisy).

I also have a lot of email newsletters to catch up on and there must be heaps of genealogy news I've missed via tweets and Facebook but I also have to say that I don't think I've been this relaxed in years. Sometimes it really is good to stop and notice the wonderful countryside in which we live and it's great to be able to visit the places my ancestors lived and try to picture what it was like for them back then. Until next time, all the best with your own genealogy searches.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Genealogy notes 18 Dec 2011 - 1 Jan 2012 Genealogy on the Road

The first two weeks of being a grey nomad has simply flown by, but not without a few dramas along the way. I even managed a bit of genealogy too.

Before we set off we made certain (or tried to) that we had both the car and caravan mechanically sound - new tyres, batteries, services etc - because we knew that we would be travelling on outback roads. We also were keeping up with weather reports because we were travelling in the wet season and that area can flood quickly. Stopovers included Finley (largest irrigation channel in Australia), Forbes (home of Ben Hall's grave, he was an Australian bushranger for my overseas readers), and Gilgandra (home of the 1915-16 Cooee March). The bird life on the way up the Newell Highway was amazing and in many places water lying either side of the road had transformed the area almost into a wetlands. I loved seeing all the emus as you don't always see them closer to the coast.

We finally ran into both mechanical trouble and floods just as we were heading into Walgett, a small town in north western New South Wales which doesn't have a caravan park either, so we couldn't stay. Nor could we find anyone with the time who could help with the caravan dust caps popping off - Max being mechanically minded knew that there was a problem with the bearings so we decided to do makeshift repairs ourselves, gave up on trying to reach Lightning Ridge where we might have been flooded in for Christmas, and made a run back to Narrabri on a road that was 'open with caution', floodwaters having receded a little. We treated ourselves to dinner at the Narrabri RSL and their restaurant the Outback Shack is definitely worth a visit for both its amazing decor and food (real country servings). This is also a cotton growing area and it was interesting to drive through all this lush greenery when we expected dry and dusty.

We have Top Cover with RACV and we were aware that there was a reciprocal arrangement with other RAC organisations around Australia. So we also contacted NRMA but under the arrangements we only have basic cover in NSW which meant the caravan was not covered and they couldn't help us until we actually broke down and needed a tow. We need to look into this a bit more when we get back as breaking down in the outback with no mobile phone coverage is not something we really want to do. Nor do we want to take up membership with every RAC organisation either, although maybe you can't if you don't actually live in the state. I could rave on here about why isn't Australia a single country with a single RAC and all the other state differences (including fishing licenses) we have every time we cross a state border but I won't.

I was disappointed about not getting to Lightning Ridge as I do want to see where my great grandmother lived for a time. But she was also out at Thargomindah and Eulo so we will have to definitely come back in the dry season as those towns are even more remote. I always wonder how she managed to get that far out - coach? And of course, the big question - why?

Our repairs held so we moved on to Goondiwindi just over the Queensland border but by then we knew we were in trouble but again, only a day out from Christmas Eve, we couldn't find anyone that could help. So doing more temporary repairs on the other wheel too, we decided to try and make Brisbane. The RACQ advised the best road was via Toowoomba so we set off on the long lonely stretch between Goondiwindi and Millmerran, a town even smaller than Walgett. I was very happy to see the caravan park in Millmerran as at least we would have somewhere to stay as it was now obvious we needed to fix the bearings on the caravan wheels.

Advised there was only one mechanical place in town we went there seeking advice and walked in on them having lunch. To our surprise, they came outside straight away, checked both caravan wheels and said, yes you have big problems! This was more than we had been able to get anyone else to do but then they went on to say they could fix both wheels for us and have us back on the road within the hour. And they did, all still within their lunch hour! We gave them a bit extra so that they could have a Christmas beer or two - we would never have made it down the Toowoomba range without their friendly assistance.

I have always loved small Queensland towns and Millmerran is now one of my favourites for its hospitality and helpfulness. We wandered around the main street while the mechanics fixed the bearings which apparently hadn't been put back on quite properly when serviced.

We then made it into Toowoomba (Max's great grandfather was mayor at one time) and finally Newmarket (Brisbane) to spend Christmas Day with my family. We also caught up with Max's cousins in Burpengary and Redcliffe. We also spent some time in Toowong cemetery looking for family graves which I had last seen thirty odd years ago! Armed with my laptop we could look up Grave Location Search which gave us portion, section and grave number and a map to assist (but it still took some searching and Toowong is very steep in places). Sadly it didn't look like anyone had been to my grandfather's grave in the last three decades so we spent time digging up all the weeds and we then took new digital photos of all my relatives graves. I have old photos at home so it will be interesting to see the changes as the graves look more worn and one had even collapsed.

We are currently at Tweed Heads on the Queensland/ New South Wales border and catching up with friends and relatives before heading further south. Max is off visiting an old army mate who he recently found after forty years and I am taking the opportunity to catch up on my emails, enewsletters, blogs and so on. Before our next trip, I definitely need to get a smaller laptop (or  whatever) as this is too big to set up daily, not that I have the energy, or even the inclination, every day. The other drawback is that we don't always have mobile phone or internet coverage and we spend long hours on the road some days.

However it's been great fun so far and we are learning more about our country's history and geography as we go around and I really need to do something about organising our digital photos and movies as we go or it will be an enormous job when we get back! So many interesting things to take images of but often the real thing is so much better to watch. I've seen some great outback sunrises and sunsets, not to mention the absolute beauty of the stars at night in areas where there are no streetlights.

Until I next log on, all the best for 2012. I hope it's a great year for everyone.