Saturday, 5 November 2011

Genealogy notes 30 Oct - 5 Nov 2011 Birthdays & Anniversaries

I've been offline for a few days for a variety of reasons. The first week of November is always a big week for me, with all sorts of memories swirling around me. Firstly it's my birthday week and I'm a child of Guy Fawkes - some of my earliest memories are of helping my father build a bonfire in our backyard and creating a Guy Fawkes out of straw and old clothes. Those were also the days when everyone could buy firecrackers at the local store. So those early birthdays were fun, if a little dangerous given our backyard backed onto a bush area.

In their wisdom the Queensland government decided to move Guy Fawkes night from November to June from 1967 so that there was less chance of fires and eventually the sale of firecrackers was prohibited to individuals in 1971 because of injuries.

Birthdays were never the same for me as a child but as I grew up I discovered the Melbourne Cup (first Tuesday of November) and every so often it would actually fall on my birthday. While living in Brisbane and Canberra I would try and take the day off work and book into a Melbourne Cup Day lunch and enjoy the whole day, even if it wasn't on my real birthday. Of course now that I am living in Melbourne, Cup Day is a public holiday and my birthday tends to stretch out for the whole week.

But not only is it memories of birthdays past that occupies my mind during the first week of November. It is also memories of family members lost during this week. On my 16th birthday I lost one of my favourite uncles and my grandmother died on my birthday in 1994 - she had never wanted to leave her own home, or move into a nursing home so in some ways it was 'good' that she died while playing the pokies. Another reason why I have a little flutter and gamble that week is because it was what she loved. Four days of the week she managed to get herself onto the pensioner bus (and that wasn't easy with a walking stick) and down to the NSW pokie clubs because it was an outing, she was with friends and she liked to play (but never seemed to lose?). Why NSW? Queensland didn't have pokies when she started this 'hobby'.

I won't list all the family deaths in the first week of November, but I was reminded of  'the trend' when I lost another two family members this week. One was an avid family historian and had done lots of research and died too young and the other was one that had probably lived too long. But when he could, he also enjoyed getting out and playing the pokies, having a flutter on the horses and most times when I was in Brisbane I would take him along to the Casino for a few hours of 'the good old times'.

Oddly enough two of Australia's most famous genealogists also died in my birthday week. Nick Vine Hall died on 31 October 2006 but his funeral service was not held until 9 November 2006. I first met Nick in the late 1970s when he was Director of the Society of Australian Genealogists and our paths continuously crossed over the years/decades and I have fond memories of him and I sitting on the grassy area outside the State Library of Victoria eating take away Chinese for lunch while discussing genealogy and how to raise the profile of the Australian census amongst other things. We even tossed around ideas of projects we might work on when I retired from the public service but sadly that wasn't to be as Nick died too soon aged only 62 years.

The other Australian genealogist was Janet Reakes who died on 9 November 2002 at the far too young age of 50 years. I had worked with Janet at a number of genealogy events while I was employed at Queensland State Archives and later the John Oxley Library. I particularly liked going to her Australia Day weekend genealogy expos in Hervey Bay.

It's great that these two Australian genealogists continue to be remembered by the genealogy community. The Australian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) maintains the annual Nick Vine Hall Award to promote family history society journals and newsletters and Australian Family Tree Connections (AFTC) maintains the Janet Reakes Memorial Award which is an annual essay competition open to everyone.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has a birthday that coincides with close deaths in the family. There's also Christmas, New Year, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day and so on. There's always good memories along with the sad ones and I suspect that what is most important is to capture those memories so that we don't forget as time continues it's march ever onwards.

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