Hi, I’m back. It is the 20th Sept’ 2019 and it has been about a month since my last post on the blog. Why am I telling you this? Well George R Nicoll continues to inspire me through his manuscript. As I was reading it recently a few thoughts came into my mind about it, like:
I wished I knew where he was when he was writing it.
What was happening to him and the family on the days that he was working on it? (So much is happening for us in the background when I’m working on these posts.) It seems really greedy doesn’t it when I have the manuscript in the first place.
And the big one, George is sharing all of this personal information about him and his family and that maybe it would be good if I followed in his footsteps and added my own manuscript to the family story. Maybe it’s not just about rediscovering the past but also sharing the present.
Apart from the little I shared in the first posts and the Road Trip posts there is nothing about my story. I know George’s story is one of the building blocks of my own but it might be of interest to add my block in for your interest.
Might as well start now. This is where I’m doing most of the work from,
The fantastic geometric design on the walls is Xander’s handy work. This was his room up until a couple of months ago when Alex and I moved into the Hut out the back. Xander is now set up in our old room and we moved the office from the Hut into his old room. Loved the office in the Hut but had to move it as the Neighbours over the back fence have a dog that barks incessently the moment they leave the house for work. The record so far is 6 hours non stop.
You probably noticed the woodfest happening outside the window. One of the jobs waiting for me from when Alex’s Dad trimmed the trees out the back, 3 years ago. I know, I will move it, eventually.
As to what is happening for us at the moment, well Alex is blitzing it at her work. Stress is huge but really developing her management skills with the team that she has and beinging mentored at the moment by her Director. Such a difference to the last Director and Manager she was working with.
I just rang and spoke to Alex and asked her to send me a photo, so this is her right now at the time of me writing this. I love this lady so much. I don’t want there to be any doubt on that. When reading George’s words on Sarah his Wife, I had the sense that they were pretty devoid of any warmth. I can’t find the exact passage at the moment but when I do I will share it with you. I don’t want that to be the case here. Alex is the most amazing person in my life, of course the Boys as well but I’m talking best friend, held me whilst snot crying amazing.
At the moment professionally I’m feeling pretty stunnted. Not giving up on my business, Stapleton Mercer Community Services but I don’t have any clients at the moment and I’m down to two shifts this week with the store I’m working with. Just can’t seem to get a foot hold with them after two years. Working casual sucks when you don’t get any work.
You will notice I’m not mentioning any names. Just recently read of a guy who wrote annonymously on a private webchat about the company he was working for in a critical way, they found out and he was terminated. The whole social media thing at the moment is really taking hold. It is standard now to hear people referring to “Their Socials”. I’m trying to think if you are reading this in 150 years time from now, like me with George’s writing what you will be thinking about that statement? Do you still have social media or has it just been intergrated into you internally and now your standard way of communicating?
I wonder if George could ever have imagine a time like I am in now when he was writing. Where his 3x Great Grandson could converse instantly from New South Wales with his 3x Great Grandneice in Edinburgh Scotland in real time on a tablet. When George died it still took months to travel between Scotland and Australia. I just realised if you are reading this in 150 years time it will be 2169, the 200th anniversary of my birth. It is a bit audacious of me to think that a copy of this blog will survive till then but you have to think big.
The Boys are rocking it, Xander is almost 16 and basically the shape of the bloke he is going to be. Calan is 15 and stretching into his final shape. Really noticing the change in him on a weekly basis.
It has been a big month of family history discoveries. Alex the Boys and I did a quick weekend away to Sydney to see these two amazing flicks. Calan and I loved them both, Alex and Xander not so much “It” but they went along for us and the recliner chairs.
Also caught up with Duncan, Gabrielle, Jessica and Patrick, Alex’s Brother and his family.
I spent an extra two days down there to visit the Ancestor’s and to chase up some more leads at the Mitchell Library. I basically just fish on the library sites. Put in the names and see what comes up. I have mentioned before that when you search it is good practice to change the spelling of the name to catch anything that might have been misspelt or misheard. With a name like Macvean, this has been invaluable as it has many forms, M’Vean, McVean, Macvean, MacVean and McVeen.
So just to interrupt, can you notice the change in text colour? So as you can see I started this post back in Sept’ 2019, 6 months ago. Everything after this is what I have put together in the last week of March 2020. The reason it took me 6 months to get back to it is exactly what I mentioned above. Life!
So much has happened to the four of us as a Family in this time that it is nuts. It is just the thing that I was thinking about with George when he was writing his manuscript. I’m not going to try and explain now I will leave the rest of this post for what I originally intended, to share some of the techniques of uncovering the family story.
Of course just to whett your appitite, you have probably noticed from the date we are right in the middle of the global Coronavirus pandemic. We are basically in lockdown and just tonight the PM announced that any outdoor public gathering can now only be with 2 people. Yet they can still come in in herds into the shop and breath all over me as I work, as shopping is an essential service. I won’t be happy if it kills me, you can bet on that. We will now return you to your normal programing.
To the first of the catch’s from this fishing trip. This was a great feeling, discovering this book and what was in it. With the knowledge of the Macvean’s heavy involvement with the Presbyterian Church in the Riverina area, that is Albury, Wagga Wagga, and Corowa, I found a couple of books stored at the Mitchell Library written by Keith Swan about the history of the church in the area.
My hope was that there would be some mention of the family in the book, remembering that the foundation stone of the church hall in Wagga was laid by my 2x Great Grandmother Jessie Davina Macvean and that her Husband, my 2x Great Grandfather was an Elder of the church. So it was interesting then that the first piece of family info I came across wasn’t to do with either of them but in relation to Jessie’s Father, The Reverand David Hunter Ballantyne. ( I have been aware for sometime that he was the first Presbyterian Minister established in Albury. I will share more of David’s story in a later post.)
At the same time, I was fishing in this book aswell, I know two on the go at the sametime, madness, I came across this fantastic piece on the Reverend.
Now back to the first book again, my next find was about my Great Grandfather, Alexander Ballantyne Smith Macvean.
Germanton of course becomes Holbrook and just to remind you Little Billabong is where my Great Grandparents run the Rooksdale Estate.
Now this was a random find and I’m not sure that it relates to the Macvean’s but I definately know that it does to the Nicoll’s. The information above comes from an excerpt in Keith Swan’s book that is a reproduction of the Kirk’s annual report for 1907/08 and in it there is advertising, obviously to help with the cost of production and there just happens to be an add for the College that my Great Grandfather, William Norman Rupert Nicoll attended on his journey to becoming a Marine Engineer.
Cooerwull was founded in 1882 by the Scottishpastoralist and industrialist, Andrew Brown, who was also the Lithgow Valley’s first European settler. The school, which was originally intended to be a training academy for prospective Presbyterian ministers, was the first Presbyterian school established in New South Wales... The Academy ceased operating when most of its staff and some students enlisted to fight in the First World War. It then became a private residence, and in 1953 the site was converted into the Catholic, La Salle Academy, which is still in operation today. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooerwull_Academy)
Now this was the find of the day. A mention of my 2x Great Grandmother, Jessie Davina Macvean nee Ballantyne, Daughter of Rev David Hunter Ballantyne and a picture of her and my 2x Great Grandfather, Alexander Macvean. Which was totally unexpected. 59 pages in, this appears.
As it states, Jessie is standing on the right of the Minister and then Alexander is standing on the right of Jessie. I have scoured this picture below willing any other family members to reveal themselves to me, I’m sure that there would be more there but again I think their faces are lost to time.
A quick Google search and here it is in 2011.
Then Trove had this:
This article below is just brilliant, it describes the ceremony in the picture, how amazing is that?
State Library of NSW also has an amazing collection of historic pictures in their small pictures catalogue. This is the Church where my 3x Great Grandparents Peter Stapleton and Margaret Quinn married on the 2nd of July 1883 in Bega NSW.
I then came across this picture of the Evershed Monument in Gipps Street in Bega which my 3x Great Grandfather, Peter Stapleton built. It still stands in the same spot today.
I then came across this very curious, pamphlet on my 4x Great Grand Uncle, Rev Allan Macvean, Brother to my 3x Great Grandfather John Hugh Macvean. From the little I have read so far it seems that the Rev Allan was quite a divisive character in his preaching.
Here he is, The Rev Allan Macvean, Presbyterian Minister of Brunswick for over 50 years. He started preaching in a blacksmiths shop in the early 1850’s before there was any money for a church.
My next discovery related to Rev’ David Hunter Ballantyne again but this time in Brighton Victoria. He and the family moved from Albury to Brighton in 1869 where he bacame the Presbyterian Minister of the Wilson Street Church which would become St Cuthberts. I will share what I have been able to discover on David’s story in a future post at the moment I’m just sharing what I found on this one particular trip to the library.
It is amazing to find information that directly mentions a family member and as I have mentioned many time before actual photographs of them are gold. The other thing I love is when you find a picture, painting or photograph of an area that relates to their story and especially when you can date it to a time that they were there. These next photos are exactly that. They give you the context to their lives and flesh out that world that they were inhabiting.
I have no proof that it happened but I wonder if the family rode this train from the city back home after a day in the Botanic Gardens or an afternoon at St Kilda strolling the boardwalks. This is exactly the time they were there.
The Beach is at the end of Park Street that intersects with Wilson Street where the Church is, 1.3kms away. I wonder if any of these people might be relatives or know Rev’ Ballantyne and his family?
My final discovery of the day relates to another 3x Great Grandfather, John Blackwood. He is the Father of Henry John Blackwood, my 2x Great Grandfather who ran Skinners Book Emporium and who illegitimately Fathered my Great Grandmother, Grace Blackwood with his business partners Wife, Jane Grace Skinner. I know right?, full on but back to John.
I found out from Ancestry.com a while back that he was buried in an Anglican Church in Lisarow. Had absolutely no idea where that was, finally looked it up and it is on the Central Coast and in actual fact we use to drive past it on every trip to Queensland before the new section of the M1 freeway opened as it is right next to the old Pacific Highway.
I am so lucky that another very generous 5th x Cousin on Ancestry.com shared a photo of John. Especially when you consider today, the 30th March 2020 when I’m finally finishing this post is the 144th anniversary of his death. What a coincidence!
So, if you are interested in your family story, chuck your name into your Local, State or our National Libraries search engine and see what you might catch. See that?, I linked it back to the whole fishing metaphor. I can smell a Miles Franklin award in the wind,… nah, just the curried sausages from last night. Damn!
One thought on “Uncovering the Family Stories.”
Are you connected to John Hugh MacVean,as his daughter Annie married James Begg whom I’m researching at the moment