Friday, 10 January 2014

Family Reunions

In less than a week, Mark and I will be a few hours into our long flight to Australia. It will be our third trip there, despite being sure that our first, was the trip of a lifetime, and one never to be repeated. ( Apparently everyone says that...and most people go back ).

I love this print , by Jessie Trail, of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Jessie Trail was an artist who sponsored immigrants to Australia, and she sponsored my uncle and his mother to go to Australia in 1927
When we went the first time, I had no idea that I had an Australian family. By the time I returned, I had discovered two first cousins and their families, as I had found out that my paternal grandfather had been “married” 3 times, simultaneously, and had 2 other families, apart from the one that included my own father. His first family, deserted by him just after WW1, emigrated to Australia in 1927.
My two Australian cousins....well, one now lives in New Zealand, are the grandchildren of my grandfather and his first and only legal wife. I am one of two grandchildren of his third and not so legal wife.
Mark and I meeting my Aussie cousins in 2010....they might not recognise the somewhat slimmer, post chemo  dark curly haired Pom cousin who meets them this time !
I met one of the Aussie cousins and his lovely wife on my last was very emotional, particularly as he looks so much like my father. He, ( John ) has since been to England and we met up again then, and we correspond regularly.
I will meet, his brother ( Bill)...the NZ cousin, this time. We are travelling to New Zealand for the first time on this trip. I can’t wait to meet him...although again, we have corresponded regularly, since I “discovered” this branch of our family.

Looking forward to meeting you Bill !

A further treat for this trip to the other side of the world will be meeting another cousin...slightly more distant than John and Bill.

Apparently, my bigamist grandfather kept more than his wives secret from us. He never told my grandmother, or his son, my dad, that he was one of 6 children. His youngest brother, Francis was in the navy  and found himself in Australia during WW1, where he met an Australian woman, who he returned to marry in 1920. I will be meeting his great granddaughter on this trip too.

Francis Whelen....born in Birkenhead in grandfather's youngest brother.....another of his secrets.

I find it quite haunting, that this year, 100 years after the start of WW1, I will be meeting the descendant of my great uncle, who made that journey all those years ago.

Francis, ( or Frank as he was known in Australia), with his wife, Vera-May and their son....probably about 1927......round about the time Franks' brother's deserted wife arrived in Australia, completely unaware that she had a brother in law living there already.
I hope to have the opportunity to blog a little from Australia and New Zealand in the next 6 weeks......but all will depend on internet connections and my ability to write on my I-pad.....never written blogs on it before, and as my I-pad is the earliest model, and doesn't come with an inbuilt camera, photos will have to be taken with my phone, so I cant be sure what I will be able to do !....We will see.

So, if you see nothing from me in the next few weeks, be assured that I am having a wonderful time, with members of my somewhat complicated family, in Perth, then Hobart, then Melbourne, then Wellington, Christchurch and other fascinating bits of the south island. ( I’m desperately trying to finish Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries” before I go......what an amazing book....but heavens above, it is long ! ).

When I return, I hope to know a bit more about my family, and plenty more about the gold rush in New Zealand.

Streeton's painting, from 1890, "Whelan on a Log"
Those colours couldn't come from anywhere but Australia !
I have a print of this on my study wall.


  1. What an amazing story, Janice! It sounds like it is going to be a wonderful holiday for you. (If you happen to get any where near Brisbane...) Thank you for your comment on my certainly know what is most important in life! Thank you for your kind wishes.

    1. I feel that I am missing out, in that my previous 2 Oz trips, and this one, do not include Brisbane. I flew over it when we went to Cairns once...but that is the nearest I have been. Jess, our daughter, went there when she had her gap year trip 4 years ago. One day !!!! Jx

    2. Shame you will 'miss us' on this trip. DH and I are heading off to the UK in mid March for a driving holiday of about 5 1/2 weeks, then a week in Paris with a trip to Villers-Bretonneux for ANZAC Day. So depending on what you're doing and where you are at the time, our paths might cross :-)

  2. Oh gosh, Janice, I had to sit down after reading all this!! What an adventure, what purpose your visit has and what emotional excitement you must be feeling! (As you know from our conversation yesterday, my family stayed a little closer together, like next door!) but your naughty grandfather has provided you with wonderful opportunities (in retrospect, of course, I don't condone his behaviour at all!) and I'm sure your trip with uncover even more family treasure. Have an absolutely fantastic time - I can't wait to hear about it all. Axxx

    1. PS - Are you sure HIS ancestors might not have been similarly inclined...does the 'Whelan' on the log belong to the whole story somehow??? Axxx

    2. Pretty sure it doesn't Annie....Whelan is a common Irish name....and lots of them went (and some were sent! ) to Australia.
      I have a couple of theories about the mysterious Emma Gladys....will email you. Jx.

  3. Dear Janice - what a thrilling time awaits you.
    I love the fact that you are embracing these opportunities, and also meeting new, to you, members of your family.
    Look forward to reading all about your adventures in the next few weeks if the Ipad does its job for you.

  4. What an absolutely wonderful trip you have to look forward to Janice. Your family history is so intriguing. Safe journey and have a brilliant time xxx

  5. Have a wonderful time. I look forward to catching up with your adventures and finding out more about your family. Xx

  6. Have a wonderful time...I'm sure you will, and looking forward to hearing about your discoveries.

  7. What a fantastic blog Janice.I could feel your excitement.Probably a whole lot more excitement to come as you meet new to you members of your family.

    It is a strange feeling to unearth family connections and maybe recognise genetic similarities.
    When I retired 5yrs ago I started to look into my family history.I have plodded along and built up a family tree on Ancestry.Then 2 weeks ago my dad (who is 87 now) just decided to google his name.Wow a whole wealth of information came up for him including a wedding photo of my grandparents and great grandparents in an extended family grouping of around 80 guests.Of real interest to me was that a young uncle of dads was sitting on the front row holding a young fox. I have now done some research on this photo.As a result of this photo I am now in touch via email with two relatives I never knew existed.I feel a very strong connection with them.

    Enjoy your trip Janice -- I know you will on so many levels.I will so look forward to any blogging you do.

  8. Have a fantastic time - it sounds such an exciting trip.

  9. How exciting for you Janice! and what a great story - looking forward to hearing about it. So sorry you are not coming to Brisbane (but have to admit the heat is no fun!). Re the naughty Grandfather, it is interesting how in days gone by, and certainly prior to computer record-keeping, people could just start again with another marriage in another place, and generally not get caught. We actually have a similar story in HBs family, but unlike you, and for private reasons, have not contacted relatives who we know are out there. One day, maybe! Have the most wonderful trip, dear Janice, and take care. Travel safely xxx

  10. It is always so interesting reading about this side of your family, Janice. I really applaud your, and other of your family members' effort to connect the dots of your lives and limbs of the family tree.

    Safe travel as you head down under. I look so forward to hearing about your travels there, whenever you are able to write and post. How different correspondence will be now as compared to 1927 - though a bit harder to keep family secrets now. Enjoy.

  11. Safe journey, Janice and have a truly wonderful time with your extended family. I love the way you have found and made lasting contact with these new relatives and can imagine something of the super conversations you will have. Don't worry about blogging - time enough for that when you're home again and can 'recollect in tranquillity'. :-)