I have written before about how my hobbies and activities can keep me away from constant grazing and have the added benefit of helping my mental and emotional fitness. For mental agility my genealogy research beats anything else I do, including puzzles and reading. And the family history demands have risen a notch as I have become involved in organising a family reunion to be held in May.
First, the family in question. The get-together will be descendants in this part of the world of Edward Bloy Shalders (1794-1887) and Mary Womack (1797-1867) who lived in Norwich, Norfolk. Of their ten children who survived childhood, three and possibly four, left for Victoria, Australia in the mid Nineteenth Century, one, my 2X great grandmother, left with her husband and children later in the century for northern England, first Manchester and then Newcastle on Tyne where this family settled.
In the intervening years the English family lost all knowledge of the branches in Australia; three years ago I was an only child, brought to NZ in my teens, parents deceased and, as
far as I was aware, with no blood relatives in this part of the world. How wrong can you be?
Three years ago a man living in Brisbane contacted me via Ancestry because my great grandmother's name was exactly the same as that of a younger woman in his family. One
thing led to another. We met him briefly in Brisbane, the next year he drove all the way to Ararat in Victoria (He is an amputee with major health problems so this was a huge thing he did for us.), then introduced us family members with an interest in genealogy. They in turn drove us around significant sites and took us to visit older family members. The latter were spookily similar to those older relatives I remember from my English childhood. And we all got on so well! We met again when we visited Peter's nephew and his young family near Geelong. A promised meeting of half a dozen interested people for lunch in my cousin's house turned out to be an impromptu gathering of over 30 at the local hall. Despite the lack of planning a good time was had by all! And we bonded more than ever in
Then, about six weeks ago, another family member from a line none of us knew of contacted me - again, thanks to Ancestry! He expressed a desire to meet us, then the others and before we knew it a PLAN was born for a meet-and-greet for all interested. Four of us have contacted people through phone calls, emails, snail mail, word of mouth and notices on boards and in papers. How many will turn up?
It's a mystery! But the hall will cope, and the dinner at night can be booked near the time.
How will we know where we all fit in without a mental family tree of the whole kit and caboodle and a permanent voice recording of, "And who was your ancestor?" - Answer: a)
coloured ribbons for each family branch. I've managed to get 3 coloured boas for the 3 of us, each from different branches, doing the main organisation. Will the Australian border security let me through with them? Feathers!!
Will just have to see. b)Wall charts of the descendants of each Bloy Shalders line c) A brief introduction of the Family Tree (I seem to have been elected to do this) followed by some words from representatives of each line. I have to do double duty here as I am the solitary representative Down Under of one branch. Reminds me of a ditty from childhood: "I'm a lonely little petunia in an onion patch," which you can hear here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=
But I don't think there'll be much boo-hooing now, I think I'll be laughing all day in reality!
What about the rest of the day? Displays of documents, photographs, stories, which I have yet to write. Exchange of addresses and information, orders for copies of anything. LUNCH: we've asked for a small plate as we don't want anyone trapped in the kitchen all day .Photographs of the whole group, of different family lines, of the meeting. I would dearly like to recreate a photograph of the Shalders sisters in Norwich, with 4 women from different lines. I think it would be fun, but we might have trouble maintaining the
required seriousness of expression!
And a couple of us think we will launch a quarterly newsletter so that there is a printed copy of facts that can be documented, material that is supposition and what is known to be incorrect. On-line material can be very helpful but also very misleading. One error copied, one caveat about authenticity ignored and before you know it misinformation is rife. Distribution can be electronic or postal, and it will be a way to involve those unable to physically attend the reunion as well as a record for those who are present. And it should help in future to unite the family from all parts of the world. If any readers have BLOY/SHALDERS/WOMACK (or,in Melbourne, ADCOCK) as part of their family tree do get in touch!! All this is a result of synchronicity: Steven has the technical knowledge and experience in publishing and a visual imagination; I am a trained historian and work more in words.
I think we will make a great editorial team and I'm sure there will be many interested in contributing and supporting the venture.
DINNER in the evening for those who can attend at the local RSL - more photographs, more talk!
After these events on the Saturday we expect fewer people on Sunday. But for those who do stay there will be the opportunity to visit some relevant sites - unfortunately, these tend to be mainly cemeteries! - in the area, or to gather in small groups informally.
About five weeks to go and lots of computer time, phone calls, emails and thinking to put in. So here's to a few weeks of no grazing time, I'm sure I won't regret it and hope there's nothing like this unfortunate organiser's experience: