09 November 2015

Location, Location in Famly History Research

Real estate agents often say similar properties are worth more or less depending on where they are located.

Do you value the geographical origins of some of your ancestors more than others?
Do the homes of any of your ancestors still exist today?

What is the current resale value of the property they lived in? 

Did they own their homes or did they rent them?

Why did your ancestors move from one place to another?

And what about workplaces?  Do any of the workplaces of your ancestors still exist?

If your ancestors had employers, did they live in accommodation provided by those employers?

Did any of your ancestors spend part of their lives in Italy, England, Australia, Belgium or Ulster, or did they live elsewhere?

Do the places where they married still exist?

Google streetview is one way to discover or rediscover a location.  Another is to search through real estate listings.  

For example, in England I know that real estate agents are still called estate agents.  But even that information is not necessary when a street name is known.  

Several property listings exist.  Typing the name of a street into Google or another search engine often reveals real estate listings first.

I have found that the house of my grandparents in England has been sold several times in recent years.  I lived there as a young child and in my late teens.  It was first sold during my lifetime soon after my grandfather died, just after I first came to Australia.  

That house had been a haven for me when I was growing up.  It always seems strange, when I go back to England, that the house of my grandparents belongs to a stranger.  It has been sold several times in recent years. 

Through real estate listings, I have been able to look again at the layout of the house.  I have been able to see how the garden looks, and even a few of the rooms.  The house has been extensively renovated.  My grandparents would not even recognise it. 

The outside is painted a different colour.  The windows have been changed.  The back garden is now only a lawn.  I remember it as being mainly of bright flowers, with a greenhouse of tomatoes.

I have looked at other family locations, too, through real estate agent listings online, including other places I lived or visited as a child.  I have even been able to look inside some of those houses on websites.

And when I look at Google streetview, I simply take a photograph of that part of screen.  It is almost the same as going there in person.

Locations are worth more to me, emotionally, when I think about them in relation to my heritage.  There is little expense involved in collecting readily available images for my own private reminiscing.  The pictures help to jog my memory.  The places I knew as a child and my recalled memories make me realise that so much has changed since then!

05 November 2015

Work, Literacy, Poverty and Conscription

Examining the lives of ancestors often involves delving into their working lives, their levels of literacy and their levels of poverty.  Several of my husband's Italian relatives came to Australia to escape both poverty and conscription between the 1880s and the 1920s.

This included Domenico, my husband's great grandfather, who arrived in Australia aged 21, in 1889.  I have since discovered this picture of him was from his wedding day.   He married at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1896.

In England, my father was fortunate to missed out on being called up for national service. If he had been born just a few days earlier, I may not have been born.

There is still conscription in many countries today. There was conscription in Australia at various times in the 20th century. My Australian-born father-in-law, then aged nineteen, was forced into the Australian Army in April 1941 as an alternative to being interned with his father, a naturalised British subject.

The Italian presence in Australia has covered the entire time of British colonialism and federation.  The earliest Italian family members in Australia had little knowledge of how to read or write.  They could not even speak English at first.

Italy relied on conscription since its modern founding in 1861.  It was finally abolished in at the beginning of this century.  The irony for my husband's paternal grandfather was that he had initially arrived in Australia in 1912, two years after his elder brother, to escape conscription and learn to run a business.  He succeeded and became engaged to an Australian-born young woman of Italian heritage in 1917.

Although there was no conscription in Australia during the First World War, my husband's grandfather was forced to return to Italy as an Italian conscript, leaving behind his business and fiancée.  In the same war, my husband's maternal grandfather was conscripted onto the frontline, where around half a million soldiers lost their lives.

My husband grew up with the possiblity that he could be conscripted himself, in Australia, but fortunately he was still too young when it was ended in December 1972.  His family had already considered sending him and his older brother into hiding.

Being able to make choices in life is eroded wherever there is military conscription without adequate humanitarian and educational alternatives, in my view.  This is especially the case when governments are inadquately supported by societies, and vice versa.