Double Figures

Happy Birthday

VIEWS OF COLAC. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/384702

Ten years ago today I tentatively pushed the publish button on the first post of My Western District Families, my new family history blog. I had no idea how many more times I would come do that or even if anyone would read my post. Ten years later I’m still here, the name changed long ago to Western District Families and I have now published 451 posts. 

Thankfully someone did read my early posts and with the support of the Australian Geneablogging community, Western District Families took off beyond my expectations. Ten years on more than 4000 visitors come to the site each month each viewing 2.5 posts on average. 

Western District Families has grown to include the Obituaries Index with the names of the 1038 people included in the seventy-nine Passing of the Pioneers posts to date.  On top of the 451 posts I mentioned earlier, I have also written  170 biographies of the men and women of Hamilton’s WW1. It’s something I’m most proud of and there are more biographies to come. There is now a section dedicated to the stories of Western District Women.  Two Facebook pages have evolved, one for Western District Families that has taken on a life of its own with a touch over 10,000 followers, and another for Hamilton’s WW1 with 540 followers.

Thank you to everyone who has read my posts over the years. I know there are some who have been dropping by here since 2011. Your ongoing support, encouraging words, and interest in the history of the Western District have got me this far and inspire me to keep going into the future.  

Now it’s time for some cake.  Happy Birthday Western District Families. 

cat

Edna Walling Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/280983

News you say?

On Sunday night, the Western District Families Facebook page was restored. Thank you for your continued support of the page. Still, nothing is ever certain and it’s worth subscribing to this site to ensure you continue to stay connected with Western District Families.

Western District Families

If you have dropped by my Western District Families Facebook page since Thursday you will have noticed it’s looking slightly different.  I’m sure you’ll be surprised as I to learn Facebook thinks my page is…wait for it…a news page.  

Photographer: John Henry Harvey c1900. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/41449

As you’ll know, most of the news I share is as old as that in the photo below.

Photographer: Lindsay Cumming c1910s. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/25931

The page may or may not be back. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the coming days…or weeks. On the bright side, this site has nothing to do with Facebook and can continue as normal. After all, this site is the WDF’s Facebook page’s reason for being.

You can stay connected with Western District Families by subscribing here. Each time I publish…

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News you say?

If you have dropped by my Western District Families Facebook page since Thursday you will have noticed it’s looking slightly different.  I’m sure you’ll be surprised as I to learn Facebook thinks my page is…wait for it…a news page.  

Photographer: John Henry Harvey c1900. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/41449

As you’ll know, most of the news I share is as old as that in the photo below.

Photographer: Lindsay Cumming c1910s. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/25931

The page may or may not be back. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the coming days…or weeks. On the bright side, this site has nothing to do with Facebook and can continue as normal. After all, this site is the WDF’s Facebook page’s reason for being.

You can stay connected with Western District Families by subscribing here. Each time I publish a new post, you will receive an email notification. I have lots planned for the next few months with March being Women’s History Month and April is Western District Families’ 10th birthday and, of course, Anzac Day.

The Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook page is still active and I’ll start some regular posts there, and don’t forget the Western District Families YouTube channel.  You’ll not only find videos I have made, but also a great playlist of videos relating to Western District history.  You can find the playlist on the link-Western District History

Besides that, I’ll continue to receive my news by traditional means…

Photographer: Joseph Dunne c1928. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumsvictoria.com.au/items/773162

…and I’ll wait.

Photographer: Victorian Railways c1947. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/446848

 

A New Year Dawning.

Happy New Year. I hope 2020 was kind to you.  The photo below was taken on a New Year’s Day at Erskine House, Lorne.  A beach holiday at Lorne was, and still is a popular summer destination for Western District people. 

NEW YEAR’S DAY AT LORNE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/4178468

2021 is a milestone year for me because it marks the 10th birthday of  Western District Families (WDF).  I forgot WDF’s 9th birthday in April 2020 so I best not forget this year.

Before moving on to 2021, a look back at 2020, a good year for WDF. It took a pandemic and lockdowns, but more people visited the site than ever before in 2020, a year when I published fewer posts than ever before. The Western District Families Facebook page also had a good year.  We saw some great photos, many with equally good stories. Best of all, from my prompts, the most wonderful stories and memories flowed from the page followers, now almost 10,000 in strength.

LITTLE AIRE FALLS, BEECH FORESTc1906. Photographer: J.M. Arndt. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/122909

WILLAURA STATE SCHOOL c1910. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/310021

Finally, Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook page passed 500 followers despite me not posting there as much in 2020.  Because it was a “stay at home” Anzac Day, I posted a virtual Last Post with images of the men from Hamilton who lost their lives during the Great War.

 

Thank you to everyone who has supported this site and the associated Facebook pages. I still have to pinch myself when I look at the number of WDF followers and the numbers reading my posts. It is much appreciated.

2020 gave me an opportunity to do something I had only dreamt of doing. That was to visit Byaduk, the home of my Harman and Bishop families, and talk to the locals about their town’s history. But as luck would have it, I was invited to speak at Byaduk on Australia Day.

BYADUK

It was an absolute highlight of my time researching and writing about family history and I was able to meet the wonderful Byaduk community, some of whose families have been in the district for more than 150 years. Long time followers will know I have written much about my Byaduk families here and I also wrote a family history Providence: the story of James and Susan Harman and their descendants for a Diploma of Family Historical Studies in 2016.  James and Susan were among the first settlers at Byaduk in the year the post office opened in 1863.

Another family history related highlight of 2020 was the opportunity to speak to the Hamilton U3A via Zoom. Putting my big collection of photos to good use, we took a virtual tour of the old Hamilton Cemetery looking at the symbolism of some of the headstones and monuments and the stories behind the graves. It was fun and good to share my passion for the cemetery with others.

HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

As mentioned, I didn’t get many posts published this year but the ones I did, I enjoyed researching. The most significant and moving post of 2020 was from October, The Great Flood of 1870 with a focus on the loss of life at Coleraine. It was a post prompted by a headstone I saw at the Coleraine Cemetery in between lockdowns this year.

COLERAINE CEMETERY

I was surprised to find it was not the most viewed new post for the year. Instead, that honour went to the September Passing of the Pioneers post.  Looking back on it now, it was the most detailed of the 2020 Passing of the Pioneer posts and included ten most interesting subjects such as Duncan Stewart of Camperdown, Elizabeth Brown of Hamilton, and Barnabas Hamilton of Kirkstall.

The most viewed post of 2020 was again The Big Flood published in 2016 about the disastrous 1946 Western District floods.  The high numbers are aided by the hits which come each time there are storms and/or heavy rain in the Western District and people get on the search engines for information. With storms forecast over the coming days, I expect the post to kick off its 2021 views.  However, disaster posts are popular. When the Earth Moved at Warrnambool published in 2018 moving in on The Big Flood as the most popular post

A nice surprise came with the most viewed Hamilton’s WW1 post. It was the story of former Hamilton State Scholl teacher Stephen James Filmer, written a few years ago now. I knew of Stephen before I wrote his story. He was the youngest child of the Filmer family of Byaduk and his sister Hazel, the eldest child, married my 1st cousin 4 x removed Absolam Harman of Byaduk.  Stephen was killed at Bullecourt in May 2017.  I’m so pleased people are reading Stephen’s story.

WALTER STEPHEN FILMER. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/H06583/

I can’t promise how many posts I’ll get out to you this year, but there will be some. I can promise the photos will keep coming on the WDF Facebook page and I won’t forget to celebrate Western District Families’ 10th birthday.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2021.

Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/369609

WDF News

Some news since my last update.

I was thrilled to be asked along as the guest speaker for the Byaduk/Byaduk North Progress Association Australia Day ceremony. Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time will know of my family connections to Byaduk going back to the early 1860s.  Given the turnout, my ggg grandfather James Harman and his fellow early settlers would have been proud to see the community is still strong in Byaduk. Thank you to the people of Byaduk for having us and for the delicious breakfast. You were all so welcoming and we had a lovely morning.

There have now been four Broken Memories posts. So far you have seen the broken headstones of Samuel and  Frances Hing, Joseph Lissiman, and Thomas Gorman and his three children.  While it wasn’t planned, Parts 2 and 3 have the Hamilton district Diptheria epidemic of 1879/80 interwoven through the stories.  Likewise, Archdeacon Gustaves Innes, of Hamilton’s Anglican Church during that period also makes an appearance in both posts.  There will be more about Gustaves in future posts and the cat I promised in my last update.  The links to the Broken Memories posts so far are –

Broken Memories – An Introduction

Broken Memories – Hamilton (Old Cemetery) Part 1 – Samuel and Frances Hing – The sudden death of Sam Hing’s wife Frances Hing in 1881, was the first in a string of tragedies for Sam and his family.

Broken Memories – Hamilton (Old Cemetery) Part 2 – Joseph Lissiman – A story of a young man who followed his dream only to have his life cut short. And find out how the death of Dunkeld Lay Preacher Joseph Lissiman sparked some ghostly claims in the newspapers.

Broken Memories – Hamilton (Old Cemetery) Part 3 –  Thomas Gorman and his three children, Ethel, Jane and Thomas Jr.  Hamilton stationmaster and former player of the Carlton and Melbourne Football Clubs, Thomas Gorman and three of his children fell to a deadly Diphtheria epidemic in Hamilton and district in 1880.  Read how the Melbourne football community got behind Thomas’ widow and remaining three children and how life turned out for them after their tragic loss.

There will probably be at least three more Broken Memories from the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery. I will then move on to some other cemeteries. I’ve added some new cemeteries to my photo collection over the last month, Byaduk North, Byaduk Lutheran, Branxholme, and South Hamilton Lutheran Cemetery. I’ve also taken my tally of Hamilton (Old) Cemetery photos up to 1500 but I am a long, long way off having a photo of every headstone given my preference for random wanderings rather than an organised approach.

March and April are always busy months  I write most of my Hamilton’s WW1 biographies then and a few years ago I decided to throw Wonderful Western District Women into the mix to coincide with Women’s History Month in March.  There should be at least one WWD Women post during March.  And there is always a birthday post for Western District Families in April.  This year will be birthday post number 9!

For those of you who enjoy Passing of the Pioneers, it’s on hold for the moment.  I would get a lot more PP posts done if new ideas didn’t distract me.  The latest idea is Take a Photo, a new series looking at stories behind photos.

If you follow the Western District Families Facebook page, you’ll know I share a lot of out of copyright photos from the State Library of Victoria and Museums Victoria.  Often it’s possible to find some sort of a story about the subject or event using clues from the catalogue listing.  With the help of Trove digitised newspapers, I’ve found some great stories to include with the photos on the Facebook page and I thought I should share some of those here.  I have one Take A Photo post finished, three close to finished and another four in the early stages,  I’ll post them over the coming months in between everything else.  The first Take A Photo post will be out later today and is the story of a man and his horse.

A WDF Update

It’s been a busy time of late and more time has passed since my last post then I would have liked.

I have two drafts about the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery almost ready to go. They are about the people who lie beneath the broken headstones and monuments in the cemetery.

HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

One of the posts has a sub-theme and the more I research it, the bigger the story becomes.  Time is freeing up a bit now so I’ll try to get at least one of those out soon. There is also a second Yambuk Cemetery post almost ready to go too.

After going great guns and catching up on the Passing of the Pioneers posts back in June, I’m now four months behind. I’ve decided to miss those months this year rather than try and catch up and instead look towards getting a November Passing of the Pioneers post ready.

If you follow the Western District Families Facebook page, you will know I share a lot of photos. I find many of the photos have a story to tell, so I’ve selected some of the best and I’ll post them here with some extra information. The series will take the title “Take A Photo” and I hope to post fortnightly. There are six posts in draft form at the moment.

There are now five published Wonderful Western District Women posts celebrating seventeen women from the past. Soon they will have their own dedicated tab at the top of WDF. It’s also in draft form (you would not believe how many draft posts I have). A few photos and it’s ready to go.

JANET BLACK (nee NICOL) ONE OF THE WONDERFUL WESTERN DISTRICT WOMEN Border Watch, 5 May 1936, p. 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77987617

Sometimes things happen on the Hamilton’s WW1 side of Western District Families without you knowing. Subscribers don’t get alerted to new pages and all the Hamilton WW1 posts are in that format. My most recent addition was the Christ Church Anglican Church WW1 Honour Board with all the names along with links to those men and women who I’ve have already written profiles for.

SOME OF THE MEN OF HAMILTON’S CHRIST CHURCH ANGLICAN CHURCH WW1 HONOUR BOARD

Meanwhile, more drafts with at least twelve profiles of servicemen and women halfway or closer to completion.

In the case of most of my drafts, the fun bits (research/writing) have been done. What lies ahead for me now is the tedious stage of getting the posts out to you, lots of editing and finishing off. However, as always, I’ll find it’s worth it all at the end.

In other news. Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Hamilton History Centre’s monthly meeting. Of course, I spoke about Western District Families but with a Hamilton district slant, sharing some of my favourite local stories from WDF and Hamilton’s WW1.

HAMILTON HISTORY CENTRE

The Hamilton History Centre is located in the former Hamilton Mechanics’ Institute and many of the Hamilton folk I’ve written about for WDF have passed through the doors. Some have even given talks there themselves. I did try and channel William Melville one of Hamilton’s leading citizens from the past who gave a lecture there in 1886 on the topic “Wit and Humour in the 19th century”.  While my oratory skill will never match William’s, I think the stories I told were well received.

HAMILTON HISTORY CENTRE

While on the topic of the Hamilton History Centre I must mention their new website which is fantastic. It gives you a great idea of what is in the collection, as well as a bookshop, and three great videos to watch including one on notable homes and homesteads of the wider district.

You’ll find the website on the following link www.hamiltonhistorycentre.org.au 

Now back to those drafts…

 

Trove Tuesday – An Eagle Tale

This post has been sitting in my drafts for six years so today it’s time to set it free, something I wish happened to the subject of the post.  This is my second Trove Tuesday post about a captive eagle and it’s sad they could no longer soar free over the Western District.  The first post was called The Hungry Eagle and this one could easily have had the same title.

DESERVING OF RECOMPENSE. (1879, April 25). Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved August 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115122329

DESERVING OF RECOMPENSE. (1879, April 25). Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic. : Moama, NSW : 1869 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved August 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article115122329

If only the fledgeling hadn’t popped his head over the side of the nest. Instead of a trip to New South Wales, he could have lived out his life soaring over the rolling hills and valleys around Byaduk.

HARMAN VALLEY, BYADUK

You can read more than 100 previous Trove Tuesday posts on the link – westerndistrictfamilies.com/category/trove-tuesday/

VAFHO Family History Expo Guest Speakers

The VAFHO has announced the guest speakers for the Hamilton Family History Expo on 1 June.  The first talk is at 10.15am with AFL statistician and Geelong Football Club historian Col Hutchinson speaking on researching the footballers in your family. He will also look at some of those from the Hamilton district who have gone on to play VFL/AFL football. You can read more about Col on the link – Col Hutchinson.

THE CASTERTON FOOTBALL CLUB, PREMIERS IN 1927. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/766108

Next, Ancestry’s Jason Reeve will speak about using Ancestry.com for family history with an introduction to Ancestry DNA. You can read more about Jason on the following link – Jason Reeve.

THE ELIJAH FAMILY OF HAMILTON c1919. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/766117

Then after a break for lunch and time to check out the exhibits, Rob Hamilton will talk about Genealogy and Freemasons.  You can read more about Rob on the link – Rob Hamilton.

HAMILTON MASONIC CENTRE, LONSDALE STREET

The day will conclude with the Hamilton History Centre taking us for a “visual stroll” through Hamilton’s history.

GRAY STREET, HAMILTON c1920. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/399049

You can find out more including the times of each talk on the link to the VAHFO website – Hamilton Family History Expo.

I’m counting the days now.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

Belated Birthday

Over the weekend I was suddenly struck by a thought…I had forgotten Western District Families’ 8th Birthday!  It was 12 April but I was so busy writing biographies for Hamilton’s WW1, it completely slipped my mind.  So this is a quick post to thank you for following Western District Families both here and at the WDF Facebook page.  The number of visitors to each continues to grow as each year passes giving me the incentive to reach a double-figures birthday.

A tea party would be a proper way to celebrate WDF’s 8th birthday so this is one of my favourite photos from the past year.  It was the Facebook page cover photo during Women’s History Month in March and is held by the Museums Victoria Collection.  There are no names or a place but that doesn’t matter, it’s a great photo.

Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/769771

VAFHO Family History Expo Exhibitors

VIEW TO CHURCH HILL, HAMILTON

The Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO) has released a list of thirty exhibitors for the Hamilton Family History Expo on Saturday 1 June.  The expo is not just for those interested in Hamilton family history and the list of exhibitors is indicative of that.  For example, the Terang & District Family History GroupWest Gippsland Genealogical Society and Bendigo Family History Group will be there among others  There will also be Ancestry Australia, Port Phillip Pioneers and Gould Genealogy and more. You can see a full list at the VAFHO website on the link – Hamilton Family History Expo Exhibitors.

I’m really looking forward to the Expo because it’s in my beautiful historic hometown of Hamilton and the venue is the Chevalier Centre at Monivae College, my old school.  It’s always good to see events on in Hamilton which will bring people to the town to experience what we Hamiltonians past and present love.

HAMILTON BOTANIC GARDENS

 

“NUCLEUS”, A KINETIC SCULPTURE AT THE INTERSECTION OF GRAY & BROWN STREETS.

 

THE HAMILTON HISTORY CENTRE IN THE FORMER MECHANICS INSTITUTE

Hopefully we will finally get some rain in the next month giving visitors to the expo the chance to experience some waterfall action too.