Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pecan Summer

Pecan Summer is Australia's first Aboriginal Opera. It tells the story of the 1939 Cummeragunja walk-off and of a pivotal point in black history, when my grandfather Jack PATTEN was arrested for inciting people to leave the Aboriginal Mission Station at Cummeragunja.

Click here for Part 1 in a two part documentary focusing on the development of the opera, and the search for potential Aboriginal opera stars to fill the roles. The documentary was made as part of the Message Stick program on ABC Television.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What to think?

Finding skeletons in the closet of one’s ancestors is one thing, but encountering the nasty skeletons of the general public, thrust upon said ancestors is another matter entirely, and one that has proven to be quite the source of personal anger.

In researching my great great grandmother, an Aboriginal woman by the name of Maggie SIMMS, I have found that she was viewed by the early settler/invaders of her country as a curiosity and a mark for mockery. She appears on an early postcard, as listed by Jim Davidson in a 1996 Sydney Morning Herald column, discussing the history of postcards in Australian history:

“This carried across to vignette cards with several images, even for such a small place as Corryong. One card, with seven cameos, leads off with the state school and the Church of England; in between is an image of "Black Mag", an Aboriginal identity, climbing a tree. Intentionally or otherwise, she is inserted between school and church as a marker of progress, an indication of how far white civilisation has advanced. Other pictures show the main street, a railway bridge (more progress) and two waterfalls, for Corryong is displaying its attractions as well as its attainments. The pioneering past was so recent that the two could be merged effortlessly into each other.”

How would you feel, to know that there exists a postcard, advertising a small town in the back of nowhere, which features your ancestor, one of the reasons for your existence, as nothing more than a joke, and as an example of a supposedly dying race?

Monday, November 9, 2009

National Newspaper archive updated

From an email I received this morning:

1. Sydney Morning Herald
The first digitised issues of the Sydney Morning Herald are now available.  We have started from the first issue 1831 and are making our way forwards to 1954.
The first 20 years (18,000 pages) are now available as follows:
Sydney Herald 1831-1842
Sydney Morning Herald 1842-1852
Issues from 1852 - 1954 will be made available each week from now on through til early 2010. In early 2010 The Sunday Herald 1949-1953 will also become available.
We would like to acknowledge the financial contribution of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation who have given $1 million dollars towards the digitisation of this title.
2. The Argus (Melbourne)
The Argus  (and its previous title the Melbourne Argus) from 1846 - 1945 are now completed and available. The remaining 10 years (1945-1954) of the Argus will be made available in 2010 (mid to end of year).

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Heat is On!

It's warming up rapidly here in typically chilly Melbourne. A long hot summer is ahead of us. I hope however, that it won't include the 47C temperatures that dropped in last summer, when so many people lost their homes and their lives in bush fires, about an hour North of where I live.

Yep, Summer is a great time to grab a few books of genealogical significance, and enjoy them under a tree in the park, or perhaps with the family by the water. Better yet, a family excursion to a place of historical significance! Yep, I'm a genealogy geek. And lovin' it!

Last weekend was a triumph for my research. I ventured north to the Blue Mountains, to visit my folks and my younger brother, along with his 18 month old twins. Not only did I enjoy a chance to catch up for the first time with said family, since late February, but I picked up all of my genealogy documents, that had been kept in storage there, since before moving to Victoria. Now I can get back into some hardcore research, at least if or when my study and work commitments slow down!

Whilst in the Mountains, I managed to get my Dad to sit down for a few hours in front of the camera, and we filmed him going over a great number of stories, relating to his own history and that of my grandparents and tribe. It was a highly enjoyable time, and I managed to pull from him a few stories that I had never heard before, which was a great surprise, given that Dad saves his best stories for me, so I usually hear the same ones quite often, whilst strangers hear those that are new to me.

I intend to continue filming my Dad, and other family members, and preserving the footage for the entire family, for generations to come. Currently I'm shooting with a Sony Minidisc Handycam, and am experimenting with a Flip Camera for portability.

I wonder, should I consider posting such footage online, or should it be a more privately held and controlled effort. What would you do?