Family History Gems Hidden in Plain Sight
Hello again – it seems that my first effort at blogging a couple of months ago was alright, as I have gotten another invite to write the entry for the 5th Monday of the month. So here goes ….
Many murder mysteries often have vital clues “hidden in plain sight” for the protagonists, and the reader/viewer, to miss noticing right up to the critical moment. Things like a letter hidden in the pages of a book on a shelf right by where the body was found or the like.
Finding information about our family histories is sometimes similar to a murder mystery. Vital information can often be hiding in plain sight, in that the information we seek has always been where it is, but we have not looked “there”. Yet. We don’t look because we often think that there could not possibly be any worthwhile information in that place or any reason to look there.
I beg to differ on that point. I have learnt the hard way.
I am an interloper in Queensland. My parents brought me here as a child in 1963 from Melbourne, Victoria. My parents, myself and my two brothers are the only members of either my maternal and paternal lines living in Queensland. All the other rellies, apart from an uncle and cousin who came much later, were “stay at homes” in Victoria. I have known that fact for the past 53 years. It is irrefutable, so why would I bother to look for information in Queensland, eh?
A little while ago I was checking out the online indexes for inwards passengers on the Queensland State Archives website. I was looking for a record for someone else, but while I had the item on screen, I also looked for Clydesdale’s – my maternal line. I was shocked to find that there were indeed some listed. In fact, one fellow, Andrew Clydesdale and his family were related to me. So were all the other Clydesdales listed, as all Clydesdales are, to some degree – we just have to prove it. It is not a large family, though it is wide spread.
I was surprised to see them here, as I would have expected them to have gone to Victoria, where they had relatives already established. The reason may have been because he was a printer and had a job offer in Queensland. As it was he rose through the profession and ended up at one stage as either the Chief Editor or Owner, or both perhaps, of the Telegraph newspaper in Brisbane in the 1930s or so – still to be fully proved.
A second surprise regarding Andrew Clydesdale occurred just a couple of weeks ago. I was in the GSQ Resource Centre idly browsing the bookshelves while waiting for someone I wanted to talk with to finish a mobile phone conversation. I came across an old book on Glasgow history printed in 1899. As my Clydesdales came from Glasgow, being bakers there, I took it down to see if there was any mention of them in it. There wasn’t. Then I happened to notice the inscription on the front fly page. “To Andrew Clydesdale from his good friend Tom Henry, Glasgow, 1902”. Well! Knock me down with a feather! You can’t get better than that, can you? Here was an item that had been owned by my ancestral relative, sitting on the shelves for goodness knows how long, of the society that I am currently president of. And I never knew. You can’t get much more hidden in plain sight if you tried.
The third occurrence – things always come in threes, don’t they? – also concerns Queensland State Archives. I was idly searching through their online catalogue one day while waiting for some records to be retrieved, when I thought to put in my own surname, Doherty, just to see what came up. I did have the occurrence of the Clydesdales to spur me on here, though this was some time after that.
Again I was shocked to find a record that was related to me. The first name on the results list was that of my father! What on earth was he doing there with a letter in a Queensland Government departmental file. For a few years after our arrival in Brisbane my father worked in several jobs for other people. In about 1966 he decided to work for himself and took the plunge, purchasing a news- paper delivery run in the Moorooka area. Initially it was just the delivery run, and his office was the family garage, then he leased a shop on Ipswich Road, becoming a proper Newsagent. He then tried to apply for a Casket Agency to sell lottery tickets, and had some difficulties in obtaining it, as there was another shop on the other side of Ipswich Road already selling Casket tickets. That is what the letter is about, explaining the reasons why people didn’t want to cross the road to buy their tickets – too much traffic basically, even back then. The letter also contains a potted history of his business and some local history of the area. I lived through that, even working in the shop, helping my dad wrap papers for delivery, and selling newspapers after school – I was a “paperboy” – but I wasn’t paying attention – I was a teenager! This was all really good stuff, which I never expected to find where I did.
So the moral of this blog entry is, no matter how irrefutable your personal knowledge of your family’s history, whereabouts and activities might be – look in every repository you can possibly think of and have access to!
You just never know what might turn up.