The value of a letter
Many years ago I was given a copy of a letter my great-great-grandmother had written to my great-grandmother in December,1886. Such a wealth of information was found in that letter.
My great-great-grandmother Mary Ann Sawtell lived in Kangaloon, New South Wales, while my great-grandmother Elizabeth Perrett lived in Laidley, Queensland.In the letter Mary Ann talks about many of the residents living in and around Kangaloon. In fact forty two people are mentioned in the letter. Could we write a letter today and include information about that many people!
When I received the letter in about 2005, I was only able to use a little of the news provided in the letter. However, recently, with the help of TROVE, Ancestry, and the NSW Births Deaths and Marriages I was able to get a much better picture of the social life of Kangaloon. I also obtained a map of the Parish from the Berrima Historical Society which showed me where many of the people lived.
On the first page of the letter Mary Ann acknowledges receipt of a letter written by her son-in-law, John, telling of the birth of his son, Ralph. Also she states she has written to her son Alf. From this first page I was able to conclude that Ralph was born in Laidley, just before Christmas, 1886, and that Alf was living in the area.
On the second page Mary Ann tells of happenings in and around Kangaloon, including the marriage of a relative, Tom Rogan, to which two sons living with her had attended the wedding. She relates how hard it has been since husband Albert went to visit John at Laidley, and for him to give the new baby a hug. The death of an old time resident, John Brooker has considerable interest. From this page I learnt of Tom Rogan’s wedding, how Albert was visiting daughter Elizabeth and the date of the neighbour John Brooker’s death, who was the father in law of Albert’s niece Eliza Diggins.
On the next page Mary Ann continues writing about marriages and births of the locals and the building of her niece’s house as well as the sale of a neighbour’s house. This page informed me of the year her niece was married and another niece’s baby was born.
The next page mentioned James Morrow, who was the local schoolteacher, whose place had been sold. She talks of the stealing of her hens and that she wishes them all a Merry Christmas.
Page four mentions how her son owes Curtis money. Curtis was the local Postmaster. She also mentions that son Fred had sold the Mill to George Cupitt and how pleased she was to have got rid of that! Following that, she speaks of son Tom leaving and that she hadn’t heard from son Albert who lives in Sydney. She is therefore quite emotional about the happenings on this page.
This page then set me on a path of discovery to find out about the Mill, also where Tom and son Albert were living.
Finally, on the last page, Mary Ann talks more about her animals as well as having lots of apples. She again wishes them a Merry Christmas. Then she mentions how last Christmas they were with her and how sad she is that she is not with them this Christmas.
You will see from this letter it was a starting point for me to research some of my relatives in that area. Knowing when the letter was written allowed me to make a timeline for the events mentioned. It also allowed me to discover more of the extended family, their whereabouts and their social lives.
Having collected all this information I compiled a booklet of the lives of my Kangaloon relatives. As I said earlier, this was a starting point, a very valuable starting point, which allowed me, with the help of present day internet sites, to find out more than otherwise possible. Quite an exciting and enlightening exercise!
What a lovely treasure Joan. And so helpful for research
Joan, thank you for sharing those little glimpses from your precious letter, and also for exploring the stories of not just your family, but also from the two wider communities, which may help other researchers.
I long for a letter like that to turn up .. wonderful. Great story, Joan.
I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
Thank you, Chris