Getting to the Old Country

Sarah William's Book 1807

Sarah William’s Book 1807

I started my family history with the goal of “getting everyone out of Australia”. It’s been remarkably easy with the help of an Ancestry subscription for the records and a good working knowledge of family stories. For many years I’ve been a repository for papers and photos and lists and memories, but committing to a subscription was the start of getting all this stuff organised and put into some sort of context. As I don’t have too many “old people” left to ask about things it had to be now or not at all. Ever.

So getting back to England or Scotland or wherever seemed like a good first goal. Along the way I met some intriguing characters. I am impressed by the number of these ancestors whose genes seem to have past on their occupational skills to me!

There’s the linen weaver from Ireland and the flax dresser from Yorkshire. I have a deep love for wearing linen and also for spinning it. There’s also the shipbuilder who settled in Tasmania with his convict wife – is he the reason I seemed to understand sailing (at least crewing) the first time I was taken out on a skiff? Was she the reason I have a love of silk as well? Poor Rebecca certainly ended up Down Under because of her attraction to silk shawls!

My coal miners from Scotland perhaps gave me my preference for the dwarves in Lord of the Rings when most people loved the elves. And is the Belfast shoemaker behind my insistence on simple well made shoes?

But wait.

All those dressmakers – what happened to their skills? I certainly didn’t get those genes although sometimes I wish I had.

And so it goes on. My Names List page is where you can meet those folk who took the arduous voyage to get to Australia, a voyage that has been likened to us taking a trip to Mars, an incredible distance with little hope of returning.

And these folk left behind brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, parents – some of whom travelled the other way to Canada and USA. And here it gets really interesting because it is with those North American descendants that I’m finding a lot of DNA relatives.

The other thing that’s fascinating is how many of these ancestors married more than once which has a huge impact on working out DNA connections – it’s no longer just my direct line and their siblings who must be found but their half-siblings as well. There really is no end to the research that can be done.

Which suits me just fine – I love it. But I’m wondering, have you set out to create your own family tree? And if you have how do you choose who goes into it?

Bye for now

A Renovation!

Remember seeing those little yellow gifs of a road worker and the bold heavy words “Under Construction”? Well, instead of starting again and constructing a blog from the beginning I’m having a little renovation.

For the last while I have been deeply immersed in our family history and I’m hoping to share some of the stories I am uncovering – both fiction and non fiction. Even my spinning and walking and photography have changed and adapted to reflect this blossoming passion. It’s wonderful to continue to learn even as I get older.

I’ll be changing my “About Page” soon but I’m still pondering how to organise the material. I’ve seen so many different ways other people have developed their Family History blogs I’m not sure which way to go at the moment. For me the simpler the better.

Lastly, the current header image is of a section of Dere St, a Roman Road in Southern Scotland. It was great to discover that my Roxburgh family had lived very near by. Whether they knew much of the Romans is another matter. For them it may have been simply a way to get from one place to another.  You can see the road following the dry stone fence into the distance beside the pine forest. It was a beautiful walk the day we did it – warm and sunny and without wind. Even the boggy bits down in the hollows were kind of fun.

But now I must make some decisions and follow my own new road.

Spinning the Giro and long lost projects

Very soon, this Saturday in fact, the Giro d’Italia begins. This is the big three week cycling race held in Italy.  It’s all very exciting as there’s quite a few Australians taking part. But what this means for me is it’s an excuse to stay up late at night watching TV and spinning for hours on end.


Well, in 2006 a group of friends, organised by Star Athena gathered to watch The Tour de France and spin on their spinning wheels. They called it the Tour de Fleece. This little event grew and grew until it became a feature on Ravelry, the huge social media website devoted to all things fibre – knitting, spinning, weaving, crochet . . . And thousands of people participate in teams every year.

The concept is pretty much as it was from the beginning:

Challenge Yourself. Spin. Have fun.

I’ve been participating, quietly at first, since 2008 (I think). Too long ago and I didn’t keep a record. But I’ve always set a spinning challenge and I’ve always had loads of fun.

Last year when SBS, the Australian free-to-air TV started to broadcast the entire Giro live I decided to up the ante and spin through that as well. It was great. I was experimenting with a new-to-me technique to reproduce a “lopi” style yarn – a very softly spun single strand. My version involved spinning the single, skeining it off, felting it lightly and then removing the twist so that all that holds the yarn together is the felting. This makes it incredibly warm and light.

I knitted a cardigan and then got distracted by both the Tour de France and other life happenings and I haven’t quite finished it off. Here it is as I photographed it last year. I have made a bit more progress than this shows.

Lopi-style handspun cardigan

I have you all to thank for this, so thank you. You’re my little community of well wishers. All I need to do now is crotchet up the edge of the button bands and put on the buttons and I’ll be done. Nothing to it really.

So I’m wondering – do you have projects that you get really excited about and then can’t quite finish? Do you need a little community support to make that final push up the hill? If you do then I’m cheering you on – “Allez, Allez, Allez” as the spectators lining the route of the tour yell to every rider who goes past.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Postcard from Dover, TAS

Foreshore at Dover


We’ve been to the beach! Again 🙂

I no longer live close enough for a daily walk but when we go camping through summer it’s nearly always by the water – preferably a beach.They’re calming and flat which makes a nice change from uphill on the side of Mt Wellington. This beach at Dover (Tasmania) had people out throwing sticks for their dogs and young families building castles with the kids. Others come for a swim and even to paddle kayaks or sit-on-tops. And thankfully there were no noisy machines whizzing around disturbing us.

Anyway, must go, my postcard is running out of space. I’d love to hear about the quite places where you like to go.

Passing Through

I’m being brave today 🙂

My last post was about a walk on our mountain. Today I’m sharing with you a story I wrote about a different kind of mountain walk. Don’t panic – it’s flash fiction so only 500 words, and it’s fantasy so if you’d prefer to move on now that’s fine.


Langford paused before reaching the top of the pass. Way down below his mates hunkered down in the forests afraid of the laughter they’d heard on the wind. He was not afraid and the tower would be his. Shaking out his cramping legs Langford struggled up the final slope careful not to set the scree sliding beneath him.

Up above him the skyline was clear, no more mountains beyond to disappoint. “Look at the sky. Don’t blink. Don’t look away.” He muttered to himself a hope, an incantation against what was about to happen. Every pass they had crossed should have been the last. The old scrolls said he should see the desolation stretching away into the distance guarded by the old witch’s tower. But no. Every time they had crested the watershed another range appeared. Every time they blinked.

This time he would not blink. This time it would be different.

Langford climbed into the gale blowing up from the other side. His eyes teared up and he blinked. And there was the mountain. And that voice in his head again laughing, “You’ll have to do better than that!”

“All right, I will!” he shouted into the wind. “I know your out there, Witch. I know who you are”.

Picking up a rock the size of his fist Langford angrily threw it out into the void and waited starting to count the seconds to try and work out how deep the valley was and how far he had to walk before the next mountain pass. But the rock didn’t fall it vanished.

Langford threw a second rock and a third and these also disappeared at the apex, never starting to fall. The rocks were folded into a nothingness as though slipping quietly through the surface of a lake.

Langford crouched in the lee of the ridge and wondered. He didn’t know if he envied his companions their modicum of safety or not. They’d been expecting to be attacked by creatures of the mountains and although they had heard the wild dogs in the distance none had ever approached – their howling had always seemed to come from behind. This voice in their heads was different, unreal, and it scared them all.

Langford stood again and looked out into the valley. Far below the endless sea of trees and gullies with their rushing streams, high above him the jagged outlines of the mountains against the clear blue sky. Frowning Langford thought the shape of those mountains looked familiar.

Casting around he found a rock that would roll, and sure enough it gathered speed and rolled on past the point where the barrier was. The barrier quivered briefly as the stone brushed its edges. It was not anchored to the ground.

Langford climbed to the ridge line and threw another rock, never taking his eyes from the point it disappeared. “I can do this,” he said and he gathered all his strength and leapt out into the void and broke her spell.