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Ancestry...and all those family photos!

She and me took the opportunity to look in on an annual event here in the Southern Highlands (south west of Sydney Australia). Each year the sleepy highlands town of Bundanoon becomes "Brigadoon" where, at its local oval, a festival embracing everything Scottish takes place. And I mean everything - from kaber tossing and pipe bands to the traditional sword and dagger rictuals, the Highland Fling and dog trials. There are a myriad of stalls selling everthing from tartan scarves, kilts and berets to haggis on a roll!!

This was our first year there and it was an absolutely fun-filled day, with lots of things to see and do - a wonderfully nostalgic day out for anyone who has remotely Scottish roots. It was such a happy event - we took "H" with us and there were many other doggies there (on leads of course) also taking in the infectious atmosphere.

But it got me thinking about the old chest (dare I say "treasure trove") of memories I inherited from my Dad just before he passed away several years ago at the venerable age of 90. As the last of his generation, he had inherited from his father, the old family Bible that had arrived in Australia from Scotland with my great-grandfather more than 150 years ago - it is badly in need of re-binding so I have set that as a special task for "moi" to attend to in retirement. But also in the chest are so many photos dating back to the early 20th century and possibly before - many of them I am able to identify and gladly Dad, after much encouragement, had identified the subjects and locations of some by writing on their on their reverse side - but sadly, a lot of them remain unidentified and more is the pity as they will now sadly always remain a mystery. Despite these elusive snaps, the contents of the chest remain very precious to me as I was lucky enough to to know my grandfather (Dad's father) who had also lived long - 98 in fact - and as the longest surviving of his eleven (yes! 11) brothers and sisters, had given me many insights into the family's early history here in Australia.

And there are many photos also from my parents' young lives and more which include me and my siblings during our formative years.Since my own dear Mother died young at just 49 when cancer took her 45 years ago - and whilst my memories of a wonderful childhood in a very closeknit family are still vivid - the photos are particularly special as they enable me to "share" my Mum with my beautiful wife and children who clearly never knew her.

So my task is not only a large one but also an imperative! I feel an urgency to create a more ready and meaningful record by properly compiling this rich resource of raw material I have in my possession. I see it as both a privilege and an obligation and I MUST remain true to this commitment otherwise these will surely die with me - which would be a sad indictment indeed. I would rather leave a vivid and lasting legacy for my children and their children and for the many future generations of the family to follow. My plan is to catalogue the original photos into bound albums but with computer technology so sophisticated as it is today, it would be remiss if I did not also scan the great bulk and store them digitally - either on a series of DVDs or on other mass media storage devices now commonplace, so that I can distribute these widely across the "clan" for all to share. Of course I also hope my enthusiasm extends to creating a written chronology to accompany the visual display, thus providing the "roadmap" to our family's recent history.

But I hope this is also sparking a similar sense of obligation in you - gee, is that the best word? - to do similar with your treasured family photos, both old and more recent, while you are still young and motivated enough to get it done. I really think it will be a fun project and certainly a very constructive way to while away the cold winter days close to the fire. I also see a marvellous opportunity to take this further by incorporating a "family tree" aspect. This will inevitably require some research (also referred to as genealogy tracing) to discover your ancestry but with so many resources now so readily accessible - library and museum archives, public records and online sites now dedicated to this - it should be a really fun and hugely edifying thing to do. Questions like,

  • where did the family come from historically?

  • were we a privileged or poor family?

  • was there a family castle or estate?

  • what clan do you belong to?

  • was there a clan or district tartan?

  • is there a family crest?

  • are there any famous/infamous people in the family's history?

and depending on your particular heritage there could be many different questions arising.

I hope I've inspired you to do something really special and make you feel good at the same time?

Do not put it off - make it a fun project for winter - Know your roots and be proud you created this updated and meaningful record as a legacy to pass on to the kids!

Here are some websites to get you started:

...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE!

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