I am reading David Johnson’s book Wellington Harbour (Wellington Maritime Museum, 1996) for my evening course on Wellington’s architectural history. In a post of – almost exactly – two years ago I wrote about my great-grandparents in Wellington – this was some research I also did for my evening class so it’s not surprising it is the same time of the year. Johnson includes a painting and some information on the ship they arrived in Wellington on – the St Leonards, and some background information on 1880, the year they arrived. Continue reading
Since setting up this website I have received a few queries mainly relating to family history (this is in addition to comments on specific posts). A recent one led me to do some more research on one of my great-grandmothers who came to New Zealand in 1880. The query was:
“Hello, I have just read an article on line about my great uncle Stanley Austwick who died on the Somme in 1916. It mentions that a relative was Mrs S Morrell of Miramar. Are you related to this person? I ask because my mother says Stanley was engaged to a girl in New Zealand. We would love to know who she was and what happened to her.”
This is the title of a book by Bronwyn Labrum, published in 2015 by Te Papa Press. Well illustrated, it brings to life what New Zealanders wore, the houses and furnishings they lived with (or aspired to), cars they drove, what children played with and did at school, and many other topics, arranged in ten chapters.
I recently went to a talk the author gave for the Friends of Te Papa about the book, which was followed by a ‘show-and-tell’ of objects from the period some friends had brought along. The book stems from Bronwyn’s personal interests. She grew up with Crown Lynn (a New Zealand firm) crockery – a particular cat plate featured prominently in her childhood and she also likes the ‘semi-Scandinavian’ modern furniture of the period, some made in New Zealand like the chair by Don Furniture of Lower Hutt that she showed an image of. Her previous research also touched on various aspects of these decades – the welfare state and the importance given to home ownership; the urbanisation of Maori in the post-World War Two period; and a previous book she wrote about clothing in New Zealand (Looking Flash: Clothing in Aotearoa New Zealand (2007)). Continue reading
I have just finished reading Alison Light’s 2014 book Common People: The History of an English Family (Fig Tree, Penguin Books). Someone recommended it on the family history course I did – and I would agree that it is well worth reading, whether you have ‘common’ ancestors or not! Most of her family branches had members who were poor, some who spent time in a workhouse – or its pauper equivalent, the lunatic asylum, as ‘pauper lunatics’. Some members of her ‘Light’ ancestors were wealthier – they built some of the buildings she grew up among – but they were Baptists and her grandfather had rejected them. He joined the navy and had nothing to do with his family – she knew very little about these ancestors until she did her research. This is a different kind of history from the more common ones that discuss famous (or infamous), wealthy, or powerful people. Continue reading
In Emma Rothschild’s 2011 book The Inner Life of Empires: an eighteenth-century history, she investigates the history of one (large) Scottish family – the Johnstones. She describes it as a “microhistory”, but a “large history in relation to space” (several members travelled and lived overseas, many were slave owners); “a history of individuals of diverse legal conditions and social classes… it is a history of economic life, of political ideas, of slavery, and of family relationships…. It is an exploration of new ways of connecting the microhistories of individuals and families to the larger scenes of which they were a part.” (pp. 6-7)
This is the kind of history I would like to do with my families, but on the smaller scale of blog posts! Unfortunately, I don’t have the sort of material evidence she had for the Johnstones – letters, legal cases, etc. Most of my ancestors were of the poorer classes, some signed their marriage certificates with their mark, so presumably hadn’t learned to write. But with limited evidence and on this smaller scale, I’ll attempt a microhistory of two generations of my Morrell ancestors who lived in or near the small Yorkshire village of Scotton in the nineteenth century.
As my last post featured my mother up to her marriage in 1939, I thought I would now use the interview I did with my parents to look at my father’s childhood – at least what he remembered to tell me in a relatively brief interview!
Left: My father Fred Morrell and his older brother Bob – Berhampore building fund, 1922. This was probably a fund-raising event for the school.
Right: Morrells about 1919 – my father (the youngest) with his older siblings, Bob, Ruth and Gwen. The youngest, Evelyn, isn’t yet born. Taken at their grandparents house in Rongotai, Wellington.
Dad: I grew up in Berhampore, [a suburb in the south of Wellington] we lived at 32 Stanley Street. I went to kindergarten at the bottom of Stanley St. About No. 2 Stanley St. Then I went to primary school just across the road, but I don’t remember much about it… Continue reading