Sunday 19 November 2023

Family Food Memories

There are some foods from my childhood that I suspect came down through Dad's side of the family, and were from more of a German influence from Clara, (his adoptive mother, but actual grandmother). 

One that we had quite regularly, and is Potato Cakes. These are made from grated potato, mixed with some flour and eggs, and then fried in oil. I have my own version which adds sesame seeds to one side and some grated cheese to the final side. These are very tasty with chutney. These are traditionally called Latkes (or Kartoffelnpuffer), (and seem to be of Jewish origin), but we never called them that.
(Photo by Jonathunder - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Zwieback-1.jpgOn Sundays when we had Roast, we would always make 'baked bread'. You take slices of bread (they can be stale) then put them on a flat tray and dry them out in the oven. I have since found out that this is called Zweiback (German, meaning twice baked).

(Photo by No machine-readable author provided. Rainer Zenz assumed (based on copyright claims). - No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Mum would often make Corned Beef with cabbage and White Onion Sauce. I liked the meat but was never a fan of the 'boiled to death' cabbage and Onion Sauce. In the following days, Dad would slice the left-over corned meat and dip it in batter and fry it. Dad called this "Burdekin Fish" which I think was a salute to the huge beef industry around the Burdekin River. For dessert Mum would also make banana and pineapple fritters, which were battered, fried and then sprinkled with sugar.

A special treat for breakfast was always one that Dad prepared. He would get a tank loaf of bread, cut the crusts off, cut it into cubes, then drench with hot milk which had sugar dissolved in it. The taste of this was so heavenly to me, and years later I tried to reproduce it, but my versions were always a sad disappointment as they never tasted like those that Dad made.

Some of my childhood foods came from Mum's Scottish side of the family. One of these, which she called Posset (although the definition of Posset seems different), seems quite peculiar if you think about it. Mum would place an Arnott's Arrowroot biscuit in a bowl, cover it with warm sweet milk, put a saucer over the top and leave it for a while until the biscuit was swollen with the milk. If the milk didn't have sugar on it, then sugar was sprinkled over before eating.

Grandma Anderson was a big proponent of Porridge made from oats, and I think she made it every morning. She had a traditional porridge stick (spurtle) for stirring it. The porridge was sprinkled with brown sugar and milk added before eating.

I complained of a sore throat once when staying at Grandma and Grandpa's and Grandpa made me a 'special' mixture to ease the pain. He took some butter and mixed in some sugar to make a little ball which I then sort of dissolved in my mouth. I can't remember if it actually worked, but it sure tasted great.

Mum was not a particularly good cook, but she did her best. When she first married Dad and they went on their honeymoon at a flat at Kingscliffe, Mum had forgotten to take her recipe book, so Dad cooked a stew.
The happy couple on their honeymoon

At one stage Mum got a new Sunbeam Frypan and it came with a little recipe book which had a recipe for Cabbage Cantonese. This was basically fried onion, add some mince, then shredded cabbage and sprinkle on some soy sauce, then eat with boiled white rice. This was a fairly cheap meal and became a family favourite.

Other regular meals were a dry mince curry, Sausages and veges, desserts were Ice-cream from Evaporated milk & Jelly, or sometimes a boiled pudding. We also had French Toast, crumbed brains, lambs fry & bacon, pea and ham soup made in the pressure cooker, (which Mum was given as a wedding present). 

Mum loved lambs kidneys, but Dad absolutely detested them, so they were only served rarely. One thing that they liked that I detested was tripe. The last time I can remember Mum cooking it was in Melbourne, and I got vomited from the smell. In Melbourne we often had rabbit from the rabbit man. Sunday roast was usually a chicken, but sometimes beef. Mum baked lots of things, but she couldn't get sponge cakes to work. Mum and Dad also really liked tinned soup, and we often had asparagus, tomato, or mushroom Campbell's Soup for lunch.

When we lived in Biggenden, (in 1966), Dad was the Methodist Minister, so we were fairly poor. One of his parishioners must have shot some ducks and gave some to us for a meal. I don't think Mum had cooked it before, but she baked it. We were shocked to find it full of lead pellets! I don't think any of us enjoyed it much, and we certainly never had it again!

The only take-away we ever had was fish and chips, which came wrapped in printed newspaper, and liberally dosed with salt. Dad's favourite to have with them was Potato Scallops, but he would always share one with us kids. Mum loved fresh crab, and Dad would always try to get her some when we had an opportunity for fresh seafood.

Some of Mum's cooking items, which bring back memories are:

The bowl that the Aeroplane Jelly was always made in.

There were a set of 6 different coloured bowls for 'special' desserts

The flour sifter for baking days

There was a matching aluminium sugar bowl to go with this milk jug

The Pyrex casserole dish

Dad hand-turned these wooden egg cups

These plastic canisters were the height of fashion in the late 60's early 70's

These cups (this one and below) actually came from Grandma Anderson. This one was my favourite as whenever we visited my Grandparents, Grandpa would make me a cup of very milky tea with an Arrowroot biscuit (for dunking) before breakfast every day, and mine was in this cup.

Saturday 21 October 2023

10 Year Anniversary

Wow! it's 10 years since I started this blog.

I know I've not been very prolific, with only 19 posts, but I've got over 100 in a 'working' state, and I plan to get some of them posted soon.

My goal is to share my research with family, and initially I really wanted to share an interview with my grandmother. Here is a link to the first post.

Here's to the next 10 years, and hopefully a lot more posts than 20, (this one is number 20).

Thanks 'Heartless Gamer' for your logo

Monday 29 March 2021

A lovely memory

It is my natal anniversary (thanks #LegalGenealogist for the terminology), so I guess I'm feeling a bit nostalgic.

I love this cup and saucer. 

From as early as I can remember, (until I was 13 when Grandpa died), when we visited my maternal grandparents there was a morning ritual; Grandpa would make tea for everyone in the morning before breakfast. My tea, as I was a child, was strong and milky with an arrowroot biscuit, and served in this cup. I felt so grown up being allowed to use such a precious item. I can still smell the Bushells tea, and taste the taste. Generally, Grandma would still be in bed, (her 'bedroom' was on the front veranda), and I would sit in the chair at the small round table, (both made by my Grandfather), and sip my tea, dunking my biscuit and desperately trying to time it perfectly to get soft, but quickly enough that it didn't fall apart into the tea.

Front garden beds with painted rocks that Grandpa made
Front garden beds with painted rocks that Grandpa made
This was a holiday event so would only happen occasionally really, as we lived in Mt Isa, and would usually travel down only on Christmas School holidays to Fingal Heads where my grandparents lived. I don't think we ever stayed the full 7 weeks of the Queensland school holidays. Their home at Fingal was at the very end of Lagoon Road, and was like a paradise to me. The yard had gardens filled with flowers, (as grandpa loved to grow them; his favourite was Pansies, hence became my favourite too), and at the front was a tiny patch of remnant native vegetation which homed frilled-neck lizards. There was a small 'lookout' to the lagoon, with a 
Seat and 'native patch' the lookout is behind Mum's head
Seat and 'native patch' the lookout is behind Mum's head
bench seat beside. I was both totally fascinated and a tiny bit scared of the lagoon. I don't remember who said it, but there was definitely an inference that 'someone' had seen 'something' in the lagoon, like a Loch Ness monster, so I would go to the lookout and watch the surface of the water carefully, scanning for a sign of the 'monster'. Of course, now I realise that it was told to us to stop us trying to go near the lagoon for a swim when no-one was around.

The house itself was a simple little beach shack. Looking through the old photos I have re-remembered that it was called "Topend".

Rough Floor Plan of the Fingal House (not to scale)
Rough Floor Plan of the Fingal House (not to scale)

You walked up the front steps to the small enclosed verandah, and on the left would be

Grandma with me at the front steps in 1960
Grandma with me at the front steps in 1960
grandma's bedroom. The width of the verandah only just fitted the length of the bed at that end. This side of the bed was a cupbard against one wall, and under the windows at the front was a chair and the small round table. A curtain allowed this area to be made 'private' if required. Then at the front was the chaise lounge and Grandma's Singer sewing machine on the opposite side. To the right of the door (under a weird internal window from the bedroom) leading to the dining room was the crystal cabinet which held all sorts of treasures, such as Grandpa's WWI medals, and lots of these beautiful teacups. To the right was the door to the bathroom. 

Bathing beauty (me) in the bucketful of water
Bathing beauty (me) in the bucketful of water
The bath was the biggest I had ever seen, but it could never be fully appreciated, as they didn't have a hot water system. At bath time you had to fill a tin bucket with water and put in the water heater element to heat it up. So, pretty much you bathed in 2 bucketfulls of water, which barely covered the base of the huge bath.

The dining room with screen and lamp at the back
The dining room with screen and lamp at the back
Going into the rest of the house, you first walked into the dining room. This held the large wooden table, the sideboard, with standing floor lamp, and wooden screen, fake fireplace, and chairs lined up around the remaining space. The obligatory 3 ducks flew across the wall. All the furniture (to my
knowledge) was built by Grandpa, who was a Chair Maker and French Polisher. The other half of the house was a bedroom which held a wardrobe, double bed, and a small bed against the window, where I used to sleep. It was smaller than a single bed.

The dining room
The dining room

At the back was Grandpa's bedroom on the left and the kitchen on the right. Grandpa's bedroom held his small bed with the smoking cabinet beside. On the left were two cupboards, and a tallboy at the far end. On top of the tallboy Grandpa kept his tobacco, pipes and cigars (which he rarely smoked, and always outside). 

The kitchen on the right had a kitchen table and chairs, traymobile, stove, sink and cupboards. It smelt stongly of Bushell's tea and Sunshine soap (which was in a little wire cage with a handle to swish in the dishwater for suds).

Patio area before Grandpa enclosed, June, Aunty Nettie, Grandma, Des & Uncle Gil
Patio area before Grandpa enclosed, June,
Aunty Nettie, Grandma, Des & Uncle Gil
Out the back door was the 'patio'. Large cement slabs surrounded by garden beds and the whole area enclosed by walls covered in asbestos sheeting, (I guess it was to provide a sheltered area from the wind as the house was on the back of a sand dune behind the beach). This must have been done later than the photo on the right. The chairs were all built by Grandpa, (of course). There were two doors leading out, one at the back, which I don't remember using much, and the other to the side, which led to the outdoor dunny, and washing area at the back of the garage. 

March 1963 my birthday party outside the kitchen windows
March 1963 my birthday party outside the kitchen windows

The outdoor dunny was at the end of a cement path. I am sure there was toilet paper, but there was also cut up sheets of old newspaper and, I think, sawdust to cover up after use. Concrete laundry tubs were outside at the end of the garage, with an wringer washing machine. Grandpa had made Grandma a wooden laundry trolley which was used to take the wet clothes over behind the 'patio' where clothesline was strung between to poles, and the clothes fastened with dolly-pegs. 

The garage was a wonder to me. It smelled fabulous, of linseed oil and other rich earthy smells. You stepped down a couple of steps inside to Grandpa's work benches around the the back and one side. Huge fishing rods were up in the rafters. I never saw anyone use them, and I think I was told they belonged to Uncle Paul. Grandpa's ute was an amazing old vehicle. He only got his driving licence for the first time when he was 60! I guess it was when they relocated there from Brisbane. Sometimes we would be taken for drives and sit in the back on the seats. That definitely wouldn't be allowed now.

You could walk from the path that led to the toilet, though the She-Oaks and out onto the sand path which led straight over the dune and down to Fingal Beach, where we used to swim, investigate and play all holiday. 

Top of the dunes at Fingal Beach (lighthouse in background), me with Grandma
Top of the dunes at Fingal Beach (lighthouse in background), me with Grandma

Fingal Lighthouse, early 1960s, Mum & I
Fingal Lighthouse, early 1960s, Mum & I

Fingal Dunes, early 1960s, Grandma, Grandpa and I
Fingal Dunes, early 1960s, Grandma, Grandpa and I

Front of house and garage April 1964
Front of house and garage April 1964

Front steps Apr 1964 Dad, Mum, Mal & I
Front steps Apr 1964 Dad, Mum, Mal & I

Front steps, bef 1960, Dad, Mum, Aunty Val, Grandma & unknown
Front steps, bef 1960, Dad, Mum, Aunty Val, Grandma & unknown

Front of house, Apr 1960, Aunty Nettie, Uncle Will & I
Front of house, Apr 1960, Aunty Nettie, Uncle Will & I

Saturday 16 January 2021

A House and a Home - "Coolgarra"

Coolgarra is my online 'handle', used in many of my email addresses and identities. Others have asked why I use that particular word. It was simply that I wanted to have an email address that didn't include my actual name, and "Coolgarra" is a pleasant sounding word, but it also has a family connection. 

It is the house name of one of the homes my Grandparents, (Victor Sidney "Sid" and Charlotte Anderson -"Queenie") lived in, when they resided in Brisbane. 

Queenie really loved the house, and was devastated when my Grandfather Sid sold it to 'retire' down to Fingal Heads, (NSW), around 1956. The decision was apparently prompted by a neighbour, Mr Howard, who lived around the corner. Sid was a chair-maker, and when he retired this man, (who I now think may have worked with Sid), apparently decided Sid needed to 'keep his hand in' and kept bringing chairs over for repair. Sid really did want to retire, but was too polite to say anything, so decided the best way to solve the situation was to relocate. I doubt that my Grandmother Queenie had any say in the matter.

She would fondly reminisce about the home and, when it came up for sale in the 1970's she tried to convince her sister-in-law to go halves so they could live in it together, but that, unfortunately, came to nothing.

Being curious about this much-loved family home, I have done some research on the house and the name Coolgarra. 

Other occurences of the name Coolgarra:

Our "Coolgarra" exists at 1 Ricardo Street Kelvin Grove Brisbane. The street was renamed in 1938, as an early map shows the street as being Francis Street, which was a duplicate name when the outlying towns amalgamated to form 'Greater Brisbane'.

This is an early photo of "Coolgarra" from my Grandmother's photograph collection (date unknown).

Sid bought it before 1935. This photo shows Queenie and Mum (Valma) as a 7 month old baby in May 1936.

On visiting the house in 2006, the current owners kindly allowed me a short time to take photos of some of the interior. The name stone over the gate is no longer in place. (Interestingly though, when I found the "Coolgarra" Bush House at Springbrook on AirBnB, one of the photos showed the missing lintel. I am now wondering if this business was set up by previous owners).

The exact date the house was built is somewhat of a mystery. The only records I have been able to obtain are the deeds and they only show the ownership of the land. A visit to Brisbane City Archives in 2006 shed no further light on the question. Below you will see that in 1909 it was owned by William Thomas Alexander Dean and his wife. There were found on electoral rolls in Nundah and Stanthorpe in 1909, and I have not found them ever living at the address, so I think the house was not yet built. The first documented occupants, David Walker and his wife were there, at least, in 1913, (on the electoral roll), so it must be assumed that they were living in the house. So I surmise that it was built between 1909 and 1913.

Not knowing exactly when the house was built makes it fairly difficult to determine where the name originated. My theory is that someone with a connection to the mining town of Coolgarra built it, (perhaps having made their money there), but I have not been able to find any of the known owners having a link to the town. David Walker was a plasterer, which might explain the beautiful ceilings, but would not explain the name, unless he too just thought it was a lovely name to call their home.

Taken 29 Jul 2006

History of the ownership of "Coolgarra"

Previous Title - John Harris & George Harris
24 Feb 1909 William Thomas Alexander Dean and Lilly Maria Dean

From Qld Electoral Rolls (courtesy QFHS)



BAILEY John Greenhalgh
BAILEY Doris Margaret

ANDERSON Charlotte Sophie Margaret
ANDERSON Victor Sidney
ANDERSON Paul Victor
TEITZEL Cecil Gordon
TEITZEL Marjorie Phyllis
BULLOCK Annie Doreen

COLEGROVE Ernest William
COLEGROVE Kathleen Nancy
PEIRCE Charles Frederick
PEIRCE James Henry

PEIRCE James Henry
VIVARINI Rocco Gabrielle

I know that my grandparents often had boarders, to make ends meet, and I assume that the extra people on the electoral roll in 1949 were boarders, as the time period was during their ownership.

According to 'Property Value' the home is now worth around $1,000,000! I wonder what my grandparents would have thought of that?

Tuesday 4 February 2020

So Far Away

We are very lucky these days to be able to flit across the world. I always feel very sympathetic when I consider our ancestors leaving their 'mother country' to come to Australia.

In most cases they would never see their homeland or their family and friends again. How heartwrenching the goodbyes must have been.

The motivations for making the move must have outweighed those negatives. In some cases a family only made the move after the death of parents, and other family members, siblings and their families, or cousins also emigrated.

Of course, in Australia we had some who had the decision made for them, as many were sent out as convicts. One of these was William DROVER, my 3rd half-great uncle.

From "The Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh Scotland), Monday 17 Jan 1831 page 4":
William Drover was charged with murder, in so far as he did, on 4th or 5th November, within a house near the Fireworks, at Govan Colliery, wickely and feloniously assault Isobel Crooks his wife, with his fists or some other weapon unknown ; and did inflict severe bruises on her head, breast and other parts of her body, in consequence of which she died on the 6th November following, having been this cruelly murdered by the prisoner William Drover. He pleaded Not Guilty, and a written defence was handed in, in which it was stated that the prisoner and his wife had been married for twenty-seven years during which they had lived in the greatest harmony; that of late she had unfortunately become addicted to the drinking of spirits, but notwithstanding of this no change had taken place in his conduct towards her; that she frequently, while intoxicated, got severe falls; that on the Thursday preceeding her death, she left home to go to Glasgow, as she said, to the church ; but instead of doing so, she got herself drunk, and on coming home she bolted the door. On leaving his work, he could not get in by the door, but found entrance by a window, when he found her lying on the floor. He put her to bed, and she complained of being unwell, and died on Satruday morning.
After a long trial the Jury found a verdict of culpable homicide; and on Friday morning Drover was sentenced to transportation beyond seas for life.
He was transported aboard the convict transport "The Camden" to New South Wales in 1831, sailing into Port Jackson on 25 July 1831 (1), over 7,800 nautical miles (2) from home.

Whatever the truth of the case, it appears that their eldest son, John, did not hold any blame or malice towards his father, (regarding the death of his mother), as in 5 years he emigrated with his own family, to join his father (1).

John Drover soon after arriving in Australia in 1836 (1)
It is not believed that either of the other children of William and Isobel, (George or Alison), ever came to Australia. 

There are currently 266 known descendants of William and Isobel, 260 of these in Australia. Despite a tragic start, this has led to success in a new land, far away from Bonnie Scotland. 

(1) 'Convict William Drover and His Descendants' (The Early Lasswade Parish Drovers in Australia, compiled by Geoffrey William Drover, Feb 1993, ISBN 0 646 13718 2.

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Close to Home - my genealogical journey

I thought I might tell you about how I became interested, (although my husband says it is an addiction), in family history. Over the Christmas holidays of 1983, (I was 23), my parents came to visit us. They 'had' been visiting my maternal grandmother, and there was an argument, so they left and came to us.
Xmas 1983
I don't know if it was because he was feeling emotional due to the argument, but suddenly Dad blurted out that he had been adopted! It was a total shock, and I really felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach, (so, I can only imagine how much more of a shock it must be for adoptees to learn it about themselves in later life).
Jack Smith (brother), Barrie Smith (baby), Jean Exell (baby cousin), & Arthur Smith (father) Ross River, c 1934/5

Bill Smith (borther), Maud Butler (aunty), Jean Excell (baby cousin), Barrie Smith (baby), Aitkenvale, c 1935
Dad had always known and, apparently, my mother knew, but my brothers and I had never been told. It suddenly made sense why Dad had kept us away from his family in Townsville, (as much as he could), as I think he was worried that someone might say something to one of us. We grew up really only knowing our mother's side of the family. I later wondered if it also had something to do with Dad relocating our family every few years. Perhaps as people got to know us they started asking prying questions...

Dad 'was' interested in family history himself, and had a folder with certificates and charts, which he showed me, but as a teenager I wasn't 'grabbed' by it. It had never occurred to me that when he said his mother was 46 that she really was getting a bit too old to be having a baby. And when he told me that he had been raised on goats milk it really didn't hit home. 

Dad said that he had been adopted by his paternal grandparents, (Arthur & Clara Smith), but had been told his biological mother didn't want him and knew nothing about her. I determined that I was going to find his biological mother.

Clara (nee Melchert) and Arthur Smith, Aitkenvale, 1930s
Over the years Dad had written to the Department of Children's Services many times requesting information on his adoption, but what they sent back was very high level and if there was anything original it was heavily redacted. 

It wasn't until the Queensland Government allowed adoptees to receive their original birth certificates what we found out the name of his biological mother, Doris Bray. Unfortunately, the certificate was completely blank of information in the area where information on the father 'should' be. 

Doris Bray
I made contact with the Bray side of the family and, unfortunately, discovered that Doris had died in 1969. I met her youngest sister, Flo, who welcomed us warmly into the family. Flo would have been 7 years old when Dad was born, so she knew nothing of Dad, but I guess stories had gone around the family, and she said she wouldn't be surprised if there were others 'out there'. She had also been present when one of the other sisters had been tricked by their mother into signing adoption papers. 

Flo Nye nee Bray, me, Shane, and Marc in the background

The trouble was the Smith side of the family. 'Was' Dad really adopted by his paternal grandparents? There seemed no way to prove it one way or the other until DNA testing became popular. I was then able to persuade a cousin on that side to test, along with Dad, and the result came back that there was 100% match, confirming that 'Pop' who adopted Dad, was his grandfather. That really made Dad very happy. 

DNA Test Result
Subsequent DNA testing has proven over and over that we have the correct family. We were also then able to get a copy of the papers from the Department of Children's Services without any redactions, by sending them the DNA proof, along with a family tree of what we 'knew'. 

Of course, I also researched my husband's family as well. During my high school years we lived in Charters Towers. As a 13-year-old I really resented moving there, as I had left behind all my friends in Mt Isa, and I couldn't wait to leave once I finished school, although I subsequently made lots of wonderful friends. Imagine my surprise to find that both of my husband's grandparents were born there, AND Doris was born there too! Now I can't wait to go back to meet cousins and do research. This journey has been really close to home!