Archive for November 2017

Sentimental Sunday: An old Sanson church

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A little Anglican church in the Manawatu recently celebrated its  140th year and quite co-incidentally I happened to be down that way for the weekend. Even more interesting, from a family history point of view, is that the builders of St Thomas’s  (Main Road, Sanson) were ancestors of mine – the Ellerm brothers, Fred and Bert.

I had been inside St Thomas’s only once before, at a family funeral when I was fifteen years old, and since then had only ever driven past the church on the way to Palmy, admired its cuteness and thought, "one day, I must make the effort and have a good look around." One day turned out to be this particular weekend because it happened to be the weekend to celebrate “The 140th anniversary of the consecration of St Thomas’s church, Sanson, by the Right Reverend Octavius Hadfield, Bishop of Wellington.” On the Saturday was an open day with photographs and the chance to really inspect the building. On the Sunday was a special 10am service, followed by lunch and a birthday cake. The pews were packed.
St Thomas’s was built in 1877, and designed by architect Charles Tringer. As Don Donovan in the lovely book Country Churches of New Zealand wrote, work was due to begin April 1877, but the contractor, whose lowest bid of £588 had been accepted, failed to show up.  It was Fred and Bert, the Ellerm Brothers, who had the job done in time for Bishop Hadfield to consecrate the church in November. While the church with its mid-Victorian gothic style exterior is wonderfully charming, inside is even more so. Built of totara, the Ellerm lads used pegs and dowels in place of nails, and etched their names in a totara beam near the back. The church boasts a pipe organ and at the front, stained glass windows of Christ and the four gospel writers, donated in the 1960s.

In another co-incidence that particular weekend, the old Ellerm farm was for sale, and we went to check out the open home. The last time I’d been in this house I’d have been five-years-old, back when I'd go out to stay for the weekend, ride on the tractor with Poppa, (the farm was a Border Leicester stud farm), and play Canasta with whoever was up for a game. Inside, it took a while to figure out where everything had been, due to renovations, additions and, naturally, the house being much smaller than I remembered.
All round it was a pretty good - and quite unexpected - weekend.
For more on New Zealand's wonderful old country churches, do check out Don Donovan's book. There are borrowable copies available from Auckland Libraries.
Central Research

Your story - a work in progress

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At a recent talk here at Auckland Libraries, many of us came away buzzing over ideas on preserving ‘our’ story. What can we do right now, to get those interesting things about ourselves organised for posterity?
Our speaker, Jan Gow, discussed a computer programme called Treepad, that has a free edition, but also a  paid edition with useful add-ons such as the ability to save images. But as she said, there are other options, too. For the paper-addicted among us, the stationery sections at book stores are our happy place, from basic binders to the joy of the beautifully-covered journal. One could purchase a different journal for each decade (perhaps colour coded?), and add to it over time. If spread-sheets are so your thing, you could come up with something practical there. And you could always make up an e-book, which I’ll address in a later post. Publishing an e-book can cost you virtually nothing, and you can easily get print copies for little cost, as well. The message is that there are plenty of ways that suit you of getting your story down for that life-long work-in-progress.
A number of practical ideas came out of this.
Take copies of your photos and find out the story behind the image. Write down what you remember about it. Many of our parents, or even us, have slides (remember those?)  One could project slides and simply photograph them from the big screen, but there are devices to copy slides you could look in to. It could be something worthwhile for a family history group to invest in for members to borrow.
Identify significant occasions. Some ideas are transportation (your car-owning history over the decades is a great one!), games, pets, holidays, schools, careers, special events, and of course food. You could scan recipes from Grandma’s old recipe book to add to your collection. That gorgeous prize-winning shortbread...! You could organise your story according to these categories, or by the decades.
Remember to catalogue precious items. What is the story behind that china teacup, or painting, or your grandmother’s ornament? Photograph the item, and add the image to your work in progress with details of the story behind it. Scanning letters, cards and newspaper clippings is a good idea, too. This could be a great thing to do to get the kids (and let's face it, adults!) off social media for a spell, too.
One thing that appealed to me was to make a day of combining oral history with cataloguing. A family member recently suffered a stroke, which brings home abruptly how sad the loss of one's memory can be. When I visit next, I plan to spend time going through those tea cups, ornaments, paper items, and inherited furniture that none of the family really knows anything about, photographing them and jotting down the story behind them. Recording the conversations on my phone will help. Not only will it, I hope, be a form of therapy for them, but also fun, and for our family, a record of our own family history.
For more ideas, have a look through our catalogue here. I've used the reference 1 GEN  DOC. There is inspiration aplenty, such as the books  Keeping Family Treasures and Keeping Chronicles: Preserving History Through Memorabilia.

 Joanne - Central Research