Archive for March 2017

Convict Tattoos: Marked Men and Women of Australia

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"For a country devoid of possessions, deprived of family, stripped of identity and sentenced to hard labour in an unfamiliar land, a tattoo provided a link with what had been lost."
Tattoos were once the mark of crims and the navy, and indeed it is interesting to learn that in colonial Australia, convicts viewed their tattoos as a kind of link to their old world.
A new book to come into Auckland Libraries is this intriguing background on the tattoos of convicts in Australia - Convict Tattoos by Simon Barnard.
Many convicts came from the UK tattooed, and these were recorded as they arrived in Australia, as a way of identifying the individual.
Names and dates were popular, but also initials, symbolic images of religious belief and patriotism, along with good old decoration. Both men and women were tattooed and one of the most popular images was the anchor, often used to signify hope, and, with the added cross, hope in salvation.  Convict Sydney Harris had the word 'hope', an anchor, his initials, and the year of his conviction tattooed.
Indeed, those who didn't possess tattoos posed more of a challenge for those in authority, who would list physical details in the register of convicts in the Black Books.
One prisoner, Isaac Comer, had his tattoos written about in The Mercury (Hobart) July 5 1871 as follows:
"Yesterday a prisoner named Isaac Comer, who has a string of convictions against his name quite appalling, but who after a long prison life has been at liberty since 1857, has his body nearly covered with marks indelibly tatooed into the skin. The following almost incredible list of such marks should, we imagine, leave no doubt as to his identity should he at any future time be required; - on his right arm - man smoking a pistol; SC; woman with glass; Jane Bell; woman and man smoking a pipe (etc)
It is possible, according to the author, that once in the colonies, because of the surveillance on the convicts via tattoo, getting tattooed wasn't as popular as it was back home.
This is a fascinating and easy read, and puts a whole new perspective on the significance of tattoos in the past. There are heaps of images, although the images of pieces of tattooed skin may, for the squeamish of us, be best skipped over - especially those pieces not attached to an actual body(!)
Note that there are borrowable copies within Auckland Libraries.
Central Research

Not Just Auckland

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Over the years when I've attended conferences and family history fairs, I've been interested to hear how many people associate Auckland Libraries with just having material relating to Auckland, and nowhere else.
We have a range of material in all of our collections that covers other parts of New Zealand, as well as overseas, and by not considering what is on offer, you may miss out on some treasure we have that other libraries do not.

For instance, with regard to Otago we have a series of books that were published in the 1980s covering events in Otago 1901-35 titled Otago Cavalcade … The series is divided into approximately five-year sections and are filled with photographs from the Otago Witness and Otago Daily Times newspapers.  While the reproduction of photographs is not always wonderful, they are still worth looking at as they include buildings no longer in existence among other things. The war years naturally cover events occurring at home and overseas.  Other events included that are not Otago-specific, are the funeral of King George V, the Boer War, Napier earthquake, and the return of Scott’s Terra Nova to New Zealand.  However, the majority of images are relevant to Otago, such as schools, churches, celebrations, buildings and homes of note, floods in the region, delegates at conferences, to day-to-day life.
Apart from photographs, there's a short piece on events throughout the year followed by a list of principal events.  Each year is covered individually and photographs are separated into annual divisions accordingly.

A great find for those interested in Otago. Check out the catalogue for a complete list of our holdings of the Otago Cavalcade - the good news is there are borrowable copies so you can take home an issue, and have a good read.
Central Research Centre

What I did on my holidays – stories to consider for future generations

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We’re at that time of year when the children have returned to school and no doubt have been subjected by their teachers to write a story about what they did on their holidays, just as we were at their age.

This got me thinking about the type of holidays I had as a child and how we should write/share these memories with the younger generation.  Yes, they may think how old fashioned we were and roll their eyes at yet another story but if we write the memories down they will be there for the future when they appreciate what we have to share.  Here are some of my memories to give you some ideas.

A day at the beach involved taking some old bath towels (we didn’t have beach towels until later), perhaps a picnic lunch (remember the sand in your sandwiches?), some sunscreen that probably did no good at all - the preferred brand being Coppertone and the toys of the day.  By toys I mean polysterene kickboards and later a longer “surfboard”, perhaps plastic flippers and goggles, frisbee, metal bucket and spade later made of plastic and maybe a ball – some kids had inflatable beach balls.

Our beach-wear would usually be cotton tops and shorts with bare feet or jandals perhaps sandals for the adults.  Swimming togs/costume in the late 1950s-1960s may have been something of cotton and later thickish bri-nylon (probably not too far removed from the knitted costumes of the 1920s for thickness); which by the 1970s became skimpy bikinis or budgie smugglers for men.  I remember having to wear a sunhat and women usually also wore a rubber swimming cap into the water to keep their hair dry.  These were rather tight and it often hurt when you tried to get your hair forced under this ugly headpiece – some had a lighter rubber cap similar to what professional swimmers use today.

Trips to the farm would involve old clothing and gumboots.  I remember being taught to milk by hand but later a machine came into use.  Going around on the back of the tractor to feed hay to the cows; making mash to feed the hens and collecting the eggs and “helping” to bring the cows in for milking.  I say “helping” as I’m sure that when we were quite young we were more of a hindrance than a help.

Staying with relatives often involved a long car journey as cars travelled more slowly and roads were not what they are today; many being unsealed and windy.  You would fill the car up with comics and books – for a while there were small comics you could buy at the petrol station and it wouldn’t be a real trip unless you got caught with a farmer moving his flock of sheep or herd of cattle.  Then you would get stuck behind a caravan (they were towed by cars) that was either plodding down the road or being driven so fast that the caravan was swaying all over the road.

Auckland Libraries have a wide range of books full of illustrations of clothing, past-times, scenes (don’t forget that our surroundings have changed as well), household implements etc and of course, there is the internet as well – maybe there are clips of old favourite TV programmes just warn the children that there is nothing wrong with the computer, the world was black and white in the “olden days”.  Something fun you could try is putting together a zine (like a mini magazine of just a few pages) and perhaps the children could help you.