country building Australia
Australia, blogging

Children of Victorian England

In the 1800’s in Victorian England, scores of children under the age of 20, roamed the streets in a Dickensian world, eeking out an existence made famous in the 1968 movie, Oliver.

In the day, Britain feared a French revolution might erupt within the lower classes and so wished to contain this potential political menace by executing or shipping any trouble-makers off to North America, or Australia. In those times, to commit a crime of any sort was seen as a character flaw which could not be altered through rehabilitation.

Fagin was based on real life character called Ikey Solomon

Why did Victorian Children Live on the Streets

Street children were often the progeny of delinquent parents, or who had parents who’d abandoned them or were sitting in a Debtor’s prison. A child could take its chances living on the streets, working in a dangerous textile factory or remain in squalid conditions in a poorhouse, if they were lucky.

Child Workers and Conditions in Textile Factories

In 1851, more than 500,000 of Britain’s children sometimes as young as six, were working in the textile mills.

Being small, children were used to crawl inside textile machinery to clear blockages in the spinning frames. It was extremely dangerous and many were killed or injured, as the machinery was slow to stop if a worker got caught.

The machines were very loud and they thundered relentlessly all day long. Workers could be fined. beaten or sacked for falling behind. In cotton mills, dust from the yarn covered the workers and got in their throats. To make the cotton strong, factory owners kept their mills warm and damp. This meant that the workers suffered from lung and chest infections.

With these options, it was no surprise that many children took their chances living on the streets.

Penalties for Child Criminals in England

In Victorian England, a child caught stealing would be sent to reform school or sentenced to hard labour. Once they had amassed a record of over 200 crimes, the child would hang from the gallows. If the magistrate was kind, a death sentence may be commuted from hanging to transportation, for life, to a convict colony, in Australia.

Sometimes, these children were the lucky ones, and other times, not.

Steve Harris’ book called,”The Lost Boys of Mr Dickens,” recounts the real-life story of two young boys, in the 19th century, sent by the British Government, as impoverished and unwanted juveniles to exile to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania, in the world’s first prison built exclusively for children.

tasmania prison
The ruins of Port Arthur’s Prison in Tasmania

Prejudice, moral panic, harsh justice and expedience saw unwanted boys condemned to severe isolation, solitary confinement, hard labour in chains and thrashings in a juvenile version of notorious Port Arthur, a ground-breaking chapter in the history of juvenile crime and punishment. Some quietly endured in the hope of salvation through rudimentary trade and Biblical instruction, but others became relentlessly defiant and mutinous in a brotherhood of resistance and bullying, inexorably slipping from hope to hell.

A Convict in the Family

Paterson Museum

Ironically, having a convict ancestor in one’s family history is now seen as an asset to a Genealogist. Not only is there widespread documents and history related to convicts, but many times, there are details of their physical description and life story, sometimes even their words, letters or deeds they performed.

country building Australia
Paterson, Australia where my convict ancestor lived

John Martin, although not a child convict, was convicted of stealing a sheep’s carcass, at 24 years of age. His sentence of life imprisonment aboard the convict hulks moored in British harbours was commuted to transportation, for life, to Australia. Therein starts our Australian family adventure as John was my 3 x Great Grandfather.

John Thomas Martin was indeed one of the lucky ones to escape the gallows or a potential life in the textile factories. John went on to become a convict overseer, gain his ticket of leave and later marry into one of the first free settler families in Australia, having a large brood of 11 children, one of which was Eve Martin, his daughter, my 2nd Great Grandmother.

I wonder why Eve wore her heart brooch upside down?

Forestwood Cottage Martins Creek
Martin family cottage, ”Forest wood.“

Their farm near Paterson in country New South Wales was called ‘Forest Wood,” and the small town of Martin’s Creek now bears the family’s name. From the inscription his free settler wife, Jemima had inscribed into his tombstone, one might think she was determined that history would know of his true character, more than his criminal past.

John Martin’s Grave

“He was an affectionate husband and a kind father.”

Something to Ponder About

happy smile-beach

Australia Day – Thongs and All

We all know that Australia is a land of sun, surf, sand and sun-kissed beauties, right? And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that such stereotypes aren’t always accurate. And just like an inaccurate stereotype, there is a growing sense that the date chosen for our national day, January 26, is inaccurate and needs to be reviewed.  While that debate rages, this year’s Australia Day post, on StPA, challenges a few of those typical Australian stereotypes.


I refer to writer Ben Groundwater’s article,  wherein he suggests that Australians are so obsessed with the game of cricket that, “all hell will break loose if you so much as go to touch the remote control, for the TV, during cricket season, even though no one really watches it”!

So is it True? Well, Yes and No.8pccricketset._8pc-plastic-kids-cricket-set-bat-ball-kit-3-stumps.jpg

Yes, because there are loads of men, over 40 years of age, who really love “the cricket.” Our local Doctor, is one, for example. He has such an obsession with cricket that we hesitate to make a non-urgent appointment with him, over the summer, lest we keep him from checking the cricket score and current state of play, which he is apt to do between patient consultations.


And Yes, it is true, because almost every Australian child grows up, whether they like it or not, playing backyard cricket over Christmas. Armed with a tennis ball and a plastic discount store set of ‘stumps,’ (invariably a Christmas gift from their Grandpa), they’re subtlety groomed in the art of this iconic Australian pastime. Sure, it is fun when you are a kid and there is nothing else to do, but not for too long….


But the answer for me and many others is more likely to be No, and that is because, as I see it, the Cricket-loving fraternity is fast declining, mostly due to the soporific nature of the game.

If you love sport because of the dynamic action, cricket can be excruciatingly slow, even torpid, and it continues that way, for hours, nigh days, on end. For instance, one could read several chapters of a Tolstoy novel during a test match without looking up, and you would not miss anything crucial, such is the lengthy interval between ‘wickets’ or anything mildly riveting. Riveting means a batsman achieving a ‘4’ or a ‘6’ – (for the uninitiated, that is when the ball is hit out to, or over, the boundary fence).

When this does happen, there will be the mandatory slow clap or raucous cheers, some momentary back slapping quickly followed by a return to the sluggish, dare I say, boring, lethargy as the next ball is bowled down the pitch again. Feeling slightly anesthetized by my description? Try watching it for six hours a day!!!

cricket match

And yet, perhaps the groggy pace is the attraction of it, after all. A chance to sleep whilst still maintaining consciousness? There IS a large sector of the population that will admit to hating cricket, it is just that they are either too polite or much less vocal about it. Knowing just how vital the game is to the slightly sensitive Australian ego, it would seem unpatriotic somehow, not to support it.

Ben continues his article:

“The cricket is on, but no one’s watching. The sun is out, but you can’t go swimming. There’s no air-con, but you do have an inflatable paddling pool on the patio.”

Is it True? Yes and No.

Yes – it is hot here, really hot, but more than that, in the Northern half of Australia, it is stiflingly humid. This makes us all feel incredibly unmotivated, sweaty and listless.  Want to go swimming to cool off? The water in the backyard pool is tepid, which doesn’t help. In the tropical areas, there are stingers in the water, some of which are extremely deadly. Inland there is, thankfully, no stingers, just the fresh water crocodiles you have to be on alert for. Eek!

Relief from the heat back in the twentieth century, pre air-con days came from the backyard swimming pool, which could be anything from an inflatable paddling pool to a 15 metre long, chlorinated behemoth. Nowadays, those folk with air-conditioned houses, sit inside with windows shut tight, almost trapped, cocoon-like from the outside elements, whilst the backyard swimming pools, standard household equipment north of Sydney until recent years, lay completely dormant or even redundant. Houses get bigger and yards become small, filled with aesthetic ikebana-like gardens. Things are changing in Australia!

Alternatively, Aussies head to the beach in their cars, to escape the summer heat. Invariably everyone seems to have the same idea, at the same time, which results in in major traffic jams on the highways out of the cities.


Traffic jams on the highways to the beach, crowded beaches with little adjacent car parking and loads of screaming, unhappy, sunburnt children. Summer in Australia? I am just as happy with Winter in Australia, thank you.

Ben gives us some advice on visiting Australia:

You’ll get sunburnt, even in Tassie

This ain’t no Mediterranean sun. You can’t go out there in factor 10+ bronzer and expect to survive the day. In Australia, you get burnt. If you don’t slip, slop, slap, and constantly reapply, you’ll be hideously toasted by the end of the day. The surprising thing is that this is true for the whole country – especially in Tasmania, our southernmost part.

Is it true? Yes, Absolutely yes.

Always wear a hat, light shirt and Sunscreen – period! Premature wrinkles and skin cancers are not to be taken lightly. A few serious sunburns early in life, can leave you prone to developing cancerous skin lesions, later. Especially if you play cricket in the backyard without sun protection!! Beware!

Aussies love Thongs

Ben’s article moves to the subject of Australia footwear, or lack thereof. Australians really like to wear thongs, if they can’t get away with bare feet. Whilst many Americans will be guffawing silently at this point, Ben and every Aussie knows that thongs are different to the American variety – they are not flip-flops, never ever’ Jandals’, but only ‘Thongs.’ And they belong on your feet and nowhere else!

rubber thongs

“And in summer we’ll wear thongs pretty much everywhere. We’ll wear them to the beach, to barbecues, to the cricket, to the pub, to dinner, and to anywhere else we might happen to end up. It’s a stereotype, and it’s kind of daggy, but it’s true. After all, thongs come in handy – you might need them to kill a cockroach.”

Daggy but we love them – thongs

Giant Cockroaches? What the….  Is it True?

Yes, absolutely yes. And they are not nice. In fact, they are huge and quite disgusting. Disgusting, really grotesque, but essentially harmless. Harmless unless they crawl over your food or food utensils, of course.  Then you just want to spray the entire house in a cloud of deadly pesticide, to absolutely eradicate the vile creatures from your midst. But you don’t, because, being in Australia, you have the perfect weapon already to hand. For this is exactly the moment when your excellent Aussie footwear, the humble thong, becomes dual purpose!  Just grab that rubber thong and snap that repugnant insect dead. Super flexible with a speedy rebound, the rubber thong is deadly to Australian insects!

Important to note if you wish to blend in with the general Aussie population, is that it’s quite acceptable and sometimes essential, to use expletives such as, ‘Gotcha you little bugger/bastard,’ as you swat that bug! It feels even better when you do!!!


So, if you are in Australia this Australia Day  swatting bugs, wearing thongs, or even being serenaded by the traditional backyard cricket game, relax and be thankful for the country that is Australia. Prepared first by our Indigenous peoples, and later by British and European settlers, I celebrate each and every Australian. We are what we are, thongs and all. After all, to not celebrate Australia Day is’ just not cricket’, is it?

Happy Australia Day from Amanda at StPA.

– Something to Ponder About


I Knew there was a Dutch Connection


I’ve always been attracted to the Dutch culture. After all, who doesn’t like cheese? But the attraction was more than that, it was the tulips, the food,  scenery, lifestyle and especially the folk culture. I felt such an innate ‘pull’ towards seeing the Netherlands, that I visited there whenever the opportunity arose.  For many years, I’ve practised and continue to be fascinated by  the Dutch styles of Folk Art painting, particularly that from the villages in the north, who have ties to the Hansa and Scandinavian culture.


Dutch style Folk Art painting

But it was in researching my family that I discovered the potential Dutch connection in my family history. A DNA memory that might explain my fascination with Dutch culture. And I discovered it, not in The Netherlands, as one would suspect, but in fact, in Poland.

On a cultural trip to Poland, I learnt that several hundred years ago, Mennonite farmers from the Netherlands, were invited by the Polish-Prussian authorities to colonize the land near Poznan and Gdansk, (where some of my family lived),  due to their acknowledged expertise in farming very wet and poorly drained soils. They were given certain rights and privileges  not necessarily afforded to the local mainly feudal population, and thus quickly formed communities called ‘Olender.’

Mennonite farm in Poland

My historical curiosity wanted to know more. Was there a connection to my family?

In researching these Dutch communities in Poland, (many who came from Friesland), it seems that being ‘Olender’ could actually mean much more than just Dutch ethnicity, it could mean a town that followed a certain style of laws and religious practice. Olender , at first, seemed to be a contraction or parochial term for “Hollander,” (hailing from the Netherlands), but in time, Olender came to mean whole communities that followed a particular cultural or legal mode and could be a mix of Prussian, Polish and Dutch ethnicity. They really were embracing multiculturalism even then! But, unfortunately, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Mennonite community near Malbork Castle, Poland

They were often devout Lutherans, following old religious ways and were even referred to as ‘Evangelicals,’ in the Polish regions.
Towns that were once called ‘Klep….’ were later called  ‘Nowa …’ to sound more polish after independence was gained.  These areas it seems were areas that were settled by Mennonites from the Netherlands.

A road side cafe in Elblag, Poland


Some of the Olender families from Zielona Gora, and Poznan, and in some cases, entire villages from Klepsk, in 1838,  emigrated to Australia, due to what they felt was religious persecution, or restrictions on their religious freedom.  In one document, requesting permission from the Prussian authorities to emigrate to Australia, the applicant family stated they could not ‘live in this world without being able to follow their old Lutheran ways.’  Religion and culture was extremely important to most people in the 19th century and indeed, also in earlier times. So one could see that it might be their high standards of personal freedom and their devout style of faith that led them to emigration to the New worlds.


The influence of the Dutch was also present in communities in Denmark, especially the area on Amager, an island close to Copenhagen, where the international airport is located. Today, it is a treasured time capsule of cobbled lane ways and  yellow and white painted cottages, some still with thatched roofs.


Once an area of sailors and their lady acquaintances, Dragor and the small villages such as Store Magleby, make for a delightful stop en-route to Kastrup airport. The dogs in the window were a sign to the sailors that the lady of the house was available for “visits!!”

So it seems that there was little coincidence in my visiting the very areas in both Poland and the Netherlands that were significant in my family ending in Australia. Although I can’t say that I would be over the moon to find out one of my female ancestors lived in Dragor!!!

Historic connections and DNA memory is Something I will often Ponder About


Community, Danmark, Food, History & Traditions

Ese’s Weekly Shoot; Quote Challenge – Desire

Ese’s challenge is to post a photo you have taken and a quote, attributed to its author, and of course related to your image. Every week on Sunday she posts a new prompt.

Prompt 6 – DESIRE

Swiss Sweets,

These sweets in a Zurich shop window at Christmas, certainly initiate a feeling of desire: for sweetness.

But then, my desire is to return to Denmark one day, and thus my second photo. However, as a H. C. Andersen story reminded us, I must also remember:

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

Sønder Felding

The house Færgebo, which our family owned, in Sønder Felding, Denmark, dating back to 1801. The oldest house in the village.

If you would like to join in with the challenge, click here.

Book review

Family History Book – Hints on format, publishing


Some tips from

for making your own Family history book. Many of these tips could equally be applied to presentations or travelogues.


Pedigree charts and family group records are an important part of genealogy, but for a family history book it is the narratives or stories that bring the family to life. Creative formatting of narratives in your book will make it more attractive.

  • Consistency – Develop a consistent but distinctive format for all narratives (margins, columns, font, spacing).
  • Grouping – Group narratives of key figures or other historical information at the front of the book followed by charts. Or, place biographies of key figures of each branch of the family immediately before their corresponding descendant charts.
  • Memories – Include a special section in the book for stories from later descendents to tell about what they remember of their family, what life was like growing up, and about their lives today.
  • Footnotes – Include footnotes or explanations of names so that those reading the Memories or other sections know that “Aunt Susie” refers to the Suzanna Jones found on Page 14 or that “the Baileys” are a family that lived next door. Create a specific style for such footnotes or notations and use it consistently throughout.
  • Small Caps – In genealogy it is common practice to place surnames and sometimes place names in all caps. This makes it easier for later researchers using your book to scan for relevant information. Use small caps, instead. The effect on scannability is the same but small caps enhance the overall appearance of your text.
  • Break-Up Text – Long blocks of text, no matter how well-written, are boring. Entice readers into the story and keep them reading with visual signposts within paragraphs such as initial caps, indents, bullets, pull-quotes, and boxes. For longer narratives, use subheads to break the story down into sections, such as by year or by location of the family during migration to other areas.


  • One of the first things your third cousin Emma is going to do when she sees your family history book is flip to the page where you list her and her family. Help out Emma and all your cousins (as well as future family historians) with a table of contents and an index.
  • Be sure that the genealogy or desktop publishing software you are using provides for automatic generation of an index or use third-party indexing solutions. An automatically-generated table of contents is nice, but the index is the more complex part of the book. While older published family histories may have omitted the index (before software, indexing was an often tedious, time-consuming job) don’t leave out this important component of your family history book.
    • Consistency – Keep the style of your table of contents (margins, fonts) consistent with the rest of your book.
    • Branches – Use the table of contents to show general sections such as narratives and descendant charts for each main branch of the family included in your book.
    • Surnames / Placenames – Include surnames and key placenames (towns, counties) in your index. You may also want to include the names of churches, organizations, businesses, and even specific streets that figure prominently in your family history.
    • Maiden Names / Alternative Spellings – For female members or instances where the family name changed significantly in spelling, consider using cross-references to maiden and married names or alternate spellings used by the same individual.
    • Page Numbers – Don’t forget the page numbers — ideally on every page of your book but at the very least if your TOC or index references a specific page, it should have a page number on it.

    Written for all types of publications, here are tips and advice on organizing and formatting a table of contents.


You can dress up your family history book with maps showing where the family lived or photocopies of interesting handwritten documents such as letters or wills. Old and recent newsletter clippings are also a nice addition.

  • Consistency – As much as possible, fit these additional documents into the same format (margins, etc.) as the rest of your book. Even when these documents vary from your usual layout, maintain a consistent style for captions and notations.
  • Migration – Enhance a narrative about how an entire branch of the family moved from one state to another by including a map tracing their migration.
  • Boundaries – Create maps that show both current boundaries for counties, states, or other areas and the boundaries that existed at the time your family lived there. Use different styles of lines and a legend to show historic and current boundaries and routes of migration.
  • Translation – When including photocopies of actual historic family documents, also include a typed translation.
  • Recent Documents – In addition to historic documents, consider preserving more recent material for future generations. These might include drawings or handwritten stories by some of the youngest generations in your book and newspaper clippings or notations about current activities of living family members.
  • Blank Pages – Add a few blank or lined pages for future family members to make additional notes as the family grows.
  • Signatures – Sprinkle scanned signatures (taken from wills, letters, etc.) throughout your book. Place them near the text for that person.


Charts provide an easy way to show family relationships. However, not all chart formats used by genealogists are suitable for a family history book. They may take up too much space or the orientation doesn’t fit your desired layout. You’ll need to maintain readability while compressing the data to fit the format of your book.

There is no right or wrong way to present a chart of your family. You may prefer to start with a common ancestor and show all descendants or begin with the current generation and chart the families in reverse. If you intend for your family history to stand as a reference for future family historians, you’ll want to use standard, commonly accepted genealogy formats. Some provide greater space-savings than others.

While genealogy publishing software may automatically format charts and other family data in a suitable fashion, when formatting data from scratch consider these tips:

  • Consistency – When listing birth, marriage, death, and other pertinent dates, be consistent in your format throughout the book. Consistency is important throughout your book.
  • Indents – Use indentation with bullets and/or numbering to list successive generations of descendents. The indents help to maintain readability when compressing chart information to save space.
  • Keep Info Together – When continuing information to another page, end on one individual and start the next page with a new individual if at all possible.
  • Small Caps – As with narratives, use small caps (rather than standard all caps) for surnames.
  • Boxes or Lines – If making boxes or drawing lines on charts that connect family lines, be consistent in the line style used.


Many family history books are simply photocopied. When only a small quantity is needed or when you can’t afford other options, this is perfectly acceptable. There are ways to give your family history book professional polish, even with low-tech reproduction methods.

Although almost the last step in the process, think about your printing and binding method before you start your book project. Talk to a printer. They can give you advice on low-tech and new technologies that will yield good results at the lowest costs. Sometimes the printing and binding methods will dictate certain design and layout requirements. For example, sidestitching requires extra room for the inner margin and some binding methods don’t allow you to open the book flat or are better for books with fewer pages. /p]

  • Photocopies – For photocopying from your printed original, it’s usually best to use a laser original for the sharpest results. Print some test text and photos and photocopy them before you proceed too far. It may take some experimentation to get your photographs to copy well.
  • Digital Printing – Discuss both photocopying and digital printing options for small runs with your printer. Color digital printing costs a lot less than it used to.
  • Covers – If full color isn’t an affordable option for the book itself, a color cover can dress up your book. A good heavy stock will help your labor of love withstand wear and tear. You may even want to expend a little extra on the cover to have it embossed with the family name. Another nice option would be a diecut where a photo of the family shows through.
  • Binding – Some fairly inexpensive binding options include saddlestitch (for booklets, small histories), sidestitching (you’ll need to allow extra inner margin room), various spiral bindings, and thermal binding.