Friday, October 21, 2016

Family Archives - Nancy May McKenzie


Earlier this week one of my colleagues was doing the rounds of the library, getting us ready to open one morning when she noticed a box had been left at the front door.  Many people donate books they no longer need or want for us to add to the collection (if they are in pristine condition).  But this box was a whole different kettle of fish......

The box was duly dragged into the workroom and we all sighed over the contents. Someone's precious memories us.  There was no note.  Why do I feel a bit like a baby had been left on the doorstep?  

So - call me a hopeless case, but I am now sifting through it, trying to establish provenance and whether any items might be of interest to any particular collecting institution or at the least provide good material for blogging.  

But the event has also reminded me that we as family historians do need to make plans for what happens to our stuff after we've gone.  I think the box in this particular instance was a special case.  

My best guess is that the contents belonged to Nancy May McKenzie who once lived in Northgate, Brisbane and who died in 2014.  Nancy was an only child to the best of my knowledge and did not marry, so has no direct descendants.  Her father's brothers (the ones who came to Australia that is) died without marrying or having children, leaving the only other possible descendants based in Scotland.  I am yet to explore Nancy's mother's side of the family but to be frank, I suspect that most of the contents in the box, would be of interest to the McKenzie side rather than the Forrest side of the family.

I am an only child too, but at least I have two children who will inherit my "stuff".  But in fairness to them, I should organise it more and perhaps provide guidance as to what should happen to it or what it actually is so they can make sensible decisions about what can be done with it.

So I'm going to use this Pandora's box as a bit of an example as to what can be done both in terms of investigative work as well as documenting and preserving a Family Archive. Remember, I am not related to Nancy in the slightest, which just goes to show what a sad, sad, case I am when it comes to family history.

So...what's in the box?  Here's a rough list of contents which needs to be refined and further defined.  All suggestions for documentation welcome.

1. Trip Book 6 February 1957 - 16 November 1957 belonging to Nancy M McKenzie of 53 Peary Street Northgate including cinema, bus, flight tickets, dried flowers etc

2.Published pamphlet of Colin McKenzie Testimonials - Nancy's paternal grandfather 1873-1895.  I have never seen anything like this before?  Have you?

3. Historical sketches of Australian landmarks/heritage properties from NAB calendars and the like - very tempted to chuck in the bin but by all means tell me why I shouldn't.

4. Framed wedding photo - presumably of Nancy's parents by Ruddle Brisbane

5.  B & W Negatives in buff envelope - 6 x 9cm

6.  B & W Negatives in pink envelope "Gaslight"

7.  Grey Photo Album - undated containing photos of Toowong, Indooroopilly, Northgate, Tweed, SS Koopa, Osterley leaving for London from New Farm, Colombo, Suez etc circa 1920s

8.  Framed photo of schoolgirls performing calisthenics - best guess is Clayfield College

9.  Framed photo of Naval Officers - perhaps Nancy's Uncle John?

10.  4 large bundles of correspondence - 1919-1933 to Colin from his brother Alex, 1915-1931 to Colin from his mother, 1915-1927 to Colin from brother Walter, 1916-1928 to Colin from his brother John 

11. Kodak negatives and prints in a folder - Your Snapshots

12. 3 x Gold Kodaslide boxes - 240 slides in each box circa 1959

13. 18 boxes of colour transparencies dated 1959 - 1975

14. 2 x green Hanimex slide boxes containing 175 slides

15. Pocket of commercial slides of Tangalooma

16. Cigarette tin containing various badges e.g. St John Ambulance and some linotype

17. Kodak folder of prints featuring photos of car circa 1920

18. Various postcards and photos

19. Passenger list for Strathnaver 10 October 1957 to Australia

20. 8 x handmade photo albums dated 1920 - 1929 

21. Large manilla envelope containing legal papers and insurance claim and receipts regarding a car accident in which Nancy was injured in 1966 - some envelopes have been unopened.  Because Nancy didn't open them, I feel obliged not to do so - What do you think the ethics are in this matter?

22.  Unopened pack of 12 question cards and 1 answer card for Party Competitions - I am itching to open these but once again, feel ethics dictate "No"

23.  Exam papers for History, English and Physiology for Nancy McKenzie Form VA

24. Large photo album (mock leather with Egyptian decorative motifs) featuring postcards from trip in 1957

You get the idea.  It's a big box. And the dog would like me to move it so she can get back up on the sofa.

Completely gratuitous photo of new dog Arwen who has stolen our hearts.

Perhaps what intrigues me the most, and what I suspect will be the biggest challenge in terms of workload but also the most fruitful in terms of identifying information, will be the letters.

I can't begin to guess how many there are but I'm thinking they are in the hundreds.  There's some beautiful photos too - many unidentified but some with enough information to assist like this sweet one.

So, if like me, you are a hopeless case when it comes to family history stories, stand I start to pull together the McKenzie story for you.

PS And yes, I have looked for Nancy May McKenzie on Ancestry database and made contact with a couple of lovely people who seem to be researching the same family tree but it's not really their line.  

So don't worry, if there is a relative out there who wants to lay claim to these treasures, of course I am happy to hand them over.  Unfortunately I suspect there won't really be anyone (on this side of the planet at any rate) - so probably the best thing is to digitise/transcribe as much as possible and publish it on this blog so it can be found.  As well as contacting various institutions who I think might be interested in bits of the collection to see if they would like to accession them.  

What do you think?


diane b said...

I think you are a wonderful Family Historian. Would you like my box of stuff one day. I often wonder what will happen to it . Will my daughter's be interested? Will they have room to store it? I have at last started going to my local Library for lessons.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Diane - Hah that made me chuckle....would I like your box of stuff one thank you said in the nicest possible growly voice ;) I was thinking of you yesterday because wait for it...believe it or not the box of Nancy's stuff I found a kind of connection to you....via Waterfall Cemetery....stay tuned.

Jill Ball said...

What a lucky box to fall into your hands.

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Jill. But it does make you think doesn't it? How many boxes like that are around the world...and where have they ended up?

Caitlin Gow said...

Wow wow wow! I was pretty much speechless reading that. I think we should also be glad that the depositor of the box decided to leave it at your library. Wonder what would have happened to all the contents if it was left somewhere else? I'm sure you'll figure out what to do with it all :)

Alex Daw said...

Caitlin - I have often hoped to find a kitten in the chute but I suspect this box will provide me with more joy!

Fran Kitto said...

When I take clothes to the Salvos I cannot toss in the bin I know some go into the rag bin but I cannot toss them myself. I wonder if the person leaving the carton though that someone else can toss this stuff as they couldn't. Lucky you found them. They seem to have been adopted. Have fun!

Judy Webster said...

Good for you! If nobody claims the material, I'd suggest that you approach the Society of Australian Genealogists, who would probably add these things to their magnificent Manuscript Collection. You might also want to contact photographic historian Sandy BARRIE.

La Nightingail said...

We have mega photos & albums dating back to when I and my husband were babies - as well as photos of grand and great-grandparents. They mean a lot to me, so I'm hoping when I'm gone someone among our three grown children will want to have them!

Alex Daw said...

Dear Fran - I think you may be right...but they didn't know that we would be just the same. Judy - that's an excellent suggestion re SAG and I shall look Sandy Barrie up too though the letters are giving me some clues. La Nightingail - yes, I have a similar collection and really need to make it look more appealing than it is currently. It needs to be housed properly (never enough bookcases) and some of the albums are past their use by date.

Liz Needle said...

What a fascinating thing to have been gifted. But it makes me sad to think that one day my own collection may either sit in a shed and gather dust, or be dumped somewhere. So far none of my children have shown any interest in family history. maybe - one day.

Kristin said...

How wonderful that they left it for you instead of chucking it into a dumpster. I know I need to organize my stuff more. Nobody is going to have room for it in it's present state.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Liz - I hear you. It is a bit sad isn't it? But then I think of all the people in the world and all their stuff and I suppose it is difficult to keep it all.

Dear Kristin - would be too hard to put it in the bin wouldn't it? And yes a timely reminder to all of us - organize your stuff!