23 February 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 9 - Close to Home

Week 9 of the #52Ancestors challenge already? How can it be that I am already 1/6th of the way through the year? (Yes, I know that 9 isn't 1/6th of 52, but 2 months IS 1/6th of a year)

The challenge set for this week is

Week 9 - Close to Home. Which ancestor is the closest to where you live? Who has a story that hits "close to home"?
My focus this week is on a story which is a "There but for the grace of God go I" one. My ancestor this week is Gertrude Agnes Beak 1909 - 1972 my great aunt (sister-in-law of my grandmother). Aunty Gert, for much of her life lived in Sydney, Australia in suburbs less than an hour from where I live today (so also physically Close to Home)
Aunty Gert was born in Lambeth, London at the General Lying In Hospital York Road London. Her mother, Minnie, was a Mother's Help (domestic). There is no father listed on her birth certificate.

Aunty Gert at a Christening in 1968
I'm not sure what happened to Minnie, but on the 1911 census Gert (surname incorrectly spelt Beck) is a "boarder" living with Anna Coe, a shopkeeper, Anna's daughter and 2 other "boarders". It seems that Gert had, by the age of 2, become a Barnardos Girl.
Gert came to Australia as part of the 2nd group of Barnados Girls in 1924. She sailed on the SS Euripides leaving London on January 4th. Girls were sent to Australia at this time on the understanding that they had to serve as domestics for at least two years

Passenger Lists Leaving UK from www.findmypast.co.uk which they sourced from the UK National Archives

Photo courtesy of Cliff Remmer www.theremmers.com Used with permission

Photo courtesy of Cliff Remmer www.theremmers.com - Used with permission.

This last photo states that the group of girls went to Buckingham Palace to be farewelled - I've written to Buckingham Palace to see if they have any details of the visit - such as who was present, and more especially to see if they were farewelled by King George V himself.

I haven't yet been able to access the records of what Aunty Gert did on her arrival and who she worked for. I know that mystery would be solved if I was allowed to look into her Barnardos file here in Australia or purchase a copy of her file from Barnardos in the UK (apparently reports were sent back on a quarterly basis), but as I am not Gert or her next of kin, these records would normally be closed to me.

However.... I spoke to Aunty Gert's son recently (Feb 19, 2015) and he has agreed to provide me with the documentation and permission that will grant me access to the records - in just a few weeks I should have a lot more information to add to Aunty Gert's file!

Anyway, we meet Gert again in the NSW State Electoral Rolls - certain years are online on the Ancestry website. She is sometimes listed as Beak and sometimes as Beake. From 1930 until 1943 she is found in 3 different places in the Sydney suburb of Drummoyne and each record lists her occupation as "Home Duties". I am sure though, that the Home Duites Gert was providing were for employers nearby. e.g. Ida Isabel Backhouse is listed at the same address as Gert also with an occupation of Home Duties across all the same years.

One of the places Gert lived, from 1935 - 1937, was Flat 8, Drummoyne House, Wrights Rd, Drummoyne. Here is an article about Drummoyne House and its owners.

Gert married my Great Uncle Andy in 1944. Uncle Andy was a Hairdresser - following in the steps of his father Nicholas, whom I wrote about in week 4 of this challenge and they soon after moved from Drummoyne to Glebe where Andy had a hairdressing shop on St John's Rd. (Andy and Gert's son also became a hairdresser)

Some time between 1954 and 1958 they moved to Woy Woy - which then was a very rural town on the central coast of NSW. Woy Woy's claim to fame is that the comedian Spike Milligan was a regular visitor.

I remember visiting Uncle Andy and Aunty Gert (and also Andy's brothers Jim and Ted who lived with them for many years). Their house was on the banks of Brisbane Waters and had a wonderful view. I loved stomping up and down the jetty and was fascinated by the tidal flow of the water. They had what seemed to me to be a very big plot of land and grew all sorts of vegetables. They also kept geese - which terrified and terrorised my sister. I was always thrilled to be allowed to play Gert and Andy's pianola, but always horrified to have to use the outhouse (the memory of the smell lives on over 40 years later)

Uncles Andy and Ted in their garden

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