Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Local hierarchies

I’ve been reading family histories to try to get a sense of what life was like “in the old days.” I admit to some disappointment because the goals of the family histories tend more to genealogies than description and critical thinking. Perhaps it is unfair to have this expectation. Most of these family histories are self-published works put together on an important anniversary. One commemorates the 125th anniversary of the arrival in Queensland of three families. Apparently what these families did after arriving in Australia was to marry each other and produce an amazingly complicated family line. I have learnt that the very nice man who fixes our fences and does some of the more complicated rural stuff for us, is married to a descendant in this line.

Reading another, I have learnt that the colony of Queensland kept very comprehensive death certificates. One I saw for 1883 was neatly typed and I suspect that records must have been transferred and updated. The man in question, August, died 30th October 1883 in the same hospital where my son was born a few years ago. The death certificate lists his last illness as having a duration of “about eight years.” Born in Brandenburg, Prussia, he had been in Queensland for ten years. His time here must not have been very comfortable. Hanna, his widow outlived him by 31 years after living in Queensland for forty years. He was buried in Ipswich cemetery while she was buried at the Marburg cemetery. According to the records, their property was on Two Tree Hill overlooking Minden which would have made them practically neighbours. I will have to go look for her grave.

When we moved here four years ago, we were told that to belong, one had to at least have relatives buried in said cemetery. One of our neighbours pointed out that while officially he was a local with his grandparents in the cemetery, unofficially he was not as he had moved away for about twenty years. A mother at the school said that she doesn’t bother talking to newcomers as they’re “just going to move on anyway.”

From my research and observations, the rules that govern community membership are as follows:

1. Having a road named after your family.
2. Having at a minimum, grandparents buried in the cemetery, preferably, greats or great-greats.
3. Being able to identify your family’s original land selection.
4. Direct recollection of elderly relatives who spoke only German.
5. Remembering walking or riding a horse to school.
6. Generally living in a new house because real locals don’t like old houses and will build themselves a “nice brick house” as soon as they are able.

The most important thing I have learnt is what is meant by certain people during P & C meetings when they say “but we’ve always done it this way.” Looking at the map in one of the family histories of original land claims, I see several familiar names. That should shut me up.

No comments: