I grew up in a family in which there was always “someone” who seemed to act as the family historian: my late great-aunts Amy Goss and Maud Blain, and my late cousin Lynne Bryer who took up the mantle after the deaths of these great-aunts. My family was also great at keeping (hoarding?) family documents and memorabilia. The stories of these documents and items were told, and passed on to me.
While visiting my mother’s late cousin, Paul Taylor, in New Zealand in 1989, he asked me if I wanted to transcribe the Crimean letters of my great-great-great-grandfather, Sir William Henry Drake, who had served in the Commissariat during the Crimean War. My children were growing up, and I had some free time when they were at school, and I viewed this as a way of passing the family stories on to them as well.
I had not much enjoyed history at school, given that it mainly consisted of the stories of “big men” and “dates”. I found dealing with primary sources, and the stories of my ancestors fascinating. The more information I found, the more I wanted to find. The more I found, the better I understood where I came from.
In the end, I based my MA thesis, Civilians at War: William Henry Drake and the Commissariat in the Crimean War, on the letters Paul had asked me to transcribe. The story of the Commissariat during the Crimean War was a compelling and complex one, given that there had been so much controversy attached to the role they had played during that war. It also turned out that there were very few primary sources from Commissariat officers who had served during the war, which made what William Henry Drake had to say all the more interesting.
Once I completed my MA, other pursuits led me away from my family history research, but since discovering the beginnings of the story of the Marshalls on Glengallan, on the Darling Downs in Queensland, my interest has been piqued again. I had always been told that my great-grandmother, Charlotte Louisa Marshall, had been born in Queensland, and I knew a little bit about her parents, Charles Henry Marshall and Charlotte Augusta Dring Drake (daughter of William Henry Drake). Since finding a trove of material on Glengallan at the John Oxley Library in Brisbane, I have slowly been finding out more about them, and the people with whom they interacted. The purpose of this website is to publish musings about whatever strikes me as interesting as I gather more information.
As ever I am extremely grateful to all the family members who have so very willingly and kindly shared with me any documents, photographs, or memorabilia they have about common ancestors. You know who you are, and my research is dedicated to you and yours.
And I am so glad I have managed to convince Alun that family history research is so fascinating!
I became interested in family history when helping Megan with her MA thesis. Holding documents written by ancestors was fascinating. Photographing items that have come down via many generations of Drakes, Marshalls and Ayliffs was equally so.
This led me to research my great-grandfather, Richard Walford Stevens, because I had been interested since childhood in his medals that my father had always kept in a Mills cigarette box. All I knew was that he had taken part in the famous battle of Isandlwana and had been one of very few to escape. Now I know a lot more, but am still digging.
I also wanted to help Megan publish the significant volume of research she has accumulated not just on her family, but also on the many people with whom they interacted. This work deserves an outlet and this website is that outlet.