Saturday, 20 March 2010

It's the little things, often not crucial to the core of the research, which bring the past alive.

Amongst the photos which Cousin Spike has sent to me is one of the headstone on the grave of Charles Harold Simper, the first husband of my paternal grandmother, Hilda Rose (Jones) Ross. Charles Harold was born at Drouin, Victoria in 1885 and married Hilda Rose at the Christian Chapel, Grote Street in Adelaide on September 11, 1912.

What struck me, looking at the photo, was that there were two engravings on the tombstone. The top recorded the death of Charles Harold and the bottom engraving recorded that his brother-in-law, Robert Jones Jr. had been buried with him. Charles died on October 2, 1914 at the age of 28 and young Robert died of cancer some three years later on August 8, 1917 at the age of fifteen years and nine months.

It was, at the time that I pondered this, yet another diversion amongst many on the path but it seemed odd that the two of them should be buried together and curiosity got the better of me. My assumption, there we go again, assumptions, assumptions, assumptions was that perhaps Charles Simper died in the early years of the First World War but research quickly revealed it was unlikely because the first Australian soldiers joined up in August of 1914 and the fighting did not begin until 1915.

Once again it has been Cousin Spike to the rescue. I queried the headstone and he sent me an extract he had found in the Adelaide newspaper, The Advertiser:


On Friday afternoon Mr H. Bell of the General Havelock Hotel, hutt Street, notified the police that Mr Harold Simper, 28 years of age, residing at Keswick, had dropped dead in the yard of the hotel while conversing with residents of the hotel. He was employed at Messrs. Humphris & Co., cordial factory, in Carrington street. He had had lunch at the residence of his father (Mr Samuel Simper) Carrington Street, and had then walked to the General Havelock Hotel to meet some friends. Dr. Brown of Hutt Street, pronounced life to be extinct. The City Coroner considered an inquest unnecessary.

So, my grandmother was a widow with a small son at the age of 21. By the time that her young brother died, nearly three years later she was just three weeks away from marrying Charles Vangelios Ross. One assumes, and this is probably a safe assumption, that she had purchased a gravesite for Charles Simper which would have room for herself when the time came. But circumstances change and with her life set to begin with another Charles and a new husband, she chose to give the place to her parents to use for their teenage son. No doubt it saved them money and made use of a burial place for which Hilda Rose Jones Simper, about to be Ross, had no use. Another, more poignant fact which came up, was that Robert Jones Jnr. died the day Charles Harold and Hilda Rose’s son, Laurence Gordon Murray Simper, turned four.

I could not help but think how traumatic that first loss must have been for her. We don’t expect young men in the prime of life to drop dead, but clearly they do. She had been married at 19 and barely two years and one month later she was a widow with a 14-month-old son to raise. No doubt she would have had the support of her large family but that too is an assumption.

And she must have grieved, for it was three years before she married again. Then again, I have no idea when she met Charles Vangelios, although given the times, I doubt that any serious relationship would have gone on for too long before marriage. In those days a ‘widow’ would quickly gain a bad reputation if she spent time with a single man. I am guessing that she grieved for more than two years and fell in love sometime in 1917.

But with her young brother Robert seriously ill, who can say how long it was that she and Charles Vangelios knew and loved each other? She married my grandfather a few weeks after Robert Jones Jnr died so perhaps they had known each other for many months. I doubt she would have given away her place with Charles Simper without thinking about it long and hard.

I still think she must have loved Charles Simper deeply. To all intents and purposes, from what I have been told, Charles Vangelios raised Laurie as his own son and the two had a deep and loving bond .... but Laurie retained his father’s name. It would have been easy enough for his step-father to have adopted him, given how young he was when his mother remarried. Perhaps Hilda Rose was determined that Laurie would remain a Simper in honour of his father.

Another possibility is that the Simpers of Carrington Street were much wealthier than Hilda Rose .... mind you, they wouldn't need much money to be 'much wealthier'.... and they helped to support her and her son as long as he remained a Simper. There is no doubt that the headstone erected for Charles Harold, the third-born son of Samuel and Caroline Maria (Bennett) Simper was impressive, and no doubt expensive, for the times.

Or perhaps Hilda Rose felt guilty marrying again. After all, she had buried her first husband in a double grave and must, at the time, have loved him enough to want to be buried with him.

I remember my grandmother as a strong woman with a forceful personality. These were traits which, if they did not come naturally, she would have had to learn at a very young age. Clearly she was strong enough to raise a child alone for three years in a time when women were expected to be dependent upon their husbands or their family.

When Charles Vangelios died in 1955 at the age of 63, Hilda Rose said to her daughter Jessie: ‘Death is just so final!’ Three years later, at the age of 66, she also took that very final step.

It is the small, sad stories which bring the dead to life. Needless to say, I ended up close to tears after this exercise in trawling the realms of the dead. Perhaps photographs of gravestones, particularly neglected ones, are a sharp reminder of the impermanence and unpredictability of life. And whether or not it is the ‘good who die young’ I think we are all touched more powerfully by the death of the young.

Then again, I am 60 and I certainly do not feel old, but my grandmother seemed so very, very old when she died at the age of 66. Although, when you are nine, everyone over the age of 20 seems very, very old. Although I would have to ask a nine-year old today if that remains true. Perhaps in those days people ‘got older’ faster or acted older sooner? I like the story about the people on a Japanese island who are not allowed to say they are old until they are in their 90’s and where people regularly live a decade or more beyond 100 years. We are what we think and the stories that we tell ourselves will create who we are and how we live.

Not that I have much of an idea of stories which Hilda Rose may have told herself. I remember my grandmother reasonably well because we lived with her for three years after she became a widow for the second time but it is only in tracing the ephemeral threads of the story of her life that I can understand her in any way, and by extension, my family.

But it is hard enough to gather stories about my grandparents let alone my great-grandparents. Perhaps it is enough to simply try. In this enormous jigsaw puzzle which is ancestry research there will always be shadowy ‘holes’ but hopefully, when it is completed, enough of a ‘picture’ to stand as a recognisable image.

And connections are made which are interesting. Pondering it all later, it occurred to me that my family has a long lineage of step-children. For instance, Mary’s Ross’s father, Edward Atkins married Elizabeth (Mashford) Lewis who had been previously married and who had a son, George; Mary's two sons, Charles Vangelios and Chrysantheous Christus both married women who already had a child; my brother Ken has a step-daughter; my nephew Scott has a step-daughter ; my daughter, Morgan has a step-daughter and my grandmother, Hilda Rose had a half-sister. Her mother, Florina Muirhead, had a six-month-old daughter, when she married Robert Jones in the Registry Office in Adelaide. Robert adopted Euphemia Isabell May (Adams) shortly after the marriage. I also have a vague recollection that one or more of my cousins married partners who already had a child and there were a few rumours, from the more distant past, that marriages had taken place because an aunt or great-aunt was pregnant to someone else.

It does not mean anything of great import but in four out of the past five generations of my family there have been step-children. These days step-children are fairly common and perhaps what this connection teaches is that they always have been. Although in the past the cause would have been death rather than divorce and occasionally, an unexpected pregnancy and an accommodating suitor.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Someone somewhere knows something .... I just have to find them ... or they have to find me.

PHOTO LEFT: Gladstone after the 1941 floods. Cleaning up outside the Booyoolie Hotel.

Well, I think we are in waiting mode given that I cannot access records until I am back in Adelaide and there isn’t much more I can do in terms of sending out ‘feelers’.

I have written to the Greek Orthodox Church asking about David Ross and now must wait for a response either in the negative or the positive. Assuming of course there is a response. The fallback position will be to telephone. There can’t be too many Australian Greek Orthodox monks and the church must have comprehensive records. I of course have absolutely no idea what I am talking about. There may be many thousands of Greek Orthodox monks in Australia... at least hundreds... and who is to say he is in Australia?

Of course it may all come to nothing. He may have just found himself drawn to the Greek Orthodox Church by chance, speak no Greek and have no knowledge of his Greek great-grandfather. Then again .....and so it goes through a cavalcade of maybe’s, possibilities, potentialities, probabilities and very, very, very long shots.

I am also thinking of ringing some Ross’s in Murray Bridge, South Australia and have brought up a list of them from the White Pages. I know that at least one of Charlie and Mary’s sons went to live in Murray Bridge because we visited my father’s cousin there, Jack, who was the son of Constantinus John (Jack) and Ada Ellen Davies. But the links seem to have been lost over the years and the family records, when it comes to the Ross name descending from Constantinus and Spiros, go no further than the grandchildren.

The esoteric belief is that ‘energy follows thought’ so I like to think that energy is being sent out into the cosmos regarding Charlie Ross and his Greek origins and that eventually it will bounce something back to me.

There is a wonderful oddness to ancestry research and synchronicity seems part and parcel of the process. One of the oddest and most synchronicitous of circumstances involved Chrysantheous Christus and his English bride, Alice Maude Jones. In an amazing set of coincidences I was brought into contact with Alice Maude’s great-niece, Cathy, who lives in the United Kingdom.

About a year ago, cousin Spike Jones sent me an email along the lines of : Well you are not going to believe it but .....

Cathy, whose grandmother was Alice Maude’s sister, had been researching her family ancestry for about seven years. She started off with the paternal side, the Jones family and then having exhausted what was easily available, started on her mother’s side. A couple of years later she found someone based in Australia who was descended from her mother’s grandfather’s family.

God it gets complex and one ends up surrounded by countless ancestors which makes it very confusing at the best of times. Which is why, clearly, someone else is looking out for us and things just fall into place in the most unexpected ways. And everything happens slowly. Cathy’s stroke of luck came after years of patient research.

Cathy corresponded with the distant relative in Australia for a couple of years and then, in the past year, was told that some new records had gone online regarding British emigrants to Australia. Her Australian relative offered to do some searching for her.

Cathy told her that she knew Alice Maud(e) Jones had married an Australian soldier called Charles Christus Ross (actually Chrysantheous but he used the name of his brother Charles when he got married) and had then emigrated to Adelaide in Australia.

Cathy’s Aussie relative then emailed a cousin from her mother’s side of the family, whom she knew to be actively involved in ancestry research, to ask how to search the birth, marriages and death records in Adelaide and passing on the details which Cathy had provided.

And in that way that the ‘gods’ have, of playing sport with us, the cousin to whom the email was sent, was our Spike (Leonard) Jones. No doubt scratching his head as he typed one-handed, Spike wrote back to say that whilst Alice Jones was not in his line of Jones’s, his father’s sister, Hilda Rose Jones had married Charles Vangelious Ross, the brother of the Australian soldier, Chrysantheous Christus Ross who married Alice Maud(e) Jones.

So, while it was no-go with the Jones’s it seems that both Spike and I are related by marriage to Cathy and he was able to put her in touch with me, and other Ross relations who have been able to help her with research into her great-aunt, Alice Maud(e).

So who says the impossible can’t happen? Who would have thought it? A distant relative of Cathy's great-grandfather, living in Australia, is related to someone who is related to a great-niece, myself, of her great-aunt, Alice Maud(e) Jones. In short, Cathy and I share a great-aunt and great-uncle and are related by marriage. Cathy says she is still amazed and I must admit I am also still struck by the wonderfully synchronicitous nature of it all. Six degrees of separation for sure.

There is no doubt though that the internet makes such research very much easier and speeds up the process. It remains slow, but, given the amount of information Cathy and I have shared with each other and various ‘newly found’ relations over the past year, it is clear that the process of ancestry research via the internet is vastly superior to the processes of the past.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Facts, fantasy, mistaken memory and a Greek Orthodox monk in the family.

PHOTO LEFT: Charles Vangelios Ross in 1938.

One of the most interesting aspects of ancestry research is finding that many memories are ‘not true.’ This is hardly surprising given that in certain times in the past some things were simply not discussed, denied or lied about.

But it is a salutary reminder of how ‘fragile’ is our hold on the past and how so much of what we believe to be our family story may be no more than faulty memory, fantasy, deception or downright lies.

How reliable are our memories? Not very, according to research into crime witnesses. And even when we do remember an event, our memory will be constructed from our interpretation of the event. There will simply be things we do not ‘see’ and so will not remember. To a large degree we ‘see what we expect to see’ and no doubt ‘hear what we expect to hear.’ The latter may well be why Rossolimos ended up as Rostopolous. Or it may not.

‘Not seeing what we do not expect to see’ was demonstrated in an experiment where people were shown a video of a basketball game where, at one point, a man dressed in a gorilla suit, crosses the screen. When questioned afterwards, most of the study group, particularly those who were keen sporting fans and therefore more engrossed in the film, did not see the gorilla.

Other studies demonstrate the same human capacity to ‘forget’, ‘not see’ or ‘remember’ incorrectly. During the 1980 American presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan told a heartbreaking story, over and over again of a World War II bomber pilot who ordered his crew to bail out after his plane had been seriously damaged by an enemy hit. His young belly gunner was wounded so seriously that he was unable to evacuate the bomber. Reagan was nearly in tears as he recounted the pilot's heroic response: ‘Never mind. We'll ride it down together.’

The only problem is that the story was the exact duplicate of a scene in the 1944 movie, A Wing and A Prayer and could not be validated as an actual historical event. The story was ‘true’ but not in a factual sense and yet Reagan’s emotional response was very real. He certainly believed it to be true. Was it a mistaken memory or was it a good story told by a good actor who knew what he was doing?

Whatever the correct answer there was no doubt that for Reagan the story was ‘true’ at an emotional level. For those who believe in the influence of ‘past lives’, and I am very open to the concept because it makes a lot of sense, it could be argued that the ‘story’ resonated with him at an emotional level because it ‘connected’ to a past-life experience.

I can understand how easily a fictional story becomes ‘real’ even without any sort of ‘past-life’ explanation. I remember when I wrote my first novel and found myself later, mixing up the actual memories with the fictional story. Most first novels are semi-autobiographical and like other writers I trawled through my experiences for material with which I could work. I took ‘events’ and people and used them as source material for my characters and my story. What surprised me was how quickly I found myself thinking about my book and having to remind myself that something was ‘fictional’ and not ‘actual.’ My mind was quick to weave the threads together and I can understand how Reagan’s story quickly became ‘fact’ in his mind.

That is why historical records are so crucial to ancestry research because memories are often our least reliable source of information.

I am currently pursuing another ‘memory’ in regard to one of Charlie and Mary’s daughters-in-law, who was supposedly gaoled for procuring abortions. She was clearly a colourful character for her times but is the story true? Riding motorcycles and smoking cigarettes was quite ‘daring’ in the first decades of the 20th Century and her first child is recorded as being born at a prison. But the birth certificate also records her husband as being employed as a guard at the same prison.

Preliminary checks of prison records do not bring up her name and if closer checking fails to reveal it, can I assume that this ‘story’ is fabricated? Probably. Was it because she was a little too free-thinking and independent for the rest of the family and fantasy quickly became ‘fact’ because it ‘fitted’ what they believed her to be rather than what she was?

As I said at the beginning, the further I go in my quest to ‘find Charlie Ross’ the more I become convinced that whatever story I can weave around him and Mary has as much chance as being true as any other.

But on the factual front I have found another ‘thread’ to follow. While I was going through my research material yesterday I came upon something interesting. Well, I thought it was interesting. And I still do.

In the family ancestry chart a David Ross is listed as a Greek Orthodox Monk. David would have been born in the 1940’s and he is the son of Kevin Ross and the grandson of Spiros Andrew Ross. Like me, he has Charlie Ross as his great-grandfather.

I am not sure if he was born in South Australia or Victoria but I have sent an email to the Greek Orthodox Church in South Australia and also to the national body to try to see if I can trace him. I am thinking that if he became a monk in the Greek Orthodox Church that he probably speaks Greek and must have had an interest in Greece and may well have explored the life of his great-grandfather. I am assuming that his choice to join the Greek Orthodox Church has a connection with his ancestry. That may not be the case of course but it is more likely than not.

How wonderful it would be to be able to employ a cousin who speaks and reads Greek on the quest. Here’s hoping.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Help from unexpected quarters

In the week that brought me dozens of new (old) photos, including Charles Vangelios in his WW1 uniform (see left) and a re-worked cheese biscuit recipe, I have had another offer of possible help from some unexpected quarters.

My brother Ken made contact with the Rossolimo clan and Constantin (Taki) and Effie have been a great help ... most particularly with Effie’s offer, if she has time, to have a look for my family names when next she is in Ithaca and can access the Ithaki archeion.

Like most ‘opportunities’ in ancestry research nothing may come of it ... but then again it might.

Constantin wrote: In our family tree there is a Caralambo Rossolimo born 1770 died 1840. He was a ship owner and a sea merchant.

He was the son of Basilo Rossolimos (1743 - 1802). He had a brother Nicolo (1780 1865). Caralambos had 2 sons Spirodon (1820) and Panaghi (1829). Panagi had three children Caralambo (1863 - 1908), Georgio (died young) and Dr. Andrea Rossolimo (married Maria Saltzi from Constantinople).

According to our records the first Rossolimos to set foot on Ithaki was Nicolo Rossolimos who was appointed as the Governor in 1634.The records in the Ithaki archeion start around 1740. So there is about a 100 year void in data. This branch of the family are recorded in Cephalonia and obviously do not appear on the Ithaki name list.

Effie made the point that Charles could derive from HARALAMBOS, HARILAOS, HRISTOS, HARIS or KAROLOS. This is exciting because previously I had only had a translation of Karolos or Carolus and it seems to me, as I said to Ken, Constantin and Effie, Hristos could well be the origin of Christie which Charlie Ross gave as his father’s name when he married in Gladstone in 1888.

One thing of which I am fairly certain, or as certain as one can ever be when trawling the ancestral past, is that whatever the Greek name might have been, it began with ROS and probably ROSS given that on the marriage certificate Charlie corrects the Greek R (which looks like an English P) to an English R, writes an O, writes a Greek S and then 'remembers' and writes an English S. I would have 'expected' a T not an S at this point if it really was Rostopolous which is our other option.

The other problem is that my Auntie Jessie, who is my father’s sister, is adamant that he came from Ithaca and Rostopolous is a name found only on the mainland. It is possible that she mixed Ithaca up with Kythera since they both sound similar to anglo ears but this leaves the same problem of there being no Rostopolous on Kythera, only Raftopolous which is now excluded.

Conjecture, conjecture, conjecture and so it goes. I still think it makes sense to work with Ithaca before heading to the mainland. Given that Rossolimo and the various spellings of the name were only recorded on Ithaca in 1740, some 110 years before Charlie Ross’s birth, and the Rossolimo family records are still sparse, it is likely that there were other, no doubt poorer members of the family on Ithaca, who ‘slipped through the cracks.’ Or Charlie’s family may have been late-comers to Ithaca. These are all the things I do not know.

Given Greek naming traditions the names of the children are still useful 'guides' in trying to find a family: Constantinus John, (eldest son) Charles Vangelios, (second son) Chrysanthous Christus, (third son) Georgina Anastasia (eldest daughter) and Spiros Andrew (youngest son). Some of these names are certainly found in the Rossolimos family but then they are common Greek names. Charles is distinctive as a Greek name but then so probably are Vangelios and Anastasia and this might be useful in linking with a family.

Some seeds have been sown with the Ithaca Philanthropic Society and the Rossolimos clan and I can only wait to see if they sprout.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Recipe re-write or is that re-right?

I have received some adjustment figures from cousins Barb and Jenny in regard to their grandma’s Cheese Biscuits. It seems there was a quantity mixup ... and that’s an understatement. Instead of 500grams of cold butter I need 8 ounces which is 226grams. HALF of what the original recipe said was needed. And I need 12 ounces of Self-Raising Flour, which is 340 grams, which is 80grams less than the 420g with which I was working in the original three-cups of flour recipe. There was no way it could work as it should.

Since then Cousin Barb has produced a batch of Auntie Teeny’s biscuits which she says are pretty close to the mark. I will have to take her word for it since we do not live close to each other but I am prepared to have another go at producing the ‘famous’ cheese biscuits, even before I have used up the mountain of dough which remains in my freezer.

The re-worked recipe for Auntie Teeny’s Cheese Biscuits is as follows:

226grams (8 oz) of hard butter; 340grams (12 oz) self-raising flour; one teaspoon of salt; quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper; four cups of grated tasty hard cheese, one egg and a little water.

Rub butter into flour which has been sifted with the salt and cayenne and then work into a dough with the grated cheese, egg and water. Roll out and cut into shapes. Bake at 180C for ten to fifteen minutes. Remove from oven, and, in another re-membered piece of information from my Auntie Jessie, split the biscuits and then return to oven to crisp.

As soon as Auntie Jessie, who is 89 this year and much 'closer' to the biscuit mystery than I could be, said it when I saw her last week I thought: ‘Yes, of course.’ The original biscuits always had a rough side and of course they would split easily (I hope) being made with self-raising flour. The original ‘split’ biscuits turned into ‘slits’ in the biscuit in the first recipe I was sent, which is quite a different thing altogether.

And now to make them!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A picture is worth a thousand words .... or more

I am looking at photos of Charles Vangelios (see below) and wondering if he looked like his father ... dark skin aside. I can certainly see my father in him. Flora has finer features than her father and so, if she is the spitting image, of my Greek great-grandfather then Charles Vangelios must look more like his mother. Does it matter? Well, yes it does. When you begin trawling through the past you find yourself with ghostly companions and a need to ‘flesh’ them out as fully as possible. Charlie and Mary have become, or are becoming, real people, like characters in a novel. Rather, they are beginning to have a ‘reality’ beyond the distant, blurred objectivity of ‘great-grandparents.’

I do think the dead are aware of what is happening in this world and I hope that they will help me to find out the truth of Charlie’s origins and to ‘paint a picture’ of the past which is as close to ‘truth’ as one can make it. There is a relativity to truth. We all see the world through our own eyes and we ‘select’ not only the experiences we have, as we have them in essence, but our own interpretations of them. Any ‘story’ that I make up about my great-grandparents, or grandparents or parents for that matter, has as much chance as being true as any other story ... real or imagined. For what is real? Real is our imagination? Real is the name we give to our interpretation of an experience and our ‘real’ may be no more than imagination to someone else. Siblings in a family very often have quite different views of their parents. Not always. My siblings and I are generally on the same ‘map’ but I am not sure this is the norm.

Our memories are not only selective but unreliable as studies of crime witnesses have shown. When you think about it, the fact that everything we see is upside down and the image must then be turned the right way up by our brain, and given meaning through synaptic connections which have been created by previous experiences, it’s rather surprising that any of us can agree on anything.

What is amazing is not how much we remember but how much we forget or have never known consciously because of our limited ability to process. Every image, sound, feeling and experience is of course recorded in our brain. I happen to think it is also recorded in the etheric or Akashic field and the more open we are to the ‘energy’ field in which we are formed and in which we live, then the more we may know.

By looking at the photos of my Aunt Flora and my grandfather, Charles Vangelios, I can form an image of what Charlie Ross looked like. I would like to do the same for Mary but have not yet been told by anyone who might know, what she looked like. Other than the fact that she was small and wiry. And there doesn’t seem to be a lot of small and wiry in our descendants. At least not the ones I know.

I am struck by how the image of my grandfather, who died when I was six, was completely obliterated from conscious memory. My grandmother, Hilda Rose Ross died when I was nine and despite having lived with her for three years, and being able to conjure up images of her room, our house and things we did together... I could not actually recall her face. It has been returned to me in some of the photographs which Spike sent. I can see traces of myself in her face although I know I look a lot like my mother.

Family research is about making connections and perhaps it is not so much that one looks for connections as one ages, but that in a world which has less familial and social connections than in the past, one has an instinctive desire, if not need ‘to connect.’

The doors open slowly into the distant past.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Flora Ross - the 'spitting image' of her grandfather, Charlie.

Charles Vangelios Ross, also known as 'Nigger' Ross - Charlie's second-born son.

A bird's eye view of Ithaca and Gladstone

The world is an amazing place. I can sit in Australia and, with Google Maps, take a bird’s eye view of Ithaca and of Gladstone. I am wondering from which village Charlie Ross came and if my suspicion that it might have been situated in similar countryside to Gladstone could be right.

Anogi, one of Ithaca’s oldest villages and the original capital seems to be a reddish dirt, rocky kind of place, situated in the centre of the island. It’s name means Upper Land and it is the second most important medieval settlement of the island. The highest point on Ithaca is Mount Anogi, just over 800 metres above sea level.

Anogi is also a place which has links with the Rossolimo family. Iaonis Rossolimo, son of Dimitri of Coriana, was a priest in Anogi in the 18th Century. It’s all conjecture but possibilities have to be pursued until they are denied or dead in the water.

Gladstone is not in the mountains but it is not far from the Flinders Ranges and would have been one of the biggest towns in the area when Charlie Ross arrived. More to the point, it was well situated on the rail network which meant he had ready and easy access to the coast. And using Google Maps to look at Port Street, opposite the Gladstone Railway Station, where Charlie lived and worked as a fishmonger, it is easy to see the ‘pink-dirt’ similarity with Anogi in the photograph above. This is of course all conjecture but solving any mystery requires a great deal of conjecture and sifting of information in order to find the pieces which will complete the puzzle.

I assumed that Port Street would be commercial but clearly it was not. There appear to be a couple of houses across the road from the railway station so Charlie must have conducted business from home. Why did I not think of that? We make so many assumptions based on the world we know. Of course he would not have had the money to rent a home and a shop. I am beginning to think he must have had a cart which he could stack with boxes of ice so he could take his fish around to potential buyers in Gladstone.

He must have done this very early in the morning in summertime because the days get so hot that his ice would have been melting by lunchtime. I wonder if this is very different to how things might have been done on Ithaca? Fish would have been carried to inland towns like Anogi in carts I presume. I wonder how many presumptions will be found wanting by the time I have finished this quest? No doubt quite a few.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Photos, books and facts to follow

This has been a busy week. Cousin Spike has been hard at work sending me dozens of wonderful old photos of the Ross family in Gladstone. This photograph may well be of my grandfather and one of his brothers but I have yet to check. It is wonderful to have these images from the past. I have two great pics of my grandfather, Charles Vangelios Ross, nicknamed Nigger Ross because of his colouring and looking so very Greek.
There are some photos of my Aunt Flora as well, who was said to be the 'spitting image' of Charlie Ross, or Carolus Rossolimos and it is nice to have an image in my mind as I continue the task of 'finding Charlie Ross.'

I also have heaps of military records from when Charles Vangelios enlisted in World War One, which my brother Ken unearthed and sent to me, including his medical record which has his colouring as 'bronzed.' No doubt it is a polite way of saying his skin was dark.

And two books have arrived in the post which I hope, once read, will leave me better informed about the world which my great-grandfather left behind. I have Britain's Greek Islands, Kythera and the Ionian Islands 1809-1804 by Peter Prineas and A History of Greek-Owned Shipping, by Gelina Harlaftis. The latter was very expensive, more than $100 and may of course be superfluous if we are not descended from the Rossolimos clan but it was the easiest way to get access to information about Greek shipping. And even if Charlie Ross was not a Rossolimos he was still a sailor and I am sure the book will be invaluable in terms of gaining knowledge about his mother country and the era in which he sailed.