Sunday, 30 May 2010

Finding the family of Charlie and Mary's eldest son - Constantinus John Ross.

Is one of the men in this un-named family photograph Constantinus John Ross?

There has been a burst of progress in recent days. I have made contact with the family of Constantinus John, known as Jack, about whom I have little information other than the name of his wife, Ada Ellen (Davies) and his six children:  Thelma Olive; Evelyn Maude; Ada Doreen; Hilda Georgina; Murray John (Jack) and Sylvia Jean.

I have spoken to his grand-daughter Lee and hope soon to be able to add the story  of Constantinus and Ada to the research and to know more about their descendants.

I did know that members of the family were still in Adelaide and again Auntie Jessie has proven to be invaluable in terms of putting me in touch with cousin Lee who in turn is going to put me in touch with some others. It's a trip down memory lane for me because we visited Murray Bridge often when I was a child and I have memories of cousins with whom I played and aunts and uncles with whom we stayed. The memories are few but the most vivid is of a white cockatoo outside Auntie Hilda's house which talked. I was fascinated. I also remember that there was a cement path which led to another house where relatives also lived. What is amazing is how little we remember from our childhood.

Murray Bridge seemed such an epic trip from Adelaide when I was a child... and that's because it was. The road up through the hills was steep and we broke down more than once when the car overheated. These days there is a freeway  and a tunnel which cuts down the time dramatically and cars tend not to overheat.

And, in that synchronous way of things, while we spend more time living around Australia and the world ... moving home 33 times in 40 years of marriage ... Greg and I have a farm in the Adelaide Hills at Hahndorf which is a hop, skip and a jump from Murray Bridge.  I have wondered how often we are drawn to places where our ancestors lived because my mother's ancestors also settled in the Hills not far from Hahndorf, at Lobethal. Although, while I have lived in Belgium, India, Angola, Zambia, South Africa,Canada, London and spent months at a time in Portugal, the United States and Russia I have not yet been to Greece let alone Ithaca so I am not sure the theory stands.

Getting to Ithaca is the task for next year and I hope by then to have some grasp of spoken and written Greek. But back to Charlie's eldest son.

While I do not yet know what Constantinus did, it seems his son Jack, whom I met a few times as a child and adult ... the last time thirty years ago when he came to see my father who was dying in hospital.... went into the opal  and jewellery business which has expanded to become based in the United States; first in Hawaii and now in California. It's an interesting connection given that my sister, Teena,  until this year,  lived near Boston for 14 years and my son, Damon has been in New York and New York State for ten years working in the wine marketing industry and pursueing his passion for snowboarding. And he doesn't seem to be the only member of his generation in the family to love snowboarding.

I'm not sure where the snowboarding comes from given the lack of snow in South Australia and Greece but then Charlie Ross's wife Mary (Atkins) was of English and possibly Scottish or European stock. And I have to remind myself that every generation has a new genetic input and my mother's family is English, German and Danish. Plenty of snow on that side.

I have vague memories of relations involved in the opal business and my father loved opals and spent time making opal jewellery.  I think I have some pieces he gave me in a box at the top of my closet. I must find them. They are packed away because I never really liked opals. Well, not until I saw a black opal  in a shop in Melbourne, when I was living there in my late teens.  And, when I finally did buy some black opals it was because I saw a stunning necklace when we went to the Gem and Jewellery Fair in Tucson, a few years ago. Greg, my husband, was at the time running an emerald mine in Russia or the necklace and I would never have crossed paths. The opals were from Lightning Ridge and the necklace was made by a German company based in the famed jewellery town of Idar-oberstein.  Large  grey, dark and milky beads, looking more like moonstone than anything - although the amazing flashes of brilliantly coloured shards of light give it away - have been interspersed with plain gold beads. It was so simple and yet so stunning. I don't care much about jewellery but this was different. The other thing I loved about it, believing as I do in the 'energy' of gems, was the symbolic meaning of opals :

Wearing opal enhances one's innate characteristics; leads to personal creativity; aids the memory and faithfullness and the ability to be true to one's self. The ancients believed that the opal could make one invisible and enhanced the capacity for dreams and visions. Opal also heals and purifies the body.

So, from Lightning Ridge to Germany to the United States to Germany and then back to Australia.  It seemed right to bring them home and they are the most beautiful stones I have ever seen. They remain well travelled opals however because they go with me wherever I go and that is to a lot of places around Australia and the world.

But, I digress. The story is about the descendants of Charlie and Mary's eldest son. It seems that Cousin Jack, or Uncle Jack as I knew him, began mining for opals and other gemstones in 1956 and led mining expeditions throughout Australia, South America and other parts of the world. His son Hayden,  who now runs the business, calls opals nature's holograms and I like that. Hayden went into the family mining business which included cutting and wholesaling and then went into retail in Adelaide, in 1978.

He opened another store in Honolulu the same year... I would be fascinated to learn why he chose Honolulu... and there he met his wife Carmen. In 1988 they opened Opals & Gems of Australia in The Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego but these days most of the business is online.

Interestingly, looking at a video of my cousin Hayden's opal business I was struck by how much he looks like my father and two of my brothers. I continue to be fascinated at how genes 'pop out' in terms of looks and tastes and that is one of the most intriguing aspects to this sort of research. Making the connections happens more often than we expect.

One other connection is that that just as I learned Portugese because we were going to Angola and during our four-year stay in Luanda, so did Hayden's father Jack, learn it to help him during his opal sourcing travels through Brazil. Not only that, while Charlie and Mary Ross's grandson Jack and great-grandson Hayden ended up in the gem and jewellery business, I was also a part of the same business for many years while my husband worked in diamond and emerald mining projects in Australia and around the world: India, Africa, Russia and South America.  And in another, potentially more useful link,  one of Charlie Ross's great-grandchildren does speak Greek ... Jack's daughter Lee learned to read and write Greek while married to her first husband. It seems we do have a Greek speaker in the family and Lee's children have more Greek heritage than the rest of us.

I doubt that Charlie and Mary would have ever imagined opal miners, jewellers, orthodox monks, police superintendants, architects, journalists, editors, social workers, lawyers, bank managers, teachers and myriad other professions being represented in their descendants.

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