Sunday, 25 July 2010

Photos, facts and fantasies

 Photo: Charles Vangelios (Nigger) Ross in his Gladstone Gaol warder's uniform, circa 1910.

There is no doubt that wishes do come true and with ancestry research it is often the only way that one finds that which needs to be found.

My wish at this point is that someone, somewhere, will find a photo with Greek writing on the back and there will be Charlie Ross's Greek name. It's a big wish but stranger things have happened.

At this point in the journey I have managed to contact the families of all five of Charlie and Mary's children and have been able to gather information and photographs which I did not even know existed. One photograph is of my grandfather, Charles Vangelios, in his Gladstone Gaol warder's uniform. He must have been about 18 and he is the spitting image of my brother Wayne. Or rather, Wayne is the spitting image of his grandfather. We had always thought that from looking at the photo/sketch of CV in his First World War army uniform but this photograph leaves no doubt as to the resemblance.

Photographs show that all of the children were 'slight' and of darker complexion .... particularly the boys. Mary was however very, very small and a photograph which has come to me from a relative on the Atkins side, Luke Scane-Harris, of her as an old lady, shows just how tiny she was. The children appear to have been of reasonable height but not exceptional height so Charlie Ross is not likely to have been particularly tall. It is however all conjecture because we inherit not just from our family but from a whole pool of ancestors.  Luke also sent a copy of a photograph of Mary's brother, James Haynes Atkins and he is also slight and a little swarthy. Such images help to give a sense of which physical characteristics have been inherited from which side of the family.

The photographs are also fascinating in terms of trying to get an idea of what Charlie Ross looked like. I had not expected to find Mary but there she was.... both as a very small, small girl and as a very small, old lady. Perhaps there is a photograph of her husband somewhere.

Some other photos which came up courtesy of Wendy Lewis Bannister, Constantinus John’s grand-daughter, have yet to be placed. Two young men in army uniform who were thought, by Wendy’s mother Hilda Ross Lewis and aunt Sylvia, to be Chrysantheous Christus, seem not to be. Wendy Benson Bray has looked closely at a photograph her mother Shirley Ross Benson has of her father and with the wonders of modern computer images, it is clear they are not the same person.

At this point we do not know who they are but I am wondering if they are Atkins relatives given the fact that all of Charlie and Mary’s children appear to have olive skin and dark hair and these young men are quite fair.

It was common in the 19th and early part of the 20th century to send photo postcards. The photo of Charles Vangelios is one of these with his very neat handwriting on the bottom saying: Sincerely yours, Warder, C.V. Ross.

The other plus in this modern world is the 'net.' And the family net continues to grow on the net via email and social network sites. I am now in contact with some of my cousin's children.... young people I have never met... but who are now sharing in this quest. Across Australia and the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States, the links are being connected with the descendants of Charlie Ross and Mary Atkins.

And, following a bit of a ring-around with more cousins I have discovered that Flora Ross Swincer’s daughter, Rosemary Swincer Eldridge, has an album which she was given at the age of fourteen by our grandmother, Hilda Rose Jones Ross.  What a treasure this is!

It is full of photo postcards. Rosemary was instructed  by her grandmother ‘not to read’ what was written on the back but  curiosity of course got the better of her, as it would any of us, and it seems that they are ‘letters’ from various family members.... many of them from Charles Vangelios. I plan to see the album in the next week or so and given that it is too ‘fragile’ to be moved around much, I am hoping to photograph both pictures and words.

I am also hoping that perhaps, just perhaps, one of the postcards has a Greek name on it.

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