A Sense of Spirit · making contact · signs from spirits · unbreakable bonds

Finding Uncle Albert

Uncle Albert in England, 1917.

During my entire adult life, researching family history has been a hobby, perhaps even an obsession of mine. Even as a child I would constantly ask my parents to tell me what they knew about their families, to tell me any stories they remembered, and what were the names of our ancestors.

Unfortunately they didn’t have much for me in the way of detail, although I hung onto every snippet of information they had, however remote it may have been, etching the names and events into my memory so as not to forget a single detail.

It also helped that my family obligingly repeated said stories, ad nauseam, every single time I asked them to. “I’ve already told you that story”, they would protest, by which time I would be jumping up and down, pleading, “I know, but tell me again. I might have missed something”. I must have been the most annoying child what with my inquisitive mind, and my family must have loved me a great deal to tolerate me, repeating the old stories upon request.

I always referred to the family stories as the “England Stories”, as my entire family came from England, with yours truly being the token Australian back in those days. My father in particular remembered uncle-this-aunty-that-and-cousin-someone-else, although he didn’t have the foggiest idea as to how they were related to him!

It wasn’t until about 2003 that I finally discovered that the internet was THEE place to research my family history.

Armed with just the names of my parents and grandparents, my family tree has since grown to seven-hundred-and-seventy-three family members, a fact which both of my parents would be astounded by, if they were both still here for me to tell them!

The relations that I have focused mostly on throughout my research have been those who are the closest to me, such as great aunties and uncles and my direct line of grandparents (I know who my own aunties and uncles were).

In among some old photos of nameless relatives given to me by my father, (passed on to him by his mother, who hadn’t a clue of who any of them were either!) there was one photo that stood out for me. A man, wearing an army uniform, posing among his civilian dressed family, had a familiar face. He reminded me of my father’s first cousin, who I called Uncle Jim.

I was determined to learn exactly who this man was. The inscription on the back of the photo, written in pencil, is “Albert’s ten days leave, January, 1917”. The photo was taken by a photographer in Manchester, England.

My research revealed that the man in the photo was my father’s Uncle Albert, although I could find nothing of his army record, nor any marriage or births of children.

During one of my moments of scrutinising the old family photo, the penny dropped; Uncle Albert was wearing an Australian army uniform!

Ultimately, with my research now focused on Australian records, I discovered that Uncle Albert had emigrated to Australia as a teenage and had joined the Australian army in 1916 during the First World War. The family photo was taken whilst he had leave during his time in the Australian army in England. Uncle Albert returned to Australia after the war ended in 1919, later marrying and spending most of his years living in Sydney.

But I still had questions; did Uncle Albert have any children? How long had he lived?

Through various ways in which I have discovered information can be found in the NSW Births, Deaths and Marriage online register, with next to no information on the ancestor being researched, I discovered that Uncle Albert had lived until 1951, and he was buried at MacLean, NSW.

MacLean! Just three hours drive from my home!

Last year, after yet another online search which gave me the name of the cemetery where Uncle Albert was buried, I headed off to MacLean with my then thirteen year old son.

MacLean is a small town, so we had no trouble finding the cemetery at all, although we hadn’t counted on meeting up with thousands of bats, living in the trees, which lined the back of the cemetery. It turned out that the bats were the only living creatures we clapped eyes on during our visit in MacLean. The noise of the screeching bats really rattled my son’s confidence; well the bats, along with the fact that his crazy mother was thrilled to bits at having the opportunity of finding the grave of some old dead guy that he didn’t know!

The trees at the cemetery were full of screeching bats!

We wandered around the cemetery for quite some time, reading headstones, minds boggling at some of the extremely young, and extremely old, who had been laid to rest here. But no Uncle Albert.

My son was beginning to get restless; he’d had enough of the bats and was spooked over spending so much time in a cemetery. To be truthful, I’d grown quite weary myself. Where was Uncle Albert?

In a moment of frustration, I spoke out loud, “Where are you Uncle Albert?”

A loud cracking noise came from a section of the cemetery just ahead of us. In a flurry of shock, my son announced, “I’m getting out of here”, as I told him “Uncle Albert’s over there”, and I headed directly towards the noise.

Uncle Albert's Grave

Sure enough, there he was, right where the noise had come from. My son only came close enough to me for me to throw him the car keys, which suited me just fine. It allowed me the time to enjoy a private visit with my great-uncle, a man I had searched for, for many years.

At the bottom of Uncle Albert’s grave there was one single word engraved – “Father”. So, he did have a child, or children!

One simple word ~ "FATHER".

Shortly after I returned home I made contact with Uncle Albert’s grandson, through a family research website which we are both members of.

Time means nothing at all in the spirit world. Uncle Albert had been gone for sixty years, yet he still managed to find a way for me to find him. That is an important lesson I have learned ~ keep yourself open to the subtle signs, sent to us when our loved ones are trying to contact us.

We could pass the signs off as ‘coincidence’ or we can heed the signs and open ourselves up to the messages that are too good to miss, which for me was finding Uncle Albert.

Australia · friends · gardening · Mount Warning · summer · Tweed Valley

Excuse Me…..Can We Come in Please?

Where Mount Warning should be.

The magpies visit my garden regularly and we have become rather friendly over the last year. This summer, the mummy and daddy magpie have brought their three babies to visit, no doubt teaching them where The Home To Come To When You Are Hungry is, as I always drop everything I’m doing when they arrive and rush outside with soggy bread for them all, which they seem to enjoy enormously.

They have me very well trained!

Just the other day, as I walked outside with hands full of garbage to go the garbage bin, one of the babies, no doubt expecting a treat, swooped down out of the trees and landed right in front of me. I had to explain, of course, that I hadn’t brought any bread with me, only the garbage, but would be back in a jiffy.

Understanding every word I said, he waited, of course.

You know you love me....

We’ve had a run of rainy days for the last three days, today being the fourth day of sog and mist. The plants in the garden are growing profusely, as are the weeds. Mount Warning has vanished out of sight.

And our magpie babies are not impressed!

Two of the babies came to my bedroom door yesterday, which leads out onto the back veranda, looking straight at me, longingly, with their cute beady eyes. I could well imagine them asking, “Excuse me, but it’s awfully wet out here. Can we please come inside for a while?”

Yep. It's still raining.

Not satisfied with sitting on a post a whole six feet away from the door, the more adventurous of the siblings came even closer to the door, sitting on the back of an outdoor chair and peering longingly at me.

I took his photo through the window, hence the blurriness you see in the photo, and then carefully and gently tied to open the door, so as not to startle him, hoping to take a photo without the window impeding the way.

Can we come in please?

The baby magpies made the sudden, joint decision that they had had enough close human contact for the day and in a flurry of feathers, off they flew.

They were back again this morning for breakfast though. 🙂

ducks · freedom · friends · summer

An Early Morning Visitor….Come back later, around midday, okay?

My camera-shy visitor

Over the past few months we’ve had a regular visitor to our back garden, or to be more precise, to our swimming pool.

We enjoy the pool on a hot day too!

A duck must have mistaken our pool for a nice relaxing pond, in which to float around and casually pass the time of day. Obviously the chlorine and salt added to the pool has not had any adverse effect to his health as he has returned, again and again, even occasionally bringing his lady friend along with him!

In the eighteen years that we have had the pool this is the first duck that has taken a liking to it, which has left me wondering….why? Is this the first duck to ever notice, over the past eighteen years, that the pool is there? Or, have the others been put off by the smell of salt and chlorine?

Perhaps our visitor is simply an eccentric duck!

I'm up here, Mr Duck. Look this way!

I’ve tried to get a photo of this cute little guy for ages, but every time the camera has reached my face, he flies away!

This morning, however, at 7am, armed with both camera and determination, I actually photographed him! They are not the best photos of all time, that’s a certainty, but at least they are proof that I’m not hallucinating!

I’ve noticed that all the photos I take in the early morning and also later in the afternoon have a fuzzy look to them, so just to satisfy myself that the light of the day can make a huge difference to the quality of a photo, I took another photo of the same place, same zoom, but at 1pm this afternoon.

Bring Mrs Duck with you next time. Midday would suit me just fine!

The result? Much clearer, and far more vivid in colour.

Now, if the duck will just make a visit around midday, my camera will be waiting. Hey, I’ll even invite his lady friend! 🙂

birthdays · dad · gratitude · happiness · Mum · sisters · spiritual

Our Cups Runneth Over with Love and Laughter

Many years ago my mother slipped on a wet floor at the local butcher shop, later learning that she had broken her toe. As Mum related the story to family and friends over the next few days, she would erupt into fits of laughter, tears streaming down her cheeks and hardly able to finish her story.

The reason for Mum’s hilarity was simple. The butcher who had attempted to help her up off the floor after her fall was around five-foot-nothing tall and perhaps weighed eight stone, if he was lucky!

Mum imagined what a sight it must have been, with this tiny gentleman (of course he was a gentleman, he was helping a lady!) helping a substantially larger woman up off the slippery floor!

And that, in a nutshell, was the story of my life, growing up with a mother who could always see the funny side in any situation, no matter how serious it may seem to others.

To quote an overused cliché, my family have always seen the cup as being half full, rather than half empty!

Today has been one of ‘those’ days, a day when I have spent a good deal of the day reflecting on my family life. By “family life” I am referring to my first family, the one I was born into.

There were six of us originally – Dad and Mum, my three big sisters and me. Half of them are no longer with us, but half of us are still here! And the three of us remaining sisters still share the laughter, still share the memories of the good ole days and are still there for each other, through the good times and the bad.

The sister who isn’t with us any longer would have celebrated a mile-stone birthday today. She’s been gone for over four years and sure, I miss her. Some days I feel downright angry with her, for bailing out on life and leaving the three of us!

But when I think about my biggest sister, the things I remember the most are the good times, days when we were happy together, when we shared the laughter, when we laughed so hard we cried! (It’s a family trait, you know, this crying laughing!)

I remember her when she was full of life, and joking, finding the funny side to every situation, no matter how serious it may have seemed. What I don’t want to focus on is the memory of my sister being a dead person, when her days of life meant so much to all of us!

Did I say before that my eldest sister was no longer with us? That must have been a Freudian slip! Of course she is still with us, just as our Mum and Dad are, still sharing the tears of laughter with us, still guiding us through life, still loving us.

First Family Bonds don’t break that easily, not in my family, anyway!

And the love and laughter that we have shared, and are still to share, has our cups filled to overflowing. 🙂

Photo credit – Gadget Lab.


A Sense of Spirit · birthdays · remembering · sisters · unbreakable bonds

A Bond that Lasts for Eternity

The many faces of Anne, the child

Speaking from my own point of view, (as I can have no other!) to have a sister is to feel an indescribable bond with another person, which I can liken to no other relationship I have ever had throughout my life.

My parents kindly provided three sisters for me, before I was even born. There is an age difference between us of a number of years, though, and my sisters often doubled as “mothers” to me. A double blessing!

All three of my sisters were born in England, during and just after the Second World War. My Mum told me a story once of a day when Gypsy’s came to her door, selling clothes pegs. She didn’t recall whether or not she had purchased any pegs; what she remembered vividly was the predictions one of them made for her life.

The Gypsy told my Mum that she would travel across water to live in another country, far from England, where she would give birth to a fourth daughter.

At the time, Mum laughed in disbelief at the Gypsy, although a few years later they all emigrated to Australia and some years after that, I was born.

So, there you have it. Gypsy’s can be very accurate with their predictions!

It doesn’t matter how much time may pass during which my sisters and I have no contact. Sometimes life just gets in the way and we can go months without speaking, but when we do speak, we carry on as if we only had a conversation yesterday; such is our bond.

My eldest sister was named Annette and I could best describe her as my sometimes sister, sometimes mother and always a friend.

The last time I saw Anne, just over four years ago, I knew it would be the last. Anne was extremely ill. When we said our goodbye’s, I wanted to hold her forever and never let her go. When she finally left, I cried so much and so hard that I thought I may stop breathing.

How do you say goodbye to your sister? I found out the hard way, that day.

Since she’s been gone I’ve looked for signs that Anne is about, wishing she would contact me in any way she could find to get through to me. I’ve asked my youngest sister (she’s only twelve years older than me!) if she has heard from her, but neither of us had.

Until Christmas Day, 2010, and I wasn’t even thinking about Anne at the time.

For Christmas my sister had sent me a book, “An Angel by my Side”, by Jacky Newcomb. The book was sealed up in a cellophane wrapper and I hadn’t had a chance to open the pages at all.

I decided to watch a DVD on Christmas night, but for no apparent reason the DVD player wouldn’t work. My husband thought he could easily fix the player, yet it took some time to repair.

I began to wonder if there was something else that I was meant to be doing, as I waited impatiently for the DVD player to work. I noticed the book my sister had sent me, broke off the cellophane wrapper and flicked through the pages.

Nothing in particular caught my eye, so I had a look through the contents, to get a “feel” for the book. And there it was, Chapter 12, “Love from Anne”!

Almost immediately, the DVD player started working.

The next day, I could hardly wait to phone my sister who had sent me the book.

“Did you see what one of the chapters was called?” I blurted out.

You see, Anne always signed letters and cards at the end with “Love from Anne”, which my sister also knew.

We both believe that it was Anne’s way of wishing us both a Happy Christmas. A book sent from one sister to another, with that chapter name. Our Christmas Day was complete.

Today, if Anne was still here with us, in the flesh, she would be celebrating her 70th Birthday and I would send her a birthday card, saying “Love from Joanne”.

But wherever she is, Anne knows that. 🙂