Thursday, 1 March 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 8: 'Heirloom'

Week 8 Prompt:   'Heirloom' - I am including a story I wrote for the Uni subject 'Place, Image, Object' about a family object. 

Family Object.

My brother was born in 1941 and as a baby suffered from extreme eczema.  Anything against his skin caused irritation and worsened the rashes he experienced. 

My mother was at pains to try and keep his skin cool and comfortable.  My father tried to purchase soft material in town and due to the scarcity of material goods called at the local second hand dealer.  The canny second hand dealer, thinking outside the square, offered Dad a large supply of silk. 

To my mother’s surprise Dad arrived home with a whole ex-forces parachute.  My mother was overjoyed to have such an abundance of lovely natural fabric that was so soft and lightweight and set about to make a whole range of clothing for my brother.   Before the clothing could be made however Mum had to unpick and cut carefully along the seams to remove all the green cording.  This way she was able to obtain the largest pieces of uninterrupted material ready for cutting out the shapes for the garment.
Green parachute cord

The green cords were also utilised.  I still have some tucked away tying up an old box.  The cord was so strong it was used around suitcases, large packages and in our children’s play.  After all this was a great time for re-cycling - everything that could be, was used over and over and our family certainly lived by the motto “Waste not, want not”.

The patterns were made from My Aunt’s boy’s hand-me-downs picked apart and the resultant pieces copied onto paper.  The large pine kitchen table lent itself to having big pieces of silk laid upon it and the drawn up patterns chalked around ready for the cutting out. Mum had a Singer treadle machine and her Uncle (a Singer mechanic and sales rep) upgraded the foot treadle into an electric machine for her. wedding present  This made it a less tedious task than treadling and keeping the strap from flying off the wheels.Love, time and effort were poured into these garments in the mothering task of caring for my brother.  Mum said she washed the silk garments gently with Velvet laundry soap in lukewarm water and then a little vinegar in the rinsing water to prevent yellowing.  Careful immediate washing removed any stains and it dried quickly on the verandah line.

As the younger siblings my sister and I also had a turn of the silk garments that were considered suitable for girls.

Family were surprised where the silk came from but understood that damaged parachutes could not be used by the pilots again and were pleased it could be re-purposed for such a need.  More parachute silk became available after the war had finished, but Mum never needed to buy more as there was so much in that one parachute.

This shirt is only one of very many items she made. It would have fitted him at about one year old. It has some shirring with decorative smocking on each side of the front and she has used the colours blue and light brown for the embroidery which were accepted colours for boys in those days.  The shirt is of simple design with a collar, loose short sleeves, front buttoned placket and buttons at the waist to attach to pants or overalls. 

The silk has lasted well - still that parachute creamy colour and very soft to the touch.
As this is a short sleeve shirt I believe it would have been worn less than the long sleeved shirts which helped prevent him scratching, so it has possibly stayed in better condition with less wear and tear. It has been kept in a cardboard box wrapped in tissue paper.

Summertime was hot in Victoria and when my parents moved out onto an orchard the dust from the orchard roads and fluff from the peach skins were further irritants to my brother’s body.  My mother said that the parachute silk was a ‘saviour’.  Cotton, a natural vegetable fibre was harder on the skin and wool, a natural animal fibre caused heating and rubbing.Other health advice was not to drink cow’s milk - so it was goat’s milk for him from then on.  Despite all the care and alternatives for my brother his skin problems persisted and when he was about ten years old the Doctor advised to ‘get him off the orchard’ the decision was made that he go to boarding school in Melbourne 120 miles south of our home.  This did seem to give him some relief, but brought sadness to us - his two younger sisters.  I now wonder how this affected my brother, mother and father.

There were hard times during and after the war for some years.  Stories have come to light about other people using parachute silk for all sorts of things including pants, bras, petticoats, blouses, christening gowns, evening and wedding dresses. Fashion on the Ration: Style in the Second World War, by Julie Summers, March 2015, London, UK, Profile Books Ltd.


Silk is a natural product from SILKWORMS  Silk is an animal protein fiber produced by certain insects to build their cocoons and webs.Cultivation of the silkworm (technically a moth pupa) is known as sericulture. Although many insects produce silk, only the filament produced by Bombyx mori, the mulberry silk moth and a few others in the same genus, is used by the commercial silk industry.Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Natural Fibre, raw Material, 

CLASSIFICATION AND PROPERTIESla Brittanica:Below: y_circle_oNatural fibres tend to yellow upon exposure to sunlight and moisture, and extended exposure results in loss of strength.  All natural fibres are particularly susceptible to microbial decomposition, including mildew and rot. Wool and silk are also subject to microbial decomposition by bacteria and holds and damage by moths and carpet beetles.  

HISTORYThe manufacture of silk and silk products originated in the highly developed Chinese culture; the invention and development of sericulture (cultivation of silkworms for raw-silk production) and of methods to spin silk date from 2640 bc.Natural fibres’ actual share of the market has decreased with the influx of the cheaper, synthetic fibres which require fewer man-hours for production.
How Products are Made; Ref: MadeHow Volume 5, 

On researching parachutes I found that “the parachute is a device used to slow the movement of a person or object as it falls or moves through the air. Used primarily for safe descent from high altitudes (e.g: …a person or object dropped from an airplane),

Historically there is some evidence that rigid, umbrella-like parachutes were used for entertainment in China as early as the twelfth century, allowing people to jump from high places and float to the ground.

“Da Vince wrote about and drew the first known account of a parachute concept C.1495.  It consisted of a cloth material pulled tightly over a rigid pyramidal structure. Although da Vinci never made the device, he is given credit for the concept of lowering man to the earth safely using a maximum drag decelerator.”Others further developed the idea and built and tried out their models.

From World War I to the early 1930's, conventional round silk (now known as solid cloth) parachutes remained unchanged in structure.”  

German pilots used parachutes in the final year of World War I but American military pilots only started using them as standard equipment after 1918.  

“Parachute canopies were first made of canvas. Early canvas was woven from hemp or linen fibres.  Silk proved to be more practical because it was thin, lightweight, strong, easy to pack, fire resistant, and springy. During World War II, the United States was unable to import silk from Japan, and parachute manufacturers began using nylon fabric. “(The advantages of Silk as a parachute were what also made it such a suitable apparel for a child with skin problems).

Parachutes were widely used during World War II, not only as life-saving devices for pilots, but also for troop deployment.”

“Historical Review”Excerpt from Sandia Report SAND85-1180, ”An Introduction to Deployable Recovery Systems” by Jan Meyer,  August 1985

Future Storage and Clothes Moth Prevention for SilkStore clean and dry – to prevent moth larvae feeding on food stains and the residual from perspirationStore neatly folded in breathable cotton storage bags and in non-acidic tissue paper or hung in clothing covers in a dark, dry place.  Avoid sealed plastic containers that may cause moisture or yellowing of the silk.  Moisture will significantly increase the risk of any moth eggs that may be present being able to survive and develop into damaging moth larvae.  For long period storage periodically shake the clothing and air in non-direct but bright light to deter any potential moth larvae settling.


Saturday, 17 February 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 7: 'Valentine'

Week 7 Prompt:   'Valentine'

Ooh !  I thought when I saw this one.  Our family has never really done 'Valentine's Day'.
I have no-one named Valentine and no-one was born or married on that day.  What can I come up with ???

I started to think what the celebration is all about and thought well really it's a chance for people to express how they feel to the love of their life.

Then I thought I think I have a love letter between ancestors - but you guessed it - I couldn't find it :(
So stretching my mind further I thought I could tell a story about my parents meeting - the first flicker of love which lasted until they died. It is historical fiction, so it has facts in it but I have woven them into a little tapestry of their own.

“Mum how did you and Dad first meet?”

Lilian was breathless  “Lucy you’ll never guess what?  Tonight I was so late for choir practice I ran in the back door, tripped over a felt hat and hit the floor.”
Lucy interrupted:  “Oh no.”
Lilian continued: “Well, this new man was there and he’d left it on the floor. He was so apologetic and… so sweet.  He had this strong Scottish accent, a twinkle in his blue eyes and he called me ‘lassie’ as he helped me up.  My stomach dropped and I felt so shaky and strange.  Lucy, I couldn’t think what to say.”

“This is so exciting Lil.  Sounds like you were knocked off your feet in more ways than one. Now tell me more about this young Scotsman.” 

“Oh Lucy...My heart was racing and I’m sure my cheeks were red. I wasn’t brave enough to look towards the tenors, where he sat.  I felt guilty singing in church with the stained glass figures, the cross and Mrs Webb on the organ watching.  I knew I shouldn’t be thinking of anything but the words, the music and of course watching the conductor.  But my mind kept wandering as we practiced Sunday’s hymn list.
After choir, he was off home on his gig before I made it outside.  The girls were chatting about him and said he comes all the way in from Orrvale and he’s an orchardist there.“

Lilian finished up: “I doubt that he thought any more of it though as he has such a pure voice and I’m just one of the chorus. The lead sopranos will all be noticed well before me.”

William and Lilian on their wedding day

Resource: Personal Knowledge of my family:
Lilian Agnes Cottam (my mother) b 24 Aug 1913 Kew Victoria Australia d 02 Aug 1996 Tweed Heads, NSW
Lucy - girlfriend who lived with the Cottam family for awhile, maiden surname unknown.  Married Ross Thomas Martin.
William Louden Pearce (my father) b 29 May 1904 Peebles Scotland, d. 20 Apr 1982 Tweed Heads NSW

Choir at Scots Church, 134 Maude St, Shepparton, Victoria, Australia
Photo: Author's Personal properety. Marriage 23 March 1940, Shepparton, Victoria, Australia

Monday, 5 February 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 6: 'Favourite Name'

Week 6 Prompt:   'Favourite Name'

I had a little laugh when I discovered the names of two of my ancestors who married on 12 February 1733.  They are my 5 X Great Grandparents on my mother’s side.

Richard COWMEADOW and Hannah BULLOCK.

I wonder was it an outside wedding on the lawn ? 

Just kidding – actually they were married in St Nicholas Church of England in Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England.

The church is a well known architectural structure as the tower is not straight.    Some call it ‘The Leaning Tower of Gloucester’.

St Nicholas Church, Gloucester, England. Photo Permission: Sue C Smith.

I have put some documents in – for interest – but also because I love that old writing, particularly when you can read it !

Hannah’s Baptism on May 08, 1705 (

Richard’s Baptism – Jan. 22, 1705 (

Richard’s marriage entry on February 12, 1733. (

Hannah's marriage entry with transcription - a more legible reading.

 Now, a little interesting history about English names. 

The feudal nobility and gentry were named in preparation for the Domesday Book in 1086, following the Norman conquest.
However early European names for families developed over time from the use of nicknames. They were reference to different occupations, personal characteristics, physical appearance, resemblances to animals and birds, ways of dress, etc.   
Eventually when the Poll Tax was introduced in England in 1275 people required a surname.

‘Bullock’ and variations of the surname  
Bullok/Bulloc/Bulluc/Bullocke are of Anglo-Saxon origin. Early mentions of the family name are: Walter Bulluc, 1170, in the ‘Records of Hampshire’ during the reign of King Henry II; Robert Bulloc in the 1195 ‘Feet of Fines’; and Richard le Bollocherde (as in bullock herd) in the Eynsham Cartulary, Oxford, 1281.
 Source: Name Origin Research 1980 -2017,

‘Bullock’ Name Meaning
English: from Middle English bullok, bullock and Old English bulluc, referring to a young bull rather than a castrated one, probably applied as a nickname for an exuberant young man, or an occupational name for a keeper of bullocks.
Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press,

‘An exuberant young man’ - This could have been a worry.

Memorial Stone, Toby Bullocke, 1641, St Nicholas Church, Gloucester, England. Photo Permission: Sue C Smith.

‘Cowmeadow’ - variations of the surname and meaning
It is a harder name to track down.  It appears to be English and could be from an area called ‘CowsMeadow’ that is now one of the ‘Lost Mediaeval Villages’.  When these places disappeared they only left behind a surname with a local family.

Some thoughts though are that the prefix ‘Cow’ could have come from the Norse ‘Kaus’ meaning Tom-cat, and so ‘Kausmeadow’.

The earliest finding stated on this website is John Cowmedow at St Olaves, Southwark, London, 21 Feb. 1733. Different spellings include Cowmeadow, Cowmedow, Cowmadow and Cowmedon.

Source: Name Origin Research 1980 – 2017,

NB:      On some of the documents for my ancestors the name is spelt Cowmedow.
            Hannah was born in 1705 and her parents are listed including her father John Cowmedow – earlier dates than listed on the website.

Sometimes names come together that make one smile as these two did for me.

Question is: Did the family way back, live in CowsMeadow? 
keep cows in the meadow?
or was it a Tomcat camping there?  

Thursday, 1 February 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 5: 'In the Census'

Week 5 Prompt:  'In the Census'

I will use the Australian Electoral Rolls, as it was through them that I made quite a family discovery that no-one knew about.

Arthur Samuel Palmer married Eleanor Wells in 1872 at Port Fairy, Victoria, known as Belfast at the time.  They are my Great Grandparents - my mother's grandparents.  I was interested to research Arthur, as Mum's mother had told her she didn't know anything about him after she went to work. All of the family distanced themselves from him and he seemed to have disappeared.  He wasn't home much when they were younger and when their mother, Eleanor died in 1898, they all went to live in different places, with relatives
The only clues she told me were  he was a horse's groom and needed 'protection'.”  She could not embellish on that.

Checking the 1903 Electoral Roll, I found him listed as a groom and living alone in Burwood in the Kooyong district of Victoria. So I felt sure I had the right man.  He was the only Arthur Samuel I could find.
The 1909 Electoral Roll had Arthur Samuel Palmer living at Barkly St, Mentone and working as a Cab driver.  I presume this means a horse drawn cab. Then I had a big surprise - there was a Julia Martha Palmer (Home duties) living at the same address.  Again I couldn't find any other Arthur Samuel Palmer's.
The 1914, 16, and 17 Rolls had Arthur and Julia still at the same address

So who was this woman - living in the same house as Great Grandpa?

Checking further - In 1919 they had moved to Mitchell St, still in Mentone and Arthur's employment is listed as Nil. He was 73 years old and had probably retired by then

In the Electoral Roll of 1921 Arthur is once again alone.  He has moved to George St, Mordiallac by 1926, and is still listed there in 1927 and 28.
After that I could not find him on the Electoral Roll.

I searched for his death and found on the Death Index that he died aged 81 years in 1928 at Malloc, VictoriaThis is the abbreviation for Mordiallac

On the purchased Death Certificate it says he was married a second time in Mentone, other information unknown.  His second wife pre-deceased him - this would mean that they probably married between 1903 and 1909 that Julia probably died between 1919 and 1921, when she disappears from the Electoral Roll

I found that Arthur had married Julia Martha Deverell (nee Babb) in 1907, and that she died in 1920.  

Arthur died in Mordialloc and is buried at The Necropolis Cemetery Springvale  - it is difficult to read the details on his death certificate, though he is listed as a farmer. (Which he had been when he first came to Australia)

Later I contacted a relative I had found online and she sent me photocopies of photos of some of the Palmer family, including the ones attached of Arthur Samuel Palmer. Apparently, Arthur had a show horse and took care of others  He travelled a lot to shows and the races.  I just wish my mother was here now to show and tell her my research results.
PS I never found out about the 'protection' he was said to need.

Arthur Samuel Palmer

Arthur Samuel Palmer with his show horse 'Percheron'



Arthur and Eleanor's Marr - Marriage: Australian BDM Register, Schedule D, No 24, Marriage Copy of Entry.
Eleanor's death - Australian BDM Register, Schedule B, Victoria, Death Copy of Entry.

Electoral Rolls - 1903, 1909, 1914, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1921, 1926, 1927, 1928
-; Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980.

Arthur's death -  Third Schedule, 1928, Death Certificate, District of Mordiallac, Victoria, Australia.  No 734.  Reg. No. 11722.

Arthurs Second Marr. to Julia -; Australian Marriage Index, 1788-1950 Reg No 1628.

Julia's death  -; Australian Death Index 1787-1985. Reg. No. 10585.

Arthur's burial - Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Victoria, Australia; Necropolis Cemetery, 1928.