Talking to Aunty Marg

As part of the Oral History course, I interviewed my Aunty Margaret, my mother’s sister. I recorded on my iPad then edited using the Wavepad program on my PC.

We had to submit a three minute recording with a transcript – I received a score of 88% but was mentioned I should use more ellipses … when the voice trails off in the recording.

Here is the actual edited recording and the transcript.

 

Interviewee: Margaret Phillips [MP]

Interviewer: Suzanne Wyatt [SW]

Date: November 16, 2016

Place: Her lounge room in West Moonah.

As Margaret is nearly blind, I read the information and consent forms to her. The interview is solely for family history purposes.

This starts at 16 seconds in on the audio file.

SW: Marg, do you give verbal consent for me to interview and record your responses?

MP: I do.

SW: What’s your full name, your date

MP: Marg

SW: of birth and your present address?

MP: Margaret Grace Phillips or do would you want England?

SW: No, that’s OK.

MP: 7/4/28 I was born. Unit 3/17 Sawyer Avenue, West Moonah.

Three minute interview starts here  00:31

SW: So how would you best describe your father? I’ve got some photos here in front of you. One here, they’re in a running race, and

(Both speaking at the same time)

MP: that was the city

SW: there are some birds

MP: That was the City Council, they the City Council had a picnic day once a year and this was down at Long Beach, just round about where the uh roundabout is [pause] I think the roundabout down there now isn’t there?  Well that’s where it was, round about that area.

SW: So how did he go in the races? Was he a good runner?

MP: Yes, he was.

(Both speaking at the same time)

SW: and

MP: He won that if I’m not mistaken.

SW: Oh right.

MP: He got, he got some little thing.

SW: Oh it might be mentioned in the newspaper. I’ll be able to look it up.

MP: He uh always wore his watch with the chain on it, the fob watch. He always had that on where every where you wore a collar and tie.

SW: And some of these these other photos, he’s there with some birds. Is that in your back yard at

MP: Yes we had pigeon, pigeon loft and dad’d get the pigeons out and I would run up to Fitzroy Gardens and stand in a special place. I’ve let the pigeons go and dad would see who got home first, me or the pigeons. That was re about a weekly [pause] weekly um thing that he did. Yep.

SW: Oh right. And there’s another one there of. It looks like you and my mum and your dad in a rowboat.

MP: This one?

SW: Mmm.

MP: That

SW: Yeah.

MP: That’s dad and yeah Phyllis is in the middle and me on the end. That’ll be, I reckon, about the first time I went out in it.

SW: So did your dad go out rowing often?

MP: Oh, every weekend he went down to Sandy Bay baths to fish. And he had a little fish, he had a little uh what do you call’em now? Over the boat’s um  [long pause] He was known.  When you went to Long Beach on the trams, us kids would all go upstairs on the double decker tram and when we got to Wrest Point, “There’s Uncle Harry out there!” Everybody knew dad.

SW: Right

MP: And um he used to tell us.  I was only telling someone the other day. He always took a little bottle of water. He couldn’t swim and he never had a life jacket or anything in the boat. He took a little bottle of water with him every time and when the fish started to bite, he’d go round like that [fading voice as she turns to the side] to some …[inaudible] to come back,  he’d just put,  “I’ve just put the oil of catchem in the water,” he said. And that’s how they caught their fish. But dad with his oil of catchem. They never ever woke up to it. When we went on the trams down they’d say, “Uncle Harry, Uncle Harry!” and everybody would wave. He was well known in Sandy Bay.

……………………………………….

Readers: Have you ever formally interviewed a relative? What was the most difficult part of the interview?

Letter O challenge

Interview Nico & JC, managers

Christophe Losberger via Compfight

Sorry for the long delay since the last letter challenge in April but doing online study at UTAS has been taking up a lot of time but we are back in the swing of things again now.

Oral History

  • How often do you formally interview or tape stories told to you by your relatives?
  • Have you ever been to a nursing home or residential home for the elderly to tape their stories?
  • Maybe you live in a neighbourhood with lots of migrants. Have they ever told you their stories.

Recording and editing the interview

This was one of the units I have just completed at UTAS. I had already interviewed my dad using the Soundcloud app, but when I went to use it again, I found I couldn’t record with it, only listen to a recording. This meant I had to use a new app for the actual interview. I downloaded three of them on my iPad – Recorder (looks like a tape recorder), Quickvoice and Quick recorder. I used the Recorder app as it looked more comfortable to my aunt who I was going to record.

Once the interview was complete, it was in m4a format when I emailed it to myself. It needed some editing and as I had used Audacity before with lots of problems (it also doesn’t like m4a format), I found another editing program called Wavepad. I got the free trial version and it was just like using copy and paste on a word document – very easy to use so I would recommend that to anyone in future.

What type of questions do you ask?

There are quite a few great websites written by genealogists and oral historians giving lots of questions to think about. But remember to make sure the person you are interviewing is comfortable before you start. You also need to make sure you have their permission to use the interview and recording, whether it is for your own personal family history or to put on a blog like mine or to include in a book or put in a display for the public.

I used some of the questions from the Centre for Oral History Research, but you can also look at these from Family tree magazine, About Genealogy (be careful of all the ads) and don’t forget to look at Oral History Australia and their guidelines.

Readers: Please leave a comment about my post or something beginning with O that relates to your family history or your research.

Copper Uppercase Letter O

Children in Hobart during WWII

September 2, 1939 and  Hobart newspaper ‘The Mercury’ had this headline on page 1.

World poised perilously on brink of war

Would lives of children living in Hobart over 10,000 miles away change or remain the same? My parents, Robert (Bob) and Phyllis Wyatt had already written about their experiences during war time, so I interviewed Phyllis’ sister, Margaret Phillips, to get her memories on how war affected her.

By September 8, the Tasmanian government had compiled a booklet for householders  including mention of air raid shelters.[1] Margaret said:

We had a trench in the backyard. Dad built one for us. …… Dear old mum, she packed a basket full of food and we took that into the air raid shelter with us. But we never had to go.  …..  Dad had built this hole in the ground, lined it out with apple cases from uncle Arthur Stirling’s market. After the war was over, he just left it as it was. ….. Later in life, when someone bought the house, they filled it in.[2]

Source: SLQ Image 42866
Children digging trenches Source: SLQ Image 42866

Margaret couldn’t remember any practice trench drills at her high school but Bob said:

 I remember that at Goulburn Street School we had trenches dug in the school yard. We occasionally had practice runs and you had to have a rubber to put between your teeth and a sugar bag folded over your head.[3]

Phyllis remembers what happened at the school she attended.

Dad helped the fathers from the school to dig trenches in the now Albuera Street School. It had been a cemetery and when we had air raid shelter drill, you could pick bones out while you were in the trench.[4]

Ration card, image owned by author.
Ration card, image owned by author.

Each person, including children, was given ration cards for buying clothing. Phyllis cried all the time when having her first hair cut at age 7 in 1941.

I thought she would cut off my neck. I was promised a new overcoat and some of Margaret’s coupons had to be used and she wasn’t very happy.[5]

There were ration coupons for food as well but families were asked to grow their own vegetables. Margaret remembers:

Whenever Eileen or the cousins came down for a visit, they would bring rabbits and dad was great at fishing so we had plenty of food. ….. Dad grew a lot of vegetables, we had fruit trees in the back yard and grapes down the side lane.  If we wanted any more, we would go down to Wise and Stirling markets and uncle Arthur would  give us some different ones.[6]

Bob mentioned:

Some people gave the US marines a home cooked meal. I asked mum if I could invite some in. We didn’t have much meat or butter but we had plenty of fresh vegetables. The three marines enjoyed their time with us and signed my autograph book.[7]

Children were asked to help with the war effort. Families would have War Savings Certificates. Mothers and daughters would knit for the troops using khaki coloured wool. They would make scarves with balaclavas in the end  to keep soldiers warmer during winter in Europe.

My father was a member of a scout troop.

We had a camp at Gardeners Bay to pick fruit for the war effort; I was homesick as it was the first time I had ever been away from home. I only earned five shillings for picking raspberries. I gave it to mum who kept it in her purse as the first money I had ever earned.[8]

According to educators at this time, war improved the geography skills of children and they learnt to ask lots of questions about what was happening in Europe.[9]

Relatives serving in Europe would send cards home. Bob remembers:

Uncle Jack (Bomber) occasionally sent a card to my mother, it was always censored and no mention of where he was. After he came home, he was one of the Rats of Tobruk.[10]

Family life in Hobart carried on as normal but perhaps with some rationing of what you could buy. Children had to learn to be more resourceful to help their family.

Footnotes

[1]  ‘PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN TASMANIA’, Advocate, 8 September 1939, p. 2.

[2] Margaret Phillips, interview by Suzanne Wyatt, digital recording, Hobart, 18 November 2016, in author’s possession.

[3] Robert Wyatt to Suzanne Wyatt, letter, 1 December 2016, original held in author’s possession.

[4] Phyllis Wyatt to Suzanne Wyatt, letter, 1 December 2016, original held in author’s possession.

[5] P.Wyatt to Wyatt, letter, 1 December 2016.

[6] Margaret Phillips, interview by author.

[7] R.Wyatt to Wyatt, letter, 1 December 2016.

[8] R.Wyatt to Wyatt, letter, 1 December 2016.

[9] ‘Strange Contrast In Australian Outlook’, The Mercury , 2 April 1940, p. 3.

[10]  R.Wyatt to  Wyatt, letter, 1 December 2016.

Bibliography

Advocate

Phillips Margaret, interview by Suzanne Wyatt, digital recording, Hobart, 18 November              2016, in author’s possession.

SLQ Image 42866, Children digging trenches at Ascot State School, Brisbane, 1942.

The Mercury

Wyatt, Suzanne, Ration card, 2015. Personal collection.

…………………………………………………………

Readers: Do you have any memories as a child during war in 1939-1945? Please comment below.

 

Letter K challenge

Victory.....and defeat

Philip Watts via Compfight

Wouldn’t we all like to descend from a King or Queen? Their genealogy is so well documented but instead we have to start with

Kith and Kin

According to the MacMillan Dictionary, the British definition is

Kith comes from a word of Germanic origin meaning ‘known’. Kin is also of Germanic origin, from an Indo-European root meaning ‘give birth to’. Your kith are your friends or acquaintances, while your kin are all the people you are related to.

Here in Tasmania some of your kith can also be your kin somewhere down or across through the generations.

When starting out your family history research, it is so important to question those kin about their memories and knowledge of the family or person you are researching. Start asking questions as soon as possible or perhaps show them a picture they can reminisce about, even finding a newspaper article might bring back memories. All these will help build the story of that person or family group you are researching.

Kin often have heirlooms handed down through the family; not so in my family though. All I have is a handwritten copy of dates from a birthday book for the DAVEY family in Evandale area.

For the family history course I participated in during December/January 2014/5 one of our activities was to interview a person. I chose my dad as I wanted to gather more info about his parents and grandparents. I  recorded using Soundcloud app on my ipad and had a list of questions I wanted to ask. But after asking the question I would let dad ramble with his thoughts and I found out lots of things I never knew and probably would never have asked him about.

So make sure you question your kin (and even your kith) as they might have something to add to your family history research.

Readers: Please leave a comment about my post or something beginning with K that relates to your family history or your research.

letter K

First results back for interview

Dad on verandah at Goulburn StreetWe have received our marks back for the first assessment task which was the interview. This is what I handed in.

Interview of Robert Alan WYATT by Suzanne WYATT on 28 December 2014

Interview location: Dining room of interviewee’s house in Howrah, Tasmania

Relationship of interviewee to you: Father

Sue: Where and when were you born?

Bob: I was born in Hobart at a private hospital in Goulbourn Street and my mother’s name was Irene Ellen Gertrude WYATT nee SMITH. My father William Alan WYATT deserted my mother when I was only a few days old.

I was put in the care of Mrs Ellen Sarah AVERY. She was the mother of a friend of my father Keith Henry AVERY and we lived at 160 Goulbourn Street, West Hobart.

Sue: Did you always live in Goulbourn Street or did you move at all?

Bob: No I always lived at Goulbourn Street. Harry often told me that I was probably a saviour to his mother because she had lost a son and a daughter in 1929 and 1930 to diphtheria and I was a saviour to her to actually be looked after.

I think I was pretty well spoilt because I can’t remember much about my early childhood but I was told that I was put on the verandah at Goulbourn Street. Mum had a dog – by the way I called Mrs Avery Mum and my mother Mummy. Mum used to look after me and I was just put on the verandah on a rug and they had a big dog – a collie dog I think – called Bosun and if I crawled towards the steps or anything, Bosun would get in the way and stop me. But of course I don’t remember anything about that – I was only told that.

Sue: OK so you were living with Uncle Harry and his mum, so where was your Mummy living?

Bob: She was living at a hotel where she worked. At that stage it would have been Heathorns Hotel at the lower end of Liverpool Street – that’s been demolished now – then she worked at Albion Hotel in Elizabeth Street. That’s also been demolished.

Reflective Statement

This part of the interview was significant for my research as I didn’t realise dad actually lived with the AVERY family. I knew he had a lot to do with them, but not to actually be living at their house during his childhood. I have a photo of dad on a rug as a baby and now realise that would be what he was talking about in the interview.

I found it interesting that he called his mother mummy and Mrs AVERY mum. I had occasionally heard him use mum and mummy before but had never known the significance of it.

By interviewing dad, he also gave lots of information such as full names, addresses and years which will help with telling the story in my family history research.

The interview was valuable in that it was the first time I had run a formal interview with regard to my family history. I generally have a chit chat when looking at a photo and then jot down notes when I get home. But actually formalizing it, organizing the questions and allowing the interviewee to go off on a tangent sometimes, means I now have a record of them actually speaking. I can listen to that at any time in the future and perhaps find further areas to research that they mentioned – such as when dad mentioned diphtheria and the demolishing of the hotels.

I will definitely be using the interview technique when researching for my main project on the SMITH family in future weeks of this course.

These are the comments I received and the mark – I was pretty pleased with the result.

Excellent work, Suzanne. Your interview is well-structured and your questions are clear and pertinent. You have gleaned some significant family memories and gathered some important clues to future research.

Your Reflective Statement is very good and weaves together the past and present with an eye on the future. You have demonstrated a knowledge of key family history principles.

Goulburn Street rather than Goulbourn?

Score 16/20

To hear the full interview, check out my previous post.

Interview test run

Because I haven’t been able to organize a time to meet Glenn yet, I thought I had better do a test run of an interview with my father. I went through Paul Thompson’s questions, typed out a big long list of them chunked into areas like early family life, schooling, early adult life etc.

Before starting the interview I showed my dad the questions and said I would be asking about some of these things. I think that helped him know the sorts of things I wanted to get from the interview. It allowed him to chat for a while on a topic rather than giving just short, stilted answers.

To record the interview I took my iPad to mum and dad’s house and we sat in the dining/kitchen area while mum was in the lounge room watching the cricket and Sydney/Hobart yacht race. I had downloaded the app Soundcloud, which allows 180 minutes with their free version.

I recorded in two sections: first dad talked about his own life mentioning he had already written about a lot of these and they were on his computer if ever i needed them. The second and shorter section was dad talking about his parents and grandparents.

Here are the two recordings:

 

Interview questions

Pushfit cube question mark
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds via Compfight

As part of the discussions on the family history course, we have to work out six questions we will be asking at our interview. We also have to mention why we think these will be helpful to our research and what did we think of  Thompson‘s suggestions.

Last night I read through the summary of the chapter by Thompson about interviewing and the types of questions that will get lots of information from your interviewee. It is similar to what we did in teaching; the how and why questions are better than just who, what, where and when. The last four will give facts but the why and how will give reasons.

So this is what I wrote in my discussion area:

I am going to hopefully interview a SMITH cousin who lives at Oyster Cove, Tasmania. His father is my grandmother’s youngest brother (I think).

So other than the basic when and where born etc, I want to add more information to the tree about social life and family life.

So here are my questions:

1. Where did you live as a child and who were your most common visitors?

2. Where did you go on holidays and was it with/to family?

Now questions about his father:

3. What do you know about your dad’s life as a child? Who did he live with and where?

4. Who were the people your dad often talked about? Were they relatives, friends or working buddies?

Now questions about his paternal grandparents:

5. Did your dad ever talk about his parents? What did he tell you about them?

6. What have you found out about your grandparents during your research? Where did you find out that information?

I know that Glenn and his wife are also researching the SMITH side of the tree so will be great to join our knowledge and add it to my blog here.

Now that I look at the questions, none are why or how at the beginning. But I think asking these questions will still gather more information to add to my tree and perhaps lead to more research areas in future.

The Thompson summary was great in that it asked questions in chunks – firstly the interviewee him/herself then progressing to parents and grandparents. Also dividing again into smaller chunks like early childhood, schooling, life at home, marriage, children.

To my readers: Are there any other questions you think I should be asking Glenn that could add to my family tree? Here is a link to what I know so far.

STOP PRESS  UPDATE

I just did a google search about “Voice of the past: Oral History” and came up with an Oral History society in Australia with lots of resources.

Getting ready for interview

Mum, myself and Aunty Marg

Just spent a great hour or so listening to a series of video recordings about how to organize, structure and run an interview. Here are my notes.

Preparing for interview

  • Make them comfortable – their favourite place – kitchen table etc
  • Try to have microphone etc as not noticeable
  • Time of day that works for them – mind is agile rather than after meal or relaxing time

Structuring interview

  • Start interview with a questionnaire by Paul Thompson*
  • Begin with their childhood then progress to parents and grandparents – reminisces lead to more things they remembered
  • Listen to what is being said as more clues will be given to allow further research using other resources

Interviewing techniques

  • Be attentive, listen carefully to ask more questions for clarification
  • Not too long
  • Importance of listening to interview – identify new questions for next interview
  • Bring copies of newspaper etc to next interview re event discussed
  • Use photographs for more info

Life as a narrative

  • As we get older our life becomes a story
  • Allow people to tell own story in own time
  • Ask questions at later interviews – get these from early interviews
  • These questions important to you not necessarily the person you are interviewing
  • Patient, respectful and alert when asking about traumatic incidents

Oral history as part of family history research

  • This began mainly in the 1970s
  • This may not be history – people’s memories might include imagination as well
  • Documents vs oral history
  • Everything is an interpretation of the past
  • Use photographs to jog memory then find newspapers, documents etc for further comparison
  • Oral history important part of some cultures like Torres Strait Islanders and aborigines

*Paul Thompson, The Voice of the Past: Oral History, Oxford University Press, 2000.

Reflection: I hadn’t really thought about all the points mentioned in these recordings. I generally just go in like a bull at a gate asking questions and not developing a structure for the interview. But really mine are often related to a photo my aunt or mother has shown me and so is not an organized interview at all, just a chit chat about a photo.

Question: What is going to be the hardest part of the interview process?

Family History Course

I have just enrolled in an online Family History course run through the University of Tasmania. (Click on image to go to enrolment page)

Our first assessment task is an interview with another family member who might be able to give you more information for your main research project.

So I have to decide who I will interview.

Will it be my Aunt Margaret, my mother’s sister? Both my mum and her sister are alive and often tell me a variety of things about family history especially if there is a photo in front of them. In fact, my aunt has just given me some new photos she found when cleaning out her cupboards. Some I had seen before, others were new especially the one of her father in a running race.

Or will I interview one of my SMITH relatives who I know very little about? My grandmother born a SMITH, didn’t have much to do with her younger siblings so I don’t know much about them and their families or what they have been told about their earlier ancestors like Captain William SMITH from Samoa.

Who do you think I should interview – Aunt Margaret or a SMITH relative?