Christmas Cheer: It’s Time to Keep in Touch

Thinking of you

Christmas cards have evolved alongside improvements in photography and printing techniques. Cards can be very useful as images when you don’t have the right picture so think about saving them as they reflect the priorities of the society or times in which they were produced. Christmas cards may include words, verses, motifs or pictures and may or may not be religious. What does Christmas mean today? Perhaps Christmas trees, Santa, food, presents, holidays, church services and carols, but most especially it means family and keeping in touch. Cards often feature a treasured person, place or thing & evoke feelings such as happiness, joy or regret through both the image & the message. According to the Smithsonian, the first Christmas Card was created in 1846 as a quick and easy means of replying to letters and shows a family sharing a meal and helping the poor.

First Christmas Card, JC Horsley 1846. Wiki Commons

A search on Trove results in many early Christmas cards showing how they were thinking of their loved ones, even though they may have been many miles apart. The National Library of Australia has an 1855 card An Australian Giant which wishes ‘A Joyous Christmas’, but it must have had real meaning for selectors and their families who were struggling to clear the land at this time.

An Australian Giant-A Joyous Christmas E. Roper c. 1855 nla 343552

Closer to home, you may have family photographs of children with Santa, your family get-togethers or stories of those who have passed and traditions like sending cards, cooking, decorating the house or Xmas tree. Today, we can use our precious photos to produce all kinds of gifts such as cards, calendars or photobooks. This year’s digitisation project and family photobook will be my gift to my family. As Covid has forced many of us to reassess our lives and relationships, we may find alternate ways to share the Christmas spirit. Consider joining the ABC Classic choir or the Couch choir, sing away & send in your video to be included in their festive offerings, no matter where you are! Fortunately, it’s up to you how conspicuous you make yourself but it’s a wonderful way to celebrate and great fun!

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Photo Avalanche: A last minute reminder

Keeping It All Together

Even though, I thought my photo book was finished this was not quite the case. I nearly forgot to include the school photos! There are often photos that are separate to your main photos or albums that need to be considered if you are trying to put everything in one place. If any are larger than A4 you may need to take them to a photo scanning service or if they are damaged have them repaired or restored.

Consider including:

  • Family portraits
  • Birthday photos
  • Christmas photos
  • Wedding photos
  • Anniversary photos
  • Pre-School photos
  • School photos
  • Sports photos
  • Passport photos
  • Travel photos
  • War photos
  • Newspaper photos
  • Framed photos
  • Friend’s photos
  • Group photos
  • Old Family photos
  • Over-sized photos
  • Other family member’s photos

Remember to also check the back of the photos, just in case there’s a date, list of names or other useful information!!

If your lucky you may even find photos online that include your family members. Here’s one of Bondi Public School that I previously located at the NSW State Archives, Department of Education Photographic collection (1850-1991) that is now available online, and you can order a copy. You may even find your grandparents or great grandparents, as I did!

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Photo Avalanche: Time on our Hands

Destiny Prevails

Little did I realise when I purchased the Epson FF680W how much it would be used over the last few months, while we have all been more or less confined to home. I have worked my way through several albums and scanned over 1500 photos. This has taken months as I empty the albums and keep the photos in order; clean & scan them as both 300dpi & 600dpi; store them temporarily and create a photo book. As the photos are scanned they are labelled with their year and number. Later, the details from the albums are added manually. This initially takes a lot of time but you get into a rhythm of scanning a batch one day, labelling it the next and so on. In this way, you slowly work through them all.


At the same time, the photo book was created with a 3 x 2 grid template similar to the original slip in albums, which held 300 photos with 3 photos per page or 6 photos per opening. I tried to reduce each year to about 5 pages or 30 of the best or most meaningful photos. Some years I succeeded, and in many others I didn’t as there were too many significant events such as weddings, births and the bicentennial. Each photo was labelled and each page initially had a space at the top for notes that were relevant to these photos. These might include birthdates, travel details, a brief summary or an anecdote. Since this photo book also included a decade of slides, that were previously scanned from the 70’s & 80s, it meant that I aimed for about 100 pages altogether. However, it grew much bigger when some years had a lot more photos and our family portraits were included so that they were all in one place. Overall, the focus was on sharing our journey through these years and letting our story unfold through the images, slowly but surely.

Adobe’s Indesign was initially used for the photo book but it will need to be transferred into another format or size so it can be printed on archival paper with the Blurb plug-in or in Momento. It depends on what size album you want. A4 was the best fit for my layout as it left room for adapting the page to portraits as well. Next time, I will use Momento instead as A4 is definitely an option. After all, I want my hard work to last! This photo ‘catalogue’ is my legacy, a link to all those digitised photos, but will take up only a fraction of the space. If you have other programs you have tried and that you would like to share with us, please leave a comment.

After I am happy with the final digital album, we can decide whether to share or dispose of all the original photos, create collages, scrapbooks or displays like Patrick Pound. Ultimately, as the idea is to reduce my future footprint we will have to decide the fate of the originals. Keepsakes or clutter? For now, I still have a few more decades to scan!

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Photo Avalanche: Epson FastFoto to the Rescue

Starting with Christmas Memories

Christmas Greetings SLQ207001

Now that its nearly Christmas, why not think about all your Christmas photos hidden away in family albums, shoe boxes or drawers and whether you want to preserve and organise them for the future. Technology seems to have come to our aid with the Epson FastFoto FF-680W which I am considering buying to scan my many albums and to minimise the space they take up. Epson has plenty of videos on how to use it. It seems pretty simple and you can date & name each batch. The batches are limited to 36 photos at a time and there is also a carrier sheet to help scan precious, small, damaged or sticky photos. Obviously organising them by size, date or theme beforehand will make it easier. I shall slowly work my way through each album and also take photos of each page to make a pdf replica so I don’t loose all my notes, comments or their context. Perhaps later, I may add further details if they are important.

I found a couple of positive reviews from Choice and Tech Guide. It is rather expensive at about A$650 but is hopefully much cheaper and more convenient than photo shops who probably use the same machine anyway. If you have a FastFoto or would like to leave some comments which might be useful before I embark on another mammoth scanning project, please let me know.

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Rydalmere, NSW. Finding the Female Orphans of Parramatta

Who were the children of the Female Orphan School?

Joseph Lycett, Female Orphan School near Parramatta, 1825. NLA 135702032

Fortunately, April Collison wrote a booklet on the history of the Female Orphan School (FOS), in 1986, which has been the starting point for all research into the school, its staff and pupils. She tells us that Governor Macquarie acquired the land in 1810, the foundation stone was laid in 1813 and the building finished in 1818. The Parramatta Heritage Centre has a blog with a timeline for the FOS and its history for further information.

What must it have been like for the seventy girls as they came up the river from the first Female Orphan School at the Rocks on 30th June 1818; with their Matron and Master, Ann and John Hosking; to this new and imposing building. The Hoskings had arrived in 1809 with their family after the Reverend Samuel Marsden had invited them and acquired a posting for them. John Hosking was the first free man trained as a teacher to arrive in the fledgling colony. However, the Hoskings decided to return to England only a year later.

Who were the girls and what was their story? Unfortunately, one way to find out is through the local cemeteries at St Johns & All Saints Cemeteries, at Parramatta. At All Saints Cemetery there are many unmarked graves which included children from local institutions such as the Female Orphan School. In 2004?, a memorial wall with 24 panels showing the names, ages and dates of deaths of these individuals was made to acknowledge and remember their passing. There must be a list with the names of the institutions as Judith Dunn’s book The Parramatta Cemeteries: All Saints & Wesleyan identifies how  many died from each institution from 1844 to 1870. There were 101 deaths from the Female/Protestant Orphan School in this time and the 1500 names on the plaques can be compared with other sources at the NSW State Records; Births, Deaths & Marriages and newspapers of the time. Sometimes we get clues to siblings or parents as well.

So far, these are a few of the children and families I have found. If you can help with corrections or any other information then please contact me and help us to remember them.

In 1844, there were 2 deaths recorded for the FOS, namely:

Maria Mitchell, died 2.11.1844 aged 13 & Alice Healy, died 3.12.1844. The admission register at the State Archives shows Maria was admitted in 1842, aged 11 and a search of the NSW BDM shows she died aged 13. There is also a Mary Mitchell with no dates.

Alicia Hely/Healy/Healey was aged 5 when she was admitted on the 18.3.1840 with her two sisters, Charlotte, aged 8 and Anna, aged 2; their parents were George and Ann Hely. The BDM has her as Alice Healey. The Sydney Morning Herald gave a full account of Alice Healey’s malaise and treatment before she died ”in consequence of having eaten some poisonous herb” in the playground, although a thorough search did not find any there. The jury decided that over her last 2 days “all possible care” and “all available means” had been used to save the child’s life, but to no avail.

During the winter of 1849, 20 children died at the FOS, including Ann Hely, aged 11, who was probably Alice’s sister. It was reported in June that scarlet fever was rife at the FOS at this time, with 40 cases and 12 deaths. Was it their father George Healy, who narrowly escaped a Parramatta Court conviction for wounding with intent to murder,  in 1843? Or was he the mounted policeman heading to Parramatta who helped another wounded policeman in 1837? Was he both, or neither?? What happened to their mother Ann? What happened to the family in early 1840? Perhaps they just had to work and had no-one to care for the children. What became of Charlotte? Perhaps she was Charlotte Healey who married Thomas Garne? in 1861 at Parramatta or Charlotte Healy who married Thomas R Howel in 1851 near Berrima.

We catch a glimpse of the children’s lives in documents such as the following extracts from a government order regarding the transfer of girls from Sydney to Parramatta on July 30 1818, which reads as follows:

Although this Establishment is denominated an Asylum for Female Orphans, it is not meant to be exclusively confined to that Description ; as in cases where children are forsaken or abandoned by their parents, or have only one parent living, who is incapable of maintaining them;-such Children are to be considered eligible for Admission.

The children at the age of thirteen Years, or as soon afterwards as suitable situations can be provided for them, are to be bound apprentices, as servants, or otherwise, for five years, to such persons as the Committee shall approve; or until married, with the consent of said Committee…..

Each child on leaving the Institution is to be furnished with a Bible and Prayer Book ; and in cases of exemplary good conduct during their apprenticeship, they will receive a gift of a cow on being married, as a marriage portion, such marriage being approved of, by the Committee.

The Children are regularly to attend public worship on Sundays, at Church, clean and uniformly dressed.

The sixteenth day of August being the Anniversary of the foundation of the institution by Governor King, the members and friends of it will assemble on that day, in every year, at the Church of Saint John’s in Parramatta, to hear Divine Service, and a sermon…. after which the children are to be publicly examined in the church catechism, and new Testament, by the preacher; and the patroness and vice patronesses will award one or more silver medals to the best reader or repeater, or best worker in needle work, to be presented by His Excellency the Governor, and to be worn by the child during the succeeding year…. and His Excellency will distribute little rewards of books…. to those who shall receive a good character from their masters or mistresses.

Is it possible that any of these bibles, books or other momentos of the children have survived today?

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Rydalmere, NSW. The Female Orphan School Survives

Echoes of another time and place

Female Orphan School Parramatta, RG 2019.

How often have you driven over the Parramatta River on James Ruse Drive? If you are heading north you may catch a glimpse of the Female Orphan School which has stood there since it first opened in 1818. As it faces the river at the rear of Western Sydney University South Campus it is largely invisible today, but it is open to the public. Not surprisingly, James Ruse Drive was originally known as ‘Orphan School Lane’ when the river was the main thoroughfare.

Governor Phillip Gidley King was instrumental in having the Female Orphan School (FOS) moved from The Rocks area in Sydney to Parramatta, as it was thought the girls would be less exposed to the vagaries of the fledgling colony. His wife, Anna Josepha King was so intent on rescuing the ‘hordes of neglected children’ in Sydney that it was originally known as ‘Mrs King’s Orphanage’. At Parramatta, the land was originally a 60 acre grant to First Fleet surgeon, Thomas Arndell in 1792, which he called ‘Arthurs Hill’. Governor Macquarie laid the foundation stone for the Female Orphan Asylum in September 1813, and the Rev. Samuel Marsden was the superintendent of works in 1814 according to the inscription on the facade’s third storey. It reads: Female Orphan Institution erected under the Superintendence of the Rev. S. Marsden 1814, L. Macquarie Governor. Similarly, the Macquarie’s took a great interest in the building of the new FOS with the Governor’s wife, Elizabeth being credited with adapting the design from her family home in Scotland and became its patroness.

FOS Inscription 1814, RG 2019.

Although Governor King died in 1808, his widow Anna King returned to Australia in 1832 and soon met with Elizabeth Macarthur of Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta. The two families were now related as Anna’s daughter Anna Maria King had married John Macarthur’s nephew Hannibal Hawkins Macarthur in 1812. They lived at nearby Subiaco, which was originally known as ‘The Vineyards’, and Anna lived with them until she died there in 1844. One of Anna’s grandsons, George Macarthur, was also the headmaster at the nearby Kings School from 1869 to 1886. Anna and the King family are buried at St Mary Magdalene Anglican Church at St Marys in Western Sydney, which was near their family property, Dunheved.  An 1822 map shows the proximity of Subiaco  to the FOS, which would have dominated the river and landscape of Parramatta. In 1816,  Governor Macquarie appointed three patronesses to the FOS, including Anna Maria King/Macarthur whose husband Hannibal was also appointed to the Committee of the Female Orphan Institution along with other respectable gentlemen, according to research by Bubacz. 

Map 1822 Roe, Parramatta River. NLA 232531806

One day, I hope to read the stories of Anna by Marnie Bassett in The Governor’s lady, Mrs. Philip Gidley King and Elizabeth Macarthur by Beverley Kingston or more recently, Michelle Scott Tucker which can be found on Trove.

The Reverend Samuel Marsden recognised the need for another church and cemetery on the north side of the river and donated land and money to build All Saints Church shortly before he died in 1838. From this time those who died at the FOS were buried there rather than at St Johns Cemetery, Parramatta. Interestingly, Marsden’s  daughter Martha Marsden/Betts and her husband Josiah Betts became the Master and Matron at the FOS after it became the Protestant Orphan in 1851 and Martha remained there as Matron until 1875. The State Library of NSW has an photo of Martha Marsden/Betts (1811-1894) outside the FOS building. Perhaps, the challenge now is to find the stories of those who lived and work there, especially as the children were from all walks of life and many were not actually orphans in this working convict colony.


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Parramatta, NSW. Exploring Parramatta

Treasuring the Old Amongst the New

Parramatta has always been an interesting and historical place. Even though the skyscrapers are now overwhelming, there are still plenty of historical gems hidden away, including Experiment Farm Cottage, Hambledon Cottage, Elizabeth Farm at Harris Park as well as the National Trust’s Old Government House in Parramatta Park, which make an excellent walk and excuse for lunch. Nowadays, we can hardly recognise Parramatta from the bird’s eye view map above from the Illustrated Sydney News in 1877. The Parramatta River was the main focus and the Female Orphan School is in the foreground. It was built under the supervision of the Rev. Samuel Marsden from 1813 and was recently restored as part of Western Sydney University Parramatta South campus. Here’s a map to help you explore Parramatta which shows the historical buildings and landmarks.

By the river in Church Street is the Parramatta Heritage Centre which offers a variety of heritage walking tours in the area, which are both informative and fun. In August, the Science of Archaeology Tour I joined was exceptional and included a walk and talks by a variety of archaeologists who had actually worked on the sites in Parramatta.  Having had a long association with the area, I was surprised to hear of the Phillip Ruddock Heritage Centre which opened in December 2017. Somehow, I had missed it! It was fascinating to walk through and hear about the archaeology and history of this piece of early European Parramatta with artefacts from a convict hut; bakery and wheelwright’s shop; the cellar of the Wheatsheaf Hotel built in c.1801; a colonial cottage and well, all as they were found. It is now a feature of the new hotel which occupies the site on the corner at 45 Macquarie Street and best of all its free! Here is more information and a self-guided Parramatta CBD archaeology tour.

At the Heritage Centre there is also an archaeology display to visit and their website has information on local sites as well as details of their current 3D scanning project which includes objects such as shoes, pottery, medals and furniture together with their research library, archives and online photograph collection. So, if you have relatives from the Parramatta area, it’s definitely worth checking it out to see what you might find.

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Photo Dig: Bowning, NSW

Moving Mountains

22A. Trove_NAA_1965_Transport at Bowning_Colour

Road Transport near Mt Bowning, 1965. National Archives of Australia 11962995

Recently, I visited Bowning where Mount Bowning is clearly visible on the Hume Highway just pass Yass, to conduct a building survey for my studies. This involved researching the history of Bowning and the surrounding area and focussing on a number of buildings in the village to determine their architectural style, history and age. In the process, I collected all the photographs I could find to show the evolution of the village, its buildings and people over time. The proprietors of the Rollonin’ Cafe, Bowning Hotel and Bowning Primary School were particularly helpful. A visit to the Yass District Historical Society, library and online searches such as Trove revealed a distinct lack of photographs of Bowning. So can you help?

Sometimes, a gem is found such as the recent photo by aussiemobs which was very useful to see which buildings were there in 1906, or the recent article in the Yass Tribune which showed most of the images held by the historical society. It is great when postcards and photographs can be used together to build up a view of the streetscape and the community over a period of time and are invaluable when it comes to documenting their stories. Unfortunately, there are not enough images of Bowning available to illustrate its history so if you are able to dig out some and happy to share your images or stories, it would be greatly appreciated if you made a comment or emailed them to us.

If you visit, some of the buildings include various hotels such as the Bowning Hotel or former Commercial Hotel and the former Rose, Thistle and Shamrock or Cobb & Co Inn, Mayfield House, Steer’s General Store, St James Anglican Church, St Columba’s Catholic Church, the Advance Hall, Bowning  Railway Station and a multitude of cottages together with the old garage, post office, police station and shops. It’s a pleasant outing with coffee or meals available at the hotel or cafes and just a few old photographs if you look closely.



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Penrith, NSW. Nepean River & Pedestrian Bridge Update

Nepean River Walk, 6.4km Circuit


So many things have happened in Penrith during the last year. While development is still forging ahead, the Nepean River has benefitted greatly from the opening of a wide footpath and cycleway at Tench Reserve as well as the opening of the Nepean River Pedestrian Bridge, last October, near the railway bridge. It was quite miraculous to see the bridge gradually creeping out of the shed in which it was manufactured and cross the river.


Fortunately, we no longer need to walk or cycle across the original road bridge and have such wonderful views of the river. The Nepean river has always been a destination for serious rowers who regularly ply these waters and there is now a National Women’s Training Centre next to the rowing club, which opened in 2017 as well as the nearby Regatta Centre.

On the Emu Plains side of the river the path continues between the two bridges and Regatta Park is going to be upgraded soon with event areas, picnic spots and restaurants. Emu Hall Bar & Kitchen by the Pedestrian Bridge will also open sometime soon, and there is always the Lewers Gallery which has a cafe or the Arms of Australia Museum nearby.

The massive construction of a new boat ramp and trailer parking by the M4 Freeway Bridge which will also greatly increase the popularity and congestion in the area, although the new restaurants have a large carpark. Hopefully, we will also have provision for kayaks out of the way of the power boats. Meanwhile, the Nepean Belle paddle steamer continues to makes its way into the Blue Mountains National Park as far as Euroka Creek at various times during the week and on weekends.

While, the history of Penrith and the Nepean River is not particularly evident as yet, there is a rich history of the river and its people which I hope to explore in the near future. So, if you have any old photographs of the river and people that you would like to share please send them via the contact page. Finally, even though Glenbrook has a brand new Visitors Centre, Penrith still does not have any tourist information centre or a geographical or historical district map for visitors to the river……..yet.

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Penrith, NSW. Signs of the Times

Do History and Heritage Still Matter?

Penrith is fortunate to have the Nepean River. Captain Watkin Tench was the first European to find and name the river, in 1798. Today, the river is the centre of many social and leisure activities which will greatly increase once the Nepean River Pedestrian Bridge is completed in 2018, although its history and heritage are much neglected. Penrith City Council is promoting growth and development in Penrith which will soon be a sea of high rise apartments. While there has been considerable work at Tench Reserve by the river to greatly improve the facilities of locals and visitors to the area there is still no Penrith Visitors Centre, just a website. If you visit the river, there is not even a map to help you explore either the river or its heritage. Instead there are only signs for new developments, such as those above, which are near a popular cafe, and include a map which highlights the current lack of visibility of the river as well as ignoring both its physical and historical significance. It is also incredible to believe that the Panthers Rugby League Club has put a proposal to Penrith City Council to build sixteen buildings which include 850 apartments, not far away.

Now, it would be great to have an artistic and informative map of the area which features the Nepean River and the various points of interest (besides businesses) for both visitors and locals whether picnickers, walkers, cyclists, kayakers or history enthusiasts. In fact, such a map could be a mural on the side of a building or amenity and become a feature of Tench Reserve and the area in its own right. While travelling to Kakadu in the Northern Territory I came across a terrific map at the Bark Hut Inn which was designed and printed by Sign City in Darwin that highlights the immediate locality but also extends into neighbouring tourism areas and shows the main routes. Surely, Penrith could do this and at least link to the Blue Mountains, Windsor and Richmond to make the most of both their separate and combined histories and geography, especially as the Greater Blue Mountains Drive which briefly includes Penrith Valley and features some historic sites, canoeing, picnics, the connection to the Lapstone Zig Zag and also has an interactive map.

Bark Hut Inn map

If you have any comments, maps or murals which may provide further inspiration, please let us know. You never know, it might just happen!

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