I have started this post a number of times only to get stuck because I was trying to say everything at once. Two and a half months later, I think I have calmed down enough to get words on a page!
I was excited about my visit to the National Library of Australia (NLA) with a researcher cousin who was visiting Canberra. We went there to view photocopies of some manuscripts from Derbyshire, England. They were described in the NLA catalogue as:
“Correspondence between Sir Fitzherbert and John Allsop
(b. 1820) and documents relating to the emigration of the Allsop family to Australia.”
This description sounded so specific to my family, and the timing of finding the item in the catalogue was so fortuitous, it must have been a gift from the genealogy fairy!
The fairy didn’t let us down.
Neither my cousin nor I had visited the manuscripts room at the library before. We found and entered the small room and approached the counter. The staff member on duty was very friendly and helpful. We signed the form promising to do the right things, and checked if we were allowed to take photos of the papers (yes we were). The papers were waiting for us in a box on the shelves at the back of the room. We found them, chose a table, and opened the box.
The correspondence was 17 pages long starting with a four page letter in the hand of my great-great-great grandfather. It was a lot to take in all at once! We decided to photograph the pages before continuing.
Having photographed the papers we started making out way through the documents, page by page. I enjoyed having someone else with me who was just as excited by our find as I was. We read the pages in soft voices – there was only one other person using the room and he didn’t appear to be bothered by us. It was useful to do this with another person. As one of us would tail off over a difficult word, the other would step in and continue reading. Some words puzzled us both for a while, but in context we could work them out and suddenly they seemed obvious. “Omnibus” for example! We managed to work out most of what was written.
Now once again I find myself writing, deleting, rewriting and arranging paragraphs describing the documents and what we learned from them… then deleting them again. Time for a break I think!
This post will have to be marked “To be continued”…