Family History, etc.

David Blair: Family History, etc.


Genealogy and Family History

At age nine, I discovered genealogy when, during a trip to the museum, the pedigree of a famous racehorse, Carbine, captured my eye.  I caught the “genealogy bug.”  After quizzing my parents so that I could incorporate as many direct ancestors as possible into my own pedigree chart, attention turned to the royal family of England—and other countries of Europe—for which vastly more information was available.  Over a couple of years I drew up a massive all-in-one family tree of the royals.  My strong interest in genealogy at that time sparked, in my Dad, Jim, a keen interest in our family history, as he later told me.

Over the succeeding decades, I, and particularly Jim, added to our family tree on both Dad’s and Mum’s side.  When Jim retired in 1971, Jim got stuck into the work in a big way: letters and visits to distant relatives, old parish registers on microfiche—when available in Australia at all—, old newspapers, shipping records, etc.  In those days virtually none of the records were computerized, and in any case there was no internet, so that the work was hard going, and often not possible unless you made a trip to the United Kingdom.  At one stage Jim and my Mum, Phil, spent six months based in London, where (besides touring) Jim did considerable family tree research.  A contribution of mine in those years was to spend two weekends in Lincoln, England, poring over what are called “Bishop’s transcripts” (of old parish registers).  (In those days, 1980, one could handle the originals—not photocopies!)  Over the years it has been a pleasure to meet many relatives with different degrees of separation.

In the present discussion I distinguish between genealogy—the names, relationships and vital statistics—and family history—the other events and themes in the life of a person or family.  An additional category is  family stories, which appears as a heading below.  (As used here, this term has a slightly different meaning from “family history”; however there is no hard and fast boundary.)

 Since Jim’s death in 1991, I’ve put nearly all of the genealogy and most of the family history onto computer, first using the application Reunion and then switching the information across to Family Tree Maker

Jim, in his time, produced four polished documents, each pertaining to the ancestry of one of my four grandparents—extending to direct ancestors and their siblings, and sometimes beyond.  Each document is a family history, describing events and experiences of the people concerned, along with some historical background; the genealogy enters naturally along the way.  In building on these, my current aim is a rather modest one, so chosen that hopefully it will get finished before three or four years have gone by.  The writing that I plan involves little or no new research, but consists of properly writing up a lot of the more recent findings and combining this output with the written material already produced by Jim.  Carried through its early stages, but on the back burner at the moment, the project will extend each of Jim’s four write-ups by bringing them down by a generation or two, but essentially stopping around the start of my generation.  The four updated documents are to be sent to interested relatives and to the library of SAG (Society of Australian Genealogists).

Family stories

In the “Family stories” project, the central part of the work is to write up anecdotes from the childhood of my siblings and me.  The work extends out from this in two directions: first, to include some more serious events and some reflective thoughts relating to those times, and secondly, to include little stories concerning earlier, more distant family members and also family friends—stories true but frequently humorous, handed down by my parents.  A start has been made on this project.

Literary work of J.B. Blair

My brother Richard and I are engaged in a project to bring together the writings of our father Jim, and to add commentary. 

Jim (James Beatton Blair) wrote under the name “J.B. Blair”.   He was, for most of his working life, a journalist: the largest part of that time was spent on the staff of The Bulletin, a highly regarded national weekly magazine.  In his spare time Jim wrote and published fiction.  He especially wrote short stories, mostly published in The Bulletin and mostly humorous. 

For Richard and me, the goal has been to produce two documents, each of book length.  Copies of these two would be made available (one way or another) to interested relatives and friends; possibly the books would be published.  I have been doing the major part of the work, while Richard has made a much-valued contribution in locating previously unknown articles, giving advice, helping proofread, and so on. 

The first of the two documents has been completed and was actually self-published as a book in 2007, entitled Blown to Blazes and Other Works of J.B. Blair, discussed on the following website:


This book contains the 57 short stories and a number of other items including commentary, biography, footnotes and a description of Jim’s four previously published books. 

The second document—very much on the back burner at present—aims to gather together works of Jim in the remaining categories as follows.  First, samples of his political and current affairs writings in The Bulletin: “pars” (items of paragraph length), feature articles and editorials.  Secondly, samples of his writings in the “Society” section and other sections of The Bulletin (including verse) and articles arising from his period of employment with the N.S.W. Public Service Board.  Thirdly, other work including unpublished poetry.

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