Monday, January 11, 2010

Sarah, India and Dawn Starts

No it is not quite déjà vu.

But oddly my post tonight shares a great deal with a similarly titled post of a month ago.

Like last month, and despite the heat of the day, there is a curry simmering on the stove.
Like last time I am going to ramble about my Indian heritage.
And like last month I am going to finish by talking about some graves.

As I have said before, one of the pleasures of early starts, is early finishes. This means that I have time to cook properly before the evening meal. Assuming that is, I am in the mood.

Well tonight I have taken the time to grind the spices (the lemony smell of fresh ground coriander seed is heavenly) and make a proper curry.
I don’t use a recipe but if anyone is interested I could write one out and post it another time.

With the curry simmering I have time to write this post.

As I said last time my Russell ancestors used to live in Jabalpur, MP, India. The world really is small and blogging seems to make it a whole lot smaller.
As a result of my previous post I was contacted by a gentleman by the name of Byram.

Byram lives in Canada but like me he has family ties to Jabalpur and he has an interest in genealogy. He asked If I had heard of Valmay Young’s Indian ancestry website and if I had any relatives left in Jabalpur.

I responded to Byram that my family (the Russells) were in Jabalpur by the 1850s but that if we were related to Russells still living there it was distantly. My Father left Madhya Pradesh in the 1950s (he came to Australia).
My Aunt also left in the 1950s initially to Calcutta, then Bombay and finally Australia in 1980.
The last direct tie my family had with Jabalpur and Madhya Pradesh was when my Grandparents left there in 1967 (also for Australia).
My Grandfather was fairly unusual in that he did not leave India at the time of independence (1947). Although he thought of himself as British he had no other home but India (he was born in Jabalpur, as were his father and grandfather) and he stayed there until after he retired.

The next email from Byram was fairly brief and I quote it in full:
“Hi Allan,
Does this grave in Jabalpur belong to one of your ancestors? Regards Byram”

Byram attached these photos:I responded to Byram - “I don’t know for certain, I would guess that it is very likely to be my Great-Great-Grandfather’s grave.”

William and Anley are family names (which fit the initials). I don’t remember my G-G-Grandfather’s name, but I do I know he was killed outside Jabalpur in a hunting accident at around that time. {As a by the by I posted about my ancestor William Anley who liked playing with matches a while ago }

My Great Grand-Father William Anley Postance Russell, was made an orphan by his father’s death, he was raised by his Grandmother. Interestingly our family has had a strong tradition of including both William and Anley in their names.

My Great uncle was William Anley Rupert Russell. My Grandfather was Arthur Anley Rupert Russell and my dad is Rupert Anley William Russell.

Anley and Postance are surnames from other British families that married into mine, that habit of including relations names is a real boon when tracing family histories.

But the plot (please excuse the pun) deepened.
Spotting the name Postance.
Byram shot back this email.

“Hi Allan.
Very interesting. I wonder if the enclosed grave of Sarah Postance is an ancestor of yours. Regards Byram”
And finally Byram posted:

Hi Allan.
The W A Russell and Sarah Postance graves have the same pattern. They are the only two graves that have this pattern. I photographed the other side of SP's grave but the writing is not visible.

So it seems that, by rambling about curries, India and graves I have more than likely found my distant ancestors.

What a small world.


roffe said...

Hi..Almost summer here up north today, only - 10..hehehe..

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

It is a small world. And those seven degrees of separation just seem to be getting fewer.

Kristen M. said...

What a beautiful thing the internet can be!

And I wouldn't mind if you wrote up a recipe. I just started experimenting with curry in the past year and am using a recipe that my grandmother had but seeing as how it probably originated in the San Francisco area in the fifties or sixties, I'm not sure where she got the recipe from and what tradition the curry is in. All I can say is that it is not spicy!

Lisa said...

That's fantastic! Even with the internet making it possible to connect with people the world over, what were the chances that this man would happen to find you blog in all of the stuff that is out there?

Amanda said...

That is so cool that you found that connection with some family! I love Indian food and would love to learn how to cook it. Please please post your recipe!!

Al said...

Hi Roffe,
Careful! You'll get heatstroke!

Hi Christy,
More like 3.5 degrees of separation now?

Hi Kristen,
Isn't it the net amazing? Building communities that stretch across the world. Yeah, here in Australia people make something called "curried sausages". Sausages they may be but curried never.

Hi Lisa,
I agree it seems like a tiny possibility. But without the web that contact just never would have happened.

Hi Amanda,
It is really exciting. I new from talking with my Grandfather that we have ancestors buried in Jabalpur, but to actually see evidence of some of their graves is thrilling.
I'll give the recipe a go.

Wendy R said...

Just caught this one, Al. I found it fascinating - not just the link with Byram which seems like magic, but the sheer longevity and exoticism of the line which reaches you making a graceful curry at the end of the day in Australia. And it asks yet again the beautifully complicated question of what is/who are British...
I imagine that your ancestors, like you, were good communicators

Rebecca said...

Al-- what wonderful history you have.. and the just mights well that's cool. but teh side picture of the graves also amkes me wonder hwo close these two people were related as well.

Harsh Nema said...

Hi Alan,

Nice to see u getting so involved with your ancestors.. I have referred someone like Byram to your site as well :)

Simon said...

Gerday mate!

Nice post. I read recently that the Indian Government is starting to restore the old graveyards of Empire and accepting that the Brits who were born,lived and grew up in India, are as much a part of the countries development, as was the Moghul period.

You will know better than I, but after independence did all the Brits leave, or are there still some left who are Indian citizens?

Al said...

Hi Wendy,
It is a long line, but we all have families that stretch back to the beginning. I am lucky in that others have done some research I can tap into. Interestingly I have just come across evidence that i have distant rellies who were writers of both fiction and non fiction. What a goldmine this stuff can be.

Hi Rebecca,
It is a fascinating history, but then I think you find this sort of material in most families if the research is done. Unfortunately I don't know what names wre on those other graves. Maybe I'll have to go to Jabalpur myself someday top find out.

Hi Harsh,
Family history is always interesting. Thankyou for that, I hope they make some contact.

Hi Simon,
Mate, if you look at the families I am descended from there were associations lasting literaly centuries. But also aspects of modern India are still very British, Westminster government, the law, the courts, the language of the elite, and of course Cricket!
Most left, some like my great uncle at the instant of independance and some like my grandfather only after they retired. Interestingly, many Anglo-Indians (what they used to call half castes etc) often left as well. A minority stayed.

Harsh Nema said...

Hi Al,

I would like to say there are still few Anglos left in India (if you talk of Jabalpur i have known few of them living close to Russel Square in Silver Oaks Compound. hope u know the place.

Just this last week there was even an article in a newspaper about Anglo Indians contribution to Indian hockey.

Though most of them now seems don't like to be identified as mere Anglo Indians.

Michael said...

When I was in college and broke (which was often the case) and couldn't afford "real" food, I'd make potato curry. A big pot of curry could be made for less than 25 cents with a few potatoes, a 10-cent pouch of curry powder, and what ever bits of not-yet-rotten food we could find in the fridge.

My specialty was "delayed reaction" curry.

I'd convince a victim who had heard that curry was very hot that mine was easy to eat. He'd try a spoonful without burning himself, and then go back for a second spoonfull.

Just as the second spoonful was entering his mouth, the first batch would ignite, incinerating his esophagus -- and it was then too late to halt the second load.

Michael N. Marcus
-- president of the Independent Self-Publishers Alliance,
-- author of "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press,"
-- author of "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)," coming 4/1/10.

Al said...

Hi Michael,
Thanks for visiting!
Sounds like your curry was deadly!
If ever you serve up I'll have to be cautious.
Mind yoy I do love a hot curry.
Usually I have to tone mine down a bit in deference to my other half's non-leather palate.