Coping with Covid isolation

What a strange world we now live in. When I wrote my last post Covid-19 was something new. It is now some months later so I am looking back on how it has affected my arts practice – and life in general. At first, being oldies, we very much stayed at home. With a ‘life at sea’ behind us, we were well used to isolation. I was probably more paranoid about the coronavirus than John, but he soon developed a healthy respect for it. It was easier for us than younger people – we didn’t have a job or a mortgage to worry about. But, we did have our health to consider . We stayed put.

Things soon closed down around us – my art groups stopped functioning, John’s mens shed shut its doors, exhibitions were cancelled and so was our planned three months caravanning trip to Alice Springs with the Avan club. What shouldn’t have happened is that I barely ventured into my studio for two or three months. It would have been more sensible to take advantage of the time and do heaps of art, but it just didn’t happen. I’m not sure why, but suspect it had something to do with lack of deadlines.

So, what did I do?

I spent a lot of time on my computer.

Ancestry had been offering me two weeks free – so that seemed a good place to start. Lots of gaps were filled in throughout my family tree. Through Ancestry a distant neice, Lynne Linfield, contacted me – and although distant in the family tree she was also living about a half an hour’s drive away and very kindly presented me with her report on the Hoskins family – my mother’s family. Following this the University of Tasmania offered their ‘Introduction to Family History’ unit – also for free.

I found out that my family had been in Australia for about 9 generations and had arrived over 200 years ago on Dad’s side and a bit less than that on Mum’s. It was no surprise that there were a lot of convicts! Mum’s family had been very tight lipped about the past. I’d known my pocket sized great-grandmother as a child – we called her Mammy and were all terrified of her with her black clothes and walking stick. Curious kids were told that ‘you don’t need to know about that’ – but at the time there was no way we could find out about what we shouldn’t know about. How research opportunities have changed! She was probably wise to not let on that her Scottish mother, Helen, was a convict who would marry three other convicts including Annie’s father.

My great grand mother – Annie Ethel Brindle nee Lamb, 1860-1954.

Annie Brindle was my Mum’s mother’s mother, but my interest soon switched to Mum’s father’s father, Robert Hoskins. Lynn’s report had traced the Hoskins family from 16th century Cornwall and 17th century Wales. Robert was the son of a convict and his mother a convict’s daughter – and that was only the first surprise as not a hint of a convict in the Hoskins side either. Lynn had recorded three wives for Bob and I had found mention of another. My uni course needed a topic and Roberts 1, 2, 3 or 4 wives seemed perfect. Only one is mentioned in his obituary despite being married to another at the time and you would imagine that she should have at least got a mention! My Covid-19 isolation passed delving into birth, death and marriage records, chasing records up via Trove and Find-a-grave etc. It was engaging and made for a good research project, but in the end all I determined was that Robert had definitely married two women, probably married three, and probably didn’t marry four – which was more or less what I knew to start with! There is still an air of mystery around Bob Hoskins who was born at Tucki Tucki, was a sawyer in the Northern Rivers area, had at least a dozen children, was a good fiddler and an excellent saw sharpener. I’ve become quite fond of my ancesters who had had much tougher lives than I.

My great grandfather, Robert Henry Hoskins, 1851-1926.

So far COVID has not spread in Australia like it has done overseas. Perhaps we are the ‘lucky country’. There are still restrictions, but life is getting some normality back into it. Probably the only plus for me is that Coles now deliver to Mapleton!

All of a sudden my art groups resumed, I went back to life drawing (and organising models for it), and John was happy the Mapleton Mens Shed was open again. And of course, those exhibitions that were cancelled suddenly were on the calendar – so life got pretty busy. The first exhibition, Arts Connect’s ‘ReConnect’ was easy – just a matter of grabbing some works off the wall, however the next two required new works. I’ll write about them in due course, but it is nice to have some deadlines and to be back in the studio.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. sharnmills67 says:

    Great post. Anything on your fathers side? X

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    1. jeneurell says:

      Heaps, but not recently. A rellie called Marie Cribbin did a lot of research on the Mills family and probably the most surprising things she found was that some of us (including you and I) should not have been Mills’s at all. My grandfather Alfred Patrick Mills grew up as a Mills but was born Alfred Fitzgerald. His mother Martha (nee Bell) had married a Frederick Mills (of German descent) and had two children (William and Theresa), but then left him and bigamously married Irishman Arthur Alfred Fitzgerald before having three sons to him (Harold, Alfred, and Arthur). Arthur deserted the family when the boys were small, and two of the boys died before they were adults, so only Alfred was left. He names Frederick Mills as his father on his marriage certificate, so I suspect he had no idea what had happened. So, if you feel like you’ve got some Irish music running in your veins, that is why! The other interesting thing was that Martha Bell’s mother was one of the girls that came out to Australia under the Irish Orphan Famine Scheme. She came out on the ‘Digby’. Her name was Bridget Hopkins and her name is sandblasted on to the glass Irish Famine Scheme memorial at Hyde Barracks in Sydney. I has certainly been interesting delving into the past.

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  2. narellerj says:

    Hello Jennifer,
    I know of a few artists who haven’t used the “spare” covid time being creative. I think it’s stymied them with subconscious worry.
    FYI…Ancestry has made access to their library edition site available free at home until December, via any library website, provided you have a library card. At least it is in NSW, so I assume all of Australia.

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    1. jeneurell says:

      Thanks Narelle. At the moment I still have access to the University of Tasmania library edition of Ancestry. I have a National Library card too and think I can access it from there, but haven’t tried yet. I think I am pretty amazed by the information that is available – and even the fact that so much has been recorded and kept.

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