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Branches of the Family Tree

Our collective history shapes us, doesn’t it? It helps us know who we are and where we fit into the world now. The pattern of migration to distant places that began in the late 1700’s and continues to this day has spread families far and wide. And many of us have a need to know just what led our antecedents to migrate from the countries of their birth, and what connections we may have somewhere around the world today.

Anyone who has begun the search for their family’s roots will tell you it’s a fascinating and absorbing exercise and once started, hooks you in. But, these days modern technology is of huge assistance, it connects us to the rest of the world in a way unknown to earlier generations. One little snippet of information in old archive somewhere on the wide world web can easily lead to other like-minded folk on the other side of the world or those who may have a connection to us, albeit a remote one.

It certainly helped Jim Walsh find Rob Axen. Jim, who resides in Ontario, Canada, has been on a virtual adventure around the world since 2009, researching the history and final resting place of his Great Uncle Harry Callcott. By dint of much hard work “digging around”, as he says, he found his uncle had settled in Girgarre under the Soldier Settlement Scheme following WW1. That link led him to contact Rob, a member of the Girgarre RSL. Rob turned out to be a kindred spirit able to offer a lot of the information Jim was seeking. The result of their ongoing correspondence over the past year is an enduring friendship even though they live on opposite sides of a world, currently separated by the pandemic.

Jim is fulsome in his appreciation of Rob and of the Girgarre community. “I can honestly say I have come to greatly appreciate your community, and more importantly, the community spirit you have, and if I ever get the chance, I would love to come visit Girgarre,” he said. “Rob sent me CD’s and thumb drives of photos, and a copy of your ‘Living History’ book. It has been a wonderful resource and assisted my search a great deal. The information I received from Rob, and the wonderful tribute to your pioneer settlers in the history book, have led me to find out my uncle left Girgarre in 1933 for Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), one of the many who could not make a go of it in Australia under the Migrant Settlement Scheme. The Callcott’s are on my mother's side of the family and I have discovered I also have many second and third cousins I did not know I had.”

Jim went on to say he has since found the records of his uncle’s family in South Africa. Harry’s wife, Gertrude died in Cape Town, West Cape, South Africa in 1955 and his Great Uncle died in Salisbury, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), in 1963. He is yet to find Harry’s gravestone but did find that Harry and Gertrude’s daughter in law, John Callcott’s wife, died in 1971 in Salisbury, Zimbabwe.

Jim Walsh is an interesting character too. Retiring early with a great deal of experience in the music industry, he embarked on a second career as a musician. All was going well until the COVID-19 virus hit and the music business in Canada went into recess as it did everywhere. He was born in London, Ontario Canada, eventually moving back to the country, closer to the Callcott roots in the Chatham Kent area of Ontario. Married, with three grown children, he worked for forty-two years in the packaging graphics business. You can find Jim on http://www.jimwalshbassist.com/. We wish him continued success in tracing his families roots.

Jim’s Great Uncle, Harry Norman Hope Callcott, left England with his wife Gertrude along with their infant son John, to settle in Girgarre in June 1924. They were allocated Allotment 4, formerly owned by the Low family and eventually, after defaulting on payments due to circumstance, were given Allotment 1 (from Curr Rd, west on Whyte Rd). The family were active community members and Harry was a champion breeder of British Black pigs, importing stock from the UK and winning many ribbons at local agricultural shows. However, as many early settlers found, it was hard going and the Callcott’s eventually gave up and left Australia for Rhodesia.

Ref: Girgarre, Living History book: The Calcott story is on page 77, just one of many interesting stories recorded in the book, available from the Post Office for $30.

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