Here is a brief overview of my #familyhistory interest/obsession/hobby.

family branches

Kooij (Adrie) Coomans (Jo) Watson (Baden) Hughes (Gladys)

When the Coomans family migrated to Australia in 1967, I was the eldest son at 19 and therefore in a lucky (rare?) position to have clear memories of growing up in the Netherlands and “maturing” into an Australian citizen. I was lucky to run into a visitor from New Zealand in 1969, we married in 1971 and she’s still here…

So while I matured into a “Dinky-di (real) Australian”, my memories of 75 years and family history cover Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands. Along the way I assumed a responsibility for myself to record and document some of that history.

Anyway, the reason for this post is to give a brief overview of some of my online activities as shown in my profile at coomans.com.

Picstory.net is a home built, family history website. It was initially a repository of “artefacts” left by my father who lived by the principle of never throwing anything away if you had the room to keep it.  It has grown into a family history site with detail of over 300 people and almost 1000 letters, photos, artwork etc.

Te Moana is an archive of a blog we kept about our sailing adventures between 2002 and 2010

Willem Kooij is an site which provides an archive of blog posts, photos and music selections by a cousin and his wife, who both died prematurely.

While my main interest is in collecting documents and artifacts rather than telling a story, the posts on this blog give some background about the family and picstory.net.

You’ve got mail

It’s getting hard to imagine life before cheap phone calls and “The Internet”. But  in the 1950’s and 1960’s, moving to the other end of the world was a pretty radical thing to do. Letters were the only practical way to keep in touch, particularly in the form of aerograms (single sheet, folding letters).

Letter from Oma Kooij

Aerograms were economical and convenient, taking typically around a week to travel between the Netherlands and Australia.

Mum and Dad kept any family correspondence and there are hundreds of letters in the archive. Of course, these are (with rare exceptions) letters from friends and relatives rather than those they sent themselves, but they represent an interesting snapshot of family history from the late sixties.

While all the correspondence is in Dutch, Google Translate does a passable job with the letters. Here is Dutch Transcription of the letter above and here is a English Translation. So… here is my next task, scanning and transcribing hundreds of letters… I have set myself a target of 25 letters a month to scan and transcribe, so this will be a ‘work in progress’ for a few years…

Here are 25 letters which I scanned in April. You will need a password…  please email me (mh@coomans.com) and I’ll send it to you.



September update

It’s about time that I posted an update on progress with the picstory website.

While it was a lot of work, there was a lot of satisfaction in archiving Willem Kooij’s sites to picstory.net. The website re-coding should result in Willem’s writing and photos being preserved well into the future.

Because it took some months to archive Willem’s work, I’ve gotten a bit behind with the main picstory archive. The main additions this year have been family photos and funeral notices. All in all, the archive now contains over 650 items, with many thousands waiting to be added…

I just acquired a new Epson V550 scanner, with attachments for slides and negatives and  look forward to capturing some of the old negatives from the vault!

Another year…

HappyNewYearSo, there we are… another year gone! While I would have liked getting more of the family site built, it now has just over 400 items, at least enough to see where it’s heading…

I really enjoyed scanning in some terrific Christmas / New Year cards from Han Hoogenkamp recently, he was one of Dad’s colleagues back in Holland at the Navy (see earlier item). They’re all hand-made (more on Han’s page) and a wonderful memory of the man, who I remember very well. He taught Dad to play the organ, was a valuable colleague at the Hydrographic Office and kept in touch for many years after we left for Australia.