Sunday, July 7, 2013

Family History.... here we go again!

Australia Day 1988. The Bicentennial.   Sitting by the pool having a great celebratory lunch.   F111's flew overhead. Fireworks planned for later that night.  We were having a BBQ lunch in the great outdoors.   I asked the seemingly innocent question of "Who came to Australia first?".  Dad said it wasn't him.  He arrived here from England via the rest of the world in the 1940's.  Mum had no idea about her family.  She knew her mum was from Ireland, but knew nothing about her dad.  How hard could it be?  Stupidly I drew up what we knew...... one chart with about 8 names on it.  The search had begun.

Fast forward 20 years and I thought I knew enough.  I am a 7th generation born Aussie on my mums dads side.  They arrived as assisted immigrants in 1853. Hundreds of hours sifting thru births, deaths and marriage records.  Weeks lost searching thru microfilm and microfiche.  Untold trips to Sydney, Tamworth, Inverell, Maitland and Warialda.  Hours spent in cemeteries and the research even lead to me buying the licence for the family cemetery plot in Sydney that had gone unused for over 100 years.   I felt I was done.  Those initial 8 names on a piece of paper became nearly 1600 names on a laptop database.

25 years on from that first question something weird happened.  Cousin Gen contacted me on Facebook saying she was interested in family history and asked what did I know.  Gen is on my dad's side.  I admitted I knew very little.  Yes, I do have the family bible which had its first entry related too a marriage in 1853 in England, but nothing earlier than that.  I suggested we contact another cousin, Jeremy, who moved here from the UK about 25 years ago.  He surely would know more.   I said I'd ask my mum to ring Jeremy and organise a get together.

A couple of days later I spoke to my mum about my conversation with Gen and about contacting Jeremy for us.   Freakishly she told me Jeremy had just rung her wanting to know what I knew about the family history and suggesting we get together to find out what we know and where to look next.  I sent Gen a message and she was astounded at what had transpired.

So a date was set for us to all get together.  We are spread out over about 400kms up the east coast, each some 200kms away from the next.  We are all getting together next weekend.

In the interim I thought I would start looking to see what information I had and what I needed to move further backwards.  Unlike the records for New South Wales nothing seems easy with the British stuff.  To order a certificate you need an Index number.  But the Government Record Office doesn't help you find the index number. For that you need to go to a free search engine to find the index number.  Well EVERY name combination I have tried leads to precisely NOWHERE.  Even when I have the exact date and place of a marriage I simply can not find an index number.  You CAN order a certificate without an index number, but it is a long, slow, expensive process.  I have ordered ONE so far, but I don't believe it will be here for another fortnight or so, after our get together.

So I took myself to the local library one night last week.  They have a great family history unit and are open till 7 most nights during the week.  Three hours into my search I found our family.  On a census.  I found where they were living, who was in the house and the name of the brides mother.  I found a few names in her family and then what appears to be a previous marriage for my main line.  But nothing can be confirmed until I get hold of a certificate which will hopefully show who is a widow and the names of some parents.

I never wanted to follow this line.  My fascination has always been Australian History.  I always knew it would be hard, slow and expensive to follow the British line...... but I have been sucked right in.  Family History research is like heroin.  Addictive!   After just this week searching I have realised just how lucky we are in NSW.  The records here are freely searchable, easy to find and advanced search functions make finding families and cross referencing dates and places an easy task.  I can only see a struggle ahead for the Brit stuff!

I have managed to find a photo of every generation backwards in my mums lot to their arrival in Oz.   So in 2011 i tried to take nice family portrait to hang in the hall with the historical stuff.

Yeah well here's what my lot consider a great portrait.   See what I am up against!!!

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