Story by Algernon

I’ve recently taken up researching the family tree, It’s something I’ve wanted to do for many years but never had the time to do it. COVID provided the perfect opportunity to spend confinement at home to spending time doing so.

There was much I already knew. On my mother’s side, my grandmother spent time tracing what she could about 40 years ago as well as putting together some notes that enlightened the times of her grandmother as well as the search for my 3x Great Grandmother. There were also other parts of the family that were not spoken about.

My father’s side by comparison was more open, but finding details was harder given his southern European background. He tells me that his father could recite the ancestors going back many generations, but had never written down anything.

So, what did I find out?

Well, my first ancestors arrived in Australia in 1827, about 20 odd years before we thought. That he was purported to be the country’s first underground coal mine manager and the first to quarry stone at Pyrmont. They travelled, the Hunter, Sydney where they worked on the Argyle Cut, to Victoria to the gold fields where the 3x Great Grandfather died and is buried.

Mrs A’s family would have crossed paths. There was a convict who was transported in 1835, life for stealing cattle, later pardoned. Another line of the family arrived as babies to adults with spouses. by the time the parents arrived, they were in their late 40s and settled around Braidwood. The mother died four years later; the Father, fifteen.

Others arrived in the late 1840’s and 1850’s. 

There has been a mystery surrounding my 3x Great Grandmother, Anna also known as Hannah. She arrived 1849 but little is known about her death. Her daughter (and my grandmother) searched with little success. She arrived aged 16 as part of Earl Grey’s – Irish Famine Scheme. On finding that it sent shivers up my spine. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked past the Memorial to these Orphans at Hyde Park Barracks and that she was one of them. She married 1851 and had three children, the third being my 2x Great Grandmother. Her husband died in 1858 as the result of an accident near Mudgee. A gold miner. She had three more children before marrying again at Bourke NSW, where two more children were born the surviving half an hour. She died two days later aged 37.

It’s hard to imagine how tough life was for her. Orphaned with both her parents dying due to the Irish Famine, she was sent to a workhouse. The chance of a new life as a domestic servant came up and she married an Irish Farm Labourer at Maitland the year after she did manage to catch up with his brother on the Hunter River. It appears she survived on her wits.

Her daughter, Elizabeth, ended up in an orphanage with her siblings. She ended up becoming a domestic servant with a farming family at Bathurst. Anyhow, it appears she fell for the eldest son a year or so younger. They married in 1876, she with child and stayed together until his death in 1931. 12 children ensued with only six surviving to adulthood. She also took in her sister’s children after the sister died, along with the neighbour’s four children, so their mother could work after the death of their father.

There were some rogues too, fathers abandoning families, another who ended up in jail for six months for assault. There is little about them other than their records. Oh and a great grandmother who had a penchant for marriage, without divorcing.

My family didn’t seem to move beyond NSW though, apart from the 8 years at Ballarat during the gold rush.

Mrs A’s family has a similar story though they travelled more widely. A convict sent to Van Diemen’s land. Arrivals into Melbourne. Founding families into Adelaide, working in NSW before they headed west to the gold rush in Kalgoorlie in the 1890’s. Then settling in Perth and Fremantle. 

My father’s side is difficult due to the lack of digitised information. Mind you that’s an excuse for a holiday to find more. One we had planned for next year. 2023 maybe.

What I did find in the Ancestors was they did not move far from the towns an villages they were born in. Dad’s mother and fathers families did not leave the respective towns and villages for at least 300 years. Same with my mothers side, two lines of the family can be traced back to the 1500’s and all lived with in a 30 odd kilometre radius.

Mrs A’s ancestors are the pretty much the same. There is landed gentry, which can be traced back to 1375; stolen lands (where they had land stolen by the British aristocracy); backing the wrong King and escorting him into exile in France only to return 20 years later.

We joke that we can now watch programs by where our people came from.

It’s all interesting stuff and the discovery of things you would like to know and somethings you’d prefer not to. I guess that’s it, that’s what makes us who we are.