Special Publication ~ Seniors Magazine
Researching family history was and is a favourite hobby for many people. But in the days before the internet, the pre-fibbing days let’s say, tracking down your family tree was a most imprecise past time.
Some relatives, like my uncle Bob, rewrote the tree to suit their own version best. That meant some relatives were in, and the black sheep were definitely in the back paddock of ‘someone else’s’ tree, and out.
That was the stepfather’s side of the family, a murky swamp to try to investigate even one generation back, let alone a great grandma.
Then there was mum’s side, wild Irish and stuffy English blood ran in that tree sap, so mum and her sister June knew it would be a journey and a half.
"The National Archives hold vast records where you might find information about your ancestors. It’s the go to place if your family members served in the Australian armed forces or if they migrated to Australia during the 20th century."
This was in the 1980s when most family tree info remained with the gravestones in dilapidated cemeteries, necessitating trips to the most unlikely of places.
Vague family stories of Tasmania, and their grandfather who was the manager of the Mt Lisle gold mine, sent the pair scurrying to Mount Lisle, Deloraine and along the Tamar River.
They had some success, and latched on to forgotten family names, like Holehan, Mulcahy and Dixon and followed the family tree trail back to Victoria, around Melbourne and then up to Albury.
Like most families, relatives never strayed too far from someone they knew, and that was very handy for these two family tree sleuths.
So after all this travel, they came home and started writing it all down for when ‘the kids’ would want to pick up the trail again.
All those closely handwritten notes are still in the ratty plastic bag mum popped them in, complete with dress pin stabbed through it to ensure the bag stays closed, just waiting for the next, or the next, generation to start asking questions about their ‘family’.
I’m more into oral stories than dry dates and family names, that don’t mean much to anybody living, except to start fights over whether Cecilia Jean was born in 1892 or 1896 as her birth certificate said. This document has the name Bridgette Cecilia on it, so the sleuths were not even sure if it was their mum’s certificate, such was the record keeping in Tasmania in the late 1880s and 1890s.
So my contribution to the family tree, that ratty, moth eaten, half dead thing, grafted with a wild variety of fruit in truth, is to encourage mum to tell me stories from her early years, her teens and early married life.
Perhaps family trees are only meant to outline the bare branches, because the real stories belong to the oral history, where the beauty and immediacy of them can be told when relatives ask.
I’m storing the memories by relating them to other family members as mum passes them on to me. These stories are the real treasures of our family tree.
You can read more great stories in the Wimmera & Grampians Seniors magazine HERE