Genetics (HLD 26)

17 April 2020

I’m a big fan of the old family tree. In previous years, before the computer took over as the source of all knowledge in this area, I spent quite a bit of time examining microfiche in libraries around the country, and also at the LDS libraries. I have a fascination with my ancestry and this is evidenced by the multitude of paper files, and now computer files, that exist in my house. One of my current favourite computer websites that I could spend all day trawling through, is The Trove (trove.nla.gov.au, for those playing along from home) – source of a lot of digitised Australian newspapers and other stuff.

We have some interesting stories in our family – my grandfather on my Dad’s side was drowned while fishing at Sugarloaf Rock in the south west, so there’s multiple newspaper articles about that. On Simon’s side, his great great great grandmother was murdered by a lodger, and this was again a source of a few English newspaper articles (and also inclusion in the book “More Bristol Murders” – the sequel to the highly acclaimed “Bristol Murders”).

Apart from the interesting deaths (and let’s face it, they’re all dead – its just a matter of how they died and did they make it into a newspaper or book), there are other interesting stories amongst my ancestors. A great great grandfather (Scottish by birth) on my Dad’s side was head gardener at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, and brought up his family (he and Irish wife had nine children) in the two room Lodge on the grounds of the Botanic Gardens. Adelaide newspapers full of random mentions of the family (only three married and had children, as far as I can determine), not least the GG Grandfather’s early death at age 43 – a letter to the editor mentions that John (for that was his name) “passed away with his strength gradually yielding, as it is said, to the poisonous gases of the sewerage which runs through the Gardens”. Me being me, I have tracked down everyone’s death certificate to find out when and how they died. If you’ve got an hour or two one day, I can fill you in 🙂 But just a spoiler alert – one of the ones who didn’t have children (as far as I’m aware) died of OLD AGE (senectus, for those playing along at home) – at the age of 68.

We have a couple of significant illegitimates in my tree which make for interesting research. A lot of my DNA ‘hits’ that link me genetically to someone else who has donated a bit of spit in the name of research, can’t be linked by either of our trees. But it’s obvious that we are connected through the unknown parent of one of my ancestors. In some cases I have a very good idea of who that person is, but there’s a bit of sensitivity required before emphatically announcing that “your great grandfather knocked up my great grandmother and they both moved on”. I don’t think there’s a Hallmark card for that one.

But when you connect with someone where your trees talk to each other, that is special. There’s Liz, for example. Liz and I are 4th cousins -Liz’s Great Great Grandma Annie Lucas was a sister of my Great Great Grandad Alfred Henry Lucas (who appeared in a newspaper article celebrating his 90th birthday in 1929 and talked about, among other things, how his father was a paper maker). So despite only being put into each others radar via a bit of spit, and Liz living in Yorkshire and me living in Western Australia, the family reconnection has been made.

Despite spending a lot of years researching our family tree, there’s still a lot to learn. I haven’t definitively connected the Head Gardener to where in Scotland he came from, although there are lots of hints and suppositions. And those illegitimates – one day they are going to be so obvious that there’s no doubt about it, and Hallmark will have to make a card for the occasion. And I like to go sideways in my family tree too – looking at siblings of my ancestors to see where they ended up (my Dad was convinced the family rumour that his family were related to Dame Nellie Melba, for instance – her surname was Mitchell, and while we do have Mitchells in the tree, I haven’t been able to shake that branch enough yet for her to fall out of it).

And I now feel the responsibility to add into our tree my grandson’s other side of the tree. I don’t want him to inherit a lopsided tree.

I wouldn’t like to add up how much money I put into this family tree research – although Simon probably has, if you’re interested to know. There’s the cost of maintaining my ancestry family tree page, the cost of membership to a few genealogy research sites, the cost of doing spit tests to get my DNA search results, and of course the ultimate cost will be the travel to meet up with new relatives I’ve found overseas. Watch out Liz – we’ll be there one day!

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