Friday, June 8, 2018

A New Convert

Just a couple of years ago an old friend, let's call her Margaret, whom I had known for 60+ years said "I'm adopted you know". When I replied that I had known for years she asked why hadn't mentioned it to her. I hadn't said anything as I didn't know if she knew (and when my mother told me she made me promise not to tell).

At that time her elderly father was still alive and well and Margaret said that she didn't want to know about her biological family.

Schooldays for Margaret and Jill
Margaret, an only child, cared for her father who lived to a very ripe old age. I caught up with Margaret last year, two years after her father died and she informed me that she was going to delve into her biological family's history. She has recently procured a copy of her original birth certificate from which she learnt that she was born in Sydney and that her biological mother was from a country town. As often happened on the 40s and 50s single girls who found themselves in the family way moved to the city for a while.

When we met up last week Margaret said she had done a bit of research on Trove and asked for my help as she wondered if she had identified the right maternal family in the country town. We had a long chat and I think I convinced Margaret to take an Ancestry DNA test to see if she could discover something of her paternal ancestry. We discussed all the issues and Margaret realises that what she might find out may be confronting.

I jumped at the opportunity to help Margaret with her maternal line but didn't want to push her too far as it has taken her a long time to become curious about her biological family. I emailed her offering a few options: "Do you want me to send you a list of the ancestors, just the names of her parents or nothing at all? I don't want to spoil your fun but with a few clues you may be able to find some more stories on Trove."

Her response came quickly."Please if it's not too much trouble anything to sate my curiosity would be great." I have had an issue with bursitis that has prevented me from doing a lot of keyboarding but I have become adept at left handed mousing and that's all I need to hunt down people.  I was off and running.

It's the first time in years that I have started building a person's tree from scratch and it was so much easier than when I started out 30 years ago. That Margaret's maternal ancestors had been in the one country town for around 150 years made my hunt a little easier.

To keep track of things I started a new project in my Family Historian software (again so much easier to manage than when I started out using old library catalogue cards and paper charts to record info) and recorded facts as I found them. I was lucky to find Margaret's ancestors in some Ancestry trees, these hints sent me searching for sources to confirm them. I tried to work back one generation at a time. Every so often I created a fan chart to check my progress and make sure I wasn't neglecting any branches.

Last night I produced a Ancestors' report and a fan chart for Margaret from Family Historian. I emailed these together with a couple of documents I found online including a copy of the naturalisation document for her German ancestor (I had never seen one of these before). I found ancestors back to the mid 18th century from England, Germany and Ireland. I hope Margaret takes a DNA test so we can see what other genes she may have.

"I've just looked and find it all soo amazing that you could find so much info - you really are "Sherlock!" was the response I received by email this morning. This was followed a couple of hours later, after Margaret had digested the report I had sent her, by a phone call thanking me profusely for what I had done and exclaiming that I was a magician to have created the fan chart. I did fess up and say that my software Family Historian created that. Margaret also learnt that she had been researching the wrong family line on Trove but I reminded her that, as the name is not a common one, the families may indeed be related some generations back and on coming to Australia have chosen to settle in the same district. This was the case with my Irish ancestors.

Margaret is an intelligent and curious woman who will have so much fun researching her biological mother's family on Trove. I have had a peek and there is lots there to find. I know she will go beyond Trove and check out the online sources I have outlined in her Ancestors' report. I'll be on hand to answer any questions she may have a long the way.

I am confident that we have a New Convert to Family History in Margaret.


4 comments:

Fiona Tellesson said...

I agree...it's a honour to be trusted to delve into someone's family and discover their story. Great article Jill xoxo

Kylie Willison said...

One of my friends who I did a 6 generation pedigree chart for has continued with her own research and it's great to see. I love hearing the stories of her discoveries almost as much as making my own discoveries.

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