In case you missed Steps 1 -3 on this, you can click here.
Just a few months ago, we found out that we had ancestors that came to Australia from England in the mid 1800s. One part of the family ended up in the states, the other stayed in Australia. I’m in Australia to find out what happened to the side that stayed, and why.
I had a vacation booked to Australia this month, so I decided to turn it into an ancestral hunt because it’s SO MUCH MORE FUN THAT WAY.
And, I had a couple of other really important questions that needed answering:
Why did my great-great Grandmother leave Sydney where she was living to get married in a tiny town that would have taken a week to get to by horse and carriage?
Why did my family leave a comfortable life in Great Torrington, Devonshire, England to go across the world to Australia in the first place, then only part of them move to the states?
This is how I ended up flying from Sydney to the Gold Coast, then driving seven hours to Glen Innes, NSW, Australia by myself…
One moment please, for a pause of reflection…
Why am I searching though?
Is it to find my roots?
A friend of mine pondered wtf roots even do…why do we need them so much?
Something in me feels like through the searching of finding out about my ancestors, more things will start to make sense in my own life.
Why do I move so often? Is it because my ancestors constantly sought a new life – from England to Australia, from Australia to the states, from Germany to the states, from Norway to the states, from Spain to Cuba, from Cuba to the states, from France to the states. Is it in my DNA?
Why have I kept a journal my entire life when I never knew anyone else to?
Why are my sister, my mom and I so spiritual when no one else in our family is?
I guess I’ve always approached life like one big puzzle piece – from seeing that my three mentors all had the same initials in my mentor quadrinity to seeing meaning in the fact that my ex had the same birthday as me just like my father and mother did to knowing that the green fairy signs I see everywhere mean something.
I look for meaning EVERYWHERE.
I used to roll my eyes at myself for this, but now I realize it literally makes the world a more magical place to live.
“If you had the choice to believe in the most amazing, beautiful thing in the world, why wouldn’t you choose to believe?” Charlie, my father of the west coast, said to me once.
More on this later….now, back to Glen Innes.
STEP 4: MAKE SURE YOUR ANCESTORS CAME FROM SOMEWHERE WARM
“See these red things?” Ralph asked, pointing to little plastic red stops near the window.
“Yes, I do,” I said.
“These help stop the wind from rattling the windows. See,” he said with a side smile as he took the window and started shaking it to mimic what the wind would sound like hitting the windows. “It can cause a great stir in the middle of the night, and we don’t want that, do we?”
Why did I decide to take my vacation to end up in a town in Australia at the end of their summer where the wind blew so hard, they needed window stoppers, the rain pelted so fast my feet were filled with mud and it was so cold I needed an electric blanket to sleep again?
“What time is check out?” I asked Ralph, before he left me alone in the convent.
“Do you want to check out a bit later?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said.
“Alright, we normally get up at 5am. So, how’s 10:30?”
“Fine,” I said. “Just fine.” I didn’t want to tell him that didn’t sound very late. But I went with it.
I was up at 4:30am the next day anyhow.
The jet lag didn’t want to go away, and the nightmares I had about deadly diseases and being chased from sleeping in a bloody, windy convent wouldn’t let me sleep much longer.
I had a mission to accomplish anyhow! I was excited!
Brushing my teeth that morning, I found the White Pages sitting under the sink in my room. You remember those things, right? The books that list names, phone numbers and addresses of people in the area.
I found three names with my family name. I wrote down their numbers, wondering if I would gather the courage to call them.
If I had briefly wondered the night before what I was doing here, that all disappeared as soon as I entered the Glen Innes Cemetery.
My family were locals, you see!! I found their tombstones.
One of the pieces we had been missing in the family tree were the names of living. Ancestry.com has a ton of information on the dead, but not so much the living.
But here, in the Presbyterian side of the cemetery, with the wind and rain pelting my face on the top of the hill, the dead were helping me on my quest – there on the tombstone were the names of all the children still living.
And one matched an entry from the White Pages!
Which brings me to STEP 5.
Step 5: Make sure you use Google and Facebook to contact family members before departing on quest
I took photos of the tombstones, and drove back down to the Macca’s (aka McDonald’s, for those not familiar with Australia-speak) to do some internet stuff.
I called Ralph to check out. He answered this time.
“Early start, aye?”
“Yes, I wanted to see if I could find the farmland that was in the documents online, and where my great-great grandmother was married.”
“Oh, they would definitely still own the farmland. People around here would rather sell their wives and their children than sell their farmland. I once knew a guy who was offered $26million for his land, and he said no. You see, to them, the history of the family and the land is more important than anything.”
Ralph was proving to be very helpful indeed. I hope he was exaggerating a bit, though.
Even still, I sat there thinking: I want to call them. I want to connect, but I’m also afraid. I want find out why my family went off to the states and theirs stayed here, and what those parallel lives looked like. But what if they don’t care about the family in the same way we do? Perhaps they will slap me across the face and say – get out! We don’t want none.
I have to call them.
I grabbed a coffee instead.
I Googled the name. I found more information on the family. They owned a farm just out of town. Three farms, in fact.
I found one of the women on Facebook. I messaged her right away – unsure if Facebook would allow the request to go through.
I waited a half hour until the council opened. No response. I would have to go back into the world of no internet.
Step 6: Learn The Native Speak Before Going
“Oh yes, they’re graziers, alright,” the lady at the Severn Council said after I asked if she might know about the family.
“Graziers?” I asked.
“Right. Oh, that means the same thing?” I asked.
“Do you happen to know where the grazes are?”
“It doesn’t work backwards?”
“No, just farms.”
“Do you know where they are? I can’t seem to find them on Google.”
“I can’t give you that information for privacy reasons, but if you go to the information tourist center right next to Macca’s they might be able to tell you,” she winked. I smiled back, proud that I knew what Macca’s was. “My sons play league with the B’s.”
I’m leaving the family’s name out for privacy reasons, but will refer to them as “B Family”.
“League?” I asked.
“Ah, so cool!”
Straight off to the tourist center. I described my situation. A nice-smelling woman with beautifully done makeup greeted me with a warm smile.
“Oh, how lovely! I know the B family. I went to their wedding They’ll be so pleased to hear from you. I’ll tell you what, go to the History Museum, ask for Eve. She’ll be able to give you more information.”
The lady gave me lots of interesting looking pamphlets about Celtics and the Australian Standing rocks.
I bought a magnet and some postcards.
Worst case scenario, if I can’t find my family, I can mail my mom a postcard from across the world.
More tomorrow on this exciting installment of FINDING MY FAMILY!!