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  • In the chaos which is family history research I look for patterns, or predictors of what I was to become. I look closely at the faces in old photographs, imagining. There are many surprises and mysteries which is probably what makes it so addictive. The answers to who I am are not obvious but there are threads which together add to my story.

    A strong pattern appears to be the timing as to when all my ancestors arrived in Australia. In all directions my ancestors seem to have journeyed to Australia by boat, around the 1850s. Mostly for reasons of conflict at home, or starvation, the potato famine in Ireland (which I knew about) but the freezing weather and loss of the potato and grape crop along the Rhine in Germany (I knew nothing about).

    The lack of land seemed to be another reason why many left their small villages in Devon, or Huntingdonshire, or Lorchhaussen, or the Isle of Man. They were all searching for something better for their familes and perhaps Australia was the go to place at the time. Land owners in Australia were looking for people to work their huge properties, and so were travelling to Europe to sign people up.

    A few of my ancestors arrived before the 1850s and they were the convicts, forced to come here for various minor reasons such as stealing a sheep, and breaking machinery. Their stories, strangely enough, ended up being fairly happy ones as they ended up owning more land than they could have ever imagined.

    But what a journey they had to endure just getting here. Months at sea, and then the journey involved in setting up home in a new place where everything was different. The seasons were back to front, the mammals had pouches, or laid eggs, and the swans were black. For some even the language was different.

    Some almost made it only to be wiped out by the Federation drought. Most remained poor, as labourers, or small-time farmers. One wrote a diary for a short time but then died young on the goldfields, one published two books of poetry, others were tried for murder (acquitted), one became a war hero, another died on the western front. It is strange to think that the first generation to go back ‘home’ were these World War 1 soldiers, who saw a very different Germany to the one their parents and grandparents had left.

    There is so much more to discover, I don’t think I want to find any more murderers (acquitted) but a few more writers would be nice!
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