There’s a growing interest in discovering our past and the way we all are connected to extended families. Maybe the rapid change and uncertainty of current life increases our longing for roots in the past that aren’t going to shift. Perhaps the interest stems from the increase in knowledge about genetics and epigenetics, the links between nature and nurture, and the way our genetic inheritance can influence so many facets of our development.
There’s been an explosion of interest in genealogy, in the media, magazines, television and societies. It’s fairly easy to trace back a few generations, but it gets tricky once we go further back than the nineteenth century, when records were often not kept, or have been destroyed in fire or war.
Unless we have indigenous roots, most Australians have a migrant past, many from Europe which is where my ancestors originated. We all hope that there’s an interesting story to find in our past – to spice it up: one of loss and redemption or passion and perils. We’re excited if we find someone who’s a bit different, whether it’s a convict, a chinaman, a charlatan or a courtesan.
I’ve always been interested in tracing my matrilineal heritage, especially after reading about Mitochondrial DNA and the fact that a small part in every cell of my body remains unchanged and can be traced back through daughter to mother, over centuries. Following the female line can be more difficult because the surname changes between generations. Since I was a child, I’ve known that my family on my mother’s side included many well known colonial men. My grandmother told me these stories.
I’ve found that my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother’s name was Isabella Molesworth and that her tale of love and loss has a fairytale quality about it. I’ve begun to check out the truth of family stories about her; that she was the only daughter of a Lord and was disinherited for eloping from an arranged marriage. Her eldest son was John Oxley, the explorer who discovered the site for my home town of Brisbane. Now I’m older, I’m enjoying my forays into the past and hope to emerge with even more stories to tell my granddaughter. What’s your family story?