Thoughts & more…
I still remember when I started my family history journey; it was back in 2007 while sitting at my parent’s house sifting through old photos and documents my dad owned. Both he and I were amazed at what he had; photos dating back to the 1870’s or earlier, his mum’s emigration records, birth records, and a haunting keepsake and photo of his uncle who was executed by the Nazis in Holland during WW2. As we talked about each item and he told me stories of people I hardly knew, I kept asking question after question; these were my ancestors after all. Hours later we got the laptop out and began our search for Dutch records online…and we came accross the incredible Alkmaar Archives website. Within just a couple of hours we had information about my father’s paternal line dating back to 1845, including the occupations of his great and 2nd great grandfather. We were both intrigued and I was hooked! Who else could I find? What other stories lie within the records on my screen? What about my mother’s family? Who were they? Where did they come from? These are now very familiar questions that thousands of people across our country, indeed our world, are also asking.
Perhaps a year or more later I found myself on a plane to Scotland; the country where my maternal roots lay. I was eager and excited to know more about my ancestors and to see the places they lived and breathed. Months earlier I had talked to my maternal grandmother who was in her 80’s, and I asked her to tell me all she knew about her own mother and grandmother…which sadly wasn’t too much; but I had a name to find…and it was a unique name at that: Rose Marshall Miller. Armed with only this name and the birthplace of Paisley, Scotland, I set out on an adventure to find what I could about Rose and her family. My trip was more than memorable; my memories of travelling through the Scottish Highlands still to this day conjures images of clan battles and family history in the making. Vivid recollections of sitting in the immense room at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh marks a beginning of what has now been almost 10 years of a passion that looks never to fade. Each day I sit down to continue in a project, or begin a new one, I am so thankful for the knowledge I have gained over the years, and for the advice from fellow colleagues, both which have allowed me to bring joy and wonderment to people’s lives by uncovering the mysteries of their past and the story of their ancestors’ lives.
During April this year (2015) I did some research for a client who wanted to know if he had any ancestors who served in WWI, in particular any who served at Gallipoli and beyond. As always, war records evoke strong emotions and forgotten memories, and this month was no different. While doing research for this client, I stumbled across a record for another client that told of her grandfather’s brave war story; a story she never even knew. In fact, my client had never known any of her grandparents, and her own parents had struggled in early life for many reasons. After finding that her grandfather had served in France and had trod on some of the bloodiest battlefields (well aren’t they all)…she was very surprised. But the biggest surprise came I think when a chance finding through the newspaper archives confirmed that her grandfather had not fared well. We knew already that he had been severely wounded and spent months in hospital in England before being sent home…but this newspaper told us the reality; Henry lost his right leg to amputation after it was almost torn apart from gunfire, and he was left with a severely wounded left arm. All of this for a young man of 18 who was, prior to war, a known cricket legend in his local community in Brisbane. Perhaps this sad and tragic outcome of war now provided his later family with reasons of his tumultuous life afterwards, a life that included three failed marriages and child abandonment. Truly, how can we ever understand what our forefathers went through…how can we have empathy for things that are almost beyond imagining? May we never forget the sacrifice they so gallantly gave.