Once upon a time…

Once upon a time there was a fair-haired young lass who yearned to explore the mysteries of family history and whose adventures took her to times of yore and whereabouts distant.

“Dead or alive, interesting people are interesting people.” ― Noel Riley Fitch

Let me clarify there is no doubt as to the G.O.’s parentage nor mine, and notwithstanding idle conjecture we’re not aware of any family history discrepancies so we don’t anticipate any tangible surprises. We’re [at times all too] clearly the offspring of our respective mothers and fathers, and they theirs’. Indeed, several generations of the main branches of our family trees have been established by professional genealogists and family historians -myself included in the latter- back to and preceding their arrival in Australia throughout the 1800’s.

Newling_Steward family photo circa 1966
Dad, Mum and me, 1967 at my paternal grandparents’ farm “Oakleigh” west of Scone.

In 1979 Sydney William Barwick published The Descendants of James and Mary Barwick which includes my paternal Newling and Bell family history along with Berman, Vine, Wood and Ashford such was the interconnectedness of these families who migrated from England in the 1800’s to the Upper Dartbrook district eight miles or so west of Scone, NSW. Informally referred to as The Red Book, updates continue to be compiled and circulated by Margaret Ashford-MacDougall and Lea Harris, together with a twice-yearly Barwick Banter newsletter and descendants’ picnic, and Facebook group The descendants of James and Mary Barwick.

Barwick picnic Bell Cottage Thompson Creek October 2002
Dad and I among the descendants at a Barwick picnic in October 2002 at his great-grandparents’ Bell Cottage, Thompsons Creek west of Scone.

In 1990 Nola Mackey published The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell which includes Cox, Poole, Cheesman, Wood, Ashford, Barwick, Saunders and Brecht families of which I’m part.

A couple of decades ago, my family were fortunate to have a cousin from Dad’s mother’s branch share with us the results of her research about our Button forebears who migrated from Sussex, England in 1858.

Before family history really went online, at not inconsiderable cost I conducted family history research via ordering hardcopy birth, death and marriage certificates; amassing a collection for Mum’s Steward-Voss-Davy-Danes family… in lieu of much acquaintance with family members or their histories.

The G.O.’s paternal Welsh side [surname not nationality] similarly has been documented in published local and family histories: Down Vanished Years, Jennifer Hume MacDougall; Valley of the Crooked River, Norma Townsend; Telling the Tale of Talarm, Carrolline Rhodes; and others unpublished.

We’re honoured to have been handed down a book containing the G.O.’s maternal grandmother’s handwritten particulars of his Mackaway-Miller lineage.

A few years back I discovered notable convict heritage midst the G.O.’s paternal grandmother’s Graham-Lock-Hodgetts line, later finding it chronicled in The Brave Old Pioneers – A History of the Hodgetts Family in Australia, Richard John Hodgetts and by Nola Mackey; mentioned in Tom Kenneally’s The Commonwealth of Thieves; and about which I’ve written a couple of blog posts.

An inclination to write more blog posts about family history sparked again with Ancestry DNA tests the G.O. and I did last year. I don’t tend to go on about it [too much] as genealogy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and sometimes makes for the kind of conversation where people look at their non-existent watches and declare -oh I must go I need to…- in a manner designed to expedite escape.

Screenshot DNA Story_Newling
My DNA Story. Ethnicity estimate based on Ancestry data and methods @ July 2022 used to compare results to that data. Because Ancestry are always collecting more data and methods are constantly improving, the estimate may change over time.

Fueled in part by an affection for TV series such as Who Do You Think You Are, Every Family Has a Secret, DNA Family Secrets and Nazis, Treasures And The Quest For Celts a program which also discusses identity, race and DNA; we’ve [well, mainly me tbh] always wanted to know more about our more distant ancestors, and tossed around the idea of what Ancestry DNA tests might reveal for us until it crystalised into action -as so often happens- when a friend shared the results of her DNA ancestry via social media.

Screenshot DNA Story_Welsh
The G.O.’s DNA Story. Ethnicity estimate based on Ancestry data and methods @ July 2022 used to compare results to that data. Because Ancestry are always collecting more data and methods are constantly improving, the estimate may change over time.

Having paid subscription fees enabling access to Ancestry family history records as part of the Ancestry DNA package, while we waited -weeks and weeks and weeks- for our results, I began assembling bygone branches of our family trees by entering into Ancestry’s database a few details of what we already knew, followed by utilising a quite addicting process of mouse clicks on algorithm generated Potential Fathers and Mothers, taking me through multiplicities of familial branches beyond 1700-1600-1500’s and known England, Scotland and Germany origins, offering up mindboggling amount of data; more names-dates-places-relationships than is possible to cogently process but not enough subjective detail for my liking about how they lived, and some remarkable discoveries.

Screenshot DNA Story_Potential Father and Mother
“Genealogy becomes a mania, an obsessive struggle to penetrate the past and snatch meaning from an infinity of names. At some point the search becomes futile – there is nothing left to find, no meaning to be dredged out of old receipts, newspaper articles, letters, accounts of events that seemed so important fifty or seventy years ago. All that remains is the insane urge to keep looking, insane because the searcher has no idea what he seeks. What will it be? A photograph? A will? A fragment of a letter? The only way to find out is to look at everything, because it is often when the searcher has gone far beyond the border of futility that he finds the object he never knew he was looking for.” ― Henry Wiencek

I began making blog post notes last August but attempts to synopsise minutiae from our family trees invariably derail because it’s almost impossible to accomplish without succumbing to the impulse to go further down time-sucking genealogical rabbit holes exploring, verifying more notable stuff, setting aside the fanciful, and perusing information fascinating but not directly relevant… like this, When Scotland Was Jewish.

Forewarning… I’d long-time promised myself a [not inexpensive] full Ancestry subscription… when I had the time to devote to it… ‘cos knowing myself all too well I recognised the risk it would take over my life. And from time-to-time it does. If what you read inspires you to indulge in an Ancestry DNA test or exploration of family history, and it happens to you too, then I’m sorry not sorry.*

Although many years have passed the lass now a silvery-haired lady continues her quest, journeying further into the past searching for she doesn’t know what only that she hasn’t found it yet. However, along the way encounters a good deal which is noteworthy. There is more to explore, and more to tell.

“You are the fairy tale told by your ancestors.” ― Toba Beta, My Ancestor Was an Ancient Astronaut

*Disclaimer: daleleelife101.blog is a personal blog. Where I share products, books, resources, links or information I’m doing so subjectively, rather than as endorsement, and I receive no cash or kind benefits from doing so. Any material contained in this blog has been prepared without taking into account the reader’s objectives, situation or needs but with the best of intentions to entertain. Before acting on any material in this blog I recommend the reader consider whether it is appropriate for the reader’s particular circumstances. I do not accept liability for any errors, omissions or inclusions in the contents.

8 thoughts on “Once upon a time…

  1. Several members of my family have already tumbled down this rabbit hole and are in hot pursuit of ever-more-distant ancestors. I’m really only interested in the geographical distribution of my far-flung genetic contributors, which to current knowledge is clearly split between far western and far eastern Europe. Maybe one of these days… There are some marvellous names back there, though: Clasina Kagenhjelm-Laribi and Johannes Albertus van Hoogendoorp.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are wonderful names…I have a great-grandaunt Theodosia Dolora Button, one of my favourite names ever. The current one stuck in my head is Gwenllian ferch Jenkins 1501-1550 my 13th great-grandmother from Wales. She sounds interesting. I wish I could time travel.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. With Mum, Dad and most of my Hungarian relatives gone, I’ll probably never know more about my family history than I do now…which isn’t much. I kind of envy you the ability to go back in time and trace your ancestors. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Can you imagine the ‘pickle’ & ‘chutney’ in my ancestry ‼️
    I will eventually get into doing that and can’t wait to see the results but at this point all I have time for are the four generations that’s sharing this earth right now. I’m sure there will be lots and lots of interesting family details I will unearth 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Family connections are special but four generations together is extra-special, I remember because I was the youngest of four generations for a few wonderful years. India has such a long and interesting heritage, your family history will wait (and the available data likely improve) until the time is right.

      Liked by 1 person

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