I was asked recently where my ancestors came from. I surprised myself by not being able to answer this question very well. Others in the group spoke in some detail about the names of the ancestors, what part of countries overseas they came from and when they came to Australia. Some spoke of the terrible conditions they endured on the ships coming out here and the disappointments and struggles they encountered on arrival to their new home. My knowledge was vague and lacked the intimacy of the stories told by others. I vowed to myself to find out more and wondered why I hadnít been so interested in this level of detail before.
Later that day I raised this with my daughter and she was able to fill in many of the gaps. She even took to the internet and uncovered more information as we spoke. Apparently she had had discussions with my dad about this and he had given her same names to get her research started. As she outlined some of the details, the names and the places they lived in Australia I recalled some of this information. We must have spoken about it previously but it just hadnít become embedded in my mind. It must have been lost in the busy-ness of life.
So, I now know that my ancestors on my dadís side of the family at least were convicts. One man was sentenced to transportation for stealing linen. Apparently he had been staying at a hotel or boarding room and had a dispute with the owner and then charged with stealing linen. He denied it but was shipped to Australia regardless after staying in the Hulks in the Thames for some time. The woman he married was from a noble family, had lived in a famous castle, and had used arms to rob someone. The inconsistency between a woman of nobility using arms to steal is really interesting. What happened to her to lead her to do this?
Iíve been reflecting on the relevance of this to my current life and wondering why I havenít taken much interest previously. Perhaps there comes a point in time when you look for the anchors, the touch points, to your existence. When hearing about the stories of refugees struggling to arrive in Australia safely and then be treated with respect as they attempt to rebuild their lives, itís helpful to position your own story somewhere. When thinking about the aboriginal people invaded by people from many countries, itís important to recognize your own familyís role in how this played out. Not to be responsible but at least aware and conscious. Now I will be more aware and look for more details. Maybe thatís a way of finding out even more about who I am, what I have in common or not with those people forced to come to Australia so long ago.