Late in life, in a letter to a newly discovered cousin, the only cousin she had ever known, my mother expressed the pain of her reality; of never having enjoyed the benefits of having a close extended family or of knowing who she was. As the youngest of four, I lived at home with her unbridled grief. Now, late in life, I find myself still wrestling with the ghost of her past, a reality which I share by default.
I never knew my grandparents, I never had a connection with uncles or aunts and there were no joyous family gatherings with cousins. It was not until the bicentenary in 1988 that I discovered that my great-grandfather was a prominent Queensland surveyor who, it turned out, was very handy with words. I made the effort to pour through his writings and I did document quite a bit of it online. Weathering the storms of life led to me shelving the material in a box which I faithfully carried with me as I moved to reinvent myself and start over again.
Over the past four years, I have undertaken a Masters of Social Work and I am now graduating. Essays that explored Indigenous trauma trails served to reinforce the impact that colonisation had not only on the Indigenous inhabitants but also on the people who were forcibly bought to Australia as convicts or who came as free settlers, seeking a better life.
My ancestors came as convicts and free settlers and with my son now living in Germany I have some understanding of the sense of separation they felt! Given my mother’s legacy, it is no coincidence that late in life I should determine drink from Mimir’s Well of Remembrance (DNA reveals Nordic strands) in order to learn more about my ancestral past.
What is perhaps most surprising is that I have now made a connection with a paternal second cousin whose mother remembers my paternal grandparents and that the wife of a distant relative has made contact because she and a colleague have identified that I am a direct descendant of the prominent Tasmanian colonists they are researching. This combination is enough to propel me to endeavour to piece some of the jigsaw pieces together to form a clearer picture of my ancestral history.
Activities to Connect with Ancestors