A family history blog from the UK to Australia and back again

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Relax….it’s only a brick wall!

So it has been a little while since I have been able to blog.  I have had plenty of things to research but sadly my day job has taken over these past 6 months.  It pays the bills so it’s always best to keep the boss happy…but I am beginning to resent just how much it takes over my life.  But hey, at least I don’t work in a coal mine like some of my ancestors!  I’m sure you’d agree it’s good to keep a balanced view on these things.

Anyhow, to blogging and 2018. Once a month huh? Let’s give that a go and see where it leads me…. I know other bloggers have dreams of posting regularly this year too, so I think I’ll join you.

Today I thought I’d chat a little bit about brick walls.  A while ago now I had a chat on Instagram ( with @ourpasts and we were comparing notes on the frustrations of brick walls.  Like most, I have had my fair share of brick walls over the years.  And just when one goes, BAM! another one pops up.

So how do you cope with these little bad boys of genealogy?  Well to be perfectly honest, they are what make me love genealogy in the first place……the thrill of the chase?! (yes, I think I really am that sad!).  My efforts last year trying to get to the bottom of my Mum’s DNA curve ball, saw many lost hours over the keyboard and copious glasses of red wine.  But I really do love whiling away the hours like it’s the latest Agatha Christie novel.  And smashing a brick wall is just like the moment that Poirot makes his inevitable speech and reveals the killer!

So for me, the first hint to smashing that brick wall, is ‘chill out’.  Frustration will only clog up the brain and you will make mistakes in your haste to find a solution. Relax. Maybe (dare I suggest it) put away that puzzle for a while and look at something else.  I have done that with a few ancestors and then when I picked it up with a fresh set of eyes I realised that I hadn’t searched a really obvious record!

Simply let your mind wander. Sometimes on the commute home from a long day at my ‘day job’, I simply close my eyes and let my mind wander.  I think about the streets of London near where I work.  How different are they to the streets my ancestors had walked down?  I think of the smells and sounds. Of the steam trains whizzing by. Did they take the tube…or walk?  I also think of the voyages they made across the oceans.  How did they feel when they arrived?  What is the first thing you look for – house or job? How did they cope with the weather? The strange biting creatures…spiders and snakes.  All of this helps you think of them as they lived and perhaps an idea pops into your mind that you may never have thought of.

Relax – this is a hobby. Enjoy the escapism when solving the mystery in your family tree.

DNA, paternity questions and living relatives

So this month’s post is ethically challenging.  A few weekends ago, I had so much to do.  You know those weekends… of intentions to spring clean etc.  Well, my sock drawer remains a mess as I spent the whole time on family history.  But had a major break through in the case of Mum’s DNA and her search for new relatives.  So, I thought it would be good to share the process I went through – at the very least so I remember how I arrived at my conclusions and perhaps it will help or inspire someone else to look for their relatives.

When Mum’s DNA results came in and her DNA paternity was suddenly brought into question,  a name came to mind straight away.  I will call him ‘John Smith’ because it is in fact quite a distinct name and I don’t want this all getting back to the ‘Smith’ family before we can confirm things.  Mum spoke to her Uncle about her DNA test ‘problem’.  She didn’t mention her suspicions but asked her Uncle if there was anyone at the time who Nanna may have been seeing.  Oddly enough ‘John Smith’ was the first, and only, name her Uncle mentioned.  Apparently, Nana and ‘John Smith’ were a well known item at various times.

As mentioned it is a pretty distinct name, and so I went through Mum’s DNA results on both Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA and……there in her matches with DNA cousins, is this same distinct name! And there are enough occurrences that it couldn’t really be a coincidence. Then last week, we had a message from one of these DNA ‘cousin’, who in New Zealand.  She has that same very distinctive surname too.  It seems the DNA cousin wasn’t related to our ‘John Smith’, but gave us the name of a branch of the family who were known to have settled in Australia in the 1800’s – ‘William and Marth Smith’.  With only those two names, I spent Friday evening starting a new family tree in ancestry – madly following green leaves and hints off other trees to find all their descendants.

That evening, I had a pretty well developed family tree for ‘William and Martha Smith’.  There is no confirmed paper trail (like all good genealogists should have) but it was a rough tree.  And from it I discovered that ‘William and Martha Smith’ had son ‘John’ who also had a son ‘John’!  And the ages and locations more or less match with our ‘John Smith’.  It was beginning to look more and more positive.

For obvious privacy and security reasons, you can’t get records for living people (ie. no birth certificates for the past 100 years).  But as it was such a distinct surname, I searched Trove (Australia’s online newspaper record) and came up with a lot of Family Notices.  Family Notices in the newspapers are a great.  I found funeral notices for people that listed their brothers and sisters (married names) and children.  Everything but the family dog.  A family historians dream.  My weekend was then spent piecing together dozens of these notices, and filling out the tree with dates and even more names.  I now have a half decent looking tree – not bad for a Saturday.

So I then went to the New South Wales (NSW) BDM database and searched all the ‘Smiths’…just to see what came up.  Although you don’t get all the details, the search record on the gives you enough clues to work out who you are looking for, so you can then order the certificate.  And there was a record for our ‘John Smith’ marrying an ‘Anne Jones’ – the dates and location all seem about right.  So I think I am on the right track.  (For the record, Nanna and Grandad were divorced not too long after Mum was born; and long before ‘John Smith’ married Anne, so he at least was not having an affair.)

I then tried a google search for ‘John Smith’ and now found some hits on the Myheritage website that seemed to match.  I signed up for a free one month trial and was away……now I was even able to find photos of ‘William and Martha Smith’ and their children on one of the online trees.  No obvious resemblance to Mum, but there is the same distinct smile in the great-grandmother.

One of the family trees on Myheritage, is managed by a reasonably close relative.  Sadly it noted that our ‘John Smith’ had died many decades ago at quite a young age.  It gave his wife’s name as (nee Jones) which is the same as NSW BDM records, and also had the married surnames of his two daughters (no first names).  So close. Oh so close. How do I find living relatives? I decided then to go back a step and fill in some details on ‘John Smith’.  My ancestry account doesn’t include access to Australian records.

I decided then to go back a step and fill in some details on ‘John Smith’.  My ancestry account doesn’t include access to Australian records.  Instead, I searched Findmypast and the first record I opened was a transcript of his headstone.  There, on the transcript, is the name of his wife and two daughters.  Now I have their first and married names!

In what felt very stalkerish, I then went to a more modern tool….Facebook.  Within moments I found both girls, and their mother!  I can’t say the resemblance is overwhelming between the girls and my Mum.  It’s certainly not enough that you could say for sure that they were half-sisters.  But can you say there is a resemblance just from a couple of photos alone?  I certainly don’t think I look a lot like my own sisters.   But my younger sister is the only blonde hair blue eyed one in our family,  and there is a resemblance with her and this possible new family.  Funny though – it was always thought my sister took after our grandad on our Dads side?!

But now, where does that leave us?!  Have I really found them? Do we want to contact htem? It is one thing to email someone interested in family history about a common ancestor.  It’s an entirely different matter to tell someone that you they are half-sisters with your Mum, and would they mind taking a DNA test to be sure!  Thinking about how I would feel in their situation, I am inclined to leave it – at least for now.  Mum has a family already and is happy.  And so do they.  They looked happy and there is no burning need or desire from us to get in touch…not like some on ‘Find my Family’ who really need closure.

But, ‘John Smith’ died very young….what if there is a genetic illness we should know about?  Ultimately the decisions is Mum’s to take. Perhaps in the meantime I might just order his death certificate.

There is no manual on this situation.  And if there is…..can you please email me? We’d really like to read it.

DNA update

OK, so…I’ll be honest…of late I have been a little focused on connecting through DNA and not spent a lot of time on the paper connections.  I have now gone through and updated the DNA page on the website to try and made the connections clearer for people who may have a match to one of our families DNA tests.  Please have a look – I have broken it down to my maternal line and paternal line and thrown in some family trees as well.

But, I should say though, that I have gone against all of my principles, and published trees where some of the connections are not 100% based on solid paper trail.  I ask you forgiveness for this…and plead that I have a couple of MASSIVE brick walls and need all the help and clues and hints and theories I can get….. I have of course noted if I’m not 100% sure of a connection though, so that my ‘theories’ don’t creep in as fact for someone else!

For my Dad’s family it’s pretty clear and I have two trees up now showing the various names and connections.  Most of these connections I am confident of – the Duncans are more recent and less researched but I’m keen to find connections through DNA if I can.

My mum’s maternal side is pretty well researched, but as you know her dad’s side is very much a ‘work in progress’.  We have a little theory going – nothing confirmed, but if we have a DNA match and you have Snodgrass in your family tree then I’d be keen to hear from you.

Only a short blog this time.  My summer holiday plans include genealogy of course.  A recent trip to Scotland was enlightening, and I have a trip to Devon planned next week.  I promise stories of illegitimacy, travel, a chimney sweep and dodgy chip shop owners still to come.  So watch this space….


3 years ago today…

Many years ago….many, many years ago in fact, my ancestors travelled much further than they had ever been before.  No….this isn’t the intro to Star Wars – it is a tale of migration.

All my family, have come from Britain as far back as I can find (except possibly my maternal grandfather if you’ve read the last few blog posts).  And for a variety of reasons they moved to Australia.   Like most others before them, it was seen as the land of milk and honey.  For some it was the lure of gold.  For others took skills from the UK and established a name for themselves in cities far away.  Later on others saw the economic benefits, and followed a (hideously racist) immigration policy targeted squarely at Britains wanting to make a better life for themselves.

The obvious exception, are the convicts that were sent as punishment.  So far I haven’t found any in my ancestry (aka. Australian royalty!).   And also in this group of those with little choice on their arrival to Australia, were the child migrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, like my paternal grandfather, John Scott.

As a child in Glasgow, he was told he was going on a holiday.  He had a little bag packed for him and went on a long boat trip that he remembered fondly all his life.  Sadly though he eventually worked out it was a one way ticket.  Over the years he lost all connection with his Scottish roots – no accent except when he ‘turned it on’.  In the end, he did ok for himself…better than many others.  But he said of Britain – they abandoned me, so I don’t care about them.

For some of us though, there is a strange pull back to Britain.  I once lived in Glasgow many years ago now and have visited the UK many times now.  It’s funny to say, but I feel more at home here than in Australia?!

And so it was, three years ago today, that we arrived here in the UK ready to start a new adventure.  A reverse migration if you like.  We moved to London, and I have loved every minute of it.  There is so much that culturally is the same, and so much that is also very, very different.  In time I hope to post more about this.  I often think of things and wonder how it might have been for my ancestors when they arrived in Australia.  They had no option of turning around and coming back to the UK like we do today.   They had to tough it out and make it work.  Snakes and all….


DNA – Part 3

Ok….so I am a little mean and have teased you with a long break in the DNA story between Part 2 and Part 3.  But it’s worth it….trust me.

When we first looked at doing DNA testing, the advice was always to get as many older relatives tested as you could.  My Nanna (Mum’s mum) passed away many years ago.  Her sister Kay was alive, but seriously ill with cancer and sadly passed away before she could take the test.  Uncle Bob (Mum’s brother) instead used the DNA test and with the idea of getting a clear picture of the male line.

Some time later, the results came back and Mum opened them with interest.  And now here is the tricky part.

My Nanna, well, let’s just say she had her faults.  I would like to say Nanna had a troubled childhood, to explain her self-destructive behaviour.  But she grew up in a regular, loving family.  He father, known as ‘Da’ was an absolute sweetie.  I have very fond memories of visiting him in Sydney.  But for whatever reason, Nanna had a little of the wild child about her and loved a drink (or ten).  So although she did marry the three fathers of all her children, it seems there was a little twist in the story.

Mum has three half-brothers and one ‘full blood’ brother – Uncle Bob who she shares the same Mum and Dad with.  But that all changed when Mum looked at the DNA test results – Bob was actually her half-brother too!  They have a different father! For all our joking and knowing Nanna had a naughty streak, we didn’t actually think it would happen.

It was a bit of a shock.  Although her parents split when she was very young, Mum remained close to her father’s family.  She suddenly lost a connection with family she loved dearly and was close to.  Beloved Aunty Nella, who I saw as my ‘surrogate’ Nanna, was now gone from the family tree.  However, when Mum spoke to Uncle Les, he summed it up well and said “No matter what, you’re still my niece’”  And, if Aunty Nella were still alive, she wouldn’t give two hoots about it either.  It all comes back to nature and nurture really. And in that sense, the Moore’s are still family.

Looking at it purely from a family history point of view though, in one fell swoop, an entire branch was lopped from the tree.  I have had a few brick walls on my Dad’s side of the family, but now we are now faced with a reinforced brick wall.  And this was the side of the family Mum knew about too.  It was the side of the family with an old family tree claiming royal connections (possibly a Victorian fake).  Family with a great Naval history.  A family full of Australian explorers.  And a family connected with Australian royalty (aka convicts).

This year Mum and I attended WDYTYA:live in Birmingham.  It was good to speak with various helpful experts, and we have a few ideas on where to go to from here.  But it won’t be an easy search.  And just how do you email a distant cousin about this “Do you have a relative who was in Sydney in….”

DNA – Part 2

OK. So in my last post I talked about Mum’s recent DNA test and how it was quite a surprise. Well, I guess there were two surprises really.

First – her ancestry.  When Mum was younger, she was always asked about her ancestry, and she was often asked if she has Asian ancestry.  (I mean Far-east Asian and not Indian as ‘Asian’ is usually referred to in the UK). This Asian connection was entirely plausible given Australia’s Gold Rush period and at the time many of Mum’s family lived in the Gold Rush areas around North-West NSW (between Sydney & Brisbane).  And to add to our suspicions, her grandmother (Nanna Morgan) looked very much like a sweet old Chinese lady (One day I will find a photo of her).  My sister Victoria also has had the same experience as Mum, and is always asked about her ancestry.  Once, in our local Chinese restaurant, a family came to our table and spoke to her in Chinese thinking she was a visitor!  As well as Asian ancestry, the other possibility was an Italian or Spanish connection because of the olive skin (I’m only jealous a little bit!).  Maybe some of those legendary smuggling ancestors from the Cornish coast!

Mum and vicki

Mum and Victoria (both in their late teens/early twenties)

But all of this was just supposition and family lore, because so far the paper trail showed nothing but English ancestry to the early 1800’s.  But, there was clearly a link to something exotic there somewhere and before the DNA results came in we all took a straw poll on what we thought Mum’s ancestry would be made up of – most of us had a fair percentage of Asian.  But oh how wrong we were!

In my last post I mysteriously referred to a ‘Region x’.  Well … ‘Region x’ turned out to be Scandinavia!  And at 75% Scandinavian ancestry it had to be more than just distant Viking relatives in the family!?

But this is a place that has never flagged as a connection in any research so far. Not even hinted at.  Saying Mum had Martians for ancestors might have made more sense!  But at least the olive skin was explained by 9% southern European ancestry (across Italy & Spain)…but so much Scandinavian?

So what then was the second surprise….

DNA – Part 1

One of the really interesting things that puzzles me with family history is the idea of nature vs nurture. As mentioned previously, I take after my granny. I am clearly cut from the Edgecombe cloth so to speak. I lived for a year with my grandparents in Sydney and even I noticed certain mannerisms and gestures that we shared. My Granny’s best friend was sat behind us once, and later told me that it was only the grey hair that told us apart! I even have my Granny’s hands – right down to the way our pointer fingers curve in, our finger nails were born with a french manicure and we both have droopy eyelids (an Edgecombe trait).  When I was a baby, my parents found a baby photo of Granny tucked behind an old frame. They temporarily set it on the mantle piece but then when friends came to visit they all asked how mum managed to get an old photo of me!

Granny and Sandy

Marion (Granny) and me (age about 8 or 9)

So I certainly can’t deny the close familial link to that side of the family. But how does that fit with having grown up many, many kilometres away. I can’t have just picked up mannerisms on my summer holidays with Granny, like I picked up shells on the beach.  Therefore a certain part of me must have been born that way.

According to Granny I am like Mum. But Mum says I am like my Granny. I have always found this frustrating if not slightly insulting… one wants to take ownership for me!?

But now here is what I find really interesting. With all this in mind, a few in the family have had DNA testing through family DNA. Granny’s results were unsurprisingly almost entirely European but we were a little surprised to find out she has 5% Jewish ancestry (something I am yet to track down!).

Next Mum was tested. Her results were surprising in more ways than I can say and deserve a blog post on their own. Suffice it to say a large part of her heritage came from what I shall call ‘region x’ – 75% to be precise. No one else we’ve had tested had anything like that amount, except my sister but that was no surprise considering she is so similar to Mum.

And then my test. It was a family joke that I would finally get to see just how alike I was to my Granny. But imagine my surprise when I discover that I am actually 73% ‘region x’.  Despite all appearances, I clearly inherited most of my DNA from Mum’s side and not nearly as much from my Dad/Granny as we all thought. I am more like Mum than my sister even which as I will show in my next post is a big surprise.

And so my (long winded) point being, is that our physical appearance, our DNA, nature vs nurture – it is only a small part of who we actually are. In my case, I am a little bit of Granny and a little bit more of Mum….perhaps it’s just the Granny bit is a little louder perhaps. In the words of Shakespeare “though she be little, she be fierce” (Taming of the Shrew).

Sandy and Marion (April 2016)

Sandy and Marion (April 2016)

New site

Well it’s been a little while between posts…longer than I’d hoped.  But I haven’t just been lazing about (well not too much).

One change that not many would notice really, is that I have moved the blog from being a wordpress blog ( to a ‘proper’ hosted website (  I now have a little more control over the site (I hope!) but can use the great Wordpress software to customize, add media, blogs, and extra pages.

And speaking of extra pages, perhaps the most significant change is the change in focus from being just about my paternal line, but also including my maternal line too.  I originally started this whole blog adventure, to let Dad’s family in Australia know about my finds when I moved to the UK in 2014. Previously we’d gather for dinner, cider and a (roudy) game of cards at my Grannys house. I do miss those family nights, but a blog is the way to go now.  And now that I have spent the time setting this site up, I thought why would I leave out half of my ancestry!?

So what tales does Mum’s side of the family bring you ask? Well if we were ever going to have family silver it would be in Mums family.  We have a family painting in a fancy frame brought all the way from the UK to Australia, and an (unverified) family chart for suggesting connections to royalty.  And then there is the whole question of connections to famous Australian explorers, Arctic explorers, and Navy heros.  But all that comes to nought if recent DNA test results are to be believed…..

Mum and one of my sisters are currently working their way through that minefield of family drama.  And in time I hope to fill you in with some tales from the other side (of the family).


a jump ahead…

So now I am going to be a little naughty.  Instead of following the story generation by generation, I’m going to pop ahead a bit to the Buckingham family.  The reason is that they are my current project because my Granny wanted to find out more about her own Granny.

As I’ve mentioned before, at age 11 Granny (Marion Scott nee Edgecombe) experienced the sad early loss of her mother (Elsie Davis).  She and her brother and sisters spent the next few years living with their fathers family and developed a close relationship with her fathers mother – Granny Edgecombe (real name Marion Edgecombe nee Buckingham).  Oh and despite the similarity in the name, she wasn’t directly named after her own Granny either….but that’s a story for another day!

It seems that they already were a close family unit – understandable since they had all migrated together from the UK in 1924/25.  Granny recalls living with ‘Granny and Grandad Edgecombe’ at Flushcombe Road Blacktown, (Sydney) in the mid 30’s when her sister Hazel was born.

So in 1944, when tragedy struck the family with the death of Elsie, at least there was a certain familiarity to fall back on.  But by this time Granny Edgecombe was in her early 70’s though, and had bad knees (I was doomed to have bad knees on all genetic fronts!).  So at 11 years old, Marion became the legs for her own Granny and helped cooking in the kitchen.

Granny remembers

“Aunty Ena and Uncle Ronnie Neeves were living with Granny and Grandad when we went there to live but they soon moved out.  Aunty May lived in the next street and she came up and did the washing and cleaning and was paid out of Dad’s wages.  Granny did the cooking and I helped her.  I was her legs and had to fetch and carry for her.  We muddled along but it was no fun time.”

I imagine by this time that Granny Edgecombe was expecting life to be a bit easier, but instead she found herself caring for a grieving son and 4 young children aged 11, 8, 5 and an infant.  As Granny says it ‘was no fun time’.  Everyone’s lives were thrown into turmoil and on top of that was the emotional loss of a mother, wife and daughter-inlaw.

And so who was this ‘Granny Edgecombe’ who stepped in and cared for the children?

See here for more details on Annie Marion Buckingham


And so to the other half of the Scott family story….

Granny (Marion Edgecombe) grew up in Sydney surrounded by a loving extended family of aunties and uncles.  In turn, growing up I would hear about ‘Grandad and Granny Davies’ and ‘Grandad and Granny Edgecombe’ and Aunty Ena and Uncle Ted and….well you get the idea.  Then one day I was told that my great-granny (Nancy Edgecombe) was actually my ‘step’ great-granny.  I loved Great-Granny dearly but it made me wonder who my ‘real’ Great-Granny was and why she wasn’t a part of our lives.  Eventually I was told of her (Elsie May Davies) early death and how her husband (Henry George Edgecombe) had later married Nancy.

In 1944 Elsie May died leaving four young children in the care of her devastated husband Henry.  Marion remembers her father, Henry, spending the nights walking the streets no doubt struggling to understand what had happened and worrying about his young family.

His wife, Elsie May Davis, was raised in the care of foster parents Maggie and Maurice (or Morris) Davies – known as Grandma and Grandpa Davies.  They remained part of the families life after her death and so it seems they were more than a temporary foster family.    However, the extended Edgecombe family really rallied around and supported Henry and his four small children.  Marion speaks fondly of her early years spent with Granny Edgecombe (Annie Marion Buckingham) and being looked after by her Aunties & Uncles.  Being raised by an extended family may seem like a romantic notion but looking at it now, the kindness of the family undoubtedly helped Henry and the children through the tragedy of a mothers death and saw to it that things didn’t turn out far differently for our family.  Other families in a similar situation at the time would have seen all the children placed into care.

It is also for this reason that we know much more of the Edgecombe side than the Davies side.

And here my journey began….see Marion Edgecombe and the beginning of the family tree.  See my previous post on John Scott and the link to his page.

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