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

Category: All (page 1 of 2)

Record, record, record…

Recently a work colleague (yes…sadly I have a day job) took an Ancestry DNA test. It was quite exciting and he had some very interesting results with a mix of asian (or oriental as they sometimes say in the UK) and English heritage. But now he didn’t know where to start with the research.

And it made me think that with the growing popularity of these tests, there are many more people that may have taken a DNA test, and they now have a lovely map with dot’s on it…and a percentage of different countries, ethnic groups and continents…but simply don’t know what to do next.

“Easy!…talk to your family!” Well, that was the advice I gave my workmate.

Why? Because that is always the best place to start with your family history research – your family!

And what better time to do this than over the Christmas / New Year break.

Although I personally don’t celebrate Christmas, I do enjoy the fact that much of the world is on holidays and spending time with family. Often that may also be with extended family and one’s we don’t see very often. If that is true for you, then I suggest that you take this golden opportunity to make a start on your family history. Even if you do no more research for months, make wise use of time with family now over the next week or so.

But what do I do!?

The main thing is to get the conversation flowing.

The best thing about this time of year is that everyone is relaxed (well almost everyone). And you know what it’s like when we’re all chilled out and there is a nice bottle of red on the go or a good strong coffee…we start blabbing away, reminiscing, thinking of the good old days and how things have changed.

No? It’s just me? (Oh…this is awkward.)

In all seriousness though, when you’re all together and relaxed, try and steer the conversation around to family.

“Dad, where did you go to school?”

“What did Uncle Ronnie do for work Nan?”

“Was there someone in the family that was famous?”

Ask who your grandparents were? When were they born? Where?

Is there anyone in the family who has already looked at the family history?

Ask about your immediate families lives too…where did they live, go to school, first job?

How did your parents meet?

Just get the conversation started. Get those tongues wagging! I don’t mean to be morbid, but who knows what the next year will bring and maybe you won’t have the opportunity to ask those questions again.

And my top tip…record those family chats.

We all have phones these days and no matter how old or what brand, your phone will have a voice record function…use it! Just start it recording and leave it on the table while the family chats away.

This has two benefits.

In the first place – recordings are great for reminiscing. I have recordings of the time we visited my Grandpa in the hospital. He has now passed away, but it is so lovely to listen to his voice some days…and usually I end up in tears.

I also have recordings of my nephew. He started with an Aussie accent but after living with us here in the UK for a few years, he now sounds like a proper little Londoner.

Mum even has recordings of me when I was about 4 or 5 years old, talking to my much older cousins.

Second (and most importantly), a recording is a great way to (obviously) go back and listen later. You are not having to worry about taking notes while everyone is talking. Once everyone is relaxed and happy and talking…sit back and listen. Throw in the odd question or comment every now and then to keep the conversation going, but just listen and enjoy the discussion.

Then in a months time you may have time to do some research. You can then listen back and think about the stories you want to investigate, or at least have some names to start getting on the tree.

Nan said that we had a pilot in the airforce didn’t she – I wonder where he served?

Uncle Ronnie worked at the Arnott’s factory – I wonder where he lived back then?

Aunt Mabel ran off to America – have I got cousins in the states!

As a bonus, in 20 years you will have a lovely recording full of memories of time with the family.

Of course, use your discretion here…I’m talking about interviewing Nanna…not setting a trap for the gossip mags. Mention to them you are recording at some point but don’t make a big deal out of it or people will feel awkward.

And be sure to tell them why you are recording – that you want to look into the family history. That might be enough to trigger a fascinating conversation in itself.

Everyone remembers the same event differently and while 9 times out of 10 that can lead to an amusing discussion, just be careful if things get too personal. You know your family…and can tell when you may have hit a sensitive subject – especially if people are a little tipsy!

Enjoy time with the family! 


DNA adventures (or…are there anymore surprises)

“Previously, on my epic DNA journey…”

Ok…so we’re not quite ready for voice overs on this blog but it has been 12 months since I last posted on this topic – so a brief catchup is in order…right?

  • Mum takes DNA test
  • Mum’s brother takes DNA test
  • Test results say they are half siblings (we all thought they were full siblings)
  • “Eeeeek!”
  • Mum DNA tests a paternal Uncle (her Dad’s brother) and this says they are not related!
  • “woooah! Mum’s biological dad isn’t who we thought he was!?”
  • Mum’s parents passed away long ago…what do we do!?
  • We contact the nearest DNA cousin matches…no leads
  • There are a few Anderson’s in the DNA matches (same surname as Nanna’s second husband when Mum was only very young!)
  • Ah ha! we’ve got you….the 2nd marriage started…a little ‘early’…
  • We test an Anderson family member from Nanna’s second marriage.
  • No match to the Andersons!
  • “argh!? I thought I had you Nanna!”
  • Mum calls her maternal uncle (Uncle Laurie). He says “oh yeah, my mate ‘John Smith’ was around a bit. He dated your Mum on again and off again”
  • ‘John Smith’ actually has a very uncommon surname.
  • I search Mum’s DNA matches and find people with the same unusual surname
  • “Eeeeek! This is for real!”
  • A contact one of these DNA cousins and she gives me details of a branch of her family who went to Australia in the 1800’s…
  • We might be related that way so I research the descendants of the Aussie branch of the family
  • There is a descendant that matches the location and dates of where Mum grew up…
  • He is called ‘John Smith’
  • “Eeeeeek!”
  • This descendant passed away many years ago but I track down his wife and 2 daughters on facebook…..

And breathe.

So I left my last blog post with a cliffhanger – do we or don’t we contact the daughter’s of the man we suspect is Mum’s biological father???

Well……we did contact them!

Mum was really keen to find out who her biological Dad was and put the mystery to bed. I (selfishly) wanted to know if my detective work was correct. We also wondered why he died so young…his daughters must have been only little?!  Even if the family didn’t want to know anything about us, we wondered if there were any health issues Mum (and me I guess!?) needed to know about.

Finding new family would be a bonus too – but given the circumstances, we had resigned ourselves to them not being interested. Putting myself in their shoes I wondered how I would react. We didn’t even expect a reply at this stage. I once had an interesting discussion on the wdytya forum about thisvery  dilemma and others shared their sad tales of it not going well. But despite this, Mum was keen and so I sent both the girls a private Facebook message and included my email address.

I thought that it would be some time before they contacted us….but the very next morning when I woke up there was an email! I was blown away. It turned out that one of the girls actually lived here in the UK too. We couldn’t believe it! We assumed that they were both in Australia. She sent through some photos too…the first photos Mum had seen of her (potential) father. (moist eyes all round….) I can’t say we were struck by an immediate striking resemblance though, but there was a certain familiarity with the nose? eyes? ….maybe?? Or was that just us seeing something we hoped for……after a while you just start seeing rainbow unicorns everywhere!

After a flurry of emails back and forth and getting a bit emotional, we decided to arrange to meet up on Thursday after work. We arranged to meet in the forecourt of the British Library as it was a public place and we could walk away if it wasn’t meant to be….or alternatively we wouldn’t be having hugs and tears and introductions with a waiter trying to get us to a seat! Mum and I sat nervously in the courtyard. Would she show? Would we cry? I had been nervous all day at work with butterflies in my tummy and struggling to concentrate. Mum had been the same. I wasn’t sure what to expect – we knew what she looked like as we had swapped phone numbers and some photos.

But as soon as she walked up to us I recognised her and saw that same familiarity we had seen in the photos….especially to my baby sister.

Me, Mum and Aunty moments after meeting for the first time

It was quite a surreal experience actually. Straight away we noticed we were all the same height too (short 😉 )! And then she looks at me and says “You’re missing a tooth aren’t you?”. I was taken back. Not many people realise this – I am indeed missing an incisor and still have a baby incisor on the other side. The new teeth simply didn’t form. It turns out that my middle sister has the same thing, but I don’t know anyone else with it. But now I do – my Aunty (well the one in Australia at least)…and apparently it is hereditary. Both the girls had noticed it straight away in the pictures we sent. And that was just the beginning of strange coincidences that evening as we chatted over dinner.

For example, it turns out that both of her sons are colourblind and so was her Dad. I never realised (or forgot) but this is a genetic thing that, as I understand it, is passed on by the mother to the children through the X chromosome (or so i read). Girls are carriers (and occasionally have it) but it will generally just affect boys. So their Dad was colourblind and then passed it on to his daughter who passed it on to her sons.

The reason I spell this out , is that my nephew is colourblind. No one else in our family is colourblind and so we just always thought it came from his Dad’s side of the family. But it can’t have – fathers don’t pass it on (they pass on the Y chromosome to their son’s which is apparently not the colourblind one). Mum’s Dad (the one on her birth certificate…) was in the Navy and presumably, if he was colourblind, it would have been noted on his service record at the least, or maybe even stopped him joining back in the day?! If we’d thought about all this and researched it years ago it might have perhaps raised a question in our minds.

So our interests were piqued as we discussed this over dinner.  It was looking more and more likely that there was a relationship there.

Aunty continued to tell us about her Dad. Apparently, he was quite tall (Nanna was tall too so how did Mum end up only 5’2″!), and he was also quite the inventor.  Mum asked where he worked, and well that was a real game changer. He worked at Victa Lawnmowers (a well known Australian lawnmower company) as a Mechanical Engineer until he passed away in 1976. Mum nearly fell off her seat! Her first job was at Victa Mowers, also at the Milperra factory and at the same time he worked there! Although she was in the office and only worked there for a short time, it seems almost certain that they would have perhaps passed each other at some point. At this moment the waiter came over to see if we wanted more drinks and to clear the table. I can’t even begin to imagine what he thought was going on – three of us sat there in stunned silence with our mouths open! I get goosebumps thinking about it even now!

We continued to talk about our families and experiences growing up. Mum grew up in Sefton/Chester Hill (Western Sydney) which is also where the girls were – just streets away. They both knew the same places, and even though there is an age gap between them, it’s possible they may have passed each other around the shops at Sefton and Chester Hill. And from this it seems that their Dad was definitely the one who dated Nanna over the years!

Aunty told us about her Dad and Mum. Because he died so young both the girls were only little and had few memories of him. While he did leave them reasonably provided for, there is no doubt their Mum would have worked very hard to look after them. Aunty told us how their Mum would knit gloves and sell them in the local haberdashery in Sefton to help make a few extra dollars. Again Mum couldn’t believe it…they compared notes to make sure they were talking about the same store (and they were). The haberdashery in Sefton was owned by Nanna’s second husbands family – Nanna Anderson! Mum would visit regularly as a child as her family also owned the produce store….and Aunty remembered that store too! Mind. Blown. …..again.

There were other coincidences too. Random little things…years later in the 1990’s Aunty went to Sydney Uni doing accountancy at the same time I was next door at the technical college doing drafting! Their family had a house on the central coast and would spend the summer there. But so did Mum’s family…it was the Sydney thing to do. They would all have been in the same area and now maybe Mum passed her half sisters when on summer holidays too!

By this stage, we were all head and heart weary. It had been a long, and emotional few hours and so we said our goodbyes and headed home. Before we went we agreed the girls should take a DNA test to confirm the link, but in our heart of hearts, I think it seemed certain. There were just too many coincidences for it to be anything else.

The next day going to work on the tube, Mum messaged an old friend who worked with her at Victa. They were high school friends and both got a job together at Victa after leaving school. Mums friend stayed on at Victa for years, long after Mum had moved away. So Mum thought perhaps there was a chance that her old friend might have remembered this guy, since he died in his 40’s and had a young family…that would have stuck in my mind at least. After Mum messaged her friend she got a message straight back saying “What a blast from the past, he used to give me a lift to work sometimes!”. Mind blown x 10! Unfortunately, she can’t remember much about him other than he was a nice guy (otherwise she wouldn’t have got a lift)!

I then get to work and there is a message from Aunty in the UK telling me to check out some photos sent on facebook from Aunty in Australia. Apparently, they were photos of their Dad’s that were in the attic and they never knew who the people were. They had thought perhaps they were relatives and held on to them after their Dad died, but in light of me contacting them, they wondered….?!

I looked at the pics over lunch and gasped. There were various photos of school classes and girls with their Dad – it looked like most of them were taken at a deb ball perhaps. In one photo he is with the woman who later becomes Uncle Laurie’s wife (the paternal Uncle who told Mum that his mate ‘John Smith’ dated Nanna…).

But quite a lot of the pictures they sent had the same woman in them……my Nanna!!

A photo of Nanna from ‘John Smiths’ photos in the attic

I waited till I saw Mum later that day to confirm (I didn’t want to be imagining it!) but she also grinned and recognised her Mum straight away…she even has copies of some of the photos herself back in Australia. My sister got Nannas photos out of storage and we sent a photo to my Aunties.

Nanna’s photo basket in storage at my sisters in Australia

So 60 odd years ago, he held on to these photos and had them in the attic. Then when he died 20 years later, no one knew who the people were! This is just one of the pictures of my Nanna that he had in the attic…


A photo of Nanna from ‘John Smith’s’ attic….

The same photo in my Nanna’s photo album at my sister’ place

All of this has been an emotional roller coaster. We have shared photos and regularly whatsapp. Whatever the results of any DNA tests, our families lives have really been intertwined in so many ways. To have a photo of your Nanna found in the attic of an ex-boyfriends house after so many years is just….wow! Mum working in the same factory as him! …Oh. My. Days! And then their widowed Mum selling gloves to the Anderson family.  …..just stop.

After all that drama though, it almost feels like a bit of a footnote to say that the DNA results came in – and a little sooner than we expected too. The Ancestry DNA results confirmed they were ‘close relatives’ which includes cousins….and half-siblings. So it’s for real. Mum now has two sisters and I have a whole new set of relatives to trace! With so many half-siblings though, Mum’s tree is starting to look a little complicated!?

Mum’s family tree is starting to get complicated….. (Nanna is the top circle!)

But like my Uncle (the brother of the Dad on Mums’ birth certificate) said right back when this all first started, he didn’t care about the results of the test, Mum would always be his niece. And so rather than lose anyone, we have just gained a whole extra branch from the tree trunk that is my family history.

The girls are excited about this whole thing but we do worry about their Mum. In some instances when you see this sort of thing on TV, it really affects some people and they need closure (e.g. if they were adopted). In this case though, none of the girls – Mum or my Aunties, really knew their Dads (biological or ones on the birth certificate!). So it seems a little different – although discovering your Dad isn’t who you thought is still a bit dramatic!  We simply never knew each other existed, and so for me at least, it feels like new beginnings!

The next step is to try and meet up again and maybe all together in Australia in the New Year. Will see how we go.

Oh, and of course you’re wondering what the man himself looked like! Well…meet my grandparents Nanna (Betty Morgan) and Kenny Snodgrass (aka the famous ‘John Smith’).  This was one of the photos his family found in the attic. Goosebumps or what!

Nanna and Kenny Snodgrass (aka ‘John Smith’)


Kenny Snodgrass


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 ‘cousins’, who is 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 found a lot of Family Notices for that name.  Family Notices in the newspapers are 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 result 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 now 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.  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 think 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

Older posts

© 2019 thescottsisters

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑