The secretive mother

My octagenarian client’s mother had deliberately hidden her birthdate from her son – even cutting it out of her passport. Neither her birth record nor that of her sister could be found. However, after seeking more information about other siblings, the family could be identified, and confirmed through death records. Both women had changed their first names, and after discovering newspaper articles, it became clear why his mother wanted to hide details of her early life and first marriage from her second family. A five-hour project using NSW transcriptions.

DNA matching and search for birth father

A retiree, adopted out at birth had met her birth mother and knew her maternal family history, but wanted to find who her birth father was.  I encouraged her to test with AncestryDNA and she gave me management rights to her results.  I built her birth mother’s family tree, linked it to her DNA results, then grouped her DNA 1st-6th cousin matches according to her maternal matches where trees were available.  Those which didn’t match were probably on her father’s side.  Due to luck and a first cousin match, I was able to identify her father’s family and reach some conclusions including contact details for close relations for her to seek further information.

Convicts or early settlers?

An ex-pat Australian wanted to know if she had Aboriginal or convict ancestors in Australia. I quickly found that all of her known ancestors came to Australia as early settlers, between 1848 and 1875, or jumped ship. I found that her surname had been Anglicised from the German equivalent, and she had many distant cousins interested in family history. Most of her ancestors came from the south of England. It was quickly established that one of her grandfathers was unknown. Only an autosomal DNA test could establish whether she may have indigenous heritage from this ancestor. Many interesting newspaper articles were discovered. A 15-hour project.

Australian royalty

My client assumed his surname was Irish and indeed he was correct, his great grandfather having been sponsored by an earlier arriving relative in 1861. What he was surprised about was his being a First Fleeter, through his grandmother’s heritage. His 3x great grandmother was Ann Forbes, a young convict on the Prince of Wales, part of the first fleet. And she married a Third Fleet convict. Both these ancestors are well documented by others. A five-hour project.

Farrier in the army

A client wished to find out more about her father’s army life, particularly in British India between the two world wars. I found his service record, indicating he was a farrier and served in Germany, Ireland and British India. I recommended a number of books she could read about the history of the horse in war, and about the Royal Tank Regiment. A four hour project.

Is it true they were coachbuilders?

My 90-year-old neighbour’s mother-in-law always told her that her grandfather had been a “coachbuilder down south”. She wanted me to find out. I quickly established that indeed yes, the family had arrived from Germany and had joined other German settlers on the Berry family’s Shoalhaven estate in the 1850s. After a few years establishing a property, three generations of the family had become coach-builders.

Can you make sense of this research?

My client presented me with some Gedcom files and a report provided by another researcher. He asked me to find connections between the various trees. The report was riddled with assumptions and errors, as were the online family trees. I decided to go back to first principles and verify sources. My client was satisfied that no connection could be found between a farming family and his fishmonger ancestors, for whom records were available.

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