Genealogy – Have you seen the television program ‘Where Did I Come From’? It is a fascinating journey back in time as a different guest each week explores their heritage. Sometimes they are happy to have someone notorious in their past rather than just ‘normal’ people.
Finding our roots, is something that perhaps does not become important to most of us until midlife, however my guest who I interview this week, Adel Firth-Mason, caught the genealogy ‘bug’ at the age of 17! Adel was at school with me, although we weren’t close friends at school. Following our 40th High School Reunion we have reconnected and remain friends through social media.
I, myself, have been very fortunate that I have two cousins – one on my mother’s side of the family and one on my father’s side. Both have been very interesting in ancestry and have detailed our family tree.Knowing a little about those in your past is all part of the tapestry that is known as your family.Click To Tweet
I’m told that once you start, Genealogy and Family Trees can become very addictive. In her interview, Adel explains what Genealogy is, how she became interested and in a following post will provide tips on how you can start tracing your family history and also what is involved with DNA testing.
1. What is Genealogy?
In a dictionary-type definition, genealogy involves the search for one’s ancestors, giving account of their personal stories, including their ethnicity and movements. It involves many actors in many roles. It has no beginning date, but involves a progressively never-ending story delving into the past.
2. When and Why did you become interested in Genealogy?
I grew up on the names of my great grandfather, Thomas Rhodes Firth, who had been the Engineer in Chief of railway construction and maintenance (NSW); and my great great grandfather, George Louis Asher Davies, born to Jewish parents, and whose families had published various newspapers including The Australian, Windsor, Richmond, and Hawkesbury Advertiser aka “The Australian” (NSW: 1873 – 1899) (http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-title184), the St George Advocate, and the Hobarton Mercury.
George’s father Michael had first published a newspaper from Harris Street, Ultimo, and later purchased or assisted setting up George with the newspaper in Windsor. Michael’s other son, John Davies, published the Hobart Mercury (as it was later known).
From Trove is the following: “Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 21 September 1871, page 2, WINDSOR. Literary. -On Saturday last, a new paper, called The Australian; Windsor, Richmond, and Hawkesbury Advertiser, was issued for the first time.” This would have been 16 September 1871.
In addition, this newspaper was published in Thompson’s Square, Windsor, which is now the Windsor Museum, and which I took great interest in when a class excursion took us there ever so many years ago.
My interest was there right from the beginning of my ability to question and seek answers, and I soaked up the facts as they came to me. Even writing this has just caused me to actually resource information, make corrections to the newspaper transcription online, and learn something new. It never stops, and is such an amazing and constant journey of discovery which was and is clearly in my DNA.
3. You have mentioned to me about DNA testing, what is DNA testing?
I have tested with the two companies FamilyTreeDNA, and Ancestry. Initially, I had my father tested through FamilyTreeDNA as he is an only child and the last direct male of my Firth family line, and the only one I could test easily for his mother’s ancestry.
This company offers tests for those two lines (being the mitrochondrial and Y-chromsome DNA), as well as for autosomal (Family Finder).
The information it provided included an ethnicity mapping and report in percentages of where his ancestors originated, as well as people globally who share DNA and are therefore kin. I tested for myself there also to gain my biological mother’s DNA inherited by me, which opened up further lines of my ancestry.
I also tested with Ancestry, which tests only the autosomal, but provides an ethnicity mapping as well, and finds common shared ancestry. Autosomal is the collective DNA from all your family lines.
4. Is Genealogy an expensive hobby?
Like all hobbies, it can be expensive but it’s one you can select ways in which to obtain research at quite workable prices, and often freely. I have an annual Ancestry subscription which provides access to so many resources eg church entries in England from the late 1600’s which have been written in Latin, and many other records from the UK and other countries; including electoral rolls, citizenship/naturalisation records, military, photos, and so much more, with many more still being transcribed.
Compiled trees by other researchers are also available and can help complete your own tree, although I always double-check as errors can occur.
When requiring a certificate of birth, death, or marriage in NSW, a transcription is a cheaper option and there are a few transcription agents to be found online. I use Joy Murrin but they all provide the same service as similar prices. Always check online for each state’s BDM records and how to obtain options.
Another way to find information is join any one of the many Facebook groups that are location-based, named-focused, or general. So many wonderful people are in those groups and will look for specific information cost-free.
5. Have you found any interesting people in your past?
I wouldn’t know where to begin with this question as they’re all interesting to me. I’ve quite a significant number of convicts from England, Ireland and Scotland, sent to New South Wales for reasons such as stealing a sheep to help feed a family, to circulating counterfeit money, to stealing a pocketwatch to sell for food, to having a piece of linen in a front garden and accused of stealing it.
My earliest convict was a convict girl of the First Fleet, followed by two (a man and a woman) who both survived the horrendous Second Fleet.
I have the brother of one born here hanged in Sydney as a bushranger, yet he was respected as something of a Robin Hood by many (Jewboy Davies/Teddy the Jewboy).
I have a couple who were in regiments, including a marine of the First Fleet; and an Irish Orphan Girl (both parents were dead) who was one of those whose passage was paid for under the Earl Grey Scheme to increase the female population in the early colony while relieving Ireland of its many forced to starve through the Great Famine.
Then there’s the one as mentioned above who arrived to take up railway contracts with the NSW Government and was involved in the development of the lines from Singleton to Sydney, the Zig Zag railway, and other engineering works; and then those in journalism, and farming, and another who was a charter signature on the document to establish the NSW Pensioners’ Association.
Then there were all the women who have raised large families, lost young children to childhood illnesses, yet persevered through their times and raised the generations that became known as Australian.
As you can see there is so much involved in finding more about where you came from, however, the surprises and richness it will add to your life is priceless. You will have something to pass onto your children and future generations.
In the next post, Adel will provide tips on starting the journey to find where you came from and what is involved with DNA testing.
Let’s Keep Sizzling!