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Genealogy – Growing your Family Tree

October 5, 2016

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) (, 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.


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  • Reply Gilly Maddison October 6, 2016 at 17:33

    When my mother got into doing our family tree, we found that one of the teachers at my old high school, who hated me as much as I hated him, was a member of our family. It was a shock to find we were related!

    It is fascinating finding out what our ancestors did and how they struggled. I often think of the people who came before me and think what an easy life I have in comparison (especially the women). Even people in my living memory, such as my paternal grandma, had quite hard lives by today’s standards. It’s good to look back to try and find out about the people who got us to where we are now.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 10, 2016 at 17:41

      Oh that could have been awkward at family reunions Gilly! I agree it is fascinating and exciting to look back at our ancestors and yes we do have it much easier today – although some might disagree – life in general is very good now compared to what our ancestors put up with.

  • Reply lori October 7, 2016 at 01:37

    I think it’s fascinating to learn about your family history. You have spurred me to look into mine more.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 10, 2016 at 16:38

      Yes it is fascinating Lori I can see how it does become addictive. I hope you do look into your family tree – who knows who you will find.

  • Reply gigi October 8, 2016 at 19:21

    I’m looking forward to reading more about the DNA testing. I’m adopted and I think it might be interesting,…but scary at the same time!!!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 10, 2016 at 16:42

      Hello Lovely Gigi! Yes it must be a little scary – did you know your birth parents? I hadn’t thought about that side of things. Have a beautiful day and the post will be out next week.

  • Reply Michele October 9, 2016 at 01:55

    Genealogy is so interesting to me. I also started it when I was in high school, but then life got busy and I put it on the back burner. Every now and again I pick it up and do something with it. I have traced my mother’s family back to Holland in the late 1400’s. Now I want to visit all the places my ancestors came from.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 10, 2016 at 16:43

      Hi Michele! I’ve always been intrigued but never really took it far – thank goodness for my cousins who did! Wow late 1400s that would be so interesting to trace that far back. What a great idea to visit all the places your ancestors came from.

  • Reply Leanne October 12, 2016 at 14:49

    I am always fascinated by the fact that there are so many people who want to know their roots. It must be an entrenched part of our human spirit. It seems to have skipped over me – which is interesting in itself – maybe I’ll suddenly be diving in when my own mortality faces me?

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 06:02

      I think it is fascinating Leanne although I’m not sure I would put the time into it. My cousins are both fanatics and love researching so I’m fortunate that they have done the hard work. I think you need the time so perhaps when you are in your dotage you can start – although I’m not sure you would have time even then because you are enjoying life so much.

  • Reply Rosemond October 13, 2016 at 04:46

    Fascinating! I’ve yet to dive into genealogy but I’m lucky because several family members have for many years so I’ve got maps and documents that trace us back a very long time. I’d love to do DNA and see what secrets lurk there that perhaps were forgotten!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 06:09

      It is fascinating and addictive. I’ll be writing about the DNA testing which I thought was very interesting as you would be surprised with all the nationalities that are in your DNA.

  • Reply Carol Cassara October 13, 2016 at 09:30

    I love learning about the family history. Not always, well, politically correct, to say the least, but so interesting!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 06:15

      Yes Carol it is interesting to see who went before us and of course they won’t all be politically correct. It shows how far we have come in society or perhaps not in some cases. My great grandfather was a minister who came to Australia and was in charge of the Women’s Prison at Maria Island, Tasmania. Two others were Doctors who emmigrated to the US during the time of the Civil War.

  • Reply Jennifer October 13, 2016 at 12:10

    I did the Ancestry DNA test and it was fascinating to learn that not only did we have a German and French heritage, which I expected to find, but we also have North African, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian ethnicity—which I didn’t expect to find.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 06:16

      Hi Jennifer! I was surprised when Adel told me here DNA break up. I wonder what mine will include?

  • Reply Janice | MostlyBlogging October 13, 2016 at 14:36

    Hi Sue,
    I’ve always been interested and have my own family tree.

    Thanks for bringing your post to the Blogger’s Pit Stop last week.
    Janice, Pit Stop Crew

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 06:17

      Maybe Janice when you have time you might discover more about your past! Thanks for Blogger’s Pit Stop always enjoy linking up.

  • Reply Molly Stevens October 13, 2016 at 21:01

    It is interesting to learn of your ancestors. I have never delved into it myself but my sister did a lot of work on this and her findings were fascinating. It reminds me I need to look up her materials and review it again. So easy after even two generations to lose track of the people who came before us.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 06:21

      Yes I have to review mine too Molly. My cousins have given me pages in a folder and I must revisit. Happy reading!

  • Reply Anna R Palmer October 14, 2016 at 00:52

    I love the narratives that can come from research like well as the way it makes us feel connected. What an interesting pursuit.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 06:26

      It is interesting although I think very time consuming Anna. I’m fortunate my cousins have broken the back of the workload but I do enjoy listening to them as they are so passionate about their findings.

  • Reply Silly Mummy October 14, 2016 at 05:45

    Fascinating! I love history and this sounds like a really interesting and addictive pastime. The DNA testing sounds really interesting too.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 06:26

      It is great to trace your ancestors – good or bad. I’ll be posting about the DNA testing soon which was an eye-opener for me.

  • Reply Lee Gaitan October 14, 2016 at 09:36

    I, too, am fascinated by family histories. I can go pretty far back on my father’s side, but am still trying to go further than two generations on my mom’s paternal side. I have been so tempted to do the DNA testing, so I was really interested in what Adel’s experience with that. I haven’t found any convicts in my line yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me! 😉 I’m anxious to read the next installment.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 14:30

      It is interesting isn’t it Lee and very addictive. I’ll be posting more about the DNA testing in a special post so watch out for that!

  • Reply Amber Temerity October 14, 2016 at 12:28

    I’ve done the testing through Ancestry, as has my husband – neither of us know anything at all about our fathers’ lines. It’s definitely interesting to learn about and I hope more comes of it over the years!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 14, 2016 at 14:32

      It could become a never ending journey couldn’t it Amber? I find it fascinating though but having the time to research is hard to find.

  • Reply Skipah October 19, 2016 at 01:22

    My girlfriend’s dad is big into this. He’s showed me a few tricks of the trade and do have to say it is quite fascinating.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric October 21, 2016 at 06:49

      Yes it can be very interesting Gary but you certainly need the time to do it properly.

  • Reply Genealogy - Tips on Starting Your Journey of Discovering - Sizzling Towards Sixty November 1, 2016 at 03:02

    […] In my previous interview with Adel Firth-Mason, we learned of her passion for delving into the past of her family.  If you missed the interview just click here to read Genealogy – Growing Your Family Tree. […]

  • Reply Genealogy - DNA Testing - Sizzling Towards Sixty November 8, 2016 at 03:03

    […] my interviews with Adel Firth-Mason, we have covered Genealogy – Growing Your Family Tree, Genealogy –  and in this third and final interview of the series Adel talks about DNA […]

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