Finding family, 90 years on

Have you ever wondered about your ancestry or in pondering the meaning of life, wondered where your family originated? Perhaps you are a family research expert and can recite your ancestry back 13 generations, and have traced everyone as far as you can get! Or perhaps you are… um….. well… not really all that intrigued?

Old family photos are now being shared for everyone to enjoy

Old family photos are now being shared for everyone to enjoy

I got interested in my family ancestry about a decade ago, but was frustrated by the lack of available information. Being located in Australia made it more difficult, as I have no history here, so I was obliged to rely on the internet or spend many thousands travelling to remote lands in the hope of finding something useful.

I did have help though – my father was also interested and he invested a large amount of time finding photos and links on his side of the family. He wrote his memoirs at the same time, so we have a wonderful supply of information to enjoy. But when it came to the maternal side of the family, it seemed we had practically nothing.

My mother’s grandparents had all passed away before she was born, except for a grandfather who departed the earth while she was very young. It seemed that from then on, no one spoke about her grandparent’s generation, and when my mother’s parents left us, they took this information to the grave with them. It seemed that it was all gone… forever.

Well, not quite.

Armed with one or two key names (including that of my great grandmother, who luckily had an unusual name) and a few dubious stories which had survived though the generations, I searched the internet in vain for many years to find clues about the family. There was a link with France, but we did not know any more that, a story about owning an hotel and a glass factory and two mysterious family fortunes.

The lady on the far left is the great grandmother whose unusual name reunited her family 90 years later

The lady on the far left is the great grandmother whose unusual name reunited her family 90 years later. The couple next to her are my grandparents – it was their wedding day.

Then, after many fruitless decades, I found what I had been searching for. Someone had posted a family tree with my great grandmother’s name on it. I could not believe my luck! Looking a bit closer, I realised that while the owner of this family had focussed on one of my grandfather’s siblings, and they had very little information about us.

This wonderful find led to a year of exciting information exchanges, more research, discoveries of newspaper articles and lots of fun, as our family became reunited with our second cousins. And by pooling what stories and clues we had, we have since linked up almost all my grandfather’s family’s descendants. Only one brother who went to England in the early 1920s remains a mystery.

Family graves in France! This photo taken by one of my 'new' cousins!

Some of our family graves in France! This photo taken by one of my ‘new’ cousins!

We have found the link to France – the great grandfather who passed away when my mother was young, was born in France! His mother was a French national and his father was from the UK. So the whole French connection is now opening up too, which I am very excited about.

The story does not end there though. I recently returned to South Africa recently to ‘meet’ many of my newly found (second) cousins. It was an emotional and amazing experience. None of us can understand why the family drifted apart, except that families did spread far and wide across the country to find work and communications were not as easy as they are today. We do live in lucky times, when communication is so easy, and the internet is helping to reunite families!

The ultimate irony though, is that I attended the same school as my second cousins for a number of years. As we passed each other in the corridors each day, we had no idea that we were so closely related! How bizarre is that?

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9 Responses to Finding family, 90 years on

  1. Bizarre. What a story. You can’t make up stuff like this, but how exciting!


    • Madoqua says:

      It has been a wonderful adventure! And my mother is delighted. Sadly, my mother’s only sibling, her sister, left us last year and never got to know any of it.


      • We got my mother to audio tape her story–the one we didn’t have any inkling to in her spare time. By the time I began to clarify unclear details, she was in hospice and the questions were too taxing for her.
        This is important work. Glad you have a lot more information about your family now. ❤


  2. Jean says:

    Very exciting to discover the French side of your family.

    We don’t have any photos of grandparents. You have to remember cameras were expensive and China was in the midst of civil war and political upheaval with the Communists advancing into the country 1930’s onward.

    Part of my family history is tied to the immigration laws of Canada and U.S. Anyway, without going into a monologue, I’ve mentioned bits of it my blog posts.

    There are some incredible stories just within my parents’ generation and onward… ie. My father immigrated to Canada just a few years after Chinese-Canadians won the right to vote in Canada I 1947. But he didn’t know it at the time. This happened because several Chinese born in Canada lost their lives fighting for Canada in WWII in Europe.. because of this enormous sacrifice Parliament of Canada granted right to vote…

    My mother also was a picture bride.
    Anyway, history is past ..and present. As we speak, live our days as best as we can.


  3. scrapydo says:

    Amazing for sure!


  4. prettitoes says:

    and meeting you has been a dream come true


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