Tracing my family tree: How I got into genealogy 59



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About 15 years ago I thought it could be interesting to trace my family tree.

To my knowledge no one had ever done it – couldn’t be that hard, plenty of others do it, lots of support and facilities! Little did I know what a world I was opening up!

I had lived most of my younger life in a small country town surrounded by relatives, so I had easy access to my immediate and extended family. They would know everything there was to learn about previous generations, wouldn’t they? This is one of the bigger mistakes I made – memories fade and family folklore isn’t always true.

My family were great photo takers so that helped a lot in identifying people, but they didn’t always write names on the back of the photo (remember when we used to do that and date them?) I have since learned that is “a must” even in the digital world.

First off I talked to Grandma and asked for her parents’ names in full and their places of birth and dates were impossible for her and “somewhere in County Limerick, Ireland” didn’t quite cut the mustard. Then I discovered the Genealogical Society of Victoria ( and all my prayers (and nightmares) were on their way to being answered (or so I thought). I went to an introductory session and discovered that there are hundreds (probably thousands) like me out there wanting information. This was a revelation, and even though I didn’t know all the terminologies, I knew this was something I could get my teeth into.

After several sessions I purchased a family tree program and taught myself to use it. I spent many nights chasing a line, which more often that not ended up at a brick wall. How could there be so many people born in Ireland with similar family names and birth dates?

I learned to use microfiche, I researched via the web, and I purchased certificates from The Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages. These gave a wealth of information such as parent’s full names, mother’s maiden name, occupations, and on death certificates “where born and how long in Australia”.

Hooray! Confirmation! My great grandparents did, in fact, come from County Limerick (I later discovered that it was from the town of Hospital, Co. Limerick)

By then I’d found another “branch of the tree” from Cornwall. I joined Irish and Cornish research groups, joined chat rooms and placed queries on web pages. I visited cemeteries, churches, and historical societies. A few years ago I visited Cornwall and Ireland and discovered some of my roots. It was interesting to see the towns and villages that are part my history, but if I am going to do heaps of research on another visit, I may have to divorce my husband. He was very patient and encouraging but when I would say “let’s take a little drive down to Redruth or St Agnes again” his eyes would roll.

I have boxes and books and photos and stored information to keep me “researching” until I die – then someone else can continue the job.

It is never-ending and never, never dull!

Tell us, have you researched your family tree? What did you find? 

Rhonda O'Keefe

  1. My father’s side has already been done by an uncle who has spent years researching it. Mother’s side is proving difficult as she was orphaned at three and other mitigating factors. We’ll get there eventually.

    2 REPLY
  2. Been at it off and on for decades. Talked with many selfless people doing their tree, often not related to me, who willingly shared what they had that might be in my line. But it’s growing bigger faster than my time allows! The grand children are joining the various lines! It could become a full time job if only I had the time.

  3. When I started researching my family tree about 10 years ago I had no idea I had 5 convicts as ancestors. What a wonderful and interesting discovery it has been as the records kept for convicts in the early days of Australia are quite detailed and extensive.

  4. Started at 16 and have hopelessly corrupted my husband and some friends. The family tolerate the lunacy and have occasionally rung at 8am on a school day asking for their convict ancestor.

  5. My brother traced our family tree only to find that we are related to George Bush ex president of America. Shock horror. I can’t stand that man

  6. My mother’s family is well documented thanks to other family members. But my grandmother on my father’s side is proving very difficult. I obtained her wedding and death certificates but have been unable to trace her birth shown as Orange NSW. I have a picture which showed she had dark skin and DNA evidence just received shows Pacific Islander or Aboriginal forebears and so the research continues.

  7. Started my tree by accident. Threw a few names into Google n woo. A whole new world opened up before my eyes. I found my missing family. N my family found me. Very interesting. Discovered many branches like as a kid I’d c battered trucks carrying sand n metal round adelaide The owners were related. My granny told me loads of crap n she did come from class but she’d never believe her ancestors were Tassie convicts. Don’t know who Fed her such b,s, interesting. It’s good to find your tree to know where u come fr especially if one had a disfunctional upbringing

  8. Husband is related to Robert The Bruce and the Kennedys my side grandparents coal miners Newcastle, sapphire mines in Queensland. Nan born English but raised in New York she knew the mayor but apparently he was corrupt, who would have thought lol . It’s so interesting and exciting but time consuming TROVE was useful and its great reading news papers from the past. I love history.

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    • My husband was Bruce from Scotland !!!!!. Along with millions. No one alive to tell me, all have Patrick &Mary for parents

  9. We went back to 1700’s on my mums side. The last guy we have on record has a name so like my sons names it’s spooky.

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