in Family history

Winding Up The Year

Spirit of Tasmania

Spirit of Tasmania, the ferry which travels between Melbourne and Devonport

It has been an eventful and successful 2014.

In January 2014, my eldest son received a very welcome offer to study at an interstate university. Consequently he moved out.  He and I packed up our van and went on one of those sudden road trips which seem to come my way.  It took four days of driving to get there, and one long ferry trip in the middle. We spend two weeks settling him into his grandparents’ house and he has now moved into his own place.  The first one to leave the nest.

I scanned many photographs and visited many family graves while there.

My old van died, permanently, and it took a bit of fuss and bother to bring me back home.  I used all of my savings and purchased a small but very reliable car, much newer.  It was a definite step forward.

In my absence, mainland Australia burned up in a record-breaking heatwave.  The family still in South Australia were evacuated twice.  The highways were cut, caravan parks were all closed.  I had planned a trip on my way home to visit family in Victoria and New South Wales but it was not to be.  In the end I drove home in 48 degrees celsius, on a smoke-filled highway.  I remember sitting at a petrol station along the way with many others, unable to get fuel as the power was out.  This is a regular precaution in Australian heat waves, and everyone understands that it will happen.   I had some good roadside conversations with strangers as we waited, but I was glad to arrive home.  It was a dramatic start to the year.

Winter, the time of growth in South Australia

Winter, the time of growth in South Australia.  A part of our garden

Also in 2014, I discovered DNA testing for genealogy and it immediately broke down a brick wall.  I have discovered that my DNA matches are a friendly and helpful bunch, and I am very glad to have made their acquaintance by email.  I have learned about myself through the testing, and about my husband’s family through testing my son.  It has been an illuminating experience and I look forward to learning even more in the coming year with new tests underway.

On the paper genealogy front, I broke down six brick walls just by gaining access to the Tasmanian Police Gazettes.  Most of them shepherds in the isolated Tasmanian interior who avoided official registers, in old age they needed some assistance and through the courts were assigned to a nearby charitable institution.  The court record, reported in the Police Gazette, listed age, description, ship and year of arrival and country of origin.  Genealogical gold, just in time for the DNA testing.

In the middle of the year, I was able to set up a bookcase and reunite all my oldest books. It sounds like a little thing, but I’ve had a bookcase holding these books since I acquired them as a teenager many years ago.  I have properly moved in at last.

Sadly, we lost a dog this year.  He was actually our neighbour’s dog but spent more time with us as his owners had a baby and became unable to care for him.  We met him on New Year’s night four years ago when he ran from his yard, afraid of the fireworks.  He found his way to us and visited regularly until we made an arrangement for him to board with us.  During the past year, he moved out of town and we have heard he met with an accident.  We think of him tonight.  He was a very affectionate dog who loved everybody.

Gunner, a family friend.

Gunner, a family friend.

Due to genealogy testing, my husband’s family has a new close relative.  Where he fits is not quite certain yet, but he is close – a cousin or a half brother.  We’ve been very lucky, the dates make it clear that there was no big secret, no betrayal or cheating.  We can welcome our new family member quite safely.  I won’t say more, there are a few family members yet to meet him.

To finish up a big year, I finally managed the visit I had to cancel in January.  In December I visited family I have never met, and family I have not seen for years.  The whole venture went extremely well and I am now in regular contact with that family.  I had not realised how much of a gap I felt, not knowing my aunts, uncles and cousins on one side.  I am also surprised by the similarities I found between them and myself.  I have clearly inherited a large whack of Dunstall DNA.

With an hour left to the new year, I am quite optimistic.  We’ve finished this year on a very good note and have a great deal to look forward to.



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