A Sudden Genealogical Expedition

1940s picture taken at the Snowy Mountains property.

1940s picture taken at the Snowy Mountains property.  

This has come out of the blue.  A sudden opportunity. A spontaneous decision to be made without forethought.

In previous blog posts I have mentioned the family property in the Snowy Mountains.  My mother’s family moved there in the 1850’s and across the years due to hard times some of the property has been sold off, but a good sized portion still remains.  It was there that I first discovered my interest in family history.

It has always been a difficult place for me to visit so I get there on average about once every five years.  I attempted to visit one year ago but circumstances prevented it.  Now, the opportunity has suddenly come again.  If I grab the moment – if I make the trip on two days notice and on a shoestring budget – I can go visit the birthplace of my great grandparents, the final resting home of my great great grandparents, and hopefully look again at the family heirlooms.  This is a round trip of about 2,500km.   I plan to take one son for company but I am the only driver.  I’m travelling in the Australian summer – bushfire season and snake season – not the easiest time to be on the road or looking in country cemeteries.  I only had 24 hours to think about this, and of course – I’m doing it.

Now I wish I had a checklist for this eventuality.  Kind of like a fire evacuation plan, I need a ‘relative visit’ plan.  What do I need to take?  What do I want to ask them?  Do I have a map of the cemetery?  Do I need to contact a council for a plan?  What records do I want to take for them to look at?  Printouts? Electronic? Will I have access to the internet?

When it comes to family history, I understand much more than I did on my last visit.  There were objects which meant nothing to me, but now I understand whose they were and why they are there.  It’s an exciting thought that I might see them again and be able to pass on their story.

My mother warns me that since our family members are elderly, the objects may have been cleaned out by well-meaning younger relatives stepping in to care for them.  A nasty thought and unfortunately an event I have already experienced once on my father’s side of the family.  I’m hoping very much to get there in time.

Even if they have, I will have the opportunity to hear the family stories, photograph the property and the people, and meet with some much loved and admired family members whose company I have always enjoyed.  I will be able to visit the cemetery and photograph the graves of people who I now know are family members.  I will climb the hill that my mother,grandmother and great grandmother all climbed when young, and photograph the view. Yes, I’m looking forward to it.

After spending a few days there in the Snowy Mountains, I am going to drive further south to Victoria, to visit some aunts who I have not seen in years.  I will also visit my very elderly step-grandmother who is a wonderful lady, very family-oriented, and has many stories to recount which were told to her by my now deceased grandfather of his childhood and early adult life.  I have not met her since 1989, although we communicate via letters and cards still.

It sounds awful when they only live 1,500km away, but it is very hard to find time or money to travel, or to get away from a busy household with school aged children.  It is only possible now since my children have reached senior high school which winds up this week, unlike junior classes which will go until the 12th December.

So tomorrow I have the car booked in for a service and general check, and I will do a shopping trip for the family here.  Today I’m madly printing records and maps, museum open times and fire danger predictions.  Clearing the memory cards, checking the camera, scanner and phone chargers …. all those essential tasks.  Also, I am taking the spare DNA test kit with me in search of a willing subject.

It is now Monday afternoon.  On Wednesday morning, if all goes well – I’m setting off.