Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Family Secrets

It's with great pleasure I hand over the ink pot and pen today, to Janet Camilleri, editor of Footprints Australia Magazine. Janet's been digging into the family secrets and here's what she's found for us to ponder. 

It's amazing the things you discover when you start researching your own family history. For example, I learned that my great grandmother was christened Elizabeth Bennet. Yes really!

But this was only the start of the surprises I uncovered. 

I'd heard rumours of the same great grandmother giving birth to a baby on the wrong side of the blanket in the early days of last century. Yet when I began investigating, I realised that in actual fact, she had given birth to THREE boys out of wedlock. The eldest died aged five - the same year the second boy was born. My grandfather followed two years later. 

The next interesting tidbit was that my great grandmother didn't actually marry until my grandfather was eight years old - and she herself was 32 - surely an old maid , and with the added baggage of being a scarlet woman with two love children... a grave social sin in those days. 

Was the man she eventually married - the one I had always thought of as my great grandfather -  the biological father of her boys? Certainly her two sons bore his surname in all the records I have been able to find. And if so, why didn't he marry my great grandmother earlier and make an honest woman of her?

He was 20 years older than his wife. Was it a love match, or a marriage of convenience? Great Grandma was the youngest of many children. I can't help wondering if perhaps she was spoiled and wilful. No doubt she caused her parents despair. Was the marriage arranged with one of their friends to solve an embarrassing problem? Did she resist it for years, eventually giving in to parental and societal pressures?

And what does this mean to me as I research my family history? I mean if my grandfather is NOT the son of my great grandmother's husband... then who WERE my ancestors really?

For the writer of historical fiction, there are plenty of story ideas in your own family tree, as my example proves. Perhaps one of my little mysteries will get your creative juices going. 


Indeed, a juicy find, Janet. I love your what if questions. Am I correct in thinking your great grandmother became a mum for the first time at seventeen? If this man was the real father, you're right in wondering why he didn't marry her for another fifteen years. What do others think?

Keep us updated, Janet. We want to be the first to know any new discoveries in the life and times of your very own, Elizabeth Bennet. 


Have you unearthed a mystery in the search of yesterday's stories? Perhaps your parents have passed on whispers and tales you'd like to dust off some day. If you dare...
(photo source - the foxes burrow)