Researching your family tree is like sitting down to complete a jigsaw puzzle only to find that most of the pieces have been picked up by your baby and scattered all over the house.
You will need to open every door, lift every rug and peer into every dark space to find the pieces. It might take you years to find all the pieces and you might not find them all. The pieces you do find will make up a framework of the people that made you what you are. But it is not enough just to have reams of paper with names and dates of births and deaths. Things happened in between those dates – these people were real. What were their lives like?
The Kingdom and O’Brien families began a new life in Australia during the mid- 1800s. The green and pleasant lands of home were gone; this brown and unforgiving land was their new home. These people had been given a second chance – one man arrived in chains, the rest arrived to avoid starvation. This was the real Survivor – many decades before the creation of B-grade celebrities. But there was more to each of their lives than two dates on a genealogy website. What did they do during the days and nights? What could they buy and where could they buy it from? What was the entertainment like? Who or what was in the news? In these times there was no Facebook, CNN or even Gogglebox. How did they cope without them?
When discovering the shenanigans of a great-great-grandfather who had fifteen children (but only five with his wife), the author also researched the times the families lived in. He found State premiers involved in duels, banks crashing in financial crises, bizarre governmental policies, the wonders of new innovations and where you could buy a tonne of bat guano. All this and more can be found within the book. The story is told in a style echoing the works of Bill Bryson and David Hunt’s ‘Girt’.
A dry sense of humour prevails with the occasional moment of reflection on the sadder moments. History can be funny, history can be sad – but we need to hear the stories. It is history and it is their story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael O'Brien is an actor, writer and radio presenter based on the Central Coast of NSW, Australia.