Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chapter 11- THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE



I don't recall the exact dates and order of how my search unfolded.  The best that I can do is recall different conversations throughout the years.  I began an e-mail correspondence with my Auntie Val.  She seemed to have known "Malcolm's" family better than Lynn had- especially since she had possessed the "grandparents" picture.  I asked her the circumstances under which the picture was taken.  She told me that her mother, Margaret, used to participate in dance contests with her brother, Bob Kraemer, as her partner (Bob is the tall, shirtless guy in the picture).  Apparently Grand-Dad (Noel) wasn't into it- but always went along for support.  Malcolm's mother, Arline, also competed in these competitions.  Her partner, at the time, was named Eric.  Val believed that it was Eric that was in the picture next to Arline.  She didn't know when the photograph had been taken, but guessed that it was probably late 50's or early 60's.  The photo was taken at the iconic cross at the top of Mt Macedon.  It's not clear why Val had this picture but Lynn never knew of it's existence. 
  Note that though I am not using surnames, Val did supply me with surnames during our correspondence.  It also became clear that Val and Lynn both had conflicting information about what Malcolm's actual surname was.  Because of this, throughout my search I would have to try using both names as a possibility.   
Val had never met Malcolm's father (nor had Lynn) and she didn't know his name.  Neither of them ever remember Malcolm or Arline ever mentioning a husband or father, though they both felt confident that Arline had been married to Malcolm's father at some point.  In looking back  at one of the e-mails I noticed that Val had said, in passing, that Uncle Bob  had been good friends with Arline and he had probably introduced them.  Granted, this piece of information just jumped out at me- and was written in 2010.  Uncle Bob died in 2005.  Had I known this before that I quite simply could have contacted him to see what he knew.  Alas, it was not to be.  

I googled my "father's" name on a regular basis.  I would try different configurations of his (possible) name and always included "Australia" as part of the search tag.  I found an architect in Queensland.  Judging from the picture on Linkedin he looked like he could be the right age.  He also seemed to have had red hair- which was encouraging as I had been told that Malcolm's hair was auburn.  Lynn told me that the nurses in the hospital had called me "Penny" because of my bright copper hair.  I sent this man a cryptic e-mail telling him that I had the same last name and was researching relatives in Australia.  I also asked if he had ever lived in Melbourne.  I think his only response was something like "No- what's this about?".  I'm sure I responded with something- but I never heard back from him again.  I didn't really think I was onto anything anyway.  Malcolm's description was that he was a driver and liked anything to do with cars.  Lynn had never mentioned anything about a desire to further his education and "Architecture" is an expensive and time consuming degree to achieve.
I also found a "stand up Comic" in Adelaide.  If you know me, you know that this would be a delightful discovery- and would explain A LOT.  Further investigation revealed that he was probably just too young- and not very funny- in my opinion.

One day, in an e-mail, Val brought up the revelation that Arline had had a baby in 1963.  I don't know why it hadn't occurred to her previously that it might be some good information to have.  Who can say what time does to people's memories- and what may be an important factor to one person may not seem relevant to another.  Anyway, the baby was a girl and had been a bit of a surprise as Arline was already in her mid forties and had a grown son.  Val said that she visited Arline in the hospital and had helped her decided on the name "Kym".  She had suggested the "y" instead of "i" because Arline didn't want the traditional spelling- and didn't want to name her "Kimberly".  Val was never clear on who Kym's father was- or if Arline was married.  However, she did say that she and her husband had babysat Kym for a while when Arline went on a holiday.  I thought it sounded strange that one would have such a seemingly intimate friendship with someone- enough to be trusted with the welfare of their children- but not remember some vital details.  All I can say is that close to 40 years had passed and I guess our minds choose different memories to hold on to.

By 2007 I had joined Facebook and Ancestry.com.  Ancestry allows you to search through different databases for different regions.  The Australian databases were limited.  Instead of Census databases there were Electoral Rolls.  These are beneficial because, in Australia, it is mandatory to vote.  Therefore, theoretically, everyone over 18 should be registered to vote.  The registry doesn't give actual addresses- but lists the voters district and occupation.  That's something to work with.  I searched endlessly.  The database ends at 1980- but at least I had most of the time before that to search.  Theoretically I should have been able to find everyone I was looking for.  Initially I did find someone (with Malcolm's last name) named Lionel - and there was another voter listed at that address named "Arline M".  I saved that as a probable reference to who my father's father was.  They had been together up until the late 50's and after that "Lionel" seemed to be the only voter living at the original address.  This made sense as my Mother and Aunt knew her as a single woman.  I could not find Arline in the Electoral Rolls after that. I was never able to find Malcolm- or anyone that I felt confident could be Malcolm.  I learned later that the Electoral Rolls were not completely "indexed" (meaning they had not been completely transcribed name by name)- and also, the state of South Australia does NOT release their Electoral Rolls to the Internet.   To test the accuracy of the database, I searched for my mother and only found her after 1968- even though she was legally required to vote after the age of 18 (which was about 1962).  I knew she existed- however, she had either not registered to vote- or they had missed out on indexing her registration.  It was a crap shoot at best.  The records databases for Australia on Ancestry are limited.  For some reason, marriage records are only listed from between the dates of 1788-1950, birth records are limited to from 1788-1922 and Electoral Rolls are 1903-1980.  As I said previously, none of these indexes appear to be complete.  The fact is, I found no hint of a reference to my "father" on Ancestry.com- or anywhere else.

Years went by.  I would walk away from my search, only to resume a few weeks or months later, all the while hoping that something had been added.  I would scour strangers public family trees, would write e-mails to complete strangers in search of clues.  I rarely got a response- and when I did it was never a positive outcome.  I enlisted a genealogy "expert" that lived in Australia that I found on Facebook.  She was kind enough to volunteer to run a search through whatever avenues she was aware of.  She hit a brick wall in the same place I always did and without further information, she informed me, there was just no way of breaking through.  She also suggested that perhaps I had been deliberately given incorrect information.  That, perhaps, the story had been made up and I had been given bogus names to throw me off the scent of whatever the real story was.  Perhaps I had been told lies to protect me- or someone else, from an unthinkable truth.  

I had never felt as though I was being outright lied to.  Lynn had always been as forthcoming as she was able, and seemingly had no reason to keep the truth from me.  The more I thought about it- the more it seemed a possibility that something was being kept from me as a "protective device".  That would explain the name discrepancies and vagueness of key memories.  I decided that I just needed to present it as a possibility.  I didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings- but at that point I felt just desperate enough to possibly ruffle some feathers.