Sunday, June 21, 2015

CHAPTER 25: THE SUCKER PUNCH

I was picked up at my hotel by my very handsome cousin, Andre and his equally attractive girlfriend, Samantha.  They both made me feel instantly welcome- though they were not sure who exactly I was.  I spent the thirty minute drive giving them an abbreviated version of the story.  Having spoken to Andre's mother, Tina, the day before, I was somewhat nervous about meeting so many family members at one time.  Tina had turned it into a bit of a reunion- with family coming from as far away as Canberra.
Upon arriving I was greeted by Tina and my cousin, Keith.  There was also his brother, my other cousin, Peter.  Their mother was Doris, who's mother was Lillian (Lil)- my Great Grandfather Clarence's sister.
 Then, there was Olga.  Olga had been almost a mythological character to me.  Several family members had spoken of her (including Malcolm)- but it was difficult to pinpoint exactly how she fit into the family.  Through my research I had found that she was the only daughter of Hester (another sister of Grandpa Clarence and Lil) and her second (?) husband.  Hester had died when Olga was a small child and she was subsequently raised by Lil.  Olga had three older half siblings from Hester's first marriage- one of whom is the father of "Sue".  "Sue" is whom I came to the conclusion is the woman on Ancestry who had written me the cryptic e-mails regarding my possession and display of family photos that I had acquired.  So, hearing that Olga would be present had both surprised and tantalized me.  Knowing that Sue was her niece made me wonder if Olga was there on a reconnaissance mission. She had, after all, travelled all the way from Canberra.  Upon meeting Olga I could tell that she was straightforward and assertive- almost intimidating.  I told her how thrilled I was to meet her as I had heard her name so often.  After some small talk I asked her how old she had been when her mother had died.  Her response was "Oh, I don't remember." That's when I knew that she didn't trust me yet.  She was holding everything close.  This was going to be interesting.
One of the reasons this reunion had been put together was because Keith and Tina were in possession of many historical family photographs. My contacting them had inspired a desire to collaborate and sort some of them out-as they didn't know exactly who some of these people were, or what their stories were.  The goal was to share.  Tina had put together a makeshift "tree" with photographs that went as far back as William Campbell and his wife, Elizabeth Carnes (daughter of the ill fated William Carnes of the "Port Tragedy").  I asked to connect to wi-fi so I could fire up my tree and share my findings.  Upon doing that Olga was at my side, asking if she could look at my tree.  Of course I was eager to get her input.  I navigated backwards to show her how I had proven that I was related to them.  I showed her each generation- some documentation was plentiful- others, within the same generation, had been impossible to trace.  Finally, I arrived at Elizabeth Carnes.  The picture I had been given was displayed as her "profile" picture.  I showed Olga how, buy researching  on the website "Trove", I had found the story of the "Port Tragedy". Even more recently "Ancestry" had added new records that showed that Elizabeth and her parents had been regular guests at the Marylebone Workhouse in London.   I showed her documentation that Elizabeth had managed to escape from her poverty stricken childhood and acquired passage to Australia where work for young women was plentiful and she could create a more promising future.  I showed how she had married William Carnes in 1862- even though he had a wife and child back in England and had never divorced.  I showed how they had five children within ten years before they became estranged- and how, in 1899, after many years of estrangement William had returned to their family home, attempting to stab Elizabeth, and after failing to do so, killed himself.  I believe that Elizabeth has a story to tell- and that I have only uncovered the tip of the ice-berg.
Olga's face had been un-reactive as I shared my findings with her.  She seemed not surprised nor shocked.  Finally, she pointed to the picture of Elizabeth and said "You have no right to have this picture."  There it was.  She had been sent on "special ops".  My stomach lurched a little, but I knew that I needed for her to understand that I was using my powers for good and not evil.
"Sure I do" was my chirpy response.  I explained to her that I was aware that she had probably spoken to her niece.  I told her that, as I had explained to "Sue", as a member of this family I had as much of a right to this information to do with it as I best see fit- and I didn't want this history to be swept under a rug and kept from younger generations as if it had never happened.  It was a factual part of family history- and Elizabeth's story should be kept alive.  I also told her that all of this information (other than the photograph) was a matter of public record and I had found it all in public accessible forums.  As far as the photograph, I told her that I would have considered removing it from my public tree had "Sue" not been so cryptic and refuse to identify herself.  Upon this, Olga chose to step away.  I wasn't sure how this was going to play out, but I shook it off and continued visiting and perusing photographs with other family members.
I love this picture of Ethel May and Lillian dancing in a field

It was a generally relaxing day.  I had the opportunity to bond with my cousins Andre and Rebecca. Upon finding out that Rebecca is a singer I felt a little flutter of camaraderie and began seeing more and more similarities between us.  We had similar smiles and she had a playful, light personality and didn't take herself too seriously.  That fact that she is quite beautiful didn't hurt- but I don't pretend to aspire to such aesthetic virtue.  Another sister, Maria had also been there, but had to leave before I had the chance to really meet her.  We later connected on Facebook- as you do.
Through out the day, I found myself asking about relatives that had been so hard to trace.  There had been two other brothers of Clarence- the oldest, William and the youngest, Arthur.  Both had minimal public records- except a couple of newspaper articles: one when Arthur had been reported missing in 1916.  It had described him as 14 years of age and four feet six inches tall.  One would wonder if he was a dwarf- but it was more likely a typo. The other article, dated in 1930, had Arthur being arrested and held without bail for causing "grievous bodily harm" to his brother, William.  Interestingly enough, there are no photographs of either of these brothers.  In fact, no one that I asked seemed to really have heard of their existence.  I also noticed that there are no surviving photographs of Clarence- but plenty of his wife, Ethel May.
As the day continued, Olga began speaking to me again.  She seemed to understand that most of my information was, indeed, a matter of public record and I think, perhaps, she was relieved that I hadn't made a formal speech about the "Port Tragedy" (though that information is readily available to anyone who wants it..)  She even began telling me family anecdotes, and sharing with me facts and evidence that she thought would be useful for my family tree.  She even went as far as dictating which photograph of herself she deemed acceptable as her "profile pic".  She is an obviously intelligent lady and a loyal aunt, and I can't fault her for trying to protect her family from what she has been told is a complete stranger.  I ultimately chose not to include Olga's picture in the tree- though any information about "living people", even in public trees on Ancestry, are not visible to others.
As the day wound down, Keith drove me back to my hotel.  He and Tina had gone above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and welcome.  I mentioned to him that about the earlier friction with Olga, and that his cousin "Sue" was clearly not a supporter of me opening a can of worms that she had obviously hoped to keep to herself.  I just wanted to make sure to be an "open book" with everyone.

Finally, my trip came to an end.  It was a long and eventful three weeks.  Though I had covered a lot of ground, there were still so many questions to be answered, relatives to be noted and their stories to be told.  I was exhausted. For now I could bask in the fact that I had achieved my ultimate goal, the one that I had worked so hard for the last quarter of a century to complete. I got home to my patient and supportive family, sent in the DNA samples that I had collected, and celebrated Christmas.


January 1st, 2015.  I received an e-mail from 23andMe telling me that the analysis of my two new samples were complete and ready for review.  That took less than three weeks!  What a treat!  I quickly logged on to my account and proceeded to peruse my new Ancestry Composition.  By clicking on the "Split View" mode, you can see which of your genetic makeup comes from which parent.  There it was.  It was unremarkable as both Lynette and Malcolm share similar ancestry.  It just appeared that Lynn has a higher percentage of British/Irish and Malcolm has more French/German and Scandinavian mixed in. I clicked on "Paternal Line".  What?  I then clicked on my list of DNA relatives.

Malcolm was not my father.