Introducing Phoebe Wilkens of ‘Born & Bred Historical Research’

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I was always intrigued about the past. As a family when I was growing up we would sit around after dinner and Mum and Dad would regale us with stories of quirky ancestors and family myths and legends. I also loved leafing through old photos and papers that told stories about my family (and still do).

I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished school and it wasn’t until a few years later that I had an epiphany and decided that I was so intrigued with history and family history more specifically, that I should pursue that more closely. I went on to study two history degrees and also volunteered at a number of historical societies. Shortly after finishing my first degree I started working at the Geelong Heritage Centre and then went on to work at the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) – the state government archives. This really helped to whet my appetite when it came to perusing historical records of all shapes, sizes and depths.

Phoebe with a family tree

It was when I was working at PROV that I decided I wanted to pursue history on my own time and in my own capacity and thus ‘Born & Bred Historical Research’ was…born. The business was born out of a love of historical research and a passion for uncovering mysteries.

‘Born and Bred’ offer a range of services including family history research and building family trees, as well as delving into all historical avenues, including researching your home, property or business, in-depth historical research and capturing family history for posterity with oral histories and narratives. We also research and provide copies of public records, work alongside legal and accounting teams and professional services. We have worked with ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ and researched a number of celebrities as well as with a number of authors for assistance with research.

My passion is genealogy, discovering a love of researching families, their origins and finding skeletons in the closest. I love being able to uncover family mysteries and find missing ancestors as well as research and write about historical events and relish in discovering treasures in the archives.

My main inspiration and drive to uncover historical mysteries has been because of my own family and my paternal grandfather in particular. He migrated to Australia in the 1950s during the post-World War II mass migration from Europe. He was Dutch and had spent his formative years living with his family in the Dutch East Indies, whereby they had all lived for several generations. He had lived a fascinating life and died when I was very young. No one thought to ask him many questions when he was alive, so I have been filling in the gaps for the last decade. Being able to tell his story, now that he no longer can has been a big driving force.

My grandfather, Hendrik (Hank) with his parents Helena, holding his brother Louis and father (holding him) in the Dutch East Indies in c1922

I am also passionate about women’s history and the little or unknown stories surrounding their lives – the trials, tribulations and adversity they faced and how we might be able to bring some of those stories to life and give people an understanding about who they were.

Phoebe Wilkens

Introducing Caroline Haigh

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A post from Caroline Haigh, one of our Tasmanian members.


After a diverse career of teaching, Commonwealth public service and establishing a retail business, I took early retirement in 2008. What to do with my new found freedom?! I’d always had an interest in Tasmania’s convict past and out of curiosity, I chose a family line at random and began searching for a convict in my tree. No particular convict, just any convict! At that time, I only knew the names of my grandparents: my parents were able to fill in my great-grandparent’s names, but that is all we knew about them.  I found a convict but more intriguing for me, I found an unknown son of this convict, with a very large family. I was able to tell my father that his mother, Edith Shelton, had nine aunts and uncles, and numerous first cousins, unknown to us. This was a revelation and instantly I became hooked on genealogy!


In 2011, I returned to university to further study English and History, while still researching my own family tree during my free time. When UTAS offered its inaugural Diploma of Family History in 2016, the time was right to take my personal interest to another level.


I have deep Tasmanian and UK roots: all of my great-great-grandparents, bar one, came from the UK to Tasmania as convicts or free settlers. The exception was Jesse Haigh, a young soldier with the 99th Regiment of Foot, who arrived on a convict ship in 1842. I have a passion for Tasmania’s convict and Aboriginal colonial-era history and this is my key research area as an historian. I am a member of the Professional Historians Association (VIC/TAS). Within this time period, I also have a particular interest in the fate of women and children impacted by destitution. I am committed to bringing their stories to light.


As a genealogist, I am a strong advocate for utilising genetic genealogy with traditional genealogical methods and offer this service to all my clients. My enthusiasm for DNA analysis came from my own experience of identifying the parents of my great-grandmother, Annie Jones. There was no family knowledge about Annie, only that her father’s name was Walter. There was no birth certificate for her. It took two years of working collaboratively with other Ancestry members but we eventually struck gold: a new DNA match had documented oral history which explained the family history which was then verified. I discovered that Annie’s mother was convict Isabella Buckley, who had four children with husband George Hodgetts, before having three more children with convict Walter Jones. There is no official paperwork regarding the Jones children, just the oral history report – and unequivocal DNA evidence that Walter Jones was indeed Annie’s father.

My great-grandmother Annie Jones and her daughter Edith Shelton, c. 1914.


My own family history experience has shaped my interest and specialisations as a genealogist: Tasmanian history, particularly convicts and their children, as well as Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage and DNA analysis.  I also have extensive experience with South Australian records and offer research services for people interested in exploring their UK heritage.

Anita Payne: How did I get to join AAGRA, and what benefits have come to me as a member?

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AAGRA member Anita Payne writes on how she got to join AAGRA, and what benefits have come to her as a member.


In December 2017 I completed my Diploma of Family History with UTAS. It was a fantastic course and so worth my time to do it.

My long-held interest in my family history had been sparked by my maternal Grandma. She did it all the hard way, writing letters via a solicitor in Australia back to England to try to find any relatives. At the time there was a possibility of a possible inheritance if they could find the connection. I was only 8 years old at the time but clearly remember helping Grandma sort out the information that was returned from England. Sadly, they did not find a connection to the inheritance.

It has been a pleasure to find out heaps about my family and to pass this on to them. Friends found out about my knack of solving curious mysteries and offered to pay for my time.

After my graduation in Hobart I attended the graduation dinner. Conversation got around to whether I knew about AAGRA. Well, no I didn’t. I was fortunate to be sitting across the table from Dr Dianne Snowden, the AAGRA President who let me know all about it. I went home to Melbourne with a mission to complete my application to join.

I did that in early 2018 and was delighted to be admitted as a Record Agent in March 2018.

Since that time, I have had multiple opportunities to do research for clients who have approached AAGRA for assistance. All of these clients have paid for my assistance and service. Some enjoyed success in the mission to find what they were looking for and others not so. But that is what happens when you are researching a family or documents regarding a family member.

At present I am working on a project, which has come from an enquiry made to AAGRA via their website. This would never have happened without my membership and the opportunity to display my interests through the Association. As the top organisation in the field in Australia it is clear to those who find us that we are first-class experts.

Being a member of AAGRA has given me the opportunity to have my own small part-time business doing what I love – researching family history. My passion is now my profession. As they say, when you love your work you never do a day’s work.



Happy hunting,



Anita Payne

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