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 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.