It is a strange thing. Suddenly, the mists of time clears before our eyes, and there on a distant hilltop, we discover our battered family tree, displayed in all its imperfection.
Last night, seated beside my mum, we watched our family history – filled with a seemingly unending litany of thefts, assaults, convict ships and tragically early deaths – on national television.
Let me explain.
Mum, journalist Lisa Wilkinson, was lucky enough to be part of season 11 of the SBS series Who Do You Think You Are?, which premiered on Tuesday night.
For one hour, our family watched, mostly horrified, as Mum went on a journey to follow in the fierce footsteps of our ancestors.
From a life of extraordinary misery and tragedy for a convict on Mum’s maternal side, to a chance-romance in India on her paternal side (with another tragic ending) we learned stories we never knew existed.
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Tonight at 7.30 on @sbs_australia you’ll see the reason why, after shedding a whole bunch of tears following the stories of my ancestors, I’m smiling here. It lies in the journey I took from Sydney to India in search of what happened to my (at the time) 6 year old great great grandmother, Ann Beech. That’s her, at the age of 16, with her great great granddaughter when you swipe through these pics. This beautiful church in Chennai, its gorgeous old gardens, and what it all meant to her, and now me, will stay with me forever. Who Do You Think You Are, episode one of the new series kicks off tonight. #whodoyouthinkyouare
The most shocking of them was the story of Eliza O’Brien, Mum’s great, great, great grandmother – add another great for me – a woman originally from Ireland.
Put simply, she was a woman as resilient as she was rebellious, whose life was anything but simple.