A talented singer from the tender age of 15, Kate Ceberano found success early and has gone on to sustain a musical career for more than 20 years. By contrast to colleagues who tend to hit on a style early and stay with it, Kate’s music making over the years has been eclectic – her work has ranged over all kinds of musical forms and tastes. She is an encompassing and embracing sort of person and this is reflected in the way she has lived and worked: her extended family has always been part of her life and her music. Her brother Phil is a member of the band; her mother and stepfather help manage her career.
Interested in people generally, Kate is also a person very interested in family – her own obviously, but also how family works, what the connections are between the generations. Kate herself has a little girl, someone she believes she can see herself in. She considers that genetics play a big part in forming our character. But her motivation for involvement in Who Do You Think You Are?® comes from other sources too.
Kate wanted to know more about the family who came before her. She was keen to learn what motivated them, what made them who they were. Her hope was that, in this way, she might then more fully understand her own outlook – or as she put it, ‘why I'm so busy moving around travelling, busy getting somewhere, going somewhere’. She was not to know at the outset that family history also held some decided traps. As her research progressed, she had to confront one of the toughest questions in family research – just what exactly is the truth? And, when it comes to using heirlooms and other family memorabilia to arrive at the truth, how do you trace provenance so that you can say that you have genuinely found it?
Kate’s father, Tino, was born in Hawaii of Filipina parents. Because Kate is the third generation of her family in Australia, she doesn’t feel very Filipino, indeed feels that the way she was brought up has led her to feel more Anglo if anything. Her parents separated when she was 25 and both have remarried. In 1996, Kate married Lee Rogers and they have a three-year-old daughter, Gypsy. Kate’s mother’s name is Cherie – and she is helping to bring up Gypsy, allowing Kate time to pursue her career as well. Together with husbands, they all live in the same home.
Close as she is to her mother it is not surprising that when she begins her family history research, Kate starts with her maternal side. Kate’s grandmother was Kathleen and Kate wants to know more about Grandma Kathleen’s family. She has often heard Cherie say, that Kathleen’s mother, Minnie, was a ‘mean old bitch’. As evidence, Cherie reminds Kate that Minnie didn’t even attend her own daughter, Kathleen’s wedding.
Grandmother Kathleen’s mother was born Elizabeth Mary Anderson in Adelaide, in 1883. But everyone called her by her nickname, ‘Minnie’. Though Cherie knew little about Minnie’s parents, she told Kate of a cousin in Adelaide, Ross Washington, who had done some research. Kate decided to pay him a visit.
Kate visited Adelaide and met up with Ross, who showed her a photo of Minnie’s, surrounded by her family: her seven siblings and her parents, August and Maria Anderson. Minnie’s father and Kate’s great, great grandfather was August Anderson. Ross gives Kate a document, his Naturalisation Form – which describes him as a labourer who had been born in Sweden. This fact, that she has some Swedish blood runs in her veins, comes as an amazing discovery to Kate. She had no idea.
Ross tells Kate that August ‘ran away from home’ at the age of 13 to become a seaman, eventually jumping ship in Australia while still only young. Kate was delighted at the news - a gypsy traveller spirit in her past! She had always wondered why she needed to keep moving. But there was a reality check: far from being a carefree wanderer, August’s travelling had probably been pretty rough. Shipping was a brutal life, the conditions were very tough and sailors’ life expectancy was low. Generally, the least educated volunteered to go to sea and were often quite poor.
As for where August pitched up, well, the colony of South Australia was always happy to receive any able young men. Indeed, South Australia was prepared to take practically anyone who could make a contribution, even ship jumpers (and August was not alone: eleven of the twenty six seamen jumped the same ship). By the 1870s, when August landed, Port Adelaide was developing its industry; there was plenty of work as it began to grow into a bustling commercial centre.
Kate was thrilled enough to find a ship-jumping Swede in the family, but what about his life here? Was he married? Did he have children? If so, how many? To try to find some answers, next stop is the State Library of South Australia. Here Kate accessed a marriage certificate, as well as birth and death records. It appeared that August had married a Maria Prideaux in 1882. But then there are three death certificates for children aged less than one. Child mortality was common over 100 years ago because conditions weren’t sanitary; there was overcrowding, open sewers, unpasteurised milk. Often children were malnourished and medicine was basic and very scarce. Port Adelaide was a working class suburb at the time and poverty also contributed to the above factors. As a mother herself, this information Kate was to find distressing.
The records show that after these three children died, Maria gave birth to another three. In 1908, August moved his family, to the remote town of Lameroo, some two hundred kilometres or two hours east of Adelaide. Ross drove them both there, then another fifteen kilometres beyond Lameroo to find what is still referred to as ‘Anderson’s Bore’. An 1895 newspaper article described the countryside thus: ‘The miserable scrub, barren sand hills, and waterless land on to which it is proposed to banish the hard-working sons and daughters of hard-working farmers. What dreadful sins they must have committed to deserve such punishment…’ Why here indeed? Kate was to ask rhetorically.
Lameroo was then a small town with a population of about 600. The first settlers arrived in 1906, among whom was August . He may have been a ‘pioneer,’ but what kind of man was August Anderson? Apparently, he had a foul temper and was an ‘imperious old bugger’ while Maria had a very strong character to match his. Heather adds August was also generous, contributing to the community as soon as he arrived. He was elected into the Vigilance Committee at the first town meeting. Heather explains that in pioneering towns, before they had were town councils, Vigilance Committees were formed. With the term ‘Vigilance’, there was a sense that the interests of the town needed to be guarded . Kate is impressed with August’s commitment to community needs. Heather adds that August’s business was a very successful one in Lameroo. Kate reads from an article describing the farewell given to August in 1922:
"He triumphed over all obstacles and spent a successful career… possessing exceptional vitality and energy. Once having decided that an object, which he and his committees had in view, was worth fighting for, he spared no effort until the idea had grown to be an accomplished fact…. He has been connected with and held leading positions in every body and institution… until he was forced to acknowledge that his health would no longer stand the strain to which it had been subjected in the past…"
Kate found herself reflecting on the determination August so clearly possessed – and this seems to her to be the willpower she herself has inherited.
Grandmother Kathleen Good meanwhile had a difficult childhood with Minnie as her mother, but it seemed her luck changed when she met Douglas Joyce. Kate’s Grandfather Doug was born in Tasmania in 1910. As a young man, he left Tasmania with his mother and siblings to escape their alcoholic father. Doug had a charismatic and restless nature. He found his match in Kathleen Good, whom he married in 1935. They moved to Melbourne, leaving Kathleen’s mother Minnie behind in Adelaide.
Together they pursued alternative lifestyles. From the 1930s they experimented with various unconventional ways of living. Members of a vegetarian Nudist hippy commune, they began health shops in three different states. Never lucky in business, Doug’s quest was about idealism and artistry. A conscientious objector during the war, he became an entertainer. He was an actor in the New Theatre in Sydney in 1945. Doug was a member of the Communist Party until 1956. He joined the Scientologists in the early 1960s. As for Kate, who grew up around such free spirits, she now wondered if there were other artistic and liberal minded folk further back in her ancestry?
Whatever else he was, Doug was a great storyteller. And one of his favourite stories was about the dashing Spanish Captain Lopez, who had an affair with Kate’s great, great grandmother, Lavinia. Cherie showed Kate the only photo she has of Lavinia. Together with Lopez, they had a love child – grandfather Doug’s mother Edith. Kate adores the story of Captain Lopez and was determined to find out more. Cherie then suggested Kate meet her cousin Chris in Sydney as he had some Lopez family heirlooms.
At this prompt, Kate travelled to Potts Point in Sydney, to meet her mother’s cousin Chris and to continue her pursuit of the Captain. Chris it seemed had a portrait painting to show Kate, which, when they got together, he announced to be of Captain Lopez himself. Thrilled, Kate didn’t even know the painting existed. His mother had passed it down to Chris and she says it’s a self-portrait. Kate was stunned that Lopez was a Captain and an artist as well – so there was another artist in the family…
There were various rumours about Lopez, including that he was from a wealthy Spanish family in San Francisco. That he had sailed into Tasmania, had a passionate affair with Great, Great Granny Lavinia and had an illegitimate child – Grandfather Doug’s mother. But also that Lopez’s wealthy father disapproved and whisked Lopez back to San Francisco.
Comparing notes, it was clear the story varied a little. No one knew the exact truth. Kate next arrived in Hobart, where her Grandfather Doug’s family had lived for at least two generations. At the Tasmanian Archives online, Kate typed ‘Lopez’ into her laptop, and several entries appeared. Kate scanned the various names and found that Joseph Lopez had married Lavinia Mundy in 1884. Kate was surprised to discover that they were married, not merely lovers. Lopez was born in 1855 – no indication of where. And that is all there was on the database.
Kate next met Maureen Martin, a local historian who had done a comprehensive search on Lopez in Births, Deaths and Marriages. Maureen presented her with a copy of the original Marriage Certificate from the Archives and there was definitely more detail than on the internet. Great, Great Grandmother Lavinia and Joseph Lopez were married in St Helens, a small town on the east coast of Tasmania.
The certificate also described their occupations at the time – Lavinia, was a housekeeper and Joseph, a fisherman. Maureen points out that Joseph did not sign his name, he left an X on the marriage certificate – he was uneducated, while captains were usually educated. If he were of Spanish descent, he would have been literate at least in Spanish. Kate says, ‘okay, so he probably wasn’t a Captain. Shame!’
There was another document: the birth certificate of Lavinia’s daughter, Edith. It stated that Edith was born in 1882 and her father was James Stuart. Kate was shocked. Edith’s father was not Lopez? That’s correct and Maureen has found absolutely nothing about James Stuart. Maureen compares the birth certificate to the marriage certificate. Lavinia gave birth to Edith in 1882 and then married Lopez two years later in 1884. Kate concludes that Lopez is not her blood relative… Her reaction is to laugh a healthy laugh – so it’s all family mythology!
But who is the man in the painting? Perhaps it’s still a painting of Lopez? Why is it a family heirloom? What can she discover from the painting? Before she follows up the next generation – the Mundys – Kate is going to visit an art historian and see what he can tell her.
Kate has located Paul Paffen, an art historian, who specialises in early Tasmanian art. Paul states that the clothing of the sitter in the painting reflects high male fashion in the mid 1840s. This man was well off and about 25-30 years old, meaning he would have been born around 1815 to 1820. When was Lopez born? Kate remembers that he was born in 1855 – so this cannot be a portrait of Lopez the fisherman. Kate accepts that as Paul asserts that he can probably attribute this portrait to the artist Henry Mundy – a very significant portrait artist during the 1840s whose work Paul knows well.
Kate asks him if he is sure. He is. But, Kate says that Henry Mundy was her great, great grandmother Lavinia’s father. She takes out Lavinia’s birth certificate and reads ‘Henry Mundy’. Paul Paffen explains that Mundy was one of the pre-eminent portrait artists in Tasmania, or Van Diemen’s Land, as it was called then. Commissioned by the Northern money belt around Launceston to paint their portraits, he was even asked by Lady Franklin, wife of the Lieutenant Governor, to paint a portrait of her husband.
So who is the person in the painting? Was he a VIP? Paul thinks not because if the portrait was commissioned by a wealthy person, it would have remained in their family or been sold. Paul deduces that, because the portrait was passed down through Kate’s family, then it’s probably a portrait of one of her family members. Kate doesn’t know who in her family was born during those years – 1815 -1820. But she hopes to find out.
Kate’s great, great grandmother Lavinia junior’s parents were Henry and Lavinia Mundy. Caroline Homer, Head Archivist, now takes Kate through her research at Birth, Deaths and Marriages. Kate reads a certificate given to her by Caroline – the Mundy’s marriage certificate from 1834. Caroline explains that her great, great, great grandfather Henry Mundy indeed was the same portrait artist Kate has heard of. And, his wife Lavinia was the eldest daughter of Major Thomas Lord – another very important person in Tasmania’s early history. This is exciting news for Kate.
Mundy’s occupation reads, Teacher of Music. Caroline explains that in addition to Mundy’s work as commissioned artist, Mundy taught music and art at a girls’ school. Caroline points out on the baptism certificate that their abode was Ellenthorpe, which was a country girls’ school near a town called Ross.
Because Mundy is a known artist, his story was available as public knowledge. Kate has discovered that her great, great, great grandfather Henry Mundy was born in England in 1798. Although he was not of genteel birth, he studied hard, travelled to Italy and France and became accomplished in the arts. In 1831, aged 33, Mundy arrived as a steerage passenger to teach at a private school for girls at Ellenthorpe, near Ross.
Kate decides to go and visit Sue Dowling and her family, the current owners of Ellenthorpe. Although the property is a working farm, Sue is a keen custodian of its history. She was to tell Kate that this house, which she has proudly restored, used to be the Ellenthorpe Girl’s School, the place where her great, great, great grandfather taught over 150 years ago.
Henry Mundy taught art, music and French. It is also said Henry married one of his students – Lavinia Lord. Kate is surprised to hear this. But Sue has read in an article that a letter from someone at the wedding implied she was his student. Kate concludes that could explain their age difference – 36 and 16. Sue agrees. Mundy must have been very cultured and artistic, a man who would have impressed his students.
Kate’s next mission was to see more of Mundy’s portraits. Kate reconnected with Maureen Martin, the historian Kate made contact with when she first arrived in Tasmania. Maureen wants to show Kate a famous Mundy painting. Maureen explains that, after leaving the Ellenthorpe School in 1838, Mundy moved his family to Launceston. He continued to privately teach art and music. Maureen shows Kate Mundy’s portrait of Lieutenant Frances Aubin. Aubin was a Magistrate, a significant landowner and also Mundy’s brother-in-law. As to Mundy’s fortunes, a depression arrived in the 1840s and the rich had less disposable incomes; the boom over, Mundy had trouble making a living as an artist.
Mundy was doing so badly financially that his father-in-law, Major Lord, forced him to buy a farm in an attempt to provide a living for his family. But Mundy knew nothing about farming and he failed miserably. So Mundy eventually moved his family to live with his in-laws, the Lords. There on, his fortunes continued to decline – a sad turn of fate it seemed to Kate. But Henry found an even darker fate in the future… He eventually committed suicide.
When Henry Mundy died, he left behind a young family. His wife Lavinia was only 30 years old and had five children. And baby Lavinia was only 1 year old. Her parents, the Lords, looked after Lavinia senior and the children before she re-married six years later. Kate remarks how awful this must have been for Lavinia Lord. From an influential family, she married a dashing society artist who became terribly unstuck – drinking publicly and then to have his suicide described so vividly in a newspaper.
Kate wanted very much to understand why the family didn’t go to the funeral. And just who were the Lords? Information about them was not hard to come by, as Thomas Lord was a well known identity at the time. Kate made contact with a historian, Michael Ludeke, who has written extensively about him. Michael explained that Major Thomas Lord arrived in Tasmania in 1825, and he was made Commandant of a penal colony by Governor Arthur.
As far as penal commandants went, Michael explained that Lord was a very forward thinker – he had great compassion for the convicts and wanted to give them a trade to make their life useful rather that keep them locked up. Trades would also be practical for their post-convict life. But Arthur was not that happy with Lord’s approach, believing discipline was too lax. Rather than close the factories and lock up the convicts, Lord made a show of strength with corporal punishment. Lord would flog runaways, of whom there were many. But his career as a commandant would not be as chequered as his intentions…
That Lord was in command of convicts was such an extraordinary development in Kate’s family research. She was incredulous at first – the idea that she had a commandant of a penal colony in her family was hard to believe. Lord’s life was so alien to her, yet she still thought him fascinating. Whatever he had done, he was a leader of a kind. Another ancestor with drive and determination.
Kate’s findings in Tasmania, the rich history in her family, was beyond anything she could have ever have imagined. Her inventions so far have not been wild enough, she surmises. So inspired was she that she could not wait to tell the folks back home…
Back in Melbourne at last, Kate gathered up her mother and daughter to take them to the State Library to tell them the news of their family. There she showed Cherie two paintings by Mundy, pointing to the caption below which describes Mundy’s significance as an artist. Next she took out a photo of the so-called portrait of Lopez and held it up against the hanging portraits for comparison.
Kate could explain now that Mundy was her great, great, great, great Grandfather, and it was he who had painted the portraits before them – including the one they had thought was of Lopez. Cherie, still in disbelief, found herself asking the obvious question: who was the portrait of, if it’s not Lopez…? Well, Kate had her own theories…
Kate felt as if her old familiar world had been overturned by these experiences in family history. She was delighted to have found so much gypsy blood in her family – there had to be some explanation for her constantly roaming the planet! She also found it strange to look back into her past, instead of always forward. Feeling more whole as a result of her research, she also believes she can see where her artistic temperament came from, as well as her fierce drive to achieve beyond what is expected of her.
Only question was, what would Gypsy inherit from her mother..?