There’s currently about 7.9 billion people living on our incredibly diverse planet. Yet, as far as Michael Evans is concerned, it’s still a small world.
Evans was born and raised on the remote Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, which – in the 1950s – only had about 1,000 residents.
In the inner sanctum of his home, Evans was always surrounded by family. He was child number four in a house with 10 children: seven were biologically related to him and two were adopted.
But beyond his front door, Evans rarely had contact with outsiders except for his occasional interactions with holidaymakers.
The 65-year-old eventually left the island and made Australia his home in 1971. But, looking back on his childhood years, Evans realises he never knew much about his family’s past except for a few basic facts. He was also aware that an ancestor was part of the infamous 1789 Mutiny on the Bounty, but wasn’t sure if the story was fact or fiction.
“Growing up, all we had was subsistence living on the farm and first things were first: life was about survival,” says Evans, who now lives in Armidale, NSW. “We had our immediate family and things weren’t discussed much beyond that.”
Yearning to understand where he came from and feel like part of a wider family once again, Evans did an DNA test with Ancestry two years ago.
“I had always wanted to look into my family history but never did before. After procrastinating for so long, I did the test. I got back about 680 pages of relatives – it blew me away.
“I thought ‘crikey. I wish I knew all of this before I started travelling when I was younger: I would have gone and met all of these other people around the world’.”
The genetic results revealed that Evans was two percent Filipino, two per cent French and 25 per cent Polynesian.
“I also learned I have over 30-odd thousand relatives around the world,” he tells SBS. “A whole, new history suddenly opened up for me about my family members. The fact that all of these people don’t come from the same culture as me has broadened my concept of family. It has made my family a bigger family, not a smaller one.”
Ancestry.com.au is a part of a global network of Ancestry websites, giving members like Evans access to billions of records and a massive global family tree collection. AncestryDNA uses a saliva sample to identify your ethnicity estimate and discover your origins from over 1,400 regions worldwide.
Evans says the test confirmed that he was, in fact, related to someone on the Mutiny on the Bounty who was also involved in one of the first recorded marriages between the English and Polynesians.
“I have also been able to research all the merchant ships that my grandfather worked on and how he came to Australia in the early 1900's. This part of our family had always been hidden. It was also so fascinating to explore my mother’s family back to the early 1700's, and the strength and conditions that they lived under.”
Evans tells SBS that discovering the seafaring connection was so eye-opening because it explained why his daughter always wanted to join the Royal Australian Navy.
“Through the DNA test, you get the opportunity to look at yourself in generational terms. That is something the science has given us.”
Connecting the dots between old photographs of his great grandmother and a history of people involved in the nursing profession helped Evans understand the personal characterisitics of past family members and further appreciate his late mother, who was also a nurse.
“Everything you discover through the search is part of your family history. It is part of your life and part of our evolution, detailing how people have survived up until now.
“I’d encourage everyone to look into their family history with a DNA test. Just don’t procrastinate like me and wait until you’re 65 to do it. Make haste. Do it early, find the connections, travel and learn.”
Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, empowers journeys of personal discovery to enrich lives. With an unparalleled collection of more than 27 billion records and over 18 million people in their DNA network, customers can discover their family story and gain a new level of understanding about their lives. For over 30 years, they’ve built trusted relationships with millions of people who have chosen them as the platform for discovering, preserving and sharing the most important information about themselves and their families. https://www.ancestry.com.au/