The year 1969 was incredibly tough for Diane Morrall. At the time, she was only 11-years-old and suffered the loss of both her father and grandmother.
“It was a big thing for my mum to be left alone with three young girls,” Morrall tells SBS.
The 60-year-old explains that in addition to losing two loved family members in one year, her family also lost the chance to find out about their untold history.
“Not much was ever spoken about their past during their life.
“My mother didn’t know a great deal about the family history either. Her father, my grandfather, left my maternal grandmother soon after mum was born. My mum later came out to Australia from England with her mother – my grandmother – at age five and had no real memory of what life was like back then.”
Morrall says that the family’s move to Australia marked a new start and a time to put their past behind them.
“You just got on with life, [didn’t talk about the past], dealt with it and moved on. So I’ve always felt as though I’ve had these huge gaps in my life. I just didn’t know where I came from.”
Morrall says that for the duration of her teen years and adult life, all she had to piece together her family history were a few snippets of information and the old photographs she inherited when her grandmother died.
“But nothing seemed to gel. When Ancestry came along, I became a member and that’s where doors really started to open.”
Morrall became a member of Ancestry around 10 years ago to find the truth about her family’s story.
Ancestry.com.au is Australia and New Zealand's leading family history website offering members like Morrall access to one billion searchable Australian, New Zealand and UK family history records. The site, which launched in 2006, is also part of a global network of Ancestry websites, connecting members to millions of international records and a massive global family tree collection.
Morrall says that ever since joining, she’s been piecing her family tree together. Whenever new information comes to light, she receives an email alert. She then continues to add relevant information to her family history and grow her family tree.
“As more records become digitised around the world, they become more available. So sometimes you get alerted about a new record that you haven’t come across before.”
One of the most emotional discoveries Morrall made through Ancestry was learning that her grandmother was not raised in London, as she had always believed. Records show that she spent her youth in Crockham Hill, Kent: a country village that matched the scenery in a photo of her grandmother that was in Morrall’s possession.
Morrall followed the lead and after contacting people in Kent, found the address of the house in the photo. She soon got in touch with the family living in the cottage where her grandmother grew up.
One thing led to another and in 2016, Morrall visited the family and got the chance to walk through the halls of the house where her late grandmother once lived.
“It was amazing just to be able to walk in the house and realise ‘this is my grandmother’s house’. Breathing the air that she breathed and looking at the things she looked at was all part of the experience. It brought it all home and the facts are real to me now.”
Although the process of creating her family tree is ongoing, Morrall says her story is almost complete.
“The process [of researching my family history] has been very important to me. From a personal experience, it’s helped to complete my life. I know where I’ve come from. I know where I am now and I am now feeding information into the future of my family.
“Its all come about largely through the wonderful records I’ve been able to access through Ancestry. By doing a lot of research over the years, I’ve found out huge chunks of information about my family’s history that have been like jigsaw puzzle pieces coming together. It’s been a real revelation.”
Have you ever wondered where your ancestors are from? What kind of life they led? The challenges they faced and the victories they achieved? With 500 years of historical records and the world’s largest consumer DNA network, Ancestry can help you discover the rich detail behind your family’s story and connect you with the people and places that led to you. Ancestry.com.au