A Journey of A Thousand Miles


Proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Chinese philosopher Laozi (604bc – 531bc)


In 1998, the death of one of my grandmothers Elizabeth Jane FREE (nee Shackleton), kicked off my interest in the family tree. Now, 15 years and 50,000 names later, I reflect back to the day of her funeral.

Remembering the feeling of sadness in the eyes of all the people paying their last respects to her, one thing kept crossing my mind… I had known and loved her all my life and spent some wonderful times with her and my immediate family but who are all these people?

Yes I was 28 at the time and I know that nanna had a whole life of 74 years to gather friends and relatives that maybe I knew nothing about but still, did I really know her at all! – Worst still was the fact that I knew by the faces that I was related to a lot of them but I couldn’t put names to the faces.

After the service and back at home in my own surroundings, I started thinking about how disconnected families become over time and that a lot of information and stories nanna had taken to the grave. With her gone would I ever know who some of the faces were?

My then girlfriend (now wife) Alex and her family were talking to me about the service, my nanna and memories of her. Alex’s father asked me about nanna’s maiden name SHACKLETON and if it was any link to Sir Ernest Shackleton. I couldn’t tell him as I didn’t know.

We then talked about FREE and how it came to be… Again I didn’t know. OK what about BRADY, your name surely you know about that line and if you’re Irish or not… “Nope” I know my parents and my grandparents, life here in Western Australia, a few family secrets about a couple of my living relatives and maybe a brief outline of all my first cousins, but that’s about it…

That’s when I started asking questions, jotting down names, adding little notes and slowly putting the outline of my family tree together, step by step.

So what interesting information have I found over the years?

  • My grandmother was married before she married my grandfather.
  • To-date we are not related to Sir Ernest Shackleton.
  • The FREE’s came first to Victoria and were free settlers but that had nothing to do with the name.
  • My BRADY line started in Australia with a convict first sent to Dongara/Geraldton area.
  • None of my immediate family back to my grandfather knew about the convict before I started researching.
  • My great-grandfather WATTERS was raised by his grandmother as his mother vanished.
  • None of the living WATTERS line knew this before I started researching.
  • I have hundreds more cousins than I first believed.
  • As BRADY, I’m from Irish stock, but more of my lines are English and some are even German.
  • I have family all around Australia and in almost every corner of the globe.

Now this should give me a few topics to blog about in the coming months….
and so on with the jouney, another step…

Spotlight On: Elizabeth Jane FREE (nee Shackleton)




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