Did you watch Jason Donovan’s Who Do You Think You Are? episode last night? It revealed two sides to Britain’s colonisation of Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries, through two branches of the actor’s family. The result was an interesting glimpse into the relatively recent development of a new nation.
The programme started slowly, and I have to admit, I was in danger of nodding off as we plodded through the story of Jason’s singer grandmother. Things started to pick up with a convict ancestor who was transported to Tasmania – I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I was sent from my home and separated from my family, all for receiving a few stolen pots and pans.
If you have similar tales in your family, check out our collection of transportation registers. These begin with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, and continue right to the end of British transportation.
The real highlight was the story of William Cox – a pioneering soldier, and clearly a key figure in the transformation of a penal colony into a prosperous nation. The programme did a great job of getting over the magnitude of the tasks that confronted these early settlers – I find it incredible to think that just 200 years ago, people were still discovering completely new territory, with no idea of the terrain and conditions that awaited them.
You can trace your Australian lines back with our new collection of Australian birth, marriage and death records. This is the first time indexes from across the nation have been put together in a single place, so it makes your research far easier.
Let me know your thoughts on the episode below – I’d be interested to hear whether you prefer the detailed history presented in episodes like this one and Dervla Kirwan’s, or the more direct genealogy of say Rupert Everett’s programme.