I am a historian who writes mostly about the history of the family and motherhood. When I give talks to family history societies I’m usually asked what I know about my own family history. Sheepishly, I’ve had to admit ‘almost nothing’. My mother died when I was in my early 20s and I’ve been too busy researching and writing history and rearing my own children since then. So after this network’s first meeting in October 2019 I decided I should start to practice what I preach. A few hours before flying back home to Australia I sat down with my father (who recently recovered from cancer) and asked him some questions about his parents. He dug out some birth, death and marriage certificates and shared some fragmentary evidence (oral, material and archival) about his mother. She died well before I was born but she’d been in my mind’s eye since my early years. Her first name is my middle name and I now own some gorgeous jewellery that was hers.
Pictured here in the 1920s when my father tells me she was working as a dancer in the south of France, Gwynneth Morgan was born in 1905 in Calcutta where her father worked as a tea planter. My father delights in stories of her daredevil antics. I have much more to learn about her life but for the moment I will busy myself continuing to examine the practice and meanings of family history in Australia, England and Canada which has kept me busy for a decade or so and will do for many years yet. My writings on family history include ‘Secrets and Lies: The Radical Potential of Family History’ History Workshop Journal (2011) and Fractured Families: Life on the Margins in Colonial NSW (2016).