GENEALOGY: THE TRUE DESCENDANTS FROM THE AWABAKAL TRIBE
by Nola, Leah and Kerrie (nee Powell)
To think that it takes a death in the family to show you the way to the beginning and makes you hunger for more. That’s where it started for us. When our Uncle Cyril passed away in 1994 we had to acquire some death certificates. Can you imagine the information we found on those certificates! Now we were able to piece this together with the stories that our Mother, Uncles and Aunts had told us and we were led on a wonderful journey.
We decided to attain more information, which started our family tree. We have been most fortunate to discover that our great-great-grandparents, Margaret and Ned, were very well known Aboriginal people from the Swansea area. This discovery put all the pieces in place, the stories that we were told, the quiet information dropped here and there and the strong family belief that we belonged to the land we have always felt so tied to. To our amazement and delight the lives of Margaret and Ned have been well-documented in books, journals, archives and newspaper articles.
This is our story from our research. All documents or copies, are held by members of our family. Some are available from the Awaba Bibliography.
Margaret and Ned had two children, Ellen and William Henry (Buckham). Ned and his son Buckham died in the 180s. We now have a definite date for Margaret’s death, 14 October 1894 in Newcastle Hospital. We were lucky enough to find this information in a very large old hospital book in the Archives at Newcastle University. Margaret is buried at Sandgate Cemetery, Newcastle NSW. What a moment that was, with the three sisters Nola, Leah and Kerrie and a niece, we came across another entry which was of our Great Grandmother Ellen.
It has been a hard struggle to put all our documents together to complete the family lineage but very rewarding. We have achieved something which is very special to us. We have been up and down a lot of avenues to find photos of Ned, Ellen and Buckham but to no avail. So we keep going forward to the very end until we exhaust all possibilities of photos of them and any other members of our family.
Our Great Grandmother Ellen had two families, from her first partner were the children Fred, Sarah, Albert and Emily Milton. Ellen partnered John Joeby Williams. They had two children William Henry and Selina, Selina died in January 1910 giving birth to a daughter who lived only 8 hours and was named Selina May. Our Grandfather William Henry Williams died in September 1946, his wife’s name was Lilly (Lily) Phillips, and they had 10 children two are still living. Thelma Elizabeth and Ronald Sidney Abraham. Thelma Williams was born January 1916 married James Eric Edward Powell; they had 7 children who are all living. Ronald Williams married Joan Noaks, they had 5 girls, and 4 are still living.
Margaret was a remarkable woman who has been the subject of many books and newspaper articles without much reference to the hardships that she and her family have had to endure as dispossessed first nations people in their own land. We have had few family photos and were lucky enough to come across one of Margaret, also a sketch that had been done of her, in Newcastle Library. It is a beautiful black and white sketch, quite large, can you imagine what a fabulous find? And boy, what an emotional day for us.
People are always saying history repeats itself. We found that all down our lineage that all the family took an interest in birds. Margaret had a magpie and taught it to speak two languages, English and Awabakal. Her Grandson did the same. Also his sons and our family carried on the family trait, teaching a young Galah to talk.
Finding L.E. Threlkelds journal's and Alfred Glenee’s journals (Alfred Glenee baptised Ellen and Buckham) opened many doors and roads to travel along.
We now look back to days of traipsing to libraries, national archives, state records and Kingswood, the Land Titles Office, reading of articles, journals and books, we could never get over how so much was written about our ancestors. Even if we didn’t find anything that day, naturally we felt let down, then we always said, “ Tomorrow was another day.” We have discovered many places and met so many people that have helped us, some doors we couldn’t get through. We will keep on with our research until we can find nothing else, because all the records must be kept for our future generations. Who knows, maybe someone out there will come forth with more documentation, then we can build from that, more for our future, as so much has been lost through greed.
What we want to keep in mind is that we are all human beings, whatever the colour, we all have rights and as fellow human beings we all need to be treated with respect and courtesy. We want to bring together the story of Ned and Margaret and their family to share with others as this is a unique story of the Awabakal people and a fitting way to honour them.
Nola, Leah and Kerrie (nee Powell)