How these ancestry enthusiasts found family during lockdown
This article was written by Briannah Devlin and uploaded to the UTS Journalism Lab as part of her university studies.
Before June, ancestry enthusiasts Mellissa Livermore and Andrew Redfern didn’t know each other at all – let alone know that they were second cousins.
Both were individually finding out more about their families by discovering photos and public and private records to make up their respective family trees.
It was not until Mellissa, 47, was forced into isolation after her son returned from the United Kingdom, and was diagnosed with Covid-19.
“We had to do 20 days of isolation. I thought in that period of time, since I’d spent lots of time doing stuff on my husband’s family, I would start doing some research on my family.”
It all changed when Mellissa called someone from her hometown of Bathurst who had most of her family’s records.
“She said, ‘Oh, I’ve given all my stuff to a fellow called Andrew Redfern. Do you know him?’ And I said, ‘No, I’ve never met Andrew.’”
“Anyway, he comes up as a DNA connection, through ancestry. So I sent him a message, just saying ‘Hello, we are connected via DNA. I believe we are second cousins, are you interested in exploring the connection a little bit more?’”
They discovered that their fourth great uncle is former convict turned surgeon Dr William Redfern, namesake of the inner Sydney suburb.
“I think from the moment we met, it was just like, catching up with an old friend almost. And I think having the connection of our ancestors, there was heaps to talk about,” said Andrew, who is based in Sydney.
“And because at that stage, we were really doing a hell of a lot of research around our ancestors that came up from Ireland, via America. So like, almost every day, we were finding new information to share with each other. So it’s really exciting.”
The second cousins also got the opportunity to meet in person at the State Library in Sydney.
“We spent time in the special sections going through all the Redfern stuff that they’ve got on file there. And then we got kicked out of the library too for talking too much.” Mellissa explained.
They are even organising for an upcoming family reunion.
“I think we’re going to do it in two years. We thought initially five, but we’ve got some ageing relatives. So we really would like them involved because the generational gap. I think that would be very valuable to have from them. And I think, like to see the younger generation keep the contact,” Melissa said.
“And what we’ve been trying to do, too, is establish context within our family so that the whole knowledge is shared. So that, you know, it does get passed on.” Andrew added.
— Story by @briannah_devlin, additional editing by Lucy Tassell