As a simple response, I would like to remind readers of the many people who believed their grandparents to be their parents and only discovered the truth when they purchased their own birth certificate. Or the many people who supposedly arrived in Australia as “remittance men” or “free immigrants” but proved to be convicts. Families have secrets and agendas, and the truth regularly goes by the wayside when family members are pursuing an agenda or covering up an unpalatable truth.
Let me mention just one of the many family stories passed down through my own family. This one was included in a hand-written family history produced in the late 1800s or early 1900s. It claimed that my great-great-grandmother was the granddaughter of “Count Fabian of the celebrated Italian Fabians”. New to research when I was given the manuscript, I wrote to the Italian consulate asking about the Fabian family and received the reply that I would need to provide specific names and dates. Duly rebuked, I continued my research. Eventually I discovered that the alleged Italian Count Fabian was in fact Thomas Fabian, a hairdresser from Portsmouth!
Have I made my point?
Family stories are a form of “hearsay” evidence. Hearsay evidence is rarely accepted in a court of law because the person who made the original claim cannot be questioned to determine their truthfulness. Inevitably, most family stories have been distorted by time, the historical version of Chinese whispers. Sometimes the story was deliberately crafted by a family member for their own purposes and perpetuated by descendants who believed that “Grandpa” would never tell a lie. Except for some rare instances, family stories should be accepted as historical evidence only if there is primary-source evidence to back up the story. If the evidence refutes the story, then the wise family historian accepts the evidence rather than continuing to blindly believe the family story.
However some family historians become so caught up in the romance or lustre of their family’s history that they refuse to accept that a family story or claimed ancestry is wrong even when there is a wealth of evidence proving so. The link with “fame” has been absorbed into their sense of self-worth. Ego has become more important than evidence. One family historian I encountered had “firstfleeter” as her personal email address. How do you think she would react if anyone said “I’m sorry but you are not descended from a First Fleeter!” It would be like accidentally prodding a viper.
Such is the case with Thunderbolt and Mary Ann. Challenging the myths and family stories has proved the equivalent of prodding a whole nest of vipers!
But evidence has a voice of its own, and when it finds the right stage it cannot be silenced no matter how loud the boos from those who don’t want to hear it. This website offers the evidence a permanent stage.