Monday, February 23, 2015

Chapter 16: PEA SOUP

Thus began what I like to call "The Summer Fog of 2014".  I was so close to my goal.  I could smell the proverbial barn.  Each new piece of information that came in gave me more to research.  I would spend hours on end in the vortex of the internet- losing all track of time and responsibility.  For the first time in my life I actually forgot to pick my daughter up from school. TWICE.

I would search the (now confirmed) surnames in my matches on Ancestry as well as "23andme" which I had recently joined and given a DNA sample.  Campbell is, of course, a very common name.  While there were plenty of matches that had that name in their "list of family names"- none were closer than 3-5th cousins.  As I've said before, one would have to have a meticulously complete family tree in order to figure out the shared ancestor from that far back.  The other names (Brant and Raise/Rait)- though less common- yielded nil.  Both of these web sites are U.S. based.  If Australians want to do DNA research it is expensive- and, as of now- 23andme does not accept samples mailed from outside of the United States. (I,unfortunately, found this out later...)  So, my DNA matches were few and far between and really none had any knowledge of Australian relatives.

Luckily, I was heartened by my new connections.  The e-mail correspondences began. The first one came from Tricia.  She said she had enjoyed reading my story and told me a little about her immediate family.  She told me what she knew about Isaac and Gertrude.

"I am sending you a photo of your great grandparents, Isaac and Gertrude Brant.  That was interesting you having your DNA analysed, we always thought Brant was German, but we believe that it is of Dutch origin.  Isaac Brant spent a lot of time in and out of hospital during the (first world) war, while he was in hospital in England  he met Gertrude who was a nurse. They married and came to Australia to live. We are not sure if they married in England or Australia. He served in Gallipoli, Egypt and France.  Isaac had mastitis in the left breast and refused treatment and later died in Australia from this illness . I suspect it may have been breast cancer as they described it as a tumour. We found this out from his army records.  Gertrude died from injuries from a car accident. I don’t know when or what Arlene died from, hopefully Barbara will know."

She also attached photographs of Isaac and Gertrude.
Gertrude wearing Isaac's war medals
Isaac looking incredibly dapper

Then came the first message from Barb.  She also shared details of immediate family and then provided a few more details- after all, she is the one who as taken the time to research the Brant family.

"There is so much to tell you I guess, so keep the questions coming. I am not too good on emailing attachments, so it's probably better if I can send them slow mail. I will get to work and get copies of as much as I have that you want ready for posting.
I will do a bit of looking for Mal. I did try to find him when dad died, but had no luck. He used to call on mum and dad when he was passing through Stawell (they used to live there) in his truck. He drove for a company called SCOTTS. 
As for Arline. I don't really have too much. 
She was born 1916 @ Lambeth England. ( I have copy of birth certificate if you want a copy) 
She married Lionel William Alexander Campbell 1942. I think they divorced?
Arline then married George Alexander Crouse. No dates on anything here. Kym was born September??? (no dates)
George Died  @ Heidleberg. 69yrs. Cremated at Springvale. 
Arlene then married David Chapman> I have nothing more on this. 
Arlene Died 2nd July 1986 from emphysema. (she never smoked). 
Mum doesn't remember where she was living at the time of her death, but I have a little card to say her service was at "West Chapel, Enfield crematorium" 
I forgot to mention Mal had 3 children. A boy? and two girls, Melita and Serena. The girls were flowers girls at Arline and David's wedding. I have a photo." 

Ummm- THREE children.  Three more half- siblings!!  This was the divulgence I had been hoping for.  The next step was obvious.  I logged in to Facebook and typed in the name "Serena Campbell".  Up popped a list of potentials.  I narrowed it down quickly to exclude anyone outside of Australia.  Then. Boom.  Serena Campbell.  Adelaide, South Australia.  My stomach lurched.  The cover picture was of a beautiful, blonde lady surrounded by three children (2 boys and a girl).  This would never be someone that I would think could be that closely related to me.  She had large, brown eyes and sculpted cheek bones.  Definitely a departure from my softer, less defined features.  I clicked on her list of "friends" and began to scroll.  Within seconds I had my answer.  There, looking at me through similar dark eyes was "Melita Campbell".  I gasped.  I started to shake.  What are the odds that I would have two sisters with such unusual first names.  Oh my God Oh my God Oh my God.  I continued to scroll through.  Suddenly, I found her.  Looking at me through kind eyes, with an arm around a tall young man in a military type uniform was "Kym Alexandra Lynes".

How was this happening?  How was this so easy after everything had been so difficult?
The "bouncing" resumed.  I tried to calm down and stalk the pages of my "relatives".  Both sisters had children.  Both seemed to work in the medical field.  Both were jarringly pretty.  Each had luxurious, long and silky hair- the kind that I have never been able to attain due to the fact that my hair is baby fine and hangs limp once it gets to a certain length.

I continued to search through the friends list and came across an Adrian Campbell. Was this my half-brother?  Adrian appeared to have two sons of his own.  He had a kind, easy going smile.  I scanned through his pictures and comments that people had made. It feels a little dirty to be looking through strangers photos- but at the same time you're so thankful that they are a little careless with their privacy settings.  It just helps to narrow things down and get clues that can ultimately give you the information that you need.  For example, a friend had commented on a picture of him.  It said "Someone is looking a lot like Malcolm". His response was "No. Not that bad. LOL" And there it was. Acknowledgment that he was resembling his father- and his response was light and sarcastic- which led me to believe that Malcolm is still alive.

I went back to Kym's page.  I decided that she should be the first person that I reach out to.  She is Malcolm's younger sister (just a little older than me) and she would know how to approach the situation.  I wrote a private Facebook message to her explaining who I was, that I thought that her older brother was likely my biological father and would she help me to get in contact with him.  I mentioned that the reason that I was approaching her first was that I thought she would know best how to proceed and that it was not my intention to disrupt lives or create strife.  I just wanted him to be aware of me.  I also wanted her to know that I had been told about her as well and was so excited to have found her.  After several drafts I was satisfied with my words.
 Most people aren't aware of this, but your Facebook profile has a regular "inbox"- and also, there is an "other" box that is only visible when you are logged in on a computer (as opposed to a smart phone).  If you attempt to write a message to someone who is not already your "friend" that message automatically goes to the "other" box- unless you pay something like a dollar and four cents- then it will go straight to the regular "inbox".  I paid my nominal fee (well worth it by the way) and pressed "send".

Then I waited.