I spent about six months in 1994 drawing up this family tree for my mum. She had done all the research over many, many years, the slow and painstaking way, long before anyone dreamed up ancestry.com!

It was before my now adult children were born. I worked Monday to Friday as a paralegal, but outside that my time was my own, and I even had a precious drawing table where I could leave the family tree out, coming back every weekend to add some more details. It really was a labour of love for my mum.

Every so often I mucked something up and had to make corrections. If you look closely you might spot some strips of paper added over the top, or the odd bit of liquid paper – for those who remember that often clogged little bottle of white paint and the little brush we used to put it on. I didn’t hand letter the title, which explains why some of the letters are missing. I cheated and printed out fancy letters which I glued on. The glue subsequently went brown and dried out and the letters dropped off. This was before the days of acid free art supplies.

I hand drew everything except the picture of the prison hulk, copying the images from old photos or paintings and reproducing them in pen and ink. I wanted to tie the pictures together on the family tree by giving them a similar feel, but I also enjoyed the process of finding and copying the pictures. It helped me to imagine the lives my ancestors might have lived back in a time when these paintings could only be found in library books. Trove, Google Images and ebooks did not exist – or at least not in my world.

For Christmas that year I photocopied the black and white tree for each member of my family on to the biggest plan sized paper available, and glued some photocopied coloured portraits around the edge. It was a huge effort, and I was pretty proud of what I had achieved. One of my sisters still has it on her wall at home (I think), and it covers a pretty big portion of it – that was one really BIG frame!

22 years later I decided it was time to haul the tree out of its hiding spot and take a fresh look. I know mum found mistakes, but I don’t know what they were, so I’ll have to go through it all comparing the tree to her original records and stories. That shouldn’t be so hard now that my daughter and I have digitised so many of mum’s genealogy records. It is also time to finish it off neatly, by adding my own two children. Fortunately I left space!

It’s interesting how much this view of our family adds to my understanding of where we came from. If you look closely you might notice that we have quite a lot of convicts over on my dad’s side! A light fingered lot they were, indeed …

What about you? Have you ever taken on a really big project like this? Have you drawn a family tree? Do you like calligraphy? Are you descended from rascally convicts too? Are there any skeletons or black sheep in YOUR closet?



  1. What a FABULOUS gift to you and your family?????????‼️‼️‼️I hope that you will share with us the final product??????‼️‼️‼️BRILLIANT – – mistakes and all???‼️‼️‼️

    • Thanks Patricia – feeling warm fuzzies 🙂

  2. Its fabulous…telling stories with pictures and the penpictures of the people. Wonderful family tree.

    • Thank you so much Una! It’s a long time since I drew it all and it’s good fun to look back and count all those convicts!

  3. Would you consider making another?

    • It was about a year long labour of love back when I was much more patient- I doubt I would do it again unfortunately

  4. This is beautiful and an inspiration for me to finish mine.

    • Thanks so much Juli – I hope you have a lovely time finishing your family tree 🙂


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