Australia: Family mysteries revealed

Australia: Family mysteries revealed


There are many reasons why people become interested in their family history. It may be because of an inherited condition or the discovery of a previously unknown relative.

MyHeritage member Thelma (known as Thel) Brooks’ story includes both!

Born in Sydney, Australia, Thel’s interests were dancing, swimming and tennis. These days, it’s family history.

Now in her 70s and retired, she was a hospital office manager for most of her working life.

Married at 22, she and her husband, William John Brooks, were together for nearly 50 years. She has a daughter and a son, and four grandchildren. For 27 years, Thel was her husband John’s caregiver until his death in 2010.

John and Thel, 2008
John and Thel, 2008

Today, her life is devoted to her little dog, family and friends and she lives in Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

Thel first became interested in family history when her husband was diagnosed with an inherited incurable disease and she wanted to find out more where it came from. She then discovered, at 56, a previously unknown half-sister in Scotland:

I had never known about her or that my father had been married before his marriage to my mother in Australia.  For 15 years, my sister and I had a happy relationship and loved each other dearly until her death.

I became very interested in delving into the past. The further I go back, the more my interest grows.

Thel’s half-sister Margaret (right), Botany Bay, 1996
Thel’s half-sister Margaret (right) with her late husband Sam (left) Botany Bay, 1996

What has Thel discovered?

I’ve discovered quite a few living relatives around the world for myself and my husband, as well as all the ancestors of the past.

In 2008, Thel joined MyHeritage after checking the Internet for a better family history program than she had been using.

What I like about the site is the ease of being able to understand it all so well, so easy to use. Plus the support is wonderful that is given when one has a problem.

Although none of her immediate family is involved, she does have cousins who are involved. It has changed communications with other family members.

In her family tree, Thel has some 1,435 people, who live in Australia, UK, Ireland, NZ, and Canada. She has had “stacks of Smart Matches.” She owes much to the helpful members discovered through those matches, who have provided her so much information and knowledge.

Top (from left): Grandson Peter, son Stephen, daughter-in-law Cheryl, grandson Mark Bottom: Granddaughter Kelly, Thel, John, granddaughter Rachel. (Christmas 2009)
Top (from left): Grandson Peter, son Stephen, daughter-in-law Cheryl, grandson Mark. Bottom: Granddaughter Kelly, Thel, John, granddaughter Rachel. (Christmas 2009)

Her research has produced unknown and long-lost relatives and she has made contact with them. However, she doesn’t think her life has changed because of this.

Before leaving Australia on a trip in November 2011, Thel was contacted – via a Smart Match – by a lady in Scotland married to a relative of Thel’s late husband.

As I was going to be in Scotland during my trip, I was invited to stay with them. Her husband and my late husband’s father shared the same grandfather. I was made so welcome [on that visit]. We devoted one day to family research and I was able to find more information about that side of the family and to also provide information.

We will always remain friends now.

Thel’s tips for those just beginning family research:

Find out as many details about the family history from living relatives and write them down in a book. Many details can be discovered by asking questions of other family members. Also include photos that relatives may share with you.

Thank you, Thel, for your story.

Do you have a story to share about your research? The MyHeritage team always likes to hear about our members’ family history research experiences.

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  • Thel Brooks

    June 7, 2012

    Thank you I feel very privileged to have been asked to share this with you all.

  • Pam Kriesl

    June 12, 2012

    After making contact with Thel a few years ago (and discovering we were cousins) – I have been able to expand on my Irish Cryan ancestry. From only knowing of my GGrandmother Maria Cryan and her sister Bridget’s immigration to Queensland – with Thel’s added information, I learnt that another six of Maria’s siblings also settled in Australia. Thanks Thel