Describe how the idea for your book first came to you. Where were you? Who was the first person you told? How did they respond?
The idea for my first book, well the first book I completed, came to me when my husband and I were dabbling in family history. A great aunt had raised his father after his mother’s early death, his surname was changed and it was as if his parents had never existed. As his original surname had been Risk, The Hidden Risks seemed the obvious title choice. We were living in Launceston, Tasmania, at the time and fortunate in being able to access the reference section of the local library and liaise directly with the cemetery trust.
Tasmania, originally Van Diemen’s Land, was founded as a penal settlement 1803 with the last convicts arriving 1853. During this period approximately 67,000 men, women and children were transported from Britain to alleviate the crowded and unsanitary prison conditions there. Most convicts, once pardoned, worked conscientiously in their new land. They raised families and began the process of obliterating the past. It wasn’t until the last part of the 20th century that Tasmanian families began throwing open the closet doors to display the obligatory convict ancestor. Meticulous early record keeping offered a wealth of information for the family historian and in no time we uncovered our own convict ancestor, my husband’s great great grandfather, and began working through the generations until we found his grandmother. This is when the skeletons began to rattle with more gusto and them, learning she had been married to a Syrian hawker, William Risk, really set those bones ashaking.
Once we had gathered enough information of substance we proceeded to speak with other family members, to involve them emotionally if they wished, and to invite the sharing of anecdotal memories. Each contact led to another, in a flow-on effect, until we had made personal contact with dozens of people from all branches of the tree, adding colour, depth and volume. All responded with interest, offering what they knew or had been told by family members now passed and were willing to assist and support the project.
If I have piqued your interest I can tell you the search for his grandmother ended at a pauper's grave where she had been buried under the wrong name. William Risk appears to have disappeared off the face of the earth and is indeed, still missing.
~ Merlene Fawdry
~ Merlene Fawdry