Family Tree

The ubiquitous family tree project has been sent home from primary school. Beyond the who’s who among the figurative branches, is the directive to provide interesting facts or lessons learnt from our forebears.

Unfortunately, I explain to my daughter, the, ‘older but wiser’ maxim has been misunderstood by these ancestors of ours. If there was a “How not to…” range of books on family dynamics, we’d have the market sewn up.  A legacy of ineptitude, ill judgement and general bad luck has been variously recorded or retold….

I blame my great-great-great grandmother, Sarah Butts, who got the ball rolling back in 1781 when she married Obadiah Ikin – a, none too bright, Shropshire soldier. I’m blaming her, because women should know better.

Obadiah enlisted in the 11th Light Dragoon Guards in 1785 and was discharged seven months later when it was discovered that he couldn’t actually ride a horse. Persuaded to enlist in the specially formed New South Wales Corps in 1789, he, Sarah and their seven children, boarded the Second Fleet convict transport Surprize, and sailed uncomfortably toward a new life.

So far, so good. The next recorded evidence of these familial forerunners to failure, was the court transcript of a trial involving a keg of rum stolen from outside Corporal Ikin’s hut. This not only establishes Obadiah as a bit of a squealer (the suspect was a fellow officer), but also cements the Ikin family’s enduring passion for alcohol. I note that my daughter is nodding a little too emphatically here.

Fast forward to 1794 and Obadiah has been granted acres of land at Lane Cove, Pyrmont and Bankstown. Sarah, the kids, and some four generations to come, should have been set up quite nicely. But what does Obadiah want with prime real estate when there is rum to be bought?

Sarah, realising that she had not married the sharpest tool in the shed, left Obadiah and the children, to hook up with a miller – proving that you can live by bread alone.

Great grandmother Rosina Zanoni, holidaying in Queenscliff in 1886, exceeded the boundaries of maidenly propriety with a fisherman called James, and gave birth to my grandfather some nine months later. This effectively ended a promising operatic career, to the disappointment of family and friends back in Genoa.

Grandmother Emily let us all down by quietly dying when my father was twelve. The mother of sons, she is pictured smiling sardonically at the centre of grainy family photographs. Her legacy is the enduring fear of abandonment that resonates inherently within each of us.

This fear is again realised in 1969 when my mother does a runner with the German bloke next-door. Apparently it was offensichtlich to everyone but my father, what had been going on under his nose.

Is it fate or destiny, when my husband and I separate exactly thirty years later? I advise my daughter that when you blame genes you’re really just blaming yourself. She tells me that she will never marry or have children.

While Sarah Butts would probably endorse this view, I still hope she changes her mind.

About Learning the hard way

Jane is of the belief that her life's purpose may well be to serve as a warning to others. She is unsure as to why she speaks in the third person...
This entry was posted in Family, humor, relationships and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Family Tree

  1. Sandra Leslie (nee Parsons) says:

    Haha..I have to let you know I am also related to Sarah and Obadiah. (Kitching,Shepherd side).
    My parents divorced when I was 10 and I also separated from my husband. My daughter’s not too crazy about getting married too.


    • Learning the hard way says:

      It’s a massive family tree, isn’t it? Do you have a copy of the Grahame Thom & Margaret Miller bio? (“The Story of a Shropshire soldier and his family in Australia”) It makes for largely depressing reading as far as I’m concerned…although I’m sure in amongst the rugby players there are some truly brilliant Ikins. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Your message came at a particularly slack writing time, i really must get back into it again! Bless you, remote relative, bless you! 🙂


  2. Sandra Tune says:

    Rosina Zanoni was my grandfathers sister. She was born in Queenscliff 15 May 1864. Lovely to hear she had operatic talents


    • Learning the hard way says:

      Hi Sandra, how lovely of you to comment! I’ll be honest, that part was based on old family rumour & i might have taken some creative liberties..perhaps she just sang in the hipbath! So nice to know we have such widespread family ☺️


  3. grthom says:

    You all probably know where I fit in back to Obadiah and Sarah. Just to get the picture I am an accountant, so right brain, hence the style of our book. Margaret and I will soon be publishing a larger book on Charles James Bullivant who married Obadiah and Sarah’s daughter Maria. There is some Ikin stuff on my web site, just search for “Obadiah Ikin” – have fun


    • Learning the hard way says:

      Your hard work is infinitely appreciated (& decidedly credible).You gave me a wonderful creative jumping off point. The gene pool is endlessly fascinating, although searching for answers to problematic familial relationships can be a veritable minefield!


  4. Anonymous says:

    just jumped on the gene pool ride, Obadiah and Sarah are my 5thGGrandparents, (Alexander side) im just a driving instructor, no brains, but loads of patience :P:P Vodka is my friend, i could never bring myself to have a rum. Any idea where i can get a copy of the book pls?? Dee


    • Learning the hard way says:

      hah! But I’m sure your sense of direction is second to none! Graham Thom (previous commenter) is the clever chap responsible for the book. I scored a copy from my father, but no idea how he got it. Sorry! I’m sure, Graham can assist though. His address is 48 Derwent street, Lyons, ACT 2606


  5. Anonymous says:

    Obadiah descendant here as well – his grand-daughter Emma Ikin (father was Alexander) married the disreputable John Roby Cole Hatfield and absconded to NZ 1840s or 50s, and now here I am, a Kiwi in Australia with a longer Australian pedigree than most Aussies. And my Australian daughter is disgusted with Obadiah exchanging her birthright for a barrel or two of rum!


Please feel free to comment, I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s