“Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
‘This is mine own, my native land’?
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on some foreign strand?”
— Sir Walter Scott, Lay of the Last Minstrel
Today, Sunday, March 6, The Legal Genealogist returns to her native land.
It has been a very long time since I was last home — I left New Jersey on January 29 en route first to a terrific crowd at the Mississippi Genealogical Society, then RootsTech in Salt Lake City, and then — since February 7th — in the lands Down Under: Australia and New Zealand.
Where, except for a few minor details like some accents, some word usage and which way to look when crossing the road, it never really felt like a foreign strand.
Oh, I’ll grant you that the lorikeets beat my backyard birds hands down, and seeing marsupials on the roadside the way we might see deer was a reminder that I was not in Kansas anymore, Toto, but it was truly astonishing how much at home I could feel when I was so very far from my home.
Part of that, of course, was that everyone speaks English, the signs are in English, the names are all English. When it’s easy to find your way around — or to ask for directions — you don’t feel quite so alien.
Part of it was simply how very beautiful this part of the world is. If you’ve never been to Australia and New Zealand, you owe it to yourself to put them on your bucket list — high on your bucket list. They’re at the top of mine for return trips, that’s for sure. Glorious seashores, mountains, bays, bush country, forests and shining livable cities. You need to go. Now. And there’s not a better way to do it than on a genealogy cruise with the Unlock the Past team.
And it has to be said, over and over, a very big part was the care taken of me from the moment I arrived by Australian genealogist Helen Smith, who opened her home and her heart to ensure that she opened the eyes of this American to the beauties of her land and region.
Later joined by other Australian and New Zealand genealogists (I can’t thank Pauleen and Peter Cass enough for introducing me to the Moreton Bay bug!) and by the Unlock the Past team, including Alan Phillips, Alona Tester, and Eric and Rosemary Koppitke, Helen’s constant guidance and help made this as stress-free a working vacation as it could possibly be.
“Thank you” is hardly enough… but it’s all there really is to say.
Thank you, Helen. Thank you, Unlock the Past. Thank you, New Zealand and Australia. You were never really a foreign strand.
And yet… And yet… I have to add… thank you, America, for welcoming me home.
My daily telephone chats with my older sister.
My cats (assuming they ever forgive me for being gone so long).