(ABC Kimberley: Emily Jane Smith) ABC Kimberley
September 14, 2018 06:40:29
The two women have formed a strong friendship after a bottle brought them together.
“The link came to a lady by the name of Berta Lawford Marshall. We couldn’t get past it as we lived in Canberra,” Ms King said.”We decided to reach out and get to the bottom of this.”Ms King’s family contacted Ms Marshall, an Indigenous woman living in the west Kimberley. “We didn’t know who he was… we initially thought he was running away from something and had this other persona,” she said.”My grandfather left this amazing legacy and there are so many of us.”A family treasure bring ‘east’ and ‘west’ together An old, aqua bottle, which was used for soda, has been passed down the line of Ms King’s family in Canberra — but it was missing its lid.On one of her visits to the Kimberley, Ms King travelled to Bohemian Downs Station, in north-east Australia. (Supplied)
That was until Ms King travelled to the Kimberley to discover the truth.”The story we were told he was stabbed by his father and eventually ran away,” Karen said.Albert married into an Aboriginal family and had several children.Ningali Lawford, Albert’s granddaughter, said that when her grandfather arrived in the Kimberley, he told people that he was Mexican.Unfortunately, Ms Lawford never met her grandfather but heard stories about him. (ABC Kimberley: Emily Jane Smith)
She said the experience has had an enormous impact on both sides of the family.”We have a lot of unrest in our government and racism in our country,” Ms Lawford said.”This is one of the good stories coming out, that this Aboriginal and white family have found their link.””We should be learning about each other’s stories and journeys.”Joining the family dots A man from NSW, John Davis Lawford was born in 1846 and had seven children. He took me to the old station,” Ms King said. Albert Lawford was once a part owner of the property. It was the exact match to the bottle we had in Canberra.”It was the perfect match, perfect fit … and we had tears, it brought our journey together, the west and the east together. “I went to visit another relative. During the walk I kicked something in the dust and I realised I had kicked a bottle lid. Photo:
The lid was found among a collection of other discarded items. They were just as surprised to discover that they had long-lost relatives in Canberra.During the search, Ms King connected with Ningali Lawford, who turned out to be her aunt.”It was exciting because we didn’t know that the white side of the family wanted to know the Aboriginal side of the family,” Ms Lawford said.”Because back in those days that didn’t happen.”
A bottle has brought two women together from either sides of Australia. (Supplied)
No longer a blurBoth Ms King and Ms Lawford say they have treasured the journey of uniting their family across the country.”I come from a family with only just one brother and, meeting this family, I don’t even know how many brothers and sisters I have,” Ms King said.”I didn’t know if they would accept me, I could have been a nasty person but they all took me under their wing … I feel like I am home.” Photo:
The bottle, which is now complete, after the two families reunited. (Emily Jane Smith)
“We were walking around, and we went around past the tip. One of his sons was Alfred Lawford, who is Ms King’s great grandfather.Alfred’s brother Albert, ran away from home when he was a young man, never to be heard from again by his immediate family. (Supplied)
“Ningali and I both believe it’s the spirit of Albert bringing the family together.”
Roy Lawford, Karen King’s father, puts the lid on the bottle. Photo:
A photo of Alfred James Lawford from 1868. “We even had the same photos of our great grandparents.”The discovery that she had family in the Kimberley astounded Ms King, so she hopped on a plane in 2015 to meet them.Becoming part of a well-known Kimberley familyThe Lawfords are a large and widely recognised Aboriginal family in the Kimberley. Karen King was using an ancestry website and the results repeatedly showed the name of a Derby-based woman. Canberra woman Karen King unlocked a past that was always a mystery in her family’s history — what happened to their great uncle Herbert Lawford?It started with a Canberra family who began researching their family tree.