When Roz researched her family tree using Ancestry, she realised that many of her ancestors played memorable roles in the colonial history of Tasmania – the state she grew up in and one of her favourite places to explore.

We would like to acknowledge that the colonial arrival to, and history of, lutruwita / Tasmania has had a devastating impact on the Traditional Custodians of the land, the palawa people. We acknowledge the palawa people have the longest-standing connection and history with these lands, waters, and their inhabitants, spanning tens of thousands of years, and we pay our respects to them.

Finding My Family History

Everyone has an interesting family story. When I looked into mine, I found convicts, racehorse winners, and tram drivers. My older brother was an amateur historian and researched a lot of our family history when he lived in Hobart, going into the archives and delving through old files. 

These days, discovering your family’s connections to places, people, and historical events is as simple as using Ancestry Family History.

To begin your journey with Ancestry Family History, you’ll just need to fill in a few simple details about yourself and your relatives (at least three generations is ideal).

As you do, your tree will fill with leaves known as ‘hints’ that are a sign there are already records in Ancestry’s 30 billion-strong ever-growing collection that may relate to the people in your tree.

Explore these records and discover new information about your ancestors to detail your family tree and watch it expand before you. The more family members you add, the more hints are suggested, creating a loop of potential ancestral discovery!

As for me, I’m a fifth-generation Tasmanian and it’s no coincidence it’s one of my most beloved places to explore.

I find the more I discover about my ancestors, the more I feel connected to the places where they lived, worked, and played. And now I get to explore and share in this beautiful place with the next generation of my family too.

Tracing My Family Tree Through Picturesque Tasmania, Roz Glazebrook, black and white photo, family, men

Three generations of Southerwoods. William Joseph Southerwood, William John Southerwood and William Bergan Southerwood

My Family’s First Step in Tasmania

William James Southerwood – Great-great-grandfather

My great-great-grandfather, William James Southerwood, was 18 years old when he was sentenced to Van Dieman’s Land in 1825 for stealing a tea chest containing tea and two silver spoons. 

He arrived in Hobart Town, and according to records, was treated cruelly and sadistically. His gaolers tried to break his youthful spirit by putting him on the treadmill repeatedly, and giving him numerous lashes for slight misdemeanours.

I’ve visited Port Arthur many times and can always feel the presence of William James when I’m there. My most recent visit was a few years ago when I walked the Three Capes Track and the cost of the walk included entry to Port Arthur. As I wandered around the cells, I thought about young 18-year-old William and what he must have suffered there.

I was thankful my trip to this part of Tassie was much more pleasant than his.


Tracing My Family Tree Through Picturesque Tasmania, Roz Glazebrook, Port Arthur

Port Arthur Penal Colony in Tasmania

From Convicts to Cup Winners

William Joseph Southerwood – Great-grandfather

I grew up in Launceston with two brothers and a sister. We used to play Vikings wearing two silver cups on our heads, both of which got pretty battered about. Little did we know, one of the cups was the 1920 Hobart Cup and the other a Longford Cup, both won by our Great Grandfather William Joseph Southerwood. 


Tracing My Family Tree Through Picturesque Tasmania, Roz Glazebrook, Hobart cup

1920 Hobart Cup dead heat won by Trusty Blade


The 1920 Hobart Cup was particularly historic – it was the only time in the history of the race that there was a dead heat between two horses – my great-grandfather’s horse, Trusty Blade, and Nadir Shar owned by Mr Thomas Lyons. 

My great-grandfather had a long and successful association with horse racing in the state, and records show that Southerwood-owned racehorses won 500 races and 400 second places, with stake money totalling 35,000 pounds. 

William Joseph Southerwood died at his home in Launceston on Tuesday 14 December 1937, aged 75 years. His obituary described him as one of the best-known racehorse owners and trainers in Tasmania.

Unfortunately, his affinity for horses didn’t quite make it all the way down to me, and my first riding experience nearly ended in disaster. 

A few friends and I were visiting a horse-riding property near Deloraine in North West Tassie where we stayed overnight in cabins and were taken up into the highlands on horses in the morning. The horses were very well behaved on the way up the steep, rocky track and we had a wonderful time riding around on the flat with snow-capped mountain peaks all around.

But on the way home, the horses unexpectedly took off down the mountainside. I lost my stirrups and reins and was only clinging on with two chunks of the horse’s mane. I was terrified when we hit the highway as my horse was galloping along the wrong side of the main road and it was a busy logging truck road. 

Eventually the horse pulled up from a full gallop to a stop at the farm gate. By some miracle I’d managed to stay on. We later learnt the horses were ex-racehorses – I wondered what my great-grandfather would think. I’ve been nervous around horses ever since.

Leaving Legacies in Launceston

William John Southerwood – My grandfather

William John Southerwood (Bill) drove one of the first trams up Brisbane Street in Launceston at the official opening on 16 August 1911. He collected the first fare received for a tram passenger in Launceston.

During an interview for an article published in the local Launceston newspaper, The Examiner, for the Silver Jubilee in 1936, Bill recalled the thrill of driving his first tram. 


Tracing My Family Tree Through Picturesque Tasmania, Roz Glazebrook, black and white photo, Launceston tram service, crowd

Crowds at the opening of the Launceston tram service on the 16th August 1911. William John Southerwood drove number 1 tram up Brisbane Street | Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office


He got the job out of 500 applicants because of his experience driving horse buses for his father for 13 years.

‘Being familiar with horses, I was able to get through the traffic more easily than they. Of course, all the traffic in those days was horse-drawn, and as I knew what to expect from a horse that got in my way I could drive accordingly.’

William John Southerwood died at home at 51 Tamar St., Launceston in June 1944. He was only 58 years old and didn’t live to see the end of the trams in Launceston. Trolley buses took over from trams on Christmas Eve, 1951.


Tracing My Family Tree Through Picturesque Tasmania, Roz Glazebrook, tram, black and white photo


I missed out on riding trams in Launceston, and even when I moved to Brisbane the trams had been phased out there too.

I moved to Queensland in my early 20s, but the call of home has beckoned me back at least once a year since, and I always try to take a bushwalk somewhere I’ve never been before. 

Making Memories With The Next Generation

I’ve hiked most of the common trails in Tasmania including the Overland Track, Three Capes, Maria Island, Bay of Fires, Freycinet Peninsula, Schouten Island and Bruny Island. 

I can always feel my ancestors’ presence, especially in areas I know they lived or visited, and think about their legacies often when I’m in the bush.

These days I like to explore less well-known areas around Tassie and have been doing so with my niece Becca. Last year we explored Apsley Gorge on the East Coast and visited the Blue Tier Giant Tree near Derby which has become a Mecca for mountain bike riders. 

Tracing My Family Tree Through Picturesque Tasmania, Roz Glazebrook, aunt and niece, women, Apsley Gorge

The author and her niece Becca exploring Apsley Gorge, East Coast Tasmania 2021

This year, the two of us have already climbed Quamby Bluff near Deloraine together, and visited Westmoreland Falls near Mole Creek.

It’s a special thing to be sharing this same beautiful island with the next generation, knowing how strong my family’s history is here. 

Learning about my family’s history and their ongoing connection with Tasmania has enhanced my time exploring the beautiful island state. I find that knowing about those in my past who have made memories in the same special spaces as me, tethers me to those places even more. 


Tracing My Family Tree Through Picturesque Tasmania, Roz Glazebrook, woman, Quamby Bluff, mountain

The author on top of Quamby Bluff 2022


And now to be sharing new memories and experiences with a younger generation of my family is truly heart-warming, and makes the adventures all the more remarkable.

If there’s one thing you can do to add a layer of personal significance to your adventures, it’s exploring the world’s largest collection of online records and unlocking your past using Ancestry Family History.