Archive for June, 2010

Using Twitter for Genealogy

June 24th, 2010

I give a lot of talks to genealogy and family history groups and I always ask the question – Who uses Twitter? Invariably people laugh and very few, if any, admit that they are on Twitter. I go on to say that I think Twitter is one of the best genealogy resources today and that I have learnt more from Twitter in the last twelve months than I have in years. This usually makes peoples eyebrows go up and people look at me even more strangely.

Lately I have started to give specific examples to help prove my point, hence this blog post. I (HicksShauna) have nearly 500 followers  and I am following about 450  people. There is a mix of genealogy, family history, archives, libraries and some personal interests and quite a few where I am not sure why they are following me. I am also the person behind ausarchivists for the Australian Society of Archivists.

Why do I choose to follow certain people or organisations? Obvious examples are state archives like staterecordsnsw (State Records New South Wales) or state libraries such as slqld (State Library of Queensland) or Library_Vic (State Library of Victoria). These allow me to keep up to date with what is new or happening with them. Other examples include genealogy societies like SocAustGen (Society of Australian Genealogists), GenealogyWorld (Genealogical Society of Victoria) or QueenslandFHS (Queensland Family History Society) – again to learn about news and events.

There are so many people writing genealogy blogs now it is hard to keep up with them all so I follow certain people with similar interests to me who tweet about what they are reading. Examples here include CaroleRiley, Infolass, geniaus and lifeasdaddy tweets on a wide range of topics – not everyone uses a real name or a photo of themselves. You can have some fun wondering what various people actually look like in real life!

I also follow entities like UnlockThePast for news on genealogy in Australia and New Zealand, the GuildOneName (Guild of One Name Studies – GOONS), fibiswebmaster (Families in British India Society) and commercial companies like GouldGenealogyfindmypast and Ancestrydotcom to learn about free offers, what’s on sale, discounts or other news.

Then there are those I follow because my research interests are in their area and here I follow people in New Zealand, United States, Canada, United Kingdom and of course Australia. Most of these people tweet links to new resources or highlight resources and it is these that can often lead to breakthroughs in genealogy research.

I am going to the New Zealand Family History Expo in July and had been planning to do some research while over there. I was particularly interested in passenger lists and was under the impression that I would have to go to the Archives New Zealand in Wellington and had been exploring their website in preparation. One of my New Zealand tweeters genebrarian gave a link to passenger lists which were indexed and available through the Auckland City Libraries online. I now also follow Auckland_Libs as well.

A quick click on the link, data entered the name and up popped my family with the date and name of the ship they travelled to New Zealand on from Victoria, Australia. How easy was that? I still want to get copies but at least I got the basic facts within seconds and at no cost – amazing when I think of the effort I had to go to in the 1970s to get passenger information before indexes were compiled.

What do I tweet about? Sometimes it is about what I am doing or new genealogy sites that I have discovered. I also tweet about what is happening in archives and libraries and of course, some of my personal interests including food. I also retweet other tweets if I think my followers would also be interested.

Along the way I have become ‘Twitter friends’ with a range of people all around the world and it is amazing how you get to know them and aspects of their personal lives through their tweets.

You can set up different lists so that you can quickly scan certain tweets as quite often the different time zones mean that we may be asleep when those we follow are tweeting. As the number of people following you grows, it becomes impossible to read all the tweets which is why retweeting often works because you may see something when it is retweeted.

Twitter can be addictive and it can be time consuming but used ‘in moderation’ it can certainly help with your genealogy research and your overall genealogy skills and knowledge. Why not give it a try?

Finding Families in Cemeteries

June 2nd, 2010

I am still participating in the 52 Weeks To Better Genealogy program and Challenge 22 was to spend time at Find-a-Grave. This doesn’t have a lot of relevance for Australian researchers, although there are 164 people listed in the Australian section, so I am looking at my favourite cemetery sites for Australia.

A quick and easy site is Australian Cemeteries which covers all States and Territories and it includes links to online data for either tombstones or burial records, home pages without online data, undertakers records, lookups, maps and photographs.

The story of my gg grandparents John and Helen Carnegie can be found here and this blog will look at information that is now available online about their grave.

They were buried in Toorbul cemetery so I selected the State section for Queensland, selected T and scrolled down to Toorbul. This revealed that it is now known as Toorbul Historic Cemetery and that there is online data and photos of the headstones. Several people have submitted transcriptions and photographs so I selected all links, compared data, other information and viewed all the photos. The Toorbul information has also been placed on, another cemetery site for Australia.

A new feature on Australian Cemeteries allows you to do a Google search over the site for an individual surname, on a State by State basis. Assuming that the cemetery you want has searchable pages this can be a quick way to find people but be aware that not all information is online or in a format searchable by Google.

In my example I went to the State section for Queensland and put in Carnegie as a keyword. This search brought up a Google search page with eight references to Carnegie (and remember not all information is online) and of the eight, four referred to the Toorbul Historic Cemetery. There are links to the site and also a link to Kerry Raymond’s South East Queensland cemeteries headstone photo collection with still more photos of the Toorbul Historic Cemetery.

Interestingly I first went to the Toorbul cemetery back in 1978 with the local historian for the area. At that time the cemetery was very overgrown and I would never have found it by myself. While the Carnegie grave was the only cement grave, there were other graves with wooden surrounds and markers. The headstone on the Carnegie grave was still intact and upright.

Since then it looks like a fire has been through and destroyed all the wooden evidence marking the graves and shattered the Carnegie headstone. The area has been cleared and a fence built and signs marking the location have been erected. There is even a memorial board listing all those buried there. I am pleased that the area is now preserved and recognised as an historic cemetery but it is a shame that all the remnants of the earlier cemetery have gone.

As I mentioned above, is another site listing Australian cemeteries and is useful as a double check as not everything is listed in both.

Another useful gateway site is Cora Num’s Websites for Genealogists: an Australian gateway site for tracing your family history. Under Cemeteries there is a range of information divided up under National and State by State.

While it is easier than ever to find cemetery information online, there is still a lot of information recorded in genealogy, family history and local historical societies so don’t neglect to look there too. Good luck.