Archive for December, 2010

My 2010 Genealogy Aspirations Review

December 31st, 2010

On 28 December 2009 I posted my New Year Genie Aspirations for 2010 and on 9 July 2010 I did a mid year review of those resolutions where I found that I was not keeping up with my ambitions for the year. After July my year was even busier so it is interesting to review my aspirations again at year’s end.

  • Maintain my health and fitness program so that I will have the energy and strength to do the next 9 items.

In retrospect I probably needed the energy up front to maintain a health and fitness program so this needs to be carried over to 2011. I find it so easy to be ‘seduced’ by my laptop and hours slip by before I realise – so more motivation and reminders are necessary.  I think regular ‘get up and move away from the laptop’ reminders in my calendar might be a good idea and scheduling exercise sessions like I used to when I worked full time.

  • Start using my new digital recorder and get Mum’s memories of her grandmother before it is too late.

This was a good idea but every time I tried to get Mum to talk about her grandmother, she would get teary with the memories and then tell me  I was upsetting her. So I need another plan for this goal. In 2011 I also want to gather some of my partner’s stories of his parents and I do use the recorder to rehearse genealogy talks so that I keep within  time and the talks make sense, although it is odd listening to one’s own voice. It never sounds like me!

  • Scan my old photos, identify them and share with the family.

Yes I have done some throughout the year but nowhere near what I thought I would get done. This needs to be more managed – I suspect with scheduled sessions in the calendar on a regular basis. Nothing like performance measures to get you motivated – perhaps I am missing full time work??

  • Conserve and preserve family heirlooms discovered during my recent stay at Mum’s including both my parents’ 21st birthday keys and cards, Dad’s first love letter to Mum (both aged 12 at the time), her wedding dress, my first pair of shoes, photos and other documents.

Apart from finding these precious items and rescuing them from the back of Mum’s cupboards, this has not progressed at all. Another case of scheduling the work and then doing it!!

  • Work with my other Johnston family members to finally sort out the Johnston Clan from Knockbride, County Cavan.

We started with good intentions but then we all got so busy with normal family life that this hasn’t progressed much at. It is hard trying to work with others and finding a time when everyone is available to do something. We will maintain an informal network and keep each other up to date of any exciting finds.

  • Finalise my draft of the Price family history in time for my mother’s 76th birthday.

More progress made but didn’t make her April birthday deadline so now aiming for her 77th in 2011.

  • Start a website for my family history research.

Apart from looking at other family history websites and finding out about suitable software, this hasn’t progressed. Instead I put a My Families page on this website as an interim measure. I think this will probably have to wait until I have some more spare time, although that never really seems to happen. Might be a case of ‘just do it’!

  • Continue to inspire and assist others with their family history research.

At last one resolution that I can honestly say I have achieved. Throughout the year I gave dozens of genealogy talks at various venues/events throughout Australia and New Zealand and I know from feedback that attendees have followed up on whatever the talks were about. I have also written various articles and guides which are also popular and again feedback informs me that researchers are learning and benefiting from what I write.

I have also continued both of these but perhaps not as regularly as I originally thought. A weekly blog was something that I thought I could easily manage but some weeks seem to slip by and I swear I don’t know where the time has gone. A small confession – some of that time goes on Twitter @HicksShauna but I have learnt so much over the year from links shared by Twitter friends that I don’t regret it. During the Unlock the Past history and genealogy roadshow in November I somehow managed a daily blog of each roadshow which was read by over 1000 individual people which still amazes me. It gave me a much greater appreciation of Dick Eastman’s daily newsletter!

  • Stay focussed, organised and enthused  and open to all new possibilities in my family research travels!

Well I am definitely still as enthusiastic about family history as I have ever been, perhaps even more with some of the interesting records now coming on line. It is much easier to search and find people in records like BDMs, census, post office directories, electoral rolls and so on. I really should be more focussed and just do one or two families at a time but I get excited when new records are released and often go off on tangents. I try to stay organised but sometimes the reading pile gets too high along with the filing pile and the to do lists are way too long but it is still great fun.

As well as the above, I did lots of unplanned things that just came up over the year and I think when we do new year aspirations we should allow for spontaneous and unexpected events changing our priorities. Now that I have reviewed my year, it is time to think about what I hope to achieve in 2011 with regard to my family history. Stay tuned.


Reading For Genealogy – Archives Annual Reports

December 22nd, 2010

This is a continuation of my last blog What Are You Reading For Genealogy? Government publications might seem a strange choice and some might think my working in government for 35 years has coloured my choice of reading material, especially for genealogy. But I hope to show in this blog that you can discover new tips and information by looking at annual reports published by archives.

The 2009-10 annual report of the National Archives of Australia is a hefty volume with 180 pages but only a small percentage is of real interest to the genealogist and family historian so you can actually read the reports for quite a few archives in a relatively short space of time.

I always read the Director-General’s Review of the year as this gives all the highlights and alerts you to what to look for in the rest of the report. For example, it mentions the Archives use of Web 2.0 and the publication of images to Flickr and videos in Vimeo as well as their Facebook page. If you weren’t aware of their presence in these social media, you could go and have a look.

Another area of genealogy interest is the digitisation program and their priority areas of immigration and defence, of great interest to genealogists and family historians which is provided free of charge to users. The year also saw the release of a new enhanced version of RecordSearch, the Archives’ online catalogue. If it is sometime since you last used the catalogue, you should check it out.

Under Challenges we learn about the closing of State offices in Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart and the revised decision to co-locate with other institutions in those areas. Another challenge is the introduction of the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Act of 2010 which will eventually see access reduced from 30 years to 20 years over a ten year period. Exciting news for all researchers and if you hadn’t heard about it from other sources, this would be one reason to read the annual report.

The main areas of the Annual Report of interest to me are the sections relating to access and I was surprised to read that 93% of the Archives users access records through digitised images on the website (p36). This statistic makes me ask the question – what about all the other relevant records not yet digitised that researchers are missing out on?

As well as what is already in custody, you can learn what has been transferred in during the year and this is partly listed in detail in Appendix C – Selected Records Transferred and Described.  For example, under Collector of Customs is correspondence series SP42/1 which includes applications for passports, certificates of exemption, entry permits, repatriation and certificates of naturalisation mostly relating to Chinese nationals and covering the period 1901-1948. Obviously of interest to anyone with Chinese ancestry or research interests.

Appendix F is the Publications Programs and this is a good place to find out what new Fact Sheets have been published during the year as well as more substantial guides and publications.

Like all annual reports there are oodles of statistics and RecordSearch now contains more than 22 million pages of digital records while PhotoSearch, a module of RecordSearch, contains descriptions and images of over 5 million photographs which are also available through the Picture Australia portal site. The passenger arrivals index has 879,000 names of passengers arriving by ship, or passing through Fremantle on the way to the eastern States, between 1921 and 1950. The index also records information about arrivals at Perth airport between 1944 and 1950 (p 37).

These few snippets from just one archives’ annual report demonstrates the value of at least having a browse through annual reports of archives which hold records relating to your own family research. New indexes, new digitisation projects, more detailed item descriptions and so on are all making it easier for researchers to find information in the archives and you can get an overview of this activity once a year in the annual reports.

For information throughout the year, subscribe to the free e-newsletters that most archives publish usually on a monthly basis.  The key thing to remember is that only a very small percentage of what is available is online, so use the catalogues and other finding aids to find original records that may be even more important to your research than the popular series being digitised first. Make 2011 your year to discover archives both online and in person! Don’t forget to share your success stories – success inspires us all.


What Are You Reading For Genealogy?

December 8th, 2010

On the recent Unlock The Past history and genealogy roadshow, I gave a presentation on Where Else Can I Look, It’s Not All On The Internet which looked at a range of ideas. The handout for that talk, and the others I gave, is on the Resources page of my website (just scroll down).

This post is an extension of that talk in that I am looking at publications by individuals, an idea I didn’t include in the presentation. Over the last few months I have been given copies of books to review and usually they get published in whatever magazine and only readers of those magazines are aware of the books. This time I have created a Book Reviews section on my Resources page and will also post them there.

There are currently two book reviews and both were great reads and on totally different subject areas. Neither was directly related to my own family history research, but both added context and background not to mention ideas to further my own research. They were:

  • Lois Sabine, editor, Dr William Bell’s “The Settlers’ Guide” or Modern Domestic Medicine and Surgery Windsor NSW 1849 – review Dec 2010
  • Kay F Gassan and Judith A Grimes, Tall Ships on the River: Flying Cloud Queensland Voyages 1862-1870 – review Dec 2010

I will let the reviews speak for themselves. There are lots of publications that while not of direct interest to us, may still be worthwhile looking through for ideas or background information on what our ancestors lives were really like.

As we come into the holiday season, and we all supposedly have more time to simply sit back and read, find yourself a new genealogy related publication, (library visit, Christmas present or whatever) and enjoy the experience. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading the two publications above and managed to add more items to my ever growing ‘to do’ research list!

Don’t forget to share your experiences – post a comment and tell us what your book choice was.

Happy reading and happy holidays!


Australia and New Zealand History & Genealogy Roadshow Overview

December 3rd, 2010

Well it is now  a week since I returned home after the 20 day trip around Australia and New Zealand on the Unlock The Past History & Genealogy roadshow. The eleven days of the roadshow were blogged daily and I was surprised at the following the daily blog attracted with many people coming up to me and commenting on my adventures. Statistics show that there were 1800 visits with 1000 unique visitors which is simply amazing.

Many people have also asked for an overview of the whole roadshow and I have given this quite a lot of thought. There are many aspects to cover so this will be my personal view.

All attendees that I spoke to in both countries said they learnt a lot and that it had definitely been worthwhile attending and many would like to see roadshows on a regular basis. One person in Perth said to me after his first talk (me outlining the Treasures of the National Library of Australia (NLA) and its wonderful e-resources) that he had already got ‘his money’s worth’. I think he is the same person who later emailed me and said that he had received his ecard from NLA and had searched the 19thC British Newpapers at home and found two great reports on his two convict ancestors. It is success stories like this that definitely makes the roadshow worthwhile for both attendees and speakers.

It also highlights the value to organisations to be part of such events because it raises the profile of the organisation and what it has to offer genealogists  and family historians. I feel certain that many of the archives and libraries that I mentioned during the roadshow will have spikes on their websites following my talks. Similarly those State archives and libraries who came along and gave talks or staffed displays will also see an increase in visitor numbers and website statistics following the roadshow.

It is hard for me to comment on what the other speakers felt about the roadshow but it is probably safe to say that Dan Lynch was totally thrilled to literally find his relatives down under – such a perfect example of it pays to advertise the names you are researching (see Day Nine for details). Plus he now has lots of Australian and New Zealand references for his Google Your Family Tree talks. Elaine Collins from FindMyPast UK spoke to many attendees and probably has a greater awareness of what the searching issues are for people downunder. There is also a much greater awareness now of the new FindMyPast.com.au website with talks by Elaine and Rosemary Kopittke. Similarly Louise St Denis from the National Institute of Genealogical Studies spoke to lots of attendees interested in doing online genealogy courses and no doubt, she knows more about the Australasian view of the world than she did previously. From my perspective I learnt a lot from all the other speakers, both international and local, and this is reflected in the daily blogs.

What was perhaps disappointing was that there were not more people in attendance at some of the venues. It is always hard to find the right time and venue for an event but I would have thought the opportunity to hear three international speakers plus good local speakers at each roadshow would have attracted more people.

On the other hand some people were superkeen and drove long distances to attend. One lady I spoke to in Christchurch had driven up from Alexandra, a 7 hour drive and there were others from Dunedin a 5 hour drive. In Brisbane we had someone fly down from Cairns and one gentleman who attended in Canberra also went to Sydney so that he could catch the talks he missed the first day. One person from Hervey Bay (central Queensland coast) flew to Adelaide to catch the roadshow. In Perth there were 4 from Geraldton and in Melbourne people from Mildura, Wangaratta and Gippsland. These are just a few examples of those who really wanted to attend and the distance/expense wasn’t going to stop them.

Which brings me back to my original point, why didn’t more attend when it was easier for them to get to the venue – are they already over catered for with genealogy events? Should we be focussing more on regional areas where people really seem to want us?

The local speakers at every roadshow all added to the richness of the program but also added to the decision making in that people had to choose which session they wanted to go to. Where the roadshow was over two days, this was easier but not on the single day events and people had to make hard decisions. It was good to see the various national/state archives and libraries have displays and give talks at most of the venues. Tom Foley from the National Library of Australia said in Canberra that he didn’t expect so many to attend his talk as he assumed that most Canberra folk would be familiar with the Library.

However, what I think we were seeing on the roadshows were people who weren’t members of genealogical and family history societies and were trying to do it at home on their own and as such, were probably not as aware of libraries and archives for research. Another confirmation of this is the number of people who actually joined genealogical and family history societies on the day in each of the venues. This was an additional bonus for the societies as they gained new members and more people were aware of their existence and the great resources in their libraries. The provision of handouts by most speakers was also welcome as people could then go home and explore further on their own, even if they had not heard the talk.

Some of the venues were excellent with food and drink onsite or close by while others were a bit more remote and it was harder for the speakers and exhibitors to get refreshments during the day and into the evening when there was an evening session. By the last day we had worked out that all we needed was someone with a car to drive us to the local pizza shop to bring back pizzas, then we could all have a great chat and eat before the evening talks. Something to definitely remember next time, although I wouldn’t want pizza every night!

As I wasn’t an exhibitor I can’t really comment on what they thought, but most seemed to be busy at every venue talking to people during registration and breaks. I have to admire Anthea from Gould Genealogy who was at every session from the start of the day right through to the evening’s end. Similarly Aimee staffed the registration desk for all cities except Sydney and New Zealand while Alan and Rosemary perfected set up and take down into a fine art! Those genealogical and family history societies that brought along books and CDs to buy all contributed to my going home with a heavier suitcase despite my mantra each day ‘I will not buy anything’ but it was all too tempting!

Would I do it again? Last week I would have said never after lugging home a suitcase that got heavier and heavier as the roadshow progressed and I got more tired and weary, some might even say cranky! This week I might be tempted and there are obviously things we would all do differently a second time around.

What I would like to see is more what attendees thought and what they have achieved or followed up since. I have the verbal comments from the roadshows, plus there have been some nice comments on my blogs and I am aware of other blogs particularly from the Sydney and Canberra roadshows, but given that nearly 1000 people attended there must be other success stories out there.

Unlock The Past is doing an evaluation of the roadshow and that will no doubt contain comments from attendees on the day/evening but what is the longer term outcome? Have people gone to society meetings or talked to others about their experiences at the roadshows? Are there people out there now wishing they had gone to a roadshow?

It takes a lot of time, money and organisation to undertake a roadshow, especially one of this size with three international speakers in nine cities across two countries. If roadshows are not supported, then it is unlikely that they will happen in the future which would be a pity. Of course smaller versions are always an option but then there is nothing like a grand venture. I ‘m just glad that I was able to be part of this one!


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