Archive for February, 2011

Scottish Genealogy & Serendipity in Victoria

February 27th, 2011

I believe that serendipity happens a lot in genealogy and one of the things on my to do list for 2011 is to revisit my Scottish families and find out more about them. I first researched them in the late 1970s, and ad hoc since then.  However, there are many resources available now which are more accessible and easier to use so I might make better progress.

As part of my resolve I booked myself into the Genealogical Society of Victoria‘s Third Australasian Scottish Genealogy Conference in Melbourne on 16-17 April. The program has a great line up of local and international speakers and as I live just outside of Melbourne there is no real excuse not to go. It is on the far side of Port Phillip Bay from where I live, and will take  me a good hour or more to drive there each day, but it should be worth it.

Sheena Tait is one of the international speakers and is giving a number of talks and is one of the main reasons why I decided to book for the conference. So now for the serendipity moment.

Not long after having my booking confirmed, and talking about attending with others, I received the press release below from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies announcing that Sheena has just been appointed as the new Director of the Institute’s Scottish Certificate Studies Program. You can read more about Sheena and the Institute below.

For myself, I am looking forward to meeting Sheena when she visits Melbourne in April. I also expect the conference to attract a wide range of other well known Australasian genealogy identities who I am also looking forward to either meeting or catching up with. Please do come up and say hello if you are also at the conference.

National Institute for Genealogical Studies Announces Appointment of Sheena Tait as the New Director of the Institute’s Scottish Certificate Studies Program

(Toronto, February 25, 2011) Louise St. Denis, Managing Director of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, announces the appointment of Sheena Trait as the new Director of the Institute’s Scottish Certificate Studies Program.

Sheena Tait, born of Scottish parents, grew up in Scotland. Just after Sheena’s father died, someone sent the family an article about her paternal grandfather proposing to submit to a genealogical magazine. This triggered the realisation that Sheena knew very little about her father’s family. The genealogical journey started.

Shortly after, work took Sheena south to England where, surrounded by—and learning—the English record keeping systems, she had to learn how to research at a distance and understand the Scottish systems, as most of her ancestors are Scottish. While in England, she met and married her husband – another Scot – and also researches his family. This provides different challenges from her own, including English links and seafaring ancestors.

In her early career, Sheena ran the computer systems for the military. However, her husband’s career as a serving military officer and the regular moves it involves made it impossible for her to continue her existing career.

About 10 years ago, she decided to combine her love of family history and the analytical skills developed through her work to start a new career as a genealogist specializing in Scottish and Anglo-Scottish research. As well as carrying out private research, Sheena lectures on a variety of Scottish topics, and was a regular contributor to the British-based Practical Family History and Family Tree magazines. Sheena is a member of both the Society of Genealogists in London and the Edinburgh-based Scottish Genealogy Society. Later this year, she will be one of the keynote speakers at the Third Australasian Scottish Genealogy Conference in Melbourne on 16 and 17 April 2011, organised by the Genealogical Society of Victoria.

“I’m delighted to take over as Director of the Institute’s Scottish Certificate Studies. I enjoy helping others discover for themselves the extent of their Scottish ancestry. There’s so much material that so many hobbyists don’t think of using. Hopefully, this will open up the doors to solving some of their brickwalls”, says Sheena.

Louise St Denis indicates that “The Scottish Courses are an integral part of the Institute’s programs. We are so pleased to have Sheena onboard. As a Director living in England, she will bring a different perspective to the record courses for Scotland. We are really looking forward to the first of Sheena’s course. This will be an in-depth study of Scottish probate records, and will be available in early June. I’d like to thank James Thomson for the terrific course on ‘Special Aspects of Scottish Research’, which will remain part of the Scottish program. Past students highly recommend this course.”

For those of you who are at the Who Do You Think You Are? conference in London from February 25th to the 27th, drop by the National Institute’s booth (#93) to meet both Sheena and Louise.

The National Institute also announced earlier this month that they will be offering a free course on Social Media in conjunction with their recent acquisition of GenealogyWise <>. If you are at the London fair, register directly at The National Institute’s booth (#93), and also receive a free T-Shirt! The course—entitled, “Social Media for the Wise Genealogist”—covers social media tools vital to today’s genealogical research, including social networking sites, RSS, bookmarking, and more. This course, written by Brenda Wheeler and Gena Philibert Ortega, utilizes Drew Smith’s book, Social Networking for Genealogists. “Social Media for the Wise Genealogist” begins March 15th, 2011. To register, visit the National Institute’s website at  <>.


About The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

The National Institute has been offering genealogy and history courses for over 11 years. They now offer over 200 courses in genealogical studies to help enhance the researcher’s skills.

For those looking to acquire more formal educational training, The National Institute offers—in affiliation with the Continuing Education Unit of the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto—Certificate Programs in the records of Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and the United States, as well as a Librarianship Certificate.

Louise St. Denis

Managing Director

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

Toll-free in North America – 1.800.580.0165

Tel: 416.926.7254

Skype: louisestd

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 8 Technology

February 26th, 2011

I’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

This week’s topic is all about what were some of the technological advances that happened during your childhood. Wow – where to start as there has been incredible change during my 50 something years.

After some thinking I have come up with my top 3 technological advances that impacted me the most in hindsight.

Without doubt the purchase of our first television changed our lives (and our eating habits). We always used to eat together as a family at least up until our high school years. When we bought the TV it went into the lounge room but we all were soon addicted to the TV (even though it was B&W).  And no we didn’t start eating in the lounge room!

Our lounge and dining rooms were really one big room so it was a relatively easy matter to turn the TV around at dinner time, although it was incredibly heavy. We always had to watch the news and then my strongest memory is of Bob and Dolly Dyer and Pick A Box which we watched religiously. I can still remember Barry Jones and his debates with Bob.

Of course with the TV on that was the end of dinner conversation as a family unless we could do it within the adverts and there didn’t seem to be that many back then. After dinner I had to go to my room and do homework, especially when I was in high school, and I remember having to yell to turn the TV down so that I could think. It was only a small house and my brother would be playing his music in his room across the hall to make it even more chaotic. I ended up using ear plugs.

Even today I tend to associate dinner time with the 6.00pm news and I strongly suspect that is why Queensland still doesn’t have daylight saving – they are all inside watching the news on TV and having dinner at 6.00pm, which would only be 5.00pm real time. I never really believed the curtains would fade.

My second technologically shattering event was the invention of the pop up toaster. I can’t tell you how many times I used to burn my fingers on the old toaster which you had to open from the sides to put the bread in and then open without burning yourself once it got hot. I also used to burn a lot of toast as well. So for me the pop up toaster was simply the best invention after sliced bread or was it before sliced bread! Everyone’s allowed one trivial memory!

From a non family perspective the greatest event I ever witnessed was Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. It was a school day and I was in a small high school in Brisbane. Due to the significance of the event, we were all herded into the science lab to watch the television. We stood there for what seemed like hours (thankfully it was winter) but it is still incredible to think we were watching it live on television.

I had always been fascinated by astronomy and outer space and I used to watch all those early B&W space movies and so on. My first real love was William Shatner aka Captain Kirk from the Starship Enterprise – none of the other spin offs have captured my attention as much as the original series did.

If I was to come closer to the present, one would have to say things like my first computer and then laptop, the joy of email, the internet not to mention mobile phones and all the other gadgets that we can no longer seem to live without. My generation has certainly seen a lot of technological change in our everyday lives. I am left wondering what my Gen Y son would say to the same question.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 7 Toys

February 20th, 2011

I’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

This week’s topic is all about what was your favourite childhood toy. I was always a bit of a tomboy so even though I was given the obligatory Barbie doll when she came out in 1959 (I’m a few years older than Barbie and I have great trouble accepting that Barbie is now a 50+ woman), I don’t think I ever really played with dolls.  I was more likely to be found swimming down the creek or fishing and yabbying.

Living in Brisbane it was usually hot and humid and in the days before water restrictions, we used to have a canvas pool with a steel frame (about 6ft x 4ft and maybe 18 inches deep) – I’d put that into metric but that is still one of the things I’ve never really mastered. It was really just big enough for me and my younger brother to splash around in with the family dog on a hot summer’s day.

We also had a ‘Cowboy and Indian’ tent which gave us endless hours of fun with our toy guns and bows and arrows. Yet when my own son was little I wouldn’t let him have guns or other weapons – how the world changed. But in my own defence, I did use to take him down to the Brisbane River and we would chase and sometimes even catch the fiddler crabs in the mudflats (catch and release was my motto even then).

I also used to spend hours in this makeshift bird hide I constructed on the back verandah so that I could watch all the various birds in the bush behind us. It was just old blankets and sheets but I felt that the birds couldn’t see me.

Probably the main reason I didn’t have that many toys to play with is because I was actually a reader and most people gave me books as presents rather than toys. I’m still a reader and there are probably enough books in my current house to set up my own library – every time I move it’s a nightmare and I often end up giving friends books I know they would like and the Salvos get the rest.

I think my interests in life were set in those early years (although it took me over two decades to realise it) but my favourite books were Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series. I’ve always loved solving mysteries – is that why I got into genealogy – and I have always loved criminal detective books and TV shows. I can’t get enough of them or genealogy for that matter – is it all Enid Blyton’s fault??

Well this was supposed to be about childhood toys, but toys could be loosely defined as anything that you spend time doing which is why I have included some of my other childhood activities. The question I am left with is – how many other genealogists read The Famous Five while growing up?

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 5 – Food

February 11th, 2011

I’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

Surprisingly this has been a difficult blog to write as I have been unable to pick a central theme. I like all foods and cooking styles but if I focus back to my primary school years I would have to say that I always liked Friday nights. That was fish and chip night and unwrapping the newspaper and letting out all those wonderful smells is an enduring memory. I can’t remember it from my teenage years so we obviously stopped the tradition at some point but I don’t know why.

Perhaps the only memory of food and my maternal grandmother is the coconut ice cream she used to make – she must have cooked other things but I can’t recall anything. Sadly no one has a copy of her exact recipe. She died when I was 7 years old but I do remember that she was the catalyst for all Mum’s siblings getting together on a regular basis. A feature of those nights was Sao biscuits with tomato and cheese and still a favourite with me today. Although I like to put raw onion on them too! After my grandmother’s death, these nights gradually ceased as everyone got caught up in their own individual lives.

My father always liked to BBQ, cooking outdoors whenever he could and this is a tradition that I still retain – we cook outside most nights of the week and breakfast at the weekend is always bacon and eggs on the barbie. He was also a keen fisherman and always cooked his own fish and crabs – something that we still do when we get the time to go fishing. My son also likes his BBQs and fishing so perhaps that is a family trait that we have developed.

These days my eating habits are very much Asian with a love of Indian, Thai and Malaysian curries – my partner lived in Malaysia for 3 years so his curries are very much authentic and probably a good thing that we both love spicy curries. A trip to Vietnam is now planned as we have become addicted to Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam cooking show on SBS.  We love the way he uses fresh chillies and makes it all look so simple.

As I said at the start, this Food challenge is difficult as so much of our lives is spent eating with friends and family and as such, there are so many memories attached to thoughts of food. It would be good to ask this question at the next family gathering and see what others remember.

Looking forward to Week 6 – it is really good trying to remember childhood memories. I think I am getting better at it!

GenealogyWise Update

February 11th, 2011

I am a member of GenealogyWise and also a member of the Australian Genealogists group which is administered by Geniaus, a well known Australian blogger and tweeter. There are just over 300 members of this group (a lot more in the whole of GenealogyWise) who help each other with queries, post events, announcements and so on. If you haven’t had a look, now is a good time to see what you are missing!

Below is a press release outlining the change of management at GenealogyWise which also gives a bit more information on it and new owner the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

National Institute for Genealogical Studies Announces Acquisition of GenealogyWise

(Toronto, February 7, 2011) Louise St. Denis, Managing Director of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, has announced that the Institute has acquired the website, GenealogyWise <>. The Genealogy Community Director of GenealogyWise, Gena Philibert Ortega, has also officially joined the Institute. She can be reached at <>.

“I would say that GenealogyWise is a great fit with the National Institute’s goals. GenealogyWise is a place to connect with new found cousins, share resources, and learn more about genealogy. As part of the National Institute, GenealogyWise members will benefit from the opportunities that the National Institute provides,” said Gena.

GenealogyWise is the social network for genealogists. This is the place to network with other researchers, and make discoveries about your family history.

You can join or create surname, locality, or topic groups. The Group feature allows you to collaborate, share, and ask questions of other members.

You can also join the Chat Room for a quick question about research, a chat with fellow genealogists, or attend one of our educational presentations. As well, you can post a blog entry or a forum question from the GenealogyWise homepage. This is a great way to share your knowledge on a genealogy topic or to ask a question.

To date, there are over 23,000 members online.

A new feature will be added – the Live Meeting. GenealogyWise members will be able to access Live Meetings onsite, and this will open up more education opportunities to members that the Institute has to offer.

For the month of March, the Institute is offering a number of US courses as well as courses on Methodology, Electronic Records, and in Analysis and Skill Mentioning.

To read a detailed description about a specific course, please go to our website at <>, click on the menu item “COURSES”, and click on “COURSES” again. Then click on “ALPHABETICAL LISTING” to make searching through over 60 courses given in March a little easier!

And to learn more about our instructors, please go to our site at <>, click on menu item “INSTITUTE”, then click on “FACULTY”, and click again on the instructor’s name.

If you need more information, please call us toll-free in North America at 1-800-580-0165, or send us a message at <>.

You can enroll in these or other courses by simply going to the Institute’s website at <>, choosing the ones which interest you, and registering online.


About The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

About the National Institute for Genealogical Studies: The Institute now offers over 150 courses in genealogical studies, including courses in the records of Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Germany, and the United States.

If you are looking for a more formal educational training, the Institute offers—in affiliation with the Continuing Education Unit of the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto—Certificate Programs in the records of Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Germany, and the United States, as well as a Librarianship Certificate.

Louise St. Denis

Managing Director

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies



Toll-free in North America – 1.800.580.0165

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 6 – Radio & Television

February 11th, 2011

I’m participating in the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history challenge.

This week’s topic is all about our favourite radio or television show when we were kids. I remember loving Romper Room and each time I waited for Miss Betty to say my name at the end of the program but it was always the more regular kind of kid’s names. There weren’t that many Shauna’s in the late 50s early 60s in Australia so although I watched Romper Room, my memories are more of disappointment and wanting to be like the other kids. My surname was Norwegian and having an Irish given name was an odd combination that no one could pronounce or spell!

My happier memories of television are because we lived just down the road from the television studios in Brisbane. Our parents used to drop us off there, along with the neighbour’s kids, every Saturday and we used to be part of the audience for the local children’s shows on Channels 7, 9 and 10. We used to pick a different station each week. I can honestly say I remember Kerri-Anne Kennerley when she was young, along with Jacki MacDonald and a host of other local Brisbane TV presenters of the 60s.

If it was your birthday you got selected to participate in some of the sessions and both my brother and I were in special segments at various times, even our dog Scamp was on the pets session. I remember winning a game by Professor Julius Sumner Miller and they gave it to me because they said I looked the brainy type! Wish I still had the game but can’t remember what happened to it. Probably disposed of after I left home.

I even remember my little brother’s 5 minutes of fame – he went on the tell a joke segment and Beanpole asked him what was his joke. My brother said ‘Why was the sand wet?’ and the answer was ‘because the sea weed’. I can still remember the whole audience laughing and Beanpole asking can we say that on live television – how times have changed. It is still the only joke that I can remember.

I wonder if that television footage is somewhere in the studio archives – it would be really great to see ourselves again as young children. Although without dates I suspect it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack even if it has survived.

A few years back now I took my son to be in the audience of Gladiators when it was filmed in Brisbane. He loved the show and being in the audience was just so much better and more exciting. You also experience the energy and enthusiasm of those sitting around you.

There are a few shows filmed here in Melbourne – I must try and get into an audience again. It is definitely more fun being part of the show than just watching at home and if you can catch a glimpse of yourself on TV,even better!

Those Places Thursday – Discovering Pitton & Farley, Wiltshire, England

February 3rd, 2011

This is my contribution to the blogging theme Those Places Thursday and I have selected one of my English parishes as I am also interested in One Place Studies.

My great grandfather Herbert William White was born in Farley, Wiltshire in 1864 and I have been researching the family since 1977. Many others are also linked into the White family as the family stayed in the same parish for generations.

As an Australian it is not that easy to visit our ancestral places but today, thanks to the Internet, it is a lot easier to learn about these places. A Google search on a place name can bring up a whole range of interesting sites.

I like to start with Wikipedia for an overview of a place. I was disappointed to see that Pitton & Farley did not have a dedicated article except for a page in Dutch which Google happily translated for me. This is basically a map showing location and basic information and statistics.

My next choice was the official Pitton & Farley site and there is lots of information and photographs although it is primarily a current site advertising what is happening and so on. It would be great if I was planning a visit and wanted to know what was coming up and things to do while there. However, there is a great section on Churches including All Saints Church and it’s history is given (built 1690) with recent photographs which are wonderful to see. My White family had a long connection with the Church as Herbert’s father Robert White was a Clerk of the Parish as was his father, also named Robert, a Clerk of the Parish.

The next website I like to explore when learning about an ancestral place in the UK is GENUKI and there is an entry for Pitton and Farley. This gives me basic information and links to Church Records and Gazetteers. For example, I learnt that in 1831 Farley had a population of 254 and in 1951 the combined population of Pitton and Farley was 452. Pitton is only one mile north of Farley and both are only about three miles north east of Salisbury.

To me here in Australia this sounds like a very tiny area as the suburb I live in is probably twice as big but then distances are much greater in this country than the UK. When I eventually get to visit Pitton and Farley (hopefully in the not too distant future) I will have to remember that I probably can’t just walk around it like I do here in my own suburb. The photos of snow blanketing everything is one giveaway that it may not be possible!

If I do a Google images search I can find lots of photographs and could spend hours looking at them all (882 results just on Pitton and Farley). There are all different types of maps as well. However, one can’t go past a live Google Earth tour of the streets of Pitton and Farley. It is just like driving around but you can’t get out of the car and explore further.

I also searched the National Library of Australia (NLA) online catalogue for references to any books or other resources on Pitton and Farley and if I log in, it will even tell me if the books are in my own local library or the State Library of Victoria. If not, I can always see if the books are available through inter library loan. A quick glance through the many titles tells me that I would be interested in quite a few of the titles.

One of the great things about the NLA catalogue is that it also links to online resources so by simply clicking on the link to The Visitation of Wiltshire 1565 (for example) it takes me directly to the book and I can search online myself. By entering the surname White it quickly highlights where all the White references are in the text and by hovering over the markers, I can view the text easily. Once I finish this blog, I will also be checking out the Visitation of  Wiltshire 1623.

In the process of writing this blog, I have accumulated quite a bit of information on the history of Pitton and Farley as well as seen maps and photographs and explored a 16th century publication. All of this while sitting at my laptop at home. Exploring your ancestral places can be quite easy but be prepared to spend several hours, or more, because it is truly fascinating!

Waitangi Day – A New Zealand Connection

February 2nd, 2011

This is my contribution to the Waitangi Day Blog Challenge – Your Earliest Known New Zealand Ancestor. While most of my ancestors were Australian based, I do have New Zealand connections like many other Australian families. In a lot of cases this is a mining connection with many people crossing the Tasman in search of their fortunes.

My son’s gg grandfather John Barrow Atkinson went to New Zealand first before being attracted to the gold fields of Gympie in Queensland. I couldn’t find his arrival in the immigration indexes at Queensland State Archives so I suspected that he had arrived elsewhere. Similar searches of indexes in other States was also unsuccessful but initially I did not suspect New Zealand.

The breakthrough came because John Barrow Atkinson ended up a very successful miner, mine manager, entrepreneur and philanthropist with 8 children who all continued to live in the Gympie area. He was featured, along with other Gympie personalities, in The Queenslander, on 27 March 1897 – there was even a photograph of JB!

The article gave an account of his life starting with his birth in 1845 at Calthouse in Lancashire and his various jobs including working at the Barrow Railroad Company and the Barrow Ironworks. In September 1867 he left for the West Coast of New Zealand to try his hand at mining. His first miner’s right for the goldfield of Waimea was issued on 20 January 1868 in the district of Canterbury on the South Island of New Zealand. His youngest son Clyde inherited the New Zealand miner’s right certificate issued to JB Atkinsonon in 1868 and it is a treasured family possession.

However, in 1868 Gympie was being seen as the new El Dorado and many New Zealand miners were moving to Queensland to try out the new mining field. John was persuaded to go too and he reached the Yarrell Station field, 60 miles north of Gayndah in April 1868 but it was a ‘duffer’. He then moved on to the Two Mile at Gympie where he was very successful.

John Barrow Atkinson was probably only in New Zealand for a matter of months but he still left a record of his visit. We are lucky in that we have John’s own account of his movements on the mining fields through the newspaper interview and that he kept his first ever miner’s right. Without those two pieces of evidence, I might have had a hard time proving that John had spent time in New Zealand.

This is true of a lot of miners who spent time on both sides of the Tasman. Suddenly they disappear from one area and you then find them in another. A lot of times there is no official documentation surviving to prove/disprove their wanderings. I hope to do some research on John Barrow Atkinson in New Zealand at some time in the future and at least visit Waimea to see what it is like today.

I have other New Zealand connections but I will save them for the next blogging theme! Thanks for the opportunity to participate.