Archive for March, 2011

Genealogy Cruising – Why I Am A Fan!

March 28th, 2011

Below is my original post – I have now discovered Day 6 and Overview blogs written by Aimee which give her final points on her experiences during the cruise. Max and I found the smoke free side of the ship early on and I don’t think either of us will go close to only gaining .5kg like Aimee!

The other point that I sadly neglected to make in my original post was to thank Alan, Anthea, Alona,  Rosemary and Aimee from UTP and Jacqui from Clean Cruising for all their hard work organising a smooth running program all week. Thanks everyone.

Original post

Well I am just back from my first ever genealogy cruise on P&O’s Pacific Dawn and I could go again tomorrow. The inaugural Unlock The Past (UTP) history and genealogy cruise in conjunction with Clean Cruising was a success from my perspective on a number of fronts.

This is in contrast, however, to the strangely negative view of  UTP staff member Aimee who did daily blogs while on board – see Day 1 Part 1, Day 1 Part 2, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5.

Internet was expensive on board and I was having my annual time out from my laptop and the Internet just to prove to my loved ones that I am not addicted!

Had I accessed the Internet while on board and been aware of the content of Aimee’s daily blogs, I would have challenged her views and done my own blog. I acknowledge that everyone views things differently but I think if UTP does this again, they do need to have a blogger who is actually a genealogist to get a better overview of how the cruise was perceived by the primary attendees. I hope other attendees will blog their opinions as well.

Perhaps my different view is because I am more than twice Aimee’s age and while I probably do fit into her description of genealogists/family historians with a ‘wild, purposeful look in their eyes’, I also have a history background (as Aimee has) and find that the two disciplines can quite nicely complement each other. Even my partner who has neither discipline, found the sessions he attended interesting.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet Twitter and email friends in person and it is also nice to see that a few of my cruise friends are now trying out Twitter.

I had been on two previous cruises (back in 1975 and 1976 – my first ever overseas trips) so the difference this time was simply staggering. It was everything I enjoyed back then and more. Amazing where 36 years can go! The food was great, service was terrific, entertainment was non stop and there was onboard shopping too. Take all of that and add an interesting program of history and genealogy talks plus being able to network on a daily basis with genealogy friends from around Australia and New Zealand, I was constantly having to decide what to do next.

Talks were held in the International Show Room (huge room which left speakers disconnected from the audience I felt), the Dome (easily the most chilly room on the ship and not well designed for easy viewing of the screen) and the Captain’s Lounge (an on board wedding chapel which was my favourite as it was much more intimate with the drawback of only having 50-60 attendees at a time). There were also theme meetings over lunch and dinner, smaller group meetings around the ship and much discussion over breakfast, coffee and cocktails.

The cruise primary program offered a range of speakers and talks and once on board further talks were added as UTP was allocated time in the Captain’s Lounge. The only issue with the latter was the limited number able to attend but the more popular sessions were repeated. I would like to see these additional offerings added to the primary program on the UTP website as a permanent record of what the full program was during the cruise.

Some of the speakers had also been presenters on the November UTP Roadshow and I had heard their talks before so deciding what sessions to attend was a little easier for me but those who hadn’t attended any of the Roadshows it was a tough choice.

I personally enjoyed listening to Cora Num (handouts on her website click on the gopher), Mike Murray, Jeremy Palmer (handouts on his website), Ron Austin, Helen Smith (new book on one of her shipboard talks – UTP publications available from Gould Genealogy), Leigh Summers, Carol Baxter and Jan Gow. I personally didn’t get to many of the Captain’s Lounge talks due to the limited numbers.

My own presentations were well received and I was given feedback over various meal sessions, in the lift, on the innumerable stairs, on deck and even on shore. Two of my presentations are on my website in the Resources area (scroll down to Presentations) – Google Your Family Tree: Tips & Tricks and Online Trends in Family History but unfortunately you wont’ have the additional commentary that accompanied my talks.

Max and  I got a bit of a buzz hearing my public talk on Genealogy on the Cheap being announced on the ship’s TV program and also in the ship’s newsletter. Cora Num was the other presenter who gave a public lecture on Beginning Your Family History.

The three places visited, Noumea, Lifou and Port Vila, were interesting and I was somewhat surprised that there hadn’t been more development over the last 36 years but then perhaps that is a good thing for the island people! I always love travelling to different countries and observing their history and customs. I bought the obligatory fridge magnets to record my travels.

I must also thank Rosemary and Eric Kopittke for coming to our rescue when our digital camera totally filled up (who would have thought Max would take that much footage?). They lent us a USB cable so that we could download the photos and videos to my laptop so that Max could continue his enthusiastic filming of just about every moment!

For those on the ball, yes I did take my laptop on the cruise with me but that was so that I could review my talks before presenting them and I will also admit to doing some data entry into my Legacy program while Max was off on a quad bike ride. Other than that I was computer free!

While I learnt new things from the various presenters, I think it is the personal networking opportunity to discuss research issues with others that was the most valuable part of the cruise. With so many experts on board, even those not presenting, it was easy to refer people to someone who could assist with their questions. The seven days seemed to go remarkably fast and it was all over far too soon.

After disembarking we went back to Mum’s place and in the afternoon, we drove up to Mount Cootha and saw the Pacific Dawn berthed at Hamilton. We arrived just in time to see her depart and watched as she went under the Gateway Bridge. After a quick coffee, we went back up to the lookout area to see her at the mouth of the Brisbane River and sailing out into Moreton Bay. I found myself wishing I was still on board with all my genealogy friends!  Would I do it again – most definitely!


Researching Irish Ancestors

March 17th, 2011

Last year for St Patrick’s Day I wrote a blog Letters Home – My Irish Families (6 Mar 2010). It reunited me with three distant lines of my Jeffers family of Portadown, Ireland which was exciting for all of us. This year my tribute to St Patrick’s Day will be sharing some of my favourite Irish websites and resources.

For anyone who is just starting their family history, I have an article How Do I Start Tracing My Family History: A Brief Introduction which readers might find useful.

One of the hardest things I’ve found in tracing my own Irish ancestors is trying to establish where they actually came from in Ireland. For example, with my gg grandfather Adam Johnston I ended up buying all of his children’s birth certificates so that I could pinpoint where he was from. Listed below is a table showing each child, Adam’s surname and place of birth as listed on each certificate. Note the variations in spelling of each.

James 1865 & Sarah Jane 1867 - Adam Johnston, Co Cavan Ireland

William 1868 – Adam Johnston Coy Cavan Ireland

Margaret 1873 – Adam Johnson, Cavan Ulster Ireland

Margaret 1876 – Ballyborough Cavan Ireland

Elizabeth 1879 & Maria 1882 - Adam Johnston, Kenningstown/Keningstown, County Cavan, Ireland

Adam John 1884 – Adam Johnston, Cavan, Ireland

Adam’s death certificate 1900 had Caragn, Ireland and from his siblings’ certificates I also picked up Knockbride, Cavan. His brothers Thomas, William and James and sister Elizabeth all came out to Queensland as well so sometimes if you can’t find the information on your direct line, it can be worthwhile to follow siblings as well.

From this I knew it was County Cavan, with particular places Ballyborough, Kenningstown/Keningstown and Knockbride. Looking at a map soon revealed that the places were really Bailieborough, Canningstown and Knockbride all close together in County Cavan. But without the evidence from the certificates I might have had a hard time narrowing down a common surname like Johnson/Johnston/Johnstone. Variations in the surname were found on all lines of the family in Queensland.

When I first started looking for my Irish families in 1977, it was very hard with lots of letter writing but with the Internet and Google, it can be a lot easier. More and more records are being indexed and placed online, often for a fee, so I still live in hope that I will be able to progress some of my Irish lines further back.

For example, I know little about my Finn and Fegan families from County Wicklow. John Finn (son of Francis Finn and Rosa Beakey) was born ca 1856 at Ballygannon, County Wicklow and married Sarah Fegan in Rathdrum, Wicklow on 29 May 1879. Sarah (daughter of Robert Fegan and Sarah Kane?) was born ca 1862 at Glasnarget, County Wicklow. They arrived in Queensland, Australia in 1882 with their son Robert Finn born 1880 and another son James Joseph Finn born on board the Mairi Bhan during the voyage. Nothing is known about my Finn family in Ireland apart from these brief facts.

I advertise my research interests and an Australian site is the Online Irish Names Research Directory maintained by Graham Jaunay. He also maintains lists for other countries and I like to advertise widely as you just never know who will see your listing.

Another very useful Australian site is the National Library of Australia and in particular its eResources. This is a free service available to all Australians who register for an eResources card. Of particular interest to those with Irish ancestors is free access at home to the Irish Newspapers Archive via the eResources card. This is the largest online database of Irish newspapers in the world and dates from 1763 to the present including out of print titles. There are too many titles to list here but definitely worth a look.

To assist others I have listed some of my favourite Irish websites. They are listed in no particular order as some may be more relevant to your research than others.

Genuki UK and Ireland Genealogy

National Archives of Ireland

Public Record Office Northern Ireland

National Library of Ireland

Census of Ireland 1901 & 1911 (online free)

Ireland GenWeb Project

Irish Ancestors

Irish Family History Foundation

Irish Roots Cafe

The IreAtlas Townlands Database

Topographical Dictionary of Ireland

Ask About Ireland – Griffiths Valuation (free)

Ireland Genealogy Project & Ireland Genealogy Project Archives

Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) – gateway site to many other Irish sites

I encourage everyone to take the time to explore them as there is lots of advice and research tips on all of them. There are many other websites that can be useful for Irish research but the above are some of the sites I use on a regular basis. If readers have a particular Irish favourite not listed here, please share – who knows one of them might just have my Irish ancestors lurking on them!


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 10 Disasters

March 9th, 2011

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

I’m fortunate that my immediate family have never suffered a big disaster – my mother’s family were continually flooded out when she was young and that is the reason why there are few family photos on her side of the family.

The only small scale disaster I can recall as a child relates to our Christmas camping adventures on the Gold Coast in the 1960s. We used to holiday in a tent, Mum, Dad, me and my younger brother and  it wasn’t that big a tent once you had four beds, a table and chairs in it. There was also a cupboard for foodstuffs which stood against one wall of the tent.

I clearly remember the last time we ever went camping in a tent. It was Christmas, maybe 1967 or 1968 and there was heavy rain and wind from a cyclone which had come too far south that year. We were in Rudd Park, near Goodwin Terrace, Burleigh Heads.

We’d been out some where and had gone back to the tent because it was really raining and very windy from the tail end of what I think was a cyclone. We entered the tent and the cupboard with all the foodstuffs had been knocked over and glass jars and bottles smashed. It was a mess of sauce, honey and whatever else, which we had to start to clean up without getting cut by the glass.

A tent is not a big place in wet weather so tempers were a bit frayed to start with. At some point we noticed that the water was rising around us and the park was flooding, I still have images of the sauce bottle floating in the water. It became obvious that we were going to have to leave and I remember wading out in what was quite deep water but probably wasn’t given that I was still only about 10 or 11 years old.

I remember Dad saying something about we needed to take the tent too and Mum saying that the tent could stay there as she was never ever camping in a tent again. They bought a caravan in 1969 which is why I think this was 1967 or 1968. No doubt a search of newspapers will help me pin down the year.

By the way, I have never been in a tent since either. I don’t mind staying in caravans or cabins in caravan parks but I can’t bring myself to try a tent again.

Anyway that was my only personal experience of storm flooding and is quite minor when compared to what others have experienced in Queensland over the years.

The 1974 Brisbane flood had a tremendous impact on many people and it had a minor impact on me as I was due to start my first full time job in January 1974 in Albert Street in the CBD, down the river end. I spent the weekend in great excitement but as the rain came down, and the river rose, and the city submerged I knew I wasn’t going to be starting work that week. They rang and told me that given the building was underwater, they were delaying my start until it was safe.

I think it was about a week later they rang and said it was ok to turn up for work. Going into the building that first day it was hard to believe that it had been under water and anyone who hasn’t seen Brisbane in flood conditions must wonder how the city can become so submerged. The 2011 flood brought all these memories back as where my son now works also went under water and he had to have a few days off while the building was made clean and safe again.

As I said at the beginning I have been lucky (so far) with disasters but even small scale events can still leave lingering memories and destroy personal collections. Backup everything is probably a saying that we should repeat almost on a daily basis.


52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 9 Sounds

March 4th, 2011

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

This week’s challenge is to describe sounds that take you back to your childhood. This one stumped me for a while as I couldn’t really think of any sounds that opened up memories. In fact I still only have one memory that I can write about.

I now live on the outskirts of Melbourne and there is not a lot of bush around us anymore. I don’t really hear too many bird noises out here – we do have some magpies, pigeons, sparrows, blackbirds and Indian mynas – but not the bird sounds of my childhood. In an earlier post I described how we had the bush behind us in Brisbane and how we use to feed the laughing kookaburras.

If there is one sound that triggers memories of growing up it is the sound of a kookaburra laughing. We used to hear them all the time, they seemed to be everywhere. It is one of the things I really like about visiting Brisbane and Mum still lives near a creek with the bush only a five minute walk down the street.

Whenever I am home we go for a morning walk along the creek and see all the birds, even scrub turkeys, the odd snake, lots of lizards, tortoises and most mornings we can hear at least one kookaburra laughing. As I watch the kids walk home from the school near me, I wonder how many of them have even seen a kookaburra let alone heard it laugh.

It is such an iconic Australian bird to me, and so closely tied to those childhood memories of feeding them, worrying about them in the storms, the hail and the wind. I have just done a Google search on ‘kookaburras’ and there are YouTube videos of laughing kookaburras, and an entry in Wikipedia and so on. Obviously I am not alone in my love and respect for this ’sound’ from my childhood!


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