Archive for June, 2011

The 2011 Shoalhaven Family, Local and Cultural History Fair

June 20th, 2011

Given that we live in Melbourne, readers may be wondering why we would drive all the way up to Nowra for this event. Well as the organisers know, we have relatives in Ulladulla (just down the road) and in previous years we have made the trip to coincide with a visit to them. It was easier when we lived in Canberra, and on the return trip this time we stayed the night in Canberra. Waking up to minus five degrees, and a layer of ice on the car, reminded us of why we left Canberra!

Driving into Nowra it was hard to miss the many banners advertising the Shoalhaven Family, Local and Cultural History Fair and it was really good to see the organising committee on the front page of the local newspaper, The Shoalhaven and Nowra News under the banner Unlock Your Past. Local support for the two day annual Fair is strong and probably explains its success each year. The Shoalhaven School of Arts is the venue with exhibitors inside the old building and a separate building used for the talks.

There were 23 exhibitors listed on the website (and a few more at the Fair) and while quite a few represented local societies, a number were also commercial businesses and book sellers. The rollup was as follows:

Berry & District Historical Society

Nowra Historical Society

Shoalhaven Family History Society

Bolong Union Church Heritage Group

Milton Ulladulla  Historical Society

Milton Ulladulla Family History Society

Shoalhaven City Library

Lady Denman Museum

Southern Sons of Cornwall

Nepean Family History Society

Joy Murrin Family History Services

Society of Australian Genealogists

State Records NSW

Tea Pot Genealogy

Kim Phillips – Spirits of Gallipoli


Turtle Consolidated Services

Marilyn Rowan Transcriptions

Inside History

Irish Wattle

Kiama Family History Centre

Shauna Hicks History Enterprises and Unlock the Past

Berrima & District Historical & Family History Society

Creative Memories (scrap booking)

When people weren’t asking exhibitors questions, or buying books and genealogy magazines, they were attending lectures. On Friday there were three talks – myself on Google Your Family Tree: Tips and Tricks (copy online on my Resources page, scroll down), Lindsay Allen from State Records NSW talking about Online SRNSW Records and Pat Ryan talking on The Farmers From Greenwell Point to Nowra.

Saturday’s talks included Alan Murrin on Researching Your Family History in the UK from Australia, Kim Phillips on The Men of Gallipoli, Paul Parton on FamilySearch: Tools for the Enthusiast and Megan Gibson on Who Do You Think You Are Research.

I tried to resist the temptation to buy books but I couldn’t especially when I managed to find a couple of second hand mining books on Moonta and Gympie, two places my mining ancestors lived. I also picked up a very nice badge from the Southern Sons of Cornwall stating ‘Cornish by Descent’.

It was also an opportunity to give Kim Phillips some of our family information on Tasman Jarvis for her Spirits of Gallipoli website. We had been in email contact and exchanging information but it is always much nicer talking in person.

Another nice feature of the Fair was the provision onsite of scones, soup and a roll, sandwiches etc with a couple of sit down areas at the front of the building. A busy team of people kept the supply and sales up to the hungry hordes. The venue was also quite close to the main street with cafes for those wanting something more substantial.

It’s hard to know how many people attended as it was free entry but most exhibitors were kept busy although it went a  bit quiet when the talks were on. For me the networking opportunities and the chance to catch up in person with email and Twitter friends is a real attraction plus I am always inspired to further my own family research when I see what others have done. There is always something new and I have yet to attend any event where I haven’t gone away with at least half dozen new things to do. My thanks to the organising committee for yet another great Fair.

NSW History & Genealogy Expo, Coffs Harbour Day 2

June 5th, 2011

Day 2 of the Unlock the Past Northern NSW history and genealogy at Coffs Harbour expo was another great day.

One of the reasons I have particularly enjoyed this expo is the great venue (the C-ex Coffs Services Club) – there was a bar area near both theatres selling reasonably priced sandwiches, cups of soup, tea, coffee, cakes and muffins which were all delicious. Even better, there was a breakout area with tables and chairs where you could sit and talk. Those who wanted to bring their own lunches could which was ok if you were a local.

I also liked the theatre areas and there was a lapel microphone which made it easy for everyone to hear and for the speaker to move away from the lectern and use their hands. I am always disappointed when speakers choose to not use a microphone and I am sure that I am not the only hearing impaired person in the audience.

The first session was a choice between Kerry Farmer talking about Which Genealogy Program (which I had heard before) and Jenny Higgins talking about the National Library of Australia. While I have also heard Jenny’s talk before it is always a good idea to catch up with what’s new at the Library. Unfortunately for me (and perhaps others in the audience) Jenny doesn’t like to use a microphone and I miss so much of what she says, often just left watching the slides which is a shame. However, Alan did ask her to use the microphone and she did.

The next session was Rosemary Kopittke talking about which I have heard a few times as a regular expo presenter so I went to Carol Liston‘s excellent Finding the Address Isn’t Good Enough: The Links Between Local and Family History. I wish I could listen to this talk again as Carol made many good points, all just common sense but it was how she linked it together that made it the stand out presentation of the expo for me.

Next was Leigh Summers talking about regional museums including the Coffs Harbour Museum & Gallery which I would have like to go to but instead went to Nola Mackey‘s talk on Regional Newspapers: Their Value to Local and Family History. I often think researchers don’t make enough use of newspapers but this may be changing due to easier access and searching via digitisation rather than the old wading through microfilms. Nola gave some really good examples of what newspapers can tell us and not just the usual births, deaths and marriages.

The final session before lunch was Noeline Kyle talking about Researching the Lives of Women Ancestors in 2011 and I really wanted to go to this but I had to give a session on Caring For Your Family History Archives. Whenever I give this talk I have lots of people coming up afterwards telling me their hadn’t thought about some of the points I raise in the talk. The idea of our own death is not something we like to think about but like making a will, we should also be thinking about what happens to all our precious research, family heirlooms, photos etc when we are no longer around to safeguard them. Quite a few people also bought my little book on the subject which was good to see.

For lunch I couldn’t go past that excellent pumpkin soup and bread roll again.

After lunch there was a plenary session with Mark Cryle doing Bound for Botany Bay: the Irish in Australia in Story and Song and as the title suggests Mark gave a brief history of the Irish up to Ned Kelly, including famous incidents such as the Castle Hill rebellion and the Eureka Stockade. It appeared he had far too much material for the time allotted and I always wonder what I am missing when people skip over pages. Mark had some great slides to illustrate the various points in his story and the songs every so often made the 45 minutes go very quickly. This was a departure from usual talks at expos but the audience seemed to really enjoy the session. I left hoping that Unlock the Past doesn’t start asking me to sing in my talks!!

Next was a choice between Paul Parton talking on FamilySearch which I had heard previously or Eric Kopittke talking on Locating German Ancestors Place of Origin. I always enjoy Eric’s talks and I left determined to find some German families that have puzzled me for a while. I also was struck by the similarities between looking for German place names and Irish townlands – the strategy is the same, try and get as many examples of the name and variant spellings, check gazetteers and so on.

The next session was where I really wanted to go to Helen Smith‘s Breaking Down Genealogy Brick Walls but instead I had to go to my own session on It’s Not All Online: Where Else Can I Look? There is a handout of this talk on my website (see under 2010 November Roadshow) plus I have a new book on the subject finished just in time for the expo but not yet up on the website but should be there soon. Helen gave out a paper handout of her slides so I could at least see the points she was discussing.

The final session of the expo was Rosemary Kopittke exploring Scotlands People which I had heard at a previous expo. I spent the time in Expert Sessions with individual attendees.

During the day I also managed to get around and look at all the various displays again and I am proud to say that I did not buy one book although severely tempted several times. If we are going to pack up and move in the next year I really do have to stop buying books. See my Day 1 blog for a list of the exhibitors and you will understand my temptations.

I would like to especially mention the ladies from the Inverell Family History Group as they are the hosts for the next NSW & ACT Family History Organisations 2011 conference. They have a great program organised and we are still trying to decide if we can make the trip in September.

After having another look round Coffs Harbour today we are heading down to Port Macquarie to see if it meets our retirement needs then back to Ballina and the flight home to Melbourne. We are there for one day then off to Bairnsdale where I am giving a talk to the East Gippsland Family History Group before heading to the Shoalhaven Family, Local and Cultural History Fair. Another potential retirement spot but at least we are now down to the Top 5!

Is it possible to do too much genealogy? I hope not because I am having a really good time travelling around learning from others and also sharing my own knowledge with attendees.

Thanks to Unlock the Past, all the exhibitors and speakers for another really good expo. Now to follow up some of those new clues!

NSW History & Genealogy Expo, Coffs Harbour Day 1

June 4th, 2011

The doors opened at 9.00am on 3 June for the first day of the Unlock the Past history and genealogy expo in beautiful Coffs Harbour. I can’t believe it is so warm here for winter. We have been checking it out as a possible retirement spot next year. It’s in our top 5 spots!

By 9.30am there were lots of people checking out the various exhibitors which included:
Archive Digital Books Australasia
Clean Cruising
Coffs Harbour City Library
Coffs Harbour District Family History Society
Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery & Museum
Family Photo Book
Genes Reunited
Gould Genealogy & History
Guild of One Name Studies
Heritage Path
Inside History Magazine
Inverell District Family History Group
Irish Wattle
Kerry Farmer/Carole Riley
National Institute for Genealogical Studies
National Library of Australia
Nepean Family History Society
Noeline Kyle’s Writing Family History
Openbook Howden Design & Print
Royal Australian Historical Society
Dr Mark St Leon (circus historian)
Scotlands People
Shauna Hicks History Enterprises
Society of Australian Genealogists
State Records NSW
University of New England & Regional Archives
Unlock the Past

A number of genealogy software programs were also demonstrated including Family Historian and The Master Genealogist. I will write more about the exhibits in Day 2.

Now for the more interesting part of the day (at least for me) – the speakers and their topics. There were two streams as usual which meant some serious decision making. The first session was a choice between Dr Leigh Summers talking on When Widows and Brides Wore Black and the Regional Libraries talking about what they offer researchers. Leigh’s topic intrigued me so I went to that session. Leigh had some great photos to illustrate her points on everything from coffins, hearses, clothes and jewellery although mostly the more well to do. I can’t see any of my ancestors like that but still really interesting to learn about mourning customs in late 19th century.

Sadly I didn’t get to see the end as a local NBN news crew arrived and I was asked to do a TV interview for the news. That was fun but I never really like seeing myself on camera. Reporters ask lots of questions in a short space of time and then it all gets edited down into a short news story. It seems quite a few people who know me sure the interview, so there’s my not quite 5 minutes of fame.

The next session was no real choice as I was presenting a talk on Asylums: Looking for the Sick, the Poor & the Aged but I would have liked to go to Carole Riley‘s session on Social Media. I’ve heard Carole before but it is such a large topic and changes so quickly there is also something to learn. I will just have to content myself with rereading her book on Social Media for Family Historians.

I then went to Melanie Oppenheimer’s talk on Soldier Settlement in NSW 1916-1939 which was based on an ongoing project to learn more about this scheme. I had a basic knowledge of the scheme in Queensland and Victoria and NSW was basically the same – they put soldiers on the land with little or no support and then wondered why it all didn’t work. So it is good to see this project and I look forward to hearing more as it progresses. Melanie also had great photos to illustrate her points.

I had to miss Heather Garnsey’s talk on the treasures of the Society of Australian Genealogists but I had heard it before. Like Carole’s talk, this is one that you can listen to more than once because Heather talks about so many great records held by the Society for family history research.

For the last session before lunch I had put my hand up for Expert Sessions but due to a mix up in times, that didn’t quite happen. However, a few people seeing I was at a bit of a loose end, asked me questions anyway. The two sessions I missed were Rosemary Kopittke talking about and Alan Phillips and Jacqui Haraldstad talking about 1942: War Comes to Australia.

Lunch was a really good pumpkin soup with a fresh bread roll. Another thing I will have to learn to master – good pumpkin soup, mine is always too thin!!

Bill Oates talking about the University of New England Regional Archives was my next session and they have some wonderful resources for anyone researching families in this area. Again some great photos – in fact I could probably sit and look at photos all day and never get bored. Paul Parton on FamilySearch was the other choice in this session and I had heard Paul previously.

Noelene Kyle was next with Writing Family History and I have known Noelene since our Brisbane days. Her talks on writing are still interesting with lots of great tips on getting started and just doing it, no waiting until the research is finished!! She has a new book out today so I am looking forward to seeing it. I missed the session on the local family history societies which is a shame as I always like to see what services they offer and what’s in their libraries.

In the next session I gave my Google Your Family Tree: Tips & Tricks where I broaden attendees view of Google and what you can do with it for genealogy. It’s a lot of new concepts to some which is why I have put the Google talk on my website so they can go home and view the slides all over again but without my commentary.

However I had to miss my good friend Christine Yeats from State Records NSW talking on Back alleys and research byways: Tips and tactics for chasing elusive ancestors in the NSW State archives. Chris always does great talks with lots of new information so that was a disappointment.

The final sessions for the day were Rosemary Kopittke on Connecting With Family Lines Online which I had heard before and Kerry Farmer talking on DNA for Genealogists which is a talk I have been wanting to hear for some time. Parts of Kerry’s talk I grasped and at times I felt I will never understand this DNA business. The good news is that her book on the topic is now published so today I will buy it and all will become clear! Just noticed it is not yet listed in the Unlock the Past publications area of Gould Genealogy & History but keep a watch for it!

We were meant to have dinner with other UTP speakers but Christine and I had a good catch up and drinks with Carol Liston and we missed the general dinner. We ended up going in for dinner as the others were leaving – still it was good to chat about wide ranging issues in the archival world.

I was going to finish this blog last night but I was too tired by the time I got back to the motel. Hence the 5.00am start to finish this morning. Now to get ready and go to Day 2 of what is shaping up to be another interesting and successful history and genealogy expo.