Archive for July, 2011

SA & Victorian Border Genealogy Expo review

July 24th, 2011

Well I have arrived back home after attending the Unlock the Past SA & Victorian Border history and genealogy expo at Mount Gambier. As usual I have a notebook bulging with new ideas and a list of things I want to follow up.

There were over 40 exhibitors and the talks didn’t start till an hour after the doors opened at 9am so that gave people a chance to have a quick look round. As there were so many I won’t list them all here but you can see the list of exhibitors on the Unlock the Past website. I took the opportunity to talk to Paul from FamilySearch, Vicki from Genes Reunited, FindMyPast UK & Australasia & Scotland’s People (and I thought I wear a number of hats!), David from Openbook Howden, Anthea from Gould Genealogy, my friends from the Mount Gambier History Group and Susie and co from the Genealogical Society of Victoria.

There were some great exhibits from local history and community groups with lots of photographs and memorabilia. The Mount Gambier Public Library was also there and good to see they got the opportunity to attend lectures as well.

As usual with Unlock the Past expos, there are two streams of talks on each day and while most incur a small fee, some are also free. I missed the first sessions as the local TV crew came to do some filming and an interview, but sadly didn’t end up making it onto the news. However, it is always exciting to see them at least take the time to come and find out what it is all about.

The Friday sessions I attended included two sessions given by Graham Jaunay on Identifying & Dating Old Photographs and SA’s Major Archives for Family Historians (both the subject of his two latest books); and Andrew Kilsby on Our Early Citizen Soldiers: Volunteers and Militia Prior to the First World War. I gave my talks on Asylums and Google.

The Saturday sessions I attended included Tracing English Ancestors by Kerry Farmer, Australia’s ANZAC Heritage by Neil Smith and South Australian and Victoria in War: the Story of the 9th Light Horse & the Men From the Region Who Served by Andrew Kilsby. I again gave two talks – on TROVE and It’s Not All Online (the title of one of my books).

I missed some sessions as I was answering queries and questions or simply chatting with some of the attendees. The full program is on the Unlock the Past website.

On Friday night there was a special musical presentation Songs of the South Coast by Brenton Manser and The Vanguard which followed a dinner held at the venue. I found some of the slides behind the singers very evocative especially the shipwreck and war scenes.

It was great that the school canteen was open and catering for the expo. This allowed attendees to have morning and afternoon teas and lunch on site in a warm environment with tables and chairs – sheer bliss and there is nothing like country catering! This also allowed for informal networking and getting to know new people.

Overall the venue was quite good although trying to heat the gymnasium was a struggle on such cold days. I had a few issues with the main lecture room – during 3 of my 4 talks the screen turned off and we had to take a few minutes to get back on track (school standby programs came into play) and during the last talk I had an annoying feedback from the microphone. All little technical problems but nothing major.

Two of the speakers I listened to chose not to use the microphone which always annoys me as I struggle to hear. Even turning up my hearing aids meant that I was only hearing part of what they were saying and when they turned to look at the screen and continued talking it was almost impossible to hear them. However, on the plus side both of those speakers did very detailed slides of what they were saying so I could follow more from just reading the slides. Still, I do think speakers should ask the audience if they can hear rather than simply choosing to ignore a microphone.

Now that I have had my little whinge, the speaker of the Expo for me was Kerry Farmer who only had 30 minutes to deliver a lecture on English research. She managed to include more websites than I had thought possible in that time frame so well done Kerry. Due to the two streams, I missed all of the talks by Carole Riley, Susie Zada and Rosemary Kopittke – all regular UTP speakers.

Overall I thought it was a good expo in a good venue with catering onsite and when there were technical difficulties, someone was there to help out. I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more people from local areas as it is not often that you get so many good speakers in a regional area. Still it was good to see the local support from community and history groups and the backing of the local Library. Thanks to Alan Phillips and staff for all the organising that went on behind the scenes.

The next Unlock the Past history and genealogy expo is a Victorian Expo in Geelong on 2-3 September 2011. I hope to see you there!

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 28 Summer

July 15th, 2011

I’m participating in the weekly blogging theme 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History and this week’s topic is all about Summer  and what it was like when I was growing up. This is very much related to last week’s topic on Vacations as we always had our annual holiday in summer.

As I have written in other blogs, I really only became aware of the seasons once I left Brisbane and moved south where the seasons are much more obvious. Now when I think of summer in Queensland perhaps the most vivid memory is the summer storm which could spring up quickly. Dark clouds, loud thunder so much so that the house shook, unbelievable lightning and incredibly heavy rain, if not hailstones.

I have yet to experience that kind of storm in either Canberra or Melbourne. Yes they get thunderstorms, lightning, heavy rain and hail but not like some of the storms I have experienced in Brisbane. We have been in Melbourne (actually west of Melbourne) since 2003 and it has been mostly drought conditions although this year we have seen more rain than previous years. The east side of Melbourne seems to get most of the storm damage but then they seem to have more trees than the west.  It seems to be windier here in Victoria too but perhaps that’s  just another of my perceptions.

I remember one really bad storm in Brisbane – we lived in a semi bush suburb and in those early days you would still see bandicoots and the odd wallaby hopping around. In this particular storm, lightning struck one the big gum trees in our back yard and literally blew it out of the ground. It fell backwards into the bush area behind our place – had if fallen forwards it would have hit the house. At first we thought something had exploded but after the storm we went outside and saw that the tree was uprooted, split in two and burnt.

It was an amazing sight and the closest I have ever been to a lightning strike. I always shudder when I hear people have been struck by lightning as I can still see what it did to that huge gum tree.

Summer is also cyclone season in Queensland and while we lived in the south east corner below where cyclones usually hit, occasionally one would come further south and create havoc with heavy rains, high tides and flooding.

I will indulge myself with one final Summer memory and that is of Christmas beetles. When I was a child it seemed that there were lots of Christmas beetles around but now when I go home for Christmas each year I rarely see them any more. In fact I can’t remember the last time I saw one.

I wonder why – it’s a bit like the soldier crabs I mentioned last week, there were always so many of them, and now they are gone too. How many other living creatures from my childhood are now missing in action? I’m going to have to give that some more thought and when I visit my family next month, I’ll ask them too.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 27 Vacations

July 8th, 2011

Participating in the weekly blogging theme 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History is always a trip down memory lane and this week’s topic of Vacations is no different.

When we were really little our parents used to take us to Maroochydore to holiday with friends who had a house there. This was the early 1960s before anyone used to go to the Sunshine Coast and there were no high rise buildings and very few people. We used to go fishing and crabbing and one of the highlights was chasing all the soldier crabs on the mud flats at low tide. There must have been thousands of them everywhere, every day. On recent visits we haven’t been able to see any, so all the development must have impacted on their natural environment. There was no TV in the house and at night we went to bed early, worn out with all the physical activity.

When we  were a little older we started to go to the Gold Coast instead as Mum had three sisters who all moved there in the mid to late 1960s. I remember spending several Christmas holidays with one of my aunts and her family in a tent at the Kirra camping grounds – it’s not there any more either. That area was heavily eroded following a cyclone and over the years the camping ground got smaller and smaller with further erosion from high tides and storms until it closed. That aunt bought a house at Miami, another aunt was at Palm Beach and the third aunt at Southport with her daughter’s family.

In 1969 we threw away the tent and bought a caravan which seemed very luxurious after the very small tent. We left it permanently at a caravan park in Miami to be near to Mum’s closest sister. However, in a hail storm the caravan was not a good place to be, neither was a tent, but the caravan was ever so much noisier. I remember my brother and I were home alone during one afternoon hail storm and we were both scared but trying not to show it – but it was one of those hail storms with lots of big stones and seemed to last forever. I never liked the strong winds which made the van rock and could be quite scary at night.

My little brother was a nipper (junior life saver) with Burleigh Heads Surf Life Saving Club so we travelled down every weekend during the summer months and of course we spent Easter and Christmas holidays in the caravan park too. We used to go fishing, swimming, and seemed to live on the beach most of the day. With my fair skin I was forever getting sun burnt, and while I haven’t had any skin cancers (yet) my brother has an annual burn off (as he puts it).

Over the years we saw the Gold Coast change into the high rise, multi density city it has become but I haven’t stayed there in years. I still like the beach, walking on the sand, swimming but all the cars, people, buildings have made it very different from the place we knew when we were kids.

We are currently trying to find a retirement place where we can go fishing and crabbing, walk along the beach, see the native birds and other wildlife without too much traffic, people and high rise buildings. It’s getting harder and harder to find what a lot of us enjoyed when we  were growing up. But then on the other hand, I suspect today’s generations with all their technology might find that kind of vacation a bit too quiet. Happily, I have a son and nephew who both enjoy fishing so our family traditions won’t be lost too quickly.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 26 Songs

July 1st, 2011

Due to all my travelling around over the last month or so, I have missed a few weeks of the blogging theme 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History. It is an excellent theme to generate personal memories and to then capture them into a regular blog.

This week’s theme is Songs and the question is what was the No 1 song in the year of your birth. The easiest way to find this out is to look at This Day in Music and while the information is not available (for my year) in Australia, I do know that The Green Door by Jim Lowe was No 1 in the USA and Frankie Laine was singing A Woman In Love in the UK.

Some years ago when I was living in Canberra I visited the National Film and Sound Archive and in their shop I purchased a CD with the music for the year of my birth. Artists popular that year were Gene Vincent with Be Bop A Lula, Dean Martin with Memories Are Made of This, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers with Why Do Fools Fall In Love, Nat King Cole with Too Young To Go Steady and one of my all time favourties Fats Domino singing Blueberry Hill.

There are others on the CD but I won’t bore you by listing them all. Perhaps more amazing is whose not on the CD and that is Elvis Presley. I have always been an Elvis fan and I was led to believe this was because my mother listened to him constantly while pregnant with me (so I was indoctrinated/brainwashed even before I was born – it’s not really my fault).

Heartbreak Hotel did become a No 1 hit in the USA the year I was born, and his first movie Love Me Tender came out in the USA the month I was born but I now doubt whether he was that popular or well known here in Australia during Mum’s pregnancy. Certainly I remember as a small child listening to Love Me Tender (the film album) endlessly so perhaps it is still Mum’s fault that I like Elvis. I can even remember exactly what I was doing when I found out he had died, it’s a bit the same for Princess Diana.

Mum also had Bill Haley & the Comets’ records and other early rock artists so my taste in music (even today) is still very much in the 1950s. As I reached my teens the first album I ever bought for myself was Cosmo’s Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). To this day I still have their records and now CDs and of course everything John Fogerty has produced as a single artist. CCR was one of the first bands I ever saw perform live when they visited Brisbane in the early 70s.

Thinking about that Creedence concert now, it is nearly 40 years ago and that’s a scary thought. There are lots of songs and artists that have made an impact on me over the years but I would have a hard time trying to identify more modern songs and artists. They don’t seem to have the same attraction for me as the music of the 50s to 70s. Do I need to grow up and start living in the modern world of music or is it ok to stay with the decades that gave me most musical pleasure? I’ve always been an independent soul so Elvis has just slipped into the CD drive and I’m off to relive some fond memories!