Archive for February, 2012

Darwin Family History Seminar

February 29th, 2012

While up in Darwin for the War Comes to Australia tour, I also took part in the Unlock the Past genealogy seminar in conjunction with the Northern Territory Library and the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory. It was a full day with Rosemary Kopittke and I giving three talks each with small presentations from the Library, the Society and Unlock the Past.

Usually I am the only one blogging these events and it is always hard to write about my own talks. But this time well known Territory genealogy blogger Cassmob was in the audience and in her blog Family History Across the Seas, she has also blogged about the seminar (here). It’s good to get feedback on my talks and I acknowledge Cassmob’s point about the Board Immigrant Lists but as everybody knows, you can only fit so much in a 45 minute talk. Sometimes I wonder if broad ranging talks on State and National Archives are worthwhile but you never know who is going to be in the audience. On the other hand, if your talk is too narrow, then it is less likely to be of interest to everyone.

My talks were on State and National Archives Online: Practical Tips; Where Else Can I Look: It’s Not All Online and Convict Ancestors: Fascinating & Frustrating to Research and as usual I agreed to PDF the talks and put them on the Resources page of my website (scroll down to Presentations). I also put there my talk on Tracing Military Ancestors in Australia from the War Comes to Australia tour. This saves people madly writing while I am talking, but there is a lot of commentary that goes with the slides that isn’t captured in the PDF. Still it helps people to remember the points in the talks.

I also gave a small presentation on the Genealogists for Families Project and how we can help others on an ongoing basis for as little as $25.00. I hope the Project sees a few more members from the Northern Territory soon.

Rosemary talked on FindMyPast (UK, Ireland, Australasia and the US coming soon) and I know I say this everytime, but it really is hard to keep up with what’s new. I also suspect that as FMP continues to grow Rosemary is going to find it harder to keep to the 45 minutes! Her other two talks were on Government Gazettes and Police Gazettes and Directories and Almanacs, both of which I have heard before. I like the way she now incorporates overseas references as well as Australasian although it does give me more follow ups to do!

One aspect of the day Cassmob didn’t mention (probably because she is a Territorian) are the small presentations by the Library and the local Society. I particularly liked the Library presentation as it highlighted resources available on their website and in particular their new Roll of Honour Bombing of Darwin 19 February 1942 online exhibition. This lists all known victims and includes a biographical entry for them and they invite anyone with more information to contact them. Another online exhibition is Remembering Territory Families and again contributions are welcome.

The Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory also had a small display table with their publications and information about the Society. I think it’s good that they briefly spoke about their library and resources as I firmly believe everyone should be a member of their local society. You can learn so much from others and it’s amazing what can be in their libraries and from my personal visit last time, I remember how surprised I was by the range of resources the Society had.

Unlock the Past also had a display table of their various publications and trade seemed to be brisk Lucky door prizes were supplied by Unlock the Past, FindMyPast Australasia and Inside History Magazine so there were four especially happy people at the end of the day. As usual I also came away with a number of things added to my to do list!

Someone once asked me don’t I get bored going to all these genealogy seminars and the answer is definitely not – there is always something new to learn and I hope I can share some of my own learnings with others. My next one is on Saturday, just one week after this Darwin one!

I’ll be in Kyabram at a family history seminar organised by the Kyabram Regional Genealogy Society and I heard this morning that there will be eight people from the Deniliquin Genealogy Society, including one person I met on the War Comes to Australia tour. Thank goodness I’m not the only genealogy addict!


Battlefield Tours – War Comes to Australia: 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin

February 29th, 2012

Well I am just back from my first ever battlefield tour and I’m hooked – it’s like genealogy cruising, you get to travel and learn more about things you have an interest in. Plus I didn’t have to do housework for almost a week!

I was privileged to be a speaker on the Unlock the Past and Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours War Comes to Australia tour to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. As usual with my travels, I record my experiences in a daily diary (see Diary of an Australian Genealogist).  The six days of the tour are all detailed in my online diary so I’m not going to repeat all that here in this overview.

Although I had no personal connection to the bombing of Darwin, I still found my participation in the tour a moving experience. Just sitting in the Jetstar terminal waiting for my plane (an hour late due to ‘paperwork’), let me observe the various old diggers gathering to make the trip too. It was great to see that they could still travel and that most had younger family members with them. A number were also part of various tour groups as well.

I found myself thinking it was really good to see the authorities making a big event of the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin this year as I sadly don’t think that a lot of the old diggers will still be around for the 75th.

The tour was a combination of visits to places with military heritage including museums, old WW2 airstrips, gun emplacements and other significant war time buildings and ruins. As well there were a series of talks from military historians – local Dr Tom Lewis OAM and tour historian Brad Manera and myself as the family historian. The tour also participated in the official bombing of Darwin commemoration ceremony and a number of tour participants went to other official ceremonies as well.

There was a welcome dinner and before we knew it the farewell dinner, a sunset cruise on Darwin Harbour to see where the various ships were damaged or sunk and air-conditioned bus trips to the various sites around Darwin and also down at  Adelaide River. Each day started with a hot and cold buffet breakfast and although I usually have cereal at home, for some strange reason I am always attracted to the hot breakfast when I am travelling!

I was pleased to see that I didn’t put on any weight despite all the temptation but perhaps it was the extra exercise getting on and off the buses and walking around the various places. Darwin was hot and steamy but it has been a dry wet season and we didn’t see much rain at all which was good for us but Darwin does need its rain before the dry season starts.

I know Darwin very well as I have been there lots of times over the last decade so for me the best part of the tour was the talks. I was interested to learn more about the bombing of Darwin and Tom Lewis gave us a good background talk and then followed up with the ongoing myths and perceptions relating to the bombing. Brad Manera provided a much broader backdrop by looking at Australia’s involvement in various wars including a special look at Gallipoli and the Western Front. On the home front, his talk on the Japanese submarines in Sydney Harbour was fascinating.

On the travel side I had not been to Snake Creek before and this was a surprise as I had not realised such a substantial military establishment had been there. The tropical bush is doing its best to reclaim the site and while some items are rusting very badly, the concrete walls and floors will be there for a long time. I came away wanting to find out more about Snake Creek and the people who worked there during WW2.

As I said at the beginning, I had a great time and would readily go on another battlefield tour especially if there was a personal connection for me. I have a newspaper clipping on my desk outlining a military tour to South Africa and Boer War battlefields but I haven’t looked up the website yet! I have a strong interest in my mother’s two uncles who went to the Boer War twice and one ended up staying there.

I can’t see myself doing the Kokoda Trail (I like my comfort a little too much) but Gallipoli and the Western Front have relevance and may be options. I’ve always been fascinated by the Crimean War and perhaps some of the battles in India – obviously the list could be long and open ended. Battlefield tours are a great way to combine travel and history and the War Comes to Australia tour won’t be my last!

Thanks again to Unlock the Past and Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours for inviting me to be part of the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin.


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