Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category
December 10th, 2012
July 28th, 2012
Although National Family History Week is a national event in Australia, it is only launched in one place which is usually in Melbourne. This year I was honoured to be asked to do the launch and below is the text of my talk for those not able to personally attend the launch. It was a great afternoon and I’ll report more on it in my Diary of an Australian Genealogist soon.
It’s 35 years Since the TV Miniseries Roots!
Good afternoon everyone. I was both thrilled and honoured to be asked to launch this year’s National Family History Week. It is a particularly important occasion for me in that 2012 also marks the 35th anniversary of my own interest in family history. Yes my ex and I were two of those many people who sat down in July/August of 1977 to watch the TV miniseries Roots based on the controversial book of the same name by Alex Haley. I had no inkling that night that my whole life, including my career, was about to change and that 35 years later I would still be as passionate and involved with family history.
Alex Haley’s book Roots: The Saga of an American Family based on his own family history was published in 1976. The book, eventually published in 37 languages, had an impact not only in Australia but around the world, especially in the United States of America. It was adapted into the television miniseries in 1977 which was shown around the world, igniting a genealogy boom that I don’t think has ever really stopped. This is not surprising when it is claimed that the series was viewed by 130 million people. In 1979 it was followed by the sequel Roots: The Next Generation which I will also admit to watching.
However, it was only about ten years ago that I actually read the book, as I’m one of those people who, if I watch the movie or TV show first, don’t like to read the book and vice versa. Plus I had been dismayed by the criticism of his research and the copyright infringement claims and law suits that followed publication. Of course all of that court action didn’t change the increased interest in genealogy and family history around the world.
It’s hard to even believe that we could trace our family history back in 1977 without all the modern advantages we now have. There wasn’t even a genealogical society in Queensland, and I think the only three societies in Australia were the Society of Australian Genealogists in Sydney and the Genealogical Society of Victoria and the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies here in Melbourne.
While Roots was screening on television, we enrolled in a ‘how to do it’ course we saw advertised in the Brisbane newspaper. The course was organised by a local person who we became friends with. Through her we met likeminded people and were involved with the establishment of the Genealogical Society of Queensland. We even designed the GSQ’s logo which is still in use today. Two years later I was part of the Brisbane breakaway group that established the Queensland Family History Society although I have maintained good relations with both societies ever since. Over the last three decades hundreds of societies have been established across Australia.
As well as no societies, there were no easily accessed genealogical records. No BDM indexes, no cemetery transcriptions, no indexed passenger lists, no probate indexes, no computers, no emails, no internet and so on. So how did we do it?
Well we wrote hand written letters using blue carbon paper so that we could keep copies for our records, and enclosed international reply coupons to encourage a response and sat back to wait weeks for a response, even after sending it via airmail. I still remember the thrill of when I bought my portable manual typewriter and I’m sure there must be people in the audience who remember the ever so sophisticated golf ball typewriter!
I remember spending my Friday nights at the local family history centre winding my way through microfilm looking for my families in the UK census. I used to spend the rest of the weekend with a sore right arm from having to hand wind the film reader. Now I can simply use Ancestry or FindMyPast to key in my family names, and within seconds I can be looking at a digital image. So many of my brick walls came down with the digitisation of the UK census and the greater search capability that came with it.
My Saturday afternoons were spent with other genealogy/family history society members in various Brisbane cemeteries as we transcribed the headstones, typed them up, hand indexed them onto 5×3 cards and then filed them into card drawers. Today I can quickly search those records in FindMyPast Australia and New Zealand. In those early years there were lots of volunteer projects on the go and collectively family historians compiled fantastic data resources which today’s newcomers often take for granted.
My first visits to Queensland State Archives were frustrating for a number of reasons. There was no weekend access which meant I always had to take a ’sickie’ as this was well before flexible working hours and time in lieu. There were only twelve seats in the room and one staff member so if you didn’t get there early enough, you were given a number and waited out in the courtyard.
Copies were done using a wet photocopier/reader printer and if you can remember wet copies, you will also know that they were always hard to read. When I recently looked at some of my copies from the late 1970s I was dismayed to find that most of them are now totally unreadable. I also noticed that the staples have gone rusty and the paper has foxed and stained showing the passage of the last three decades. Strangely enough I don’t seem to have aged that much myself!
The genie boom generated by Roots in the late 1970s also impacted on libraries and archives as hordes of avid genealogists descended on them either in person or by telephone and mail. This led to changes within these institutions to help cope with the increased demand for their services. We saw the introduction of volunteer programs with volunteers assisting with indexing programs to help make the records more accessible and reduce wear and tear on popular records such as passenger lists.
We also saw some archives start up microfilming programs to increase access to the more popular genealogy records. Queensland and New South Wales even produced genealogical kits for sale which meant that the records were available in libraries and genealogical society libraries. There were even collaborative projects with the Church of Latter Day Saints who microfilmed Queensland’s wills and intestacy files in the 1980s and immigration records from around Australia to mention just a few.
The sheer numbers of genealogists meant that most archives needed to find new accommodation and in most cases it was in the outer suburbs with PROV being very lucky to have its new building approved at North Melbourne. I’m not sure how then Director Ross Gibbs managed it, but Victorians will be forever grateful for a fantastic building which even has car parking onsite only a few kilometres from the CBD!
PROV also took the lead with a shared reading room with the Victorian office of the National Archives of Australia, firstly at Casselden Place and then here at the Victorian Archives Centre from 2003. Today there are shared reading rooms in Darwin, Hobart and Adelaide. It makes sense to have collaborative arrangements like this as it reduces the cost of providing reading room services to the archives involved and also it is more convenient for researchers with only one place to go. Quite often there is a link between records and its handy to have everything onsite.
The Genealogy Boom Will Fade Away
There was always talk that the increased interest in genealogy would fade away as people finished tracing their ancestors or it would simply die out as so many of its practitioners were elderly. This belief was particularly true in the lead up to the Bicentenary celebrations in 1988. Many people thought that once that was over, things would go back to normal. However, there were other factors at work, not just our interest in our own family histories or the history of our nation.
In the late 1980s, early 1990s we saw corrupt police and government agencies exposed and the rise of more accountable governments and the introduction of freedom of information legislation. This in turn put different pressures on archives to make information and records more accessible and more easily found.
The 1990s saw the development of archival systems which allowed their holdings to be more widely known. The National Archives developed RecordSearch, while Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory went with various versions of Archives One and New South Wales developed Archives Investigator which was also implemented by Western Australia. None of this was overnight and retrospective data entry and amendments are ongoing with upgrades and improvements to the systems continuing as funding permits.
In the last decade, here in Victoria we have seen PROV develop its digital archive, digitise microfilm and place it freely online, and enter into a collaborative partnership with FamilySearch to digitise wills, probates and inquests to 1925 now freely available online to mention just a few exciting developments. Other state archives have also been increasing access to their collections online.
But let’s pop back to the early 1990s for a moment. It was also the decade when desktop PCs became more affordable and popular and the Internet and the WWW were starting to capture our attention. I remember buying my first home PC in 1990 for what seemed like a small fortune and getting my head around DOS and other techno stuff. Today there is more memory on my portable USB then there was on my first computer!
Libraries too felt the impact and we saw the establishment of dedicated genealogy sections within State libraries and the appointment of genealogy librarians. Victoria was one of the leaders in this area and the Helen Macpherson Centre is probably one of the best genealogy libraries in Australia.
The early 2000s saw the start of major digitisation projects and the National Archives of Australia led here with its free digitisation on demand scheme. I remember being at a planning meeting where it was suggested that they would introduce the scheme gradually and I pointed out that the news would spread like wildfire – which it did and within days there was a backlog of months!
This led to more planned digitisation projects to totally copy series in high demand and I think we are all grateful that NAA have done the Boer War and WW1 nominal rolls as a priority as well as other popular series at both national and state levels.
The National Library of Australia’s more recent TROVE portal is almost miraculous in how it is allowing us to find all kinds of information on our ancestors with keyword searching of newspapers in particular. I could spend hours just reading the old copies of the Women’s Weekly and if you want an old fashioned recipe, that’s the place to go these days.
I mentioned earlier the volunteer projects that many of us have been involved in over the last 35 years. Volunteers also staff genealogy society libraries and in most instances, the societies are managed totally by volunteers who freely give their time and expertise to support their local society. I was reading in the May 2012 issue of Queensland Family Historian that the Federation of Australian Historical Societies value their volunteers labour at $45 per hour and they calculate that volunteer labour across the history and heritage movement throughout Australia is 100,000 members, each donating an average of one hour per month or twelve hours per year. This adds up to $54 million – a staggering amount.
While there is no comparable study of volunteers in genealogy societies, we probably have a similar number and most of them would work more than one hour per month. Even if we say two hours per month that still gives us an estimate of $108 million. Truly staggering. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those genealogy and family history society volunteers, past and present, for the wonderful job they have been doing for the last 35 years or more!
Another indication of ‘genie power’ is the mid 1980s and 90s ’save the census’ campaign co-ordinated by good friend Nick Vine Hall. By rallying genealogy and family history societies behind him, the campaign finally led to the inclusion in the 2001 census form of a tick this box if you want the return to be kept for future generations. These ticked census returns are to be kept for 99 years by the National Archives of Australia.
The question has been repeated on the 2006 and 2011 census forms and each census more and more people tick the box. In 2001 it was 52% and in 2006 it had increased to 56% wanting their census returns kept. The 2011 results are not yet on the NAA site, possibly still in the production process. This sustained 15 year campaign will be appreciated by generations yet to come.
I have found so many distant relatives through placing details of my families online through Ancestry, Genes Reunited, My Heritage, Find My Past, Lost Cousins and so on. These online sites are far more effective that the old published genealogical research directories of the 1980s and 90s that only allowed you to quote a surname, date range and location as well as contact details.
What has surprised me is the number of people finding my research through Google. I write a couple of blogs and my Genie Rambles blog often features my family stories and as Google searches everything, people researching the same names are finding my blogs and contacting me. My Diary of an Australian Genealogist is also read by people from all over the world. It could never have happened 35 years ago!
Twitter is probably the way I learn most about what is new in genealogy around the world. Once I had to go to the local family history society library and browse through printed society newsletters and journals spending hours of my time doing so. Now it is almost instant if you follow a few key people.
Twitter is also a great place to ask for help. I couldn’t find something in the London Gazette even though I had a page number and feeling frustrated I had a little whinge on Twitter. Amazingly the London Gazette people saw my tweet and contacted me with the news that there had been a supplement on that day which wasn’t as easily found. I’ve had similar help on other issues and now have good cyber friends in the UK, Ireland, Canada, USA and New Zealand.
Clouds on the Horizon
There is only one cloud on the horizon from my perspective, otherwise I think family history is just going to get bigger and better in the coming years. So what is the cloud? Back in the 1970s and 80s before the internet existed, the only way that people could get information on what was new or what was happening was to join their local genealogy society and attend meetings. Attendance numbers at monthly meetings was up, open times at the genealogy library were often packed and you personally knew other people.
These days when I give talks at monthly meetings of societies, I can’t help but note that attendance is really down and often it is the same faces I saw decades ago who still attend meetings. It seems that using the internet has replaced the need to join societies and attend meetings. I touched on this a little in the previous section on social media and genealogy.
Membership of societies is also slightly down, older members die or lose interest so there is a natural attrition rate which is offset by new members joining. However membership numbers of societies nowhere near reflects the actual number of people doing family history research today. When I go to genealogy expos and road shows I try and ask audiences who are members of societies and it is usually about half and half.
Those people who aren’t members of a genealogy society often tell me there is no point in joining their local society as their ancestors came from elsewhere and there is nothing for them locally. But societies run seminars, meetings with guest speakers, have libraries and bookshops, and informed volunteers to assist with research questions. When I moved to Victoria I joined both the Genealogical Society of Victoria and the Australian Institute for Genealogical Studies, I’ve used their libraries, attended seminars, conferences and made some good friends and expert contacts that I can call on for help as needed.
If I could have one wish, I would like to see everyone doing family history join at least one genealogy society and get involved with others in the society. Yes you can sit at home, alone, and do your family history, but you will never know what you are missing. I have always said that it’s amazing what you can learn over a cup of tea and nothing will ever replace the camaraderie of talking to people in real time, face to face.
Last but Not Least – Techno Toys
Nowadays most of us don’t go out to research without taking our laptop/notebook/netbook, our smart phone, our Ipad/tablet and our remote wi fi. We probably spend research time also checking our emails, Facebook, Twitter, nings, forums and whatever else we use. In a prolonged black out, as our batteries slowly went flat, I wonder what we would all do?
I’ve watched my son’s two thumbs when he is texting on his phone and I can’t get my thumbs to move like that. Granted I do have a bit of arthritis but still, I will never be able to text that quickly! I’m still very attached to my hand held mouse although my skills at using the inbuilt mouse on my laptop are improving it is still not intuitive to me.
Despite my techno limitations, technology for family history really excites me and my latest toy is a Flip Pal mobile scanner which you don’t even need a computer to use. Simply turn it on and start scanning and for larger documents it seamlessly sews together multiple scans. Of course you still need to upload your images to a computer, and name and tag them with whatever metadata you might need. But gone are the days of having to try and borrow material from family members who really don’t want to let their precious photographs or documents out of their sight. I can even scan family photos and documents while watching TV!
Where to Now
I probably don’t have another 35 years but I am looking forward to the next 5-10 or perhaps even 15-20 years. The amazing growth in technology and the benefits it has brought to family history over the last 20 years has been so exciting. I think it is technology that has helped keep genealogy and family history to the forefront of popular hobbies and it is also responsible for changing the demographics of family history. It is no longer only the aged and retired but much younger people who were born with smart phones and started using laptops at kindy! That last might be a slight exaggeration but you know what I mean.
The last 35 years have gone quickly with lots of exciting developments to keep genealogy and family history as one of the more popular hobbies around the world. I can’t see that changing in the foreseeable future. We have the National Archives of Australia’s annual Shake Your Family Tree day in February to keep us motivated and six months later we have National Family History Week. So twice a year we have events that will enthuse, encourage and motivate genealogists and family historians. Not to mention introduce new people to this fascinating pastime that some of us don’t seem to be able to give up or finish!
And with that, I now declare National Family History Week 2012 open!
July 13th, 2012
Thanks to Geniaus I have received an Illuminating Blogger Award originally started by Foodstories. It was for my blog Diary of an Australian Genealogist and in her nomination Geniaus said – Shauna Hicks lectures, writes, and blogs about genealogy in Australia. In her journal style blog she shares stories of her daily life and genealogy journeys, her friendly style makes one feel that Shauna is writing a chatty letter to the individual reader.
I am really honoured and thrilled to have received this nomination for Diary as I’m fortunate in being able to travel around and attend genealogy events that not everyone can get too. By sharing my experiences and passing on some of my learning on new resources or old tips and tricks I hope to help others with their research.
As a condition of accepting this award, I am able to nominate six blogs that I also find interesting and useful. Like Geniaus I have tried to avoid those who have already received nominations. There are a lot of genealogy blogs out there but here are my six nominations in no particular order.
Family History Across the Seas by Cassmob – I love the way Cassmob contributes to blogging series and currently it is the Blogging From A-Z challenge held in April and her own Beyond the Internet series. It is often hard to think up blogging topics so prompts like these challenges really help and by the end of the series you have written quite a bit on your families or genealogy resources.
Twigs of Yore by Shelley – is another favourite and knowing that Shelley is a busy young mum I often wonder where she finds the time to blog. One of the things I particularly like is her Australia Day blog challenges and its great to see more and more Australian bloggers taking up her challenge each year.
From Helen V Smith’s Keyboard by Helen – having known Helen for ‘decades’ it is really nice to see her now blogging and Helen is a participant in the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge and it is fascinating to read her family stories all nicely illustrated too. Helen demonstrates just how easy it is to tell our family stories through our blogs.
Carole’s Canvas by Carole – is another favourite as Carole is very techno and into social media and quite often blogs about it but in a way us less techno people can understand. Carole actually has quite a few different blogs (where does she find the time) and there are links to them from this primary blog and the NSW Genealogy one is good for all those with NSW roots.
The Boggo Blog by Chris – as so many of my ancestors spent time in Boggo Road gaol I feel like it’s almost a family home and Chris’ blog on the historic gaol and all activities associated with it have a personal interest to me. It would be nice to see the future of the gaol settled and the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society allowed to get on with their research and promotion of the site.
Sharn’s Genealogy Jottings by Sharn – I really like the way Sharn writes up her family stories and accompanies them with great photographs. It always inspires me to write up my stories but time is always an issue for me (and everyone else) but by doing it one story at a time we can all tell our family stories over time.
I’m also suppose to say one random thing about myself – I think that’s supposed to be an easy task but I’m struggling with it. Perhaps my passion for collecting fridge magnets is worth a mention – now over a fridge, freezer, two filing cabinets and in our new place (where ever that is) the other half is going to build me a huge area, probably in the garage so that I can really indulge my habit!
- The nominee should visit the award site (http://foodstoriesblog.com/illuminating-blogger-award/) and leave a comment indicating that they have been nominated and by whom. (This step is so important because it’s the only way that we can create a blogroll of award winners).
- The Nominee should thank the person that nominated them by posting & including a link to their blog.
- The Nominee should include a courtesy link back to the official award site (http://foodstoriesblog.com/illuminating-blogger-award/) in their blog post.
- Share one random thing about yourself in your blog post.
- Select at least five other bloggers that you enjoy reading their illuminating, informative posts and nominate them for the award. Many people indicate that they wish they could nominate more so please feel free to nominate all your favorites.
- Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog, including a link to the award site (http://foodstoriesblog.com/illuminating-blogger-award/).
July 5th, 2012
Regular readers will know that I reported on the Unlock the Past Queensland Expo in Brisbane 25-27 Jun 212 on a daily basis through my Diary of an Australian Genealogist blog. If you missed it, here are links to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Expo Exhibitors reports.
In this blog I’m reflecting on the expo overall and up front, I have to say it was another great genealogy experience although my hometown of Brisbane turned on some of the worst winter weather I think I have ever experienced in Brisbane. The cold and wet weather didn’t deter people and I think the coffee van made a small fortune over the three days. The local school ladies did an excellent job of catering morning and afternoon teas and lunches. The exhibition area was usually chilly but it was warmer in the theatres.
Most of the time there were four options – a choice of two speakers where you needed to have bought a ticket or an expo gold pass, a speaker where you didn’t need a ticket and the Research Zone and exhibition area. As usual I found choosing between speakers hard and my Diary blogs outline my choices. I also found I didn’t have enough time to spend in the exhibition area without giving up one of the speaker sessions. Perhaps I’m just ‘greedy’ and want to experience everything?
There was meant to be a ten minute change over period but some speakers went over and then that made it harder to move between theatres or take a quick rest break before the next session. Everything was really close together and level (no stairs) so that was a bonus. There were a few technical hiccups here and there but nothing that caused major issues.
I liked the opportunity to see the Flip Pal mobile scanner in operation and found that I had no trouble scanning some photos at Mums that night and then uploading them to my laptop. What I really like about it is that I can scan photos while watching TV whereas before I had to do it in the study by myself and without any entertainment. Scanning must be the most boring activity on earth!
The other great plus for me is that it was a perfect opportunity to catch up with all my old genealogy friends and colleagues from Brisbane, as well as other regular attendees and speakers at Unlock the Past expos and roadshows. I think we’re almost like one big family now.
I finally got to meet Ciaran from Clean Cruising and spoke to him about the next Unlock the Past genealogy cruise to Fiji in February 2013. I have been to Fiji twice (1975 and 1976) so it’s been a while! I’m really excited about going again not to mention the thought of ten days of genealogy with others equally passionate about their family history.
Audrey Collins from the National Archives UK was the international speaker (not counting Dan Lynch who ‘popped’ in electronically for his two talks on Google Your Family Tree) and after the expo, Audrey and some of the Unlock the Past team also did seminars in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. I rejoined them in Melbourne for the seminar at the State Library of Victoria. My Diary blog on the day is here.
As usual I have come away with a notebook full of information and URLs to follow up and a bag of brochures on all sorts of topics from the exhibitors. One lady loved my talks so much she offered to let us park our caravan at her place in south western Queensland when she found out we would soon be homeless. While it was a nice gesture, I think she really wanted me to travel out there for some one on one chats! As usual I have put up the slides from my six talks on the Resources page of this website. Scroll down to Presentations.
Surprisingly I didn’t buy a book this time but as we are in the process of moving house, another book would not have been well received by my other half! From the verbal feedback I received from other attendees everyone enjoyed themselves and learnt heaps and they would probably like another one soon!
The Unlock the Past team should be congratulated on another great expo and though it all looks deceptively easy, there is a lot of work that goes into the planning and running of these expos. So well done everyone. I’m going to now start getting excited about the Queensland Coast Roadshow in September/October!
April 25th, 2012
Today is ANZAC Day and I foreshadowed back in February during the Bombing of Darwin 70th anniversary tour that my ANZAC Day blog this year would be dedicated to my Uncle Gordon, my mother’s eldest brother.
During the bombing of Darwin tour, I met historian Brad Manera and was privileged to have him advise me on a ‘kidney dish’ that Gordon had carried around with him during his time in the army. For years I believed all soldiers had one, but perhaps not as engraved and decorated as Gordon’s. To my surprise Brad believed it was actually an enemy souvenir and because of the illustrations quite unique. I resolved then and there to get Gordon’s army dossier from the National Archives of Australia and within a few weeks of getting home from Darwin I received the dossier.
Gordon’s army record is indeed reflected in his ‘kidney dish’ – all the big battles of the Middle East and New Guinea are recorded as he was part of the 2/13 Infantry Battalion in World War 2. The Australian War Memorial has a brief history of the unit and a listing of Battle Honours including the defence of Tobruk, the battle of El Alamein, Borneo, Lae and the liberation of Australian New Guinea to mention just a few.
The army dossier had one surprise for me and that was Gordon’s date of birth – according to the file he was five years younger than he really was. So instead of enlisting at 23 he was in fact 28 years old although I’m not really sure why he would have changed the year of his birth.
The disappointment in the file is that the small photographs are not all that clear but I do have some Christmas postcards he sent home to family members that have a small photo of him in uniform. I have memories of Uncle Gordon but as a much older person as he was 45 when I was born.
Mum still has the albums with all the photos that Gordon sent home to her while he was away and when I visit her again in June, I hope to borrow the albums so that I can copy the photos and match them up to the places on the ‘kidney dish’ and in the dossier.
In the meantime I am reading Peter FitzSimons book on Tobruk to gain a better understanding of the war in North Africa having read the basics of the Siege of Tobruk in Wikipedia. The Australian War Memorial also has the 2/13’s unit diaries and these are digitised and online so I can really begin to understand what it means to be a ‘Rat of Tobruk’. Lest we Forget.
April 6th, 2012
Regular readers will know that I like to do a daily blog of genealogy events so that I capture things as I go and then do an overall summary at the end when I have had more time to think about how it all went. For my daily accounts of the 2012 AFFHO Congress in Adelaide see my Diary of an Australian Genealogist – Welcome Reception, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.
Overall I have to say that I enjoyed the Congress and was pleased that I had gone to the additional expense of staying just across the road. It made it easier to get to sessions in the morning and also to pop back during the day when I had collected the congress satchel or bought books etc. The satchel had lots of interesting goodies from sponsors and other exhibitors as well as items from those who couldn’t be present. For example, I was glad to see that VAFHO’s bookmark for next year’s VAFHO conference Under the Southern Cross: A Goldfield’s Experience 4-5 May 2013 made it in time. This Victorian conference is only held every 2-4 years so mark it in your diaries!
The venue was suitable although the main theatre was a bit chilly at times and some of the smaller rooms a bit stuffy if there were a lot of people at a session. The distance between the talks and the food and exhibitor areas meant that we got a nice walk at least six times a day! It was obviously not a cheap venue and I think that probably put restraints on other areas such as the welcome reception, lunches and the conference dinner. Food choices were not as broad as those I’ve seen at other Congresses and not giving exhibitors lunches or morning/afternoon teas is almost unheard of. I heard a few comments about the fillings in the sandwiches/rolls at lunch time being a bit too trendy for the general age group attending and I will admit some of the ingredients left me wondering what they were, but I still found them tasty!
Speaking of exhibitors, there weren’t as many as I was expecting and again the high cost of being an exhibitor probably discouraged some of the more usual types of exhibitors. The list of sponsors indicates the main exhibitors plus various government agencies including the usual suspects – State Records, State Library, National Archives of Australia and Public Trustee. FindMyPast as principal sponsor had a large exhibit area and were offering free searches and questions and answers as was FamilySearch, My Heritage and Ancestry. Gould Genealogy and Unlock the Past seemed to be busy every time I looked and it’s good to see that the book is not yet dead!
Having four concurrent sessions is always a pain as you have to pick one and miss the other three although all papers were supposed to be in the Congress proceedings available at the end (but Jenny Carter’s paper seems to have been left out). With four streams I had expected to see more defined streams eg beginners, IT, immigration or whatever but there seemed to be no real pattern so you often found yourself having to change rooms at the end of talks. Also in some sessions the talks were all basic or all advanced – for example for both my talks I really wanted to go to one of the other talks on at the same time but obviously couldn’t!
I talked a bit about the plenary sessions in my daily blogs (see above links) and I found that Stephen Young’s paper on Descendancy research had more methodology in it than he talked about during his plenary session which was more show and tell but I’m still not convinced it was a plenary talk. Conversely looking at my own papers again, I probably put more into the presentation than I did into the paper which had to be handed in six months ago. I haven’t had a chance to read too many of the other papers yet but I suspect that most speakers would have varied their presentations from their papers due to the long time in between.
Speaking of the conference papers, the weight and thickness of the volume could have been lessened by using a slightly smaller font (usually I’m saying the reverse but it does have quite a large font for such a big book with 590 pages). The papers are listed in the order in which they were done at the Congress which even now I can’t remember all that well. Authors are listed in the index but again I can’t remember all the speakers names let alone their talks. There are biographical sketches before the index but they don’t tell you what papers the person presented. A simple way of making it easier for readers would have been to put the speakers surname first and then the name of their paper and put the whole lot in alphabetical order by speaker surname in the contents. Or even easier and much cheaper, just put the papers in PDF format and put them all on a CD! Much lighter for anyone flying home on a plane too.
When ever I go to a genealogy event I try and get at least one new thing from each session I go to and as a result, I have a notebook brimming with new ideas, URLs and suggestions to improve my research techniques. I’ll probably have more after I finish reading the Congress papers. I suspect the hardest part of doing genealogy and family history these days is keeping up with all the new information and resources which is a far cry from having absolutely nothing when I started back in 1977.
But by far and away for me the most valuable part of attending Congress every three years is the networking – catching up with friends and colleagues from other States and Territories and meeting new people especially this time social media friends from Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. There were a number of Geneabloggers there and we are all doing our blogs and Geniaus will be collating them into a single blog which will be handy as I’ve haven’t had a chance yet to catch up on what others have been writing.
The Canberra 2015 Congress team were there and I’ve already got it in my diary. I always loved living in Canberra and it will be great to go back for the Congress.
So overall I’m really glad I went to this Congress (and for more of my daily highlights see the individual Diary blogs above). It’s not easy organising these events and from my perspective it went very smoothly thanks to the congress organisers attention to detail and their volunteers all clearly identified and cheerfully willing to help. So well done Adelaide and roll on Canberra!
March 14th, 2012
My contribution is very late as I was away when Geniaus first threw down the gauntlet of another geneameme and totally missed it. Geniaus commented that this one hasn’t been as popular as previous ones and I suspect it is because it is not as genealogy oriented or perhaps everyone is just busy at present. Here are my thoughts on the topic and I apologise for the all bold font in some of the questions – I can’t seem to fix it and have now lost patience with my limited techno skills!!
The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item
- Have you written any books? Yes a number of small genealogy guides published by Unlock the Past
- Have you published any books? I’m not sure what the distinction is between this and the previous question unless it is written but unpublished. However during my working life I was responsible for overseeing the publication of a number of books and finding aids.
- Can you recommend an inspiring biography? I like reading biographies and recently won a prize from Inside History Magazine for recommending Mary Lovell’s A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton but most of us wouldn’t want to live that exciting a life!
- Do you keep a reading log? If yes, in what format? I’ve always wanted to keep a record and each year I start out listing them in my diary but then I don’t keep it up!! Then I struggle to try and remember if I have read something.
- Are you a buyer or a borrower of books? Both but I have stopped buying (almost) in favour of the library – I borrow six books every four weeks a mix of fiction and non fiction including genealogy items.
- Where do you get reading recommendations? The usual places friends, reviews and other authors’ bibliographies
- What is the one genealogy reference book you can’t do without? A tough question as it would depend on whether Australian, UK or whatever and even then I don’t think I could pick just one.
- Do you hoard books or do you discard them when you have finished? I have long been a hoarder of books and magazines and as I move every few years this has become a problem. As we are about to move yet again, and now that I am retired, I have been giving away journals and professional books to people I have mentored or who are just entering the archives and history professions. Fiction books have gone to family and friends and it really is a sad time for me. There are still lots of bookcases I have to clear including my beloved cookbooks.
- How many books are in your genealogy library? Probably hundreds but then I have been doing it since 1977 and some are quite dated now but I still can’t bring myself to part with them. I have been trying to downsize this area by giving away items to smaller societies or offering magazines as door prizes.
- What’s your favourite genealogy magazine or journal? Inside History Magazine which is still a relative newcomer on the Australian scene but keeps getting better with each issue.
- Where are the bookshelves in your house? All down the hallway, several in the kitchen, in the bedrooms and in the study.
- Do you read e-books? How? Not really although I have downloaded a couple of genealogy e-books to my laptop.
- How many library cards do you have? Three – local, state, national.
- What was the last genealogy title you read? Irish Family History Resources Online by Chris Paton – I have a number of Irish families
- What is your favourite bookshop? No favourite although I do tend to buy in airports a lot and also small country towns seem to have great secondhand bookstores.
- Do you have a traditional printed encyclopaedia in your house? I gave these away many years ago. Now it’s Google or Wikipedia if I need to look something up quickly.
- Who are the authors in your family tree and what have they written? No authors in the family tree – I may be the first!
- Who is your favourite author? Another too tough question – depends if I’m looking for a light read or doing research but I will confess to being an Agatha Christie fan.
- Where do you buy books? This is similar to an earlier question but mostly at markets, country secondhand bookstores, and the airport if I’m caught out by delayed flights or leave my book behind!
- Can you nominate a must-read fiction title? I really liked The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and I lent it to my son and I’m still trying to get it back from him!
- How many books are in your personal library? Not as many as there used to be and it’s getting smaller each week. When we go to Adelaide next week we’ll be taking some over to our son who is interested in true crime and police histories we have. I’m trying not to think about numbers but more redistribution to good homes.
- What is your dictionary of choice? I have a Webster’s dictionary on my desk but I often find I just Google now – I always used to win the spelling bees at school and I suspect my teacher would be horrified by that Google confession.
- Where do your read? Mostly at home (or in hotels/motels) I usually travel with a number of books and magazines and there’s nothing better than a cold wet day and you are curled up with a good book and a cup of coffee.
- What was your favourite childhood book? Enid Blyton’s Famous Five – I remember I could only get out one volume at a time from the local library which only opened every Saturday so I was always one of the first lined up each week. We didn’t have books at home but Mum always took us to the library.
- Do you have anything else to say about books and reading? I love reading and from the time I bought my son home from hospital I was reading to him every night. If I think about it I can probably still recite Thomas the Tank Engine stories off by heart! My son is still a reader and I think it is one of the best things we can encourage our children/grandchildren to do.
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!
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.
January 30th, 2012
I always like to try any challenge thrown out by Geniaus especially her Geneamemes and this Bucket List Geneameme is no exception. The only difference this time is that I have found it incredibly difficult. Why?
I’ve had a personal bucket list for years and slowly ticking off various things I want to do, places I want to go and so on. Some of those have been genealogy oriented (indeed most of my life has been defined by chasing my ancestors) but I have never really sat down and asked the types of questions in this geneameme challenge.
So it has taken me longer than other challenges because I want to do it all and choosing is really hard. Here’s my final list. I’m looking forward to reading what others have got on their lists. Thanks Geniaus for another great challenge.
Things you would like to do or find: Bold Type
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments after each item
- The genealogy conference I would most like to attend is… what a tough one for a self confessed conference junkie but if I have to narrow it down it would be between Who Do You Think You Are in London in February or Rootstech in Salt Lake City in the USA – next year I intend to get to one of them, not sure which one yet!
- The genealogy speaker I would most like to hear and see is… another tough one as there are so many overseas speakers that I would love to hear in person, but possibly Thomas MacEntee wins this as I have heard him in a webinar and think he probably does a great in person talk (note I am not devaluing Australian or New Zealand speakers but I have been privileged to hear a great many speakers over the last 34 years)
- The geneablogger I would most like to meet in person is… three tough ones in a row – one of the really nice things about social media is that it has introduced me to so many great geneabloggers whose blogs I enjoy reading and learning from – picking from a great field (bit like the Melbourne Cup) I choose Dear Myrtle (on an Australia basis I was thrilled to meet Twigs of Yore at a Canberra genealogy expo and similarly Geniaus at Sydney events, plus many others)
- The genealogy writer I would most like to have dinner with is… this is very much like the one before but I will plead out as I don’t like dinner conversations as I find it very hard to hear unless it is one on one or no more than four at the table. I was privileged to have a one on one dinner with Dan Lynch during his 2010 trip and it was surprising how wide ranging the discussion was and how much other things we had in common. One dinner is probably not enough!
- The genealogy lecture I would most like to present is…. As someone who has probably given thousands of talks over the years to societies and conferences, both in a work and volunteer capacity, I’m not sure what to say here but to give a talk overseas (not New Zealand, already ticked off several times over). That would be a totally different kind of audience with different expectations and needs – I can feel the butterflies already!
- I would like to go on a genealogy cruise that visits…. As a veteran of two genealogy cruises in the Australia/Pacific area, I am now looking at some of the overseas ones, either UK or US/Canada as I have ancestors in both areas.
- The photo I would most like to find is… Another tough one as there are so many candidates for this one – but making a choice I would go for my Cornish great great grandparents James Henry Trevaskis and Elizabeth Rosewarne. I’m assuming they would be in the photo together but I would also take one of either of them on their own!
- The repository in a foreign land I would most like to visit is… Not sure that I classify the UK as foreign so I will go for Norway National and Regional Archives. Although a lot of Norwegian genealogy records have been digitised and are free online!
- The place of worship I would most like to visit is… Having been to most places in Australia it would have to be overseas so I will go for the church at Pitton & Farley in Wiltshire where my ancestors were associated with the church for hundreds of years.
- The cemetery I would most like to visit is …… Again I have been to most in Australia although my great grandfather Thomas Price’s grave in remote Hightville is still a must do (have recently made contact with someone who will take me out there if I can get myself up to the Cloncurry area of Queensland). Another must do is the cemetery in Harmony, Minnesota in the USA as this is the area where my Norwegian ancestors moved to after they left Norway in 1850.
- The ancestral town or village I would most like to visit is…… Another tough one and I’m torn between the various parishes in Cornwall and counties Armagh, Cavan and Wicklow in Ireland. I’ve only ever been to London so seeing more of the UK and Ireland is definitely on the list and will be driven by my genealogy roots.
- The brick wall I most want to smash is… What happened to James Henry Trevaskis? He disappears from Copperfield in Queensland and five years later his wife Elizabeth remarries. I’ve blogged about it so I live in hope that he will turn up someday!
- The piece of software I most want to buy is…. I’m not a techo person but I do like to try and keep up with what computers can do for genealogy. The idea of my own genealogy website interests me and I do admire Geniaus’s website and use of Next Generation software. Just not sure when I will take the plunge.
- The tech toy I want to purchase next is ….. I’m still tossing up whether I need a tablet or not – expect I do but it might mean even more time online and my recent five week trip to places with no internet made me realise there is life away from the computer!
- The expensive book I would most like to buy is… I’ve bought quite a few in my time and I’m now in the position of what do I do with them all? We’re moving and I can’t really take everything with me so no more book buying for me. It’s libraries or e-books!
- The library I would most like to visit is….. Wow, fancy asking a former librarian that question but I will say the British Library. I didn’t get there on my visit to London as I spent too much time in the British Museum looking at their fantastic exhibits (despite the fact that numerous school groups seemed to have picked the same day to visit).
- The genealogy related book I would most like to write is…. Regular readers of my blogs will know that I continue to procrastinate in finalising my various family history drafts. I will do it – someday!
- The genealogy blog I would most like to start would be about…. I have two already so I wouldn’t start a third – My Diary of an Australian Genealogist was started to replace my paper diaries so that I could look back and see what I had been doing over the year/s.
- The journal article I would most like to write would be about… I have written hundreds of articles and conference papers over the years but in more recent times I have taken to writing about my own ancestors and telling their stories before it is too late.
- The ancestor I most want to meet in the afterlife is…. The toughest question of them all but I will have to go with Helen Carnegie, later Ferguson, still later Chick – it took me a long time to find her and there’s still more to find out.