Genealogy Cruising Again – Day One

November 20th, 2011

I write another blog, Diary of an Australian Genealogist, and note my daily activities briefly there but for the larger seminar reports, I will be putting them on my website. So for those interested in the Unlock the Past Scottish/Irish history and genealogy cruise over the next two weeks there will be updates in both blogs. I had thought I would do it differently, but the length of this report changed my mind.

Saturday was the first onshore genealogy seminar associated with Unlock the Past’s Irish/Scottish themed genealogy cruise. Auckland City Library is very impressive – modern, multi-storied (with escalators) it has fantastic resources for family history research. The Library describes itself as one of the most comprehensive family history collections in the southern hemisphere and I’d have to agree with that. It reminds me a lot of the Helen Macpherson Genealogy Centre at the State Library of Victoria although that’s a remodelled 19th century building so the atmosphere is different. In fact, the Auckland Research Centre is the type of library I would have loved to work for.

There is a great seminar room, good acoustics and really comfy chairs. The drawback was the low ceiling which meant the screen was not as high as it could have been to allow easier access to info at the bottom of the screen.

The seminar program was mainly Chris Paton talking on a number of subjects with Rosemary Kopittke talking on FindMyPast and myself on Google Your Family Tree: Tips & Tricks. Seonaid Lewis did a tour of the Auckland Research Centre for those interested.

I knew it was going to be a fantastic day as I sat listening to Chris’ first talk Irish Resources Online. While I like to think I know a bit about Irish genealogy and have used all the usual suspects, libraries, archives, subscription sites etc, I found my pen madly scribbling down URLs for sites that I’ve never come across. When I get home after the cruise, I’m going to have to spend quite a bit of time following up my new leads.

In fact there are so many great Irish resources now online that Chris has just published a new book Irish Family History Resources Online with Unlock the Past ($19.50 AU) so I am definitely going to have to get a copy of that while on the cruise.

Rosemary’s talk looked at the UK, Ireland and Australasia resources available through FindMyPast. I have heard Rosemary many times but this was the first time on the Irish resources. Even so, I was still amazed at all the new material that has gone up on the UK and Australasian sites  and there are a few new resources I want to follow up. At the beginning of her talk, Rosemary handed out a four page outline of her talk which made note taking easier, although it did not include the Irish site which is still relatively new.

After a lunch break, Chris gave an incredibly detailed talk on Scottish church records with lots of dates and their significance. I have read a copy of his book of the same name, and heard him speak on this topic last year, so that made it easier to follow.  Those not as familiar with the complexities would have found his timelines useful and his detailed slides clearly explained why it’s not so straight forward finding church records.

My talk on Google Your Family Tree: Tips & Tricks was next and I was pleased that a number of attendees came up and said how much they got out of it. I had been worried that most might have already heard a variation of the talk during the Unlock the Past roadshow last year.

Google makes changes every so often so you need to try and keep on top and although I had revised the talk and noted the Language translation tools needed an app now, I hadn’t been aware of the fact that Cache had changed so was very grateful to my friend Michelle for pointing that out. That’s another reason why going to seminars and genealogy society meetings is so important, you get to talk to others and learn things you might miss if you simply try to do it alone at home.

As my Google talk covers a wide range of Google features in only 45 minutes, I have a slightly expanded version of the talk on my website on the Resources page (scroll down to Presentations) which allows attendees to relook at the slides as they try out the various search strategies and other features with their own family names.

Final talk of the day was Chris on Scottish land records and all I can say is I hope he is planning a book on this topic too.  He mentioned so many dates and types of records depending on the time frame. Starting off gently with a brief look at newspapers and their relevance, he then moved into the more complex land systems and records. I found myself thinking I was lucky that my Scottish ancestors didn’t have any land although I suspect they must have been renters in Montrose!

The only fact that stands out in my mind after Chris’ talk on Scottish land records is that feudalism was not abolished until 2004 – what a fantastic trivia question, no one would guess that!

Gould Genealogy had a display of their ever growing range of Unlock the Past publications, Auckland City Library had a display of their various useful brochures and publications on family history, the Guild of One Name Studies was represented and the New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSOG) had a display of their publications and non-members were given a copy of their journal The New Zealand Genealogist and a membership form.

I have written previously about the Society and still think it must be one of the best genealogy societies  for what it offers its members in the members’ only section of the website, especially the at home access to the Gale newspapers. In Australia we are lucky to have some of these resources provided free by the National Library of Australia and its E-Resources. It’s a fantastic membership benefit, as New Zealand like Australia, has long distances between its various cities and towns and not everyone can visit the Society’s Auckland library.

It was also great to catch up with Library staff Marie and Seonaid and various NZSOG members who I had met on previous trips plus all the new people I met and talked with during the day. Afterwards a few people joined us for drinks and dinner and I learnt another Google tip which I hadn’t heard of so I’m eagerly waiting for an email with more details.

All up it was a full on day and I have lots of new URLs to follow up and ideas to explore with my Irish and Scottish ancestors. This was only Day One of the cruise/onshore seminars – I think I already need a bigger notebook!

Sunday is a day off (after I finish writing this report) and we will be exploring Auckland while other cruise presenters arrive. On Monday there is another seminar at Auckland City Library with Dr Perry McIntyre and Dr Richard Reid, both good speakers and long time friends so will be great catching up with them (not to mention learning more new things). Can’t wait (seem to be saying that a lot lately)!


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