Sep 17, 2015

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Review of Port Macquarie family history conference, 11-13 Sep 2015

Port Macquarie welcome bannerAlthough my right elbow/arm is still out of action from my July fall in Germany, I still managed to get to the 31st annual genealogy conference of the NSW & ACT Association of Family History Societies held in Port Macquarie last weekend. It was one of the best ones I have ever attended for a number of reasons including the opportunity to catch up with many of my geneafriends.

Port Macquarie is a great place to have a conference as there is so much to see and do and we almost settled there before deciding to move further north. So it was good to see the place again.

There was a free family fair on the Friday and there were lots of exhibitors including genealogy and family history societies as well as sponsors and other commercial providers. I always love wandering around looking at what’s for sale and any new products. I usually come away with lots of leaflets and giveaways. Before entering the fair I collected my lovely red and black conference satchel which had a host of the usual goodies in it.

My Master Class on Public Records Office Victoria was on at 12.15pm and about 50 people attended. A show of hands revealed that most used the PROV website but only a sprinkling used Access the Collection, PROV’s archival catalogue. This surprised me as not everything is on the website and the only way to find many of PROV’s records is via the catalogue. By the time I finished they all knew where the catalogue is plus some ways to browse and search to find items of interest. Verbal feedback was really good and the talk is on the Resources page of my website, scroll down to Presentations.

Afterwards I had lunch with Noelene Kyle and then went back to the Fair to continue looking around. It was a bit slow going as so many people wanted to know what happened to my arm and how it was coming along. That is the great thing about attending genealogy conferences, there is always someone you know and you get to meet new people too. Quite a few National Family History Month sponsors prize winners were there too and it was great to catch up with them.

Family History Fair, Port Macquarie Sep 2015

Throughout the day there were free talks on MyHeritage, State Records NSW, FamilySearch, Trove and an Ancestry Q&A. Something for everyone.

Day one of the conference started with a keynote from Dr David Roberts on the Port Macquarie convicts which was interesting but none of ours were ever sent to Port Macquarie. Next was Carol Baxter talking about the convict musters and it is surprising how many there are apart from the big 1828 census that everyone knows. After a delicious morning tea Wendy Holz talked aboPanthers Auditorium Port Macquarie Sep 2015ut gems in the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW and how to find them. I liked the way she pointed out the catalogue rather than just the website. You really do need to use both.

Ben Mercer was the speaker before lunch on what’s changing at Ancestry. I had seen that a new look was coming but had not followed it up yet. Everyone has to swap over by November so I need to start exploring it before then. An impressive array of sandwiches for lunch and lots of time to chat or look around the stalls. Heather Garnsey and Martyn Killion from the Society of Australian Genealogists were next with a follow up to a talk they did 20 years ago on Martyn’s grandmother. They even showed photos of themselves from back then, after which I sat there and wondered where 20 years had gone!

Amanda Ianna was next talking about NSW BDMs and changes that have taken place there over the years. After afternoon tea and more delicious slices it was back to the motel to get ready for the conference dinner at Rydges. The Welcome had been held there the night before so we all knew where to go.

Conference dinner setting Rydges Port Macquarie Sep 2015The table settings for the dinner were wonderful with a beach scene, shells, sand and a small lighthouse on each table. I quickly bought the lighthouse on our table as I have a fondness for that lighthouse which stretches back to my first visit to Port Macquarie in the mid 70s. Dinner was great although the wine prices were a bit steep. I was pleased to see that  the Dorothy Fellowes Website Encouragement Award for a website administered by a society member went to the relatively new Hornsby Shire Family History Group.

Day two started with Carol Liston talking about land records in NSW and what is now online and how to find records. Still doesn’t seem to be all that easy. Fiona Burn from National Archives of Australia talked about post WW2 immigrants, aliens and naturalization records. I particularly liked the way she used lots of different documents to show that there may be more than just the passenger list for these immigrants. Last talk of the conference was Clive Smith on how to cite archival documents found on the web – it’s more than just citing Ancestry or Findmypast. Full archival citation should be given and then say via whatever site you found it on and when.

I liked the archival theme running through some of the presentations but after my master class I am still left wondering how many people only use websites and don’t bother searching catalogues. Do people even know the difference? Perhaps there needs to be some master classes within the program?

Some attendees made a quick getaway for home while others stayed on for lunch and final goodbyes. Panthers was an excellent venue with lots of space in the auditorium for stalls and lectures, morning and afternoon teas and lunch were all in a separate area that allowed for the 200+ attendees to quickly get served and in most cases seated too. The food was plentiful and delicious.

As usual everything went quickly and I have a notebook full of things to follow up when I get home. Not to mention a few new books to read too. The next Association conference will be hosted by the Camden Area Family History Society so put the dates 9-11 Sep 2016 in your calendar now.

Congratulations to the Port Macquarie and Districts Family History Society for a well organised and successful conference.



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  1. Diane Gillespie says:

    Very comprehensive report Shauna. Thank you for great coverage. I enjoyed your presentation and look forward to more in-depth exploration of PROV

  2. Hi,Shauna,

    I grew up right next to the Atlantic ocean in Nova Scotia, so I understand how you feel when you are by the sea. One of my fondest memories is the two years I spent on an island off of Nova Scotia teaching in the early ’70s.

    Great report, always very informative!

    Elizabeth

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