October 22nd, 2013
The ASA’s conference was held in Canberra on 15-18 October 2013 and it was great to catch up with old friends and colleagues. The networking opportunity is what makes a conference really good for me but of course, the program has to be interesting too. With a theme of Archives The Future it’s not surprising that there were a number of sessions examining where we might all be in 2033. Considering how much has changed in the last 20 years, there will probably be just as much if not more change.
Special interest group meetings were held in the morning on 15 October and the Loris Williams Memorial Lecture was in the afternoon followed by the AGM. The Welcome Reception and the Mander Jones Awards were held in the early evening of that day. The venue was the National Film and Sound Archive and it was good to visit there again. The outdoor reception was a little chilly but the catering was excellent.
Day 2 was at the main conference venue which was the Museum of Australian Democracy which is in the Old Parliament House building. This is a beautiful old building and a great place for a conference. After the Welcome to Country and the ASA President’s Address it was straight down to serious discussions with a round table of the heads of archival institutions. On the panel were David Fricker from National Archives of Australia, Greg Goulding from Archives New Zealand and Michael Loebenstein from the National Film and Sound Archive. An interesting question time followed.
After morning tea there were two streams with Stream A looking at technology and social and business trends in the next 10-20 years and Stream B looking at access and freedom of information, beyond 20 year rules, whistleblowing and wikileaks. I went to the technology session and found Antony Funnell’s talk stimulating and I will have to get a copy of his book The Future and #Unrelated Nonsense from the library although Booktopia has it with a discount of 49% at the time of writing (cheaper than the ebook).
After an excellent lunch the technology stream continued by examining the impact of technology on archival programs and Stream B looked at privacy and changing social attitudes and new ways of managing privacy requirements. Again I went to the technology stream and really liked the talk given by Leisa Gibbons from Monash University. I’ll never be able to look at You Tube in quite the same way again.
Afternoon tea was plentiful and delicious and the Stream A examined appraisal and shifting the paradigm while the second looked at the possibilities and impacts of mergers in Australia and overseas. This was the session I attended and it was interesting and the most well known example in Australia to date was the merger of the Archives Office of Tasmania with the State Library heritage section to form the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.
Then it was a short walk to the beautiful Albert Hall for those who were attending the launch of Dr Ted Ling’s new book, Government Records About the Australian Capital Territory: A Research Guide. I purchased a signed copy as it is a comprehensive guide for all records in this geographic region of Australia and should be quite useful.
Day 3 again had two streams until the final plenary of the day. Stream A was on resilient cultures and the archive and I went to Stream B on legislation and archival legal frameworks for the digital future. Another interesting session with lots of questions from the floor. The other two sessions in Stream A were education and the archivist and requirements in the digital age and managing non-government and private records in a national framework. I didn’t go to either as I went to the two sessions on the archives profession and its voice and visibility within Australia and of course the ASA itself. Having been a member of the ASA for 25 years I had heard a lot of this discussion before at other conferences so it will be interesting to see if the ASA does continue to move forward after this conference which looked so steadily to the future.
These sessions took us through lunch and up to afternoon tea and the final plenary. This session really encapsulated the whole program with its theme of the future of archives and archivists and how they can remain relevant in an era of commercialisation and digitisation. Brad Argent from Ancestry put forward some challenging ideas including that in the future archives will be a commercial product, with a seamless interface that satisfies user demand for quick one stop access in an online digital world and with archivists having limited roles. Another thought provoking idea was that archivists are handing over unique and valuable content from the archives and only receiving (wanting) a digital copy in return while companies like Ancestry gain profile and revenue dollars and archivists slip further from public view.
To end the conference there was a brief look at next year’s joint conference with ARANZ in Christchurch, New Zealand and Michael Piggott did an interesting exercise moving through the alphabet A-Z with members of the audience suggesting words to form a word cloud.
Well known Adelaide Archivist Jenny Scott took many photos of the conference and these can be seen on Flickr here.
The principal conference sponsor was Ancestry.com.au with other sponsors Charles Sturt University, Monash University, National Archives of Australia, National Library of Australia, Gale Cengage Learning, Inside History Magazine and the National Film and Sound Archive. There wasn’t the usual exhibitors area but Ancestry, Gale and Charles Sturt University had tables and people to talk to on both days of the main conference.
The conference was a sell out success and I don’t think the organisers could have fitted another person into the room. It was extremely well organised with sessions running to time, several areas set aside for morning and afternoon teas and lunch and the catering was superb and plentiful. Together with the interesting program and early evening events I would have to say one of the best conferences I’ve attended in recent years. Well done to the entire conference committee who were visible, helpful and busy throughout the conference.
I also have some of the social and touristy news in my Diary of an Australian Genealogist blog.
October 2nd, 2013
Back in September I was asked to do a guest blog for Family Matters, the genealogy blog of the State Library of Victoria. I’m including it on my website for those who might not have seen the Library’s blog.
When I left Victoria last year for sunny Queensland, one of the places I was going to miss was the State Library of Victoria which has a great genealogy collection. While I can’t personally visit these days, I can still do so online and it’s surprising how much genealogy information the Library has online. Plus there are digitised images, maps and books. This blog will explore some of these great resources.
On the home page under Explore there is a link to Family History Resources which is a great starting place with links to specific genealogy resources. If you can’t attend an event in person, the Library often records the talk and these are available under the watch and listen link. Of particular genealogy interest are the annual Family History Feast sessions which include the Don Grant lectures – remember to check under both the audio and video tabs. One of my favourites is Geoffrey Blainey talking about family history which was a Don Grant lecture in 2010, it doesn’t seem that long ago!
Like other libraries and archives, State Library of Victoria has a range of research guides providing easy access into the collections. Topics include Aboriginal people and family history; Adoption and Forgotten Australians; Australian Colonial Forces and family history; Early Australian census records; Gold miners and mining; Key Victorian family history resources; Maps for family history; Performance in Victoria; Picture research; Publish your family history; Researching your overseas ancestors; ships and shipping; Tracing a person in Australia; Victorian immigration and emigration; What happened when and World War One: Researching soldiers. As you can see, lots of topics on all aspects of family history to follow up.
From the Family History Resources page there is a link to the very useful Caring for family history documents section with information on copying originals, storing documents and when to seek advice from a conservator.
On the Home Page under the Collections tab, there is a link to the Library’s digitised collections and as at 2012, they have digitised 43% of the Library’s unique Victorian material comprising 49,741 heritage items and 233,098 Victorian items all online and free. There are a range of interesting resources collectively grouped together as the Port Phillip papers and the other extremely useful resource is the Victorian historical publications digitisation project. Under this project you can find the digitised journal of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria from 1911 onwards amongst other publications.
Searching in the Library’s online catalogue will also reveal all kinds of information available online but I will mention just two. First is the Victorian Government Gazette 1851-1986 which is a vast treasure trove of information and the second is the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) detail plans which are fantastic for locating individual places in Melbourne.
As the previous paragraphs show, the State Library of Victoria has an incredible amount of material available online for free. Anyone with Victorian ancestors should take the time to explore the website, online catalogue and research guides to see what information they can locate on their Victorian families and the communities in which they lived.
September 24th, 2013
This is part of a series of blogs following my attendance at the NSW & ACT Association of Family History Societies annual conference – this year hosted by the Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra (HAGSOC) in Canberra. My report on the Family History Fair can be read here and the social activities and other news can be read in the various entries on my blog Diary of an Australian Genealogist.
This blog is all about the conference sessions over the two days. After the Welcome to Country it was straight into the John Vincent Crowe Memorial Address. This year presented by Dr David Headon with a really interesting presentation titled Magic to Stir Blood: the Canberra Grand Narrative We Should All Know. I lived in Canberra for a few years a decade or so ago so I’m reasonably familiar with its history but I had never considered all the philosophical ideas from leading thinkers of the day had played such a big part in how it was developed. A great opening to the conference.
After morning tea there was a trivia quiz on family history and everyone had their own entry form. It was a lighthearted bit of fun and I don’t think I was alone in finding some of the questions ‘hard’. Then it was back to the presenters with Chris Boyack from FamilySearch next. His talk was on the new FamilySearch and how you can construct family trees and connect with researchers. I have to say I like their new logo and the idea of using photo frames as part of the family tree.
Next was Cora Num on Research Tools for the Digital Age and as usual Cora did a brilliant talk. I always think I put too much into my talks but Cora seems to put even more. It’s amazing how much information she can share and how fast she talks. The good thing is that she does have an e-handout on her website so you just have to listen and not worry about notes. She also has a new book on this topic and of course, I just had to buy eRecords for Family History.
Then it was lunch time and there was lots of food, talk and people browsing the exhibitors area. I finally gave in to temptation and went back and bought the books I didn’t buy yesterday!
After lunch there were two streams and the tricky bit of deciding which one to go to when they were all interesting. I went to the Where Were They When? which was a great talk by Martin Woods, the map curator at the National Library of Australia. I hadn’t realised just how many maps they have now digitised plus he gave links to State library digitisation projects too. When using Trove we tend to just head for the digitised newspapers, but really we should be exploring some of those other categories too! I missed out on Barbara Hickson’s talk on Cobb & Co Reflections on a Bygone Era.
The next session was easier for me to choose as I had heard Kerri Ward talking about 20th century immigration records at the National Archives of Australia (NAA). In fact I used to work with Kerri when I worked at NAA in the collections access area before I moved on to the Prime Ministers project in late 2000. Gail Davis from State Records NSW gave a wide ranging talk on education records looking at pupil admission registers, teacher records and correspondence records. As usual Gail’s talk was well received and left people with lots of ideas to follow up.
Following afternoon tea there was the AGM of the NSW & ACT Association of Family History Societies which I attended as a visitor. They kindly allowed me a few minutes to talk about National Family History Month 2014 and I briefly mentioned some of the changes and invited them all to participate next year. They have about 50 member societies so it would be fantastic if they all joined in and helped spread the word about NFHM.
The conference dinner was in the evening but I will talk about that in Diary of an Australian Genealogist as this blog is dedicated to all of the presentations.
Angela Phippen set the pace with a great talk on Royal Commissions and Legislative Council Select Committees (some of my favourite records) which can help to put context around your ancestors lives and if you are really lucky, they may even be mentioned by name. Then there was another family history trivia quiz and although the questions were supposed to be easier, I still didn’t too that well.
Next was a sneak peak at the Australian War Memorial’s new website (due to be released in December 2013) presented by Robyn Van-Dyk. This looks fantastic and I can’t wait to have a little play with some of the new online collections as well as explore the website’s new features. Roll on December.
Rosemary Kopittke followed after morning tea with a presentation on making the most of searching in Findmypast.com.au and there were lots of useful tips to make sure you don’t miss anything. I’m always surprised by all the new collections and even the older ones that I’ve forgotten about or weren’t originally relevant to me. Last session of the conference was a Women in Records panel with Cora Num, Angela Phippen and Megan Gibson.
Cora did an amazing presentation on women in shipping records and she covered so much in her 15 minutes that I was almost out of breath too. As usual there is a e-handout on her website. Angela focused her 15 minutes on divorce records which was a good summary of what the divorce laws were at various times and what records you can find. I couldn’t quite hear Megan’s talk and she had no slides but she is the author of Family Tree Time so I think she was talking about making more time to do research ourselves.
Then there was the call to Illawarra Family History Group who are hosting next year’s conference (details not yet up). I’m not sure what I’m doing next year but I’ve put the dates in my diary just in case! The raffles were drawn and then it was all over for another year.
I’m covering the social aspects of the conference in Diary of an Australian Genealogist but from my perspective it was a great conference and I’ve got lots of tips to follow up and possibly blog about. The networking with new and old friends is also fantastic and the ability to see so many exhibitors at the one time is really good. I’d go to a conference every week if I could but they take a lot of organising and hard work so I would like to finish up by thanking the HAGSOC team and their supporters. Well done.
HAGSOC are also hosting the AFFHO 2015 Congress and that is a must attend event. Visit their website and put your name down for the news updates between now and then. I heard one of the committee say that they were expecting about twice the number of attendees for Congress as they did for the conference, so that will be mega and not to be missed!
September 23rd, 2013
The NSW & ACT Association of Family History Societies holds an annual conference each year and if it is somewhere I can easily get to, I try and attend. They started in 1984 and this was my 7th conference (my 1st was 1994) and although now living on Bribie Island it was relatively easy to get to Brisbane and then fly to Canberra. A bit of a trek but I’m glad I did it as it was a great conference and good to meet up with old friends and meet new ones.
As there was so much happening over the three days I’ve decided to split this blog report on the conference into two parts – firstly the family history fair and a report on all the exhibitors. The second part will cover the conference speakers and their sessions. For the social side of the event I will include that in my Diary of an Australian Genealogist blog posts.
On the Friday there was a free family history fair with talks on the half hour between 10am and 4pm. I missed most of these as I didn’t arrive until almost lunch time and then I was busy trying to see all the different exhibitors as well as chat to people I knew.
Sessions included Early Church Records in NSW with Joy Murrin from Family History Services; Charting Your Family History with Barb Toohey from Eezy Charts; Treasures from the State Archives with Kaye Vernon from Teapot Genealogy; How to Prepare Document Files for Printing with Rick Cochrane from Bytes’n'Colours; Which Society Magazine had the Article About? with Joan Edwards from the Blue Mountains Family History Society; Flip Pal Scanner with Rosemary Kopittke; The Huguenots: the Almost Forgotten People with Robert Nash from the Huguenot Society of Australia; How to Find NSW Court Records with Gail Davis from State Records NSW; The Guild of One Name Studies with Karen Rogers from the Guild of One Name Studies; Treasures in the State Library of NSW with Anne Reddacliffe & Renne McGann from the State Library of NSW and DNA Found my Grandfather with Frank Atkinson from HAGSOC.
For a free event that was an amazing smorgasbord of family history topics and they could also see all the exhibitors in the half hour for lunch! Most of the sessions were fairly short but lots of information in the ones I attended. Also on the Friday were three Masterclasses (for a fee) and these were on Trove with staff from the National Library of Australia, NSW Land Records with Carole Riley and Writing a Non Boring Family History with Hazel Edwards.
I spent 4 hours looking at all the exhibitors, most of whom were there for the conference as well, but the conference sessions didn’t leave that much time for browsing hence I tried to do most of my looking on the Friday. There was a fantastic range of exhibitors and I’ll include them in the same order as the conference committee grouped them.
Under Research Services there was Bytes’n'Colours (book printing); Calvary eHealth; DatacomIT (digitising) ;Eezy Charts; FamilySearch; Finding Your Ancestors (charting); Findmypast.com.au; Inside History (magazine); Irish Wattle (Irish convicts/publishing); Joy Murrin Family History Services (NSW transcriptions); Lifeline Canberra (2nd hand books); transcriptions.com.au (Marilyn Rowan); and the Philatelic Society of Canberra.
The really big section was family and local history societies and I will just list the places rather than full names for most of them. They included HAGSOC (Canberra); Blue Mountains; Camden Area; Central Coast; Coffs Harbour; Friends of Mays Hill Cemetery; Guild of One Name Studies; HAGSOC Legacy Users; Holroyd; Huguenot Society; Illawarra; Kiama; Newcastle; New Zealand; Parramatta Female Factory Friends; Parramatta; Port Macquarie; Ryde; Shoalhaven; Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG) and Wyong.
Under Archives and Institutions there were ACT Office of Regulatory Services; Australian War Memorial; Biographical Database of Australia; National Archives of Australia; National Institute for Genealogical Studies; National Library of Australia with Trove and Reader Services; Noel Butlin Archives Centre & University Archives; State Records NSW and State Library of NSW.
I’m almost exhausted listing them out so you can imagine what it was like walking around and looking at all their handouts, publications for sale and talking to them and getting your questions answered. (Does anyone ever click on my links or am I wasting my time doing them, I often wonder) Given all this wonderful, free genealogy offerings it was not surprising that there were about 400 people there throughout the day. I’m not sure what the official figures were for the day but there were a lot of people all having a good time.
There were lucky door prizes and a raffle and I’m very pleased to say that I won the 9th prize which was a copy of Geoffrey Rasmussen’s new book Digital Imaging Essentials published by Unlock the Past and donated by Gould Genealogy & History. I never win anything so I didn’t even attend the prize draw, too busy talking to exhibitors so I’m very grateful to HAGSOC friend Julie Hesse for getting the prize for me. I’m looking forward to reading it as I think it will be very useful.
I’m sitting here surrounded by the contents of the conference satchel which will probably take me days to read too. There were copies of Inside History Magazine, Australian Family Tree Connections, National Archives of Australia’s Your Memento, HAGSOC’s The Ancestral Searcher, pens, pencils, lollies, bookmarks, leaflets etc etc plus all the info I picked up on my travels around the exhibitors. The bottle of water was most welcome to keep up our energy and enthusiasm.
My next blog post will include a report on the two days of the conference including speakers and what I learnt from each session. The social parts will be in my Diary of an Australian Genealogist and I hope to finish everything over the next day or so. Stay tuned.
August 31st, 2013
For National Family History Month, Geniaus compiled another one of her popular geneamemes as a cyber activity. As usual I can’t resist her geneameme challenges so here are my responses to her Bloggers’ Geneameme.
- What are the titles and URLs of your genealogy blog/s? I have two blogs – my first is on my website and is called SHHE Genie Rambles which is fours years old this month and the second is Diary of an Australian Genealogist which was two years old last month.
- Do you have a wonderful “Cousin Bait” blog story? A link to a previous blog post might answer this question. I became total believer in blogs as a means of finding long distant relatives after I wrote my Letters Home: My Irish Families in March 2010. This one post allowed me to make contact with descendants of my gg grandmother’s siblings who I would never have found without them reading my blog after doing a Google search on the family name and place they came from in Ireland. The comments say it all.
- Why did you start blogging? Is there someone who inspired you to start blogging? When I retired after 35 years working in government I set up a small part time research and consultancy business with a website and a blog facility in August 2009. I didn’t know much about either but I soon came to see the advantages to blogging both in business and also for my own family history research. Now I can’t imagine life without writing blogs or reading other blogs. They’ve almost replaces newspapers and magazines for me!
- How did you decide on your blog/s title/s? Deciding the name of your blog is the hardest part I think. SHHE is the acronym for my business name and Genie Rambles is short for my ramblings on all things genealogy. Diary came about because I was showing people how easy it was to use Blogger and I created Diary as an example which took on a life of its own. I always liked reading Anthony Camp’s Diary of a Genealogist in the UK Federation of Family History Societies print journal (back in the last century) so I thought why not an Australian version.
- Do you ever blog from mobile devices? What are they? No only from my laptop as I much prefer a full keyboard to work with. It’s much quicker and easier for me.
- How do you let others know when you have published a new post? I use various social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and there are regular subscribers and sometimes my blogs are on shared by cyber friends.
- How long have you been blogging? Oops I answered that question in question 1.
- What widgets or elements do you consider essential on a genealogy blog? I think letting people make comments is very important, especially if they are long lost relatives. It should be easy for people to sign up to follow your blog and also to share it with others. I also like to see something about the writer and who they are and why they are doing it.
- What is the purpose of your blog/s? Who is your intended audience? There are two real purposes – the first is to share my knowledge of genealogy and family history with others and the second is to connect up with others researching my families.
- Which of your posts are you particularly proud of? I’m fortunate to go to many genealogy conferences, expos, cruises and I like writing up reports of these events for those who can’t get to these events. I include information and links so that they can get some idea of what I learnt and experienced.
- How do you keep up with your blog reading? I used to use Google Reader before it went the way of the dodo, now I have a reading list within Google Blogger. My old list was very ambitious so my new list is more selective but it does depend on how busy I am.
- What platform do you use for publishing your blog/s? Diary is on Google Blogger and my website is Wordpress. I haven’t tried anything else.
- What new features would you like to see in your blogging software? I’m not very techno but I would be happy to adapt any new technology that was useful and suggested by my blogging friends.
- Which of your posts has been the most popular with readers? These are usually related to genealogy expos, conferences or cruises that I have attended. I find they have the highest reader statistics.
- Are you a sole blogger or do you contribute to a shared blog? Sole blogger although I am a member of Geneabloggers.
- How do you compose your blog posts? It depends eg during National Family History Month my posts were mostly related to that or I contribute to specific challenges like ANZAC Day or other bloggers’ theme challenges. Diary is more an ongoing record of what I am doing with genealogy events and my own research and genealogy news that I want to share with others.
- Do you have any blogs that are not genealogy related? If you wish please share their titles and URLs. No my whole life is genealogy (sad but true)
- Have you listed your blog/s at Geneabloggers? Yes it’s a great way to find out what other blogs are out there.
- Which resources have helped you with your blogging? I’ve always liked writing and don’t really use any resources as such. Reading other blogs often gives me inspiration and ideas re style and use of images etc. I probably should use more photos.
- What advice would you give to a new Geneablogger? Just do it! Blogs are searchable by Google and you are almost guaranteed that some relative will find you one day. If not, at least you have written up some of your family stories and shared them with others.
August 29th, 2013
For National Family History Month I compiled a list of 31 activities for researchers and 31 activities for genealogy/family history societies to think about during August. Read about the first 15 activities for societies here and below is the final 16.
16 Convert your card indexes (if any) to a computer database for easier access (not to mention a back up copy)
Rekeying data can be a time consuming and boring task but it is worthwhile as it makes the data much more easier to access. Also it’s a once only task and you can then have backup copies stored off site. Call for a volunteer now!
17 Does your society newsletter or journal need a new look
Most societies have a change of look when they get a new editor or there is some other push to review the journal or newsletter. Have you ever thought of entering your society’s publication for the Nick Vine Hall awards? AFFHO presents these every year during NFHM so think about entering in 2014.
18 Does your library need a new layout (or tidy up)
Most societies do a shelf check each year to identify any missing items or items that have been misfiled. Donated items always need to find a home and computer equipment always needs upgrading. Is there a better way of organising your space?
19 Contact your local newspaper for publicity on society meetings and any special events
How successful are you at doing this? The local papers are usually very good for getting in notices of meetings but I also find that if you put a few paragraphs together with a photograph they may also be interested in publishing that. It’s a great way to highlight a visiting speaker or a workshop you may be holding not to mention your NFHM activities.
20 Hold a new members session at the library
New members often feel a bit lost when visiting a society’s library so having an orientation session is good and once people are more comfortable finding their way around the library, they may even find time to do library duty. I always found when I did library duty that I learnt a lot from helping others with their own research and if it’s quiet, there is always time for your own research.
21 Have members bring a friend to the next meeting
This could be a great way to gain new members and to let others know what resources the society has to offer. Remember to make visitors feel welcome – sometimes we are so busy organising the meeting or catching up with friends we don’t see the newcomers.
22 Investigate what local events you could have a display at
Local shopping centres are an obvious place to have displays with lots of people passing by. What about your local newsagent who stocks genealogy magazines ? Are there any local heritage events or markets where you could promote your society to the general public.
23 Focus on attracting younger members
As someone who started researching genealogy in 1977 while in my early 20s, I’m conscious that societies need to attract younger people to ensure that societies continue to exist and be a place that helps people trace their families. That’s why we should be using social media tools to connect with younger (and not so young) researchers and we aren’t going to find them in nursing homes – so before you accept an offer to speak somewhere, think about will this bring new (younger) members into the society?
24 Have someone greet visitors or new members at each meeting
Many societies already do this but often I find these people are popular and everyone stops to talk to them and the newcomers get overlooked or sit down without making contact. I’ve even found that some visitors and new members think there are cliques that they can’t be part of and this is probably more common with younger people who turn up at meetings. So make sure everyone does feel welcome and that they want to come back again.
25 Consider doing something for the centenary of WW1 in 2014
This is an obvious activity for every society next year and it should also be possible to connect up with other projects in your area – look out for potential collaborative projects and follow up with the organisers.
26 Are the war memorials in your area transcribed? If not think about doing it and perhaps even adding information on those listed especially for WW1
Lots of these have already been done but check out your area and confirm what has been done or still needs to be done. Take photos as well as transcribing the names.
27 If you have a website how user friendly is it?
Do people find your website easy to use? What resources do you have online – have you thought about a members only area? Is your list of meetings up to date and are library opening times current? Review each page and take down out of date information.
28 Start a genealogy book reading club and get members discussing new resources
Book clubs are not for everyone but it is a way of getting members to learn about new publications and in today’s modern times, it could even be a website or an ebook. Of course it needs someone to coordinate the group so see if there is an interested person who would like to start one up. It could even be a virtual group!
29 Encourage members to write their stories for your journal, perhaps even a prize for the best story each year
Journal editors are often desperate for articles so try and encourage members to write their stories. Do you have a writing family history special interest group where they can learn tips and tricks as well as share their stories?
30 Look at what other societies are doing for more ideas
There are hundreds of genealogy and family history societies and they all do similar things but there are also differences depending on resources, local expertise and available volunteers. Survey at least three other societies to see what they do that you don’t do and consider introducing a new idea or two.
31 Plan to participate in NFHM 2014
Many of these 31 activities are not something that you can do quickly or even only do once. Many can be adapted into NFHM activities so start planning now and the NFHM web calendar will be available from 1 October 2013 for activities in 2014.
August 28th, 2013
Here are the final 16 activities:
16 Attend or listen to a webinar
There has been little time for this luxury but one site that I like to check out is Legacy Family Tree webinars. I use Legacy software for my own family history but their webinars are on all kinds of topics (mostly US but there are generic and UK topics too). They are free to listen to live or you can watch them for free up to seven days after the live event. I find after the event is sometimes best as the US times are not always a good fit with Australian time! Watching and listening to them on my laptop at home is easy and I find webinars a great way to learn. You can see upcoming seminars and also archived seminars on the website. I’ve just noticed that two of my favourite presenters are coming up – Dear MYRTLE and Thomas MacEntee – so I’ve just put them into my diary!
17 Read a family history blog
I do this all the time as I have a number of people who I follow on a semi regular basis depending on time. If you are unfamiliar with blogs you might want to look at Inside History Magazine’s article by Jill Ball on 50 Genealogy Blogs You Need to Read in 2013 – some of my favourites are there too.
18 Start your own genealogy blog writing stories about individual ancestors or families
There is free software that allows you to do this. I used Google Blogger to set up my Diary of an Australian Genealogist and I found that fairly easy to use and of course you learn more as you go along. If you don’t want to put your stories online yet, don’t let that stop you from at least writing them in the first place.
19 Have another look at that brick wall – construct a time line of known facts and relook at everything
I find that time lines help me to see any gaps in what I know or what I have looked at. Also write down all the possible spelling variations for any given names or surnames and then ask someone else how they would spell it. Use wildcards. Have you got all the relevant certificates? What about any new resources either online or in print? With new online resources I’ve slowly solved my brick walls but I still have one GG grandfather who doesn’t want to be found! Read Still Looking for James Henry Trevaskis here.
20 Did your ancestors own land?
Land records can be more than just knowing they owned a particular portion of land in a parish. The land files on my GG grandfather John Finn contained numerous personal letters between him and the Lands Department which have invaluable details about the family’s struggle to keep their farm against all kinds of hardships. I would never have found that information elsewhere.
21 Did they leave probate records?
Not many of my people had detailed wills but I did find interesting information in administration files including married names of daughters, addresses and so on. When my GG grandfather Thomas Price died at a mining site away from this family, I was very pleased that his estate was handled by the then Public Curator. The wealth of information in that file was hard to believe and you can read some of the details in my blog Wealth for Toil – Thomas Price.
22 What about their school years – was it one school or did they move around?
If you live in Queensland you are lucky as the Queensland Family History Society have indexed a lot of the school admission registers and school histories and have published their indexes on CD. The indexes are also available through Findmypast Australasia too. I have found lots of information on my Queensland families and was even surprised to find my own name as a list of pupils who attended Bardon State School was included in the school’s 50th anniversary book and indexed by QFHS!
23 Visit your local newsagent and see what genealogy and family history magazines they have. Australian Family Tree Connections http://www.aftc.com.au/ and Inside History Magazine http://www.insidehistory.com.au/ are both sponsors of NFHM
I was surprised to find five newsagents on Bribie Island and I did find both Inside History Magazine and Australian Family Tree Connections as well as a selection of UK magazines. The only trouble is if I see a magazine and it has topics that I’m interested in, then I don’t always resist the temptation to buy myself a new magazine! Of course the local library also has genealogy magazines but you have to be quick to get the latest issues.
24 Subscription databases such as Ancestry and Findmypast are often available at your local council library or your genealogy library – book a session time and see what you can discover. Both are sponsors of NFHM
The content of both of these sites just keeps on getting better and better with new material going online all the time. Every time I use either database I find something new. I once heard a talk by Jan Gow, a noted New Zealand genealogist, on doing genealogy in your pyjamas and it’s true – an at home subscription (or pay as you go) allows you to do it whenever you want and you don’t have to stop just because the library is closing. Of course you do have to remember to go to bed!
25 Check out the Gould Genealogy & History online catalogue and be ready when the family ask what you want for Christmas/birthday etc. Another sponsor of NFHM
Whenever family say ‘what do you want for your birthday’ I can never think of anything but in recent years I’ve gotten smarter and there is usually some book or CD that I want from Gould Genealogy & History. They have an extensive range on just about everything genealogy related so make sure you give your family the URL!
26 Explore the new FamilySearch and perhaps do one of their tutorials. Also a sponsor of NFHM
FamilySearch is continually being updated and you really do need to keep checking and rechecking. I love all the digitised records that are being added so make sure you don’t miss them. Scroll down to the Browse by Location section and the bottom of the Home Page and then browse the collections – you might be surprised what is there and it’s free access. The Learning Centre is also worth looking at (find it under the Get Help link) and I often use the Library catalogue and wiki to see what is available for areas that I am interested in.
27 Join Trove and correct newspaper text after you make that exciting family discovery
My love affair with Trove shows no sign of fading away and only the other day I discovered that the Ipswich Times is being added and there were references to John Finn and his celebrated arson case – the articles aren’t online yet as they are still going through the process but I gave my email address and they will contact me when the article is totally online. How fantastic is that! When I do find articles on my family I put tags on, add them to my lists and correct the text. Saves me having to do the searches again, especially if it wasn’t easy to find in the first instance.
28 Plan to attend the next AFFHO congress in Canberra in 2015 http://www.congress2015.org.au/
I wouldn’t even think of missing the 2015 Congress: Generations Meeting Across Time in Canberra as it will be a great place to hear good speakers on all kinds of topics not to mention all the trade displays where it is easy to spend money with all their tempting goods. But for me the best part of attending Congress is catching up with all my genealogy friends and colleagues from around Australia, New Zealand and overseas. I’ve registered my interest in attending and I submitted two papers for consideration in the program so fingers crossed.
29 Make sure all your photos are identified (both print copies and online) and explore Picasa’s facial recognition capability
This is an ongoing project for me as I am slowly scanning and identifying where I can my mother’s old photos and albums plus trying to tag and caption all the digital photos we take. I found using Picasa’s facial recognition technology easy to use and it certainly helped me to group identify lots of family members once I put in the key information on who people were.
30 Make a start on writing up your family history or perhaps just one family’s stories
Another one of my ongoing projects with drafts done for all my major families. I just need to stop looking for that last bit of information and finish them!
31 Start planning a family reunion or a family gathering
We’ve had a few over the years but I’m thinking of having another one for Mum’s 80th birthday next year. She is the last of her generation and there are still a few of her nieces and nephews around. My brother and I are the youngest of that generation and many of our cousins are in their 70s so getting everyone together could prove a bit challenging but worthwhile.
Well that’s the end of my 31 activities for researchers in National Family History Month 2013. But many of them are long term projects and can’t be done in a single day. I hope they have given you some ideas to further your own research during August and into the future. NFHM will be August 2014 so stay tuned for updates (I volunteered to be the national coordinator again)!
August 20th, 2013
Here are my reasons for suggesting these first 15 activities:
1 Hold a NFHM event (this could be your regular August meeting renamed or even a library open day)
Now that NFHM is a month long event, smaller societies can easily become involved by simply calling their regular August meeting, NFHM meeting. By advertising your event/s on the NFHM web calendar more people are likely to see your event and attend, it may even be a way to gain new members!
2 Visit the AFFHO website and check out the benefits of membership and consider joining.
All genealogy and family history societies have the same types of interests and issues and being part of an umbrella group such as AFFHO means you have a central place to go to for advice and information. There is no single listing for all societies in Australia and New Zealand and it is hard to gauge how popular genealogy is but the number of societies and their membership numbers is one way that we can guesstimate popularity.
3 Start a Facebook page
A number of societies already have Facebook pages and use them as a way of promoting their events, resources and publications and to attract new members. It is also a great way to attract younger people who are usually big users of social media.
4 Visit the NFHM Facebook page for updates throughout NFHM
Even if you don’t want to start your own Facebook page, you should still keep up to date with NFHM by regularly checking the NFHM Facebook page and if you haven’t already done so, you should Like the page as we are trying to get 500 Likes before the end of NFHM.
5 Plan a membership drive
NFHM is a great time to have a membership drive as everyone is talking about genealogy and there are events on. It’s probably too late for this year but why not start planning for next year – 2014 is again for the whole month of August!
6 Have a display table at your local newsagent
Most newsagents stock family history magazines from the UK and also our two NFHM sponsors Inside History Magazine and Australian Family Tree Connections. Chat to your local newsagent about hosting a display table promoting your society and genealogy – perhaps you will end up with new members and they will get new customers! Worth a try so start planning for next NFHM or perhaps even sooner.
7 Talk to your local council library about potential collaborative events
Have you done anything collaborative with your local library – perhaps you could provide them with a speaker or they could give you a display area to promote your society? There are lots of options here which would benefit everyone.
8 Start a Twitter account
You may not want your own society Twitter account but you should at least consider following a few key people in the genealogy Twitter world to get all the latest information quickly and easily. You can then pass it on to your members.
9 Put your NFHM events in the NFHM web calendar so that they are seen by more people
More people seeing your event means more attendees and perhaps even new members for the society. All too often I hear that people didn’t even know there was a society in their area and it doesn’t cost anything to put your events in the web calendar. It all helps to make NFHM bigger and better each year.
10 Investigate funding to bring professional speakers to your area (often available through local councils)
I’ve been to a few events now where the local society has managed to get some funding from their local councils to have a local genealogy event and bring speakers in by paying for their accommodation, travel costs and so on. Often local clubs, RSLs and other venues are also happy to assist as it brings in customers for them as well. Collaborative projects have a better chance of happening so talk to interested parties in your area and see if you can get a genealogy event happening.
11 Start a society blog to publicise your events and publications – try Google Blogger it’s free
Blogging is another social media tool that is easily adapted to help promote genealogy and family history societies and as it is searchable by Google, researchers are likely to find it when searching for information on your area. Some societies use Wordpress which is also a free blogging site.
12 Transcribe tombstones in local cemeteries if not already done – or perhaps do an update
A lot of cemeteries have already been transcribed in Australia but how often does your society do an update. Check out what cemeteries are in your area and work out if they need transcribing or just an update.
13 Plan an interesting speaker program for 2014
Towards the end of the year most societies start to think about their speaker program for the following year. Why not try and have some new faces this year – what about other local organisations in your area or perhaps some of your own members what to share their experiences?
14 Reward the society volunteers who keep the library open and help members and visitors with their research
Most societies have an annual thank you get together for their volunteers without whom most of our societies would not be able to continue to operate. Why not do something extra – perhaps a small thank you gift, a certificate, or similar. Make sure they feel appreciated!
15 Consider a collaborative project with your local historical society
Often local history and family history go hand in hand as we need to know the history of the area in which our ancestors lived to understand the lives they lived. In some areas the two groups form one organisation but where there are two distinct groups, consider doing something together for the benefit of all members.
The remaining 16 activities for societies will be covered by the end of August!
August 15th, 2013
My 31 Activities For Researchers During National Family History Month August 2013
Here are the first 15 activities:
1 Visit your local library and explore the genealogy and local history sections
My local library is the Bribie Island branch of the Moreton Bay Region Libraries and it is also home of the Bribie Island Historical Society. Since I have been living here the Library has run a number of genealogy seminars and I’m giving a talk there on 30 August to finish my NFHM activities. It will be my first talk on the Island and I’m looking forward to it. It has Ancestry Library edition in all its branch libraries but Findmypast Australasia is only available at Caboolture, Redcliffe and Strathpine libraries. Like most libraries there is a Genealogy beginners page with lots of useful links.
2 Visit your State library and see what genealogical information they hold. If distant, do a virtual visit
Living outside of Brisbane it is not easy to get to the State Library of Queensland (SLQ) but I do have a library card which allows me to access all kinds of e-resources and this is a must have if you can’t easily get to a State Library. On my virtual visit, I easily found their family history pages and discovered the online family history info guides. They often have genealogy seminars and I was fortunate to hear the Genealogy Librarian give a talk at the local Bribie family history group – see my Diary of an Australian Genealogist 11 July entry for my tips on SLQ.
3 Apply for a State library card so that you can use their e-resources at home
Already have one and recommend that everyone should apply to their local State Library for access to e-resources at home. Do it now, it’s free and easy to do.
4 Apply for a National Library of Australia e-resources card and explore genealogy resources online at home
Again I have had one of these for years and my favourite NLA e-resources would have to be the UK digitised newspapers including the London Times Digital Archive 1785-2007 . I don’t find them as easy to use as the digitised newspapers in Trove but it is still wonderful that we can access these resources from home for free. Newspapers are a great way to pick up lots of bits and pieces on the family if you don’t get too distracted reading all the other news!
5 Visit your local historical society or a virtual visit to a local historical society where your ancestors lived
My local society is the Bribie Island Historical Society and I recently joined them and have been to a number of meetings. It is the 50th anniversary of the Bribie Bridge opening in October so they have been involved in that and the Bribie Festival is also happening then. We are looking forward to attending lots of events during that month. They also have a database of information and photos which is available to members and you have to go to the local library to use it when historical society volunteers are there. That’s on my to do list for when NFHM ends.
6 Visit your State Archive and see what resources they hold . And look at their fact sheets and guides. If distant, do a virtual visit. Don’t forget the National Archives of Australia (NAA) http://www.naa.gov.au/ – they are a NFHM sponsor with lots of online resources.
It’s quite a distance to Queensland State Archives (QSA) but I quite often use the website to search the online catalogue and to check the indexes. They have a great range of Brief Guides and Search Procedures for the most frequently used records and are a good starting point. Given that I also worked at QSA 1982-1990 and 1994-1999 I’m quite familiar with a lot of the records! I also worked at the NAA for a few years too but I’m constantly amazed at all the new records coming online or being made more accessible through indexing and transcription projects. Check out their new ArcHive project!
7 Plan to attend a NFHM event in your area. If none, suggest your local society hold an event next year.
As mentioned above, I’m giving a talk in my local area but I also travelled down to Melbourne to attend Family History Feast (read my report on this here) and I gave a talk to HAGSOC in Canberra. Being in South East Queensland has its advantages as there were quite a few events in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast that I could attend as well (if I had any spare time).
8 Visit your local genealogy/family history society and see what resources they hold
I’m a member of both the Genealogical Society of Queensland and the Queensland Family History Society and I have been to the QFHS library a number of times but only to give talks in recent years. I need to schedule a research day for myself and I haven’t even been to the GSQ’s (new to me) library premises so there is another research day to arrange. Fortunately Mum lives in Brisbane and I can organise a sleep over to save travelling up and down the highway. The hard part is finding the time but that is probably common to everyone.
9 If you are not a member, think about joining or perhaps join a society near where your ancestors lived.
I’m a member of both QFHS and GSQ but I’m also a member of the Society of Australian Genealogists in Sydney and the Genealogical Society of Victoria in Melbourne as I have research in both those states too. In the past I have been a member of various UK societies depending on what family I was researching at the time. I really like reading their journals, writing stories for publication or just advertising my interests and some societies have resources on their websites which are only available to members.
10 Tombstones may have more information – have you looked to see if your ancestors had tombstones
Whenever I establish a date of death and burial I always check for a tombstone in case there is additional information. This can include information on births, where they lived previously, other members of the family buried with them and so on. I check the local genealogy societies to see if the cemetery has been transcribed and I also look at the Australian Cemeteries website and the Australian Cemeteries Index website. You need to check both as content varies.
11 Did any family members fight in the South African (Boer War) 1899-1902?
Two of my mother’s uncles went to South Africa as part of Queensland and Commonwealth contingents and I have found their dossiers and other documents online at the National Archives of Australia website. That link will take you to a list of all the different series that NAA has on the Boer War. I found the Price brothers’ photos in Trove which was great as they are the only photos that we have of Solomon and William Price.
12 Did any family members fight in WW1?
We have a number of relatives who went to WW1 and again I have obtained digital copies of their army dossiers from the National Archives of Australia website.
13 Did any family members fight in WW2?
My paternal grandfather and Mum’s brothers were in WW2 and I have paper copies of their army dossiers as NAA has not digitised all of these files yet. The records are name indexed in their RecordSearch catalogue and you can also find them on the WW2 Nominal Roll website too.
14 Check out Twitter to see the latest genealogy news – use the hash tags #genealogy or #familyhistory and don’t forget #NFHM13
I’ve been a regular user of Twitter for years and it is really useful to keep up to date with what is happening in the genealogy world not only in Australia and New Zealand but in the UK, Ireland and North America. I’d be lost without it now.
15 Visit the NFHM Facebook page for updates throughout the month
I am the administrator for the NFHM Facebook page and I have been doing regular updates on NFHM and I was hoping to try and get 1000 Likes before the end of NFHM but I suspect it will only be ca 500 based on current trends. I also placed the photos from the launch of NFHM on the Facebook page which was something a bit different this year.
The remaining 16 activities for researchers will be covered by the end of August!
August 7th, 2013
Having left Victoria last year I didn’t really expect to go to another Family History Feast but it was the 10th anniversary of the first Feast, and I was invited down for a photo opportunity with my two co founders of Family History Feast, Anne Piggott and Anne Burrows. As I had been working hard on National Family History Month administration, I decided a little holiday was in order. It also meant that I could catch up with all my Victorian friends who were surprised to see me there.
The 10th Feast was introduced with a bit of fan fare, literally, with a 19thC soldier (a Redcoat) blowing a couple of tunes on his bugle! At least that’s what I think it was.
First up, Sue Roberts, CEO and State Librarian gave a brief history of how we started Family History Feast in 2003 and I was reminded that we named it Feast as I had recently watched Babette’s Feast (a 1987 Danish drama film) and to me, it would be like a smorgasbord of family history rather than food. State Library of Victoria had also done a collage of old photos from the various years which were good to see as well. Part of Sue’s speech is included in the library’s Family Matters blog if you want to know more about the history of Feast.
The first speaker was Tim Whitford, Education Outreach Officer with the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. His topic was Identity and dignity: family history and the missing Diggers of Fromelles and this was a very personal and emotional talk as he outlined his search for the Missing Diggers and his battle with authorities to convince them that he had really found them. It was only after television programs such as the 60 Minutes Mystery of Fromelles and the 7.30 Report on the archaeological dig that authorities really got interested and the project started to make headway.
Most people will probably remember this story but I thought it was more recent and was a bit surprised to learn that the dig was back in 2008 with the recovery of the bodies in 2009. From DNA samples they have been able to identify almost all of the missing diggers including one of Tim’s own relatives. They are still continuing to try and trace the remaining diggers so that everyone will eventually be identified. Tim’s talk was the highlight of the day judging by all the verbal feedback I heard at lunch time and at the end of the day.
The next speaker was Charlie Farrugia, Senior Collections Advisor, Public Record Office Victoria talking on The Third Front: WWI and beyond in the PROV Collection. This highlighted what was happening at home ie the third front and included images from various PROV photographic collections. Charlie also talked at length about soldier settlement and how there are two main kind of files to look for – soldier settlement files and advances files. The PROV Lands Guide is the best publication to look at as there is a chapter on soldier settlement. He gave a case study to highlight the types of documents that could be found.
All too soon it was lunch time and after a quick feed of sushi over in the Melbourne Centre, I enjoyed a great coffee and a ‘to die for’ chocolate cheese cake brownie at Mr Tulk, the cafe onsite at the Library. There are lots of cheap eating places around the Library and people filed off in all directions but they were all back on time for the afternoon sessions.
During lunch there was also a conservation clinic where people could get advice from conservators on their precious items. Always a popular service, individual sessions were limited to 10 minutes each.
The first talk after lunch was Darren Watson, Archivist, National Archives of Australia with Behind barbed wire: Researching enemy POW and internee records in the National Archives. This was another interesting talk illustrated by case studies and copies of the documents. Darren covered enemy aliens both civilians and prisoners of war and he finished up by highlighting the many research guides published by National Archives of Australia on this topic. Look out for In the Interest of National Security: Civilian Internment in Australia during WW2 by Klaus Neumann, Safe Haven: Records of the Jewish Experience in Australia by Malcolm J Turnbull and Allies, Enemies & Trading Partners: Records on Australia and the Japanese by Pam Oliver.
Next was Steven Kafkarisos, Librarian, Redmond Barry team with Well armed! The military history collection at the State Library of Victoria. This was a wide ranging talk and Steven introduced the Library’s new research guide The Australian Colonial Forces and Family History 1788 – 1902 which is online. Another useful website that he referred to was the British National Archives which has a number of military collections online. There is also a new online SLV research guide to maps which Anne Burrows pointed out when thanking Steven.
Finally it was time for The 2013 Don Grant Family History Lecture which was introduced by Jan Parker, President of the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO). This year’s lecture was by Lt Col. Neil C Smith AM on That elusive Digger: tracing your military ancestors in Australia and covered every Australian engagement from the New Zealand Maori Wars of the 1860s right through to the present day conflict in Afghanistan. Neil said it all with ‘military descendants – we all have them’ whether they are direct ancestors on collateral lines, we all have someone who was in the military at some time. He also mentioned repatriation files, medals, photographs and highlighted the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial as the best places to start looking. A prolific author, his works can be seen on his website Mostly Unsung.
The days’ sponsors were NAA, PROV, SLV, BDM Victoria, Immigration Museum Victoria, VAFHO and AFFHO and their brochures were in the show bag which was provided by PROV. As usual there was an evaluation sheet collected at the end of the day. I was a bit cheeky I think, because I suggested they should think about doing it further north! Wouldn’t it be great if all the other States copied the idea for next year’s National Family History Month.
As usual I thought it was a great day with great speakers and I learnt lots of interesting things. For a free event I don’t think you can ask for more. But there is more – the show bag and the lucky door prizes at the end of the day. A number of lucky people went home with a variety of prizes and I was sitting next to a vacant seat which was one of the lucky seats, but you weren’t allowed to move seats! So I missed out.
The Library has its own blog Family Matters and you can read the official blog of the day there soon.
Thanks State Library of Victoria and their genealogy team, National Archives of Australia and Public Record Office Victoria for a great ten years.
Next year’s Family History Feast is on 4 August 2014 but the theme hasn’t been identified yet. I’ll have to think seriously about another little holiday in Melbourne – I don’t think I want to miss it. Put it in your calendar too, especially if you are in Victoria!