Family History Feast Melbourne Aug 2013

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!





Family History Feast 2011 review

August 2nd, 2011

This year’s Family History Feast was better than ever for a number of reasons. The day is organised by State Library Victoria (SLV), Public Record Office Victoria (PROV), National Archives of Australia (NAA), Victoria Office and BDMs Victoria and is a free event each year in National Family History Week.

Catching an early train meant that I could have a coffee at Mr Tulk’s (the cafe at SLV) before heading for the registration desk at 9.30am. As usual there is a seminar satchel (a useful NAA cloth bag) with leaflets, flyers, notebooks, pencil, rulers and so on. This year a very handy addition was a PROV USB with most of the presentations included to make note taking easier.

Sue Hamilton, Acting CEO and State Librarian, SLV welcomed everyone and gave a brief update on the Library. The first speaker was Hazel Edwards on Writing a Non Boring Family History and she is an excellent speaker but her session was only 30 minutes, way too short in my opinion. I took the opportunity to buy the revised copy of her book on the same subject during the lunch break.

The next session was Margaret May from BDMs Victoria who gave an update on the Early Church Records project. I always wonder why people do live demonstrations but don’t work out first what they will search on so that it all goes smoothly. Unfortunately some of the searches Margaret did revealed no results which didn’t demonstrate the product to its best advantage. I was also surprised to hear that it still won’t be released until later this year or even early next year, seems like it has been in progress for years.

Sebastian Gurciullo and Ed Story from PROV and NAA then gave a presentation on Koorie Records in Victoria which was very good for anyone tracing Aboriginal families. I have a fairly good background in this area having worked with both PROV and NAA and their Koorie record projects and databases.

During the lunch break the Who Do You Think You Are program with Shane Bourne was shown but I had seen that episode so I took the opportunity to have lunch and catch up with friends. I even found time to do a quick visit to the SLV’s Genealogy Centre to look up some information on New Zealand records.

Mark Brennan from NAA then gave an interesting talk on Conscription and records held by NAA on this topic. It’s amazing what is held and Mark pointed out a number of NAA Fact Sheets which helped identify relevant material.

SLV’s Katie Flack then gave a wide ranging talk on the resources available in the La Trobe collection and it was a good reminder that not everything is online and that there are still useful indexes either in card format or microfiche located near the Information Desk.

The next section was a tribute to Don Grant who died last month. Don had been very influential in Victorian and Australian genealogy circles as well as having been employed at both PROV and SLV. While Shane Carmody from SLV and Pat Eade from the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies (AIGS) read tributes to Don, a succession of family photographs played in the background as we learnt about Don’s life and his passion for genealogy.

The final session of the day was the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO) annual Don Grant Family History Lecture with Andrew Lemon talking about Storming the Barricades: The Family History Revolution. This was an interesting talk with Andrew bringing together his knowledge of Victorian horse racing and family history in a story about the jockey who rode Briseis to fame as the winner of the Melbourne Cup in 1876. It was an excellent example of how BDM certificates can conflict with each other and how ‘facts’ can be misrepresented and then repeated by others so that the ‘truth’ becomes blurred. I look forward to hearing it again when the podcast is available.

The other talks will also be available as podcasts and the best way to follow what is happening is to check the Genealogy Centre’s blog Family Matters which is also giving updates on each of the presentations. All up it was a great day and I look forward to next year’s Family History Feast. Thanks to all who were involved in organising the event.


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