Review of 4th Unlock the Past Genealogy Cruise Feb 2014

February 21st, 2014

The cruise left from Sydney then on to Melbourne, then Adelaide, then Hobart and finally back to Sydney. This was my 4th cruise with Unlock the Past as a cruise presenter and as usual I will do an overall review of the cruise. Perhaps the question I was asked most was, why go to Australian ports as it is much more exotic to travel to Pacific Islands such as Lifou, Noumea, Fiji and Vanuatu.

Well I wanted to know what it was like for our ancestors who travelled through Bass Strait (or around Tasmania) on their way to Sydney. There is no comparison between a cruise ship and an old sailing ship but some of the swells we saw going down the west coast of Tasmania made me think that it could not have been a great experience. It would have been even worse in bad weather.  You could almost imagine their relief as they entered the more sheltered waters on the way into Hobart.

So travelling in my ancestors footsteps (so to speak) was one reason I went on this cruise. The second reason is that a number of my long term genealogy friends from around Australia are now also regular cruisers with Unlock the Past. This is an excellent way to catch up with all these friends in a single place once a year. Not to mention making new friends and some people even found they were related to each other.

My third reason is that I am a genealogy tragic and try to attend every genealogy conference I can, whether it is on land or sea. I love the smorgasbord of talks and presenters and there is always something new to learn about. This cruise had an amazing range of speakers including Thomas MacEntee from the USA, Chris Paton from Scotland, Kirsty Gray from England and lots of speakers from Australia and New Zealand. If anything there was too much choice!

My fourth reason is that cruising is a really relaxed way to travel. You unpack once, someone tidies up your room every day, others do all the cooking and cleaning and probably the hardest decision you have to make is what you will select from the menus at breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you get peckish in between times, there are little cafes to satisfy your every need.

I did get sick this trip but then you can get sick whenever you travel. It is a bit like the weather, you hope it will be fine for the trip but if not, you have to adjust your plans accordingly. Amazingly I managed to deliver my five talks but did miss some sessions that I really wanted to go to. Hopefully those speakers will be making their handouts available and I can see what I missed. As usual my presentations are on the Resources page of my website, scroll down to Presentations.

This was a nine day cruise and it went so fast with five days (or part days) in port and four full days at sea. Even on the part days in port there was usually a session or two to attend. I have published my daily accounts of the cruise in Diary of an Australian Genealogist and a number of other geneabloggers have also written up their experiences (or are still doing so).  There is a list of them in Diary here. I hope I have not missed anyone.

I am not going on the 5th Unlock the Past cruise not because I am sick of genealogy cruising but because I want to go on the 6th genealogy cruise which is a three night cruise out of Sydney followed by an optional 5 day tour to Norfolk Island, another place I love visiting. People can either just do the cruise or just do Norfolk Island or both. This is in October 2014 and already I am looking forward to catching up with genealogy friends and learning more from the various speakers on the program. It should be a real boost to my Australian research including my convict lines.

So I guess I am going to have to restyle myself from a genealogy tragic to a genealogy cruiser tragic because now it is a double addiction! If you have not tried it yet, you do not know how much genealogy fun you are missing out on. Roll on the October 2014 cruise!


Accentuate the Positive Geneameme 2013

January 1st, 2014

Well known geneablogger Geniaus has again invited the genealogy blogging community to her annual Accentuate the Positive Geneameme. As usual I can’t resist the challenge so below are my responses to her twenty questions. Anyone can join in this activity in their own blog post but don’t forget to let Geniaus know too so that she can link all responses into her original blog post. Write as much or as little as you want.

Remember to accentuate the positive – please delete the statements that are not relevant to your situation.

1.  An elusive ancestor I found was – I didn’t discover anyone new but I did find out a lot more about my very elusive great grandmother Helen Carnegie! I’ve been asked to give a talk about the family at the Bribie Island Historical Society which I’m looking forward too.

2.  A precious family photo I found was – When unpacking all my study stuff in our new house, I rediscovered an old family photo album that was only found after my grandmother died in 1994. Mum, thinks it is the Carnegie family but she is not sure and of course there is no one left now to ask.

3.  An ancestor’s grave I found was – Strangely enough I don’t think I visited one cemetery this year but I have to visit the Carnegie grave in the Toorbul cemetery as I haven’t been back there since the late 1970s. The headstone is now shattered but I have a photograph of it still upright.

4.  An important vital record I found was – I discovered that Helen Carnegie and her second husband Charles Wademore Chick both left wills in New South Wales so I happily sent away for them. While the documents answered some questions, they raised yet more questions which is often the way in genealogy.

5.  A newly found family member who shared - A number of distant cousins on various family lines contacted me throughout the year, mainly finding me via Google and my blog posts on the families. It does pay to advertise!

6.  A geneasurprise I received was - After moving to Bribie Island we discovered that Max also had family connections to the area through his Burstow and Eldridge families (his mother’s side).

7.   My 2013 blog post that I was particularly proud of was – As voluntary national coordinator for National Family History Month I did quite a bit of blogging to help promote NFHM. Perhaps the post I am most proud of is the National Family History Month Launch 2013 blog as I outlined some of the changes I have introduced to this annual event each August.

8.   My 2013 blog post that received a large number of hits or comments was – For NFHM I drew up a list of 31 genealogy activities for researchers and 31 activities for genealogy and family history societies and these blogs attracted a lot of attention (to see all four blogs scroll through the August 2013 archive). Also Diary of an Australian Genealogist was selected by the National Library of Australia to be archived in their Pandora web archive reflecting the interest in that blog.

9.  A new piece of software I mastered was – I have bought a new piece of technology that allows me to plug into my laptop and then hear directly into my hearing aids, which avoids echoes and other background noises I was picking up when just using speakers or headphones.

10. A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was – I still like Twitter for instant news but I find I am also picking up useful information from Facebook posts by my genealogy friends.

11. A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was - I really learnt a lot from Paul Milner’s presentations on the 3rd genealogy cruise with Unlock the Past. He gave some brilliant talks.

12. I am proud of the presentation I gave at/to - I went out to Chinchilla in western Queensland with Sue Reid from the Queensland Family History Society to give a one day seminar. We both gave two talks each (mine was on Trove and Google for Genealogy and Sue’s two talks were on online newspapers). Small groups in rural and regional areas don’t often have the opportunity to get experienced speakers so it was really good that the Chinchilla Family History Group received financial support from their local council to make the trip possible.

13. A journal/magazine article I had published was - I have had a series of articles published in Irish Lives Remembered and I have also had some pieces published in Inside History Magazine. I really enjoy writing!

14. I taught a friend how to – use an IPad. I’m self taught and when my local library ran a free ‘how to use your IPad’ I went along and learnt a few more things but I’m sure there is even more that I can use my IPad for!

15. A genealogy book that taught me something new was – In the raffle at the NSW/ACT Association of Family History Societies genealogy conference in Canberra I won a copy of Geoff Rasmussen’s new book on Digital Imaging Essentials: Techniques and Tips for Genealogists and Family Historians. This has been useful in my project to scan all my photos and documents (an ongoing project)!

16. A great repository/archive/library I visited was – The National Film and Sound Archive. While in Canberra for the Australian Society of Archivists conference I had the opportunity to visit the NFSA for the first time since I left Canberra in 2003. It has some amazing records and memorabilia.

17. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was – Since moving to Bribie Island I have been reading some of the local history books on the area. When researching families, you also have to look at what else was happening in the local community at the same time.

18. It was exciting to finally meet - I would have to say the overseas speakers on the Unlock the Past genealogy cruise mentioned above in 11 above. They were all easy to talk too and of course the cruise brought a lot of good Australian and New Zealand speakers together too, although most of them I’ve known for many years.

19. A geneadventure I enjoyed was – I don’t really think you can go past a genealogy cruise – all you have to do is shower, dress and toddle off to the lectures with no cooking, housework etc to distract you!

20. Another positive I would like to share is – technology and the internet just keeps on getting better and better and more and more archives and libraries are making new indexes and digitised records available. It really is essential to revisit your research and check out what’s new. Roll on 2014, I’m looking forward to more exciting genealogy discoveries.


Third Unlock the Past genealogy cruise review

February 25th, 2013

This will be an overview of the whole cruise as I’ve already given detailed account of the genealogy sessions in my Diary of an Australian Genealogist blog – check out Days 1-5 and Days 6-9. As this was my fifth cruise and third genealogy cruise I’m usually a very happy cruiser but I have to say I was a bit disappointed with some of the Royal Caribbean policies (we haven’t sailed with them before).

Of the nine nights on board we only got three reasonable nights sleep – normally on a cruise ship we never hear our neighbours and we sleep soundly. Not this time and for some reason that I still can’t understand we were allocated a cabin with an adjoining door to some very noisy teenagers. Their parents were in a cabin on the other side – my complaint is why weren’t the parents allocated the adjoining room to their own kids???

Not only are adjoining doors not sound proof, they are not light proof and these teenagers were up to all hours and every night we had to call security several times in the early hours of the morning. The kids took no notice and security had to come back when the parents got home, usually between 1-2am and then we had to listen to the father tell the kids off. I can probably understand why the parents wanted to get away from their kids but I don’t see why some poor unfortunate other couple had to put up with them.

While the kids then slept through the morning, we had to be up, dressed and breakfasted before the first genealogy session at 9am and some days I felt more like a zombie than a professional presenter! What really depressed me was that neither security or the desk staff who took our daily complaints could really do anything about the problem although we were grateful that the Clean Cruising staff person on board did offer to exchange rooms with us, but then why should she also suffer.

The other strange Royal Caribbean policy is that you can’t change dinner tables so that you end up having dinner with the same people over the nine nights. Part of a genealogy cruise is meeting new people and networking and learning from others so having the speakers at different tables or dining with new friends makes sense over the length of the cruise. I know others missed this opportunity that we had on previous cruises of dining with new people every night. In a it’s a small world example, we were surprised to find that one of the ladies on our table was also from Bribie Island and lives not that far from us. So we made another friend on the Island without even trying!

The other disappointment was not making it to Fiji but then I would rather stay on in a port (Noumea) and get repairs done there then run the risk of totally breaking down at sea somewhere. Still I had been looking forward to visiting Fiji again as I was last there in 1976! As all travellers know, anything can happen on a trip and sometimes you just have to make the best of these unforeseen changes.

Those were the only three things I didn’t really like on this cruise. Everything else was great and I found the speakers easy to listen to and learnt lots of new things. It’s always good having international speakers but as one lady said to me, it’s also good having Australian and New Zealand speakers too as that’s where a lot of our research is to start with.

Perhaps the afternoon sessions were too long as I mentioned in my Diary but on the 4th Unlock the Past genealogy cruise in 2014 there is a port almost every second day so that will definitely break up the sessions more as this time there were only two ports. One point in the Voyager of the Seas favour is that it does have a dedicated conference area which meant that we didn’t have to fit things in around the ship’s program and all three rooms were great.

I also enjoyed the one on one sessions I had with various other cruisers. It’s always good when you can suggest other avenues to research which may or may not help them break down their brick walls. One cruiser, who I’ve known for a few decades, gave me a really good one so I’ve brought it home with me – I think it must be spelling variations but that doesn’t explain every roadblock he has. Still it gives me something to play with on these rainy days in a very soggy Queensland!

The food was great and plentiful, some of the cocktails might have had a bit too much ice in them, the on board entertainment was good and the cabin and wait staff very pleasant and helpful.  So this experience hasn’t put me off cruising but I will ask a few more questions re cabin allocation next time. It never ever occurred to me that we would be landed with some one else’s noisy kids. Why couldn’t we have had other UTP cruisers on the other side of the door, at least they would probably go to bed about the same time as us!

I’ve happily accepted an invitation to speak on the 4th Unlock the Past genealogy cruise and I’ve got some new talks and books in the pipeline which I’m really excited about. I also know some others have already booked or are planning to book for it too. In some ways it’s like going to annual conferences where you get to meet up with friends and colleagues from all over Australia and New Zealand. So despite the not so good parts of this trip, overall I wouldn’t have missed it and I am definitely looking forward to next year’s with Chris Paton and Thomas MacEntee as the main international speakers. Why not plan to join me and other regular UTP cruisers!


Unlock the Past Scottish Irish Genealogy Cruise 2011 Overview

December 11th, 2011

Regular readers will know that I flew to Auckland New Zealand on 18 November for the  Unlock the Past history & genealogy cruise with a Scottish Irish theme. Throughout the trip I maintained a daily account of the genealogy sessions as well as the onshore excursions and shipboard life. They weren’t sent every day due to no affordable internet  for most of the time at sea but whenever I could use my Australian or New Zealand modems I sent out updates.

These can be found on this website in my SHHE Genie Rambles blog (more the genealogy session reports but not always) and also on my Diary of an Australian Genealogist blog (more the shipboard and onshore activity as well as a few genealogy sessions held on the days we were in port).

Fourteen days is a long time for a conference and I had wondered if it would be too long. Our earlier cruise was only seven days and I felt that was too short. The other change was evening sessions as well as day sessions and I had thought people might not attend given the other ship attractions. I was wrong on all counts – the fourteen days flew past and attendance at all sessions, day and evening remained strong right to the end.

There were also a lot of onshore days and these were exhausting as you tried to make the most of the time ashore, usually shopping, visiting local museums and other attractions. Shuttle buses, often free, or reasonably priced, took tourists from the wharf area to the CBD areas of the various ports. These all ran like clockwork and we never found ourselves waiting long for a shuttle in any port.

I attended most of the sessions on board ship unless I had heard it previously at an onshore seminar and I missed some due to time mix-ups. Overall I learnt heaps from the various speakers who often overlapped and complemented each other as they reinforced various aspects of Scottish Irish research. I have a notebook full of ideas, suggestions, and URLs to follow up.

As well as the Scottish Irish talks, other speakers gave a wide range of talks and these I reported on at the time (see above links) and there was something for everyone. I especially liked Rosemary’s talks on the subscription databases such as Ancestry, FindMyPast UK and FindMyPast Australasia, The Genealogist and also MyHeritage as her talks broadened my expectations of what you can find or do with these sites. It’s often not as expensive as we might think especially if you get lots of information and I’ve especially found this with Scotland’s People. It’s much cheaper than buying Australian certificates!!

I also gave eleven talks and received quite good feedback during the cruise which was nice. The Help Desk area was always busy and I had lots of sessions with people one on one to discuss their brickwalls or more simple queries. When we were within internet range, I also did some searching to see if I could actually solve some of these issues. I had some small success on a few and managed to find some things they hadn’t found. In the process, I also managed to locate Max’s mother’s RAAF file in the National Archives of Australia so now we are waiting to receive a copy once access clearance is organised. On a negative note, I am surprised (still) by people who don’t buy certificates – sometimes that is the easiest way to knock down a brickwall.

What didn’t I like? These were mostly specific to the Holland America ship Volendam and I was shocked to find that there was smoking in the Casino which was right next door to the Hudson Room where a number of our talks were held. You also had to walk through the Casino to get to the other end of the ship and it was also next door to a lot of the shopping areas of the ship. It was not an enclosed area so smoke did drift out into these other areas depending on how many were smoking. Most of the Australians I spoke to found this annoying as we are now so used to no smoking in public areas.

Another difference was the food which was American/Canadian in focus rather than the British food we had on the Pacific Dawn. Although by the end of the trip I noticed at the breakfast buffet there were three kinds of bacon – crispy (and I do mean crispy), Canadian and what I can only describe as more Australian style. Eggs were over easy (and we needed a translation) but the omelettes were divine. Lots of other differences but it was like being in the US rather than in the South Pacific.

Early on I discovered the Mexican style of food at the Terrace Grill on the pool deck and had lunch there many times but I didn’t like the cheeseburgers or their pizzas which weren’t like what we have.  Still when you travel overseas you do expect to eat different kinds of food but for some reason I wasn’t expecting American style food although I knew it was a Holland American ship.

The other area that threw me was wine and often depending on where we were dining, we couldn’t get Australian wines, only American or French. Although I will now confess a fondness for some of the wines from Washington State in the US. If you click on that link to one of the wineries I enjoyed, you will see that you have to declare that you are over 21 to enter the site (their legal drinking age is 21 yet our age is 18, another major difference if you are travelling with anyone between 18 and 21). We even tried a Budweiser (American beer) and if I am eating Mexican I do like a Corona!

The other thing I don’t like is round tables of eight, they are too big for everyone to engage in the conversation even if they don’t have hearing problems. We started out at the bigger tables but by the end we had settled nicely into rectangular tables of six which are much easier to hold conversations around without leaving anyone out.

I would also like cheaper access to the internet while on board and at sea. There must be ways for groups to do deals to access a cheaper rate. It would also be easier for speakers to help people if they could instantly show them a website or do a search with them rather than just outline what to do.

We had a disappointing end to the cruise, along with a few other genealogy cruisers, in that our prepaid ship to airport transfers didn’t eventuate for reasons I still don’t quite understand (I asked for a written explanation which I was told on the phone I would get but didn’t) but Clean Cruising have refunded our money.

So really my biggest gripe was the smoking issue and that would probably put me off doing another cruise where smoking is allowed in public areas that are open to other areas of the ship.

From a genealogy perspective, I would be off on another one tomorrow if I could. I always enjoy myself listening to other speakers and talking with fellow cruisers about their genealogy issues. Often their problems make mine look easy!

The next Unlock the Past history and genealogy cruise is 10-19 February 2013 departing Sydney with visits to Noumea and Lautoka, Fiji (I was last there in 1976 so I expect it has changed somewhat). This is a difference cruise line again, the Royal Caribbean and the ship is the Voyager of the Seas and there are more days at sea which means more genealogy sessions with less interruptions for onshore visits .

At this stage I’m planning to be on the Voyager of the Seas although the international speaker or other speakers for that matter, haven’t been revealed yet. For me genealogy cruising is an ideal combination – no housework, overseas travel and genealogy in an affordable package. Plus all that food and drink (I was pleasantly surprised to find  that I didn’t put any weight on this trip, must be all the additional exercise, walking and stairs that I don’t get at home)!

Now the long wait until February 2013 – perhaps I should check out some of the American genealogy cruises for 2012??

Finally I would like to thank all those who read my cruising blogs – it’s great turning up somewhere and someone says ‘loved reading about your cruise adventures’. It makes the effort of writing these blogs all the more worthwhile but don’t just read about the next one – why don’t you think about joining me and experience it all for yourself?

Two Full On Genealogy At Sea Days

December 3rd, 2011

Those following my Diary of an Australian Genealogist blogs will know that I am recording my touristy adventures there along with reports on the few genealogy sessions we have when in port. For the days we are totally at sea with no touristy distractions, I am putting those session reports on this website.

Day Ten

The extra hour of sleep last night was good and the day started with Chris Paton talking about Scottish Censuses 1841-1939 and then Perry McIntyre on Finding Your Irish Ancestors in Australia: BDMs and Arrival. I was familiar with both these areas but still good to have refresher sessions as it is amazing what you can forget or not realise what else you can do with certain resources.

I spent some more time with one on one sessions and took two more bookings for tomorrow. I have now got a growing number of searches to do for people once we get into internet connection range again. I will briefly see if my suggestions look like they will work, and then advise people to thoroughly search themselves when they get home.

After lunch it was a solid session of talks right through to dinner time starting with Rosemary highlighting the various resources on Ancestry for Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland and America – all in 45 minutes. Even though I have been an Ancestry subscriber for a few years, I realised that I tend to use the usual suspects and there are lots of smaller collections which I should look at for my families. More notes on my To Do list!

Chris Paton then spoke about DNA and Genealogy and I found this very useful as it was not too scientific and more practical. His examples were from his own Paton ancestry and I need to look at some more DNA sites including Family Tree DNA which is one he mentioned a few times.

Keith Johnson was next talking about the forthcoming  Biographical Database of Australia which will be hosted by State Records NSW and should be online in 2012. It is an ambitious project to list everyone who ever lived or visited Australia and link up all their records in a single database. I have heard Carol Baxter talk about this at various genealogy events too and I can’t help wondering if this will take all the fun out of searching in years to come.

Rosemary then gave a talk on The Genealogist which is a subscription website I haven’t used before so I was interested to see what they have and how it differs from Ancestry, FindMyPast and others. If you have non-conformists then it is definitely worth a look and I was intrigued by the surname coverage maps and census name maps. It also has a lot of military records and even an international section for Australia and New Zealand so another notation or two on my To Do List!

Richard Reid followed with his interesting and moving talk on The Great Famine 1845-55: Irish Ancestral Experience and Memory and he highlighted a few books to read for more background and understanding. These included The Irish Famine by Peter Gray and The Sharing of the Green: A Modern Irish History For Australians by Oliver Macdonagh.

Chris then spoke on Irish Resources Online which is based on his new Unlock the Past publication Irish Family History Resources Online.

After dinner I gave my Google Your Family Tree: Tips and Tricks (an expanded version of which is on my website Resources page, scroll down to Presentations). Jan Gow followed with a talk on using Legacy Family Tree.

I wandered out to the Casino to find Max learning to play 21 so I sat and watched for a while. Amazingly he didn’t lose and finished the night with what he started with. While in the Casino the staff came around and reminded everyone to set their watches back another hour so that we would be on Australian time tomorrow.  (As I write this after the event, this was a disastrous announcement for us to hear – more in tomorrow’s blog).

Another full day at sea with a full day of talks – not sure if my notebook is going to have enough pages left as there are still some great talks coming up.

Day Eleven

As I indicated in yesterday’s blog, we were told to set our watches back another hour last night which is what we did. We woke up, went up to breakfast and then wandered down at what we thought was 8am only to find that Richard Reid was just finishing up his talk on The Australian Imperial Force on the Western Front 1916-19. What was going on??

It turns out that there was a miscommunication (love that word) and some crew were informed there would be an hour time change and some weren’t, this also applied to some passengers too. This meant great confusion for the first few hours this morning but didn’t really impact on anyone unless they wanted to attend a genealogy talk at 8am. I am really cranky that I missed Richard’s talk but hopefully I will have other opportunities in the future.

I’m also envious that Helen Smith has internet for these three days at sea – she has taken up the ship’s wifi offer whereas I had purchased a Vodaphone modem for use while in New Zealand which was a cheaper method. But it does mean I have no access until back into Australian waters.

Given that I was in a cranky mood, I decided to skip Chris’ talk on Scottish Civil Records and go down to my cabin and blog (vent) my frustrations. Having calmed down (and it really is hard to stay cranky on a cruise ship) I then met up for another two one on one sessions with fellow cruisers. The first wanted to know more about blogging and how to go about it so that was fairly easy as I am a great fan of blogging with two blogs myself – SHHE Genie Rambles on my website and Diary of an Australian Genealogist. The second query was more challenging!

After lunch it was non stop talks until dinner starting with Rosemary talking about FindMyPastUK which I am reasonably familiar with but keeping up with all the new additions is the hard part. Jan Gow followed with a repeat of her session on using Treepad which was cut short the other day.

Chris Paton then talked on Scots and Gaelic – D’ye Ken The Difference and I must admit he did lose me a few times on the complexity of the various strains of Gaelic and their history. Rosemary followed with a session on MyHeritage and again I have been a member for some years but have not really made the most of this site’s features. So more on the To Do List!

Chris then did Writing Family History Articles which was a good overview of the topic and he also included blogging your own family stories if you don’t want to publish as such. I finished the day’s sessions with my Where Else Can You Look: It’s Not All Online (handout on my Resources page scroll down to Presentations).

Then it was off to dinner where everyone discussed the various sessions and what they had learned. Helen Smith gave her Using UK Archives for Family History Research talk after dinner (this was the one postponed due to the clash with Milford Sound the other day). Helen’s notes will be on the Unlock the Past website in a few weeks time so keep an eye out for them as she had lots of great suggestions.

What is surprising (not really I guess) is how enthusiastic everyone still is and attendance at all sessions is still quite high given the ship’s other temptations. We set our clocks back another hour tonight as we are back in Australia from tomorrow. I’m starting to feel a little sad as there is only three more days left, with two of them port days, Burnie and Melbourne.

Time always flies when you are having fun!


Genealogy Cruising Day One at Sea

November 23rd, 2011

It was great to see so many people turn up for my talk At Sea Then and Now and I appreciated the feedback throughout the day as I kept running into other Unlock the Past cruisers (now easily identifiable by our lanyards and name tags). Also interesting to see how many others on board also ask about what we are doing – so many people seem to be doing genealogy or are interested in it.

Although I missed Chris Paton’s session on Discover Scottish Family History (having heard it before) I know he has the URLs that he mentions on his website Scotland’s Greatest Story so have a look there for some great resources and links.

After lunch Perry McIntyre’s talk was a great introduction to The Convict Irish and I particularly liked Perry’s approach of trying to get people thinking about why their ancestors did things and where they had come from and so on. She highlighted books published by Irish Wattle along with many others, Irish newspapers available via the National Library of Australia’s E-Resources, her own book Free Passage: The Reunion of Irish Convicts and Their Families in Australia 1788-1852 published by Anchor Books Australia to mention just a few points.

Next was Rosemary Kopittke talking about government gazettes, police gazettes and education gazettes – all fantastic resources for finding out details on ancestors and relatives that you might not easily find elsewhere. There is a range of resources on gazettes on the Unlock the Past website under Resources including indexes and sample pages. Many of these gazettes are also included in FindMyPast Australasia as well.

Lynne Blake was next with an introduction to New Zealand research and I think she gets my koala bear award for putting the most information into any talk but unfortunately she ran out of time and many of her slides were just skipped through. It was really an hour talk but she covered all of the repositories and the various kinds of records you can use for researching New Zealand ancestors. I was particularly disappointed as she started skipping slides just as she came to military records and that was one area I did want to know more about.

Lynne also talked about the New Zealand Society of Genealogists and the Resources they have for members only. Cyndi’s List also has a great list of New Zealand resources, many mentioned by Lynne.

Next was Jan Gow talking about how she uses Treepad to organise her genealogy resources and links and again as time was very short, only 30 minutes, she spoke very quickly and skipping through parts of the talk. What made it even worse was just towards the end the ship’s sound system came on with the announcement about White Island coming up so that put an end to Jan’s talk. I would like to hear it again but without the time constraints.

As White Island was so fascinating, I didn’t make it back in time for Richard Reid’s talk on The ANZACS: Australians at Gallipoli and Gallipoli Today or Perry’s talk on Beginning Irish Research, both talks I wanted to hear. However, I’m not sure that people would have heard them very well as the ship’s sound system continued to give out a history of White Island and a running commentary as we circled the island.

I’m writing this in my cabin at dawn the following day so haven’t caught up with anyone yet to see how those talks went. Hopefully I will be able to get some feedback from those who did go.

For more on what happened at sea yesterday check out my Diary of an Australian Genealogist blog on Day 2 on board Volendam.


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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