My Reader Geneameme in 2012 National Year of Reading

March 14th, 2012

My contribution is very late as I was away when Geniaus first threw down the gauntlet of another geneameme and totally missed it. Geniaus commented that this  one hasn’t been as popular as previous ones and I suspect it is because it is not as genealogy oriented or perhaps everyone is just busy at present. Here are my thoughts on the topic and I apologise for the all bold font in some of the questions – I can’t seem to fix it and have now lost patience with my limited techno skills!!

The Reader GeneaMeme

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you? reading
  1. Have you written any books? Yes a number of small genealogy guides published by Unlock the Past
  2. Have you published any books? I’m not sure what the distinction is between this and the previous question unless it is written but unpublished. However during my working life I was responsible for overseeing the publication of a number of books and finding aids.
  3. Can you recommend an inspiring biography? I like reading biographies and recently won a prize from Inside History Magazine for recommending Mary Lovell’s A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton but most of us wouldn’t want to live that exciting a life!
  4. Do you keep a reading log? If yes, in what format? I’ve always wanted to keep a record and each year I start out listing them in my diary but then I don’t keep it up!! Then I struggle to try and remember if I have read something.
  5. Are you a buyer or a borrower of books? Both but I have stopped buying (almost) in favour of the library – I borrow six books every four weeks a mix of fiction and non fiction including genealogy items.
  6. Where do you get reading recommendations? The usual places friends, reviews and other authors’ bibliographies
  7. What is the one genealogy reference book you can’t do without? A tough question as it would depend on whether Australian, UK or whatever and even then I don’t think I could pick just one.
  8. Do you hoard books or do you discard them when you have finished? I have long been a hoarder of books and magazines and as I move every few years this has become a problem. As we are about to move yet again, and now that I am retired, I have been giving away journals and professional books to people I have mentored or who are just entering the archives and history professions. Fiction books have gone to family and friends and it really is a sad time for me. There are still lots of bookcases I have to clear including my beloved cookbooks.
  9. How many books are in your genealogy library? Probably hundreds but then I have been doing it since 1977 and some are quite dated now but I still can’t bring myself to part with them. I have been trying to downsize this area by giving away items to smaller societies or offering magazines as door prizes.
  10. What’s your favourite genealogy magazine or journal? Inside History Magazine which is still a relative newcomer on the Australian scene but keeps getting better with each issue.
  11. Where are the bookshelves in your house? All down the hallway, several in the kitchen, in the bedrooms and in the study.
  12. Do you read e-books? How? Not really although I have downloaded a couple of genealogy e-books to my laptop.
  13. How many library cards do you have? Three – local, state, national.
  14. What was the last genealogy title you read? Irish Family History Resources Online by Chris Paton – I have a number of Irish families
  15. What is your favourite bookshop? No favourite although I do tend to buy in airports a lot and also small country towns seem to have great secondhand bookstores.
  16. Do you have a traditional printed encyclopaedia in your house? I gave these away many years ago. Now it’s Google or Wikipedia if I need to look something up quickly.
  17. Who are the authors in your family tree and what have they written? No authors in the family tree – I may be the first!
  18. Who is your favourite author? Another too tough question – depends if I’m looking for a light read or doing research but I will confess to being an Agatha Christie fan.
  19. Where do you buy books? This is similar to an earlier question but mostly at markets, country secondhand bookstores, and the airport if I’m caught out by delayed flights or leave my book behind!
  20. Can you nominate a must-read fiction title? I really liked The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and I lent it to my son and I’m still trying to get it back from him!
  21. How many books are in your personal library? Not as many as there used to be and it’s getting smaller each week. When we go to Adelaide next week we’ll be taking some over to our son who is interested in true crime and police histories we have. I’m trying not to think about numbers but more redistribution to good homes.
  22. What is your dictionary of choice? I have a Webster’s dictionary on my desk but I often find I just Google now – I always used to win the spelling bees at school and I suspect my teacher would be horrified by that Google confession.
  23. Where do your read? Mostly at home (or in hotels/motels) I usually travel with a number of books and magazines and there’s nothing better than a cold wet day and you are curled up with a good book and a cup of coffee.
  24. What was your favourite childhood book? Enid Blyton’s Famous Five – I remember I could only get out one volume at a time from the local library which only opened every Saturday so I was always one of the first lined up each week. We didn’t have books at home but Mum always took us to the library.
  25. Do you have anything else to say about books and reading? I love reading and from the time I bought my son home from hospital I was reading to him every night. If I think about it I can probably still recite Thomas the Tank Engine stories off by heart! My son is still a reader and I think it is one of the best things we can encourage our children/grandchildren to do.


Darwin Family History Seminar

February 29th, 2012

While up in Darwin for the War Comes to Australia tour, I also took part in the Unlock the Past genealogy seminar in conjunction with the Northern Territory Library and the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory. It was a full day with Rosemary Kopittke and I giving three talks each with small presentations from the Library, the Society and Unlock the Past.

Usually I am the only one blogging these events and it is always hard to write about my own talks. But this time well known Territory genealogy blogger Cassmob was in the audience and in her blog Family History Across the Seas, she has also blogged about the seminar (here). It’s good to get feedback on my talks and I acknowledge Cassmob’s point about the Board Immigrant Lists but as everybody knows, you can only fit so much in a 45 minute talk. Sometimes I wonder if broad ranging talks on State and National Archives are worthwhile but you never know who is going to be in the audience. On the other hand, if your talk is too narrow, then it is less likely to be of interest to everyone.

My talks were on State and National Archives Online: Practical Tips; Where Else Can I Look: It’s Not All Online and Convict Ancestors: Fascinating & Frustrating to Research and as usual I agreed to PDF the talks and put them on the Resources page of my website (scroll down to Presentations). I also put there my talk on Tracing Military Ancestors in Australia from the War Comes to Australia tour. This saves people madly writing while I am talking, but there is a lot of commentary that goes with the slides that isn’t captured in the PDF. Still it helps people to remember the points in the talks.

I also gave a small presentation on the Genealogists for Families Project and how we can help others on an ongoing basis for as little as $25.00. I hope the Project sees a few more members from the Northern Territory soon.

Rosemary talked on FindMyPast (UK, Ireland, Australasia and the US coming soon) and I know I say this everytime, but it really is hard to keep up with what’s new. I also suspect that as FMP continues to grow Rosemary is going to find it harder to keep to the 45 minutes! Her other two talks were on Government Gazettes and Police Gazettes and Directories and Almanacs, both of which I have heard before. I like the way she now incorporates overseas references as well as Australasian although it does give me more follow ups to do!

One aspect of the day Cassmob didn’t mention (probably because she is a Territorian) are the small presentations by the Library and the local Society. I particularly liked the Library presentation as it highlighted resources available on their website and in particular their new Roll of Honour Bombing of Darwin 19 February 1942 online exhibition. This lists all known victims and includes a biographical entry for them and they invite anyone with more information to contact them. Another online exhibition is Remembering Territory Families and again contributions are welcome.

The Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory also had a small display table with their publications and information about the Society. I think it’s good that they briefly spoke about their library and resources as I firmly believe everyone should be a member of their local society. You can learn so much from others and it’s amazing what can be in their libraries and from my personal visit last time, I remember how surprised I was by the range of resources the Society had.

Unlock the Past also had a display table of their various publications and trade seemed to be brisk Lucky door prizes were supplied by Unlock the Past, FindMyPast Australasia and Inside History Magazine so there were four especially happy people at the end of the day. As usual I also came away with a number of things added to my to do list!

Someone once asked me don’t I get bored going to all these genealogy seminars and the answer is definitely not – there is always something new to learn and I hope I can share some of my own learnings with others. My next one is on Saturday, just one week after this Darwin one!

I’ll be in Kyabram at a family history seminar organised by the Kyabram Regional Genealogy Society and I heard this morning that there will be eight people from the Deniliquin Genealogy Society, including one person I met on the War Comes to Australia tour. Thank goodness I’m not the only genealogy addict!


Battlefield Tours – War Comes to Australia: 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin

February 29th, 2012

Well I am just back from my first ever battlefield tour and I’m hooked – it’s like genealogy cruising, you get to travel and learn more about things you have an interest in. Plus I didn’t have to do housework for almost a week!

I was privileged to be a speaker on the Unlock the Past and Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours War Comes to Australia tour to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. As usual with my travels, I record my experiences in a daily diary (see Diary of an Australian Genealogist).  The six days of the tour are all detailed in my online diary so I’m not going to repeat all that here in this overview.

Although I had no personal connection to the bombing of Darwin, I still found my participation in the tour a moving experience. Just sitting in the Jetstar terminal waiting for my plane (an hour late due to ‘paperwork’), let me observe the various old diggers gathering to make the trip too. It was great to see that they could still travel and that most had younger family members with them. A number were also part of various tour groups as well.

I found myself thinking it was really good to see the authorities making a big event of the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin this year as I sadly don’t think that a lot of the old diggers will still be around for the 75th.

The tour was a combination of visits to places with military heritage including museums, old WW2 airstrips, gun emplacements and other significant war time buildings and ruins. As well there were a series of talks from military historians – local Dr Tom Lewis OAM and tour historian Brad Manera and myself as the family historian. The tour also participated in the official bombing of Darwin commemoration ceremony and a number of tour participants went to other official ceremonies as well.

There was a welcome dinner and before we knew it the farewell dinner, a sunset cruise on Darwin Harbour to see where the various ships were damaged or sunk and air-conditioned bus trips to the various sites around Darwin and also down at  Adelaide River. Each day started with a hot and cold buffet breakfast and although I usually have cereal at home, for some strange reason I am always attracted to the hot breakfast when I am travelling!

I was pleased to see that I didn’t put on any weight despite all the temptation but perhaps it was the extra exercise getting on and off the buses and walking around the various places. Darwin was hot and steamy but it has been a dry wet season and we didn’t see much rain at all which was good for us but Darwin does need its rain before the dry season starts.

I know Darwin very well as I have been there lots of times over the last decade so for me the best part of the tour was the talks. I was interested to learn more about the bombing of Darwin and Tom Lewis gave us a good background talk and then followed up with the ongoing myths and perceptions relating to the bombing. Brad Manera provided a much broader backdrop by looking at Australia’s involvement in various wars including a special look at Gallipoli and the Western Front. On the home front, his talk on the Japanese submarines in Sydney Harbour was fascinating.

On the travel side I had not been to Snake Creek before and this was a surprise as I had not realised such a substantial military establishment had been there. The tropical bush is doing its best to reclaim the site and while some items are rusting very badly, the concrete walls and floors will be there for a long time. I came away wanting to find out more about Snake Creek and the people who worked there during WW2.

As I said at the beginning, I had a great time and would readily go on another battlefield tour especially if there was a personal connection for me. I have a newspaper clipping on my desk outlining a military tour to South Africa and Boer War battlefields but I haven’t looked up the website yet! I have a strong interest in my mother’s two uncles who went to the Boer War twice and one ended up staying there.

I can’t see myself doing the Kokoda Trail (I like my comfort a little too much) but Gallipoli and the Western Front have relevance and may be options. I’ve always been fascinated by the Crimean War and perhaps some of the battles in India – obviously the list could be long and open ended. Battlefield tours are a great way to combine travel and history and the War Comes to Australia tour won’t be my last!

Thanks again to Unlock the Past and Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours for inviting me to be part of the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin.


My Bucket List Geneameme

January 30th, 2012

I always like to try any challenge thrown out by Geniaus especially her Geneamemes and this Bucket List Geneameme is no exception. The only difference this time is that I have found it incredibly difficult. Why?

I’ve had a personal bucket list for years and slowly ticking off various things I want to do, places I want to go and so on. Some of those have been genealogy oriented (indeed most of my life has been defined by chasing my ancestors) but I have never really sat down and asked the types of questions in this geneameme challenge.

So it has taken me longer than other challenges because I want to do it all and choosing is really hard. Here’s my final list. I’m looking forward to reading what others have got on their lists. Thanks Geniaus for another great challenge.

The Bucket List GeneaMeme
The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you would like to do or find: Bold Type
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

You are encouraged to add extra comments after each item
  1. The genealogy conference I would most like to attend is… what a tough one for a self confessed conference junkie but if I have to narrow it down it would be between Who Do You Think You Are in London in February or Rootstech in Salt Lake City in the USA – next year I intend to get to one of them, not sure which one yet!
  2. The genealogy speaker I would most like to hear and see is… another tough one as there are so many overseas speakers that I would love to hear in person, but possibly Thomas MacEntee wins this as I have heard him in a webinar and think he probably does a great in person talk (note I am not devaluing Australian or New Zealand speakers but I have been privileged to hear a great many speakers over the last 34 years)
  3. The geneablogger I would most like to meet in person is… three tough ones in a row – one of the really nice things about social media is that it has introduced me to so many great geneabloggers whose blogs I enjoy reading and learning from – picking from a great field (bit like the Melbourne Cup) I choose Dear Myrtle (on an Australia basis I was thrilled to meet Twigs of Yore at a Canberra genealogy expo and similarly Geniaus at Sydney events, plus many others)
  4. The genealogy writer I would most like to have dinner with is… this is very much like the one before but I will plead out as I don’t like dinner conversations as I find it very hard to hear unless it is one on one or no more than four at the table. I was privileged to have a one on one dinner with Dan Lynch during his 2010 trip and it was surprising how wide ranging the discussion was and how much other things we had in common. One dinner is probably not enough!
  5. The genealogy lecture I would most like to present is…. As someone who has probably given thousands of talks over the years to societies and conferences, both in a work and volunteer capacity, I’m not sure what to say here but to give a talk overseas (not New Zealand, already ticked off several times over). That would be a totally different kind of audience with different expectations and needs – I can feel the butterflies already!
  6. I would like to go on a genealogy cruise that visits…. As a veteran of two genealogy cruises in the Australia/Pacific area, I am now looking at some of the overseas ones, either UK or US/Canada as I have ancestors in both areas.
  7. The photo I would most like to find is… Another tough one as there are so many candidates for this one – but making a choice I would go for my Cornish great great grandparents James Henry Trevaskis and Elizabeth Rosewarne. I’m assuming they would be in the photo together but I would also take one of either of them on their own!
  8. The repository in a foreign land I would most like to visit is… Not sure that I classify the UK as foreign so I will go for Norway National and Regional Archives. Although a lot of Norwegian genealogy records have been digitised and are free online!
  9. The place of worship I would most like to visit is… Having been to most places in Australia it would have to be overseas so I will go for the church at Pitton & Farley in Wiltshire where my ancestors were associated with the church for hundreds of years.
  10. The cemetery I would most like to visit is …… Again I have been to most in Australia although my great grandfather Thomas Price’s grave in remote Hightville is still a must do (have recently made contact with someone who will take me out there if I can get myself up to the Cloncurry area of Queensland). Another must do is the cemetery in Harmony, Minnesota in the USA as this is the area where my Norwegian ancestors moved to after they left Norway in 1850.
  11. The ancestral town or village I would most like to visit is…… Another tough one and I’m torn between the various parishes in Cornwall and counties Armagh, Cavan and Wicklow in Ireland. I’ve only ever been to London so seeing more of the UK and Ireland is definitely on the list and will be driven by my genealogy roots.
  12. The brick wall I most want to smash is… What happened to James Henry Trevaskis? He disappears from Copperfield in Queensland and five years later his wife Elizabeth remarries. I’ve blogged about it so I live in hope that he will turn up someday!
  13. The piece of software I most want to buy is…. I’m not a techo person but I do like to try and keep up with what computers can do for genealogy. The idea of my own genealogy website interests me and I do admire Geniaus’s website and use of Next Generation software. Just not sure when I will take the plunge.
  14. The tech toy I want to purchase next is ….. I’m still tossing up whether I need a tablet or not – expect I do but it might mean even more time online and my recent five week trip to places with no internet made me realise there is life away from the computer!
  15. The expensive book I would most like to buy is… I’ve bought quite a few in my time and I’m now in the position of what do I do with them all? We’re moving and I can’t really take everything with me so no more book buying for me. It’s libraries or e-books!
  16. The library I would most like to visit is….. Wow, fancy asking a former librarian that question but I will say the British Library. I didn’t get there on my visit to London as I spent too much time in the British Museum looking at their fantastic exhibits (despite the fact that numerous school groups seemed to have picked the same day to visit).
  17. The genealogy related book I would most like to write is…. Regular readers of my blogs will know that I continue to procrastinate in finalising my various family history drafts. I will do it – someday!
  18. The genealogy blog I would most like to start would be about…. I have two already so I wouldn’t start a third – My Diary of an Australian Genealogist was started to replace my paper diaries so that I could look back and see what I had been doing over the year/s.
  19. The journal article I would most like to write would be about… I have written hundreds of articles and conference papers over the years but in more recent times I have taken to writing about my own ancestors and telling their stories before it is too late.
  20. The ancestor I most want to meet in the afterlife is…. The toughest question of them all but I will have to go with Helen Carnegie, later Ferguson, still later Chick – it took me a long time to find her and there’s still more to find out.


Wealth for Toil – Thomas Price

January 25th, 2012

It’s Australia Day 2012 tomorrow and I am participating in Twigs of Yore’s annual blog challenge with this year’s theme Wealth for Toil. It took me a while to decide on who to write about because although all my ancestor’s worked hard, none of them were wealthy and most of them died early, through illness or accidents.

In the end I chose my mother’s grandfather Thomas Price as he led an interesting and varied life as he tried to provide for his family. Certificates give him a variety of occupations including labourer, coach axle turner, contractor, life insurance agent and at the time of his death he was a miner working in a remote area near Cloncurry having left Charters Towers where he had been a Baptist minister.

Thomas and his wife Elizabeth arrived in Sydney in 1878 and over the next ten years they had six children in six different places in NSW – Caleula, Orange, Parramatta, Kiama, Broughton Creek and Nattai. They then made the move to Queensland and four more children were born in Bundanba (now Bundamba), Bundaberg and Charters Towers.

The family then settled in Charters Towers for a while and it is here that Thomas and Elizabeth Price became involved with the Baptist Church. In an article Find Your Ancestors in Church Publications Part 1 for Australian Family Tree Connections, I briefly told of their involvement with the Ryan Street Baptist Church in Charters Towers.

Oddly enough I know more about Thomas’ last job because he was killed in an accident on the way to work at the Wee McGregor mine at Hightville. Thomas also died intestate and away from his family which meant the Public Curator became involved. I can only assume that work and money were in short supply and that is why he took the job so far away from his family who had moved on to Townsville.

The inquest into his death at Hightville gives me a very vivid account of his last moments including what he looked like and what he was wearing. Without being too morbid, the autopsy also gives me an idea of his health at the time. He was buried at Hightville and I can only assume that his wife and family did not travel out to that remote mining area for the funeral.

His personal belongings were packed up and sent to the Public Curator in Townsville who then passed them on to his widow Elizabeth. Again I am fortunate as I have a list of my ancestor’s personal belongings at the time of his death and in many ways it makes for sad reading. The list is long and detailed under a number of headings – money, equipment, clothing, toiletries, jewellry, stationery, kitchen utensils and foodstuffs.

Under Money there was one item – a cheque for 8 pounds 14 shillings, his final payment from the Hampden Cloncurry Copper Mines. Under Equipment he had a tent, a bed rug, a pillow, a towel, a coathanger, a portmanteau, a sweat rag, a piece of rope and two boxes of matches. Under Jewellery was his watch chain and spectacles and under Stationery there were various writing items including his AWU ticket (Australian Workers Union). Under Kitchen Utensils he had a billy can, two tin dishes, a knife, a fork, two spoons and an enamel pint. Foodstuffs included three tins of dripping, two tins of condensed milk, one tin of Golden Syrup, one tin of luncheon beef, one tin of pork sausages and a bottle of condensed milk.

This list paints a somewhat lonely and less than luxurious life and Thomas was only 60 years old when he fell from the bridge at Hightville on his way to work on that fateful day in June 1918. From Townsville the family moved south to Collinsville and Elizabeth Price eventually lost her sight and moved in with my grandmother in Brisbane. My mother fondly remembers Elizabeth because she always had a lolly in her pockets for when Mum came home from school.

Elizabeth died in 1944, 26 years after her husband Thomas Price died. Eight of her ten children predeceased her as did many of her grandchildren so Elizabeth’s life was one of sorrow as well. I have recently returned from a trip to the various places in NSW that Thomas and Elizabeth lived when they first came to Australia. I found myself wondering what it was like to be continually moving and not really settling anywhere and having your family settle in various places.

Thomas and Elizabeth Price have many descendants today who are grateful that they emigrated to Australia in 1878 and through their pioneering efforts, successive generations have followed and built successful lives. Our ancestor’s toil may not have led to wealth in terms of money, but it has given us knowledge and stories of which we can know them better. Happy Australia Day!


Genealogy Aspirations Reviewed & Renewed 2012

January 13th, 2012

Although it’s already two weeks into January, my holiday travels (see Diary of an Australian Genealogist) have slowed down my blogging output. However I have been thinking about what I aspired to in 2011 (see My 2011 Genealogy Aspirations) and how well I managed to keep them in focus over what turned out to be another very busy year with lots of travel.

No 1 was finalising my mother’s Price family history and publishing it. Research on this led to a major breakthrough and the answer to something that had puzzled me for over 30 years (see Old Research, New Resources, Fresh Eyes). So this has to continue into 2012 as I am rewriting that section plus I have made contact with more members of the family recently so I need to incorporate some of that too.

No 2 was to learn more about DNA and its use in genealogy and this was progressed. I went along to talks on it by Kerry Farmer and Chris Paton but I have not done any further DNA testing. So another carry over into 2012.

No 3 was to learn more about my Cornish ancestors and Cornish culture and I joined the Cornish Association of Victoria and spent lots of time on the Cornwall Online Parish Clerks website. I’ve also agreed to give a talk on my Cornish miners to the Southern Sons of Cornwall Cornish Cultural Celebration later this year. This will probably be an ongoing part of my research now so I need to think up another goal for 2012.

No 4 was to continue to scan photographs and documents so that I have a digital copy as well as the paper copies and this has progressed but not as much as I wanted. It’s not something I can do while travelling so I really need to stay home more often (which is a goal for 2012 as we really do need to stay home to declutter and start packing for our move from Melbourne to what now looks like Port Macquarie). So scanning has to be on the 2012 agenda.

No 5 was to conserve and preserve family heirlooms and like No 4 it progressed slowly due to time away from home and will probably be done as we pack up (at least that’s the plan). However I also accumulated more items on Max’s side of the family (or rediscovered is probably more accurate) so lots to do in 2012.

So of my five aspirations, I can only dismiss one, do the DNA which is relatively straight forward and carry over the other three which are quite big given that I have been doing the family history since 1977 and have lots of information and memorabilia.

So here are my 2012 aspirations.

1. Write up my mother’s Price family history, including photographs and other illustrations in time for her 78th birthday

2. Do another DNA test, this time from a genealogy perspective and investigate my own DNA

3. Learn more about my Norwegian ancestors – I already know the basics from parish registers and census records but not the history and culture of Norway

4. Continue to scan photographs and documents so that I have digital copies as well as original copies and maintain a backup regime for both

5. Conserve and preserve family heirlooms I have collected ensuring they are boxed and stored appropriately

Hopefully during the year I will also progress other areas of my family history as new information comes online, new indexes are made available or long lost relatives make contact.

2012 is going to be another great year for genealogy!


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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