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)!


3rd Australasian Scottish Genealogy Conference – What I Learnt!

April 18th, 2011

At the weekend I attended the 3rd Australasian Scottish Genealogy Conference Catch The Moments Scotland 1750 to 1850: A Century of Transformation organised by the Scottish Ancestry Group of the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV).

It is the first conference I have attended in a very long time that I was not giving a paper or working behind the scenes so all I had to do was sit back and enjoy myself along with about 140 other people from Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, Canberra and New Zealand.

My Scottish ggg grandparents John Carnegie and his wife Helen Stratton and family arrived in Queensland in 1865 and although I have found them in parish registers and census records, I have never really looked into my Scottish heritage. I’ve investigated my Irish, Cornish, English and Norwegian heritage but never my Scottish for reasons unknown.

So for me attending this conference was all about getting in touch with my Scottish ancestors at long last. The two days covered 16 presentations, some were concurrent sessions and a range of live entertainment including bagpipes, Scottish dancing, singing, a Gaelic choir and a Ceilidh and dinner.

The first thing I did after registration on Saturday was to buy my copy of the Conference Notes: Catch The Moments Scotland 1750 to 1850: A Century of Transformation for $25 which included all the papers and for the bargain price of $10 I could also pick up the 2006 Conference Notes also packed with lots of good papers.

I should mention the conference satchel with a handy notebook, pen, pencil, various information leaflets and a 10 credits voucher for Scotlands People.

The other two trade tables were the GSV with a range of Scottish publications and how to books and Mapworks – both seemed to be kept busy during all the breaks!

The first plenary was Alex Tyrrell on Scotland 1750-1850 which was a good introduction and while his paper was more ‘academic’ he did use some interesting illustrations which helped me to start changing my views of Scotland. An image of late century Dundee showed it as small and quite rural whereas my mental image was a big city with lots of buildings. A number of the papers commented on Scotland’s small population and I kept telling myself that it was smaller back then than Melbourne today!

The next session was concurrent with a choice of Susie Zada talking about the Scots in Geelong & District or Tracing Military Ancestors with Sheena Tait, the keynote speaker. I went to the latter and I wrote down so many links to follow up I will never get up from my laptop! Sheena also listed a number of useful books because we have to remember, it’s not all online.

An interesting point was that some of the National Archives UK (TNA) military series have also been microfilmed by FamilySearch (LDS) and that you can order those films in to your local viewing place. To find them in the FamilySearch Library Catalogue just put in the TNA reference number eg WO97 or whatever.

After lunch, there was another concurrent session with Ian Breward talking about Scottish Church History 1750-1850 and John Blackwood talking about Scotlands People Website. Although I have heard others talking about Scotlands People, I still went to John’s talk as I never seen to be able to find what I want. I was very glad that I did because John spoke about the Help and Other Resources, especially the Research Tools on the website which provide lots of great background. Lists of occupations (over 1500), with descriptions of tools of trade, handwriting help and so on.

He also did a live demonstration with a few problems logging on, line falling out and a general slowness as always when using a laptop. However his search for wills and testaments was interesting and I had forgotten that search results for wills are free and there is quite a bit of identifying information so I added ‘search my Scottish names for wills’ to my to-do list.

The next concurrent session was a choice between Susan McLean talking on The Record Keeper – Kirk & State and Lucy Frost on Scottish Convict Women. I went to Lucy’s talk and it was an ‘academic’ paper which she read with no slides. It was very interesting and I had not realised the differences between Scottish convicts and other UK convicts. I will need to reread her paper as I find it hard to take in all that information in a single session just listening to someone.

The final plenary session for the day was Sheena Tait on Scottish Hand Loom Weavers which was very relevant to me as my ancestors were weavers in the Montrose area. Sheena was also reading her papers but she was using images from SCRAN which illustrated the points she was making. She also listed a number of websites and useful books.

The dinner was onsite (the Hemisphere Hotel at Moorabbin in Melbourne) and it was excellent food, with live entertainment and a demonstration of Scottish dancing with a variety of reels. I hadn’t realised Scottish dancing could be so complex and wondered whether my ancestors had known how to do those dances.

The first session on Sunday was a choice between Irene Fullarton’s Scotland’s Presence on the Web and Sheena Tait talking about The Scottish Agricultural Labourer. As I have ag labs in the family I went to Sheena’s but not before checking that Irene’s paper and all her URLs was in the Conference Notes. In her paper Sheena also talked about how ag labs lived – their accommodation, health care, clothing and what they did for entertainment which all helped to give a better idea of their lives.

The next session was a plenary with Eric Richards talking about the Highland Clearances. Another ‘academic’ paper which Eric read with no illustrations but very interesting which I will read again. I hadn’t realised there were also Lowland clearances as well .

As I mentioned above, I personally prefer talks where the speaker just talks to slides or overheads but then I am a very visual person who finds it hard to concentrate (all the time) when someone is just reading. I think too because I am a speed reader that I often think I can save time if I just read it myself!

After lunch Malcolm Horsburgh spoke about Dissenting Churches & Records and Margaret McLaren talked on Life in a Scottish Tenement. I went to the latter as I believe my ancestors were living in tenements and Margaret had some great illustrations that really brought home to me how small some of those places were, especially if there were lots of children. Also sharing a ‘water closet’ between two flats was an eye opener and not having backyards or places to play made me realise why children were always seen playing in the streets or ‘closes’.

The next session was a choice between Joy Roy on the Evolution of Planned Villages in Scotland and Joan Mitchell on Gaelic Scotland which I went to. As well as giving a history of the Gaelic language, Joan and her friends from the Scottish Gaelic Society of Victoria gave an example of Gaelic singing and folding the cloth.

In the afternoon tea break the Scottish Gaelic Society choir entertained us with a number of songs and if anyone wants to listen to a Gaelic song, try looking up Ishbel MacAskill on YouTube.

The final plenary was Sheena Tait on Picture The Past where she covered a range of material including statistical accounts, maps, gazetteers, images, pictures. Again I ended up with a long list of URLs to look at, many I hadn’t encountered before.

For all the sessions that I didn’t attend, I now have to read those papers and no doubt there will be a lot of references to follow up. As I indicated above, I am also keen to reread some of the sessions I attended too as there was just so much to take in.

The venue was really good, lots of free parking and getting afternoon tea and lunch was easy with everything well laid out so that lengthy queues were not an issue. Plus there was plenty of food, healthy sandwiches and rolls with fruit for lunch and muffins and French pastries for afternoon tea. Personally I would have liked to see some Scottish shortbreads or other Scottish food (and at the dinner too) but perhaps the Hemisphere’s chefs weren’t up on that specialised area.

The whole two days was really well organised, all the speakers kept to the theme and to time, the publication of all the papers was a plus (now for sale in the GSV online bookshop, and overall the conference was great value. I have a much greater appreciation for what it means to be Scottish or of Scottish descent and lots of things to follow up in those spare moments.

Congratulations to the organising committee on putting it all together. I am already looking forward to the next one!!


Search