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 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)!


Review Unlock the Past History & Genealogy Expo, Geelong 2-3 Sep 2011

September 4th, 2011

Well it was a busy two days at the last for 2011 Unlock the Past (UTP) history and genealogy expo in Geelong on 2-3 September. Over 600 people attended and there were over 70 exhibitors and two streams of talks, some for a $5 fee and others free – so something for everyone. Those who pre-booked also had free entry while those who turned up on the day paid $5 entry. You could have a very cheap genealogy experience especially if you managed to avoid the many temptations at the various exhibitors tables. I didn’t avoid temptation – I succumbed repeatedly!

Starting with the talks as usual I found that the two streams presented me with some challenges as I couldn’t go to both at the same time!! It is a little easier for me as I have heard some of the other UTP speakers at other expos. The full program outlines the two streams so I will only comment on those I attended and those I regretted missing.

I haven’t attended any of Rosemary Kopittke‘s talks for a while so sitting in on her talk about FindMyPast UK An Introduction was a bit of an eye opener as there is quite a lot of new records online. I find that I usually only think UK census but there is a lot more that may be of relevance to some of my families and I found myself doing a ‘must check this list’. The other choice was Susie Zada on the Genealogical Society of Victoria of which I am already a member.

At the next session I gave my talk on Asylums: Looking for the Sick, the Poor and the Aged so I had to miss David Rowe talking about Soldier Settlement in Victoria. This was a shame as I have an interest in that area. I hope someone else blogs about that talk.

Peter Mansfield talked about Regional Newspapers: A Wonderful Resource and I couldn’t agree more – he had some wonderful examples which highlights the richness of newspapers for family history research. Especially as more and more are digitised and available for easy searching through TROVE. The other choice was Lauren Bourke talking about Public Record Office Victoria my old workplace.

The session before lunch was Kate Prinsley talking about the Collections of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria (I’m a member and a fan of their website) and Rosemary talking about Scotland’s People which I heard in Mount Gambier. I skipped out early to enjoy my pie and latte out in the glorious sunshine – it was great weather both days.

After lunch I went to hear Mark Beasley from the Geelong Heritage Centre talk about its various resources for family history research (some online). Some Geelong girls married into my Gympie (Queensland) families and I have been promising myself a research trip there for some time. The Centre has BMD newspaper indexes from 1840-2011 for the Geelong Advertiser so I might get lucky.

I was also surprised to learn from both Peter and Mark that the Advertiser is the oldest continuing newspaper in Victoria but it is not on any digitisation list – almost seems a crime. No doubt there is a reason but given that Geelong was a major port for the goldfields I would have thought it rated a higher priority than some of the others that have been done or are on the list. Happy to be enlightened if someone knows. Opposite Mark was Andrew Kilsby talking about Captain Octavius Skinner Burton (this was a military talk and I had heard Andrew before).

During the next session I took the option of going round the exhibitors as I had heard Paul Parton talking about FamilySearch and Heather Garnsey talking about the Society of Australian Genealogists.

Dianne Snowden gave an excellent talk on Tasmanian Family History Research and I have pages of URLs to follow up, some I was already aware of but others were not that familiar so this might end up a blog in its own right. The other choice was Lauren Bourke talking on regional archives in Victoria – Ballarat and Bendigo.

I then had my It’s Not All Online talk so I had to miss good friend Liz Rushen’s talk on Researching Irish Immigrant Women so I consoled myself by buying a few books from Liz and my other good friend Perry McIntyre. Perry is one of the speakers on the next UTP cruise in November which has a Scots/Irish theme.

The last session on Friday was Kerry Farmer talking about DNA For Genealogists and Bruce Smith talking about Family History & Sports Archives – I had heard both before but listened in on Bruce’s again as there really is a lot of sporting history out there in newspapers, archives and historical societies.

Saturday’s program was equally good and first up was Rosemary Kopittke talking about Find My Past Australasia and again I found it interesting to see how much has been added to this since I last heard the talk. You really need to subscribe to e-newsletters to keep on top of changes – I do but sadly I can’t seem to keep on top of all my reading! The other session was on the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies of which I am a member.

Next was Jenny Higgins from the National Library of Australia talking about TROVE and she had a useful handout explaining how to make the most of searching. She also talked about the Library’s E-Resources which are great for searching overseas newspapers. The other choice was Alan Phillips and Jacqui Haralstad from Clean Cruising talking about the UTP event War Comes to Australia to be held in Darwin in February next year.

Next was a change to the program with Helen Smith doing a Brickwalls talk which I had heard previously so I went to Kay Soderlund‘s Preservation of Your Records talk. Kay from Preservation Australia gave a very detailed presentation on all the elements of preventive conservation and then gave strategies for lessening or removing the threat.

Before lunch the choice was Anne Burrows on Finding Families at the State Library of Victoria or Brad Argent taking about What’s New at Ancestry.com.au – I opted to listen to Brad and again was surprised to see how much is new and what is coming. I wasn’t aware that they now have wildcard searching and collection filtering – I really do need to read my e-newsletters!! Don’t forget they have free access of their immigration and travel records until 6 September so be quick.

After lunch I listed to Dianne Snowden talk about Heritage Tourism as I had heard Kerry Farmer give her Tracing English Ancestors talk in Mount Gambier. Susie Zada was next with her Look Local talk which I have heard before so I went to Laura Miles from Museums Australia (Victoria) talk on Museum Treasures of Regional Victoria. Laura talked about a new database (I had heard about it but hadn’t realised that it was now operational). It’s simply called Victorian Collections and it is an online cataloguing system that museums and historical societies can use to record their collections and that researchers can use to find items of interest. Only 2900 items so far but I am sure that will quickly grow. NB when I went to do the links for this blog, the database is not yet online but stay tuned.

Next was Carole Riley talking on Social Media for Family Historians which I have heard so I went to Andrew Kilsby’s talk on Researching Pre-Federation Military Ancestors. Whenever I hear Andrew’s talks I am envious of his photos – surely there must be a photo of my ancestors in their military uniforms somewhere. Perhaps when North Queensland newspapers get digitised I might find one!

I was next with my Google Tips & Tricks talk which is always well received so I missed Susie Zadas Sewerage Records: A Magnificent Untapped Resource which I am still to hear – but at least I have read the book.

Finally Paul Parton gave another talk on FamilySearch and Rosemary Kopittke talked about Connecting Families Online – both of which I had heard so I took the time to chat to someone researching the same family as me. Over the two days I saw lots of people chatting and swapping information so I expect lots of genealogy will be done in the coming weeks.

I hope people are still reading this very long blog – I won’t go into all the 70+ exhibitors but it was great for me to chat with friends I get to see at most of the expos. Ben and Cassie Mercer from Inside History have produced a very nice military issue for Issue 6 of their magazine and I am looking forward to having a read later this afternoon. I finally got to buy a copy of Chris Paton‘s book Tracing Your Family History on the Internet – I have been trying to get a copy for months and the good folk at the Genealogical Society of Victoria brought a copy to Geelong just for me so that was great.

Seeing Carol Heath from Pixel by Pixel reminded me that I still haven’t got my parents wedding photo to her for a quote (met her a while back and discussed the photo with her then) – the photo is starting to fall apart as it is on a metal backing and little flakes are falling off. Mum has asked me to get it restored but I suspect the best option might be just a digital copy and then restore that. But that’s what experts are for so I must add visit Carol to my ‘to do’ list!

On Saturday evening after a catered buffet dinner on site, there was a performance Hit the Road Digger: The Building of the Great Ocean Road by Colin Mockett and Shirley Power from Drop of a Hat Productions which was an interesting mix of reading, singing and all illustrated by old photographs. It made for a late night after a big day. Unfortunately we had a rowdy crowd of young males also staying at the same motel which also impacted on our sleep and everyone else staying there.

Do have a look at the exhibitors list as it really is too long to go into here and there may be something that will be of interest to you, especially if you had ancestors in the Geelong and Bellarine areas.

Finally I will talk about the venue which I had originally thought might be too big but with all of the exhibitors it was probably just the right size. The main theatre room was upstairs (two flights of stairs or one lift) and I did find the stairs a bit much by the end of the two days. Although this might reflect the fact that I need to exercise more. Waiting for the lift was not an option with so many people wanting to go to the main stream of talks.

The upstairs room was a bit warm most times while the other theatre room which was on ground level was much cooler, even a bit too cool sometimes. The showbag had lots of info and I picked up more brochures as I went around all the displays.

A big plus was that you could get food onsite (sandwiches, pies, other fast food, cakes, muffins etc) and there were tables and chairs so lots of networking over lunch. There was even real coffee and other hot and cold drinks. Parking was plentiful and it was easy to reach by train as well so all up I think the Geelong Arena was a good venue for the expo.

Thanks must go to Alan Phillips and his UTP team for all the organisation that goes with an Expo and also to Susie Zada for all the local input which I think helped to make this the biggest and best of the 2011 history and genealogy expos.

I know this has been a lengthy blog but I hope those who couldn’t attend get something from my various links. Any research successes I have will be part of future blogs so stay tuned!


Unlock The Past’s Brisbane seminar

April 2nd, 2011

It was a bit strange turning up for an afternoon of genealogy talks only a few days after the Unlock the Past history and genealogy cruise. There were quite a few friendly faces from the cruise and perhaps over a 100 other attendees.

It was a free half day seminar featuring interstate speakers and there was an option to stay on for a Battlefield Tours and Cruises wine and cheese information evening. I only stayed for the afternoon and went home to pack in the evening as we were flying back to Melbourne the next morning.

First speaker was Rosemary Kopittke on Connecting With Family Lines Online and this was one of the talks I missed on the cruise as it was in the Captains Lounge so I was happy to finally be able to listen to it. Rosemary mentioned all the usual suspects and a few I haven’t looked at – so that added a few more things to my ‘must follow up list’ post cruise.

The second speaker was Paul Parton talking about FamilySearch including New FamilySearch and I have heard Paul on previous occasions. I had expected from the title of his talk that he would be demonstrating how to use/search New FamilySearch but he didn’t and only pointed out the Feedback button if we didn’t like the new site. However he did talk about some of the new features such as the Research Wiki, the online 1851 England Jurisdiction maps, learning resources and tutorials and so on.

Alan Phillips gave a brief talk on the War Comes to Australia seminar and NT Tour in 2012 and more details are on the Unlock the Past site.

The third speaker was myself talking on Researching Military Ancestors in Australia and while I covered the usual suspects I also tried to highlight online resources attendees might not be familiar with. It pays to advertise your research interests and in my talks I tend to mention my own military ancestors. Someone doing a PhD on a Queensland regiment in the Boer War is interested in the exploits of my William Price. We are now swapping information which is exciting.

The final speaker was Mat McLachlan on Australia at War: A Brief Overview which was more about his battlefield tours and their increasing popularity. He had some very moving video footage from the Western Front and as one of my family members died there it was especially relevant.

Post seminar I was left with the feeling that I should do something this coming ANZAC Day on all my military ancestors – not sure what yet but last year I told the story of Tasman Jarvis who died at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. I’d like to do something similar on all of them but won’t have time.

There were also exhibitors – Clean Cruising, FamilySearch, Friends of Toowong Cemetery Association, Genealogical Society of Queensland, Gould Genealogy & History, Queensland Family History Society, Unlock the Past and the State Library of Queensland who had some of their brief guides on a range of topics.

I picked up the eye catching brochure for the UTP history & genealogy Irish & Scottish Theme Cruise leaving 21 November 2011 for 14 nights around New Zealand and coming back via Burnie, Melbourne and Sydney. Not sure that you can say that a cruise is ‘relaxing’ – the last one was full on from start to finish, although it was all pleasure with no cooking, cleaning or other housework!

Also picked up the brochure for the Gallipoli Cruise 2015 which will commemorate the 100th anniversary 1915-2015. It looks like a great trip (36 days) with entertainers John Williamson, Ross Wilson, Normie Rowe and Daryl Braithwaite and visiting Fremantle, Albany, Cocos Island, Colombo, Luxor, Cairo, Kusadasi, Gallipoli, Istanbul, Santorini, Athens, Palermo, Naples and Rome.

It was a great afternoon and I saw the other attendees writing down notes, collecting handouts or buying books from the various exhibitors. I’m sure they all thought it was worthwhile and I have new leads to follow up in my own research – all I need to do is stop travelling around so much and get back into my own family research!


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