This year’s Family History Feast was better than ever for a number of reasons. The day is organised by State Library Victoria (SLV), Public Record Office Victoria (PROV), National Archives of Australia (NAA), Victoria Office and BDMs Victoria and is a free event each year in National Family History Week.
Catching an early train meant that I could have a coffee at Mr Tulk’s (the cafe at SLV) before heading for the registration desk at 9.30am. As usual there is a seminar satchel (a useful NAA cloth bag) with leaflets, flyers, notebooks, pencil, rulers and so on. This year a very handy addition was a PROV USB with most of the presentations included to make note taking easier.
Sue Hamilton, Acting CEO and State Librarian, SLV welcomed everyone and gave a brief update on the Library. The first speaker was Hazel Edwards on Writing a Non Boring Family History and she is an excellent speaker but her session was only 30 minutes, way too short in my opinion. I took the opportunity to buy the revised copy of her book on the same subject during the lunch break.
The next session was Margaret May from BDMs Victoria who gave an update on the Early Church Records project. I always wonder why people do live demonstrations but don’t work out first what they will search on so that it all goes smoothly. Unfortunately some of the searches Margaret did revealed no results which didn’t demonstrate the product to its best advantage. I was also surprised to hear that it still won’t be released until later this year or even early next year, seems like it has been in progress for years.
Sebastian Gurciullo and Ed Story from PROV and NAA then gave a presentation on Koorie Records in Victoria which was very good for anyone tracing Aboriginal families. I have a fairly good background in this area having worked with both PROV and NAA and their Koorie record projects and databases.
During the lunch break the Who Do You Think You Are program with Shane Bourne was shown but I had seen that episode so I took the opportunity to have lunch and catch up with friends. I even found time to do a quick visit to the SLV’s Genealogy Centre to look up some information on New Zealand records.
Mark Brennan from NAA then gave an interesting talk on Conscription and records held by NAA on this topic. It’s amazing what is held and Mark pointed out a number of NAA Fact Sheets which helped identify relevant material.
SLV’s Katie Flack then gave a wide ranging talk on the resources available in the La Trobe collection and it was a good reminder that not everything is online and that there are still useful indexes either in card format or microfiche located near the Information Desk.
The next section was a tribute to Don Grant who died last month. Don had been very influential in Victorian and Australian genealogy circles as well as having been employed at both PROV and SLV. While Shane Carmody from SLV and Pat Eade from the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies (AIGS) read tributes to Don, a succession of family photographs played in the background as we learnt about Don’s life and his passion for genealogy.
The final session of the day was the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO) annual Don Grant Family History Lecture with Andrew Lemon talking about Storming the Barricades: The Family History Revolution. This was an interesting talk with Andrew bringing together his knowledge of Victorian horse racing and family history in a story about the jockey who rode Briseis to fame as the winner of the Melbourne Cup in 1876. It was an excellent example of how BDM certificates can conflict with each other and how ‘facts’ can be misrepresented and then repeated by others so that the ‘truth’ becomes blurred. I look forward to hearing it again when the podcast is available.
The other talks will also be available as podcasts and the best way to follow what is happening is to check the Genealogy Centre’s blog Family Matters which is also giving updates on each of the presentations. All up it was a great day and I look forward to next year’s Family History Feast. Thanks to all who were involved in organising the event.