Geneatravel in National Family History Month

9 September 2022

Geneatravelling Again in Person: a review of the AFFHO Congress on Norfolk Island and the Family History Expos in Auckland and Christchurch August 2022

It has been a while since we have been able to attend genealogy conferences in person. To combine that again with travel is even better. August was National Family History Month in Australia and New Zealand.

Thanks to Covid the AFFHO Congress 2021 on Norfolk Island was postponed to 2022. It was with some trepidation that we headed to the airport for our week on Norfolk Island. It seemed strange being back in an airport, but all went smoothly. We had a lovely one-bedroom apartment with a view over the ocean, away from the conference venue.

AFFHO Congress

Not surprisingly the exhibitors display was limited to local groups and authors selling their books. There were several pre-recorded talks to keep attendees interested in Rawson Hall. The launch was an excellent talk by Larissa Behrendt on how she used fictional family history to tell her own family’s story. This presentation is still available on the National Family History Month website under the Videos menu. Another keynote speaker was Ray Martin, but I was disappointed to see that he didn’t socialise with other attendees.

Kingston, Norfolk Island

Sessions I attended included Melissa Hulbert talking about DNA, Sue Reid on Newspapers Beyond Trove, Jill Ball on using LibraryThing (bit shocked to see a 2014 photo of myself and a reminder that we should review our profiles on a regular basis), Kerry Farmer on DNA & Norfolk Island, Lee Butterworth on the Harry Gentle Resource Centre, Wendy Holz and the NSW State Library for family history, Imogen Wegman on interpreting places with maps, Kerry Farmer on Scottish Genealogy, and another keynote from Larissa Behrendt on The Life & Times of Eliza Fraser.

As usual I came away with a few things to follow up plus increased motivation after hearing what others have done. The conference was spread over two hotels, just across the road from each other and not that big a walk, but certainly difficult for anyone with mobility issues. Unless of course, you jumped in your car and drove there. The catering at morning tea and lunch was excellent and plenty of it. There was time to chat with people although we were all wearing masks when not feasting.

Conference dinner was a fish fry on sunset which was amazing. Again, plentiful food, the sunset was spectacular, and some local girls entertained us with traditional dancing. Well done to all the organisers despite a small covid outbreak which apparently some people also took home with them.

Sunset on Norfolk Island

Auckland Family History Expo

After a couple of days back home, and covid negative, we headed off again to Auckland, New Zealand for their annual family history expo (covid permitting). This is held at the Fickling Centre which is an excellent venue with three concurrent sessions at a time and the big exhibition hall. The latter was bustling with lots of people with archives, libraries and societies and special interest groups exhibiting.

International speakers were zoomed in, and it was good to hear and see Judy Russell and Mia Bennett presenting. Mark Bayley from The Genealogist entertained the lunch time crowd again via Zoom. New Zealander Elena Fowler gave several sessions via Zoom on various aspects of DNA. Daniel Horowitz from MyHeritage was another Zoom keynote speaker and Jason Reeve brought us up to date with Ancestry and DNA. My talk on Trans-Tasman mining ancestors was in person and it was good to be able to see people nodding in the audience. I do miss that personal interaction with an audience.

Exhibition area, Auckland family history expo

A coffee and snacks van onsite allowed attendees to have quick breaks to get sustenance before the next session started. The two days went quickly, and I have more on the to do list.

Christchurch Family History Expo

This was held in the Christchurch main library, and it is a lovely new building. There was an exhibition area and two places for talks plus a teaching room for hands on classes. It was a smaller event than Auckland.

Mia Bennett was a Zoom presenter here and I caught her Hiding in Plain Sight talk which was packed with lots of information and websites to visit. Emerson Vandy gave some excellent tips on searching Papers Past and Maggie Gaffney’s talk on Finding Your Family’s Footprints in Ireland was my personal favourite of both expos. I would love to hear that one again as there was so much to take in. I repeated my Trans-Tasman mining ancestors talk.

Fiona Brooker, Memories in Time, Christchurch family history expo


All three events were well organised despite having to make additional concessions to covid. Wearing masks and social distancing was followed by all. I think it also made people wary about chatting to others over lunch or coffee.

It was great to catch up with friends and colleagues and to see what’s new in the genealogy world. But the time at all the events went so quickly. I also realised that I am not as young as I was, and it takes me longer to move around and I get tired more easily. Perhaps I just need to eat more spinach before attending three genealogy events in three weeks.

Finally, while over there, I zoomed a talk for Auckland Library from my motel room in Rotorua. How different our world is now. The talk was on convict ancestors and all the slides of my talks during National Family History Month are on the Resources page of my website.

What’s Coming Up

In New South Wales we have Riding the Waves of History next weekend and in October in Redcliffe, Queensland we have Sands of Time genealogy conference. To end the year, we have Family History Downunder 2022 in Sydney in November. Hope to see you at some of these future events.

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