As one of the official AFFHO Congress 2015 bloggers, it is my pleasure to interview speakers and learn more about them prior to the Congress in Canberra in March 2015. Organised by AFFHO (Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations), Congress is only held every three years. It attracts some of the best speakers in Australasia and overseas, hundreds of keen family history enthusiasts and lots of trade exhibitors and without doubt is the major genealogy, family history and heraldry event in Australasia. See the program here and for information on sponsors and exhibitors see here.
This is the third post in my series of interviews – speaker Michelle Nichols
SH: Are you a genealogist, researcher, historian or representing your organisation?
MN: You could say that I am all of the above
SH: I wonder if you could tell us a little about your background?
MN: I have been occupied with family and local history for many years and am fortunate to work in the field I am passionate about. I have been employed to look after the Local Studies Collection at Hawkesbury Library for over 35 years and co-ordinate the Hawkesbury Family History Group (HFHG) which began in 1982. My fascination with history led me to further studies including the Graduate Diploma of Local, Family & Applied History and my MA history. I also completed the Diploma in Family Historical Studies in 1984 and am currently a Councillor with SAG.
Over the years I have helped others research and have also run classes on various topics relating to family & local history. In 2001 I unexpectedly received an OAM for my work in local history. Have been editor of the HFHG journal since 1983. Have written a number of publications including Disastrous Decade : Flood & Fire in Windsor; Hawkesbury Pictorial History and co-wrote Hawkesbury 1794-1994 and editedthe Hawkesbury Pioneer Registers 1 & 2. Have written numerous magazine articles and regularly contribute a column for the local newspaper. Have researched my own family but would like more time for research. Trying to find time to regularly blog as well. In spare time I manage several mailing lists, Facebook pages and transcribe and photograph local cemeteries for Hawkesbury on the Net with husband Jonathan Auld, fellow genealogist.
SH: How has family history/history changed your life?
MN: I was fortunate that I started doing family history when I was quite young and got to ask relatives pertinent questions. I guess that my passion for history has transformed my life by way of job choices. With my love of reading and history – working in a library is a no-brainer.
SH: What do you love most about family history/history?
MN: It is never boring – and always evolving.
SH: Have you previously attended Congress?
MN: Yes – my first congress was in Canberra in 1986. I also attended the Sydney in 1988 which was the first International Congress. It was held at Darling Harbour and the conference centre was not quite finished. This will be my 8th Congress interestingly back in Canberra.
SH: What is your key topic for Congress?
MN: Local studies collections in public libraries
SH: How do you think your topic will help the family historians at Congress 2015?
MN: Might make researchers give more thought to public libraries and what their collections may hold and what they have to offer family historians.
SH: What do you think are the benefits of attending a large conference like this for you personally and for others attending?
MN: Catching up with like-minded souls, learning new things – there is always something new to learn – no matter how long you have been doing research. Motivation. The social aspect is always very enjoyable, catching up with friends and making new acquaintances.
SH: Do you have a favourite piece of advice or a tip or trick you can share with conference attendees?
MN: My two best tips are: Always put your research into context. Family history isn’t in isolation and is not just about names and dates. It is about people, places and a much bigger picture.
Secondly, keep up to date with what is happening in the world of family history. Social media is an easy way to do this, particularly for the time-poor. Changing technologies and new resources are always becoming available to help us record and research our families.
SH: Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?
Thanks Michelle for sharing your thoughts with us.
Over the next few months I will be bringing you more interviews with Congress speakers. My official blogging team partners Jill Ball and Pauleen Cass will be doing similar interviews and we will bring you news of Congress as it comes to hand. I am looking forward to catching up with and making new geneamates as well as attending some great speaker sessions next March. Hope to see you there too.