NSW History & Genealogy Expo, Coffs Harbour Day 1

4 June 2011

Unlock the Past logoThe doors opened at 9.00am on 3 June for the first day of the Unlock the Past history and genealogy expo in beautiful Coffs Harbour. I can’t believe it is so warm here for winter. We have been checking it out as a possible retirement spot next year. It’s in our top 5 spots!

By 9.30am there were lots of people checking out the various exhibitors which included:
Archive Digital Books Australasia
Clean Cruising
Coffs Harbour City Library
Coffs Harbour District Family History Society
Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery & Museum
Family Photo Book
Genes Reunited
Gould Genealogy & History
Guild of One Name Studies
Heritage Path
Inside History Magazine
Inverell District Family History Group
Irish Wattle
Kerry Farmer/Carole Riley
National Institute for Genealogical Studies
National Library of Australia
Nepean Family History Society
Noeline Kyle’s Writing Family History
Openbook Howden Design & Print
Royal Australian Historical Society
Dr Mark St Leon (circus historian)
Scotlands People
Shauna Hicks History Enterprises
Society of Australian Genealogists
State Records NSW
University of New England & Regional Archives
Unlock the Past

A number of genealogy software programs were also demonstrated including Family Historian and The Master Genealogist. I will write more about the exhibits in Day 2.

Now for the more interesting part of the day (at least for me) – the speakers and their topics. There were two streams as usual which meant some serious decision making. The first session was a choice between Dr Leigh Summers talking on When Widows and Brides Wore Black and the Regional Libraries talking about what they offer researchers. Leigh’s topic intrigued me so I went to that session. Leigh had some great photos to illustrate her points on everything from coffins, hearses, clothes and jewellery although mostly the more well to do. I can’t see any of my ancestors like that but still really interesting to learn about mourning customs in late 19th century.

Sadly I didn’t get to see the end as a local NBN news crew arrived and I was asked to do a TV interview for the news. That was fun but I never really like seeing myself on camera. Reporters ask lots of questions in a short space of time and then it all gets edited down into a short news story. It seems quite a few people who know me sure the interview, so there’s my not quite 5 minutes of fame.

The next session was no real choice as I was presenting a talk on Asylums: Looking for the Sick, the Poor & the Aged but I would have liked to go to Carole Riley‘s session on Social Media. I’ve heard Carole before but it is such a large topic and changes so quickly there is also something to learn. I will just have to content myself with rereading her book on Social Media for Family Historians.

I then went to Melanie Oppenheimer’s talk on Soldier Settlement in NSW 1916-1939 which was based on an ongoing project to learn more about this scheme. I had a basic knowledge of the scheme in Queensland and Victoria and NSW was basically the same – they put soldiers on the land with little or no support and then wondered why it all didn’t work. So it is good to see this project and I look forward to hearing more as it progresses. Melanie also had great photos to illustrate her points.

I had to miss Heather Garnsey’s talk on the treasures of the Society of Australian Genealogists but I had heard it before. Like Carole’s talk, this is one that you can listen to more than once because Heather talks about so many great records held by the Society for family history research.

For the last session before lunch I had put my hand up for Expert Sessions but due to a mix up in times, that didn’t quite happen. However, a few people seeing I was at a bit of a loose end, asked me questions anyway. The two sessions I missed were Rosemary Kopittke talking about FindMyPast.co.uk and Alan Phillips and Jacqui Haraldstad talking about 1942: War Comes to Australia.

Lunch was a really good pumpkin soup with a fresh bread roll. Another thing I will have to learn to master – good pumpkin soup, mine is always too thin!!

Bill Oates talking about the University of New England Regional Archives was my next session and they have some wonderful resources for anyone researching families in this area. Again some great photos – in fact I could probably sit and look at photos all day and never get bored. Paul Parton on FamilySearch was the other choice in this session and I had heard Paul previously.

Noelene Kyle was next with Writing Family History and I have known Noelene since our Brisbane days. Her talks on writing are still interesting with lots of great tips on getting started and just doing it, no waiting until the research is finished!! She has a new book out today so I am looking forward to seeing it. I missed the session on the local family history societies which is a shame as I always like to see what services they offer and what’s in their libraries.

In the next session I gave my Google Your Family Tree: Tips & Tricks where I broaden attendees view of Google and what you can do with it for genealogy. It’s a lot of new concepts to some which is why I have put the Google talk on my website so they can go home and view the slides all over again but without my commentary.

However I had to miss my good friend Christine Yeats from State Records NSW talking on Back alleys and research byways: Tips and tactics for chasing elusive ancestors in the NSW State archives. Chris always does great talks with lots of new information so that was a disappointment.

The final sessions for the day were Rosemary Kopittke on Connecting With Family Lines Online which I had heard before and Kerry Farmer talking on DNA for Genealogists which is a talk I have been wanting to hear for some time. Parts of Kerry’s talk I grasped and at times I felt I will never understand this DNA business. The good news is that her book on the topic is now published so today I will buy it and all will become clear! Just noticed it is not yet listed in the Unlock the Past publications area of Gould Genealogy & History but keep a watch for it!

We were meant to have dinner with other UTP speakers but Christine and I had a good catch up and drinks with Carol Liston and we missed the general dinner. We ended up going in for dinner as the others were leaving – still it was good to chat about wide ranging issues in the archival world.

I was going to finish this blog last night but I was too tired by the time I got back to the motel. Hence the 5.00am start to finish this morning. Now to get ready and go to Day 2 of what is shaping up to be another interesting and successful history and genealogy expo.

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  1. Thanks for the overview. Sounds like a great event. I will be watching out for a couple of these speakers in Sydney. Enjoy Day 2.

  2. Thanks for your update – wish I was there

  3. Thanks for the write-up Shauna, seems I missed a lot, and I was there!

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