It was a beautiful weekend in Shoalhaven with blue skies and warm weather. The conference, with a theme ‘A Most Suitable Place’ was a great opportunity for me to catch up with friends from all over New South Wales, Canberra and even one person from Queensland. It is an annual event of the NSW/ACT Association of Family History Societies.
The venue was great and the catering was simply terrific. I think it will be hard for any future conference to beat those morning and afternoon teas. The conference dinner and entertainment was probably the best I have ever been to and it was sad to see the conference end on Sunday. It certainly lived up to its theme.
So apart from all the social activity, what was the conference like. There was a great line up of speakers, some new and some old favourites, and all with interesting topics. I have a long list of things to follow up or check out and I don’t think I am alone. For those unable to attend I will briefly outline each speaker and their talk.
The Vincent John Crowe Memorial Address was given by Keith Campbell on ‘Alexander Berry and His First Years in Shoalhaven’ and while this was interesting, the speaker had far too much material for the allotted time and we never heard the whole paper. (I’m not sure why people prepare lengthy papers when they know they only have a limited amount of time in what is usually a fairly tight program).
The second speaker was Joyce Purtscher on ‘How to Find and Access Tasmanian Records’ which was of interest to me as I have quite a few Tasmanian families. Joyce put a number of websites up on the whiteboard and some kind soul typed them out and had them printed up as a handout.
Next was well known favourite Christine Yeats from State Records NSW with ‘Earning a Crust: Occupations and Professions in NSW State Archives’ which was an A-Z listing with examples to highlight what is available. Very informative and entertaining.
Cora Num, another well known and popular speaker, followed with an update on the Internet called ‘Web Wizardry, What is There & How to Use It’ which was also interesting and enlightening. Cora has a talk handout on her website which is very useful (click on the gopher). Although I notice that the handout is called Web Wizardy: Changing The Way We Research which is different from the program title. I can’t remember what the title was on the day.
Brad Argent, from Ancesty.com.au, gave a talk on ‘Using the Media for Your Society’ which was how societies could use the media more to promote themselves. He also gave examples of how to put a press release together so that media outlets might pick it up.
Brian Walsh spoke about ‘Tracking Down Assigned Convicts – Problems and Possibilities’ and he used Tocal as a case study. He identified a range of resources that could be used but as an archivist I would have liked him to have used Series numbers to identify some of the sources he mentioned.
The last speaker of the first day was myself (Shauna Hicks) on ‘Happy Hunting Grounds: Prison and Asylum Records’ which was looking at these records and how they might be used to break down brick walls. I gave examples from my own research on how missing ancestors might be found in prisons and/or asylums and also the importance of establishing any aliases.
On Sunday we had Malcolm Sainty and Carol Baxter talking about an exciting new project ‘The Biographical Database of Australia Library’ which is a very ambitious project to collect data on any person who came to, or visited Australia or who was born here from the earliest times to the present although all persons must be deceased to be included. A website will be available soon to give more information on this project.
Fiona Burn from the National Archives of Australia then presented ‘Records of the National Archives of Australia’ which was a look at how to best use the new version of RecordSearch. I found this particularly useful and learnt a number of tips to get better results from RecordSearch.
Sarah Lethbridge from the Noel Butlin Archives Centre in Canberra spoke about ‘Wharfies, Odd Fellows and German Shephers’ and this was an interesting look at some of the records held by the NBAC. Having lived in Canberra I was familiar with the Archives and some of their collections but it was a revelation to many of the attendees.
Rebecca Stubbs was to present a talk on ‘Records of the Aboriginal Family History Centre’ but was unfortunately unable to attend at the last minute. Ray Thorburn stepped into the gap and presented ‘Migration from the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland’ which was interesting and helped to provide a social context as to why so many Scots left Scotland.
The last speaker was Gary Luke on ‘Jewish History and European Migration’ and he gave a number of examples using documents to highlight the challenges of European research. He talked about internees, alien registration, visas and applications of relatives or friends to arrive in Australia. Some websites he referred to include a gateway site for Eastern European Genealogy – the Federation of Eastern Europe Family History Societies, Jewish Genealogy, the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society and the Australian Jewish Historical Society.
Trade displays were open before and after the program each day and also during morning and afternoon tea breaks and lunch time. There were a number of genealogical or family history societies and historical societies from all over NSW and the ACT as well as commercial traders and sponsors such as Ancestry.com.au, Gould Genealogy, Creative Memories, Family Tree Time, Marbract Transcriptions, Joy Murrin Family History Services, Turtle Consolidated Services, Teapot Genealogy and Unlock the Past. It was also good to see the National Library of Australia and State Records NSW with trade displays. Another group I was not familiar with was Southern Sons of Cornwall.
There was plenty to see and do over the two days and I don’t think anyone went home without learning something new or making new friends and contacts. Next year’s conference is hosted by the Inverell District Family History Group and will be on 16-19 September 2011. Hope to see you there – it should be another great conference.