Review Unlock the Past History & Genealogy Expo, Geelong 2-3 Sep 2011

4 September 2011

Unlock the Past logoWell it was a busy two days at the last for 2011 Unlock the Past (UTP) history and genealogy expo in Geelong on 2-3 September. Over 600 people attended and there were over 70 exhibitors and two streams of talks, some for a $5 fee and others free – so something for everyone. Those who pre-booked also had free entry while those who turned up on the day paid $5 entry. You could have a very cheap genealogy experience especially if you managed to avoid the many temptations at the various exhibitors tables. I didn’t avoid temptation – I succumbed repeatedly!

Starting with the talks as usual I found that the two streams presented me with some challenges as I couldn’t go to both at the same time!! It is a little easier for me as I have heard some of the other UTP speakers at other expos. The full program outlines the two streams so I will only comment on those I attended and those I regretted missing.

I haven’t attended any of Rosemary Kopittke‘s talks for a while so sitting in on her talk about FindMyPast UK An Introduction was a bit of an eye opener as there is quite a lot of new records online. I find that I usually only think UK census but there is a lot more that may be of relevance to some of my families and I found myself doing a ‘must check this list’. The other choice was Susie Zada on the Genealogical Society of Victoria of which I am already a member.

At the next session I gave my talk on Asylums: Looking for the Sick, the Poor and the Aged so I had to miss David Rowe talking about Soldier Settlement in Victoria. This was a shame as I have an interest in that area. I hope someone else blogs about that talk.

Peter Mansfield talked about Regional Newspapers: A Wonderful Resource and I couldn’t agree more – he had some wonderful examples which highlights the richness of newspapers for family history research. Especially as more and more are digitised and available for easy searching through Trove. The other choice was Lauren Bourke talking about Public Record Office Victoria my old workplace.

The session before lunch was Kate Prinsley talking about the Collections of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria (I’m a member and a fan of their website) and Rosemary talking about Scotland’s People which I heard in Mount Gambier. I skipped out early to enjoy my pie and latte out in the glorious sunshine – it was great weather both days.

After lunch I went to hear Mark Beasley from the Geelong Heritage Centre talk about its various resources for family history research (some online). Some Geelong girls married into my Gympie (Queensland) families and I have been promising myself a research trip there for some time. The Centre has BMD newspaper indexes from 1840-2011 for the Geelong Advertiser so I might get lucky.

I was also surprised to learn from both Peter and Mark that the Advertiser is the oldest continuing newspaper in Victoria but it is not on any digitisation list – almost seems a crime. No doubt there is a reason but given that Geelong was a major port for the goldfields I would have thought it rated a higher priority than some of the others that have been done or are on the list. Happy to be enlightened if someone knows. Opposite Mark was Andrew Kilsby talking about Captain Octavius Skinner Burton (this was a military talk and I had heard Andrew before).

During the next session I took the option of going round the exhibitors as I had heard Paul Parton talking about FamilySearch and Heather Garnsey talking about the Society of Australian Genealogists.

Dianne Snowden gave an excellent talk on Tasmanian Family History Research and I have pages of URLs to follow up, some I was already aware of but others were not that familiar so this might end up a blog in its own right. The other choice was Lauren Bourke talking on regional archives in Victoria – Ballarat and Bendigo.

I then had my It’s Not All Online talk so I had to miss good friend Liz Rushen’s talk on Researching Irish Immigrant Women so I consoled myself by buying a few books from Liz and my other good friend Perry McIntyre. Perry is one of the speakers on the next UTP cruise in November which has a Scots/Irish theme.

The last session on Friday was Kerry Farmer talking about DNA For Genealogists and Bruce Smith talking about Family History & Sports Archives – I had heard both before but listened in on Bruce’s again as there really is a lot of sporting history out there in newspapers, archives and historical societies.

Saturday’s program was equally good and first up was Rosemary Kopittke talking about Find My Past Australasia and again I found it interesting to see how much has been added to this since I last heard the talk. You really need to subscribe to e-newsletters to keep on top of changes – I do but sadly I can’t seem to keep on top of all my reading! The other session was on the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies of which I am a member.

Next was Jenny Higgins from the National Library of Australia talking about TROVE and she had a useful handout explaining how to make the most of searching. She also talked about the Library’s E-Resources which are great for searching overseas newspapers. The other choice was Alan Phillips and Jacqui Haralstad from Clean Cruising talking about the UTP event War Comes to Australia to be held in Darwin in February next year.

Next was a change to the program with Helen Smith doing a Brickwalls talk which I had heard previously so I went to Kay Soderlund‘s Preservation of Your Records talk. Kay from Preservation Australia gave a very detailed presentation on all the elements of preventive conservation and then gave strategies for lessening or removing the threat.

Before lunch the choice was Anne Burrows on Finding Families at the State Library of Victoria or Brad Argent taking about What’s New at – I opted to listen to Brad and again was surprised to see how much is new and what is coming. I wasn’t aware that they now have wildcard searching and collection filtering – I really do need to read my e-newsletters!! Don’t forget they have free access of their immigration and travel records until 6 September so be quick.

After lunch I listed to Dianne Snowden talk about Heritage Tourism as I had heard Kerry Farmer give her Tracing English Ancestors talk in Mount Gambier. Susie Zada was next with her Look Local talk which I have heard before so I went to Laura Miles from Museums Australia (Victoria) talk on Museum Treasures of Regional Victoria. Laura talked about a new database (I had heard about it but hadn’t realised that it was now operational). It’s simply called Victorian Collections and it is an online cataloguing system that museums and historical societies can use to record their collections and that researchers can use to find items of interest. Only 2900 items so far but I am sure that will quickly grow. NB when I went to do the links for this blog, the database is not yet online but stay tuned.

Next was Carole Riley talking on Social Media for Family Historians which I have heard so I went to Andrew Kilsby’s talk on Researching Pre-Federation Military Ancestors. Whenever I hear Andrew’s talks I am envious of his photos – surely there must be a photo of my ancestors in their military uniforms somewhere. Perhaps when North Queensland newspapers get digitised I might find one!

I was next with my Google Tips & Tricks talk which is always well received so I missed Susie Zadas Sewerage Records: A Magnificent Untapped Resource which I am still to hear – but at least I have read the book.

Finally Paul Parton gave another talk on FamilySearch and Rosemary Kopittke talked about Connecting Families Online – both of which I had heard so I took the time to chat to someone researching the same family as me. Over the two days I saw lots of people chatting and swapping information so I expect lots of genealogy will be done in the coming weeks.

I hope people are still reading this very long blog – I won’t go into all the 70+ exhibitors but it was great for me to chat with friends I get to see at most of the expos. Ben and Cassie Mercer from Inside History have produced a very nice military issue for Issue 6 of their magazine and I am looking forward to having a read later this afternoon. I finally got to buy a copy of Chris Paton‘s book Tracing Your Family History on the Internet – I have been trying to get a copy for months and the good folk at the Genealogical Society of Victoria brought a copy to Geelong just for me so that was great.

Seeing Carol Heath from Pixel by Pixel reminded me that I still haven’t got my parents wedding photo to her for a quote (met her a while back and discussed the photo with her then) – the photo is starting to fall apart as it is on a metal backing and little flakes are falling off. Mum has asked me to get it restored but I suspect the best option might be just a digital copy and then restore that. But that’s what experts are for so I must add visit Carol to my ‘to do’ list!

On Saturday evening after a catered buffet dinner on site, there was a performance Hit the Road Digger: The Building of the Great Ocean Road by Colin Mockett and Shirley Power from Drop of a Hat Productions which was an interesting mix of reading, singing and all illustrated by old photographs. It made for a late night after a big day. Unfortunately we had a rowdy crowd of young males also staying at the same motel which also impacted on our sleep and everyone else staying there.

Do have a look at the exhibitors list as it really is too long to go into here and there may be something that will be of interest to you, especially if you had ancestors in the Geelong and Bellarine areas.

Finally I will talk about the venue which I had originally thought might be too big but with all of the exhibitors it was probably just the right size. The main theatre room was upstairs (two flights of stairs or one lift) and I did find the stairs a bit much by the end of the two days. Although this might reflect the fact that I need to exercise more. Waiting for the lift was not an option with so many people wanting to go to the main stream of talks.

The upstairs room was a bit warm most times while the other theatre room which was on ground level was much cooler, even a bit too cool sometimes. The showbag had lots of info and I picked up more brochures as I went around all the displays.

A big plus was that you could get food onsite (sandwiches, pies, other fast food, cakes, muffins etc) and there were tables and chairs so lots of networking over lunch. There was even real coffee and other hot and cold drinks. Parking was plentiful and it was easy to reach by train as well so all up I think the Geelong Arena was a good venue for the expo.

Thanks must go to Alan Phillips and his UTP team for all the organisation that goes with an Expo and also to Susie Zada for all the local input which I think helped to make this the biggest and best of the 2011 history and genealogy expos.

I know this has been a lengthy blog but I hope those who couldn’t attend get something from my various links. Any research successes I have will be part of future blogs so stay tuned!

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  1. Shauna, Thanks for your most comprehensive blog posting and comprehensive links. A terrific two days that inspires and invigorates us to do our family history. I also agree that despite best efforts to keep up with newsletters, blogs and more it becomes difficult to keep track of the ever new information coming online these days- but a timely reminder from Susie that it is certainly not all on the internet.
    I arrived hitting the ground running following a drive from Melbourne and was immediately frustrated by the lack of signage for speakers venues, my first talk – au by Rosemary Kopitke , I felt she was rushing through her talk with little time (by me) for adequate note taking. I also wondered with most presentations involving the internet– that an actual demonstration live online might have been useful but perhaps the IT support was not available for this.
    Can I suggest that Unlock the Past could also have links to presentations or websites mentioned available on their website – thanks to those who do on their own websites – Shauna, Carole Riley, Susie and some others – perhaps available with a password to those who attended for a short time or something.
    I thought that “Hit the Road Digger” presentation was interesting and well done but it certainly could have been cut shorter – especially as many guests would have had a very long day. I previously did not know the story of Howard Hitchcock, a figure more Victorians should know about.
    I did attend some different talks to you and sorry that I missed some too. Thanks for the Victorian Collections link, (sorry I missed the Heritage Tourism talk) there was not much there last time I looked and I think this is a great resource to promote to local history groups.
    The Expo was excellent and I also met a number of people face to face for the first time after meeting online, as well being able to say hello to other familiar faces.
    I was actually stopped on the stairs and asked about my name (prominent on my name badge) from a lady from Canberra and we have passed on contact details.
    I also had a speaker who had major IT issues to start – her PPT would not work. She admitted to not having notes, no back up whatsoever. Do speakers have a “plan B” in their pockets?
    Perhaps next time round someone should fly the flag for Public Libraries as many researchers use them as one of their first points of call when starting their research and a great way to become familiar with the popular databases before committing financially.
    Sorry for the long comment post Shauna. I attended one of your presentations (Asylums) and it was excellent. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks Liz for all the feedback. I agree it is good if attendees can go home and relook at the talks or handouts online.
    From a personal perspective I always have two USBs with my talks on and a paper copy so if all else fails I can still give the talk and they can go home and see the slides.
    I do try and fly the flag for local studies collections and libraries especially in my It’s Not All Online talk and book – having worked in them at various times I know the wealth of information available. Perhaps what we need is a dedicated day for genealogy in local studies collections (bit like the Sense of Place conference we went to for librarians). Hope to visit out your way soon. Thanks

  3. Thanks for the blow by blow description, Shauna. Seems like it was a hugely successful event. I’ve learnt of a few things to look out for just by reading your post. Imagine what I could have learnt by being there.

    I’m sorry we didn’t have an expo closer to Sydney this year – maybe 2012 will be our year. Newcastle? Central Coast? Wollongong? Blue Mountains?


  1. Unlock The Past Expo Victoria | Carole's Canvas - [...] more photos go to my photo album in Facebook, and for a full rundown of all the talks see…
  2. News from MyHeritage Australia – 5 September 2011 - - English blog - [...] and family history associations from Victoria and Australia who exhibited over the two days. I've posted a wrap up…

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