SA & Victorian Border Genealogy Expo review

24 July 2011

Unlock the Past logoWell I have arrived back home after attending the Unlock the Past SA & Victorian Border history and genealogy expo at Mount Gambier. As usual I have a notebook bulging with new ideas and a list of things I want to follow up.

There were over 40 exhibitors and the talks didn’t start till an hour after the doors opened at 9am so that gave people a chance to have a quick look round. As there were so many I won’t list them all here but you can see the list of exhibitors on the Unlock the Past website. I took the opportunity to talk to Paul from FamilySearch, Vicki from Genes Reunited, FindMyPast UK & Australasia & Scotland’s People (and I thought I wear a number of hats!), David from Openbook Howden, Anthea from Gould Genealogy, my friends from the Mount Gambier History Group and Susie and co from the Genealogical Society of Victoria.

There were some great exhibits from local history and community groups with lots of photographs and memorabilia. The Mount Gambier Public Library was also there and good to see they got the opportunity to attend lectures as well.

As usual with Unlock the Past expos, there are two streams of talks on each day and while most incur a small fee, some are also free. I missed the first sessions as the local TV crew came to do some filming and an interview, but sadly didn’t end up making it onto the news. However, it is always exciting to see them at least take the time to come and find out what it is all about.

The Friday sessions I attended included two sessions given by Graham Jaunay on Identifying & Dating Old Photographs and SA’s Major Archives for Family Historians (both the subject of his two latest books); and Andrew Kilsby on Our Early Citizen Soldiers: Volunteers and Militia Prior to the First World War. I gave my talks on Asylums and Google.

The Saturday sessions I attended included Tracing English Ancestors by Kerry Farmer, Australia’s ANZAC Heritage by Neil Smith and South Australian and Victoria in War: the Story of the 9th Light Horse & the Men From the Region Who Served by Andrew Kilsby. I again gave two talks – on TROVE and It’s Not All Online (the title of one of my books).

I missed some sessions as I was answering queries and questions or simply chatting with some of the attendees. The full program is on the Unlock the Past website.

On Friday night there was a special musical presentation Songs of the South Coast by Brenton Manser and The Vanguard which followed a dinner held at the venue. I found some of the slides behind the singers very evocative especially the shipwreck and war scenes.

It was great that the school canteen was open and catering for the expo. This allowed attendees to have morning and afternoon teas and lunch on site in a warm environment with tables and chairs – sheer bliss and there is nothing like country catering! This also allowed for informal networking and getting to know new people.

Overall the venue was quite good although trying to heat the gymnasium was a struggle on such cold days. I had a few issues with the main lecture room – during 3 of my 4 talks the screen turned off and we had to take a few minutes to get back on track (school standby programs came into play) and during the last talk I had an annoying feedback from the microphone. All little technical problems but nothing major.

Two of the speakers I listened to chose not to use the microphone which always annoys me as I struggle to hear. Even turning up my hearing aids meant that I was only hearing part of what they were saying and when they turned to look at the screen and continued talking it was almost impossible to hear them. However, on the plus side both of those speakers did very detailed slides of what they were saying so I could follow more from just reading the slides. Still, I do think speakers should ask the audience if they can hear rather than simply choosing to ignore a microphone.

Now that I have had my little whinge, the speaker of the Expo for me was Kerry Farmer who only had 30 minutes to deliver a lecture on English research. She managed to include more websites than I had thought possible in that time frame so well done Kerry. Due to the two streams, I missed all of the talks by Carole Riley, Susie Zada and Rosemary Kopittke – all regular UTP speakers.

Overall I thought it was a good expo in a good venue with catering onsite and when there were technical difficulties, someone was there to help out. I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more people from local areas as it is not often that you get so many good speakers in a regional area. Still it was good to see the local support from community and history groups and the backing of the local Library. Thanks to Alan Phillips and staff for all the organising that went on behind the scenes.

The next Unlock the Past history and genealogy expo is a Victorian Expo in Geelong on 2-3 September 2011. I hope to see you there!


Shauna has been tracing her own family history since 1977 and is a Fellow of the Queensland Family History Society. In 2009 Shauna received the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) Services to Family History Award for her achievements in Queensland, Canberra and Victoria.

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