Congress was held at the International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour in Sydney over 4 days from 9 March to 12 March 2018. There were numerous plenary sessions, and a choice between 4 talks at other times and even a couple of sponsor presentations. The exhibitors were spread out around the main lecture rooms and it was a bit of a walk to see them all. We tended to visit them one side at a time.
There were over 600 attendees plus exhibitors and there were lots of chats at morning tea times. That was the only catering, but the Centre is surrounded by restaurants, cafes and food courts and it was easy to go out during the lunch and afternoon tea breaks. The Centre also has its own café, but the queues were a bit long there at times as other functions were also being held at the same time.
My daily posts are to capture everything I did but also to share with those who were unable to attend in person.
The Congress officially started on Friday 9 March 2018, but I arrived in Sydney on the Thursday to settle into my hotel room and adjust to the new time zone. I also wanted to visit the Society of Australian Genealogists on the Thursday afternoon to collect my conference satchel and to attend the informal afternoon tea. This was a great opportunity to catch up with friends before the sessions started and to meet new people.
It was a leisurely walk back to the hotel and after my roommate arrived we went down for a drink in the hotel bar. Another great place to meet others staying in the same hotel. Being close to the venue there were quite a few other Congress attendees who we also saw at breakfast. The Darling Harbour Food Court was another place to run into people at breakfast, lunch and dinner with a wide range of affordable meals and coffee.
Friday morning the program got off to a great start with Jill Ball talking about Beaut Blogs and she gave lots of examples of her favourite blogs and why they are good for family history. I’m already a blog fan but I could see that quite a few attendees were left seriously thinking about starting their own blogs when they got home. Check out Jill’s Beaut Blog Presentation on Pinterest and click on the links to see the blogs she talked about. Jill also has a Geneablogging help board.
This meant I missed the other 3 sessions, but the handouts are available for delegates to download. There are 309 pages in the PDF and something for every talk apart from the sponsor sessions. We all have lots of reading to do post Congress. Not to mention following up all those new leads and websites.
One of the great things about attending conferences is that you get to meet new people and I was pleased to catch up with Samantha – we have been emailing each other following some DNA matches. We are related but have not quite worked out the connection due to my unknown grandfather.
The next talk I went to was Kim Katon on Getting Started: Aboriginal Family History Research. This is an area that I am interested in and it was good to get an overview and some tips on dedicated websites and resources. Indigenous genealogy uses similar resources but often surnames are not known and you can find people in BDM indexes under the surname Aboriginal. Some people may also be registered under Unknown. There can also be lots of name variants and spelling variations. AIATSIS (Australian Institute for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies) has lots of online resources and guides.
After lunch was my talk on What’s In A Middle Name? and this received good verbal feedback from attendees. It basically was how I solved two brick walls by focusing on the middle names in the family. My presentation can be seen on the Resources page of my website, scroll down to Presentations.
Then I went to Dianne Snowden’s Convict Records, TAS, NSW and WA which was broad ranging. LincTasmania has indexed and digitised records for many convict series and the best place to start is with their Convicts page. NSW convicts can be researched through State Archives and Records NSW Convicts guide and WA convicts are through Ancestry. I also use the Convicts database on the Fremantle Prison History website.
At 3.30pm there was the Welcome Function & Opening Ceremony which was an additional cost so not everyone attended. I attended, and it was a wonderful High Tea with some of the most delicious little cakes and savouries. There was plenty of food although the line up for the coffee was a little long at the beginning. It was OK if you were a tea drinker but if you wanted a latte or cappuccino it took longer but worth the wait.
Then it was back to the hotel for drinks with friends and we ended up sharing pizza and a cheese platter for dinner as no one was all that hungry.
A great start to the Congress.