Unlock the Past Tasmanian Cruise Mar 2020 Report Part One

19 March 2020

We live in interesting times thanks to the coronavirus. Sadly some people could not make it, including one of the speakers Kerry Farmer. For those on board, the genealogy talks were fantastic and lots to keep us interested during the day and evening.

The cruise left Adelaide and we all eagerly gathered to meet and greet the speakers the first afternoon and catch up with each other. Afterwards quite a few of the group had dinner at Angelos restaurant on the ship. The evening talk was by Hamish Maxwell-Stewart one of the keynote speakers for the cruise. His talk was From Galley Service to Siberia: 550 years of convict transportation 1415-1955. This covered the history of punishment options, the rise of prisons and penal transportation.

The next day was at Kangaroo Island and we had a bus tour and then a walk around Kingscote before boarding the tender to go back to the ship. After the recent fires on the Island, everyone was glad to see the tourists spending their money and I got some lovely honeycomb from the Bee Hive. Then it was coffee and muffins at a local cafe, sadly beaten to the last scones and cream by the couple in front of us.

Not having booked anywhere for dinner, we ended up at The Pantry which had a wide selection of foods which were all served by cruise staff. No more self serve buffets. Hamish was again the evening speaker with Essential Sources of Information for Piecing Together Convict Lives. There are lots of sources including:

Pacific Aria off Kangaroo Island

  • trial information
  • British institution records
  • the voyage
  • arrival
  • conduct registers (Van Diemen’s Land only)
  • bench books
  • Colonial Secretary’s Office files
  • Government Gazettes
  • musters
  • permissions to marry
  • post conviction offending.

The Digital Panopticon may be a website that not many people are familiar with. It looks at tracing convicts in Britain and Australia 1780-1925.

Melissa Hulbert was going to give us a tour of the night sky after Hamish’s talk, but the clouds and the weather were against us. Another night was scheduled later in the trip, so we were not too concerned. However, when the cruise was cancelled we missed the opportunity to do this. The night sky map was included in the cruise handouts for attendees.

The next day was our first full day at sea and a complete day of scheduled talks. Parallel talk streams always mean difficult choices but I started with Helen Smith and I Have My DNA Results: Now What Do I Do? As I have been researching my DNA for a few years now, this was a good refresher session plus you always pick up new tips. There has been a lot of progress with DNA research over the last few years.

I really wanted to go to Alec Tritton’s (another keynote speaker) Outside the Church: Non Conformist Records but sadly I was scheduled to give my Irish Genealogy Online talk at the same time. This was the first talk I have given since I got sick, so I was a bit nervous but there was some lovely feedback from those attending. Also grateful for Lee-Ann Hamilton welcoming me back as a speaker. The presentation is available on the Resources page of my website – scroll down to Presentations. It was also included in the handouts to cruise attendees.

After a quick coffee break, I listened to Else Churchill (another keynote speaker) talking about Probate Records Before and After 1858. Lots of good tips, especially for before 1858. Else also mentioned the free information leaflets that are available for download from the Society of Genealogists website. I particularly noted the hints to read Secretary hand which will be a help in reading some of those old wills.

This was followed by Alec Tritton on Apprenticeships Before 1850 in the City, Borough and Parish. His talk opened up a lot of new thinking for me as it was an area I had not really explored before, having mostly ag labs and miners. An interesting website mentioned was The Records of London’s Livery Companies Online. The site looks at apprentices from 1400 to 1900 and there are a variety of search options including name. If you are not sure of the Company, you can select all.

After lunch there was the tough choice of going to Hamish’s talk on convict tattoos and scar patterns or Maureen Trotter’s WATO Magic: Tips for using the WATO (What Are The Odds) tool to identify where someone fits into the family. This is available from the DNA Painter website. DNA won out and Maureen’s examples helped me to understand better why I was not getting useful results with this tool.

As Kerry Farmer was not present, Melissa Hulbert delivered Kerry’s talk on DNA:GEDmatch. I need to have another look at GEDmatch as there are some new features and it is quite a while since I logged in. Kerry has a DNA handout on her website.

We had booked a 5.00pm dinner with another UTP couple (only booking we could get) so I missed the last talks of the day. As it turned out they weren’t feeling well and cancelled so we had dinner by ourselves in The Waterfront. Actually it was really quiet as a lot of people were not feeling too well with some rough weather and heavy seas.

This didn’t worry veteran cruisers but newbies had a bit of a hard time, including Hamish who was unable to deliver his evening presentation. Helen Smith bravely stepped in and gave us a talk on the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic which was somewhat ironic given the present times. It would have been a scary time back then without the news coverage we have today.

But then again, maybe we have too much instant reporting which seems to lead to panic and needless hoarding. I simply must mention the great toilet roll shortage which seems to have swept the globe. Even our little Island has empty shelves and hopefully by the time we run out, there will be less madness in the stores. As it was, when we got home we needed milk and bread and only managed to get the last loaf at our local fruit shop and thankfully they had milk too.

There are another full day of talks as well as evening presentations to write about, so this will be a two part blog post. Thanks for reading so far and the final post will appear soon.

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