Why You Should Attend Genealogy Expos and Seminars

20 March 2010

The past week has been very busy with three genealogy events and while I do feel a bit weary, it was a worthwhile experience going to all three.

The first was the Second Australian Jewish Genealogy conference in Melbourne where I was giving a talk on Caring For Your Family Records. I have never had any involvement with Jewish genealogy before so listening to the other speakers was extremely interesting. I had thought tracing my Norwegian ancestors was challenging with the spelling variations and patronymics but after hearing them talk about some of the difficulties of Polish ancestors I will never complain again.

Handouts at conferences always interest me and I now have a copy of A Jewish Walk through “Marvellous Melbourne” which we hope to do one weekend when we have some free time. There are 34 sites briefly described on the walk through the CBD streets and just reading it has given me a deeper knowledge of Melbourne’s history. When you haven’t grown up in an area, you are often unaware of the history to be found in buildings you see every day.

I also collected a copy of the quarterly newsletter Jewish Genealogy Downunder published by the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society (Vic) which has lots of interesting information as well as a brochure for the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society based in Sydney. One of the conference speakers presented a talk on Why Have Family Newsletters? and provided a copy of the Powerpoint slides as a handout. This is packed with tips, encouragement and interesting illustrations. I wonder if I have time to do one?

I was unaware of the Makor Jewish Community Library and their Write Your Story program which offers support, classes and editorial advice for people to write their autobiographies. Most have been written primarily for the children and grandchildren of the authors but these memoirs have a much greater significance than that. Copies of all works published are kept at the Makor Library and are used by readers and scholars researching the social history of Melbourne’s Jewish Community. The Library publish a beautiful glossy catalogue (also available on the website) in which there are so many books that I now want to read because they sound really interesting.

The second event I attended was the monthly meeting of the Cobram Genealogical Group which usually has approx 12 people but had an amazing 25 people to hear my talk on Demolishing Brick Walls. It was really good to be able to share my knowledge of things like Unlock the Past blogs, Genealogy Wise and Looking 4 Kin nings and Twitter as most of those present hadn’t realised the potential for genealogy and family history research that these social media sites have. It also gave me an opportunity to learn more about this part of Victoria as I had not been there before and to catch up with friends who live in the area.

The final event of the week was the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies family and local history expo at Bendigo on Sunday which had over 200 people through the door. It seemed to be busy all day and it went surprisingly quickly. In all there were over 60 exhibitors so there was something of interest for everyone. Max and I staffed a small display for Unlock the Past, Gould Genealogy & History, World Vital Records Australasia and it was an opportunity to promote my new book Your Family History Archives: A Brief Introduction.

I took the opportunity in quiet moments to go round and say hello and catch up with all the familiar faces and to find out what is new. I also collected a range of flyers and brochures that I can read at leisure and follow up any research leads.

In one of those ‘bizarre’ coincidences we were at a table next to Betty Jackman selling her Bendigo Advertiser indexes which she has compiled and published. On the other side was Tasmania-Gen Tree who we have met before as Max has many Tasmanian families including Barwick and Jarvis. Towards the end of the day we were talking to them about Max’s brick wall (his grandfather Henry Spencer) and how he suddenly appeared in Tasmania and married Ada Barwick nee Jarvis.

We were a bit surprised when they said someone else had already asked about the Barwick family and it turned out that it was one of the ladies sitting beside us helping Betty to sell her books. So Max finds yet another cousin and I still can’t believe how he seems to find a relative every time we go somewhere!

I am now re-energised and want to get back to some of my own too hard ancestors and see if I can learn more about them. Going to genealogy events is fun, interesting, educational and inspiring so make sure you find out what is happening in your area. Unlock the Past has a Calendar of Events for Australia and New Zealand which is worth looking at and don’t forget your local genealogy or family history society!

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