Diary of a Genea-Cruise Day 5: Hot, hot, hot!!

Today is…..

Saturday 8 Feb

And it’s going to be hot, hot, HOT in Adelaide, South Australia!

welcome to Adelaide1

It can’t be said that the cruise terminal in Adelaide is the most astonishing port in the world with its array of industrial buildings and containers. However a very pretty sunset over the harbour was a beautiful offset between nature and industry which I enjoyed.


Adelaide also turned on the best show for the arriving mega-liner and its 3500 odd passengers. I liked that it had a bush band playing old Aussie songs to welcome people and while a cynical person could say the shops were there to take advantage of the tourists, they had some lovely products. With my purple, aqua and green obsession (good feminist that I am!) how could I resist a beautiful hand-painted fine merino wool scarf.

Bush band

The Old Gum Tree-O. Permission received to publish photo.

None of us were too thrilled at the prospect of a 42C day but it wasn’t too bad. The train from the cruise terminal into town is both convenient and efficient, and even better, free for seniors!

I met a former colleague and friend for lunch at the Art Gallery, and who should be at the next table but Jackie from Jax Trax, mum Jan and “little brother”. Many genea-cruisers have taken the opportunity to meet up with friends and family at ports along the way.

Back on the ship and dinner completed, our only learning activity for the day was the choice of two talks: You use WHAT for genealogy by one of my dinner-table companions, Thomas MacEntee, or Tracing the history of a community: the Society for One-Place Studies by Kirsty Gray.

Kirsty Gray presents on One Place Studies.

Kirsty Gray presents on One Place Studies.

Given my obsession with Dorfprozelten, Murphys Creek (Qld), and Broadford (Co Clare, Ireland), I just had to go to Kirsty’s talk and I’m now even more committed to getting the last two registered with OPS. I love the marriage of family and local history and the diversity of understanding that can bring.

Blogger Beads

Blogger bead possibThanks to the inspiration of Thomas MacEntee and the spending spree by Jill Ball, the geneabloggers on the cruise have been wearing their blingy blogger beads. I did rather like these beads at the Art Gallery SA which I think would make pretty good blogger beads.

 Good night, sleep tight

This little piggy went to market….

This little piggy went to sleep…


Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Day 4 – at sea

No I haven’t forgotten how to count – Day 3 will come to you later today – wifi permitting – it’s a fine balance using the dongle while in port as the on-ship connections have been temperamental.

After our little excursion back on land yesterday we’ve been “hitting the books” again today.

Here’s a little glimpse of the talks I listened to, and what my “take home” message was from each of them.


Maria Northcote’s presentation on Using free Podcasts kicked the morning off early today.

Maria’s calm presence and professional skill came to the fore as she worked through default positions B-F trying to solve various problems. All those who attended really enjoyed learning more about her podcasts with their tips and tricks and she taught us all about new podcasts we might enjoy.

One suggestion was to look at the podcasts published by archives and libraries. If you haven’t been following Genies Down Under, do yourself a favour and have a listen. Also search your favourite specialist library or archive to see if they present general historical or informational podcasts.

Key Message: These are great learning tools which you can use in your family history.


Helen Smith: Using timelines for family history

I’d been really keen to listen to Helen’s talk and it had been on my wish list all along. I did manage to see a little of it, but with my talk coming up next the butterflies were kicking in so I took myself away a little earlier to draw a breath.

There were lots of good ideas for creative timelines, mainly using Excel. I’m quite familiar with the program but it hadn’t occurred to me to use the graph potential in the ways Helen suggested, including colour coding. I’ll certainly be using this option in my research when I get home especially with those niggly McSherry/McSharrys who seem determined to elude me.  Hopefully it will help me see anomalies.

I’ll certainly be looking at the presentation to have a closer look at Helen’s suggestions.

Key message: Try drawing up timelines and graphs to track your ancestor’s events, and combine it with historical events as well.

Pauleen editFANs

Some strange woman called Pauleen Cass then talked about Becoming a fan of FANs (Friends, Associates or Neighbours). I’ll leave it to others to comment on that.

Key message: Cast your net widely, look beyond your direct line.


After a short break it was back to the main conference room to listen to the engaging and ever-humorous Chris Paton explain to us about the Godly Commonwealth …the vagaries and complexities of the Scottish church structures in an historical context. It also explains why we may not find out ancestors in Scotland’s People, wonderful as it is. I think I’ll be buying a copy of Chris’s Unlock the Past (UTP) book on the topic.

Key message: Buy the book –there’s a lot to get your head around!

Chris Paton


Have you explored all the UTP collection of publications? They are really great and their content routinely belies their slight appearance. They’re available as e-books too so perfect for taking away when you’re researching.

Key message: Check out the UTP book list.

If there’s one downside to genea-cruising, it’s the sheer smorgasbord of conference topic choices. Sometimes you just have to take time out to chat with fellow genies, enjoy their company and learn about what they’re researching and how they go about it.

Key message: Sometimes you have to skip class to spend time with others and enjoy their company.


With so many Irish in my family how could I go past Chris Paton’s Irish Records Online (and accompanying book)?

Chris had so much to offer and he mentioned all my favourite Irish sites, including Family Search, Roots Ireland and Irish Genealogy. One place I haven’t explored is the PRONI website as I don’t have any Northern ancestors but his reference to the learning resources has convinced me it will be worth a look.

Chris also told us about some great releases due to come out soon from the Republic of Ireland’s Irish National Archives. I’ve already tried to find Pension Applications for my Mary O’Brien’s relatives when visiting Ireland but I’ll be looking again when they are released.  I’d so love to find that Honora Garvey had applied for a pension, citing those 1841 and 1851 census records.

One qualification that Chris made which I think is important is that Roots Ireland data is drawn from whichever records that county’s societies have been working on. This just might explain why there are gaps in what you’re finding. I certainly know I’ve got church entries which don’t appear in the Roots Ireland database and conversely it has records I’ve not found elsewhere.

Anyone who has attended the many UTP sessions in the capital cities doesn’t need me to tell them that Chris Paton is one of those speakers whose talks are full of content, but presented in such a way as to fully engage our attention.

Take home message: keep an eye on the Irish National Archives for new releases. Oh, and buy Chris’s UTP book…there was a big queue lining up to do just that.


Another engaging speaker is Jill Ball aka GeniAus whose talk today was about LibraryThing, an online program which enables you to catalogue and tag the books you own and read.  You can also snoop at compare the books your fellow genies own and see what they’ve read that you might find useful as well. This program is simple but diverse and Jill took us on a whirlwind tour of it in her allotted 25 minutes, convincing many people to adopt it as their own library system.

Take home message: Library Thing is a great tool for small societies which want to catalogue their library to professional standards.


Shauna Hicks – Online Newspapers and Indexes

Shauna gave a great talk setting out the huge variety of newspaper sources which are available to us. We are so very fortunate in the resources which are available to us.  Shauna reminded us that stories were often syndicated and published in newspapers far and wide, so if you we can’t find them here, online or on microfilm, to try indexes and also overseas newspapers including Papers Past.

There are great online newspaper resources but it’s fair to say they don’t quite match Trove for usability.

Those who aren’t on the cruise can have the chance to read the slide presentation on Shauna’s website: www.shaunahicks.com.au

Key messages: If you don’t have a National Library of Australia card, sign up for one (they’re free) and also sign up for Trove so you can correct text, and add tags and lists to categorise stories relating to your research interests.

Meanwhile back in the real world of cruising, the penguins were a huge hit on the Promenade Deck. I thought this photo was just gorgeous.



As always one of the sad things about conferences is there are always competing streams of topics which you’d love to listen to. With 245 genies onboard it can be challenging to connect up as well and lists are being prepared to combine research interests.

And then there’s the dessert choices.


Good night, sleep tight.

Tonight's towel arrangement appears to be a puppy.

Tonight’s towel arrangement appears to be a puppy.

Diary of a Genea-cruise: Day 3 in Melbourne

Today is….Thursday crop

It must be Melbourne. And OMG, I’ve just woken up and there goes the ….

Welcome to Melbourne

sign. After a few nights with four hours’ sleep the alarm plainly couldn’t succeed in waking me, so it was a whirlwind tour through the shower to be ready in 15 minutes.DSC_0845

My friend Sharn (from Family History 4 U) and I went to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the Art Deco exhibition which included some magnificent costumes from the 1920s. Some I’d be happy to wear today but sadly I’ve no longer got the 1920s figure I had in my youth. The photographs by Edward Steichen were amazing –dramatic and full of character, and none really the same as another.

What a lovely start to the day! Melbourne had turned on magnificent weather, not too hot, not too cold and lovely and sunny. I had a little wander through one of Melbourne’s lovely arcades…how good does this cake look?

choc fig tart

I was lucky enough to meet up with my new-found cousin Bev and we had a lovely lunch and exchange of news and a bit of family history over lunch at St Kilda. People were actually swimming in the ocean …how weird is that!! No stingers, crocs or sharks!!St Kilda beach

Back on board we had a post-dinner session hosted by Thomas MacEntee in which a panel were asked for their opinions on the “Future of Genealogy”. The panellists were Shauna Hicks (Qld), Mike Moore (I think, WA), Chris Paton (Scotland) and Kirsty Gray (England).  I’m not going to attempt to give you much on that but here are my take-home messages.

  • Social media was the tie-breaker on opinions with some being devotees and one panellist scoffing at it. Blogging, tweeting and Google+ing are still seen to be frivolous wastes of time. But then which group had the greatest solidarity on the ship….hmmm, the Geneabloggers!
  • Genealogists should consider using more people power to convince governments of the errors of their ways when implementing legislation which runs counter to our interests (eg the SSDI in the States).  Seems to me this is where social media just might be helpful.
  • Chris Paton emphasised his view that more attention needs to be paid to improving cataloguing in archives rather than just digitising records. After all if other records can’t be found, what’s the point. Without understanding the context the documents lose their “sense”.  Couldn’t agree more Chris.
  • Societies need to look at how they provide value to their members and look beyond those in the immediate area. This might include digitised records which are available online only to members. Every time a member pays their next membership fee they are saying “You’ve given me enough info/services to stay with you”.
  • Long term interest in genealogy: will it change with the demise (ultimately) of WDYTYA etc. My view is that we all started our family history because we wanted to know about our families and learn their stories. I doubt that will change though it may cause some leaf-collectors to drop away.
  • Shauna promoted Family History Month in Australia and encouraged everyone to support it within their societies.
  • Several speakers commented on concerns about dropping numbers of volunteers in today’s busy lifestyles. I suspect it’s more complicated than that.
  • I did like Chris Paton’s frankness in saying he didn’t have a clue as to where we’d be in five years.

Thank you everyone for thought-provoking responses to Thomas’s questions. I think there’s food for thought in the days and weeks ahead.

Good night, sleep tight.

Here I was thinking I was on the briny deep with the smell of the ocean in my nostrils. This little fellow on my bed made me wonder if I’d strayed back to Africa.


Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Day 2

After the excitement of boarding and meeting people on Day 1, Day 2 was all about learning from, and listening to, the variety of presenters on the cruise. I can just see that we are going to have quite a work load when we get home following up all the tips that have come our way.

So who and what was on our learning smorgasbord for the day?

Chris Paton: British and Irish Newspapers

Chris kicked off the conference with his usual lively delivery of a topic near to our hearts – the family treats that lie hidden in newspapers. He listed various options overseas and reminded us not to forget the Gazettes for London, Edinburgh and Belfast. He also talked a little about Broadsides on the National Library of Scotland site: 1 page papers with 1 story: “sale of a wife” anyone?

Not as well known as the British Newspaper Archives are the Welsh Newspapers Online, Manx National Heritage, the Scotsman Archive and Irish Newspaper Archive.

Key message: Check which editions of the paper has been digitised or microfilmed as it will affect the content you are likely to find. This is something I discovered re Australian Women’s Weekly editions on Trove which appear to be the NSW edition, so Queenslanders won’t necessarily find their edition of social pages.

Jill Ball: Beaut Blogs –what makes one stand out from the crowd?

Jill is another dynamic and engaging speaker who relishes her topics. She shared her perspectives on what makes a great blog and showed us examples from the blogs she followed. If you’ve been ambivalent about blogging, it’s likely that Jill will persuade you. There were a few takers on lessons about setting up a blog.

Jill says “content is king” and a blog should provide unique fare, catchy post titles, an opening hook, consistently solid work and be a joy to read, informative and fascinating…not a lot to ask!

Key message: Check out  Inside History’s Top 50 Blogs Inside History’s Top 50 Blogs to see which blogs they recognise as fitting the “beaut blog” criteria.

Helen Smith: Document Analysis

Helen offers great advice on really studying every element of a document or certificate rather than jumping to the one item you were hunting for eg a maiden name. It’s so easy to just miss important elements so transcribe the document exactly as it appears then analyse it and it may reveal nuances that you didn’t at first see.

Key message:  Look, really look, at your certificates and documents. Transcribe them and study them again.

Rob Hamilton: What does Freemasonry offer genealogists?

I knew from nothing about freemasonry so I found this an interesting presentation though I suspect from a particular perspective. Rob showed how symbolism can reveal much about our relative’s involvement in a lodge. Using examples it was obvious just how much detail we can obtain from membership records. You may find the details of their Lodge on funeral notices when Lodge members were asked to attend.

Key Message: Write to the secretary of the Lodge where you ancestor was a member and ask for information.

Noeline Kyle: Forced and Voluntary emigration to Botany Bay: how to research women

Noeline’s talk focused on the earliest female immigrants and their lives. Unfortunately I have no female ancestors who fitted this timeframe but, to an extent, her messages about their lives apply to our later immigrants as well.

Key message: Noeline has a great book available through Unlock the Past, dense with information on tracing female ancestors. It’s well worth buying in book or e-book format and it’s called “Finding Florence, Maude, Matilda, Rose”

Kerry Farmer: Immigration arrivals in Australia from 1788

As if we weren’t all replete after our delicious dinners in the restaurant, Kerry served us up food for our minds at this post-dinner presentation. This was a great talk dense with information and covering the vast diversity of immigration to Australia. We were reminded, among other things, to consider that our ancestors may have fudged their ages to meet the age selection criteria to obtain government assistance.

Key message: Buy Kerry’s upcoming Unlock the Past book on Immigration. This will be a goldmine of the information we were provided with in this presentation. I know I’ll be buying one!

cabin bedGood night, sleep tight

Notebooks filled and brains overflowing with information we retired for the night with lots to think about. Melbourne in the morning and more on-the-ground research opportunities for some people.

No fancy photos today people as I didn’t even look out my cabin door today…busy, busy. Nor did I remember to photograph any speakers.

Diary of a UTP Cruise Day 1

Voyager at SydneyAs we the scale of the Voyager of the Seas towered over us, my thoughts turned to my ancestors and their long voyage to Australia. While we anticipated being internet-less for a couple of days at a time it was inconceivable to think how they would have felt, standing on the dock with their life’s possessions, venturing into the unknown. They’d have known the chances of seeing their families was virtually non-existent rather than the brief hiatus in our communications.

Each of us on the Unlock the Past Cruise is able to travel with all mod cons and tech toys, and to a large extent our own space. We were not cramped together in a confined space below decks, cheek by jowl with people we’d never met before, and not for nine days, but for upwards of ninety days.

Sailing shipAs the ocean turned on the waves after venturing through the heads, we were given a sample taste of what they might have experienced. Even with modern day stabilisers our floating palace was creaking and swaying. Just hearing the walls move in the night, and hearing the wind, brought my Mary O’Brien to my mind. Imagine the sound of sails flapping in the wind, timbers creaking, and sailors calling to each other. It must have been incredibly overwhelming for people who’d never left home before. Our ancestors were brave souls indeed to take that long journey to a hopefully better life.

Meanwhile back in 2014, we were having a fine time, greeting people in the boarding queues or after getting on board. In the majority of cases we’d never met before or only through blogs and hangouts yet it was very much a sense of being among friends.  I never fail to be astonished by the familiarity of meeting those I’ve only known in the virtual world. I was reminded of the words of Irishman Michael Normile in his letters home “You might think I fell from the heavens to her when she knew me.[i]Promanade

I took the time after boarding to roam the ship and check out its facilities…it’s rather like being on a mall at sea, without that many shops. Despite the full capacity of the ship (about 3000 pax) it never feels crowded as there are so many places for people to disperse. It’s all very bling-y with chandeliers in the dining room and Greek statues round the pool(s). Intriguing to see the bridge with all the captain’s super-speccy tech toys!

Sydney let us down with our sailout – grey raining and a wind that could have carried us to Melbourne. However it certainly gave a bird’s eye view of the Opera House! I enjoyed seeing the juxtaposition of Sydney’s old buildings and new.

Sharn White, Thomas MacEntee and Jill Ball at the Meet and Greet.

Sharn White, Thomas MacEntee and Jill Ball at the Meet and Greet.

After dinner the genea-cruisers had our first get-together with the meet and greet in Cleopatra’s Needle. Much fun greeting each other and having photos taken in groups….two of us nearly got caught out putting our hands up as a total reflex when they called for the Queenslanders! Even more amusing was seeing everyone trying to stand straight as the ship moved….we really hadn’t been hitting the bars beforehand.

All in all a fun day with new experiences and a day of learning adventures ahead in Day 2 as the conference proper kicks off.

[i] Michael Normile’s letters in Fitzpatrick, D. Oceans of Consolation. pp 53 and 76. Fitzpatrick says “A rediscovered neighbour could take the form of an angelic apparition.”