Coincidental Congress Discoveries

Congress 2015Unlike many other long-term genies, I haven’t attended lots of AFFHO Congress events over the years. As far as I recall my tally to date is only three, four counting Canberra in advance. I’ll blame family commitments, full-time work and distance but they’re probably just excuses.

Even though my batting average isn’t high, I’ve had some great one-off successes which I’d like to share with you and perhaps inspire you to come along to Congress 2015.

The Bait

fishingCongress 1994 was in Brisbane and held at the University of Queensland where I was working. One of the sessions I attended was by Jenny Paterson who German researchers know is a guru of all things related to the NSW Vinedresser Scheme and who publishes in Ances-Tree, the Burwood and District Family History Group’s journal.

I’d been researching family history on and off since late 1986, and with some difficulty discovered my ancestor George Kunkel came from Dorfprozelten in Bavaria. To this day I’ve never found his migration record so perhaps the family story that he jumped ship is correct.

However, during Jenny’s presentation my jaw dropped as she projected (on overheads typical of the era), a list of names which included several families from Dorfprozelten. I had no idea until then, that George was just part of a group of emigrants who’d left his home village. Over time this inspired me to research these families and learn the ways in which their migration experiences differed and also were similar. Without this subsequent research I’d never have twigged that the names around my 2xgreat grandparents’ property at Murphys Creek, Qld, were the same as some of the emigrants. Further research confirmed this cluster as Dorfprozelten emigrants and their descendants. You just never know where one comment in a talk will lead you…I presented about this group at Congress 2006 in Darwin and will talk about further aspects in 2015.

Studio portrait of Lt Col WEH Cass, CMG.  Photo from AWM, copyright expired.
Studio portrait of Lt Col WEH Cass, CMG. Photo from AWM, copyright expired.

Congress 2003 was in Melbourne and I took myself off for another conference adventure. On the morning of Anzac Day, the keynote presenters were Roger Kershaw and Stella Colwell. I don’t have the topic title (even on the CD of presentations) but I do have my notes. Their focus was on military records in the Public Records Office, now The National Archives (UK). Imagine my astonishment when they flashed up a reference to papers found in a haversack owned by a Major Cass of the 2nd AIF! The papers had been taken to England and filed in WO 95/4343 from Anzac Day 1915. At the time our National Archives of Australia had started digitising the war service records of the men, but my recollection says the process wasn’t completed. However, regular army people like Walter Edmund Hutchinson Cass, had not yet had their records digitised. Stella and Roger had no idea what had happened to him and assumed he’d been killed at Gallipoli. At the next tea break I made sure of catching up with them and telling him about Cass’s other war service at Fromelles –I’d bought the book Don’t Forget Me Cobber from Gould Genealogy the day before. What a coincidence that they chose WEH Cass and that I was in the audience. It’s unlikely otherwise, that anyone would ever have known of these documents lurking in far off England. If you want to read a little more about my husband’s great uncle you can read about the family’s amazing collection here and his career here.

the hookThe Hook

So from my limited attendance at Congress over the years I’ve learned heaps in general, but also made specific discoveries that otherwise might have eluded me.

What will you learn from Congress 2015?

Will there be a breakthrough that breaks down your brick walls, or gives you opportunities for lateral research?


Over the coming weeks the official bloggers will be interviewing Congress 2015 speakers via blog posts or hangouts to tempt you with what’s ahead.Official Blogger badge

Keep an eye on this blog and also on these blog sites by the other official bloggers:

Diary of an Australian Genealogist (Shauna Hicks)

GeniAus (Jill Ball aka Geniaus)

P1060966Special Event: AWM

One special event by the Australian War Memorial is the daily Roll of Honour name projections. Why not check when your family’s deceased soldier’s name is being projected – you never know, you might be lucky and it will be up while we’re all in Canberra. There’s also a unique opportunity to attend the Welcome Ceremony in ANZAC Hall at the Memorial.


The early bird special finishes on 31 October but of course, you can still register long after that date…remember Christmas presents are coming up.


7 thoughts on “Coincidental Congress Discoveries

  1. Great post Pauleen, I was at the Brisbane and Melbourne Congresses but missed Darwin as I was speaking in New Zealand at the same time. I always find something new at Congress but never anything personal like you have, simply fantastic. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess I’ve been lucky Shauna…but with Congress you just never know what treats might pop up. Even if it’s not personal, there’s always something to learn.


  2. Thanks Pauleen, I hadn’t thought of researching the group of people who came out with my German ancestors. They were part of the Berlin Emigration Society and many of them went on to become well known in SA and some further afield.


    1. I havent heard about that group Kylie, so we’ve both learned something. I have found it very interesting to place my ancestor in the context of his emigrating peers….probably wouldn’t have thought of it if he wasn’t so elusive.

      Liked by 1 person

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