Meet Congress 2015 Speaker: Shauna Hicks

Shauna HicksI doubt too many Australian genealogists are unfamiliar with long-term researcher and knowledgeable speaker, Shauna Hicks. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear Shauna speak quite a few times, and I’m sure many of you have too but here are her topics for Congress 2015. Shauna has also been convenor of Australia’s National Family History Month for the past couple of years helping to grow our community.  Let’s learn a little more about Shauna in her own words and what she thinks we can gain from Congress 2015.

I wonder if you could tell us a little about your background?  Are you a genealogist, researcher, historian or representing your organisation?  

I started researching my family history in 1977 after watching the TV series Roots. It made me want to know more about my own family history and history in general. After a few years, my passion was so great it led to a career change and I moved into the world of archives and libraries while pursuing university qualifications part time at night. Somehow I still found time to keep the family history research going!

How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life?

Well as indicated in that last question, it totally changed my whole life. I went from a fairly boring public service job to a variety of positions in Queensland State Archives, the State Library of Queensland, the National Archives of Australia and the Public Record Office of Victoria. As a result, I was privileged to work with a whole range of talented people on some fantastic library, archives and genealogy projects.

What do you love most about genealogy/family history?

It is never ending! When I first started there was no internet, no personal computers, email and so on and research took time and you needed to personally visit archives and libraries. Now we have some fantastic indexes, digitised records and it is often easier to research than it was. But not everything is indexed or online and more new resources are coming online all the time. In the last decade I have seen some of my brick walls tumbled and new lines opened up.

Have you attended  Congress in previous years?

Yes I have attended quite a few. My first was in Brisbane in 1994,  Melbourne in 2003, Auckland in 2009 and Adelaide in 2012.

What are your key topics for Congress?

I am giving two presentations – one on sporting ancestors and the other on court of petty session records.

How do you think your topic/s will help the family historians at Congress 2015?

I like to know as much as I can about my ancestors and what their lives were like in the communities in which they lived. We often forget that they may have played sport, perhaps at school or part of a church group or even the local team. Plus there were sports that we don’t see these days such as egg and spoon races or billy kart races. It doesn’t have to be professional sports, there were lots of amateur sports that our ancestors could have been involved with, including our maternal ancestors.

Some of my ancestors were colourful and I have found references to them in the local court of petty session records. Some of the details I have found in the court records would never have been known if they had not been captured in the deposition statements of my ancestors or witnesses to the crime. All of this extra detail helps me to know and understand what their lives were like.

So I am hoping that my two presentations will make attendees think more broadly about who their ancestors were and what they did within their communities.

What do you think are the benefits of attending a large conference like this, for you personally and for others attending?

I always learn so much from the speakers and if I haven’t attended the congress, I always buy the congress papers because the wealth of new information is fantastic. Also as there are multiple streams, the papers let you find out about the topics you couldn’t attend in person. I also love all the trade stalls and I usually come home with a heavier suitcase and a lighter wallet! Finally the big bonus is meeting up with ‘old’ genealogy friends and colleagues and meeting new ones. It is also a place to meet all your online geneamates in person.

Do you have a favourite piece of advice or a tip or trick you can share with conference attendees?

Just come along and be prepared to soak it all up, talk to others and take advantage of any offers from the trade stalls. Often there are some good bargains to be found or they are offering on the spot searches or help/advice.

Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?

My website is and I am also the author of

I particularly like Shauna’s tip to buy the Congress proceedings even if circumstances prevent you being able to attend. As for those of us who’ll be there, what great opportunities await us.

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