Congress 2015: The Carnival Is Over

Kerrie Gray in pre-injury mode on Day 1.

Kerrie Gray in pre-injury mode on Day 1.

Congress 2015 has come and gone and The Carnival is Over.

I imagine Convenor Kerrie Gary and her team of “green people” and “purple people” have all collapsed in a heap after a job well done…they certainly took care of us very well and provided us with a luxury smorgasbord of speakers.

So…what of my thoughts on Congress? I’ve been so absorbed during the event that I haven’t blogged but let me try to give you a summary of what I’ve enjoyed most about Congress. Feedback on individual sessions will need to wait until some mental digestion has taken place I think.

The Humorous

The welcome to Sydney Congress 2018 by Bridge Climber Gerhardt (aka Martyn Killian from SAG) was very funny and provided levity just as everyone’s brains had gone into meltdown. I wonder what fun and learning Sydney will have in store for us?IMG_0862

The quirky green-haired “So Long, Farewell,  Auf Wiedersehen, Good Bye” from the Congress 2015 team was also fun.IMG_0868

Not so much humorous as hilarious was the finale of the Congress dinner with Canberra comedians, Shortis and Simpson, in an  irreverent mockery of Australia’s Prime Ministers past and present. It says a lot for our country that our national leaders can be satirised from within its very halls of power…in many countries it would merit a firing squad.

The Friends

Fellow blogger, Fran aka Travelgenee, was pretty pleased with her beads and ribbons.

Fellow blogger, Fran aka Travelgenee, was pretty pleased with her blogger beads and ribbons. Read her blog at

One of the joys of Congress is meeting fellow obsessives with whom we can swap notes and experiences. I wonder how many people met cousins or others with fellow research/family interests?
I had a great time catching up with people I’ve met online or at past events, especially those who have become online friends via hangouts or blogging. I really enjoyed catching up with mates I’d made at RootsTech only a month or so before hand.

DSC_3196For those who are still wondering, the black and gold beads worn by some were generously provided by GeneaBlogger guru, and good mate, GeniAus aka Jill Ball. The pale blue Kiva ribbons tagged onto name badges were to promote the Genealogists for Families lending team about which the members are passionate. Hopefully our promo spiel may have encouraged some new members to join us. Since I was ordering those, I also ordered some Queenslander ribbons which caused some consternation among my Blues friends. Thanks to fellow GFF member and Kiwi blogger, Roger Moffat in the US who helped minimise postage costs. Kiva1

The Learning and the Passion

Mum and I outside the Broadford Catholic church cemetery 1989.

Mum and I outside the Broadford Catholic church cemetery 1989.

Of course the real reason we all attend Congress is to benefit from the knowledge and passion of the wonderful speakers who talked on their fields of expertise.

From my point of view this was a great conference with so much expertise condensed in one place. It was especially enjoyable and educational to hear more from my history hero, Richard Reid (even if he did try to embarrass me in his presentation! Was I ever so young, and skinny, as in that photo?!). And then there was the opportunity to speak with Irish experts Perry McIntyre, Cheryl Mongan, Jenny Harrison and Nick Reddan. Heaven on a stick for me.

The Extras

Sunset illuminates Parliament House.

Sunset illuminates Parliament House.

I learnt a lot from my lunch sessions especially Paul Milner giving us tips of preparing and presenting at a Conference…a little intimidating when I was speaking an hour later…too soon to assist, too late to change much.

Who could forget the imposing surrounds of the Australian War Memorial’s aviation hall or the Parliament House dinner setting?

During the Congress dinner, winners of the AFFHO Meritorious Service award. past and present, were given the new, very impressive badges.

Jan Gow, NZ, proudly displaying her medallion at the dinner.

Jan Gow, NZ, proudly displaying her medallion at the dinner.

2015 AFFHO Meritorious Awardee, Heather Garnsey, from SAG.

2015 AFFHO Meritorious Awardee, Heather Garnsey, from SAG.










Touring and Research

The film show during the Congress welcome.

The film show during the Congress welcome.

I did get to do a little research at the National Library and the National Archives but there will be more to do another time. The Australian War Memorial is, as always, inspirational and moving, especially the Remembrance Garden. As always I placed poppies on the walls for family members James Gavin, Thomas Paterson, and Robert Kunkel.

James Thomas Paterson is remembered.

James Thomas Paterson is remembered.

Once again, thanks to the Congress organisers for a great time of learning and fun in Canberra. Thanks also for the opportunity to be an official blogger for Congress 2015.

Apologies for this delayed posting – despite writing it on the train from Canberra to Sydney, the iPad defeated me in finessing the presentation.

Welcome to Congress

Registration completed, bags collected and blogger beads have been donned.

The crowds gathered and the conversations began…in fact the bus to the Australian War Memorial for the welcome did sound like a flock of happy lorikeets settling into the gum tree for the evening <smile>.

The buzz didn’t cease as we entered the hall dominated by famous Lancaster G for George. Here’s just some of the happy delegates, meeting each other, renewing old friendships and making new ones.


June Tomlinson from the GSNT meets some of the geneabloggers: Jenny, Jill, Fran, and Kerry


The Irish “push” Cheryl Mongan, Richard Reid, and Perry McIntyre with fellow speaker Shauna Hicks (2nd right)


Gail (NT), Judy (Qld) and Jill (NSW)

Gail (NT), Judy (Qld) and Jill (NSW)


Roger Kershaw from the UK is back in Oz chatting to Anne Burrows.


June Tomlnson (GSNT) chatting to Paul Milner.



Canberra turned on a magnificent clear day yesterday for its visitors …though that wind was a touch chilly for those from northern climes. This morning is another beautiful day with open skies and sunshine as we look forward to hearing some wonderful speakers.


All App’d up for Congress in five more days

Congress 2015My email this morning included one from Congress 2015 convenor, Kerrie Gray…the new Congress app (on Android and Apple) is now available. Over my morning coffee I downloaded the app to my iPad, and added the sessions, and keynotes, that I was attending.

Kerrie offered these useful guidelines for adding presentations to the “My Program” section of the app so you can have all your planned sessions in one place (don’t forget to add the keynotes and any lunches you’ve signed up for):

You can personalise the App by adding your Program.  When viewing any presentation from the program there is a button to add (or remove) that presentation to “My Program” and, when you have done that and select then My Program from the menu,  you will get a list of all the presentations you have chosen in chronological order.

I had no problems adding all my selected sessions to the My Program app and now I’m all set for when the Congress speaking program kicks off on Friday 27th.

I was also pleased to see my revised Sunday session title is on the App (Harness the Power of Blogging for your One Place Study…and other research). This is not a session about how to blog, rather the benefits you can gain when you put your family stories and research online with a blog. My focus is on how you can use this for your research into a particular place, irrespective of whether you have a formal One Place Study.

There are other tabs on the app:

  • The wonderful sponsors who help to make Congress possible without costing each of us an arm and a leg. We also get to learn more about these genealogy programs, books, cruises, and companies who can help us add value to our research.
  • Exhibitors and supporters who will have stands in the Exhibition Hall
  • A list of the speakers with their presentations and hot links to the abstracts for each presentation…lots of fantastic talks on offer.
  • Congress Functions: I’m looking forward to meeting people at the Welcome and also the Congress dinner.
  • Facilities: you can see the layout of the rooms we’ll be using in the Convention Centre.
  • A push facility to tell us when the next bus will be leaving etc.

I used my RootsTech app constantly while in Salt Lake City so I’m very excited to have this Congress 2015 app available (go to Google Play or the App option on iPad). I can see it being my “go to” place to keep on top of where I need to be and what I’m listening to. I type my notes into Evernote (most of the time) so it’s handy to have everything on the iPad. I may also load it on my Android smart phone.

And a reminder: don’t forget to add your Research Interests to the main Congress website by logging in with your registration password and spend some time seeing who else may be interested in your families/place. We’ve all received a list of those delegates who agreed to have their names published so you can keep an eye out for them.

DSC_3196And if you are from Queensland, or research Queensland families, try to find me around the traps as I have a ribbon you can add to your Congress name badge.

I also have a ribbon for members of the Kiva Genealogists for Families group – so once again see me or or GFF founder and team leader, Judy Webster.

And if you need to know more about what’s where in Canberra, buy your shuttle bus tickets, or just ask a general Congress question – visit the Purple Patch stand in the Exhibition Hall or keep an eye out for the Purple Patch people roaming the area…what a great idea.

thanksAt this stage I’m pretty sure Kerrie and all the Congress volunteers will be running on adrenaline to get across the line…I’d like to offer them a huge THANK YOU for all they’ve done to bring Congress 2015 to fruition.

Don’t forget that if you use social media you can follow what’s happening by looking at the Twitter tag #AFFHO.

Are you excited? I know I am! Look forward to seeing you there.


Meet Congress 2015 Speaker: Grace Karskens

KarskensToday’s Congress 2015 speaker interview is with Grace Karskens from the University of New South Wales, one of the keynote presenters. I’m excited about her presentation and think it will offer much food for thought for all of us.

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

I am a historian. I teach Australian history at the University of New South Wales. I also have a degree in historical archaeology, so I always try to read the material record of the past as well as the documentary one.

How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life? What do you love most about genealogy/family history/history/heraldry? 

Family history is so important in my work. Many of my books and articles take a close look at societies and people who have vanished forever. Family history offers a rich source for understanding those societies and people, for example, for looking at family formation, who married whom, where people moved to, and so on. I’m always looking for patterns, and how these patterns fit into the bigger picture – the economy, society, culture and environment. Like most family historians, I am so often amazed at the great human stories even just the lists of births, marriages and deaths open up or suggest. I am also very grateful for the generosity and skills of so many family historians who are happy to share their work.

One day I would love to explore my own family history – my parents were both post war migrants, they met in Sydney in the 1950s. Dad was from Zaandam and Harlem in the Netherlands. Mum grew up in a Dutch-Indonesian family in Indonesia. But I’m too busy with other people’s stories at the moment! Maybe a retirement project?

Have you attended Congress in previous years?

No, looking forward to my first.

 What are your key topics for Congress?

My keynote is called ‘Men, women, sex and desire: family history on Australia’s first frontier’. I’m getting down to the nitty gritty of what family history – making families – is all about! I’ll present some of the findings from the book I am working on at the moment – The Lost World of Castlereagh – exploring male-female relationships and what sort of community settlers made on the Nepean River, why finding a partner and having children was so important to these people, the impact of the uneven gender ratio, and the fact that there were so many young convict men around, and so few women.

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

I’m hoping I can bring the lost world and people of Castlereagh to life: recreate the landscape of relationships between men and women, and also parents and children; look at what mattered to people, and what choices they had. In short, see them as human beings in complex situations.

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

Reaching so many people will be great, and I always learn a lot from questions and chatting during the breaks.

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

One of my favourite inspirational quotes is from the great historian Greg Dening. He wrote that we have re-imagine ‘the past’s own present’. That is, we have to try to enter the worlds of past people from their own point of view, their own situations, their own moral and cultural ideals, rather than our own.

In the ‘past’s own present’ we have to imagine what it is like not knowing what happens next, because they didn’t.

 Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?

People can email me at my university email address.

Thanks Grace for sharing your “take” on family history in its broader context. With such an interesting title I’m sure you’ll get lots of interest. 


Let’s get Congress ‘Appy

Congress 2015Exciting news to hand from the Congress 2015 organisers…we are to have a Congress app which will contain all sorts of handy info making it easy to carry Congress content (and current) on your smart phone or tablet.

I used the RootsTech app when I was at Salt Lake and found it super-helpful so expect the Congress App is bound to keep me similarly ‘appy.

What content is expected to be included in the App? Here’s the interim list:

  • Able to be navigated by day/session/room/speaker – with details and abstracts for each presentation.
  •  Your own list of selected sessions under a function called “My Program” which can be added to/amended throughout to enable you to keep on top of what you have planned to attend.
  •  A list of Sponsors, Supporters & Exhibitors (with links to their websites),
  •  Speakers (with links back to their presentations),
  •  Facilities (with information about transport, the exhibition hall and catering),
  •  Functions and  About Congress 2015 (with an interactive Google map of the area & a downloadable floor map of the venue etc) be-happy-use-the-congress-2015-app (1)
  •  Push functionality so any Congress messages can be sent out at short notice.  eg next bus for the Dinner leaving at …

Delegate information will not be included so don’t forget you need to add your research interests on the website by using your Congress log-in. Have a scroll through the interests already added and see if anyone else is researching the same names or places.

 Let’s get Appy for Congress 2015.

Black Cats and Bingo Callers: Congress 2015 Final Registration

As the bingo callers say “13, lucky for some” as it is for genealogists who’ve been procrastinating about Congress 2Friday 13015 in Canberra. The big day is now only 13 days away and today is the last day to submit your late registration, sign up for the social functions, and generally start thinking about your session attendance and research plans. There’s going to be a whole array of great speakers, not to mention a mob of great genies, so do you really want to miss out?

Congress is a triennial event and Canberra is really not that far from any of the capitals except Darwin and Perth, but then we’re used to that. It also has wonderful research repositories: The Australia War Memorial (venue for the welcome function), the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia, the National Sound and Film Archive, Australian National University Library etc.

Congress 2015With more and more genealogists researching solo online and not members of societies, the Congress has the added benefit of meeting fellow enthusiasts, sharing knowledge and picking people’s experience to help with your own research even beyond the scheduled speakers.

I’d like to suggest that we all make a point of being open to meeting new people and welcoming them into the genea-fold. Sure we are all a little shy with people we don’t know, but we do have something in common with which to kick off our introductions – so let’s get our brief genie snapshot ready to tell others where we’re researching and the names.

Last night’s Hangout on Air from GeniAus has lots of tips on Congress and what to expect. Similarly the TravelGenee, Fran, also posted a good intro to Congress on her blog yesterday.

My checklist:

Image from

Image from


Why not join us all at Congress 2015 and take your genie learning to new heights?

Hurry, there’s only hours until registration closes.

Dare I do it?

Tonight I had a glitch with GeniAus’s Hangout on Air for which the topic was an enquiry from Sharon from Gathering Dust blog re how we each handle our filing/”piling” system.

Perhaps the gods were laughing,as after the first minutes I was inaudible to anyone and my screen dump didn’t work. In the end I left to hangout with living family members who dropped by unexpectedly.

family-history-back-to-basicsHowever I think Sharon’s enquiry has a lot of merit and fits with my aspirations to get back to basics. I am much more confident of my old-style filing system which lets me readily (mostly!) find documents, whereas my digital filing is more like Topsy – it just grewed. At this point it’s worth reiterating that I have been researching for nearly 30 years, long before the digital era hence a partial-explanation of the Topsy system.

Hard copy system

I have long had multiple A4 arch-lever folders categorised by family name, and sometimes by generation. Within each folder I have the documents sourced by topic eg church, land, civic, certificates, military. This means that I have only one “cluster” of information to peruse if I want to locate a document. Generally this involves minimal disruption and has worked well over many years.

It also allows me to have folders for what have become my one place studies on Dorfprozelten and Clare. Dorfprozelten info is mostly filed by family as there is a limited number of them, while Clare is by topic. General research has its own tab/folder.

The only problem with this system is the increasing number of bookcases, and filing, required.

Digital filing system

This is where I start to come to grief more often than with hard copies. Once again I have all my families in one folder “111 Family History” which places it at the top of my file directories. Within that folder I have sub-folders by surname and in particular cases, by place or research topic. If the information regarding place is specific to one family I file under that name.

With women I file under married name, post-marriage, and by family of origin/maiden name prior to marriage.

Screen dump filing system

I haven’t been in the practice of naming the files consistently and this is one thing I want to remedy. I do use the surname, first name and content/source concept (again, generally rather than consistently).

In the past I was in the habit of filing photographs, including those of documents in archives/libraries, under my Photographs folder by name/place etc. I don’t believe this is working any more and that I need to move research photos to the family history folder which relates. In this way I have them all “together”. Nor have I been good about adding metadata but have been slowly adding this over time and with more knowledge under my belt thanks to a RootsTech lab class, hopefully I’ll get better. I need to remember that slow and steady wins the race rather than hustle, bustle.

Cluster Research (FANs) and One Place Studies (OPS)

This is where I can really get in a tangle. Even before I signed up to a One Place Study, I had been collecting all relevant names from whichever parish register/document I’d been looking at for my family. I’ve found it all too easy for this to get messy. It’s also why I find genealogy programs restrictive but perhaps I need to have another go with an open mind. I’m presently exploring Family Historian, RootsMagic and Heredis as my long-time Aussie program, Relatively Yours, seems to be on the way out which is a great shame as it has always offered an innovative idea of family.

In the past I’ve entered the OPS data into an Excel workbook which is saved under the family name, or the place, depending on which is relevant. This lets me sort the data into family clusters in a separate spreadsheet while maintaining the original in time sequence. I make a practice of entering surnames/family names in a separate column from first names which makes sorting more reliable and effective.


DunceI’ve been slack about consistent naming of files and I haven’t had an overall plan before launching into naming files.

I’ve separated photos I’ve taken of documents from my other research documents on that family (in some/many cases). Quite honestly I have way too many photos of all types!

My Downloads folder has become a default documents folder and needs a major spring clean and the relocation of sub-folders to their correct place.

The filing keeps on piling up until it annoys the hell out of me and I have to clear the decks – often before I travel!


I’ve kept my hard copy files according to a pretty coherent system. This applies in particular to my Kunkel family files because this is how I ordered them when writing my book. Within the Kunkel Book folder I have the family documents subdivided by the first generation. I have the photo folder following the same system. However, as you can see, I still have some wayward files.Family History Book screen dump

With my East Clare discoveries on Trove I’ve been more consistent with my file naming conventions, using SURNAME, First Name, article reference. This may be because I’ve been doing these more recently. If I source photos elsewhere I add a code which indicates the repository eg QSA, JOL, SLQ.

I did manage to keep my Kunkel research documents in a coherent fashion which made it possible to publish the family history and organise two reunions, for which I set up my own database. (some positivity is needed here!) However, even here you can see that some wayward files have escaped from their proper place.


Slow downGeniAus has given us hope and affirmation that there’s no one right way to process our family history (though she was a bit harsh on the cat!). However with the deluge of digital information I can’t avoid the conclusion that the data is now the master and I’m the slave….I need to reverse that process if it’s not to drown me out. What is quite illogical is that I’ve actually got worse since I’ve retired and had more time available…go figure!

I think Jill is absolutely spot-on when she says we have to choose a system which suits us – without that we will constantly self-sabotage.

Without a doubt I need to SLOW DOWN, take time, and be consistent.


mind-maps-for-genealogy-cover-smallThanks to a tip in the Hangout from Alex of Family Tree Frog blog, I’ve been playing with a new program called Coggle which I find quite intuitive to use. Her mention of this is timely as it fits with my long-term interest (but inaction), and the book I bought at RootsTech on Mindmapping for Genealogists. I’m playing with Coggle to mindmap how I’ve set out my Congress presentation on the marriage of family and local history.

 C’mon I’ve hung myself out to dry here….Do be brave and tell me: Am I alone in the schmozzle of filing/piling that I have? Are you totally organised and neatly systematic?