Congress 2015: Cherry-picking papers

cherriesIt’s a week since Congress 2015 came to a close and for most of that time I’ve been gallivanting around Sydney with my other half. My reflections on the speakers I heard and my thoughts have been distracted by the offerings of the Big Smoke. Thank heavens I wrote all my notes into Evernote where I can easily follow up my thoughts at the time, and since.

Rather than go through day-by-day I’m going to cherry-pick some papers to offer some comments….once again a hazardous process.

Perry McIntyre on Remembering Ancestors, and Irish Convicts

I’ve rarely had the opportunity to hear Perry speak even though I’ve known her from years ago at Shamrock. I was especially taken with her talk on Remembering and Commemorating our Ancestors. Her early words were “it’s obligatory to write up our stories to preserve their legacy” and If it’s accurately sourced, it’s the detail that adds to the history”.

Perry reminded us of what we all know from our personal experience but often forget in the broader arena: memory is variable (and possibly fickle?). She questioned how family historians have influenced the wider practice of history. My response would be that it is by revealing the small-scale ordinary stories of families within the context of local, state and international history.

Perry’s talk on Irish convicts was dense with offerings for those with “Australian royalty”. Without that claim to fame I was more interested in the detail offered by the Chief Secretary’s Office Record Papers (CSORP) at the National Archives of Ireland.

I liked Perry’s idea of taking a layer-cake view of various historians’ research until we discern and assess a balanced position.

Colleen Fitzpatrick

Colleen’s reputation preceded her and was well deserved: all her talks were informative and engaging…and I enjoyed her dry sense of humour.

Who would have thought how much photographic assessment could arise from the image of a dead horse in downtown Shaboygan? It just goes to show how much we can gain from squeezing every ounce of information from a photograph. I was also amused by the fact that during the past week, the aforementioned Shaboygan visited me via a standing google ebay alert on a family name…another example of six degrees of separation?

DNA remains one of the challenging concepts for 21st century genealogists to get their heads around. I mentioned that I made a point of listening to as many DNA talks at RootsTech as I could. I’ve also learned from Kerry Farmer’s talks on DNA at different times, as well as her Unlock the Past Book. It seems to me that DNA is one of those topics that slowly reveals itself the more exposure we have to different talks. Colleen used the analogy of DNA as a book which was something most of us could relate to as well. It’s a shame I didn’t leap in and buy her book on the first day as they sold out.

Colleen has weekly quizzes on her website.

Paul Milner

Paul was a keynote speaker as well as session and lunch speaker and I learned heaps from his talks. Like many of the US speakers he has a dynamic speaking style which engages the audience. Although I’d used the Parish Chest records for some of my English ancestry there was lots of information to consider, especially whether my mariner ancestors may have generated settlement certificates for their wives and children.

His session on mining ancestors was particularly useful to me with its diverse information and has given me lots of avenues to explore for my Northumberland mining ancestors, the Reeds/Reids/Reads. The quirky side-shoot to his mining talk is that he has links to the Northern Territory, having worked in the mines at Tennant Creek as a young man.

Paul’s lunch time talk on preparing a presentation submission, then effectively delivering your presentation was pertinent and helpful – though it might have been less nerves-inducing if it hadn’t been only an hour away from my second Congress presentation.

Paul has a comprehensive website you can explore.

Grace Karstens on Sex, Marriage and the Frontier

Anyone who thought the whole roller-coaster complexities of human relationships is a modern thing had to think again after Grace’s talk. Essentially it was a type of One Place Study on the Nepean-Castlereagh area in the early days, focusing on relationships, sex and marriage. After all building families was a way for people to build their identity in the new colony. There was an emphasis on children and fecundity. It must have been incredibly tough for those women who were infertile or could not bear children.

I was much amused by the quote “boys as wild as goats with no shepherds”.

David Rencher – Landless Irish

As we know, Irish genealogy gives us a run for our money, especially if our ancestors were poor and landless.

David, like Perry, talked about the CSORP documents and I was intrigued that outrages were reported daily, setting the context for our families’ day-to-day lives….the Irish were by no means as passive as we like to think. Who knows what references you might find there? All you need is a trip to Ireland until more are indexed by the Crowley Bequest.

He emphasised the need to look for Catholics even in the Church of Ireland parish vestry records – where they survive. It was something of an “aha” moment for me to think I need to check further whether Church of Ireland records exist for my Irish places of interest.

Poor Law records and Board of Guardian minute books (some at least are online) are important potential sources for the landless Irish. It may also be worth considering if they moved across to Liverpool and appear in the Poor Law documents there. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland David also recommends rent books and estate records, usually at the National Library of Ireland. I’ve certainly had some success with these for Bodyke in Co Clare.

One book in my library which I think is enlightening on this topic is The End of Hidden Ireland by Robert Scally.

Cheryl Mongan – Famine Orphans

As there were over 4000 famine orphans, it stands to reason there must be lots of genies with an interest in this topic. Cheryl told us that not all the “orphans” were Irish – some were from Australia, the USA or England. I knew they weren’t all orphans but hadn’t known they weren’t all Irish.

My interest is in my husband’s ancestor Biddy Gallagher/Gollagher who arrived on the Lady Kennaway and it was interesting to realise she was on only the third ship to arrive – don’t know why that hadn’t struck me before. Biddy’s actual origins are more ambiguous as I mention in this blog post.

Cheryl told us how the orphans generally travelled from Ireland across to Plymouth on the open decks of the regional ships. This complemented Perry McIntyre’s statement that after 1848 the Irish emigrants left either from Plymouth or Liverpool.

I particularly liked the quote that found one ship’s matron “could not control her middle-aged self for a fortnight” so couldn’t control 250 young girls.

My take-home message is to have another sleuthing session for Biddy Gallagher in the Victorian Police Gazettes, government gazettes etc (it seems she turned to alcohol).

And FYI the Famine Orphan webpage, including the database, is here.

Carol Baxter on Evidence and Surnames

I had heard a talk on evidence at RootsTech and found Carol’s to be an excellent complement to that one…so much so I went and bought her book. There is direct, indirect and negative evidence as well and primary and secondary sources…lots of food for thought with this and I need to dedicate some focused time on it. When I heard the RootsTech talk I wondered if I’d really got my conclusions soundly based on the evidence I had and I want to zero in on this concept, aided by Carol’s book.

I hadn’t originally planned to attend the surnames talk but another look at the abstract convinced me it would be worthwhile and it certainly was. Although Carol’s talk and slides were clear and pertinent, it’s quite a complex process so I can’t hope to summarise it here…just go and buy the book like I did. What you do need to know is that it can affect soundex, and hence the success of your online searches.

Thank you to each and every one of the speakers for sharing their knowledge and passion for their topics. A lot of work goes into the preparation of each talk from which we all benefit.



8 thoughts on “Congress 2015: Cherry-picking papers

  1. Pauleen, Great summary. I am hoping to do a similar thing, when I get time to find the notes I started and finished them. Looks like you enjoyed your time in Sydney. Fran


  2. A few more speakers and conference papers to follow up on…thank you 😀 I used Evernote for taking notes and am so happy I did. It has been so much easier to find resources hat were mentioned and to jog my memory about other things – particularly as it seems I can type faster than I write now!


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