Reflections on A to Z 2016

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

For the past couple of years, personal responsibilities things have taken priority over A to Z blogging for me. My decision to join in 2016 was a last-minute thing, because, frankly, my blogging frequency has been almost non-existent for the past year, for a variety of reasons.

My main goal from the challenge was to give myself, and the blog, a kick in the proverbial to restart my commitment. After all I’d already done two challenges and I knew it was critical to pre-schedule my posts, especially given I’d be out of town for half the month.

The next decision was what theme to pursue.  My previous challenges had two quite different themes on two of my blogs:

2012A genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue

2013Australia’s northern regions and some Aussie-isms

I had several ideas for 2016 but some would have required a longer preparation time. In the end I settled on How to pursue an interest in family history or genealogy. I knew this would have more limited appeal, but decided since my goal was to kick-start myself, and hopefully inspire some potential family historians, I’d just get on with it.


I was surprised to see how many genealogy bloggers were taking the challenge this year and was thrilled to see some of my genimates among them. We’re lucky that we have a great community of bloggers under the umbrella of Geneabloggers which has some 3000 members.

Even so, I found some great new-to-me geneawriters among the A to Z list, though they were hidden under history (mostly). I thoroughly enjoyed their stories and their journeys from A to Z. Here’s a list of them -hopefully I found everyone.

I also found some enjoyable and entertaining writers and photographers on various themes who I enjoyed reading. I tried to encourage myself and others to randomly select from a different range of 100 blogs each week eg 400-499.

Compared to earlier years it was a pleasure not to be hounded by CAPTCHA requirements. Alleluia!

I only wish that more bloggers had “like” buttons so you can show you enjoyed their story even if you didn’t have a comment you wanted to make.


The increased number of geneabloggers meant that I focused heavily on their stories, trying to read every post (though I missed some) and comment on most as well.

The consequence is that I read, and commented on, fewer other types of bloggers’ writing, which is a shame. It probably also partially accounts for why I had fewer visits to my blog from non-genealogists.

The sheer scale of the challenge is becoming over-whelming. I understand that the names have to go in as they sign-up but it’s then a search and find mission to find specific types of blogs.

My Weaknesses

It’s fair to say I’m probably never going to be short and snappy in my posts – perhaps my challenge for 2017?

While I’m happy to read a variety of blogs, I choose to ignore certain types that I know just don’t appeal to me (eg fantasy writing, no matter how good it is – sorry people).


It’s true that we should really start thinking about next year almost as soon as we’ve finished this year. Unfortunately, if I pre-schedule too far in advance I’m likely to lose interest in the whole process before April.

If I participate in 2017 I will venture away from family history (I think) into other fields I’m interested in (photography and travel perhaps).

thanksIt would be fantastic to have a genealogy code among the options but I get that you would then be asked for different headings under craft, for example.


Once again, thanks to the organising team who must put in a huge amount of work to bring this challenge to us each year. Great work people – I have no idea how you do that AND write your own blogs.

Thanks also to all those bloggers who shared their stories with us this past month. May your blogs continue to grow and give enjoyment.

A to Z 2016 Summary

survivor-atoz [2016] v2Whew!! Well we’ve all survived yet another A to Z challenge and what an experience it’s been. There are so many brilliant blogs out there and I was pleased to find this year how many fellow geneabloggers were participating. I also discovered some that were new to me. You can see them on this Sunday Summary list. It was fun to see how differently people responded to the challenge with their theme.

My theme in 2016 was how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy. Hopefully it’s helped a few people along the way and not frightened anyone off.

Thanks to inspiration from my friend Maria from Wishful Linking Family History Blog, I’ve put together my A to Z list here.  If you don’t already follow Maria’s Genies Down Under podcasts, do yourself a favour and sign up…lots of learning and fun.

A is for Ancestors and Archives

B is for BDMs, Blogs and Beyond the Internet

Tree and ladder shutterstock_56502106C is for Certificates, Collateral Research and Census Data

D is for Digitisation and DNA

E is for Education, Ethics and Electoral Rolls

F is for Family

G is for Genealogical Societies and the Genealogy Community

H is for History, Hospital Records and Health Inheritance

I is for Interviews and Immigration

J is for Journals

K is for Kirk Sessions and Kiva

L is for Libraries and Local Histories

M is for Maps and Microfilms

N is for Newspapers

O is for Occupations and One Place Studies

revisit record revise circular_edited-1P is for Parish Registers and Parish Chests

Q is for Questions

R is for 3 Rs and Religion

S is for Stories and Serendipity

T is for Trials, Tribulations and Tombstones

U is for Undertakers

V is for Valuations and Virtue

W is for Witnesses, Wills and Workhouses

X is for Scandals and eXpertise

The world is your family tree oyster with blogging. Edited image from Office Clip Art.
Share your discoveries on your blog.

Y is for Yearning

Z is for zzzz

Thanks to my readers for joining me on the journey and commenting. I appreciated your company.

Thanks also to the A to Z organisers for challenging us each year. Seriously you could read just the posts from this series and it would take months. There’s so many interesting blogs out in the blogosphere.

Z is for zzzz

My A2Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy – thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope it’s been helpful to budding family historians.

Z is for ZZZzzz

Well you can forget about that once you start your research…those delicious ten hour sleeps will become a thing of the past. At almost any hour of the day or night you’ll find a fellow genealogist online somewhere in the world.

SnoozeUnlike the A to Z challenge, family history research never really finishes. It may frustrate you, and at times wear you out, but it will offer untold challenges and interest on your journey. Like the rest of us, you’ll find yourself doing a genea-jig when you make any discovery, large or small.  The day you hold a document your ancestor signed, or you walk their land, will remain a special memory for the rest of your life.

Happy journeying if you join me and my genimates in this quest. If you opt to start a blog, do join Geneabloggers so we can all follow along. You might be interested in some of the Z attributes genealogists will need.

Thank you for following me on this journey…I’ve appreciated your support, especially that of new readers and my geneablogging mates.

There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you on this last day is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers 100 to 199.

Y is for Yearning

My A to Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy – I’d love you to join me on the journey.

yearn3Y is for Yearning

As we move forward with our research,  we long for the small or large discoveries that will break down a brick wall, or take our research further.

However, one yearning will never diminish, as we’re inevitably limited in truly getting to know our ancestors as people. We don’t know how our families felt about life in general and their own specific experiences. We don’t know whether they regretted the sacrifices they made when they emigrated. Or how they felt when they heard, months later, that their family members had died “at home”…or even if they had that news, or had to assume.

I don’t know how my German ancestor, George Kunkel, felt about the tirades delivered in purple prose about the dreaded Hun, as he lived out his final years in the fist half of World War I. Or how he felt as grandchildren went to war against his original homeland? Did this contribute to his death and the elderly grumpiness one of his grandchildren remembers?

Author Unknown

We are left to explore as many records as possible and reach a conclusion about how they coped with life. Our emotions yo-yo as we find new discoveries or reach a blank. Inevitably our conclusions about our ancestors’ characters are bound to be biased, optimistic, or just plain incorrect. It’s hard to say why we care so much but they are no longer simply names on a genealogical tree.

Only those lucky researchers whose ancestors wrote down their thoughts in diaries or letters will have any means of moderating this yearning. Sadly, this will be few of us. Oral histories also give us glimpses of the personalities behind the names and I’ve been fortunate to have some of these to help moderate my yearning.

My genimate, The Legal Genealogist, captured some of this yearning in her post this week.

Over my blogging years I’ve written a couple of stories which express my yearning and how I would love to spend time with my ancestors.  You might be interested in reading them:

Lunch with Catharina Kunkel in Das Goldene Fass in Dorfprozelten

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner…my ancestors

The flip-side of our yearning to know our ancestors, is the need for us to leave something behind for our own descendants so they have a chance to know who we were and what we thought. Modern technology offers so many opportunities and ways to do this, including video-clips and/or voice recordings.

Let us make future generations remember us as proud ancestors just as, today, we remember our forefathers. Roh Moo-hyun


 Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>

 There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers 200-299.


X is for Scandals and eXpertise

My A to Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy – I’d love you to join me on the journey.

XX is for Scandals

I know, there’s no X in scandals but if I used “?-rated” I’d be inundated with dubious spam.

As family historians we need to cope with all those scandals and skeletons that come out of the research cupboards, otherwise we’d best not start.It’s wise to wear a non-judgemental hat (at least most of the time) as we have no idea of our ancestors’ specific circumstances and, as we know, we too will make mistakes in our lives. Do unto others…and be tolerant of ancestral shortcomings.

see no evilI know there will be extreme circumstances in some families such as domestic violence, murder, child abuse, and for our early settlers perhaps maltreatment or murder of indigenous peoples.These would be ones I’d find difficult, if not impossible, to tolerate myself .

There are other ones that earlier generations carefully concealed: convicts, illegitimate children, adoptions in/out, bigamy, incest, murder, victims of crime, divorce, mental illness, extreme poverty, etc etc. While many of these would no longer gain that letter-rating I carefully didn’t mention, some can still bring us up short and others ensure that the information may well still be concealed within the family.

How we deal with this information, balancing honesty in reporting with respect for the people whose lives they were, as well as for their living decendants, definitely needs to be part of our family historian attributes. This leads us back to the importance of ethics in our research.

graduationX is also for eXpertise

As we research the specific combinations of our families and their backgrounds, we acquire more and more knowledge about where they lived, their occupations and their country of origin. We gain eXpertise in certain areas and should give ourselves credit for that life-long learning.

Also a word of warning. While others may have wide eXpertise, they may still get things wrong. When I started my own family history 30 years ago, I was told “no Bavarians came to Queensland” and “no German Catholics”.

Had I believed those statements I could still be searching for my George Kunkel, in entirely the wrong part of Germany. Instead I bought relevant certificates and in every single instance he stated Bavaria as his home place. Further research, over a long period, revealed that he was far from being odd man out in being a Catholic…it was just that the German Catholics had intermingled with the Irish. So trust your research and your own eXpertise after a careful analysis of what you’ve done.

Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>

 There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers 300-399.



W is for Witnesses, Wills & Workhouses

WMy A2Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy – I’d love you to join me on the journey.

Some letters have so many possibilities while others, like Q and X, challenge us to find a suitable match. W could be for so many records in family history research but I’ll limit it to a few.

W is for Witnesses

Image from

When we look at documents from certificates to news stories, our tendency is to focus on those we perceive to be the key players ie our ancestral families. All other names tend to blur into the background.

Is this a Wise move? No, not really. After all, think once again of your own life events and transactions, and all those people in your contacts list. We rarely choose some random stranger to witness something unless the law requires us to do so. Quite often the witnesses will be close friends at the time (if not forever friends) or relatives of varying degrees of closeness. Looking closely at the names and trying to identify their connection to your family may open up doors and knock down walls. Similarly the absence of a name you’d expect will make you ask more questions. Had there been a family falling-out or was the person simply living too far away to be there?

For example, my grandfather’s name is not listed among the many names of gift-givers at his sister’s wedding. Was he being difficult and was he Mr “Anonymous” or had their rift already occurred? Similarly was the absence of my maternal grandfather from his parents’ jubilee anniversary indications of the semi-isolation he experienced from marrying a non-Catholic, as I’ve been told, or for another reason? Presumably as he was patched into the photo, his siblings didn’t necessarily feel the same.

Church records are highly likely to include close family. Broadford, Parish Kilseily registers hint at which Reddan family is related to my O’Briens in Co Clare. The disappearance of Bridget and Mary as witnesses gives a clue to their emigration date.

W is for Wills

Image from

As with all other family research, you will find wills in the jurisdiction where your family lived…or you hope you will. If they have so little it’s possible that they won’t require a will to go to probate. If they died unexpectedly, or they were just disorganised, they may have died without a will in which case you will be looking at intestacies. I have a mixed hit-rate with wills but when they’re good, they’re generally very good. You also never quite know what you might find in the packet which comes with the will and you may even get a death certificate as part of the documentation. You can read an earlier post here.

In some instances you may find there are full lists of items owned by the person – particularly when death duties apply and the records have survived (New South Wales is good for this). I have been very lucky with the few family members who lived in NSW after leaving Queensland.

These wills may in turn lead you to land records and previously unknown property assets. If you find the land records too complex there are a number of professional genealogists who specialise in this field.

W is for Workhouses

Did your family ever use the phrase “you’ll end up in the poor house”? The memory of the threat of poverty and ending up in the workhouse remained vivid for many of our Irish ancestors, especially those who left during or soon after the Famine.

I’m not going to elaborate on these records here, but if you find your ancestor listed as a pauper, the workhouse records or the parish records are where you want to look. In Scotland you will also likely find information in the Kirk Sessions. My earlier post on the workhouses is here but the main gateway for information is this one by Peter Higginbotham.

W is also for War but there are so many records available, and most researchers are familiar with them, so I won’t elaborate. Examples of how they can be used will be found under my military history category.

Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>

There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers 400 to 499.




T is for Trials, Tribulations and Tombstones

My A to Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy – I’d love you to join me on the journey.


41 Alexander DUNN
Alexander Dunn is buried in Winton Cemetery, Qld, a long way from his home in southern NSW.

Putting the cart before the horse, sometimes tombstones can reveal some of our ancestors’ trials.

How many of us have wandered cemeteries, sometimes just exploring and other times tracking down ancestral graves. We are shocked by the infant mortality revealed by tiny graves with touching tombstones. The death of young men in tragic accidents in those pre-safety-wise days, the horrors and risks hidden behind the deaths of young women who died of puerperal fever or simply being worn out from repeated births. I am always saddened by the deaths of people from many miles away who died and are buried far from their families.

Tombstones might be the only place where an ancestor’s place of origin is detailed as their divided loyalty is reflected by shamrocks and wattle. The sadness of the death far from Scotland or Ireland is mitigated when that person’s grave is wrapped around with the graves of their descendants. The conflicts of religion can be revealed by the burial of husband and wife in different part of a cemetery, not to mention the dilemma of whether to be buried with wife/husband #1 or a subsequent spouse.


Denis Scannell frm Co Kerry lowOf course our ancestors, especially our pioneers, experienced many trials and tribulations. Without family to support them they were vulnerable to economic downturns, poor agricultural seasons, death of spouses and dependence on employment. This is why we need to look, once again, at as many records as possible. Land selections (and the loss of property), news stories, insolvencies, bankruptcies and court cases can all illuminate your understanding. At least some of these involved trials of the legal as well as personal kind.

In times of war, there are the horrendous losses of (mostly) men, and the social impact of those who returned maimed and injured in mind or body. Throughout Australia there are memorials to these men who would have no grave in their own homeland…different types of tombstones. Each and every one of these losses created a great rent in the family’s fabric. Tribulation indeed.

children McDonald low
In memory of the children of John and Elizabeth McDonald, Winton Cemetery.

T is for Themes and Memes

 In S for Stories I wrote briefly about leaving our descendants our own stories. There are many themes which geneabloggers can use to structure their stories…some golden oldies and some current.

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

Book of Me

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun

Sepia Saturday

Trove Tuesday

Why not check these out to see if they appeal to you?


Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>

 There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers 700-799.


n memoriam the children of John and Elizabeth McDonald, Winton Cemetery.

S is for Stories and Serendipity

SMy A2Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy – I’d love you to join me on the journey.

S is for STORIES

 Why are we even bothering with our family history? Are we only interested in the biographical dates of our ancestor’s lives? Surely each of us is more than just those bookmark dates of our lives.

Similarly, our ancestors’ lives can be brought to life by sleuthing out as much information as we can find, online and offline, about their lives. We have never met them, yet over time they become as real as our nearest and dearest. We form opinions of them from what we learn – perhaps it may seem a little fanciful at times as we extrapolate from what we learn but if we are honest to what we learn, we are doing the best we can.

I strongly believe that our ancestors’ stories don’t have to be exciting and scandalous – most of us probably live solid lives without too much fanfare. Why do we demand more from those who came before? In the case of our immigrant ancestors perhaps the most courageous thing they did was to leave their families and travel to another country, sometimes on the far side of the world. How did they say goodbye to family knowing they’d never see them again in this life and in many cases, being illiterate, be unable to reveal how they were faring. I am in awe of their courage, their stoicism, and their commitment to establishing themselves and their families in ways their traditional lives could never have imagined.

Kunkel book cover cropIn the introduction to my Kunkel family history in 2003, I wrote: the names of the so-called “little people” are rarely recorded in the history books but they are the cannon fodder of wars, the workers who build a nation, and its railways, the families who make up its people.

 In more recent generations we frequently bemoan that we didn’t listen to our parents’ and grandparents’ stories. To be fair, I don’t think all of them were that fond of talking about their lives, and for many of us, our youthful busy-ness, and self-focus, let that chance go by, though some of us had more foresight.

You may have to go beyond your direct ancestry to find out more about the family and look to great aunts and uncles or distant cousins.  I’ve mentioned often, how my second cousin gave me a fantastic oral history of life on my 2xgreat grandparents’ farm. Once again, you may need to spread your net wider to find someone who is keen to share the stories with you. I found that once I started writing my Kunkel family history, Dad and Mum were much more inclined to share information.

For those of us who blog, we have such a fantastic opportunity to write the stories of our family and their lives, in bite-sized chunks. Don’t forget to include your own story – don’t you wish you had a diary, letters or anything from your grandparents?

Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>

 There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers 900-999.

Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family. Pauleen Cass 2003.


R is for 3Rs and Religion

RMy A2Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy I’d love you to join me on the journey.

R is for 3Rs

A while back I wrote a post focused on the research process involved with family history. It was well received so I can’t see any point in reiterating it in this post. Pop over to this link to read more about Revisit, Record, Revise which I wrote for the collaborative blog, Worldwide Genealogy.

Revisit record revise
Genealogy’s 3Rs of research.


Religious affiliations still have the power to sever family ties but mercifully not quite as much in the past. Even in my childhood, a mixed marriage could cause all sorts of angst, and it wasn’t unheard of for a child to be disowned or largely ignored for marrying a Catholic – or vice versa.

Certificates can help you to know what religion your ancestors followed. I had a couple who were affiliated with the primary church in their country of origin (Anglican in England, Church of Scotland/Presbyterian in Scotland) and then “shopped around” when they came to Australia.

I’ve found it ironic in my own family where a perceived “non-Catholic family” has as strong an affiliation to Roman Catholicism as my “Catholic” branches.

Kilmorich Church at Cairndow, Loch Fyne
Kilmorich Church at Cairndow, Loch Fyne © Pauleen Cass 2010

One word of warning: not all Germans were Lutherans (or indeed other denominations). When I first started my family history I was resoundingly told that “no German Catholics came to Queensland”. Brrp, wrong answer. It was just that through intermarriage with the Irish Catholics their affiliation wasn’t as obvious. I’ve also seen comments where someone has assumed that because their German ancestor married in a Catholic church, there mustn’t have been a Lutheran minister available, rather than check which part of Germany the ancestor came from. Traditionally Bavaria is Catholic and in the village of Dorfprozelten there was only one church even though there may have been villagers who aligned with other religions.

Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>
There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers

Q is for Questions

thinkingMy AtoZ theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy – I’d love you to join me on the journey.


 When you’re researching, you always need to have your thinking cap on and question yourself and your sources.

  •  Is this oral history accurate? Can I get some confirmation from other independent sources? Having said that, there’s nothing like hearing someone’s memories recorded in sound or writing.
  • What is this document telling me? What’s the background or reason why it was created?
  • What government legislation applied at the time?
  • Were the country/county/state/council/town boundaries the same at the time we’re interested in or have they changed?
  • What significant external events affected your family?
  • Did they have any major personal challenges to deal with?
  • Why did they emigrate?
  • Did they travel alone or with other family or friends?
  • Did they bring family out after them in chain migration?
  • Is your family typical of their peers at home or those who emigrated?


red question markAnd on and on it goes. The questions will lead you to other resources and back to more questions. I did say family history is life-long learning <smile>.

An academic once said to me “what’s your question?” and I confess I looked somewhat blankly at him. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been asking questions, just that I hadn’t articulated it that way.

 What other questions would you ask?

Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>

There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers 1800-1924.