Meet the Speaker: Dr Jennifer Harrison

Jennifer-HARRISON-225x300Can you believe that it’s only 10 more sleeps until Waves in Time 2019? I hope you’re as excited about it as I am…genimates to catch up with and general family history learning and fun for three full days!!

There’s always something to inspire us at conferences with a range of topics and speakers. Today I want to introduce you to Dr Jennifer Harrison, who will be speaking on In their own words: How 1860s immigrants sailed Waves in Time to Queensland.  Migration is one of my own interests so this is a go-to topic for me personally.

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

I am an academic historian who believes that among the elements which make up history: a time period, locations, events and people, the most important is people – although in some stories one or more of the other characteristics may also be important.  I think this is reflected in my employment as Queensland researcher for The Australian Dictionary of Biography with ANU Canberra and my long associations with a number of family history societies.  So, I guess, in answering the question, I am a family historian, a researcher, an historian and I fully support the organisations represented by History Queensland.

What do you love most about genealogy/family history/history/heraldry? 

I guess I love the fact that once I start exploring a life story, I never know where it will take me physically, mentally, geographically and in life experiences.

Have you attended a History Queensland Conference in previous years?

Yes, I have attended the two previous functions and will continue into the future because I believe the programs, opportunities to meet people and access to tools, provided by the exhibitors to be incredibly stimulating.

How do you think your topic/s will help the family & local historians at the Waves in Time Conference?

I sincerely hope that my selected topic will assist people realise that there is an end to the long sea journey and that immediate responses by incomers, officials at the destination and facing new prospects required enormous mental and physical energy and demonstrates what strength our forebears displayed in order to make such a big relocation.

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

I guess I try to stick by: “Never ever assume” and “Footnote (or appropriately reference) as you go” but I am not always successful – still both are excellent and essential rules.

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

The opportunity to seek new solutions, learn new methodologies and make friends in a holiday atmosphere.  Find out new sources, what is available and who is involved – absorb, learn and enjoy.  It is not funding issues that thwart me – time, time, time but I am doing my best.

If you could pick one new project to do, what would it be? (Assuming no funding issues)

Currently it would be to continue with my British soldiers at Moreton Bay project.  Not new?  Then a detailed outline of migration to Queensland during the nineteenth century.

Disclaimer: As a Waves in Time Ambassador I receive a free registration in return for promoting the conference in various social media forums and on my blog.



Unlock the Past Roadshow: Brisbane Day 2

Banner web 2

Those with German ancestral research tend to get fewer international opportunities than the British and Irish offerings, so I was really looking forward to Day 2 of the Roadshow with Dirk Weissleder and others. I was pleased to see there was good support for Day 2 and that at least some of my genimates were also there.

Don’t you admire people who are bilingual (at least)? Even before learning a thing from Herr Weissleder I was impressed by his ability to present clearly in a different language.

Dirk’s passionate vision for connecting the German diaspora is inspirational. My only concern is for those who speak no German or only the tiniest amount: how do we overcome the language barriers? Dirk wants to bring the descendants of Germans together wherever they are and that is what the DAGV is all about. What is the DAGV? Like many German words it’s what we’d call “a mouthful”: Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft genealogischer Verbände…got that? Hint: It would be so helpful to have a translation option on the website for those who understand no German.

After listening to the vision for this bringing together of the diaspora, I’ll be considering whether to attend the 2019 Germanic Genealogy Conference in Sacramento.

Key points I took from Dirk’s presentations were:

  • Remember Germany came into being as a unit in 1871 – before that you must consider Kingdoms and Duchies. I know that my George Kunkel only ever listed his place of origin as Bavaria on official documents. I have the sense they were very proud to be Bavarian.
  • There are cultural and religious variations between the regions which must be considered. People think of themselves first as Bavarians (for example) and only second as Germans.
  • Like Ireland, you may have to work to find out what records are still available and where to find them.
  • We are in the same boat as genealogy researchers in Germany so we need to learn along with them.
  • I got lots of new sites to follow up to see if I can winkle out more info on my Bavarian interests.
  • The talk on European research was extremely interesting and could be applied to almost any form of overseas research. Key focus: channel your inner German heritage and be organised and focused.
  • think Geneaglobally

Of course Mr Weissleder and Mr Paton were not the only speakers on the agenda.

Rosemary Kopittke’s talks on My Heritage have convinced me I should renew my membership after all – it helps that I’ve just found someone else with connections to my distant Kunkel tree in there. I learnt a lot more about how to benefit from a My Heritage subscription. So far, my DNA matches haven’t been as helpful, but as yet it’s a smaller player in the DNA world.

The Living DNA presentation was interesting but as I tested back in February at RootsTech, it was more familiar to me. I might even get round to blogging about my results.

The Genealogical Society of Queensland, the Queensland Family History Society and the State Library of Queensland explained what a wealth of resources they had available for genealogical research, especially for the UK, Ireland and Germany. Remember to go Beyond the Internet and discover more about your families.

Helen Smith’s talks on DNA and how we can use it were informative, as always. I find that each time I listen to an explanation of the benefits of DNA, a bit more clicks into place. Have you tested for DNA yet? Has it solved any brick walls for you?

Thanks Unlock the Past for this fantastic two days of learning…it was both informative and fun.

Disclosure: I have been accepted as an Ambassador for the Road Show in exchange for a free entry pass. My reports on the Roadshow are my honest opinions


Unlock the Past Roadshow 17: Brisbane Day 1

Banner web 2

Is there anything better than the buzz of a bunch of genealogists gathering for a day of learning? Even before the presentations begin it’s so much fun to hang out with genimates who you talk to online and only occasionally in person. The sponsors’ stands offer treats to buy or activities to get engaged with eg joining a society.

Day 1’s speaker was the well-known GENES blogger, presenter and researcher, Chris Paton. I’ve been lucky enough to hear Chris speak on the Unlock the Past cruise a few years back and to do a Pharos course on Scottish records, so I knew we were going to learn a lot.

I don’t intend to steal Chris’s thunder for those attending the Roadshow in other cities so I will limit my disclosures here though I can guarantee you’ll learn a lot and get lots of laughs thanks to Chris’s quirky sense of humour.

What are my take-away points:

  • Check multiple online versions of the same documents eg newspapers, check the editions
  • Browse around a date, not just rely on the specific search
  • Search beyond your ancestors’ names
  • There are more online sources than I have found previously and I thought I was well across the various websites
  • Scotland is not England: its legal and cultural structures are different and so are the records as Chris will explain in useful detail.
  • Enjoy your research

Finally, through our research we remember (and honour) those from whom we come.

Cuimhnichibh air na daoine bho’n d’thainig sibh

And if you’re still dithering about whether to attend the Roadshow, jump online and register now before it’s too late – you won’t regret it! I had so much fun I forgot to take photos of the event.

Disclosure: I have been accepted as an Ambassador for the Road Show in exchange for a free entry pass. My reports on the Roadshow are my honest opinions

Unlock the Past Expo Brisbane

Usually Brisbane winter days are “beautiful one day, perfect the next” with clear blue skies. But somehow the advertising went wrong just in time for the Unlock the Past Expoat Jindalee.  What dreary grey wet days they were but luckily for all the genealogists there was lots of warmth inside to toast our spirits. So many excellent speakers on a diverse range of topics made for a smorgasbord of learning opportunities to suit any interest.

Alona from Gould Genealogy discussing the wonders of the Flip-Pal which seemed to be one of the hits of the Expo. I surely love mine!

I hadn’t expected to be at the Expo so it was all a bonus from my point of view and when challenged by competing options I had to select speakers who I don’t often/ever get to hear in Darwin. Luckily Shauna Hicks and Rosemary Kopittke presented on a range of topics in Darwin earlier this year, and Shauna usually visits annually, so that left me free to listen to new presenters though I know others really enjoyed their talks.

Kerry Farmer presented on DNA for genealogists and as I’m belatedly dipping my toes in the genetic-testing pool, I had a lot to learn.  I also have Kerry’s Unlock the Past book on DNA so I can reinforce her talk with further reading when I get home.  I need to think further on which form of DNA testing can advance my own (and Mr Cassmob’s) family history.

Graham Jaunay emphasised the importance of considering photographic techniques and mountings in preference to clothing styles to date photographs. His information on how people were posed for photos was particularly helpful.

Helen, Carole and Kerry providing advice in the Research Help Zone.

I also took the opportunity to learn a little more about The Master Genealogist software program in the Research Help Zone. I have a strange aversion to genealogy software but Kerry has pretty much convinced me to change my ways.

I was disappointed in the talk on Crack Hardy as I felt it needed at least a few photos to illustrate the people and places being discussed, enabling the listeners to engage with the men more. It was plainly a good story but from my point of view I felt the strongest parts of the story got lost among other details.

Monday was a long day and Helen Smith’s was the final presentation I attended. It’s not easy to keep people engaged at 8pm when they’ve been going all day, but Helen managed it. Her talk was informative and interesting and her presentation style certainly kept me alert. There were many reminders to us about how we can break down those much discussed brick walls, with Helen querying whether this is really a misnomer and we just need to reframe the problem. Key points were to review++ all the documents we have for that person/family, prepare a life timeline, write out our brick-wall questions and if still going nowhere, consult another researcher who may easily spot that really obvious tree that we keep overlooking in our research forest. Given I’d missed Helen’s batch of talks in Darwin last Saturday due to family commitments in Brisbane, I was really pleased to have this opportunity to hear her speak.

Lauren Penny and the eye-catching display for her St Helena book.

The same commitments meant I could only attend a couple of presentations on Tuesday morning and I chose Cassie Mercer’s talk on Captain Starlight and Carole Riley’s on land records and I thoroughly enjoyed both. Cassie’s engaging story kept me entertained throughout even though I already knew the essential details. Little did I know though that Harry Readford was her ancestor.  Ted Egan, former Administrator of the Northern Territory, has written a song about CaptainStarlight, which is on his CD album The Overlanders (warning: these songs will stick in your brain and go round and round).

Carole Riley’s talk on land records helped demystify a variety of land records and clearly illustrated just how useful they can be to your family history. I always feel somewhat out of my depth using land records even though I’ve used many, so it was good to have an expert show the way.

The Expo was also a great chance to meet with my genie blogging mates whom I’ve only known virtually.  I did miss a couple (Alex and Tanya) but had a chance to say a quick hello to the others and a longer chat with some of them, which was fun. We even squeezed in a photo which you can see on Alona’s Lone Tester blog.

One of the exhibitors was Lauren Penny, author of St Helena Island, Moreton Bay: an Historical Account. As my ancestor had a short excursion in St Helena Gaol this was of great interest so I bought a copy of the book which is going to be great reading for my family history.

Also great to catch up again with an all-too-quick chat with Judy Webster, an expert on Queensland research as well as founder of the Genealogists for Families team on Kiva.

All in all, a fantastic opportunity to be part of the genie fun in Brisbane this week.  Thanks Unlock the Past, all the speakers and all the exhibitors! Not to mention the caterers and that poor overworked man on the coffee van (his coffee and hot chocolate matched the standard of the talks)!