Some of you may have missed the post I submitted (late) as my February contribution to the new Worldwide Genealogy blog. It offered my perspective on the pros and cons of genealogy cruising.
You can read it here or find “genealogy cruising” in the left hand sidebar.
While you’re over there visiting, why not have a look at the diverse posts being submitted by genealogists from all over the world. It’s great to have so many different stories and approaches all in one place. This innovation was the brainchild of Julie Goucher from Angler’s Rest.
Wednesday was Day 9 and the final day of our cruise as we headed for Sydney with another warning from the Captain that there would be “motion on the ocean” but that he had no control over it, being subject to a “higher power even than my wife’s”.
The UTP cruisers had a full schedule of activities for the day ahead with some earlier talks rescheduled due to illness. It was difficult to buckle down to being alert and “on plan” after the time in port at Hobart and I confess I made this one of my “time out” days, missing a few sessions. Inevitably there were clashes in the programming so I still missed some I’d liked to have heard.
RESEARCHING A HEALTH HISTORY
Helen Smith kicked off the morning with excellent advice to prepare a family tree (genogram) without names but with gender, cause of death and age at death. Even reflecting quickly on the topic as Helen spoke I could see some scary family health risks, though to be fair, none that were a huge surprise….my family is largely blessed with longevity.
She asked “what risk factors do you have?” and encouraged us to take preventive health measures to ensure we live long enough to do our family history. Also to talk with family members about health conditions such as miscarriages, mental health issues or cancers, but being aware of people’s sensitivities around the topic.
Key messages: Approach your family tree using health data, rather than names and see what health conditions are prevalent. Talk to family members to tease out illnesses other than the specific cause of death.
IRISH LAND RECORDS
Chris Paton was as always amusing and informative.
I was excited to learn that the Irish National Archives will “soon” be adding to their site, the extant field, house and tenure bookswhich lie behind the Griffith Valuations. I’ve used these in Dublin before for the townland of Ballykelly but not for some of my other places and I need to revisit the images I have to make more sense of them. The website to watch is http://genealogy.nationalarchives.ie/
Chris also mentioned the Revision books (aka Cancellation Books) which update the original Griffith Valuations. These are absolutely gold in terms of tracing who took over your family’s property over the decades and can provide clues to when someone died. They are available through the LDS Family History Centres by ordering in the microfilm, but they’re very difficult to follow because they’re only in black and white whereas the originals are in colour so you can follow the entry across the page. The Valuation Office in Dublin will send a copy to you for E40 if you know where you’re looking. It may be expensive but it’s cheaper than a trip to Ireland, though nowhere near as much fun!
Other land records are available at different sites eg the Defaulters’ Books (for those who refused to pay the Tithes) is on FindMyPast as are the Landed Estate Court Records.
The National University of Ireland in Galway has a database on the landed estates of Munster and Connacht…the provinces where so many Irish in Australia came from. This database will let you search for the owners of estates and whether there might be surviving estate records (but do look elsewhere as well). Those with Clare ancestry can use the wonderful Clare Library site to learn more about their ancestor’s parish and the estates before turning to this database.
PRONI(the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland) also has great information for those with northern Irish ancestry, including a national schools index.
Key messages: All of the above. If you haven’t used any of these resources then check them out.
My advice: Land records are a key gateway into Irish genealogy though you do need to know where your ancestor came from (well anyone will tell you that!). If you’re struggling to locate their townland or village check out obituaries, funeral notices and funeral directors, newspaper stories, the name they called their house/property, gravestones, family stories, immigration records and so on. Be lateral, sometimes that’s the only way you’ll find them.
FAMILY HISTORIAN: Queries and Plug-ins (Jane Taubman)
I didn’t attend all the Family Historian sessions offered by Jane, largely because of clashes with other sessions. I have the program on my computer and have imported some data but have yet to really play with it. The program I have used for years is an Australian one, Relatively Yours, which offers great flexibility but doesn’t export to other programs as consistently as I’d like.
Key message (for me): Get my act together, experiment with Family Historian and decide if it suits my purposes.
DNA FOR GENEALOGISTS
Kerry Farmer provides really clear advice in her presentations and the DNA session was no different. In theory I understand the process and significance but ….every time I turn my mind to this task I wonder how it can still befuddle me despite five years of science training, albeit a long time ago. One of my stumbling blocks is that I don’t have any other (known) relatives who have tested and all the 3rd or 4th cousins who pop up only identify relations within the USA. Kerry suggests asking them if they know of anywhere overseas their families came from. Perhaps it’s time to follow Kerry’s lead and offer to pay for tests for key people in my family puzzles.
Key message (for me): try, try again to understand my DNA results, read blog posts, download the data and try to make more sense of it.Kerry’s tips: get other family members tested, join the haplogroup that fits your profile (and perhaps a surname group, if applicable), and follow Family Tree DNA on Facebook to get early warning of special deals. There are also some good webinars online. Plainly there’s lots of homework to be done, and some concentrated thinking instead of head-in-a-bucket methods.
LOST IN ASYLUMS
Shauna Hicks gave a great talk on benevolent asylums and similar that housed consumptive patients or the infirm. The key places to find information about these is the relevant archive and they can be rich sources of information which can solve many mysteries or add more information not available elsewhere –I’ve certainly had great success with them. Many of the archives have at least some of these records indexed so do have a look at them. My notes on Shauna’s talk include a lot of reminders of action to follow up.
Key messages: Don’t forget to use an advanced google search combined with the relevant URL eg www.archives.qld.gov.au.
It was a shame to know the cruise was coming to an end even though our brains were getting rather befuddled and full of information. Once again our table had a lovely time chatting –what a pleasure it was to spend time with Cathy, Dot, Marlene and Thomas…we never did see the other person who had been allocated to our table (we must have looked scary). Nearly every evening we were among the last tables to leave the dining room. Thanks for your company each night my new friends!
The evening post-dinner session was held back in Cleopatra’s Needle and there were lots of prizes handed out to participants and my table mates were all thrilled that the big prize of $2500 towards any Unlock the Past cruise went to our new-found friend Marlene!! I think we were more excited than she was as she seemed quite stunned but accepted her prize with what is her characteristic graciousness.
Chris Paton gave the final presentation of the conference speaking on British civilian POWs in the First World War. While it has specific relevance to his family it had broader implications and was a fascinating study of Ruhleben Internment Camp. After the nuts and bolts of the conference talks it was intriguing to listen to a broader historical topic. It was amazing to hear the diversity of learning that occurred in the camp as professionals and academics (and no doubt tradesmen) passed their skills on to their fellow internees.
Thank youto Unlock the Past for the learning opportunity of a conference held on board ship. I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite my earlier “me, cruise…never!” attitude. Now I think I may have caught the cruising bug! I will most likely write a separate post in a day or two on my general perspectives of the cruise.
Thank youalso to each of you for journeying along with me…I hope you’ve got a sense of the fun we had, and that I’ve shared some of the learning opportunities.
It was a longish voyage from Adelaide to Hobart (yes, I know, our ancestors would disagree!) so we had a combination day with genealogy and then some sight-seeing after our arrival in port at 2pm.
I loved arriving by sea into Hobart because it brought to mind that Mary O’Brien had probably come this way before me, back on 4 April 1853. Just imagine the relief of all those on board the Florentia after four and a half months at sea, with a diminishing supply of provisions. Hobart is such a pretty town with its encircling hills and Mount Wellington towering over the city. It may not have the drama of Sydney’s sandstone cliffs but it has an amiable, welcoming vibe. I could happily live in Hobart but that wouldn’t be an improvement on the remoteness of Darwin, and my heat-loving tropical friends would simply refuse to visit. It must surely have been appealing though to the immigrants from Ireland, England and Wales on board the Florentia.(Apologies to my mates who are heartily sick of Mary O’Brien from County Clare).
It was a public holiday for Regatta Day as the captain brought his huge ship to dock at the wharf. Little boats were skimming round the harbour but my friend Sharn and I chose to head off along the wharf to Salamanca Place and Battery Point for some sight-seeing. Having decided to stop for a coffee, we joined other Unlock the Past Cruisers for a chat at a local coffee shop.
But first there was some genealogy while still at sea:
Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy (panel discussion)
GeniAus (Jill Ball) hosted this Panel on Ethics which got good feedback from the audience. The panel was Kirsty Gray,Maria Northcote and myself and Jill had prepared a range of pertinent questions for us to respond to in turn. It was interesting to see the consistency between our responses …and there’d been no prior consultation or discussion. (if anyone has thought on the session I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the panel – difficult to retain it all while in the thick of it)
Chris Paton again unravelled the complexities and variability of Scottish records with his talk Scottish marriage: instantly buckled for life. Scotland may be (currently) part of the UK, but Scottish family history is really not the same as that for England, make no mistake! Among the warnings Chris issued is that people only needed to have a witness to their commitment and the marriage was a valid one, and also the the (wonderful) ScotlandsPeople only has marriages for the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Churches. If you can’t find your ancestors you may wish to follow up the Statistical Accounts to see which other denominations were active in their parish at the time.
After arrival in Hobart people scattered to their various activities and plans. I was fortunate to spent a few fun hours with fellow genie and photo obsessive, Sharn from Family History 4 U. Some of my photos from the day will eventually make it to my photo and travel blog Tropical Territory and Travel which has been sadly neglected of late, like other things. Although the weather looked a little precarious in the beginning it turned into a magnificent afternoon with crystal clear vivid blue skies.
The day finished with a very good fireworks display over the harbour, with resounding toots of the ship’s “horn” in thanks for the display. It certainly gathered the crowds on the high decks and afterwards I was invited to join my table-mates, Cathy and Dot and friend Maria in the cocktail bar on Deck 14…a very pleasant end to the day.
Day 8 was another full day in port and imagine our surprise to look out from the verandah and see another cruise ship had arrived overnight. It was interesting to see that life at sea involves little down-time for the crew who were busy painting any blemishes on the ship’s hull.
My priority for Day 8 ( a shore day) was to hit the archives in Hobart although initially I’d hoped to go to the Cascade Factory. However that was superseded by following up all possible leads on the Florentia and whether they would offer any further clues to whether Mary O’Brien was on board as an unassisted immigrant when the ship sailed into Hobart. Despite searching a range of pre-ordered documents, the answers were still ambiguous by the end of the day. My research outcomes re the Florentia will be the subject of an upcoming post.
And so we sailed from Hobart Town with my thoughts reflecting on whether Mary O’Brien and her sister Bridget were similarly sorry to leave this pretty place behind to head north to Moreton Bay, or in my case, to Sydney Town.
Before I tell you a little about Day 6 of our genea-journey, for those who are interested, the slides from my talk Becoming a fan of FANs is now on a separate tab on my blog underPresentations. Here is a quick link to it.
Day 6 of our adventure was a sea-day en route between Adelaide and Hobart. The Captain warned us there’d be “motion on the ocean” but it was pretty good. By the time we got to Hobart we were swaying on land, not ocean.
Although we were so preoccupied with the many presentations in the conference room I occasionally caught a glimpse of the featured DeamWorks characters which are a feature of Voyager of the Seas so I grabbed photos of them for the grandchildren.
Kerry Farmer: Convicts from trial to freedom
Although I have no convicts in my ancestry (no royalty here or abroad! Just a peasant), I just had to listen to Kerry Farmer’s talk on Convicts. Kerry is such a good presenter and sets out information clearly and concisely. Ancestry and FindMyPast both have good convict records. I was interested in the Parramatta Female Factory information and especially the Roman Catholic orphanage.
She reminded us too, that it was secondary offenders who ended up in places like Moreton Bay, Port Arthur and Norfolk Island. However, there were exiles (the later convicts circa 1840s) who went directly to Moreton Bay receiving a conditional pardon on arrival.
Key messages(for me): this will be useful when it comes time to do Mr Cassmob’s convict research. Convict deaths may not be registered in the normal death indexes for NSW.
Jill Ball: Free Australian Websites.
Jill gave us a whirlwind tour through the websites she loves to use and it’s amazing just how many wonderful sets of information are online. I’m sure some were familiar were to listeners while others were great reminders of ones we may have visited once upon a time, but had disappeared into the maw of our bookmarks or forgotten. Others provided new points of research. I found I was making notes to myself about following up different aspects of my own research through the websites.
Key messages: Try the ABC (radio) podcasts, searching for genealogy. Visit Mapping our Anzacs (an ANZAC site) which is apparently being taken down “soon”. You can download the whole file so if you want information from there, do it NOW. Don’t forget Family Search wikis for information on your places.
Jane Taubman: Family Historian – Reports
Strange as it may seem I don’t much like genealogy programs as I tend to feel straight-jacketed. I generally prefer to have narrative instead which allows for more nuances.
However I’ve been using an Australian program Relatively Yours for many years because it offers the opportunity to add more personal information and allows for nuances in relationships which the bigger programs don’t always do. Having said all that, I like the clean format of Family Historian which tends to appeal to me. Because I have yet to decide between these two programs and The Master Genealogist, I attended some of Jane’s talks. When I get home I’ll be playing around with it a little while I decide.
Key message for me: Come to grips with which program I want to use, and which suits my purposes best.
Thomas MacEntee: Google Alerts and Books
As always Thomas’s talk was full of tips for making our genealogy research more organised and efficient. I knew some of this already from reading Thomas’s and other blogger’s posts on the topic.
Do you have alerts in place for your family’s street addresses, towns, your own website or blog, your areas of interest?
Don’t forget you can set up a Bookcase of books which you find on Google Books and mark them private or public. Don’t shy away from “limited view” books and also use more common phrases to look at other pages.
Key message: Use alerts and Google Books to the max. Kudos to Thomas for always repeating the question from the audience so everyone knows what was asked.
Geneareaders Circle hosted by Jill Ball
This was such a fun activity with a group of people sharing their favourite genealogy or history books. It was interesting to see even relatively esoteric books were held by others in the group.
Apart from the joy of learning about new books to follow up, it was a pleasure just to share with like-minded people.
It was both heart-warming and amusing to see Maria Northcote from Genies Down Under nearly fall off her chair when one of the participants, Alan Jones, talked about his SAG thesis on Kilmihil, the very place in Clare where Maria’s ancestors came from. You can imagine the chat that ensued!
Genies Down Under
After the circle, Jill Ball and I were interviewed by Maria for the podcast which was fun as well. Maria’s included her chat with Jill and I, as well as Alan Philips, Chris Paton and Joy Avery in her March podcast here. It’s very obvious we were having a good time and no longer noticed the ship was working its way through the captain’s famous “motion on the ocean”. Maria is just a delight to chat with, and so calm and quietly confident.
Key message: A great opportunity for attendees to get involved and share their love of books. Thanks Jill for this inspired idea. If you’re going on a genea-cruise do make sure you add this to your list of “must attend” events.
Sorry this has been so long arriving – it’s been sitting in my drafts waiting for the photos to accompany the story..and now can’t find ones I’m happy with…except a great photo of Thomas on the welcome night. I did better when I was on board ship.
And it’s going to be hot, hot, HOT in Adelaide, South Australia!
It can’t be said that the cruise terminal in Adelaide is the most astonishing port in the world with its array of industrial buildings and containers. However a very pretty sunset over the harbour was a beautiful offset between nature and industry which I enjoyed.
Adelaide also turned on the best show for the arriving mega-liner and its 3500 odd passengers. I liked that it had a bush band playing old Aussie songs to welcome people and while a cynical person could say the shops were there to take advantage of the tourists, they had some lovely products. With my purple, aqua and green obsession (good feminist that I am!) how could I resist a beautiful hand-painted fine merino wool scarf.
None of us were too thrilled at the prospect of a 42C day but it wasn’t too bad. The train from the cruise terminal into town is both convenient and efficient, and even better, free for seniors!
I met a former colleague and friend for lunch at the Art Gallery, and who should be at the next table but Jackie from Jax Trax, mum Jan and “little brother”. Many genea-cruisers have taken the opportunity to meet up with friends and family at ports along the way.
Back on the ship and dinner completed, our only learning activity for the day was the choice of two talks: You use WHAT for genealogy by one of my dinner-table companions, Thomas MacEntee, or Tracing the history of a community: the Society for One-Place Studies by Kirsty Gray.
Given my obsession with Dorfprozelten, Murphys Creek (Qld), and Broadford (Co Clare, Ireland), I just had to go to Kirsty’s talk and I’m now even more committed to getting the last two registered with OPS. I love the marriage of family and local history and the diversity of understanding that can bring.
Thanks to the inspiration of Thomas MacEntee and the spending spree by Jill Ball, the geneabloggers on the cruise have been wearing their blingy blogger beads. I did rather like these beads at the Art Gallery SA which I think would make pretty good blogger beads.
No I haven’t forgotten how to count – Day 3 will come to you later today – wifi permitting – it’s a fine balance using the dongle while in port as the on-ship connections have been temperamental.
After our little excursion back on land yesterday we’ve been “hitting the books” again today.
Here’s a little glimpse of the talks I listened to, and what my “take home” message was from each of them.
Maria Northcote’s presentation onUsing free Podcasts kicked the morning off early today.
Maria’s calm presence and professional skill came to the fore as she worked through default positions B-F trying to solve various problems. All those who attended really enjoyed learning more about her podcasts with their tips and tricks and she taught us all about new podcasts we might enjoy.
One suggestion was to look at the podcasts published by archives and libraries. If you haven’t been following Genies Down Under, do yourself a favour and have a listen. Also search your favourite specialist library or archive to see if they present general historical or informational podcasts.
Key Message: These are great learning tools which you can use in your family history.
Helen Smith: Using timelines for family history
I’d been really keen to listen to Helen’s talk and it had been on my wish list all along. I did manage to see a little of it, but with my talk coming up next the butterflies were kicking in so I took myself away a little earlier to draw a breath.
There were lots of good ideas for creative timelines, mainly using Excel. I’m quite familiar with the program but it hadn’t occurred to me to use the graph potential in the ways Helen suggested, including colour coding. I’ll certainly be using this option in my research when I get home especially with those niggly McSherry/McSharrys who seem determined to elude me. Hopefully it will help me see anomalies.
I’ll certainly be looking at the presentation to have a closer look at Helen’s suggestions.
Key message: Try drawing up timelines and graphs to track your ancestor’s events, and combine it with historical events as well.
Some strange woman called Pauleen Cass then talked about Becoming a fan of FANs (Friends, Associates or Neighbours). I’ll leave it to others to comment on that.
Key message: Cast your net widely, look beyond your direct line.
After a short break it was back to the main conference room to listen to the engaging and ever-humorousChris Paton explain to us about the Godly Commonwealth…the vagaries and complexities of the Scottish church structures in an historical context. It also explains why we may not find out ancestors in Scotland’s People, wonderful as it is. I think I’ll be buying a copy of Chris’s Unlock the Past (UTP) book on the topic.
Key message: Buy the book –there’s a lot to get your head around!
Have you explored all the UTP collection of publications? They are really great and their content routinely belies their slight appearance. They’re available as e-books too so perfect for taking away when you’re researching.
Key message:Check out the UTP book list.
If there’s one downside to genea-cruising, it’s the sheer smorgasbord of conference topic choices. Sometimes you just have to take time out to chat with fellow genies, enjoy their company and learn about what they’re researching and how they go about it.
Key message: Sometimes you have to skip class to spend time with others and enjoy their company.
With so many Irish in my family how could I go past Chris Paton’s Irish Records Online(and accompanying book)?
Chris had so much to offer and he mentioned all my favourite Irish sites, including Family Search,Roots Ireland and Irish Genealogy. One place I haven’t explored is the PRONIwebsite as I don’t have any Northern ancestors but his reference to the learning resources has convinced me it will be worth a look.
Chris also told us about some great releases due to come out soon from the Republic of Ireland’s Irish National Archives. I’ve already tried to find Pension Applications for my Mary O’Brien’s relatives when visiting Ireland but I’ll be looking again when they are released. I’d so love to find that Honora Garvey had applied for a pension, citing those 1841 and 1851 census records.
One qualification that Chris made which I think is important is that Roots Ireland data is drawn from whichever records that county’s societies have been working on. This just might explain why there are gaps in what you’re finding. I certainly know I’ve got church entries which don’t appear in the Roots Ireland database and conversely it has records I’ve not found elsewhere.
Anyone who has attended the many UTP sessions in the capital cities doesn’t need me to tell them that Chris Paton is one of those speakers whose talks are full of content, but presented in such a way as to fully engage our attention.
Take home message: keep an eye on the Irish National Archives for new releases. Oh, and buy Chris’s UTP book…there was a big queue lining up to do just that.
CATALOGUING AND SHARING BOOKS
Another engaging speaker is Jill Ball aka GeniAus whose talk today was about LibraryThing, an online program which enables you to catalogue and tag the books you own and read. You can also snoop at compare the books your fellow genies own and see what they’ve read that you might find useful as well. This program is simple but diverse and Jill took us on a whirlwind tour of it in her allotted 25 minutes, convincing many people to adopt it as their own library system.
Take home message: Library Thing is agreat tool for small societies which want to catalogue their library to professional standards.
Shauna Hicks – Online Newspapers and Indexes
Shauna gave a great talk setting out the huge variety of newspaper sources which are available to us. We are so very fortunate in the resources which are available to us. Shauna reminded us that stories were often syndicated and published in newspapers far and wide, so if you we can’t find them here, online or on microfilm, to try indexes and also overseas newspapers including Papers Past.
There are great online newspaper resources but it’s fair to say they don’t quite match Trove for usability.
Those who aren’t on the cruise can have the chance to read the slide presentation on Shauna’s website: www.shaunahicks.com.au
Key messages: If you don’t have a National Library of Australia card, sign up for one (they’re free) and also sign up for Trove so you can correct text, and add tags and lists to categorise stories relating to your research interests.
Meanwhile back in the real world of cruising, the penguins were a huge hit on the Promenade Deck. I thought this photo was just gorgeous.
As always one of the sad things about conferences is there are always competing streams of topics which you’d love to listen to. With 245 genies onboard it can be challenging to connect up as well and lists are being prepared to combine research interests.
It must be Melbourne. And OMG, I’ve just woken up and there goes the ….
sign. After a few nights with four hours’ sleep the alarm plainly couldn’t succeed in waking me, so it was a whirlwind tour through the shower to be ready in 15 minutes.
My friend Sharn (from Family History 4 U) and I went to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the Art Deco exhibition which included some magnificent costumes from the 1920s. Some I’d be happy to wear today but sadly I’ve no longer got the 1920s figure I had in my youth. The photographs by Edward Steichen were amazing –dramatic and full of character, and none really the same as another.
What a lovely start to the day! Melbourne had turned on magnificent weather, not too hot, not too cold and lovely and sunny. I had a little wander through one of Melbourne’s lovely arcades…how good does this cake look?
I was lucky enough to meet up with my new-found cousin Bev and we had a lovely lunch and exchange of news and a bit of family history over lunch at St Kilda. People were actually swimming in the ocean …how weird is that!! No stingers, crocs or sharks!!
Back on board we had a post-dinner session hosted by Thomas MacEntee in which a panel were asked for their opinions on the “Future of Genealogy”. The panellists were Shauna Hicks (Qld), Mike Moore (I think, WA), Chris Paton (Scotland) and Kirsty Gray (England). I’m not going to attempt to give you much on that but here are my take-home messages.
Social media was the tie-breaker on opinions with some being devotees and one panellist scoffing at it. Blogging, tweeting and Google+ing are still seen to be frivolous wastes of time. But then which group had the greatest solidarity on the ship….hmmm, the Geneabloggers!
Genealogists should consider using more people power to convince governments of the errors of their ways when implementing legislation which runs counter to our interests (eg the SSDI in the States). Seems to me this is where social media just might be helpful.
Chris Paton emphasised his view that more attention needs to be paid to improving cataloguing in archives rather than just digitising records. After all if other records can’t be found, what’s the point. Without understanding the context the documents lose their “sense”. Couldn’t agree more Chris.
Societies need to look at how they provide value to their membersand look beyond those in the immediate area. This might include digitised records which are available online only to members. Every time a member pays their next membership fee they are saying “You’ve given me enough info/services to stay with you”.
Long term interest in genealogy:will it change with the demise (ultimately) of WDYTYA etc. My view is that we all started our family history because we wanted to know about our families and learn their stories. I doubt that will change though it may cause some leaf-collectors to drop away.
Shauna promoted Family History Month in Australia and encouraged everyone to support it within their societies.
Several speakers commented on concerns about dropping numbers of volunteersin today’s busy lifestyles. I suspect it’s more complicated than that.
I did like Chris Paton’s frankness in saying he didn’t have a clue as to where we’d be in five years.
Thank you everyone for thought-provoking responses to Thomas’s questions. I think there’s food for thought in the days and weeks ahead.
Good night, sleep tight.
Here I was thinking I was on the briny deep with the smell of the ocean in my nostrils. This little fellow on my bed made me wonder if I’d strayed back to Africa.
After the excitement of boarding and meeting people on Day 1, Day 2 was all about learning from, and listening to, the variety of presenters on the cruise. I can just see that we are going to have quite a work load when we get home following up all the tips that have come our way.
So who and what was on our learning smorgasbord for the day?
Chris Paton: British and Irish Newspapers
Chris kicked off the conference with his usual lively delivery of a topic near to our hearts – the family treats that lie hidden in newspapers. He listed various options overseas and reminded us not to forget the Gazettes for London, Edinburgh and Belfast. He also talked a little about Broadsides on the National Library of Scotland site: 1 page papers with 1 story: “sale of a wife” anyone?
Key message: Check which editions of the paper has been digitised or microfilmed as it will affect the content you are likely to find. This is something I discovered re Australian Women’s Weekly editions on Trove which appear to be the NSW edition, so Queenslanders won’t necessarily find their edition of social pages.
Jill Ball: Beaut Blogs –what makes one stand out from the crowd?
Jill is another dynamic and engaging speaker who relishes her topics. She shared her perspectives on what makes a great blog and showed us examples from the blogs she followed. If you’ve been ambivalent about blogging, it’s likely that Jill will persuade you. There were a few takers on lessons about setting up a blog.
Jill says “content is king” and a blog should provide unique fare, catchy post titles, an opening hook, consistently solid work and be a joy to read, informative and fascinating…not a lot to ask!
Key message: Check out Inside History’s Top 50 Blogs Inside History’s Top 50 Blogs to see which blogs they recognise as fitting the “beaut blog” criteria.
Helen Smith: Document Analysis
Helen offers great advice on really studying every element of a document or certificate rather than jumping to the one item you were hunting for eg a maiden name. It’s so easy to just miss important elements so transcribe the document exactly as it appears then analyse it and it may reveal nuances that you didn’t at first see.
Key message: Look, really look, at your certificates and documents. Transcribe them and study them again.
Rob Hamilton: What does Freemasonry offer genealogists?
I knew from nothing about freemasonry so I found this an interesting presentation though I suspect from a particular perspective. Rob showed how symbolism can reveal much about our relative’s involvement in a lodge. Using examples it was obvious just how much detail we can obtain from membership records. You may find the details of their Lodge on funeral notices when Lodge members were asked to attend.
Key Message: Write to the secretary of the Lodge where you ancestor was a member and ask for information.
Noeline Kyle: Forced and Voluntary emigration to Botany Bay: how to research women
Noeline’s talk focused on the earliest female immigrants and their lives. Unfortunately I have no female ancestors who fitted this timeframe but, to an extent, her messages about their lives apply to our later immigrants as well.
Key message: Noeline has a great book available through Unlock the Past, dense with information on tracing female ancestors. It’s well worth buying in book or e-book format and it’s called “Finding Florence, Maude, Matilda, Rose”
Kerry Farmer: Immigration arrivals in Australia from 1788
As if we weren’t all replete after our delicious dinners in the restaurant, Kerry served us up food for our minds at this post-dinner presentation. This was a great talk dense with information and covering the vast diversity of immigration to Australia. We were reminded, among other things, to consider that our ancestors may have fudged their ages to meet the age selection criteria to obtain government assistance.
Key message: Buy Kerry’s upcoming Unlock the Past book on Immigration. This will be a goldmine of the information we were provided with in this presentation. I know I’ll be buying one!
Good night, sleep tight
Notebooks filled and brains overflowing with information we retired for the night with lots to think about. Melbourne in the morning and more on-the-ground research opportunities for some people.
No fancy photos today people as I didn’t even look out my cabin door today…busy, busy. Nor did I remember to photograph any speakers.
As we the scale of the Voyager of the Seas towered over us, my thoughts turned to my ancestors and their long voyage to Australia. While we anticipated being internet-less for a couple of days at a time it was inconceivable to think how they would have felt, standing on the dock with their life’s possessions, venturing into the unknown. They’d have known the chances of seeing their families was virtually non-existent rather than the brief hiatus in our communications.
Each of us on the Unlock the Past Cruise is able to travel with all mod cons and tech toys, and to a large extent our own space. We were not cramped together in a confined space below decks, cheek by jowl with people we’d never met before, and not for nine days, but for upwards of ninety days.
As the ocean turned on the waves after venturing through the heads, we were given a sample taste of what they might have experienced. Even with modern day stabilisers our floating palace was creaking and swaying. Just hearing the walls move in the night, and hearing the wind, brought my Mary O’Brien to my mind. Imagine the sound of sails flapping in the wind, timbers creaking, and sailors calling to each other. It must have been incredibly overwhelming for people who’d never left home before. Our ancestors were brave souls indeed to take that long journey to a hopefully better life.
Meanwhile back in 2014, we were having a fine time, greeting people in the boarding queues or after getting on board. In the majority of cases we’d never met before or only through blogs and hangouts yet it was very much a sense of being among friends. I never fail to be astonished by the familiarity of meeting those I’ve only known in the virtual world. I was reminded of the words of Irishman Michael Normile in his letters home “You might think I fell from the heavens to her when she knew me.[i]”
I took the time after boarding to roam the ship and check out its facilities…it’s rather like being on a mall at sea, without that many shops. Despite the full capacity of the ship (about 3000 pax) it never feels crowded as there are so many places for people to disperse. It’s all very bling-y with chandeliers in the dining room and Greek statues round the pool(s). Intriguing to see the bridge with all the captain’s super-speccy tech toys!
Sydney let us down with our sailout – grey raining and a wind that could have carried us to Melbourne. However it certainly gave a bird’s eye view of the Opera House! I enjoyed seeing the juxtaposition of Sydney’s old buildings and new.
After dinner the genea-cruisers had our first get-together with the meet and greet in Cleopatra’s Needle. Much fun greeting each other and having photos taken in groups….two of us nearly got caught out putting our hands up as a total reflex when they called for the Queenslanders! Even more amusing was seeing everyone trying to stand straight as the ship moved….we really hadn’t been hitting the bars beforehand.
All in all a fun day with new experiences and a day of learning adventures ahead in Day 2 as the conference proper kicks off.
[i] Michael Normile’s letters in Fitzpatrick, D. Oceans of Consolation. pp 53 and 76. Fitzpatrick says “A rediscovered neighbour could take the form of an angelic apparition.”
There’s been lots of discussion about genea-cruising lately in GeniAus’s great hangouts. In all of our angst thinking about packing and gadding around while on board a cruise, have we not placed enough emphasis on what we might do with our spare time when not absorbed in conferencing or chattering networking with our genimates?
So a few reminders of things you might want to keep in mind while on your genea-journey. It doesn’t matter whether you’re cruising, travelling overseas, or doing an interstate trip. These are some of the things I’ve experienced while researching here, there and “everywhere”.
Are you going to visit a library or archive in one of the ports/cities?
Have you checked what you need to take you?
Do you need a passport photo, for example? I found out yesterday that you do need one to use the History Centre in the Tasmanian Archives. I got caught out in Edinburgh on my last trip and wasted time toddling off to the photo centre nearby for my pics. Actually I think Jackie is correct and I’ve misinterpreted what the archivist said “photographic ID and also something with your current address – drivers license is good” – I saw them as two different things but seems likely they’re not.
Maybe there’s a sign-up form you can fill out before you get there. I sometimes use that jetlag arrival time to sign up for membership and get my bearings. I’m then good to go the next day.
Check out the Catalogue
When I’m organised (which isn’t on every trip!) I try to have a running file of research activities, or specific mysteries I’d like to resolve using particular records. It makes it easier to maximise your effort, so if you’re waiting for document delivery you can skip through a microfilm which are usually accessible.
Archive catalogues can be somewhat opaque, but somewhere on their website there should be guides to their most-used resources, and they’re well worth reading, before, during, and after your visit.
I love having my family stories and information on the computer so everything I have is with me. But sometimes for all the joys of technology it’s easier to have this (or part of it) in hard copy while you’re in the archive. You can always tear it up and throw it away if your packing gets too heavy.
This was something that had dropped off my radar as it’s a while since I’ve needed to do it. Not all documents in archives or reference libraries are held on site. If it takes a day or two (or even an hour or two) this can really put the kybosh on your research plans…I’ve been caught out not planning when visiting John Oxley library, for example.
Yesterday I spoke to the Tasmanian Archives people via online chat and was reminded to do this. I’ve ordered up a swag of stuff in the hope of any tiny clue about my Florentia ambiguity.
Check which repositories are open when, as well as where they are, how to get there, and phone/email contact details. Plan your research around that to maximise your time. I put all that in a document and discard it when we move on to the next place.
Libraries often stay open later than archives, even if it’s not the reference section, so you can fit a little more sleuthing in there after business hours. Check out the university libraries as well as they often have great books, newspapers and journals which are very useful – and they’re usually open later. You might be surprised by what records have been deposited with them. For example in Glasgow I visited the university library to look at a shipping company’s records – I didn’t find what I was hoping for, but at least I eliminated one possibility.
If you’re planning on visiting any genealogy societies, don’t forget to take your home-state card with you as they may have reciprocal rights.
Clothes and Shoes
Good shoes for cemeteries are a must and after tearing one pair of trousers on a cemetery fence in Ireland I won’t travel with only one spare pair of trousers.
No doubt there’s something I’ve forgotten but these are the tips that have helped me in my genea-journeys over the years. I’m lucky on this cruise as, apart from Hobart and Sydney post-cruise, I have no pressing need to do research. I’m going to have fun hanging out with “old” mates and meeting a new cousin.
Credits:GeniAus has invented so many great genea-words for us to describe what we do. Not to mention all the hangouts that she’s introduced us to. Thanks Jill!