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.

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.

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

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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.




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.


A to Z 2016: a Family History Journey

atoz-theme-reveal-2016 v2

After much deliberation I’ve decided to once again participate in the April A to Z challenge, despite having been in the blogging doldrums for some time, largely thanks to a relocation interstate and then internet challenges.

I participated in the A to Z Challenge in 2012 when I wrote about the places of importance to my family on this blog and in 2013 when my theme was places in Australia’s Tropical North and some Aussie vernacular. In 2014 I decided to take time out and as I’ve mentioned 2015 simply got away from me.

So what’s my theme to be this year? Well it won’t surprise my regular readers that it’s about how to pursue an interest in family history, or genealogy as its often known. I hope to show a balanced perspective between online research and offline, and how to be ethical in your research.

I hope it will be of some interest to readers, and will either encourage some to join the genea-addicted, but I’m also nervous it may frighten the daylights out of you <smile>.