Congress 2015: The Carnival Is Over

Kerrie Gray in pre-injury mode on Day 1.

Kerrie Gray in pre-injury mode on Day 1.

Congress 2015 has come and gone and The Carnival is Over.

I imagine Convenor Kerrie Gary and her team of “green people” and “purple people” have all collapsed in a heap after a job well done…they certainly took care of us very well and provided us with a luxury smorgasbord of speakers.

So…what of my thoughts on Congress? I’ve been so absorbed during the event that I haven’t blogged but let me try to give you a summary of what I’ve enjoyed most about Congress. Feedback on individual sessions will need to wait until some mental digestion has taken place I think.

The Humorous

The welcome to Sydney Congress 2018 by Bridge Climber Gerhardt (aka Martyn Killian from SAG) was very funny and provided levity just as everyone’s brains had gone into meltdown. I wonder what fun and learning Sydney will have in store for us?IMG_0862

The quirky green-haired “So Long, Farewell,  Auf Wiedersehen, Good Bye” from the Congress 2015 team was also fun.IMG_0868

Not so much humorous as hilarious was the finale of the Congress dinner with Canberra comedians, Shortis and Simpson, in an  irreverent mockery of Australia’s Prime Ministers past and present. It says a lot for our country that our national leaders can be satirised from within its very halls of power…in many countries it would merit a firing squad.

The Friends

Fellow blogger, Fran aka Travelgenee, was pretty pleased with her beads and ribbons.

Fellow blogger, Fran aka Travelgenee, was pretty pleased with her blogger beads and ribbons. Read her blog at

One of the joys of Congress is meeting fellow obsessives with whom we can swap notes and experiences. I wonder how many people met cousins or others with fellow research/family interests?
I had a great time catching up with people I’ve met online or at past events, especially those who have become online friends via hangouts or blogging. I really enjoyed catching up with mates I’d made at RootsTech only a month or so before hand.

DSC_3196For those who are still wondering, the black and gold beads worn by some were generously provided by GeneaBlogger guru, and good mate, GeniAus aka Jill Ball. The pale blue Kiva ribbons tagged onto name badges were to promote the Genealogists for Families lending team about which the members are passionate. Hopefully our promo spiel may have encouraged some new members to join us. Since I was ordering those, I also ordered some Queenslander ribbons which caused some consternation among my Blues friends. Thanks to fellow GFF member and Kiwi blogger, Roger Moffat in the US who helped minimise postage costs. Kiva1

The Learning and the Passion

Mum and I outside the Broadford Catholic church cemetery 1989.

Mum and I outside the Broadford Catholic church cemetery 1989.

Of course the real reason we all attend Congress is to benefit from the knowledge and passion of the wonderful speakers who talked on their fields of expertise.

From my point of view this was a great conference with so much expertise condensed in one place. It was especially enjoyable and educational to hear more from my history hero, Richard Reid (even if he did try to embarrass me in his presentation! Was I ever so young, and skinny, as in that photo?!). And then there was the opportunity to speak with Irish experts Perry McIntyre, Cheryl Mongan, Jenny Harrison and Nick Reddan. Heaven on a stick for me.

The Extras

Sunset illuminates Parliament House.

Sunset illuminates Parliament House.

I learnt a lot from my lunch sessions especially Paul Milner giving us tips of preparing and presenting at a Conference…a little intimidating when I was speaking an hour later…too soon to assist, too late to change much.

Who could forget the imposing surrounds of the Australian War Memorial’s aviation hall or the Parliament House dinner setting?

During the Congress dinner, winners of the AFFHO Meritorious Service award. past and present, were given the new, very impressive badges.

Jan Gow, NZ, proudly displaying her medallion at the dinner.

Jan Gow, NZ, proudly displaying her medallion at the dinner.

2015 AFFHO Meritorious Awardee, Heather Garnsey, from SAG.

2015 AFFHO Meritorious Awardee, Heather Garnsey, from SAG.










Touring and Research

The film show during the Congress welcome.

The film show during the Congress welcome.

I did get to do a little research at the National Library and the National Archives but there will be more to do another time. The Australian War Memorial is, as always, inspirational and moving, especially the Remembrance Garden. As always I placed poppies on the walls for family members James Gavin, Thomas Paterson, and Robert Kunkel.

James Thomas Paterson is remembered.

James Thomas Paterson is remembered.

Once again, thanks to the Congress organisers for a great time of learning and fun in Canberra. Thanks also for the opportunity to be an official blogger for Congress 2015.

Apologies for this delayed posting – despite writing it on the train from Canberra to Sydney, the iPad defeated me in finessing the presentation.

Welcome to Congress

Registration completed, bags collected and blogger beads have been donned.

The crowds gathered and the conversations began…in fact the bus to the Australian War Memorial for the welcome did sound like a flock of happy lorikeets settling into the gum tree for the evening <smile>.

The buzz didn’t cease as we entered the hall dominated by famous Lancaster G for George. Here’s just some of the happy delegates, meeting each other, renewing old friendships and making new ones.


June Tomlinson from the GSNT meets some of the geneabloggers: Jenny, Jill, Fran, and Kerry


The Irish “push” Cheryl Mongan, Richard Reid, and Perry McIntyre with fellow speaker Shauna Hicks (2nd right)


Gail (NT), Judy (Qld) and Jill (NSW)

Gail (NT), Judy (Qld) and Jill (NSW)


Roger Kershaw from the UK is back in Oz chatting to Anne Burrows.


June Tomlnson (GSNT) chatting to Paul Milner.



Canberra turned on a magnificent clear day yesterday for its visitors …though that wind was a touch chilly for those from northern climes. This morning is another beautiful day with open skies and sunshine as we look forward to hearing some wonderful speakers.


Meet Congress 2015 Speaker: Grace Karskens

KarskensToday’s Congress 2015 speaker interview is with Grace Karskens from the University of New South Wales, one of the keynote presenters. I’m excited about her presentation and think it will offer much food for thought for all of us.

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

I am a historian. I teach Australian history at the University of New South Wales. I also have a degree in historical archaeology, so I always try to read the material record of the past as well as the documentary one.

How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life? What do you love most about genealogy/family history/history/heraldry? 

Family history is so important in my work. Many of my books and articles take a close look at societies and people who have vanished forever. Family history offers a rich source for understanding those societies and people, for example, for looking at family formation, who married whom, where people moved to, and so on. I’m always looking for patterns, and how these patterns fit into the bigger picture – the economy, society, culture and environment. Like most family historians, I am so often amazed at the great human stories even just the lists of births, marriages and deaths open up or suggest. I am also very grateful for the generosity and skills of so many family historians who are happy to share their work.

One day I would love to explore my own family history – my parents were both post war migrants, they met in Sydney in the 1950s. Dad was from Zaandam and Harlem in the Netherlands. Mum grew up in a Dutch-Indonesian family in Indonesia. But I’m too busy with other people’s stories at the moment! Maybe a retirement project?

Have you attended Congress in previous years?

No, looking forward to my first.

 What are your key topics for Congress?

My keynote is called ‘Men, women, sex and desire: family history on Australia’s first frontier’. I’m getting down to the nitty gritty of what family history – making families – is all about! I’ll present some of the findings from the book I am working on at the moment – The Lost World of Castlereagh – exploring male-female relationships and what sort of community settlers made on the Nepean River, why finding a partner and having children was so important to these people, the impact of the uneven gender ratio, and the fact that there were so many young convict men around, and so few women.

How do you think your topic/s will help the family historians at Congress 2015?

I’m hoping I can bring the lost world and people of Castlereagh to life: recreate the landscape of relationships between men and women, and also parents and children; look at what mattered to people, and what choices they had. In short, see them as human beings in complex situations.

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

Reaching so many people will be great, and I always learn a lot from questions and chatting during the breaks.

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

One of my favourite inspirational quotes is from the great historian Greg Dening. He wrote that we have re-imagine ‘the past’s own present’. That is, we have to try to enter the worlds of past people from their own point of view, their own situations, their own moral and cultural ideals, rather than our own.

In the ‘past’s own present’ we have to imagine what it is like not knowing what happens next, because they didn’t.

 Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?

People can email me at my university email address.

Thanks Grace for sharing your “take” on family history in its broader context. With such an interesting title I’m sure you’ll get lots of interest. 


Black Cats and Bingo Callers: Congress 2015 Final Registration

As the bingo callers say “13, lucky for some” as it is for genealogists who’ve been procrastinating about Congress 2Friday 13015 in Canberra. The big day is now only 13 days away and today is the last day to submit your late registration, sign up for the social functions, and generally start thinking about your session attendance and research plans. There’s going to be a whole array of great speakers, not to mention a mob of great genies, so do you really want to miss out?

Congress is a triennial event and Canberra is really not that far from any of the capitals except Darwin and Perth, but then we’re used to that. It also has wonderful research repositories: The Australia War Memorial (venue for the welcome function), the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia, the National Sound and Film Archive, Australian National University Library etc.

Congress 2015With more and more genealogists researching solo online and not members of societies, the Congress has the added benefit of meeting fellow enthusiasts, sharing knowledge and picking people’s experience to help with your own research even beyond the scheduled speakers.

I’d like to suggest that we all make a point of being open to meeting new people and welcoming them into the genea-fold. Sure we are all a little shy with people we don’t know, but we do have something in common with which to kick off our introductions – so let’s get our brief genie snapshot ready to tell others where we’re researching and the names.

Last night’s Hangout on Air from GeniAus has lots of tips on Congress and what to expect. Similarly the TravelGenee, Fran, also posted a good intro to Congress on her blog yesterday.

My checklist:

Image from

Image from


Why not join us all at Congress 2015 and take your genie learning to new heights?

Hurry, there’s only hours until registration closes.

Only 28 more sleeps to Congress 2015

Congress 2015It’s just a month today until we’ll be enjoying the excitement of the Welcome Reception for Congress 2015. Isn’t it funny how we wait and wait for something special to come along then all of a sudden it’s upon us?

The Welcome Reception is being held at the Australian War Memorial so it will be very special to meet up with our genimates, and make new friends in the impressive and sobering shadow of the huge Lancaster bomber, G for George. Many of us will try to visit the War Memorial during our stay in Canberra and they have lots on offer for us this year, with the centenary of Gallipoli and the opening of the new World War I gallery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we emerge from the welcome reception we’ll be able to look up and see the Roll of Honour names illuminated against the entrance to the memorial. I wonder if any of us will have a family name projected during Congress? You can search the roll of honour by name and see when that person’s name will be illuminated. Did you know you can sign up to receive the Coo-ee newsletter to learn more about what’s happening during the Centenary?

Then bright and early on the morning of Friday 27th March we will launch into the excitement of learning even more about this passion of ours, family history. There’s so much available for researchers with all levels of experience that I’m sure we’ll all learn so much, and be able to share our experiences with our family research during the breaks.

In recent months, the three official bloggers, Jill Ball, Shauna Hicks and myself, have been posting interviews with the various speakers at Congress. You can read more about each of them here by clicking the links: GeniAus, Shauna Hicks History Enterprises, Family History Across the Seas. I really think we’re in for a treat! You can also see the official Congress list of speakers here.

So here’s my checklist for your research preparation:

ChecklistHave you completed your Research Interest list? I wrote about this a little while ago.

Have you got your tentative schedule planned for the sessions?

Have you worked out what research you want to tackle while visiting the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial?

Perhaps you want to visit the National Film and Sound Archive which holds a range of audio-visual recordings?

Are you going to visit the family history society or other archives?

Have you printed off the opening hours for each of the repositories you hope to visit, so you can maximise your efforts?

Have you got your local family history membership card? And your National Library card?

Are you a geneablogger? If so please get in touch with GeniAus as she’s preparing a list for blogger beads…you don’t want to miss out on the bling which gives easy recognition of fellow bloggers.

Are you a member of Kiva Genealogists for Families and coming to Congress? If so perhaps you could leave a message on my blog and I’ll pass it on to Judy Webster.

I think I’d best get my skates on and sort out some of these myself. Meanwhile it’s back to finalising my speaker presentations.

What other preparations have you made for your attendance at Congress 2015? Why not share them with us as a useful reminder to us all.

Meet Congress 2015 Speaker: Jenny Joyce

Jenny JoyceLet me introduce you today to Jenny Joyce, another of the Australian speakers at Congress 2015 in Canberra. I’m looking forward to meeting Jenny in person at Congress, as well as following her advice about tips for genies. Her three talks will have lots to offer fellow family historians from beginner to experienced.

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

I have been researching my family history since I was a teenager, inspired by the stories my grandmother told me about HER grandparents. After many years working in IT I now work as a professional genealogist, and I am currently one of the Vice Presidents of the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society. I am also a committee member of their Family History Group, and in that role I often run sessions at our monthly meetings, either teaching or showing our members aspects of genealogy.

How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life?

I don’t know that I can say it has changed or improved my life, since I have been doing it for so long, but it has helped define who I am and where I come from.  I feel that we are very much the product of our upbringing and experiences, and that in turn is influenced by our parents’ upbringing and influences, and so on going right back. Thus I feel that in some way I am the sum of all my ancestors.

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

The challenge of unravelling the puzzles and being able to connect events in history to people I am researching.

 Have you attended  Congress in previous years?

Yes, I was at the Adelaide Congress in 2012.

 What are your key topics for Congress?

I will be giving three talks – one on the (UK) House of Commons Parliamentary papers, another on the UK Gazettes, and the third will be about wills in England (and Wales) and Ireland.

How do you think your topic/s will help the family historians at Congress 2015?

I think that these talks will introduce some very useful and under-used resources to the attendees, which they will find very beneficial to their research.

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

The benefits fall into two categories.  First, congress is a wonderful learning opportunity and a chance to hear overseas speakers that you might otherwise not be able to hear, and the other aspect is the chance to meet or renew a friendship with so many like-minded people, who themselves may have suggestions to help your research.

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

Talk to as many different people as you can whenever you get the opportunity

Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?


Twitter: @JennyAJoyce



Thanks Jenny for sharing your story with us, and letting us know a little more about your Congress talks and tips.

Meet Congress 2015 Speaker, Seonaid Lewis from NZ

Seonaid LewisOur Congress 2015 speaker for today is Seonaid Lewis from Auckland, New Zealand. I know Seonaid quite well from blogs and other social media but I haven’t heard her present. I’m looking forward to meeting her at Congress. I’m confident that if you have ancestors from across the Ditch, she’ll be your “go to” speaker.

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

I am married with twin 14yo daughters and currently live in Auckland, New Zealand. I worked for 26 yrs in graphic design and print, including six years on the Board of a one-stop design and print consultancy in London, that specialised in “ethic and social consultancy.

I’ve always been interested in history and have loved hearing my mother recounting family stories throughout the years, but I didn’t become actively involved in researching my own family history till towards the end of the time I was living in London (wish I’d started earlier).

I consider myself a family historian rather than a genealogist, as I am interested in finding out the history behind the genealogy (I believe there is a difference in the two terms, with genealogy meaning the study of pedigree).

When we returned to New Zealand, I decided on a career change – my husband suggested working as a genealogist, but I needed a career with security and regular income, so he suggested I became a librarian, as “that is one of the things Librarians do – help people with their research.”

I looked into it, and resigned my old job and started study towards a library degree at home, eventually got a job in a library as a shelver, and worked my way up the library system, until I landed my dream job as a family history librarian in April 2010.

Officially, I am “senior reference librarian, family history (specialist)” for Auckland Libraries, and I am based in the Central Auckland Research Centre where our international family history collection is.

How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life?

Discovering a love for family history has meant a career change for me. I love my job, and I’ve discovered I love teaching people how to research for themselves. Speaking in public was initially scary for me (still is at times), but I’ve learned confidence and seem to do ok most of the time,

I’ve learned a lot and am learning all the time – this is terrific for me, as I don’t get the opportunity to get bored.

Naively I thought I would have more time for my own research, but this is not so – maybe when I have finished my library degree.

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

I love that it is about connecting family – whether its the ancestors or newly discovered living family members (or even reconnecting with living family).

I also get a real buzz when I’ve helped someone solve a mystery. For me, “the thrill of the hunt” is all part of it.

 Have you attended  Congress in previous years?

I attended the last Congress in Adelaide – my first time, and am really looking forward to this one!

What are your key topics for Congress?

I’m delivering a paper on our library’s family history services at the Librarians Day the day before Congress officially starts, and then have two presentations about what Auckland Libraries’ is doing for WWI commemorations; and also doing a case study that showcases Auckland Libraries online resources and the unique manuscripts and records.

How do you think your topics will help the family historians at Congress 2015?

It should definitely help people with New Zealand connections – but also might help those think outside the square with their research, and consider what is available through libraries both online and in collections.

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

For me this is personal and professional development. I learn such alot by attending these conferences – both in terms of my specialism and also in terms of developing my presentation and networking skills.

I think it is important that a New Zealand library the size of ours sends a representative to this Australasian Congress – wish more New Zealanders working in the field were able to attend to give a more rounded Australasian perspective.

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

You know, I find that it doesn’t matter how long you have been researching for, there is always plenty to learn.

However, one tip is to never overlook the obvious – if you have come up against a brick wall, always go back to basics and re-examine all your records; get someone else to review them with you as a second set of eyes can often help.

Also – its not all online!

 Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?

I am on Twitter @genebrarian which is my personal account, or tweeting @Kintalk for work.

My work Facebook page is

My work blog is and my personal blog is (although I only blog there when I have done some significant personal research)

I can also be contacted via the Contact Us form on the Auckland Libraries website:

I can see Seonaid is a woman after my own heart based on her advice that “it’s not all online”. Looking forward to meeting you in Canberra, Seonaid and thanks for sharing with us all today.

Meet Congress 2015 Speaker: Shauna Hicks

Shauna HicksI doubt too many Australian genealogists are unfamiliar with long-term researcher and knowledgeable speaker, Shauna Hicks. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear Shauna speak quite a few times, and I’m sure many of you have too but here are her topics for Congress 2015. Shauna has also been convenor of Australia’s National Family History Month for the past couple of years helping to grow our community.  Let’s learn a little more about Shauna in her own words and what she thinks we can gain from Congress 2015.

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

I started researching my family history in 1977 after watching the TV series Roots. It made me want to know more about my own family history and history in general. After a few years, my passion was so great it led to a career change and I moved into the world of archives and libraries while pursuing university qualifications part time at night. Somehow I still found time to keep the family history research going!

How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life?

Well as indicated in that last question, it totally changed my whole life. I went from a fairly boring public service job to a variety of positions in Queensland State Archives, the State Library of Queensland, the National Archives of Australia and the Public Record Office of Victoria. As a result, I was privileged to work with a whole range of talented people on some fantastic library, archives and genealogy projects.

What do you love most about genealogy/family history?

It is never ending! When I first started there was no internet, no personal computers, email and so on and research took time and you needed to personally visit archives and libraries. Now we have some fantastic indexes, digitised records and it is often easier to research than it was. But not everything is indexed or online and more new resources are coming online all the time. In the last decade I have seen some of my brick walls tumbled and new lines opened up.

Have you attended  Congress in previous years?

Yes I have attended quite a few. My first was in Brisbane in 1994,  Melbourne in 2003, Auckland in 2009 and Adelaide in 2012.

What are your key topics for Congress?

I am giving two presentations – one on sporting ancestors and the other on court of petty session records.

How do you think your topic/s will help the family historians at Congress 2015?

I like to know as much as I can about my ancestors and what their lives were like in the communities in which they lived. We often forget that they may have played sport, perhaps at school or part of a church group or even the local team. Plus there were sports that we don’t see these days such as egg and spoon races or billy kart races. It doesn’t have to be professional sports, there were lots of amateur sports that our ancestors could have been involved with, including our maternal ancestors.

Some of my ancestors were colourful and I have found references to them in the local court of petty session records. Some of the details I have found in the court records would never have been known if they had not been captured in the deposition statements of my ancestors or witnesses to the crime. All of this extra detail helps me to know and understand what their lives were like.

So I am hoping that my two presentations will make attendees think more broadly about who their ancestors were and what they did within their communities.

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

I always learn so much from the speakers and if I haven’t attended the congress, I always buy the congress papers because the wealth of new information is fantastic. Also as there are multiple streams, the papers let you find out about the topics you couldn’t attend in person. I also love all the trade stalls and I usually come home with a heavier suitcase and a lighter wallet! Finally the big bonus is meeting up with ‘old’ genealogy friends and colleagues and meeting new ones. It is also a place to meet all your online geneamates in person.

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

Just come along and be prepared to soak it all up, talk to others and take advantage of any offers from the trade stalls. Often there are some good bargains to be found or they are offering on the spot searches or help/advice.

Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?

My website is and I am also the author of

I particularly like Shauna’s tip to buy the Congress proceedings even if circumstances prevent you being able to attend. As for those of us who’ll be there, what great opportunities await us.

Meet Congress 2015 Speaker – Kerry Farmer

Kerry FarmerToday it’s my pleasure to introduce to one of Australia’s excellent family history presenters, Kerry Farmer, who will be speaking at Congress 2015 in Canberra. I’ve heard Kerry speak a number of times and her talks are always packed full of information with ideas to spike your interest….I know I always learn something new from her. If you’ve got an interest in using DNA for your genealogical research, then Kerry will help to make that clear for you.

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

I’m primarily a genealogist, but that means I am also a researcher and a historian. I am also the Director of Australian Studies with the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

How has family history research improved or changed your life?

It has brought a change of career for me. I used to be a computer programmer and systems analyst, who also liked to do family history research. Then in 1997 I started teaching classes at the local community college in ‘Family history using the internet’. In those days I was probably teaching how to use the internet as much as family history. Over the years I have taught many classes. Now I write online courses about Australian family history research, write books, give talks and do client research. Sometimes I even manage to still find time to do some research on my own family history!

I have met many wonderful people, whom I would not otherwise have known. Some are other genealogists who I now count amongst my closest friends. Researching my family and finding and spending time with extended family members has led to some truly memorable experiences. There’s nothing quite like going to a new place and meeting someone for the first time and yet already feeling like ‘family’ – it brings a special feeling of belonging.

What do you love most about family history?

Apart from the above – actually meeting and sharing with family – there is so much to learn in family history. Researching the times and places in which my ancestors lived and discovering how they responded to those times provides insights into them (and sometimes into me). I like the mental puzzles and the joy of the discoveries but it is much more satisfying being so personal. Reading about hard times in an ancestor’s life – the death of parents, children or a spouse and how they coped – I wonder how I would have managed in their situation.

Have you attended  Congress in previous years?

Yes – I attend Congress whenever I can. I particularly enjoy meeting with genealogy friends from interstate as well as how much I learn. Some talks have extended my knowledge in areas already of interest and occasionally a talk has introduced me to a topic or resource I had never considered.

What are your key topics for Congress?

I’m giving two talks about DNA – one is more introductory, about the DNA tests that can be helpful in genealogy research, the other DNA talk is more advanced, about how to take better advantage of autosomal and X-chromosome DNA testing. In addition I’m giving a talk about immigration schemes to Australia.

How do you think your topics will help the family historians at Congress 2015?

Some genealogists don’t know where to start with DNA testing and hopefully my introductory talk might help them. Others have had DNA testing done and then thought – now what? Hopefully the advanced autosomal talk will give them some more ideas. My immigration schemes talk is to help people realise that there is more to be learnt about an immigrant ancestor than just when they arrived in Australia. Identifying the scheme that brought them often provides clues about why they came, what their life was before and after arrival, and where to look for further records.

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

Catching up with friends and making new ones. There is always something new to learn. A wide range of topics can stimulate ideas about useful new resources and techniques.

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

Family history research is about people, not just facts. Putting people into a bigger context sometimes helps you realise why ancestors did something and often leads to other discoveries. Researching the history of where they were living (and, if they were immigrants, where they moved from and to) can help you understand their lives.

Use all the tools at your disposal, not just the easy ones. Information is not all online – consult books, archives and other family members. Finding other extended family members can lead to more information, photographs or even a family Bible. DNA testing provides tools that might help you find relatives – it also might help you find the unnamed ancestor in a document or confirm or challenge your carefully constructed family tree.

Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?


My website:


Thanks so much for this interview Kerry…I’m looking forward to catching up at Congress.

Meet Congress 2015 Speaker Perry McIntyre

Dr Perry McIntyre

Dr Perry McIntyre

As you know there are three official bloggers for Congress 2015 in Canberra: Shauna Hicks, Jill Ball (aka Geniaus) and myself. We thought it might be interesting for you to learn a little more about the speakers at Congress, who they are, and what their interests cover. Shauna has already interviewed a few speakers but Dr Perry McIntyre is my first interviewee. I know Perry from Shamrock in the Bush and I’m really looking forward to hearing her speak at Congress so I hope this interview tempts you to join me in her sessions.

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

A: I began my steps into history through genealogy when I returned to Sydney from living in a mining town in Central Queensland. The stint in Sydney was to be short and I was 8 months pregnant! Five years later with two babies I’d completed the Diploma of Family History at the Society of Genealogists and was on the way to leaving my Science Degree and teaching career behind for a life in genealogy and history.

How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life?

These first steps in to family history ultimately led to more academic history study ending with a PhD in history inspired by the wonderful documents at State Records of NSW which linked transported men with their free families back in England and Ireland. Other spin-offs were a career as a professional genealogist, working for academics as a researcher on large projects, helping Richard Reid lead tours to Ireland in the 1990s and first decade of 2000s. Ireland had by then become a place that had to be visited often. Getting into genealogy also inspired me to write up some of the research projects and, with a fellow historian, we formed a small history publishing company. Keep an eye on

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

 Pulling together the stories of peoples past, so I guess I’m still a genealogist at heart although one current obsession is the lives of all 4114 Famine orphan girls who came to Australia between 1848 and 1850 – not mine but still genealogical principals. I am current Chair of the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee and manage the website working with descendants to tell the stories of these young women.

Have you attended  Congress in previous years?

 Quite a number of them since the Canberra one in 1986 [was it 1986?]

What are your key topics for Congress?

 An examination of why we remember and trace our families and a taste of a new project looking at criminality in Ireland and who was and was not transported. This is exciting work in the National Archives in Dublin.

How do you think your topics will help the family historians at Congress 2015?

Encourage genealogists to think beyond the mere pedigree and also show them that not all the records in Ireland were destroyed – two topics to broaden understanding and open minds.

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

Catching up with old friends, making new ones and there is always something new to learn.

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

 Go back over old documents. As we learn more we see what was not so obvious when we first started. Keep your mind open and read broadly.

Is there somewhere we can connect with you online? 

Not really. Have a look at and you can email me off that site at but only if you have an Irish famine orphan girl who came under Earl Grey Scheme.

Thanks Perry for such interesting responses to the questions. With so many of us researching Irish ancestors I’m sure your topics will be of great interest at Congress.