Of Learning and Checklists

The last six weeks or so have been full of family history learning for me.

August was Family History Month in Australia and a one-day seminar at the LDS Family History Centre at Forest Glen on 1 August was the start of lots of geneafun. For me, the stand-out speaker was Brenda Wheeler. As always the hospitality from the LDS community was excellent.

We had the second gathering of our McCorkindale cousins at Caloundra mid-August and once again all enjoyed themselves immensely. The icing on the cake was discovering new McCorkindale cousins in the UK and Australia…an tempting them to come to another gathering in 2020! As you might imagine this all kicked off a focus on our McCorkindale family who originated in Loch Awe in Argyll.

I was delighted to be able to attend the DNA Down Under session in Brisbane on 14 August and followed up with the three day intensive in Sydney from 29-31 August. Both sessions I attended were superb both in content and organisation so a huge thank you goes to Unlock the Past for this innovative program. Blaine Bettinger suggested we get a DNA Buddy to keep our feet on the ground and challenge our assumptions: straight away my genimate, TravelGenee, and I pointed at each other. I guess we’ve already been doing some of that with our coffee chat-fests. Don’t you just love it when virtual friends become real-life friends? I feel so grateful that I’ve made great friends from family history.

Since I’ve returned from Sydney I’ve been applying some of what I’ve learned, reviewing my notes and reading the 2nd edition of Blaine Bettinger’s “The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy” which sold like hot cakes at the venues. Not only is Blaine an excellent speaker on matters relating to genetic genealogy, he is truly an all-round nice person. Sometimes it’s hard not to gush and be a genealogy rockstar groupie.

Between the two DNA events I enjoyed another gathering of the Brisbane Blarney Group at a pub in Brisbane hosted by genimate Crissouli. The focus is on those with Irish heritage and it’s always fun and more so as you get to know each other.

While in Sydney I scheduled some research time at the NSW State Archives at Kingswood where I did some McCorkindale research and got great assistance from the archivists with some tricky problems. More on that another time.

The last ten days have been real-life family history, spending time with the living family in Darwin and getting in lots of grandchild cuddles.

Yesterday I was privileged to be on a panel with Janice Cooper, Bob McAllister and Doug Moss at the Fridays @ QFHS seminar. Our topic was “Researching, Organising and Filing your Family History”. This was the second session on this topic in 2019. The main advantage of having a panel format for this topic as the variety of responses and strategies hopefully strike a chord with the attendees….no one way will suit everyone and as I said “my way may not be your way”. I also recommended The Organised Genealogist Facebook group as a great opportunity to discover a wide variety of strategies. As always I learned something too, and picked up clues and tips of my own, especially from Janice’s One Place Study strategies.

PD60004885_000-RootsTech19-1200x1200_LondonThe seminar also provoked me to finally do something I’ve been planning for some time: a checklist of research for family history – yours or mine. No doubt I’ve forgotten or just omitted some sources/strategies so feel free to let me know what you think should be added. I’ve included the file on this blog here.

So what’s next for me? RootsTech London, along with some of my long-standing Genimates, and the chance to meet and make new ones….and of course the learning…the schedule is jam-packed with great speakers and presentations so choosing which to attend will be a challenge. I am slightly miffed that London is taking second place in the planning and preparation to the Salt Lake conference which is still months away as it would be helpful to have the RootsTech updated for London…however that’s a small matter. I’m so grateful to Carolina Girl Genealogy and RootsTech London for the free pass I won which reimbursed my early registration. I’m really looking forward to meeting Cheri in person! In the meantime I’ve got lots of homework to prepare for a week’s research time in Scotland before RootsTech. Focus will be the name of the game!

What was I thinking – I published without adding photos. My apologies!



E is for Education, Ethics & Electoral Rolls


Yes, we can and should see what we can learn about our ancestors’ education, using school records, old school annuals, school administrative books and enrolment registers. Once again you can learn unexpected these about ancestral families such as their participation in school committees, their involvement in establishing a school or how the women helped cater to school functions.

We can also trace our families’ education standards over time and compare them to their peers. For example we can look at census statistical data, published by the relevant country, and see if our ancestors were educated to a typical standard, or perhaps had educational advantages. How long did it take for your family members to be able to access higher education? What was the typical age when they left school to take up employment?

You can read some of my Education notes from Beyond the Internet here, here and here.

apple for the teacherLife-long education

From my point of view this is one of the wonders of family history. As we discover we need to know more about life in Germany in the 19th century, flax weavers in Scotland, the Famine in Ireland, or the American Civil War, we are tempted along further paths to learning more and more about the specific areas of relevance to our families. Family history challenges our own learning in all sorts of ways and takes us on a journey of life-long education.

E is for ETHICS

all the Rs

Concept by P Cass

What’s ethics got to do with family history you ask? A lot as it happens. From family secrets long buried (or perhaps worse, in the recent past), adoptions, illegitimacies, crime etc to recognising the hard research work of others on blogs, online trees or conference presentations, there’s much we should be considering while we pursue our research.

I wrote extensively about this some time ago so I think it’s just easier to refer you to that post. Please do look at it, as ethics is something we should keep front and centre in our minds all the time. Not only is it a case of “do unto others”, it can be a case of legality as well when the person owns the content of their writing or photograph.

E is for Electoral Rolls

keep-calm-and-get-on-the-electoral-roll.jpgElectoral rolls are essentially a census substitute for Aussies. With early franchise for both men and women, combined with compulsory voting, it’s a great way to track ancestors around the state and the country – you get two bites of the cherry if you’re lucky as you can check both state and national rolls. Different commercial companies offer different access to indexed Australian electoral records so it’s worth scanning each company, either with your own subscription or at a local genealogical library. Archives should also hold the originals, and the benefit of looking at them there, is that they often show annotations which may enlighten you as to where your relatives moved next, or when they died.

If so inclined you can also use the data you discover to analyse population movement or occupations in a particular location. I also talked about the usefulness of Irish rolls here, and how they might be used for One Place Studies (of which more anon).

Early British poll books can also be helpful but the franchise was not universally applicable for many years.