Today’s interview is with Congress 2015 speaker Robert Nash. So often our research takes us into new territory where we have to learn about a specific topic, which then becomes a passion. Robert evidently fits this mould with his enthusiasm and knowledge of Huguenot history and genealogy. I confess it’s a huge knowledge gap for me, so there’ll be plenty to learn in his talk.
I wonder if you could tell us a little about your background? Are you a genealogist, researcher, historian or representing your organisation?
I see myself as an amateur historian, but I am also a researcher, a genealogist and the Secretary of the Huguenot Society of Australia, so I guess I am all of those things ! I think I am the only Huguenot genealogical researcher in Australia.
How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life?
Since I became obsessed with the Huguenots in about 1999 they have certainly kept me busy.
My voluntary work for the Huguenot Society does take up a lot of time, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. The fellowship aspect of belonging to a society is important: I have made lots of friends, and am continually meeting new people.
What do you love most about family history?
For me there are two things; first of all, being able to help people by supplying fairly simple historical information which throws new light on their ancestors; secondly, peeling away some of the layers of myth, misinformation and old wives’ tales with which family history (particularly Huguenot family history) is encumbered.
Have you attended Congress in previous years?
Sadly this hasn’t been possible.
What is your key topic for Congress?
‘Across the centuries’. My talk emphasises the depth of time in Huguenot history. It is amazing that families now living in Australia can trace their ancestry back to people who left France in the 17th and 16th centuries.
Huguenot descendants can benefit from a wealth of records in France, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa etc etc.
How do you think your topic/s will help the family historians at Congress 2015?
I hope the talk will be of general interest to everybody, regardless of whether they have Huguenot ancestry or not. It raises the whole question of refugees and immigration: topics very much in the news at the moment. It also asks the question, ‘Why do we research family history ?’ Many people get involved in genealogy without thinking “Why?” It is easy to become disappointed or discouraged unless we consider this first.
What do you think are the benefits of attending a large conference like this, for you personally and for others attending?
For me the huge benefit can be summed up in one word: people. It is a wonderful opportunity to make personal contact with many different people, all of whom have something to share. At a time when more and more of us are spending more and more time seated alone at our computers, this can only be good.
Do you have a favourite piece of advice or a tip or trick you can share with conference attendees?
Evidence, evidence, evidence. Look for the historical evidence, and use it as a basis for your story. If you don’t understand it, get someone else to help you. If you can’t find evidence for something, but you suspect it is true, then be honest about that. There’s nothing wrong with an honest supposition as long as you admit it is only that.
Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?
The Huguenot Society has a website http://www.huguenotsaustalia.org.au
I can be contacted via the society’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks Robert for sharing your story with us and offering Congress attendees to learn more about this area of research.