Dec 032011

We are now on our way across the Tasman to Burnie which is on the top of Tasmania.  This  means two wonderful days at sea with a full conference program.  With 19 (yes that is 19!) presentations over the two days including Shauna’s and my postponed talks, it was a fantastic but very busy two days. 

I am not going to review all the talks there is simply not enough time but do look at some other cruisers’ blogs such as Shauna Hicks  and her second blog  ,Jennifer Jones   and Chris Paton as they will also cover some of these.

Chris Paton did a talk on Scotland Censuses 1841-1939 (yes that is 1939) and one of the most important things to remember is that Scotland is NOT England and some things were done differently, some better some not as nice for us, such as the fact the 1911 census returns available are not the actual household returns filled in by your ancestor as is available in the English and Welsh 1911 census.  It is an important point and can have quite an impact on your research if you are doing Scottish research particularly as previously mentioned in doing land research.

Rosemary Kopittke continued her excellent series of presentations on the online databases: FindMyPast UKThe Genealogist, Ancestry AU and MyHeritage . These were all well attended as Rosemary has a knack for showing people what is available and the best way to search the databases for the greatest returns using her searches particularly for her research name Beeston.

Keith Johnson gave a presentation on the Biographical Database of Australia which intends to publish biographies of Australians on-line by linking together entries from original records, with their biographical material appended. Keith Johnson and Malcolm Sainty are ideally suited for this task as they were the originators of the Australian and Biographical Genealogical Record which gave us so much wonderful material that is taken for granted by so many today. This includes these records ably edited by the enthusiastic and talented Carol Baxter:

Musters and Lists, New South Wales and Norfolk Island 1800-1802 (ABGR, 1988)
Musters of New South Wales and Norfolk Island 1805-1806 (ABGR, 1989)
General Musters of New South Wales, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen’s Land 1811 (ABGR, 1987)
General Muster of New South Wales 1814 (ABGR, 1987)
General Muster and Land & Stock Muster of New South Wales 1822 (ABGR, 1989)
General Muster List of New South Wales 1823, 1824, 1825 (ABGR, 1999)

This project has amazing potential for all future researchers and is one I am watching with major anticipation! Major announcements are expected in 2012. I look forward to supporting this project in any way I can.

Richard Reid gave two more presentations: The Great Famine 1845-55 – Irish ancestral experience and memory and The Australian Imperial Force on the Western Front 1916 -1919. 

Richard’s presentations are full of information, much of it not so much about the records but about the life, the experience and the things that made it real to the people involved and to us. He adds colour and life to these subjects and others on which I have heard him speak. He is a professional historian and this shows through in his presentations. Again, if you have a chance, definitely go to these presentations whether or not you have ancestors involved. if you have, it will give greater meaning but this is history which has an impact on everyone.

Shauna gave her postponed presentation on using Google for your Family Tree and as always gave an excellent presentation. Google is an excellent search engine and Shauna gave many tips on using it more effectively to do the searches and find the items you want. 

Google also has so many facets and depths apart from being a search engine. so many people don’t use it to capacity but everyone who attended this presentation should be able to go out and use it more effectively. Google images, scholar, blogs, books, translate and so much more!

I gave my Researching in UK Archives from Abroad about which I received  some positive comments which are always nice to hear.

Chris Paton did a nice talk on DNA. Many presenters make this an overly complicated topic wanting to show you how clever they are knowing big words without showing the practical applications and problems. Most people are very happy to use a digital camera or computer without needing to know exactly how it works. DNA testing is the same, it is simply another tool which can be useful if used for the right reasons. It is not a replacement for good research. Chris showed how it could be used in real situations remembering people are real and non-paternity events do occur.  Name changes also can occur for a variety of reasons which can impact on expected DNA results.

It has been an amazing few days with a lot of information from the presenters and also from the cruise participants. So many people with their own research experiences and expertise.

Dec 032011

Today (well actually a few days ago but due to the restricted internet on the ship I am behind in my blogging) we cruised along Dusty Sound then into Doubtful Sound then Milford Sound.

I have been to Doubtful Sound a number of years ago (originally then the plan was to visit Milford Sound but an avalanche had closed the access tunnel) during a bus tour after a conference. It was interesting this time to do it from the sea.

Perry McIntyre spoke on the 19th Century Irish Landscapes which was very interesting. It is so important for anyone who is researching people, rather than just names and dates, to be aware of the geographic area of our ancestors which has an impact on their lives.

Jan Gow then spoke on New Zealand BDM records online. I don’t have any New Zealand research (apart from following one Quested family that settled there and most of the work on that family has been done) but it is always interesting to hear how sites are set up.

In the afternoon session I was scheduled to talk on Researching UK Archives and Shauna Hicks was scheduled to talk on Google your Family Tree.

However the time the Volendam was  to be in Milford Sound was the same time as our scheduled presentations. Needless to say, our talks were rescheduled as Milford Sound would obviously be the premiere attraction!

And when you look at the image, could there be any doubt?

I sat most of the day glued to the window watching the majestic scenery. In fact I was so busy watching that I took very few photos! I did venture on deck but it was quite cold and I returned to watch in comfort with a large cup of chai latte. 

We are in quite a large ship yet the steep cliffs tower over the vessel. There were some small boats cruising the Sound as well and the view from them must be awe inspiring! I didn’t see any animals but did see a number of birds.

That evening we were given a wonderful presentation by Chris Paton on  Scottish Weavers. Chris did a dissertation on the hand-loom weaving community in Perth, Scotland 1770-1845 as part of his Postgraduate Certificate in Genealogical Studies. The depth of knowledge and sheer passion for the subject shines through in his presentation and in the stories of the people and the records he shared. If you ever get a chance to hear Chris talk, run don’t walk for the opportunity!

Then we left the Sounds on our way across the Tasman to Burnie which is on the top of Tasmania.  This did mean two wonderful days at sea which means a full conference program about which more in the next entry.

I can’t leave you without some comment on some things about the ship. Each night I am greeted on entry to my cabin by another towel creation.

Each day the crew let us know the day by changing the mats in the lifts. Without this reminder it would be very easy to forget the day unless of course you are attending family history presentations and earnestly waiting on each new days talks!


Nov 282011

I joined the cruise half way through. Speaking to the people on board I have missed some excellent presentations however there  are many more to come.

The ship is the Volendam, a very nicely set up ship of the Holland America Line.

Akaroa Harbour

As well as the 100 or so on board presentations,  there are also a number of on-shore seminars also being  organised by Lyn Blake, the New Zealand Society of Genealogists Education Officer, and Unlock the Past and these have been well attended.

We docked in the beautiful habour at Akaroa and Chris Paton and I headed off to Little River to give some presentations. 

Thank you to our drivers both there and back for the beautiful scenery and telling us  historical information of the area.

Akaroa is a very French settlement. The French flag was flying, the streets are all named as Rue  and as we were told it is only an accident of fate that New Zealand  was not actually a French colony.

Chris remarked the scenery was very similar to Scotland except the sky was blue! I have not managed to get to Scotland as yet but this scenery was definitely lovely and well worth seeing.

Chris did an excellent presentation on Discovering Scottish Church records. He started with an overview of how the Presbyterian Church became established in Scotland. 

I had never realised how complicated this was but it is clearer now (although I am very pleased he has written a book on the subject!). It is important to understand how and what schisms occurred as without this information finding your person being baptised could be impossible. 

This is particularly soas so much of the online Scottish records are the Established church rather than the breakaway  churches. In the 1851 religious census there were over 2000 non-conformist churches in Scotland.

I gave my Demolishing Brick Walls or as I prefer to call it “Going from Stop to Go in Your Research” talk which appeared to be well received.

Then Chris gave another wonderful presentation on “Online Irish Resources” There have been so many resources released online for Ireland recently that it has been fantastic. 

Chris spoke of the best ways of accessing the information as some sites are much cheaper than others. He provided so much information that I was very pleased I had bought his book as my hand just couldn’t keep up with all the links! (He does have a list of links available on his website) I would recommend his book available through Gould Genealogy. 


Chris writes  well and his work is very readable. You will also see his articles in many of the well-known genealogy magazines. I am just trying to work out a way of chaining him to his desk and having him write many more soon!

Gould have been publishing an increasing number of excellent books on family history including one by yours truly. So keep an eye on the website and what is coming out as I know of a number of books in various states of progress.