Nov 252016

Advent in 2016 is from Sunday 27th November to Saturday 24th December. 

While I am very fond of chocolate and as a child loved the little calendars that you opened each day and gained a piece of chocolate, for a number of years now I have done a different type of Advent calendar.

It is a “Paying Forward Genealogical Kindness” Calendar (and yes there might be some chocolate as a reward each day!). Below is my 2016 Advent Calendar. Some of these will take a few minutes, some a few hours but each of them shares just a little kindness and there can never be too much kindness in this world.

So much of our research has been made easier because of the very many volunteers in the past who have indexed and transcribed records for us.

Over the years I have tried to give back whenever I could but because of study and work, generally could not often do it in person onsite somewhere, so looked for ways I could do it at home  (or anywhere I might be) using a computer.

‘Genealogists for Families’ Project
Small micro-loans given to help people help themselves. A fantastic initiative started by Judy Webster. Currently there are 324 genealogist members from all over the world who since 2011 have made over 7792 loans totaling  $205, 000. Each loan by an individual is $25 (the loan amount for a project varies) and then the person pays back the loan which allows you to relend that money again and again. So over my time as a member I have donated $1223 which because of the relending has meant that $3425 in 137 loans have been made.
Find out out more here

The wonderful free website of the National Library of Australia that has digitised newspapers and now also the new South Wales Government Gazette that have been OCR’d (Optical character recognition read by a computer and interpreted). The OCR quality can be variable depending on a range of reasons including typeface so by correcting the text you make the record searchable and available for all.


National Archives of Australia
Transcribing records to make them more findable and able to be listed online.  Thanks to transcribers 248 250 record descriptions have been added to RecordSearch. This makes resources available to the community as they are able to be found by a name search.

State Library of Queensland
So many transcription opportunities around the world depending on your interests and experience:
Just a few of the ones I have done some work with in the last couple of years are listed below:
Transcribing early modern recipes
Virtual Volunteering Australia
US National Archives
Smithsonian Digital Volunteer
Atlas of Living Australia: Digitising Field Diaries Australia (Museum Victoria)
World Memory Project
Project of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a very large collection of documents. In  partnership with they have created the World Memory Project which has volunteers at home indexing the records so they are name searchable. This will create a free database.
Welsh History
Tithe maps project currently active
Distributed Proofreaders
Checking and correcting  OCR to allow out of copyright books (Public Domain) books to become ebooks.
What’s On the Menu?
Project of the New York Public library transcribing historical restaurant menus.

What other projects do your family history society, local museum, state archives, etc have that you could give back a little? There are so many ways of “Paying Forward” 

Remember every name indexed is one more person found for future researchers.

Nov 152016

I’m feeling a bit like Santa Claus as being a Rootstech Ambassador I have been provided with one four-day pass (US$299 value) to give away to one of my wonderful readers.

RootsTech 2017 takes place February 8 – 11, 2017  in Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, home of the amazing Family History Library.

It’s the world’s largest family history event with over 200 classes for all family history and technical skill levels. There are classes to help you bring your ancestors’ stories alive, as well as classes to help you discover more about them. Regardless of your research experience, there are classes and labs for you!

RootsTech is  an amazing time with 200+ classes, the Innovators Summit, the large Exhibition Hall with so many interesting vendors and many, many genealogists! Meeting up with online genealogy friends is always an amazing highlight!

The pass includes keynote and general sessions, over 200 classes, including Getting Started classes, the Innovator Summit, and evening cultural events.

So what do you need to do to be in the draw ( done using a random number generator) from the entries received. If you have already paid your registration and you are the winner you will be refunded your registration.

So to enter you need to go to the site have a look around and then tell me a class you want to attend and why you want to attend it.

Email your response to by 25th November midnight (New York time)

Your entry must contain :

1. Your name
2. Your email
3. The presentation you want to attend and why it interests you

By entering you give permission for your name to reported on this blog and on Facebook and Twitter.

Good luck to everyone!

Special presentation by  LeVar Burton.  Buddy Valastro better known as “Cake Boss” will be celebrity guest judge for the first ever cake decorating competition!

 As an Ambassador and speaker I  also get a complimentary pass for myself. I have to pay for my travel, accommodation and other expenses  as will the lucky winner of  this free RootsTech Pass.

The RootsTech’s 2017 cultural opening evening will be  at the beautiful Conference Center at Temple Square and listening to featured musical guests: Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the Orchestra at Temple Square.

These are just some of the exhibitors you will find in the Expo Hall.

Oct 132016

Hooray FTDNA has now added a Pedigree View on their site.

I was the primary person on this one and so cut off my details.

You can then click on a person such as Robert Henry Philpott and get the further details as shown below.

Now this lovely new Pedigree View is only of value if someone has uploaded their Gedcom.

FTDNA has been encouraging people to upload their Gedcoms for quite a while but there has not been the take-up we would all like (although hopefully everyone who is bemoaning no Gedcoms have uploaded their own!).

And of course it is really no different to Ancestry where there are very, very many DNA tests that have no tree attached. It would be nice to know if the people who have no tree attached have an Ancestry subscription.

I am assured by Ancestry that you can add a tree if you are someone who only has a DNA test and  was told they are encouraged to do so when activating the test.

From what I have been able to determine from this help page on Ancestry the DNA test only member can contact matches and receive messages. They cannot view the trees of their matches.

Oct 052016

I was honoured to receive the Bronze Rockstar award along with Michelle Patient in the recent “Rockstar Genealogists” survey held by John D. Reid of Anglo-Celtic Connections

Thank you to those who voted for me. I appreciate the recognition. I enjoy what I do and sharing what I know and it is nice to know it is appreciated.

I hope that people everywhere will look at all the people nominated for the poll and Google those you don’t know. Find their blogs, attend their presentations and see why others consider them to be “Rockstar Genealogists”.

No award process is perfect but I feel there is value in highlighting genealogical presenters so conference chairs and we can use the opportunity to find more people from whom to learn. There will always be people who should be listed who are not.

Was your favourite not listed? Did you nominate them?

Sep 112016

I have recently posted about the Librarians day and Society Day held prior to the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference. 

Now for the Conference proper. There were 72 presenters for this conference and I was one of those 72 giving three presentations and a luncheon talk. 

DNA as you can imagine was an important stream of presentations with nine presentations. There was also a British Isles and Commonwealth stream with 22 presentations. Methodology, Records, Research Strategies, Ethnicity, Repositories,  Technology, Writing were topics with multiple presentations.

After the Plenary session you went to one of the concurrent sessions. This entailed a fair bit of decision making as unfortunately I have never been able to clone myself which would have been of great use here!

Luckily many (but not all) of the presenters have agreed to their sessions being recorded and these are available for purchase from Fleetwood onsite  

They record many different conferences, so click through to Federation of Genealogical Societies  and you are able to buy recordings of the last five FGS conferences either as every talk that was recorded or as individual talks. Currently the 2016 (as of 11 Sep) is available at a reduced price of US$249 for all that were recorded (individual talks not listed as yet). This is a discount as previous years full recordings are at US$349.

So one of the ways of choosing was to determine which of my choices were not being recorded and going to that one. Some familiar names to Australian and New Zealand audiences were among the presenters: Judy G. Russell, Paul Milner, Thomas MacEntee, Carole Baxter, me to name but a few.Because of the concurrent sessions the program committee were able to have the larger more popular topics but were also able to have specialist topics where it was not expected to fill a room but made the twenty or more attendees very happy that their topic was available.

All of the presentations are a major part of any conference but another very important part is the Exhibitor Hall with the very many exhibitors, societies, specialist repositories, Maia’s Bookshop! (with the large Unlock the Past book display), and so many, many more!

The FGS gave time for the attendees to visit the exhibition hall and also instituted an Exhibitor Bingo Card where if an attendee got a stamp from each exhibitor on the card they could be in the prize draw for some pretty decent prizes. The other thing given to each attendee was a $10 exhibitor note. You could spend this at any of the exhibitors, they stamped the back and you could then go and hand in your note for a $10 refund. Both of these initiatives worked very well and I heard many positive responses from the exhibitors.

Springfield Illinois was the home of Abraham Lincoln prior to him becoming President and I never realised how tall he was until I stood next to his life size image.

The FGS conference may not have had the number of attendees of some previous FGS conferences but all who attended had a wonderful learning experience, great networking, managed to spend a few dollars among the various exhibitors and best of all netwrked with other family historians whose eyes did not glaze over in boredom and who did not sneak slowly and silently away when you started talking about your family!

Congratulations to all who were involved in the organisation!

Sep 112016

I have just attended the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conference in Springfield, Illinois. This was my second FGS conference and there are two different things about a FGS conference.

One is the Librarians Day where there is a special day supported by ProQuest for Genealogical Librarians who are a special breed that provide support for genealogists everywhere.

The morning comprised a series of presentations and the afternoon visits to two libraries in the local area.

This was the program:
8:30am – 9:30am | Family History Beyond the Family Tree | Mark DePue
The session discusses the value of oral history narratives in family history research.

9:45am – 10:45am | FamilySearch Family History Resources for Librarians | Robert Raymond
There are many family history tools and resources available to librarians. This class introduces some provided by FamilySearch and provides example LibGuides adaptable for your library.

11:00am – 12:00pm | A Capital Idea: A look at the Sangamon Valley Collection, the regional collection of genealogy and history for Lincoln Library | Curtis Mann
An overview of one of the premier Illinois local history collections covering History of Springfield, Illinois and the Surrounding Region

12:15pm – 1:30pm – Lunch – ProQuest Presentation | William Forsyth, Director of Product Management, ProQuest

Tour of Sangamon Collection with Curtis Mann
Lincoln Library | 326 S. Seventh St A first-hand look at this well respected local history collection

Proper Environment, Proper Storage, Proper Handling with Bonnie Parr
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum | 112 N. Sixth St
Basic preservation guidelines and tips for caring for collections of family history materials – documents, books, and photographs

It was a very well attended day (Thank you ProQuest for the sponsorship and lovely lunch) and there were librarians from a wide variety of library types: family history societies, museums, archives, Universities, specialist societies.

The second day was a Society Day. This was a day devoted to presentations to help societies in ways of providing to their membership, to outreach programs, to running special projects, to ways of running seminar days, of helping volunteers, to using technology to reach remote members and so much more. There were thirty eight presentations solely designed to help societies in these difficult times. (see below for some of the presentations on offer)

Many societies are seeing falling membership numbers and the increasing belief of some that “it is all online and you can just click on the leaf” which means they are less inclined to even think of joining a society. Many societies have remote members and are unsure of how to give them benefits that will help retain them as members.

Volunteers join committees and can become burnt out with the various duties involved in running a society.

Having very sadly been recently involved in the closing of a society that had been going for over thirty-five years I know it is a real problem. Seeing this level of support for the future of  societies and the volunteers that run those societies was wonderful.

Congratulations to the Federation of Genealogical Societies for this day and also the many other things they do to support societies who join them. They even have a section of downloadable resources which are freely available to all. These include around 50 Society Strategy papers on things that should be considered when running a society. Certainly some of these are US-centric but the majority should be essential reading for anyone involved in a society. They also have a free newsletter that talks of various societies activities. There is also the FGS Forum which is a subscription newsletter that is available for anyone to subscribe.

A genealogical society, even one listed as a non-profit, has to run on business-like principles  if it is to survive.

I sincerely hope that other conference organisers (AFFHO please think about this!) consider doing something similar, maybe they can’t run a whole day but run a number of presentations that focus on helping societies.

All in all these were two very useful days and this is before the FGS conference actually starts!

Aug 292016

I am currently in Chicago 90% of the way to the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Springfield, Illinois.

This is my second FGS conference and I am looking forward to meeting up again with many of my genealogical online friends and also learning from them. There are many  names familiar to Australians among the presenters including Audrey Collins, Chris Paton, Paul Milner, Judy Russell, Thomas MacEntee and so many others among the 72 presenters who will be informing us during these few days.

This is also the Federations 40th birthday year.

I am giving three presentations:

1 September  5pm: Lost in Australia
2 September 11am: My Job is Killing me!
3 September 8am: In The Workhouse

And also on 3rd I am the luncheon speaker for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History speaking on Lenses of Time: Battle of Bossenden Woods.

Springfield is also where Abraham Lincoln lived before becoming President he is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. 

Aug 022016

Last year after the Unlock the Past Baltic cruise and conference I hired a car and drove across from Southampton to go ancestor chasing in some churchyards in Kent before flying home. Having a GPS is a necessity especially on your own to find some of the churches.

I came across this headstone in Hinxhill, Kent.

A lot of sadness for this family but a wonderful memorial stone.

George was one of 68 people killed in the terrible fires that hit Victoria in 1939 after two years of very dry conditions followed by the highest recorded temperature. A disaster waiting to happen and it did. 

The Australasian 21 January 1939
The headstone also mentions Robert, their sixth son. Robert comes to Australia aged eighteen as an agricultural worker. He enlists on the 1 December 1939 in Melbourne and is sadly killed in Libya 3 January 1941 and this is reported in the Argus 23 January 1941.
BRUNDRETT, ROBERT. Lance Corporal, VX85959
2/5th Australian Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force.
Killed in action at Gartha, Libya on 3 January 1941. Aged 33.
Born Ebbw Vale, Monmouthshire, Wales 27 October 1907.
Argus 23 January 1941

Jul 242016

It has been an interesting time recently for me with some behind the scenes things happening. Due to marvels of modern technology and the internet I have been interviewed twice and both these interviews have been released as podcasts this week.

The first was a live interview with Jane E. Wilcox from New York who hosts the Forget-Me-Not-Hour on BlogTalk Radio and is also available on iTunes (look for Jane E. Wilcox). 

The interview related to my two books. Luckily I am a night owl as it was done live and we finished at 1.15am! It was a lot of fun. 

Jane does two shows a month and is past her fifth year of doing the show.  I have been a subscriber for a number of years so this was a real pleasure and exciting to do.

The second interview was with Maria Northcote of Genies Down Under podcast, a great podcast for anyone with an interest in Australian research. Here is a link to the show notes 

This interview comprised a standard`set of questions and also touched on the books. You can subscribe to the  podcast via iTunes.

This interview was done using Skype and was easy to do. Maria at the start of this podcast talks about the process of producing a podcast.

There is also an addendum audio which gives a a special deal for listeners of both podcasts.

Order Helen’s books:
E copies of the books are available at Gen e books, the e book division of Gould Genealogy Australia

Special deal for Forget Me Not Hour and Genies Down Under listeners: Using the code EB2016-10 will give AU$10 discount on any order over AU$20. Expires 31 October 2016

North American Listeners
Print copies of the books are available at Global Genealogy

Australian Listeners
Print copies of the books are available at Gould Genealogy

United Kingdom Listeners
Print copy of the book are available at
My History bookshop the-Past- Booklets.html

Jul 052016

Trove from the National Library of Australia is an amazing free resource. It is more than just the wonderful digitised newspapers that we all know and love.

In fact as is shown in this image Trove contains more than 500, 005,853 Australian and online resources books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives and more.

Certainly we know that trove’s funding has been cut so their ability to digitise special community collections has been greatly lessened which is a major shame as it will slow the rate of new additions and potentially may mean access to some collections may be lost to the national and international communities. We all hope that this funding decision will be reconsidered.

Australia is the envy of the world in having Trove and the free access it provides to so much at any time of the day or night to anyone, anywhere with an Internet connection. Scholars, students, historians, sports fans all have found items of interest to them.

What is even more special are the volunteers from around the world who correct the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) which at times depending on typeface and age of the paper can give some very interesting results! Just today there were, at the time of writing this, 9706 newspaper lines corrected by the wonderful volunteers.

The Hall of Fame shows the top correctors and I will never be in the top five (I don’t think they do anything but correct!) but I am pretty happy at number 639 and 42, 246 lines of text corrected, which has been done intermittently over five years. It is one of the ways I choose to give back and “pay Forward” all the help I have received over the years.

Those who read my blog regularly will know of my George Howard Busby.

On the Discovering Anzacs site, his entry shows the photos of him from the Queenslander, his Attestation papers and if you look down on the bottom right hand side you will see some links to articles in Trove from my tagged list for him.  Other web links include a link to his Repatriation file and to the high resolution images from the Queenslander and also to his Embarkation file.

This integration of records together from across the digital sphere is what makes research today extremely exciting.

I wonder how long it will be before Trove has one billion reources?

Trove we all love you!