Monday, 30 July 2012

Genealogy Notes 30 Jul 2012 - 9th Family History Feast

Despite the heavy traffic on the freeway, I made the trek into Melbourne in good time for the 9th annual Family History Feast (previous years' podcasts are also available at that link). It doesn't really seem nine years since Anne Piggott (National Archives of Australia), Anne Burrows (State Library of Victoria) and I (then Public Record Office Victoria) sat down (over lunch) to start planning the first ever Feast. Like all events, it needed a name and Anne Burrows reminded people yesterday that I had come up with the name. So for posterity and the record, I will briefly say how Feast came about.
Some of you may have seem the 1987 Danish movie Babette's Feast which is based on an Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) novel. She also wrote Out of Africa another favourite book/film of mine. The movie Babette's Feast also won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It's a great story and if you want a plot spoiler read about it here but to me, what the two Anne's and I were trying to do back then, was to bring to our clients a 'feast of family history'. I think that we have achieved that over the years and although Anne Piggott and I have moved on, our place in organising Feast has been taken on by other NAA and PROV staff members who assist Anne Burrows.
Enough memories, on to a report of the day. As usual the presentations were included on a PROV USB given out as you registered and there was the usual goodies bag - this year a stylish blue PROV bag with brochures from Museum Victoria, PROV, Immigration Museum Victoria, Geelong Heritage Centre, Bendigo Regional Archives Centre, State Library of Victoria, National Library of Australia and TROVE, National Archives of Australia, Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies, Founders and Survivors, Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO) and their 4-5 May 2013 conference Under the Southern Cross and the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM). It was great to see so many supporters.
After a welcome from Anne, the audience were introduced to the new CEO and State Librarian Sue Roberts who spoke briefly about her background. I was the next speaker with Google Genealogy - Are You Making the Most of Google? which from verbal reports was well received. I was a bit mortified that I had the wrong title on my presentation that was included on the USB stick given out to attendees. I checked the talk endlessly but not the cover slide!! I have put the 'correct' presentation up on my website on the Resources page (scroll down to Presentations).
Next was Daniel Wilksch from Public Record Office Victoria who talked about Old Records, New Access and it was good to hear that by the end of the year they hope to start putting the digitised inquests to 1925 up on the PROV website. It will take about 12-18 months to put them all up which is a sobering reminder of just how huge that wills, probates and inquests digitisation project with FamilySearch was when it started back in 2004. Daniel also invited people to start making more use of the PROV Wiki to help make access to records more easy.
After lunch Mark Brennan from National Archives of Australia talked about Pictorial Records in their collection and although I was familiar with PhotoSearch and Faces of Australia (227 images and found under Snapshots of the Collection), I had not heard about Destination Australia. It is 20,000 images of migrants post World War 2 and it is interactive ie you can add in your own stories or comments. In fact, NAA is looking for more active online participation by users, especially with their pictorial records.
Last Feast speaker for the day was Susan Long from State Library of Victoria Pictorial Collection who talked about photo albums, their history and meanings. I liked her comment that albums hold 'the DNA of history' and she pointed out that photos within albums still have their original context where as when they are digitised, they lose that context unless there is an attempt to keep the digitised images within that context.
For the last few years the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO) have been holding their annual Don Grant Family History Lecture at the end of Family History Feast. This year the speaker was Professor Janet McCalman on Vandemonians in Victoria. Janet is associated with the Founders and Survivors Project which is linking Tasmanian convicts to their World War 1 descendants where applicable.
Carmen was the official SLV blogger for Feast and her reports can be found on the Library's Family Matters blog.
At the end of a long but stimulating day, the lucky seat prizes were drawn and Anne announced that 5 August 2013 would be the date for the 10th Family History Feast. Although I will be in Queensland then, I will have to make a quick trip to Melbourne as I wouldn't want to miss something that has been part of my life for so long! Roll on National Family History Week - I'm having a great time!

Genealogy Notes 29 Jul 2012 - Nick Vine Hall Awards 2012 announced

In the last Diary I mentioned that these awards were announced at the launch of National Family History Week last Friday but as some winners had not yet been contacted, I couldn't reveal all. Well I am now cleared to tell all.
For those not familiar with the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) annual Nick Vine Hall awards, there are two categories. Category A is for the best journal produced in 2011 from an organisation of less than 500 members and Category B is the best journal from an organisation with over 500 members. Each winner receives a wall plaque, a certificate and a cheque for $300. The Editor of each winning journal also receives a certificate. The runner up in each category receive a certificate and a cheque for $100.
The Awards are named after Nick Vine Hall a well known genealogist and family historian who died in 2006.
Now the moment you have all been waiting for!
The winner of Category A for 2012 is Cape Banks Family History Society in NSW for their journal Kith & Kin. The runner up is the Armidale Family History Group also in NSW for their journal Dust of Ages.
The winner of Category B for 2012 is the Genealogical Society of Victoria for their journal Ancestor (which has won a lot of awards over the years from memory) and the runner up is The Heraldry & Genealogical Society of  Canberra for their journal The Ancestral Searcher.
Congratulations to everyone and it is a shame that not everyone can win as it really is a big job getting a journal out every quarter or however often it is published.
I'm a bit weary from attending Family History Feast at State Library of Victoria today so my report on it will be in tomorrow's Diary. I was really pleased to see that the Library had a Twitter hashtag #fhfeast and an official blogger, Carmen whose blogs are already starting to appear online in their Family Matters blog!
Now time to go and get dinner ready. Till next time.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Genealogy Notes 24-28 July 2012 - National Family History Week

I must be having fun as time is simply flying. As I was the person honoured with launching National Family History Week 2012 I wanted to have a really good launch speech so I spent quite a few hours trying to work out what I wanted to say. I was fortunate in some respects in that 2012 is also the 35th anniversary of my becoming fascinated with researching my own family history having watched the television miniseries Roots way back in 1977. This gave me a theme of back then (in what almost seems like the dark ages) and the now (the whiz bang techno age). The hours spent on it were worthwhile as those present all said it was interesting and that it brought back memories. You can read it here. And if you've got any ideas on how to make my one wish come true, I'd love to hear about it!

The launch itself was sponsored by National Archives of Australia, Ancestry, FindMyPast and FamilySearch and was held at the Victorian Archives Centre in North Melbourne. As always, NAA was lavish with its catering from Cafe 99 and there were a few people who lingered over the delicious afternoon tea. The Victorian Director of NAA, Ross Gibbs welcomed everyone and as Ross and I have known each other for decades, he was able to tell the audience anecdotes from my archival past which was a trip down memory lane.

Alan Fincher, the Victorian GSV delegate, was representing the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) who are the organisers of National Family History Week and Alan paid a tribute to Lesle Berry who has co-ordinated the Week since it's inception seven years ago. Lesle has stepped down from the voluntary position but was unable to attend the day.

Alan's other role was to announce the winners of the various Nick Vine Hall awards which were presented by Nick's widow, Patricia Barth from Family Tree Scriptorium. Although all winners were announced, I can't say who yet because apparently not all had been contacted. I've delayed doing this blog waiting on an email to say that I can  include the winners, but it still hasn't turned up yet. So stay tuned for all that exciting news.

It was good being able to say goodbye to so many Victorian friends at the event and I'm starting to be a little sad about leaving but then I've done it so many times before, I know that I will end up in another equally good family history environment.

I've been working on some articles and blogs which I hope to be able to announce soon too and I'm looking forward to Family History Feast at State Library of Victoria on Monday.No doubt there will be more genealogy friends to say goodbye to, so I've made a note to wear the waterproof mascara!

On Tuesday the packing boxes will arrive so then it will be serious packing time. We've got lots of little boxes now ready to go into the bigger boxes. The other half has gone off to Bali for ten days with one of his sons so as well as the moving 'stuff' I'm hoping for a little family history research time! It's not likely that I'll get much time once we are living in the caravan.

Finally don't forget to check out the NFHW calendar of events for each State and Territory, there's sure to be a genealogy event near you or within a reasonable travelling distance. I've going to quite a few in the Melbourne area so hope to see you there.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Genealogy Notes 20-23 Jul 2012 - Cemeteries & Copyright

Last Friday I attended the AGM of the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO) and after the AGM there were two excellent speakers. Unfortunately it was not a huge crowd for this free seminar which was a shame as both speakers really deserved a much wider audience. Perhaps it was the fact that it was at the AGM and that always frightens people off as they think they might get 'volunteered' for something.

The first speaker was Celestine Sagazio, historian and manager of the Cultural Heritage of the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust talking about the history of the Melbourne General Cemetery and highlighting some of it's more famous citizens. Like all cemetery talks there were the sad ones but more often than not, the audience was laughing at the epitaphs and Celestina's photographs were equally interesting. I don't have any interest in the cemetery but her time went very quickly.

The second speaker, after a short break for refreshments, was Lesle Berry talking about copyright and family history. Lesle had also done a handout of the various points in her talk so that made note taking much easier. Not surprisingly there were lots of questions at the end of the talk with people wanting individual advice. Some people also confused privacy requirements with copyright and of course there is also reproduction rights usually exercised by libraries and archives. The Australian Copyright Council has a great range of brief guides and even one for family history in their Find an Answer section.

I forgot to mention last week that the National Library of Australia asked me to take a sneak preview of their new family history video which was great to see and I'm looking forward to seeing more over time. It has now been launched along with can I borrow from the library, what's online and can I get copies of items from the library. Check them out here.

The other exciting thing I'm trying to catch up with is the launch of FindMyPast Australia and New Zealand's long awaited World Collection with access to 'billions of international records all in one place'. It now includes Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland and the United States of America. The press release also said that Australian and New Zealand content will soon be doubling so I'm looking forward to that announcement.

I'm still working on my talk for the launch of National Family History Week on Friday and all of these new online developments has me reflecting on what it was like starting my family history 35 years ago next month. The possibility that I could one day sit at home and have access to all this fantastic material online would have been more in the realms of magic than reality.

For those following our moving saga, we now have the quotes from the removalists and the news that we still need two shipping containers (despite all our giveaways and garage sale). I now don't really need to keep trying to thin down my study and book collections. It won't make any difference to the cost and I feel that I've already gone through enough pain parting from much loved areas of my life. So now it's just a matter of packing and trying to keep out anything that I'm likely to need in the next few months or more. How hard can that be?

Till next time and don't forget to check out all the exciting events coming up in the next few weeks on the National Family History Week calendar for your State or Territory.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Genealogy Notes 14-19 July 2012 Family History Q&As

It must be Murphy's Law in operation - just at the moment when I should be busy packing up for the move to Queensland all these exciting things start happening in my genealogy life. However some things are too good to not do so I willingly accepted Inside History Magazine's invitation to be their first guest expert on their Facebook family history Q&A sessions to be held on Thursday nights 8.30-9.30pm EST. All I can say is that the hour went so fast with questions on immigration, adoption, Ireland and the golden rules of genealogy. Long time friends Brad from and Helen from Helen V Smith's Keyboard buoyed my confidence with their support. It seemed to go well apart from my accidentally shutting down my Facebook page a few times in my excitement to find links to help answer the questions. I look forward to more of Inside History's Q&A sessions with other guest experts as well (sneak hint - next week it's an expert from TROVE)!

New South Books have also sent me a book to review - Children of the Occupation: Japan's Untold Story by Walter Hamilton which looks fascinating but that will definitely have to wait until we're on the road in early  September.

Today I'm heading off to the Victorian Archives Centre for the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO) AGM with two guest speakers Celestina Sagazio, historian and manager of the Cultural Heritage of the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust talking on the Melbourne General Cemetery and Lesle Berry, national co-ordinator of National Family History Week speaking about the importance of copyright to family historians. Before the AGM there is also a quick committee meeting and it will be my last VAFHO meeting which is a little sad as I have been involved almost continuously since I first arrived in Victoria in 2003.

There's a lot coming up and my schedule of talks during National Family History Week can be found here and again it's a bit sad, as they will probably be my last talks in Victoria for a while. I've even had to start turning down invitations to speak next year as it's a bit of a hike from Queensland! Anyway I must dash or I won't be ready in time for the trip into Melbourne and today's exciting program.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Genealogy Notes 4-13 Jul 2012 - It's all happening!

I've always lived my life pretty full on but now I have so much happening it's almost too much. I won't bore you too much with the house moving side - basically it's sold, we are packing and we have to be out by 7 September. Along the way Max will be spending 10 days in Bali with one of his sons, and taking another trip to Adelaide to see his latest grandchild born towards the end of August.

I have a trip to Sydney for 2 talks with the Society of Australian Genealogists at the same time otherwise I'd be in Adelaide too. I'm not going to Bali because I have National Family History Week talks for Family History Feast at State Library Victoria (totally booked out which is fantastic) and Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries. Details of all my talks are here.

We also have to do a quick trip up to Queensland taking one of the cars, the trailer and the motorbike. If there's time we might even look at some houses! That will leave us with one car and the caravan to take on the next trip assuming the boat sells before then! I could say a lot about boys with toys but I will refrain as I will only hear 'what about all your ancestors, not to mention books too'. Moving does bring tensions out!

So all those little trips take away from our packing time and we still have heaps of stuff despite all the giveaways to friends, family, charity and the garage sale. How can two people who have downsized previously (the move from Canberra) still have so much stuff!

I'm leaving the study to last as there is a lot happening on the genealogy side of my life too. There's all the talks I have to prepare as mentioned above, I've just finished an Ask an Expert question for Inside History Magazine and exciting news (for me) is that I've been asked to write an article for the new free online Irish magazine Irish Lives Remembered. I've also just submitted the draft for my latest publication with Unlock the Past - it's to be called Finding Ancestors in Church Records: A Brief Guide to ResourcesI love writing almost as much as I like travelling and giving genealogy presentations.

And to cap off a really busy week I found out that Geniaus (aka Jill Ball) had nominated this Diary for an Illuminating Blogger award which was both an honour and a real thrill. When I started this Diary just over a year ago it was mainly to replace my hand written one and I didn't really expect people to follow my genealogy adventures. When we resettle, I hope to go back to my 'more serious' blogging on the family which I do in my SHHE Genie Rambles blog. Of course, I will keep up the Diary as well.

As I said at the beginning we leave here on 7 September and we have to head for Queensland as I'm going to be on the next Unlock the Past Queensland coast roadshow which is from 25 September to 6 October visiting Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay, Gladstone and the Sunshine Coast. Full details for each place are in the links. It's been a while since I've travelled up that way and I'm really looking forward to seeing some of my favourite places again.

Then it's back down to Deniliquin for the inaugural Genealogy Muster and then across to Shoalhaven for the 3rd Cornish Cultural Celebration which I'm really looking forward to. I've always been fascinated by my Cornish ancestors.

That will be my last genealogy adventure for the year and we will hopefully be then settling into a new home somewhere. I would like that before Christmas if possible and definitely before we embark on our third Unlock the Past history and genealogy cruise in February to Fiji. I first went there in 1975 so that will be fun going back not to mention all the genealogy lectures on board. 

I really liked their blog 30 Reasons to Attend a Genealogy Cruise - I don't need 30 reasons, I just need to hear two words - cruise and genealogy - and I'm hooked! Any readers of this Diary going?

Sadly it's time to go back and do some more packing. Or perhaps I'll get the Flip Pal mobile scanner out and do some photo scanning for a while. I really don't like the idea of all our family history records in a shipping container for the next few months. Until next time, happy researching.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Genealogy Notes 1-3 Jul 2012 - Audrey Collins in Melbourne

Well flying back home to Melbourne from Brisbane was a bit of a shock - Brisbane was 21C and Melbourne was 2C! As we had been away for 10 days the house was even colder but we have thawed out now. Yesterday was the last Unlock the Past Audrey Collins seminar in Australia and I was fortunate to be one of the speakers with her at the State Library of Victoria.

However to get into Melbourne on time, I had to leave home early to catch a train and because I have been away, I didn't realise that the system had converted over to Myki at the weekend! I wasn't alone and there was quite a bit of confusion at the local train station with a poor Metro official trying to help everyone in the freezing cold. Eventually I bought a Myki card, topped it up with enough money for the day trip into Melbourne and arrived in time for the first talk.

Audrey's first of three talks for the day (she deserves a medal for the overall number of talks she did on the trip) was on tracing Irish ancestors at the National Archives UK. I found this really interesting and was surprised at the number of Irish records or records with Irish people in them and there are a number of references I want to follow up. You can read Audrey's adventures in Oz on her blog The Family Recorder.

After a break I finally managed to hear Carole Riley's talk on Australian land records (and the subject of her new book with Unlock the Past). A very complicated subject which is different for every State and Carole helped simplify it by showing the types of documents that could be found and the amazing detail that can be gleaned from land records.

The third session was Audrey again with nonconformist records in England and Wales which was another interesting talk although not all that relevant to my own research. Then it was lunch time and I was pleased to have lunch with Nicole from Cobram (I think she might have traveled the further-est if that's really a word).

The afternoon kicked off with a brief chat from Alan on Unlock the Past, planned webinars and of course the genealogy cruise in February 2013. Then a representative from the Genealogical Society of Victoria spoke for a few minutes on the benefits of belonging to a genealogy/family history society. When he asked who was already a member of the GSV I was really surprised to see most of the audience put up their hands. Obviously it was a seminar that appealed to GSV members in Melbourne.

I then gave my talk on Ancestors in Church and there is a copy of the talk on my website Resources page. Again I received good feedback and I'm happy to say that my next book on this topic is about to go to Unlock the Past for publishing. It should be available within a month or so and definitely in time for the  Queensland Coast roadshow.

Audrey's final talk in Australia was an interesting story on will forgeries which she also gave in Brisbane, but I missed it up there so it was good to have the opportunity to hear it in Melbourne. For someone who has given so many talks in a relatively short time, Audrey appeared to be still quite cheerful and energetic whereas after roadshows I'm usually worn out! I must ask what her secret is!

After a short break Rosemary Kopittke talked about the new FindMyPast Australia and New Zealand website. This was another talk I missed in Brisbane so really good to have a second chance at hearing how to use the new site effectively. From 17 July there will be a new range of subscription options combining the various FindMyPast sites which will be good and the other amazing bit of news is that there will be another 50 million records added to the Australia and New Zealand site.

Then it was time to head back to the train station and the long ride home thinking about all the new information and ideas. I still have to write up an overall review of the Brisbane expo including Audrey's seminar in Melbourne. My talk for Family History Feast is due in two weeks so I need to finalise that - it's a new talk taking another look at using various Google tools and resources for genealogy and my five talks for Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries during National Family History Week also have to be finalised. It might be cold but there is lots of genealogy happening over the next month or so. Just the way I like it!