Friday 16 December 2011

Genealogy notes 6-17 Dec 2011 Hitting the Genealogy Road

Hard to believe it is twelve days since my last Diary post - so much has happened but not all genealogy related. Having been away for almost three weeks there was lots to catch up on in regard to snail mail, bills, emails, weeds in the garden, shopping and just getting over the trip.

I did do my overview of the Unlock the Past genealogy cruise and my last Update from Australia (should be published in a day or so) for MyHeritage plus I have done some updates on my own website. In particular I have listed events that I am involved in in 2012 and I added a link to the Genealogists for Families project on my homepage. Keeping websites up to date is not that easy but you don't always have time to go back and look at every page and time does have a habit of slipping away all too fast.

I'm still to do my traditional Christmas cards but have sent a lot of emails - somehow it is easier to sit and type then handwrite cards and then mail them, yet the time involved is probably not all that different. We haven't done any Christmas lights or decorations this year as we haven't been here but the caravan looks good with the tinsel here and there. My family stopped giving Christmas presents a few years ago now but we did pick up a few little items on the cruise.

Plus we had to pick up our new caravan and start getting that ready for the trip up to Brisbane and back. Today is our big day - in a couple of hours we will be hitting the road, driving through Victoria and New South Wales to reach Brisbane by Christmas eve. We're taking the Newell Highway as I also want to pop in (or is that out) to Lightning Ridge where my gg grandmother was for a time. I've never been out that way so really looking forward to it. I wonder how she got out there from Brisbane??

I have done the Newell before and really like driving through western NSW but it is a bit remote in places. It's 2723km not counting the side trip out to Lightning Ridge and then of course, we are returning via the Pacific Highway but I haven't looked at distance yet. Either way it's going to be a big trip.

I'm not expecting a lot of phone or internet connection so tweets and updates may be few and far between but I'm keeping a log as this will be our first 'grey nomad' trip. Although I will have a good internet connection once we get into Brisbane, I'll take this opportunity to wish all my family, friends, colleagues and internet buddies a happy and safe festive season and a very happy New Year!

Thanks for reading my Diary in 2011 - it's been appreciated.

Monday 5 December 2011

Genealogy notes 4-5 Dec 2011 - Last day at sea & trip home

Finally finishing off this last daily blog of my Unlock the Past Irish Scottish history and genealogy cruise on board the Volendam. Hard to believe the 14 days are nearly over, I could easily stay at least another week!

The last day was at sea without internet so most people attended all of the genealogy talks starting at 8.10am with Chris Paton talking about Scottish marriages - I had no idea it was so complicated depending on dates and religion. I was next speaker with Making the Most of Australian Government Archives Online which was a quick trip around the various states and territories highlighting some of the features I particularly like.

A quick question to the audience showed that most people had attended the majority of my talks (11 all up) and the feedback I received personally was really nice. I do like to try and help people do their own research once they get back home by providing URLs and broadening their knowledge of what might be available on particular topics. I was also very pleased (if somewhat embarrassed) to be called almost a living genealogy wiki by Jan Gow during her presentation last night. All the people who brought me their individual problems said that I had either found things they hadn't or I had given them other options to follow up so that was good too. It would be nice to know if they ever do solve some of those rather challenging brickwalls.

The afternoon session was back to back talks including Richard Reid's talk Obliged All the Small Cottiers To Leave His Land which was another emotive session followed by Perry McIntyre on Free Women in the 1830s: Irish and English. Keith Johnson's talk on Books for Irish Research was good and he had a three page handout listing books, articles, journals, directories and so on - although when I will find time to read them is another question!

Lynne Blake then did Young Genies: Helping and Inspiring Young People and I particularly liked her phrase 'catch them when their young and hook them before your dead'! We all need someone to leave our research and family stories too. The last session before dinner was Richard again with Sinners Saints and Settlers: Irish Place Stories Kiama-Kalgoorlie and we all have our own Irish stories that should be captured.

After dinner there was a gathering of all UTP cruisers, with photos, thanks and the drawing of the various prizes. The final talk of the cruise was Chris Paton with the The Mount Stewart Murder which is the oldest unsolved murder in the UK and it also happens to be his direct ancestor. The book is coming out next year so I won't spoil it by giving away any details but it is a fascinating story.

I forgot to mention yesterday that there was a session at the Celtic Club in Melbourne with Richard, Perry, Jan and Rosemary giving talks along with Dr Liz Rushen on Researching Irish Emigrant Women and in Sydney Chris and Rosemary gave talks along with Dr Brad Manera on Sydney Under Attack May-Jun 1942 at the State Records NSW. There was also a session on War Comes to Australia: WW2 70th Anniversary.

As I wanted to see the Volendam berth in Sydney I was up early (as were a lot of other UTP cruisers) to watch the ship sail past the Opera House and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge before berthing at Darling Harbour. It was a magnificent sight watching as the ship passed under the bridge and I don't think there was a lot of room to spare, so I was really glad I made the effort.

After breakfast we went back to the cabin to wait for our turn to leave the ship, and as we had early afternoon flights we weren't required until 8.45am. We passed through immigrations and customs easily after finding our luggage (all neatly laid out in designated colours depending on your departure time). It was outside that we then ran into problems. We had prebooked and paid for airport transfers from the ship to the airport with Clean Cruising so we expected to simply be put on an airport shuttle.

However we were told that there was no booking and were sent to wait with other Clean Cruising airport transfer people with the same problem. It was compounded by the fact that Brisbane is not on daylight saving time so we had to wait until 9.00am for the office to open. One of our growing party of unhappy people rang and was given a booking number which still meant nothing to the Holland America staff organising everyone to their respective buses etc.

As time was passing a number of people said they couldn't wait and left to get taxis to the airport. We continued to try and get some help from Holland America and were passed from person to person until eventually a spokeswoman came and said to us and said there was nothing they could do from their end, it was a Clean Cruising error. We agreed that our tickets from Clean Cruising were 'ambiguous' but a number of us had also queried it with the Front Office staff on board a few days ago and were all told it was ok when in fact it wasn't.

 By this time (45 minutes later on a cold windy wharf) there were only four of us left so the Holland America spokeswoman arranged for us to go to the head of the taxi queue and also arranged for a maxi taxi to minimise our costs. Ironically, the taxi driver, despite  Sydney peak hour traffic managed to get us to the airport for a cheaper price than what we paid for the airport transfers from Clean Cruising per couple.

Being left 'high and dry' so to speak on the wharf at Sydney was a disappointing way to end the cruise and even more disappointing was the treatment we received from Clean Cruising staff. The staff person who took the phone calls from our party said it was 'not their fault' and it was 'too bad' for us. Well in our group's opinion, it is 'too bad' that Clean Cruising doesn't have a better customer service policy. We will be officially complaining and seeking an explanation along with a refund for the airport transfers that never eventuated.

NB As one who travels all the time, I know things don't always go according to plan but booking a ticket on a transport shuttle is not difficult, especially in your own country and if a travel client has a problem, most companies usually try to help in some way.

We eventually arrived home in Melbourne just after 4.30pm totally exhausted with carrying our heavier luggage and juggling extra bags. So after a nice home cooked curry, an episode of Criminal Minds that I hadn't seen before, I went to bed. Tomorrow will be a catch up day and I am planning to do an overview blog of the cruise in the coming week.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Genealogy notes 2 Dec 2011 Genealogy cruising & Melbourne adventures

There were no talks this morning due to the early arrival in Melbourne and most people were keen to go ashore. As I live in Melbourne (or at least within a 40km radius) I decided to spend the day catching up with my blogs and to also spend some time looking into the various queries people have given me on the trip so far.

Once I caught up with the last few days cruising blogs, I then put them out via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Having ticked off those items, it was time for a coffee and a break up on the deck. Suitably refreshed I then tackled the queries. Some people came prepared with their laptops and family history databases, others had printouts and still others were relying on memory.

In every instance I was able to suggest other avenues for them to follow up and in some instances I redid their searches looking for spelling variations etc to find elusive ancestors. I managed to turn up some references for one lady that she hadn't found although it still didn't solve the overall problem of why the family changed their name after the parents had married.

In another query I felt that the family couldn't be convicts as they weren't showing up in the usual indexes so over lunch I discussed it with Keith Johnson and the lady had also followed up my suggestion to talk to Keith so he was familiar with the query. There's probably a military connection but we would need more resources on board for that so the lady has some homework to do once back home.

All up I gave everyone a brief report/suggestions on what I would do next and I have asked them to let me know how it goes. It's always good to know if your ideas work.

After dinner when everyone was back on board, we had two talks - Jan Gow discussing various aspects of researching with FamilySearch and also a brief look at their indexing program. I gave my talk on Online Newspapers and my fondness for looking at the real estate section of modern newspapers from my research counties of interest.

Although I had had a fairly lazy day, I was still tired so I had an early night. Tomorrow is another full day at sea with a number of interesting talks to end the cruise on. I will probably be out of internet range again so this will probably be sent from Sydney and before we disembark to fly home to Melbourne. It's going to be a sad, but happy kind of day tomorrow.

Friday 2 December 2011

Genealogy notes 1 Dec 2011 Genealogy cruising & Burnie Adventures

The last two days at sea on board the Volendam and with the Unlock the Past history and genealogy cruisers was amazing and my report of the various sessions is on my other blog SHHE Genie Rambles - read about the two days of full on genealogy here.

Today we were back in Australian waters and accordingly we had a customs inspection before we could go ashore in Burnie Tasmania. The tricky part was that our deck was being called at 7.30am and I was due to speak on Warning Warning: Tips & Tricks to Avoid Common Mistakes at 8.10am. I ended up getting to the theatre with just a few minutes to spare and this talk is also on my website under Resources and scroll down to Presentations.

Rosemary was next with a session on FindMyPast Australasia which I didn't stay for as we wanted to go into Burnie and have a look around. In the afternoon I came back to the ship to work on some of the queries I had been given over the last few days. I just did some preliminary online searches to see if I could solve some of the brickwalls but in most cases it was more a case of providing potential avenues and people will have to follow through when they get home.

Rosemary and Chris Paton gave talks to the members of the Burnie Branch of the Tasmanian Family History Society in the afternoon.

After dinner Richard Reid spoke about Not Just Ned - a True History of the Irish in Australia which was a very successful exhibition at the National Museum of Australia earlier this year. I made a last minute dash to Canberra the weekend before it closed and I'm very glad I did as it was an excellent exhibition and I even purchased the catalogue.

The final speaker of the day was Jan Gow on Checking the Big 5: Creating A Check List for UK Research and in this Jan demonstrated how she keeps track of what she has looked at when searching for various ancestors. There are so many different ways to organise your research and it is always good to see and hear about how others do it.

Afterwards I had thought I would find Max in the Casino again but he had gone to the movies (Pirates of the Caribbean) so I watched Perry and Richard for a little while on three hand poker and 21 respectively. Then it was down to the cabin and bed for me as tomorrow is Melbourne - it does seem strange to be visiting one's home town but I will be using the day to catch up on my blogs and queries while Max shows some American friends around the Queen Victoria Market and other CBD sights. 

Thursday 1 December 2011

Genealogy note 29 Nov 2011 Day 10 genealogy cruising at Fjordland New Zealand

Today was sailing around Fjordland on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Our genealogy talks and private session times were changed to fit in with the Volendam’s scenic cruising as we arrived earlier than expected.

It was truly magnificent sailing into and out of Doubtful and Milford Sounds and it is a wonder that a ship this big can even go inside them and still turn around. We also saw a few other local, small cruise boats and even a few planes flew over Milford Sound. It was very cold with strong winds blowing off the icy peaks.

To start the day we had Perry talking about The 19th Century Irish Landscape of Your Ancestors which was a slide show of various photographs with Perry outlining the significance or features within the photo. At one point Perry asked who had been to Ireland and I think I was the only one who didn’t put up their hand. So that settles it – I have to go to Ireland!

Jan Gow followed with Using the New Zealand BDM Records Online: Hints Tips & Unique Features. I have used these before but it was good to have some of the unique features explained in greater detail. For example, deaths are 50 years access or if the person was aged 80 years or over – this means you can get a death certificate for someone who died in 2011 if they were aged over 80 years.

I had three one on one sessions today and these last on average 45 minutes depending on the query but most have more than one query to ask about. The lack of internet access makes it hard to immediately give answers so I have undertaken to do a little searching once we get back to Australian waters and internet range. They are all interesting queries so I am looking forward to the challenge.

Helen Smith was due to talk about Using UK Archives for Family History and I was to do my Google Your Family Tree Talk: Tips and Tricks but that was a direct clash with Milford Sound (no contest really) so we rescheduled those talks till later in the voyage.

After dinner we listened to Chris Paton talk about Scottish Weavers (I don’t have any but still interesting to see how Chris traced his ownfamily of weavers and the sources he used). Then there was a Trivia Quiz which some people stayed for and I ended up having a drink or two with Chris and his wife Claire.

As I have just had an article published in a UK magazine it was interesting to talk to Chris about writing for the overseas market. With any interesting conversation time flies and it was well past my bedtime before I made my way back downstairs.  The only advantage was that we were to gain an additional hour of time as we started adjusting back to Australian time!

Tomorrow is totally at sea so we will have a full day of genealogy talks – hope I don’t get writer’s cramp! Yes I still use pen and notebook for my note taking. Until tomorrow.

Genealogy notes 28 Nov 2011 Day 9 Genealogy Cruising & Dunedin NZ

Today was an onshore day at Port Chalmers and Dunedin and there were no genealogy talks in the morning. The Research Help Zone operated during the day for those who didn't go ashore and the two talks after dinner were my Family History on the Cheap: Tips & Tricks based on my book of the same name and Helen Smith talking on Digitising and Organising Your Family History which nicely followed on from what I had mentioned in my talk.

We took the shuttle into Dunedin and wandered around the craft markets in the Octagon, had our customary latte on the sidewalks but it’s interesting to note that New Zealand has not banned smoking in public places. You can be walking down the street and the person in front is smoking and you get a face full of smoke or in outdoor cafes etc if you are downwind of a smoker, it can ruin a good latte. It will be nice to be back in Australia for that reason alone!

One of the craftspeople advised us to go and see OlvestonHouse and said it was even better than Larnach Castle (another house with a tragic history) which we had seen on an earlier trip to Dunedin. As it was only a 10-15 minute walk from the Octagon we decided to go to Olveston House. What they don’t tell you is that the walk is straight up the side of a small mountain! Plus by the time we got to the top it had started raining so we got wet too!

Tours are run at regular times and we were five minutes late for the 12 noon tour but we said we didn’t mind joining the tour anyway so we caught up with them in the kitchen having missed only one room. It is truly amazing and belonged to one family who only had two children neither of whom had children so when the daughter died she left the home and all its contents to the city of Dunedin.

It is still very much as it must have been a century ago with the exception of electric lights  and security cameras and it has been faithfully restored where necessary. The furniture, artworks, chinaware and silverware, sculptures and tapestries must be worth a small fortune with many dating back to 15-18th centuries. 

The house also has one of the finest collections of Japanese weapons and other Eastern treasures that I have ever seen, even in museums. It is definitely worth a visit and I can’t imagine how the family lived there by themselves, it’s huge although there were also servants of course. The old Fiat car is still out in the garage! The rain meant we couldn’t explore the gardens or the conservatory but they looked well maintained too.

The family's history is briefly outlined on the website including photos and it's a bit sad that the family patriarch David Theomin and his wife Marie only had two children Edward who married but did not have children and Dorothy who never married. But in a way it is fortunate for the city of Dunedin, as they have this magnificent house and its history as part of their ongoing heritage.

It was still raining when the tour finished but not too heavy so we decided to walk back quickly and it is much easier walking back down than going up! Some people took taxis there and back but at least we got some serious exercise!

After the night talks I went down to bed as there was a serious roll which continued for most of the night. Tomorrow we will be cruising around Fjordland and entering Doubtful and Milford Sounds which should be truly fantastic!

Sunday 27 November 2011

Genealogy notes 27 Nov 2011 Day 8 at Sea & Adventures in Akaroa

Today was an onshore day at Akaroa, just south of Christchurch, South Island of New Zealand. Due to the severe earthquakes Christchurch experienced last year and earlier this year we were unable to go to Christchurch as originally planned.

I was supposed to meet up with my son's girlfriend's family in Akaroa but due to a mixup this didn't eventuate so we spent the time exploring the shops, having seafood chowder for lunch and visiting the Akaroa Museum. While there we watched an interesting DVD of the town's history from the time of the Maori people arriving, through the various explorers, the French colony and through to the present.

We returned to the Volendam mid afternoon so that I could send off my Wellington blog and my Picton blog but I did have to go up to the ship's library to find an internet connection strong enough. It was another formal dinner night and afterwards I went to the two genealogy talks. It was a bit odd seeing people sitting there in their formal outfits and taking genealogy notes. Somehow glamour, sequins, heels and genealogy don't seem to fit together to me!

However both talks were worth attending with Richard Reid introducing both Perry McIntyre and Keith Johnson and their talks. Perry's talk Get To Know Ireland outlined the basics about identifying where your ancestors may have come from in Ireland and although I knew some of this, it is always good to go back to basics and a refresher course in what's new also helps. Perry also highlighted some key books which I haven't read so I'll be making an inter library loan request when I get home (if I don't buy my own copy!). She also mentioned her CD with Terry Eakin Ireland Townlands 1901 which is available from the Society of Australian Genealogists.

Keith's talk complemented Perry's and his was titled Research on the Ground in Ireland and again looked at some of the basic resources eg National Archives of Ireland and National Library of Ireland. But he also looked at directories, maps, Griffiths Valuations etc and gave examples using his own research. As he had still more to talk about, it was agreed he will finish it at his next session.

Chris Paton and Helen Smith (who joined the cruise in Wellington) gave talks to the Little River branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists in the afternoon so it is good to see that people who aren't on the cruise get to see and hear Chris and other speakers as we move around New Zealand.

I took some more bookings for one on one sessions to discuss problems and as we have a few days at sea coming up, there will be more time for those types of discussion. Tomorrow is Port Chalmers and Dunedin and most people will take the opportunity to go onshore and see the sights. There should also be internet connection and I will be able to send this blog off.

After Dunedin we are travelling around the bottom end of the South Island of New Zealand and up to Fjordland (where I don't imagine there will be internet coverage but the truly stunning scenery makes it all worth while) and then two days at sea as we cross the Tasman Sea and head to Burnie in Tasmania. I am expecting that will be the next opportunity to post a blog, tweet etc plus my phone should be working again too. In fact it should then all be back to normal - almost!

Saturday 26 November 2011

Genealogy notes Day 7 at Sea & Picton South Island Adventures

Today was an onshore day at Picton at the top end of the South Island. We were greeted by a welcoming committee giving out fresh flower posies and I Love Marlborough badges (that’s the area not the cigarette). The locals run a free shuttle bus into town but it is only about 15 minutes walk from the ship so you could choose – we opted for the shuttle as our legs are starting to complain about all the upstairs/downstairs we are doing on the ship.

As it was Saturday the local Lions Club had their regular market and there were lots of hand crafted jewellery stalls, homemade soaps, wooden crafts and other handicrafts for people to look at. From what I saw, the local craftspeople must welcome the arrival of cruise ships in Picton. I know we did our bit for the local economy and with Christmas coming up, we picked up some nice unusual gifts for family members.

We also wandered up and down the main street looking at the various touristy shops and had a latte on the sidewalk and watched our fellow travellers. As we have been to Picton before, and visited the various museums including the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum (location of the remains of the Edwin Fox, 9th oldest wooden troop ship in the world and even transported convicts to Western Australia) and the local Picton Museum we didn’t go there again. We caught the shuttle back in time to get the buffet lunch on the Lido Deck and we have been eating out on the back deck which is very pleasant and not as noisy as inside.

I haven’t been able to get an internet connection in Picton so the Wellington blog hasn’t gone up yet and neither will this Picton one. However I am taking the opportunity to still write them everyday otherwise it is too big a job at the end. Plus I might forget some of the details and highlights.

This afternoon a fellow UTP cruiser booked an appointment with me and I have had others ask me questions in passing or over coffee or a drink or even out on deck. I find that much preferable than trying to answer people’s questions at tables of eight in busy dining rooms where everyone is shouting to be heard. It’s also easier to talk without trying to eat at the same time.

There were no onshore seminars in Picton so all speakers were free to do the touristy thing.

I gave another talk tonight (there was a good turn up again so they mustn’t be sick of listening to me yet) but as we as we had entered open waters after sailing back through scenic Queen Charlotte Sound there was a bit of a swell. The talk was Behind Bars: Convicts & Criminals (an ambitious talk for just 45 minutes) and there is a version on the Resources page of my website, scroll down to Presentations. Chris Paton followed with his talk on Scottish Land Records which I heard (and reported on ) at the Auckland seminar.

It was South Pacific night at the Casino tonight so I put on the lovely blue flowered top I bought in Noumea last time and went along to get my free raffle tickets. They were offering great prizes and you have to be in it to win it. You also had to be present and what is a bit strange for us Aussies, is that the Casino is a designated smoking area inside the ship.

To get to the Hudson Room where a lot of our genealogy lectures are, you actually pass through the Casino (it is not enclosed) and the smell of smoke can be quite strong depending on how many are smoking. The smoke/smell also doesn’t stay within the Casino and drifts into neighbouring areas including the jewellery and other shops and neighbouring rooms and bars. Given that smoking is banned in all public areas including bus stops etc in Australia, I’m not sure that this smoking inside the ship will be a hit with Aussies. I also wondered if they can still do it once they are within Australian waters or is the ship outside of Australian laws. Yet another question to ask.

Tomorrow is Akaroa and last time we were there we had a delicious seafood chowder so we will be having that for lunch!  I’m also a little nervous as we will be meeting my son’s girlfriend’s father and his partner. My son came over to Christchurch with his girlfriend at the beginning of the year and had a great time with them so it seems opportune to also meet them while we are so close to Christchurch.

Amazingly I am not giving any talks tomorrow - Perry will be doing Getting to Know Ireland and Keith is doing Research on the Ground in Ireland which should be interesting. I still plan to visit Ireland myself hopefully in 2013. Without internet there seems little point to be chained to this laptop so I think I will sign off and wander back upstairs and perhaps even take the shuttle back into Picton (oops there goes my secret – I partially write these blogs at various times of the day and then tidy then up when I go online).

Signing off until we connect again!

Genealogy notes Day 6 at Sea & Wellington adventures

Today was all day in Wellington and right through into the evening. We have been to Wellington many times so we decided to have a leisurely day starting with the shuttle into the CBD, then a short walk over to Te Papa, the national museum. Although we visit Te Papa just about every time we are in Wellington, this time we focused on the immigration and military displays fitting the theme of some of the genealogy talks so far.

The Museum also has a giant squid which is nowhere near as big as the giant baby squid we saw in Auckland. It was interesting watching the video of how the fishermen caught the squid and how it finally ended up in the tank at Te Papa. We stopped to buy some lovely paua jewellery at the Maori Artworks and then had latte and gingerbread watching the world go by on the harbour front.

Then a short walk back into the main shopping area where we wandered around buying a few things that caught our eye. We then managed to find our way back to the shuttle stop and we went back to the ship about 3.30pm for a late lunch up on the Terrace Deck (I could eat Mexican everyday especially when washed down with a Chile chardy – I haven’t a hope of remembering how to spell this really nice South American wine).

Afterwards it was back to the cabin to send yesterday’s Diary, check emails and generally relax. The late lunch didn’t work with the early dinner booking so we ended up going to the Level 4 Rotterdam dining room and were placed just one table over from the Captain and his wife. We then engaged in what can only be called ‘Captain gawking’ while we enjoyed scallop ceviche and orange and ginger pork followed by a divine orange sorbet. The bread basket for two would have fed a small army. We also enjoyed a glass of Australian Rosemount chardonnay.

Then it was time to stroll around the deck looking at the lights of Wellington while we tried to work off the many calories we had just consumed. All the activity over the last few days was catching up with me so I headed off to bed and Max went to catch the crew’s show which started at 10.30pm. We passed the Hudson Room and there were still Unlock the Past cruisers in there making the most of the Research Help Zone and online databases.

At about 3.30am I was woken by the ship’s roll and I knew (having crossed Cook Strait before) that we were in open sea, probably approaching the South Island. Looking out the window I could see the ocean swell so not surprised about the roll and then I noticed all these flying fish (although Max says they were birds). You could easily see them in the ship’s lights and I will admit they didn’t fly like other flying fish I have seen before but then I didn’t think birds flew at night, except owls etc. Maybe seabirds do too. I will have to find out.

Anyway before I totally wander into 26 November, I will go back to the day’ genealogy talks starting with mine on Making the Most of TROVE. I do have a version of this on my website Resources page but I have added some new features so need to upload this new talk (but I am finishing this blog in Picton and there is no internet connection). My session was followed by Richard Reid talking about Farewell My Children looking at Irish assisted immigration and I will confess that this is the book that I brought on board to read during the cruise. So far I’ve only managed a few pages and for a reader like me, that says there are lots of other distractions on board!

There was also an onshore seminar with the Wellington branch of the Society of New Zealand Genealogists where Chris Paton and Rosemary Kopittke gave three talks.

Until next time I have an internet connection!!

Thursday 24 November 2011

Genealogy notes 24 Nov 2011 Day 4 at Sea & Napier Adventures

Today we arrived in Napier in the afternoon. Strong winds put a question mark over whether we could actually berth but after a short delay we were guided in by the local tug boats. A bus shuttle then conveyed passengers into Napier as wharf security and distance meant we couldn't simply walk off by ourselves.

Our friends picked us up and we were then chauffeured around in a very nice, newish Lexus (thanks Lexus of Hawkes Bay)and first stop was The Mission Estate Winery and we did a quick tour of the main building. The old photographs on the wall were fascinating as the Mission is seen as the birthplace of New Zealand wine since 1851. Then it was a short drive to Hastings and up to Te Mata Peak which is a very high lookout reached by a very narrow road but the views are spectacular.

Then it was back to Napier where I asked for a quick stop at The Art Deco Shop where I could have spent a lot of money but restricted myself to a couple of calendars and a beautiful writing journal as potential Christmas gifts although I don’t rule out giving them to myself! Napier is famous for its Art Deco buildings and the Art Deco Trust works towards preserving this unique heritage.

The others were a bit bored so then on to the local Speight’s Ale House where we tasted a few beers (we did the Speight’s Brewery tour some years ago in Dunedin) and I also tried Monteith’s Crushed Apple Cider which is quite refreshing and deceptive (doesn’t taste of alcohol). By then it was time to make a dash back into the City centre to catch a shuttle back to the ship.

The day’s genealogy sessions started after breakfast - Chris Paton did Discover Scottish Records (which I heard and reported on at the Auckland seminar) and Richard Reid talked about Key Irish Documents. At breakfast we were seated next to a couple who do lots of house swaps (overseas) and house sits (Australia) and we have often discussed trying these out. So with the interesting discussion and the drawn out breakfast (some people order more than one course) we ended up inadvertently missing Richard’s talk (time seems to disappear on a ship).

All was not lost as Perry McIntyre (her website is now working again) in her talk on Irish Census and Old Age Pensions made a few references to things Richard had said in his talk. One of the key documents was Form B of the 1901 Irish census which tells you what class of house your ancestor lived in. Now I have looked at these and noted all the information but I have never looked for an image of the four house classes (in hindsight it seems obvious but unless someone points us in a particular direction, we may not think of it ourselves).

Perry had a great image of the four types and then brought up a photo of a Class 4 house that Richard had also used in his talk. It is from the National Library of Ireland’s online photos collection (Labourer's hut, Gweedore) and is really a very evocative image and it is not hard to wonder why so many of our ancestors came out to Australia.

Perry’s comprehensive look at the Irish census was also very good for highlighting that not everything was destroyed in the 1922 PRO fire – some of the census records had already been pulped or had been used for paper recycling during World War One. So even if there had been no fire, we still wouldn’t have had access to these records.

The second part of her talk was on the introduction of the 1908 old age pension and the need of many people to prove that they were 70 years of age. With the introduction of civil registration only in 1864, many had to use the 1841 and 1851 census to prove how old they were. These records are mainly for Ulster and there are some indexes but not all online, although some are. Perry suggested using Google to find some of these smaller, localised indexes.

My talk for the evening session was Tracing Your Military Ancestors in Australia which is a broad overview of the main sources and there is a version of this talk on my website Resources page (scroll down to Presentations). I was going to go and join Keith Johnson for a drink in the Oceans Bar afterwards, but knowing that I had to be up and with it for a talk on TROVE at 8.00am the next morning, I decided to head back to the cabin and bed.

Before I forget, there was also an onshore seminar with the Hawkes Bay members of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists and Chris Paton and Jan Gow gave two talks.

Cruises are supposed to be relaxing but can be hectic when you try to combine ship activities, extended meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner (because you are talking to others), onshore tourism and genealogy sessions. It’s Wellington tomorrow all day and into the evening and I’m wondering if I should try and schedule in an afternoon nap!!

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Genealogy notes 23 Nov 2011 Day 3 Tauranga Adventures

Today was mostly spent in Tauranga New Zealand with many people taking shore excursions to Rotorua. Having been to New Zealand many times, especially to Rotorua, we decided to simply walk around Tauranga and do some shopping. Ran into Geoff and Marg from Brisbane and hadn’t even realised they were on the cruise so good catching up with them briefly in the main street.
Did some shopping, new walking shoes as I had somehow left mine at home, some souvenirs and a few toiletries before we sat down for a nice latte. It was interesting watching all the tourists and crew from the two, yes two, cruise ships visiting Tauranga today. As well as the Volendam, the Dawn Princess was berthed in the harbour. Very impressive seeing the two ships together and the local economy must be pleased if not very busy today.
Back to the ship for a late lunch and I read the newspaper while Max tried out the pool and spa which wasn’t too crowded with most still on shore. Then he went off to his digital camera and photography lessons while I caught up with my email and writing this blog.
While we did the touristy thing in Tauranga, Rosemary, Richard and Perry gave talks to the Tauranga branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. I had almost forgotten about the onshore seminars, so I hope that some of the New Zealand attendees write a blog or two about the various seminars being held in each port we visit.
Tonight we had dinner in the Rotterdam dining room with the rest of the UTP cruisers before heading to the Hudson Room for the evening seminars. Originally I was a bit sceptical that people would turn up for night sessions as usually the ship has a competitive evening program or people are simply tired after a big day ashore. I spoke to an almost packed Hudson Room which proved me quite wrong but that was ok as I much prefer to talk to an eager audience.
I gave Asylum Records: A Place to Look for Missing Ancestors (there is a version of this talk on my website Resources page, scroll down to Presentations). Rosemary followed with a talk on Directories and Almanacs which I didn’t stay for as we wanted to catch one of the ship’s evening events. I also had thought this was a talk I had heard before but it was a brand new one so I will get a copy from Rosemary over the next few days and view her slides. That’s not quite the same as hearing a speaker’s commentary but it is still a useful way to gain an understanding of a topic and to learn new URLs and so on. That’s the primary reason I put copies of my talks on my website, the commentary is missing but people still learn something which is the main purpose.
It was going to be an early night as we have a big day planned tomorrow in Napier, friends from the first Unlock the Past cruise in March 2011 are picking us up to show us around Napier and surrounding vineyards which should be good. However, long time friend Perry and I took the opportunity to have a couple of drinks and catch up for a good talk as usually we only get to say hello, how are you and a few other things when we meet at expos, conferences or wherever. It’s hard to think that nearly thirty years have gone by since she first wandered into the Queensland State Archives reading room and found me on research duty!
Before we disembark in Napier, Chris Paton is doing Discover Scottish Records (which I heard and reported on at the Auckland seminar) and Richard Reid is talking about Key Irish Documents.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Genealogy notes 22 Nov 2011 - Day 2 on board Volemdam

As usual I woke up early before the alarm so had plenty of time to shower, dress and do final run through of my talk for the early 8am start to our genealogy sessions on board. We also decided to simply have breakfast in the cabin rather than have it up in the restaurant in case there were any delays. The ham and cheese omelette was certainly substantial and the cup of tea welcome. I usually like one first thing but no tea making facilities in cabins although you can get them to bring you one but that seems a bit strange to me (perhaps I’ll change my mind before the end of the trip).

My talk At Sea Then and Now was on at 8.00am followed by Chris Paton then no more sessions till after lunch as we were travelling around the scenic Coromandel Peninsula and people wanted to be out on deck looking around. I have put my report on the various sessions I attended on my website to avoid making this too lengthy. See Day 1 sessions at sea report here.

I decided to skip Chris Paton’s talk on Discover Scottish Genealogy as I had heard it before and went instead to the Meet the Captain session (I always like to know who is driving the ship)! The other ship offering I attended before the talks after lunch was the Tour of the Kitchens which was amazing in every sense of the word. They give you a four page handout with various facts including how much food is eaten each week (40,000 eggs is just one example). There are dedicated areas to all the various kinds of meals eg soups in the soup kitchen, huge dishwashers one for china and one for glassware, lots of staff and the head chef gave us a brief chat and of course, there is the ship cookbook which I must have a look at.

We had lunch on the Lido Deck at the Terrace Grill (overlooks the pool area at the top of the ship) and I had my first cheeseburger (may even be my last, the pickle seems odd) and it is easy to see the Volendam is an American ship which usually caters for that market. I like my burgers with beetroot but then I also realise that not all Aussies like beetroot.

Then it was off to the Hudson Room for an afternoon of talks. To avoid having too lengthy blogs I am splitting the genealogy component out and putting that on my website. My report of the sessions is here. Just before the 4.00pm talk, the ship was due to circle around White Island which is an active volcano and I simply had to go out on deck and see that. We went up into the bow area with lots of others to get a really close look and the ship actually circled around the island several times and at one point stopped off shore at the area where the volcano is most visible. But this meant I missed the last two talks of the day and I had wanted to hear them – like any genealogy conference you make choices but it is hard.

It was a formal night tonight with everyone dressing up for dinner but we had already decided not to attend the dinner in the Rotterdam dining room with the other UTP cruisers. We were sneaking off for a private, romantic, celebratory dinner at the Pinnacle Grill (each UTP person was given a gift voucher to try out this pay restaurant on board). Now before all the romantics leap to conclusions, it was not that kind of event. It is three years since Max’s major surgery for cancer and we like to take time out to reflect on the last few years and to plan ahead. We should have known you can’t hide on a ship and as we had been seated in one of the restaurant’s windows (internal), we were spotted by none other than Alan Phillips!

The Pinnacle Grill was a fantastic choice as the staff were friendly, the food amazing and perhaps too much (four different kinds of bread, three kinds of salt to try (and I don’t even eat salt but loved those three), natural iced water was automatically put on the table, there were lots of choices but we couldn’t go past the seafood and the desserts were so good. After a delicious scallop in pumpkin puree, we had an entree of smoked salmon, with fresh salmon and prawn with an amazing wasabi cream followed by a small lobster with butter sauce, mango coulis (feel like I’m describing a Masterchef show) with fresh asparagus & hollandaise plus an Idaho potato with the works (garlic butter, sour cream, bacon and chives). Desserts (shared) were a cherry bombe Alaska and a divine chocolate lava cake. We went for a bit of a walk on deck afterwards!!

I was a little put out at first that the Pinnacle Grill didn’t have any Australian and New Zealand wines to choose from on their wine list – mostly American and French. However, when we travel we always try to have the cuisine and drinks of the country we are visiting so as we were on an American ship, we decided to go American. I ended up selecting a very nice chardonnay from Washington (the State not the city) and was pleased with the choice as it complemented the seafood perfectly.

We had such a great time we will probably go back to the Pinnacle Grill again before the end of the cruise – even though it is a paying restaurant on board, you could have everything we ate for just $25 per person. Amazing value for a delicious meal with excellent service in a quiet venue!

After our walk it was back to our cabin to read up on visiting Tauranga, our port of call tomorrow. There are only two talks tomorrow night, I’m doing one on asylums and Rosemary is doing one on directories and almanacs. 

Genealogy notes 21 Nov 2011 Monday in Auckland, then the Volendam

NB This diary is being written daily, but depending on internet access may not be published daily.

After checking out of our hotel, we made our way to the Auckland Central Library where there was another on shore seminar with Dr Perry McIntyre and Dr Richard Reid.  The Library was having a massive book sale with everything just $2.00NZ and to completely avoid temptation, I didn’t even look!

I didn’t attend Perry or Richard’s talks as I will get to hear them during the trip. I wanted to do some research in the AucklandResearch Centre looking up some names in their card indexes. I put in my usual plea that these indexes should be data entered and put on line but of course the Library has the usual resource restraints and things take time.

After the seminar ended, we then trundled our suitcases down to the wharf where we had our first sighting of the Volendam. Amazingly there were no queues and we filled in all the paperwork, handed over our suitcases and passed the various check points and went straight to our cabin. We then spent a bit of time exploring the ship, before we joined the other Unlock thePast ‘cruisers’ for dinner.

What a choice for dinner – appetisers, soups, salads, entrees, mains and desserts so choosing was a bit difficult. I ended up with a shrimp cocktail and a rib eye steak and as it was first night, I had dessert – red velvet cake all washed down with a glass (or two) of Rosemount chardonnay.

After the dinner was the Welcome session for all Unlock the Past ‘cruisers’ where registration kits and name tags were handed out along with a complimentary copy of Inside History for those who had not seen the magazine before. As I am the first speaker of the cruise at 8.00am tomorrow, I checked out the main theatre with Rosemary and also the other smaller room. Then I went back to the cabin to have a quick run through my talk.

The Volendam left Auckland at midnight but I didn’t hear it although Max said he heard tugs hooting etc. There are lots of talks tomorrow as it is a day at sea, although we do sail around the scenic CoromandelPeninsula.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Genealogy Notes 19-20 Nov 2011 - Auckland adventures

I originally said that I would put all cruise blogs in Diary of an Australian Genealogist but given the length of my report on the first Auckland onshore seminar, I changed my mind and detailed reports will go on my website and more diary like reports will go here.  So my account of the first Auckland seminar is here.

Sunday was a late start because it took me so long to write the report, but we wandered out in time to see the start of the World Triathlon event through the main streets of Auckland. After watching the women riders for a while we made our way down towards the harbour (no easy feat with the closed roads and limited crossings when the bikes weren’t whizzing past).

We spotted a hotel serving New Zealand green shell mussels steamed with your choice of a delicious sauce (we picked coconut and lemongrass curry) so lunch was good, we could still see the race and our lattes came with a lovely little gingerbread.

Finally got to the harbour in time to buy our tickets on the ferry for a 90 minute tour round Auckland harbour (no getting off) and although a bit windy and rough in the more open places, it was great to see the various places from the water. Then at the last stop (about 15 minutes from the terminal) we decided to check out Kelly Tarlton’s  AntarticEncounter and Underwater World as a few other people were also getting off.

After a few minutes of working up the nerve to jump from the ferry to the jetty (it was rough and there is no walk off plank, with the ferry moving up, down, in and out) I finally made it safely on to the dock. It took a few more minutes for the adrenaline to slow down and my partner, who usually says I’m just wimpy, admitted it was a bit dangerous. It reminded me of Bangkok where you have to leap in and out of the water ferries because the drivers don’t stop for long.

It was just a short walk then to Tarlton’s Underwater World where we found that the free shuttle back to Auckland had already left (why it doesn’t continue to run until the place closes is a mystery as we couldn’t be the only tourists without our own car). Anyway we still went in and were quite surprised to find that most of the place is actually underground which is why it isn’t a big building.

There is a snowcat vehicle that seats nine at a time that takes you through the penguin (both King and Gentoo penguins) enclosure and you see them swimming in the pool and up on land/snow/ice (not sure what to call it). There were also some nesting penguins with new born chicks to slightly older chicks but all so cute.  I think I could watch penguins walking around all day, as it is so different to watching them swim (blink and you miss them, they are so fast).

Then there is the usual underwater tank with fish, sharks, sting rays etc but interesting to see some of the more unique New Zealand fish. The baby giant squid (dead, washed up on a beach) was huge/amazing and makes you really wonder about all those horror giant squid stories of ships being attacked. My favourite was the Seahorse Kingdom as I have a real fascination for sea horses and could watch them for hours and they had quite a few different species.

In the gift shop I couldn’t resist a new penguin key ring for my new (used) 7 seater Ford Territory (crystal green and to tow our new (used) caravan) which was delivered the day after we left home (sob), the obligatory fridge magnet (penguins) and a Rotorua mud face mask.

After a short walk to the bus stop we gave the friendly bus driver every New Zealand coin that we had and he dropped us as close to Queen Street as he could, given the streets were still barricaded off. On the way back we decided that we simply had to taste one more New Zealand beer, plus we were really thirsty. 

Then just before we got back to our apartment we smelt a delicious curry smell. We had passed this place a few times in our walks to and from Auckland City Library so we decided it would be good to have a curry takeaway, a New Zealand chardonnay and watch TV - Rick Stein and his cooking adventures in Spain (which brought back memories of my trip there in 2000).

I also made the observation that Rick Stein (English chef, world traveller etc) had decided to retire to Mollymook which is next door to one of the towns we have been looking at retiring to. If it was good enough for Rick Stein, then why not us but my partner thinks I’m keen on it just so that I can eat at Rick Stein’s restaurant at Mollymook all the time!

The other great thing about takeaway and eating in, is that we had the washing on while we ate and then we tried out my new Rotorua mud face mask which was fantastic and I’m sure my skin looks softer and more glowing! By the end of the night our clothes were washed and dried without having to leave the room.

We picked our hotel via Wotif and got a great three night deal with more breakfast than we could eat (mango juice popper, fruit yoghurt, oat muesli bar, delicious mixed grain/seed bun, banana, tea/coffee)  so it also doubled for lunch most days and one hour’s free internet each day. The banana was a bit of a luxury as most of the time in Australia we can’t afford to buy them. All within a one block walk of the library.

Monday is another onshore seminar at the Auckland City Library with Dr Perry McIntyre and Dr Richard Reid (Irish and military historian) so we will walk our suitcases down to the Library and from there on to the wharf and the cruise!

Friday 18 November 2011

Genealogy notes 15-18 November 2011 Auckland Bound

The last few days have been frantic trying to finalise everything I needed to do before leaving for Auckland today. The bills got paid, the rubbish taken out, my talks finalised and my suitcase under the required kilos. It was some relief that I said down in the Qantas Lounge for a latte and French pastries. The flight was a little delayed and we finally arrived at our hotel in Auckland just after 7.00pm having left home at 8.00am.

Tomorrow I am speaking at the first of the onshore seminars associated with the Unlock the Past history and genealogy cruise which has a Scottish and Irish theme. Auckland City Libraries is the host venue for the seminar  and speakers include Chris Paton, Rosemary Kopittke and myself with Seonaid Lewis giving a tour of the Central Auckland Research Centre. It will be good to catch up with my Auckland friends and I also hope to do a spot of research if time permits.

Sunday is a free day and if the weather is nice, we hope to have a ferry ride around Auckland Harbour, something we haven’t done before. On Monday we make our way down to the Harbour again to board the Volendam for our 14 day cruise around New Zealand, back to Burnie in Tasmania before crossing Bass Strait for Melbourne and finally finishing up in Sydney.  Along the way I hope to blog and tweets all the things I learn at all the genealogy sessions, not to mention some of the fun stuff that happens on board cruise ships including the food and entertainment.

I haven’t managed to do much else over the last few days but I did do another guest blog for MyHeritage and it was good to mention the KIVA Genealogists for Families project. This is all about helping other families and individuals with small loans for their businesses (usually $25) and then this is repaid over time. In some ways it is the gift that keeps on giving as I usually just reinvest in another project. Deciding who to support is a key part of it and I described my choices in my 27-29 October diary blog.

I’m looking forward to sharing my ‘cruise news’ with everyone but getting access to the Internet may be tricky (or just expensive) – my hotel room actually gives me free Internet for an hour each day so while in Auckland I should get a few tweets and blogs out. Although you can’t join me physically, I hope that some of you will follow my doings over the next two weeks in what should be a Scottish Irish genealogy extravaganza!

Sunday 13 November 2011

Genealogy notes 6-14 November 2011 To Pambula & Back

Once you get behind, it is always so hard to catch up again. Various domestic issues continue to unsettle my usually organised work space and complicating it even more was our recent trip to Pambula, New South Wales for the Bega Valley Genealogy Society annual seminar. That took three days and for the most part we were without mobile phone/internet coverage which means backlogs in emails, online newsletters, phone calls and so on. Still, as I said in my review of the seminar, I always love doing these regional genealogy events.

As well as the online backlog, my printed reading pile seems to have mushroomed in my absence and I am still struggling to get past the first few pages of the latest issue of Inside History - one of my favourite genealogy magazines! It's not helping that I am in the grip of the dreaded Melbourne hayfever (itchy watery eyes and when my partner said this morning, 'your eyes look a bit puffy', he was being generous as I could hardly see out of them). It's also hard to type when you have to stop every few seconds to mop your eyes!

After today, I only have three days to finalise everything I need to finalise before we leave for Auckland on Friday. I'm speaking at the Auckland Library genealogy seminar on Saturday with Chris Paton as a preliminary event prior to the Unlock the Past history and genealogy cruise next week. It's all very exciting at this late stage but I am still trying to finalise all my presentations (15) and then there's the hairdresser (I wasn't going to bother but said partner also asked this morning was I going to do anything about the grey hair) so that's happening tomorrow now.

I have my to do list and the focus is on what is critical pre cruise but we don't get back till 5 December, 20 days before Christmas and only 12 days before we head off to Brisbane in our new car and caravan and neither of us have towed a caravan before. A huge learning curve ahead but it will be fun and we'll be passing through Lightning Ridge (Black Opal country) where one of my gg grandmother's spent some time. But for now, it's back to finishing my cruise presentations and thinking about what to wear and pack. Just as well I like travelling!

Saturday 5 November 2011

Genealogy notes 30 Oct - 5 Nov 2011 Birthdays & Anniversaries

I've been offline for a few days for a variety of reasons. The first week of November is always a big week for me, with all sorts of memories swirling around me. Firstly it's my birthday week and I'm a child of Guy Fawkes - some of my earliest memories are of helping my father build a bonfire in our backyard and creating a Guy Fawkes out of straw and old clothes. Those were also the days when everyone could buy firecrackers at the local store. So those early birthdays were fun, if a little dangerous given our backyard backed onto a bush area.

In their wisdom the Queensland government decided to move Guy Fawkes night from November to June from 1967 so that there was less chance of fires and eventually the sale of firecrackers was prohibited to individuals in 1971 because of injuries.

Birthdays were never the same for me as a child but as I grew up I discovered the Melbourne Cup (first Tuesday of November) and every so often it would actually fall on my birthday. While living in Brisbane and Canberra I would try and take the day off work and book into a Melbourne Cup Day lunch and enjoy the whole day, even if it wasn't on my real birthday. Of course now that I am living in Melbourne, Cup Day is a public holiday and my birthday tends to stretch out for the whole week.

But not only is it memories of birthdays past that occupies my mind during the first week of November. It is also memories of family members lost during this week. On my 16th birthday I lost one of my favourite uncles and my grandmother died on my birthday in 1994 - she had never wanted to leave her own home, or move into a nursing home so in some ways it was 'good' that she died while playing the pokies. Another reason why I have a little flutter and gamble that week is because it was what she loved. Four days of the week she managed to get herself onto the pensioner bus (and that wasn't easy with a walking stick) and down to the NSW pokie clubs because it was an outing, she was with friends and she liked to play (but never seemed to lose?). Why NSW? Queensland didn't have pokies when she started this 'hobby'.

I won't list all the family deaths in the first week of November, but I was reminded of  'the trend' when I lost another two family members this week. One was an avid family historian and had done lots of research and died too young and the other was one that had probably lived too long. But when he could, he also enjoyed getting out and playing the pokies, having a flutter on the horses and most times when I was in Brisbane I would take him along to the Casino for a few hours of 'the good old times'.

Oddly enough two of Australia's most famous genealogists also died in my birthday week. Nick Vine Hall died on 31 October 2006 but his funeral service was not held until 9 November 2006. I first met Nick in the late 1970s when he was Director of the Society of Australian Genealogists and our paths continuously crossed over the years/decades and I have fond memories of him and I sitting on the grassy area outside the State Library of Victoria eating take away Chinese for lunch while discussing genealogy and how to raise the profile of the Australian census amongst other things. We even tossed around ideas of projects we might work on when I retired from the public service but sadly that wasn't to be as Nick died too soon aged only 62 years.

The other Australian genealogist was Janet Reakes who died on 9 November 2002 at the far too young age of 50 years. I had worked with Janet at a number of genealogy events while I was employed at Queensland State Archives and later the John Oxley Library. I particularly liked going to her Australia Day weekend genealogy expos in Hervey Bay.

It's great that these two Australian genealogists continue to be remembered by the genealogy community. The Australian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) maintains the annual Nick Vine Hall Award to promote family history society journals and newsletters and Australian Family Tree Connections (AFTC) maintains the Janet Reakes Memorial Award which is an annual essay competition open to everyone.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has a birthday that coincides with close deaths in the family. There's also Christmas, New Year, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day and so on. There's always good memories along with the sad ones and I suspect that what is most important is to capture those memories so that we don't forget as time continues it's march ever onwards.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Genealogy notes 27-29 October 2011 Genealogists for Families

About a month ago, Judy Webster a good friend of mine in Brisbane sent me an invitation to be part of a new group she had established, Genealogists For Families within KIVA. I hadn't previously heard of KIVA and at the time of her note, I was busy with a deadline hovering over my head. Like most busy people I have a 'to do' list on my desk and I added Judy's request to follow up later.

Again like most busy people, my 'to do' list is never ending and something else always seems to crop up. I regularly read Sydney friend Geniaus' blogs as they are always relevant and interesting so when I saw her blog title, It's Taken Me a While, I immediately wondered what she was referring too. As I started reading, it could have been me writing that blog because I still hadn't got back to Judy. So once I finished reading, I went back to Judy's request.

I signed up for Genealogists for Families then and there and managed to take something off my to do list! Click here to join

I then spent quite a bit of time trying to decide which projects I would personally support as they all sounded worthwhile. I decided on the $25 loan option as that would allow me to support two loans. I ended up choosing one from Mongolia as I had spent a week travelling through Outer Mongolia in 1996 and had slept in a yurt and visited with local families. The other project I chose was from Peru, a place I have always wanted to visit (Machu Picchu is on my bucket list).

The very next day I received two emails telling me that both projects had been totally filled and that the recipients had their loans and I would receive progress reports. I was surprised as I had thought it would take longer to fill the loans. I then decided to support another project and again spent some time trying to decide but eventually picked a project in Kenya and just this morning I found out it has also been fully funded. It's terrific that these loans get funded so quickly.

My partner is now interested in KIVA and how it allows people to establish or run their own businesses or helps them out with special projects. He will probably fund a couple of projects too so I am looking forward to see what his choices will be.

The other really good thing is that Judy's idea is now gaining fantastic support from genealogists around the world and within a month of starting Genealogists for Families, there are 45 members with 62 loans with a total amount loaned of $1550. While this doesn't sound like much, it is supporting 62 people with their businesses, farms or whatever and is not just a charity handout. The loans are expected to be repaid and at that point, you can then reinvest that original loan money into new projects. In other words your original gift keeps on giving if you want it to. I think that's what I like best about KIVA.

Despite my tardy start on the team, I totally recommend and support the  Genealogists for Families team on KIVA and I would love to think that some of my readers might do so to. Check out the links and if you can't get involved now, help us spread the word to genealogists everywhere. Click here to join.

As I indicated in my last Diary update, I am having a lovely weekend alone and have made some nice progress on my Wiltshire families thanks to purchasing my ggg grandmother's marriage certificate (she married  again aged 70 years). However I will report on that next time as I am still looking for a few more bits and pieces. Until next time.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Genealogy notes 22-26 Oct 2011 collecting archives & genealogists

So much for my last entry wishing for a quiet week this week. I've barely been able to keep up with emails let alone anything else. I was meant to have the weekend alone and Saturday was very much a genealogy day where I tidied up bits and pieces of filing, did some scanning, checked out some sites, caught up with print magazines and so on. I had hoped that Sunday would be similar but as it was cold and wet, the camping trip had been a bit of a fizzer and my 'me' time came to an abrupt end late Sunday morning.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here, but we've bought the caravan and of course that means a bigger, stronger vehicle to tow it so we put my beloved little green 'beemer' for sale online. I secretly never expected it to sell as nobody likes fern green. Two days later my car was gone to a lady very much like myself who simply loved the colour. The 'beemer' was my 50th birthday present to myself some years ago and I can still remember my son saying 'where did I get the money' and the look on his face when I said I was spending his inheritance. It was definitely a Kodak moment. Anyway this week has been spent looking at cars, test driving and after a few they all look the same to me which is probably why I pick my cars by colour. The search goes on!

The one think I did have to do yesterday is visit the University of Melbourne Archives (UMA) for a professional development seminar with the staff over a very delicious lunch. They sat there eating and I talked (but I made certain I didn't miss out by putting a chicken and avocado wrap on my plate just in case they were ravenous). Basically I was there to talk about what genealogists want when they are searching and how they might want to access it and how the UMA might be able to make genealogists more aware of what they have. So after confessing that I had been using them as an example in my talks and books over the last two years, we had a wide ranging discussion which also called on my previous work experience in various archives. (NB the reason I use them as an example is because they have an online catalogue, digitised images online (also through Picture Australia), various subject guides including a summary guide).

Collecting archives like UMA are very different from government archives where all the records are the records of the government. Issues such as ownership, custody, copyright, privacy, access are more complex with private records and especially with older material that may have been brought in without consideration of these issues. Digitising, indexing and volunteers were all discussed and that age old question of how much time to allot to reference queries was also on the table. I found myself slipping back into government speak by saying it was a 'question of priorities, resources, goals, objectives and so on' and at one point I almost asked to see their strategic plan. This morning I am wondering if researchers should look at an archives' strategic plan - are researchers the focus or at least one of the major focuses or are they further down the priority list?

The other key area was how to make the archives more visible and known and this is where I got on my social media treadmill and advocated following Twitter and participating in things like #followanarchive and #askanarchivist day. I raved on about blogging too and how archives can highlight parts of their collection and how more and more genealogists are writing and reading blogs and reading online e-newsletters. I also suggested photos on Flickr or even podcasts in YouTube giving State Records NSW as an example of an archive actively using social media to keep researchers informed. Podcasts, webinars, wikis and by the time I mentioned nings I felt I was losing them, so I pointed out that it was possible to just focus on a few rather than all of the available media.

UMA have already agreed to give a talk at the Genealogical Society of Victoria's lunchtime seminars next year and they do have a newsletter The UMA Bulletin (print and online) so it's very much a question of raising the profile and then the invitations to speak will flood in!

I suspect after I left the conversations continued and it will be interesting to see how they progress in future months (are they reading this now?). Should I become a researcher and go looking for my 'wharfie' grandfather in their waterside workers trade union records. The Australian Trade Union Archives (ATUA) website is also worth a look for any unionists in the family. You may not get direct information on the person,  but if they were active in a union you may be able to put some context around their working lives.

From my perspective I found the session stimulating and left a bit nostalgic for working in a collecting archive. I was always amazed at some of the collections held in the John Oxley Library, in the State Library of Queensland, the first place I ever worked in the archives/library field. Still, I have my own collecting archive of family history material and probably more scanning than I want to think about, so enough reminiscing and back to work on my own records!

Friday 21 October 2011

Genealogy notes 16-21 Oct 2011 - Irish updates & writing family history

Well another week has gone with family and domestic matters interrupting my family history time. Thankfully I am spending the weekend alone and it is cold and grey in Melbourne so I am hoping to get lots done. I do love the family but it is so peaceful not having to jump up every few minutes to find something for them that is in plain sight!

Tuesday I managed some quiet time and spent it visiting various Irish genealogy sites - so much seems to have gone online since I last looked. I was very impressed with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) will calendars and the fact that those up to 1900 have been digitised and are freely available online. Ancestry have lots of new Irish records and I have been using their Collection Priority filter (but you do need to remember to turn it off!).

FindMyPast Ireland has also been adding records and most notably this weekend they have added Irish prison records (but doesn't include the North). I'm finding the landed estates records most interesting. Another site I use a lot is Roots Ireland and again lots of new additions and I have also been using the Irish records on FamilySearch. Not doing searches on surname etc in the top section of their home page but going into the Browse by Location section and going into the records themselves and then doing the searches.

I find cross checking in all the various online databases useful if I can't find families under expected spellings or variants. Although it does take time. I have found this particularly so when using the various versions of Griffith's Valuation online which has just reminded me of the Ask About Ireland website which I also visited.

I'm looking forward to seeing Chris Paton's new book on Irish internet sites which I believe will be ready for the Unlock the Past history and genealogy cruise with a Scottish/Irish theme in November . Maybe some of my Irish brick walls will tumble on board the cruise ship! If you can't make the cruise, don't forget there are on shore talks all around New Zealand, Burnie in Tasmania, Melbourne and Sydney.

The other major achievement this week was finishing my book reviews of Hazel Edwards How to Write a Non-Boring Family History and Goldie Alexander's Mentoring Your Memoirs and doing a Writing Family History Again blog to include the reviews and to write about my own struggles in this area . By going public with my procrastination, I hope I am committing myself to some real effort in completing at least one of my draft family histories in 2012.

I haven't managed to do any genealogy reading this week although I try to follow key people on Twitter and Google+ so that I am vaguely aware of what has been happening.

Next week I have been invited to the University of Melbourne Archives to talk to the staff about what researchers want and how they might be able to increase usage of the archives. UMA is one of the archives I demonstrate in my talks It's Not All Online and Archives You Should Know but Perhaps Don't. When I first saw the invite I thought I was in trouble for using them and creating a demand for their services but it is the opposite, so looking forward to catching up with old colleagues and friends.

Hopefully it will be quieter next week and I will catch up with everything before I again pack my bag and hit the road for Pambula and the Bega Valley Genealogy Society in two weeks. At least there is never a dull moment!

Friday 14 October 2011

Genealogy notes 10-15 Oct 2011 - military ancestors & famous explorers

Wow the whole week went by so fast but when you are staying with friends, it is easy to lose track of time as you are not in your normal environment. Plus you can't be on your laptop 24/7 without looking really unsociable. And to be honest after the big genealogy day on Sunday, I was grateful for the break.

My talk on Wednesday night to the Cobram Genealogical Group on researching military ancestors went well. There is an earlier version of this talk on my website under Resources. Cobram are a small and enthusiastic group who like most regional areas, struggle to keep their libraries open for research. As always it is the same volunteers who put their name down each month to open up and be available to assist others.

The Cobram group is co-located with the Cobram Historical Society (they don't have a website) and they share the old state school building and it was interesting to see some of the items held by the Historical Society. As you would expect, there was a heavy emphasis on old farming equipment especially dairying and of course, school items including an old school desk which was identical to the ones where I went to school. Hard to believe that I was ever that small and could fit into those old desks which were built for two children to share. The building is part of the Cobram Historical Precinct.

Another must visit place on the way to Cobram is the Byramine Homestead which was established in 1842. For those who know their Australian history, Hamilton Hume will be a well known name. Perhaps what is less known, is that he helped his sister in law Elizabeth Hume to establish the run "Yarrawonga Stations" after the death of her husband John Hume. She had nine children so obviously a determined woman.

She designed and had built the house she called Byramine which means rustic retreat. It had a range of safety features including wooden shutters and walls sixteen inches thick to help protect the family from bushrangers and Aboriginals. Husband John had been killed by bushrangers (the Whitton gang) so her desire to be safe in her new home and property is understandable. The home is privately owned although operates as a heritage tourism venture and was last for sale in 2010 and this Weekly Times property notice gives its history.

The final thing I did in Yarrawonga was to collect my father's cuckoo clock from the Clock Museum (it doesn't have its own website). On an earlier visit I had left it there for a clean and tone up as it is one of the few things that I have from my father. He was given the clock by my brother's first in-laws and Dad  loved watching the cuckoo come out every hour but I don't think Mum was as enthralled. Certainly she didn't seem to mind giving it to me after Dad died.

The Clock Museum is a fascinating place and there are over 500 antique and novelty clocks on display and it is worth a visit as all clocks are in working order (that's a lot of ticking). It's privately owned and the owner knows everything about clocks which is why I took my cuckoo clock to him for restoration.

I had to be back in Melbourne for the committee meeting of the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO). Lots of things are happening with updates to the website, thinking about speakers for the next Don Grant lecture on Family History Feast day (30 July 2012 so save the date), planning for the next VAFHO conference in 2013 in Ballarat and also looking at a membership drive to get more representation across Victoria.

Back home I had a small mountain of snail mail, mostly bills, but one was an envelope postmarked Ireland and I knew it was my Irish marriage certificates. I ordered two a few weeks ago so with great excitement I opened the envelope to find two certificates but they were the same certificate, not two different ones. I'm not sure what has happened but I will need to contact them and sort it all out.

This weekend is going to be a catch up weekend with everything. It's nice having time away and sitting on an immigration channel bank fishing and watching the birds but now I have emails, newsletters, blogs and some new breakthroughs in my own family history research to follow up. Not to mention preparing my talks for the Unlock the Past genealogy cruise which is now only four weeks away and before that I am travelling to Pambula, NSW for the Bega Valley Genealogy Society annual seminar where I am giving two talks.

Although I have been saying I will take it easier next year, I find I am already committed to a growing number of genealogy events next year. I start out saying NO but then they seem to find my soft spot - I need to find it myself and concrete it over! Still it is nice to be in demand and I probably wouldn't like to see that change.