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.  

Sunday 9 October 2011

Genealogy notes 5-9 Oct 2011 genealogy seminars & heritage tourism

Thursday and Friday we spent travelling through the Yarra Valley and we finally did a wine tasting at Helen's Hill Winery and had a three course lunch at Vines Restaurant (this was all part of my partner's retirement gift from his workmates). We couldn't share our experience as there was no phone coverage (at least not for our provider) and on Thursday night we stayed in a motel (just 2 km outside a nearby town) and I couldn't even access the Telstra network with my laptop modem. It made me realise (yet again) how hard it is for rural/regional people to have the same type of easy access that those in more metropolitan areas enjoy.

The next day we travelled up to Lake Eildon which has spent the last few years with less than 5% water capacity but is now back up to 98% capacity. It is really amazing to see all the water again and hard to believe when you drive over the bridge that there was no water there for years. We weren't the only tourists so hopefully all those businesses will get back to normal, especially with the summer season approaching.

So after two days 'in the wilderness' I was glad to arrive at our friend's place at Yarrawonga and again have access to phone and emails etc. While up this way, we have been exploring some of the food and history trails and on Saturday we went to Tocumwal on the Murray River where I was surprised to learn the town (first established in 1862) was the site of the largest aerodrome in the Southern Hemisphere during World War II. As well as Australians, the base also saw over 7,000 Americans and today it is hard to imagine all that activity and people. I found the photographs and other memorabilia at the Tocumwal Historic Aerodrome Museum fascinating and it is definitely worth the 'gold coin' entry donation.

For car and caravan buffs, Chrystie's Museum is worth a visit and I was particularly interested in the early caravans although there was a whole range of other memorabilia in display cases.

If you want the best strawberry pancakes ever then don't go past the Big Strawberry (yes I can add another 'Big' icon to my list of places visited). I don't think I have ever seen so many varieties of strawberry jam or wines and liquers for that matter. I settled on fig and ginger to take home.

But we are not up here just to see the sights and yesterday I spent talking to members of GMAGS (Goulburn Murray Association of Genealogical Societies). While most people were from local societies (within an hour's drive or so) I did meet one couple who had travelled down from Deniliquin. My three talks on mining ancestors, online newspapers and caring for family archives were all well received with plenty of time for questions after each talk. There was also lots of discussion over morning and afternoon tea and lunch.

As a surprise, I had bought along some lucky door prizes which included some copies of Inside History magazine (which is about to celebrate it's first anniversary) and also some copies of Australian Family Tree Connections and some genealogy journals from the Genealogical Society of Victoria and the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies. Jan Parker was the lucky recipient of a copy of the digital scrapbooking program My Memories. I know Jan is a keen scrapbooker so I will look forward to hearing what she thinks of digital scrapbooking.

When talking about genealogy seminars in rural areas, you simply also have to mention the catering. People brought along plates of food to share and there is nothing better than home cooked slices and cakes. Do it yourself ham or chicken salad rolls for lunch went well with plenty for everyone. There was a $10 charge by GMAGS for the day and this included lunch and the talks so great value.

I again highlighted the value of social media and especially blogging as a way of easily telling their family stories so it will be interesting to see how many explore this option. They started to see the possibilities when I explained the various family connections I have made after distant relatives found my blogs via Google.

I have one more talk at Cobram on Wednesday night - it's on military ancestors so I'm looking forward to that. We should also get the opportunity to explore some more local towns but haven't decided which ones yet. I still have those book reviews to do but its hard to sit here at the laptop when you know there is so much history out there, just waiting to be explored!

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Genealogy notes 29 Sep - 4 Oct 2011 value of genealogy conference papers

I've been a bit quiet but only because I was determined to finish a long standing project. A while back I told the Victorian Association of Family History Societies Organisation (VAFHO) that I was doing a complete listing of all papers presented at their conferences between 1995 and 2010. The details of the project are here, plus a link to the online list. As this is just a diary update I wont' go into all again, but I am glad that it is now completed.

I've also been busy reading my two books for review and I hope to finalise those by the end of this week. Then I will only have the CD publication and the scrapbooking software to review. I like doing reviews but they do take time and they always seem to come at the same time!

Some of my e-newsletters have been Snippets (Queensland Family History Society), Public Record Office Despatch (PROV), Now & Then from State Records NSW, qsa bulletin from Queensland State Archives, Lost Cousins, and the SAG e-newsletter from the Society of Australian Genealogists.

The other major task that's kept  me quiet has been updating my three talks for the Goulburn Murray Association of Genealogical Societies (GMAGS) this coming Sunday. I'm looking at Mining Ancestors, Newspapers Online and Caring For Your Family Archives so it will be fairly intensive day with something for everyone.

While up that way I will also be giving a talk on Researching Military Ancestors at the monthly meeting of the Cobram Genealogical Group. I'm a member there and their representative on VAFHO but I don't get up there that often for monthly meetings.

So another busy week coming up.