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!