Wednesday 29 February 2012

Genealogy notes 23 - 29 Feb 2012 - lots of blogging

We've been back from Darwin four days and most of that time has been spent trying to catch up with everything in between various medical appointments. I had to finalise the last of the daily blogs from the War Comes to Australia tour (appeared over six days in Diary of an Australian Genealogist) and then do an overview report on my website. The other Darwin blog I finished was a report was on the family history seminar held after the tour.

There was the usual pile of mail waiting for us and I was excited to see my prize for winning one of Inside History's Friday Facebook competitions. I'm looking forward to reading Lucy Frost's Abandoned Women: Scottish Convicts Exiled Beyond the Seas! Currently I'm about half way through Babette Smith's Australia's Birthstain: The Startling Legacy of the Convict Era so it looks like my convict reading theme will continue for a bit longer.

Another exciting piece of correspondence was to receive an invitation to speak at the Deniliquin Genealogy Society's annual expo in October. The last time we were in Deniliquin NSW was because our car broke down travelling back from Adelaide to our then home in Canberra. I'm sure this visit will leave much more pleasant memories.

I didn't think I would get to Sydney this year but the Royal Australian Historical Society have asked me to partner with Carol Baxter to present a full day workshop on researching your family and writing up the family history. I've worked with Carol in a writing seminar before and she is an inspirational speaker who really gets people enthused about writing up their family stories in an interesting way. The new RAHS Calendar of Events (for Apr-Jun) is not up yet but the dates will be 12 April and 19 April - it will run twice as they are expecting it to be popular.

It's my other half's birthday and every year I try to take him some place special that we haven't been before. As we have just got back from Darwin and are going to Adelaide in a few weeks, I didn't want to travel to far. One of the places that has been on my bucket list since arriving in Melbourne in 2003 is to stay at the Vue Grand in Queenscliff. We've done a few fishing charters out of Queenscliff and quite often go down to the Bellarine peninsula to get fresh mussels from Portarlington but we've never stayed at this historic hotel. By chance, I saw a special summer accommodation offer and although summer is now technically over, I was still able to book a night at the special rate for his birthday. I'm really looking forward to it as we haven't even been inside before.

We can't linger down at Queenscliff as I'm giving three talks at the Kyabram Regional Genealogy Society on Saturday and eight of my Deniliquin friends are going to make the trek over to Kyabram (VIC) as well. It should be a good day although after that many talks and lots of questions I often feel a little drained! Max is going along to to sell some of the Unlock the Past publications that I usually take along with me because people out in regional areas don't always get to look at books prior to buying. I know I always like to see before I buy!

There is a stack of unread blogs, e-newsletters and even emails still to catch up on so enough diary writing for now! Until next time. 

Thursday 23 February 2012

Genealogy notes 22 Feb 2012 - Final day of Darwin battlefield tour

The last week has gone very quickly although we have been kept very busy on the War Comes to Australia tour organised by Unlock the Past in collaboration with Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours. This last day is basically breakfast and then transfers out to the airport although a number of people seem to be staying on to do other things in the Territory.

It was also a last chance to say goodbye to new friends and swap contact details. I was particularly looking forward to going down to breakfast as I had given Brad Manera my uncle's WW2 kidney dish to look at overnight. I wanted to know if this was a common item that every soldier brought back or something more unique. Mum had said that my uncle used it to eat out of but it didn't really seem big enough for that.

I was very excited when Brad confirmed it was uncommon and that it appeared to be either Italian or French in origin. As my uncle had engraved the various places he had been to in the war along with dates and various drawings and symbols this made it even more unique. I am now more than ever determined to research his war service and he will be my ANZAC day blog this year so I have a bit of time. Also when I go to Brisbane in June I will ask Mum about his photo albums as I remember seeing WW2 photos amongst Mum's albums. Brad and I will keep in touch about our findings.

I will be doing an overview blog which will appear on my website but just to wrap up this daily blog, I have found the tour really enjoyable and interesting. Not only that it has further awakened my academic interests which have been a bit dormant since I finished my Masters back in the late 90s. While on the UTP genealogy cruise last November a friend asked when was I going to do my PhD as it is on my list of things to do when retired. My response was I hadn't found a topic yet (you have to be pretty passionate about something for a PhD) and my interests have moved on since I did my Masters on Female Philanthropy in Colonial Queensland. I suspect that I really should do another degree or post graduate degree to get back into research before plunging into a PhD. I should probably move house too as that is disruptive and time consuming!

Would I do another battlefield tour? Without hesitation, especially if it had a personal connection to our own families. I'd like to thank again Unlock the Past and Mat McLachlan for giving me the opportunity to be part of the tour.

On Saturday there is the Unlock the Past Family History Seminar with the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory and the Northern Territory Library (being held at the Library) so stay tuned for a report on that. Rosemary Kopittke and I are each giving three talks and it should be a great day.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Genealogy notes 21 Feb 2012 - Day 5 of Darwin battlefield tour

Today was an early start on our War Comes to Australia tour as we were heading down to the Adelaide River area to visit various military sites. I was on the second bus and our driver gave a running commentary on the history of Darwin and the Northern Territory as we made our way south. First stop was the WW2 Strauss airstrip where there is a static display outlining the role of the airstrip and three large kittyhawk aircraft replicas attract passers by as it is not obvious it is an old military airstrip until you stop.

Second stop was the Rail Heritage Precinct at Adelaide River where there was lots to see especially about the railway and the building of the overland telegraph. I wandered around the grounds to see the outside displays as well but it was incredibly humid. We also had morning tea here as well and I think my very nice, but hot cup of tea only made me sweat more.

The third stop was at the Adelaide River war graves cemetery and here Brad Manera performed a short, but moving,  ceremony reciting the very moving "They shall  grow not old, as we that are left grow old, Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them". Followed by Lest We Forget. Then members of the War Widows' Guild laid a wreath at the memorial. We then had a quick look around but the humidity must have been 100% and most of us tried to stay in the shade.

We then had a short drive out to Mt Bundy Station which is a well known working cattle property for a look and just near the station were some incredible termite mounds and also a herd of buffalo. We didn't get out here and after a few 'termite photos' we went back to the Adelaide River Inn for lunch. I was fortunate to be sitting at the same table as our driver and he pointed out some of the very interesting birds in the nearby trees. Of course I can't remember their name now but they had red eyes and yellow breasts.

After lunch we swapped our bus for the all terrain vehicle which the other group had been on in the morning. I felt sorry for Brad at this point as he had to do the all terrain trip again as he was giving the commentary on the significance of the Snake Creek area. I hadn't even realised this area was there and as we made our way in, you could see all kinds of relics in the bush, from munition storage depots to old research buildings and accommodation places. The old train tracks were also visible in places. A fascinating area and I felt like wanting to go on an archaeological dig there, as it awakened feelings I haven't felt since I did archaeology at university many years ago.

From there we made our way to the old WW2 Coomalie airstrip and a local expert on the area gave us a talk. We were very lucky as it had been teeming rain all the way from Snake Creek to Coomalie and the runoff was flooding the sides of the road. However as we arrived at Coomalie the rain stopped and we were able to get out and look around although the thunder still rumbled overhead. The humidity had dropped substantially which was most welcome.

Then it was the long trip back to Darwin and Brad told various anecdotes and answered questions and we were back at the hotel in time to freshen up for the farewell dinner. This was a buffet with various roasts, potatoes, vegetables, salads, soup, bread and a very tempting dessert section. There was lots of conversation, farewell speeches and people swapping contact details.

Tomorrow those heading home will be taken to the airport, but quite a few are staying on to see more of Darwin. We will be doing some sightseeing ourselves and the arrival of the Queen Mary 2 in Darwin tomorrow is a must see. Till next time.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Genealogy notes 20 Feb 2012 - Day 4 of Darwin battlefield tour

Regular readers will know that I'm on the Unlock the Past and Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours War Comes to Australia tour and I'm a bit behind in my blogging as the days are quite full and there isn't that much time to write my blog let alone keep up with my emails, tweets and other social media. Plus the heat and humidity has a way of sapping one's energy too.

Day 4 was a combination of visits to various museums and then three talks in the early evening from 4-7pm at the beautiful Northern Territory Library within the NT Parliament House which was an experience in itself.

First however to the museums and we boarded our buses ca 9.00am to head out to East Point Reserve and the Darwin Military Museum and the new Defence of Darwin Experience. We had a group photo with one of the WW2 military gun emplacements in the background. It was also good to see some wallabies seeking shade under the trees near the museum too.

I've been to the museum a few times and you could spend hours looking at both the indoor and outdoor displays but I was more interested in the new Defence of Darwin Experience which had only opened two days earlier for the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. This is a very impressive interactive display and if you fully explored everything it would take some hours (Max spent four hours there but that included time chatting to old diggers).

Those of us on the tour didn't have that luxury and I found that one of the most moving exhibits was a map of Darwin which then has virtual Japanese planes flying over and dropping virtual bombs in the two raids and you see just how much of Darwin and the harbour was bombed as these big red/yellow splotches cover the map. The realistic re-enactment in the theatre is both audio and visual and almost leaves you a little shell shocked at the end (there is a warning outside that advises about the bright lights, noise and so on). A must see addition to any visit to Darwin.

With the morning gone we returned to either the city centre or the hotel for lunch and then out to the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre for the afternoon. I have been there many times so I stayed behind to write the Day 3 blog and caught the bus again later to go to the Northern Territory Library for the talks. Perhaps what I found the most staggering when I went to the Aviation Heritage Centre was the magnificent B-52 bomber which is just so huge. The Centre has all kinds of aircraft as well as other displays and is a must see museum even if you aren't a plane addict!

As I suspected by the end of the day some people on the tour were too hot, tired etc to attend three hours of talks at the Library. Perhaps if the talks were at the hotel we might have got more of the tour people attending. However, the talks were also free to Darwin residents so there was still a good turn-up at the Library. As it is inside Parliament House everyone and their bags must be screened on entry - I never beep at the airport but I did there! As we were a bit late getting there, the talks started a bit late as well.

First up was Dr Tom Lewis OAM who talked about the Myths and Perceptions of the Raids on Darwin 19 Feb 1942 and  I had an idea of what he would be talking about as there was an interview with him about this topic in the NT News anniversary souvenir which I had read. As a professional historian, Tom gets frustrated/annoyed at the errors/misperceptions/myths about the bombing that are repeated and he pointed out numerous examples and what the 'truth' was using documented sources. In particular he looked at the comparisons with Pearl Harbour.

I was not totally comfortable with Tom making fun of, almost ridiculing the 'amateurs' or 'not for profits' he was using as examples and I don't think he really should have named and shamed at a public talk. I could see the point he was making but I still found myself hoping that none of those people were present. As someone with a history background I can understand his frustrations but with my archives and libraries background, I am also aware that these 'amateurs' and 'not for profits' are also sometimes the only ones interested in events/subjects and without their keenness to capture stories/save/donate records etc, we might not have anything for future generations. I see our job as to educate and encourage use of documented sources and citations whenever possible and in family history the rule is to have at least two pieces of evidence to confirm every fact. No doubt this difference in viewpoints could be debated much further, much like all the disputed points of Darwin's military heritage.

Brad Manera was next and at first I wondered where he was going with his talk on an overview of war and Australia's role in the Empire under threat. He started with the marines/soldiers that guarded the convicts and reminded us that most of them had military experience in the American revolutionary war, the Crimea and so on. He moved on to NSW sending a contingent to the Sudan (and I loved his reference to Charlton Heston at Khartoum) and from there to the Boer War and the colonial/Commonwealth contingents. Then to Gallipoli and the Western Front and one thing that particularly struck me was his explanation of the various war memorials across Australia for WW1. The reason that Australians did build such elaborate WW1 memorials was because we couldn't visit the graves of our husbands and sons as they were buried overseas in foreign countries and we needed somewhere to mourn. He had slides showing images of the various places which made it that much more poignant. It was a great overview and could have been longer.

By the time it was my turn to speak it was just after 6.30pm and a number of people left then but it was still a good crowd (not sure what the overall numbers were) and those staying were more interested in family history than military history. My talk was on Discovering Your Military Ancestors in Australia and I have promised to put a copy of my presentation on my website on the Resources page but haven't had time to do that yet (within the next week). Strangely enough my talk was a good follow on to Brad's as my family examples all fitted into the places/battles that he had talked about and put a real person with family into those horrific situations at Gallipoli and the Western Front. I even held up my Uncle's 'kidney' dish to show how war time souvenirs can also help to trace a relative's war experiences. I was pleased that three Darwin people came up and said how much they enjoyed the talk and two said they were also going to next Saturday's family history seminar, again at the Northern Territory Library.  I also received good feedback from people that night at the hotel and the next day as people caught up with me.

I think my presentation may have been better placed at the start of the tour so that those who didn't know me, could have chatted to me about their family history problems earlier than the last day. I have even taken some problems away with me and will get back to people by email although it's always better to have a personal chat and discuss results if you can.

It was after 7.30pm by the time I finally caught up with Max for dinner and there was a thunderstorm imminent so we drove up Smith Street looking for inspiration and dinner. We saw Hot Noodles and couldn't resist and had Sweet Chilli Quails for entree and Curry Laksas sitting outside while the rain came down in torrents. By the time we finished a terrific meal, so had the rain and we drove back to the motel. It's an 8.30am start tomorrow as we are heading down to the Adelaide River area for a full day of touring various military attractions. Stay tuned.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Genealogy notes 19 Feb 2012 - Day 3 Darwin battlefield tour

The 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin on 19 Feb 1942 also marks the introduction of the Bombing of Darwin Day into the Australian calendar of military events. It's good to know that the 19th of February will be remembered every year in a formal way just like ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day.

The Sunday Territorian had a wonderful 32 page souvenir wraparound which is full of moving personal stories, great photographs and contributions from the Prime Minister, Chief Minister and the Lord Mayor of Darwin. So I made sure to get a copy of the newspaper early as I did not want to miss out. NT News also has a special multimedia presentation on their website.

Along with just about everyone else in Darwin, we attended the main commemorative service at 9.30am, although a little later than that due to the usual last minute delays. Everyone attending was given a program and a very handy City of Darwin/1942 Frontline Australia hand fan and a free bottle of water which was great to see and much appreciated. Obviously there were not enough seats for everyone but huge screens had also been erected for those who couldn't get close enough to see in person. Fortunately the area has lots of trees for people to sit/stand under as well.

We managed to find a place to stand at the back of one of the seating areas with a screen just in front so we had a great view and it was easy to hear too. Next to me was a very elderly man on his own and he looked like an old digger and I was concerned to see him standing when just in front of us there were a number of families with very young children occupying chairs. I started thinking that one of the parents should put a child on their laps and give the old man a chair. Well my thoughts must have communicated with the parents as after about a half hour, one of the fathers offered me a seat. I immediately offered it to the old man and he said no, I should have it. After insisting, and holding the chair for him so that he could shakily sit down, he gave me a big smile and a thank you.

As  we started going through the program and listened to the speeches I could see him trying to discretely wipe the tears behind his dark glasses and felt my own eyes misting up as I sensed his memories. I don't know if he was one of those personally caught up in the bombing of Darwin on that fateful day as he was reluctant to talk but when he got up to leave during the wreath laying, he thanked me and gave me that big smile again and wandered off on his own. I'm so glad that we decided to stand next to him and in some strange way it made the whole ceremony that much more personal for me.

As I mentioned earlier there was a program and Ray Martin was the Master of Ceremonies and was on stage with all the official dignitaries including the Governor General, Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Chief Minister, Lord Mayor and so on. The Darwin Choral and Australian Army Band Darwin sang I Am Australian and the air raid sirens went and a RAAF PC3 Orion Aircraft flew over. A very realistic re-enactment was then staged by the Australian Army and one of the other freebies given out were ear plugs to minimise the noise. Within a few minutes it was very easy to appreciate how loud and scary it would have been for everyone in Darwin on that day.

The Lord Mayor then welcomed everybody and the Governor General, Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition all gave speeches and then there was the wreath laying ceremony which took quite a while as so many people wanted to lay wreaths. The local guest speaker was next and Mrs Ada Mumford told the audience of her own personal memories of that day and it was a very emotional moment for her. A commemorative prayer followed and then there was the minute's silence (which some people don't seem to understand means that you do keep quiet and don't talk). The ceremony concluded with the first verse of the national anthem Advance Australia Fair (and the words were on the program which was handy as a lot of people around us didn't seem to know the words).

We then wandered back to our hotel and a cup of tea in air-conditioned comfort. Overall I found it very moving and it must have been even more so for all those with personal connections to Darwin on that day. Nothing else was planned for the group and it was a free afternoon and evening although there were other events that people could attend.

Personally I would have liked to have had another talk or two in the afternoon as it was so hot and people might not have wanted to walk into the shopping area or wherever. It is always hard when you are on bus trips as you don't have your own car to easily drive somewhere. Tomorrow there are three talks scheduled from 4-7pm after a big day touring various museums and it might have been preferable to have one of those on Sunday. I'm also an early dinner person so perhaps that's part of my thinking that 7pm is a late finish.

I know how hard it is putting these programs together to try and please everybody (not quite possible anytime) so Unlock the Past and Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours are to be congratulated on the program so far. Everything has gone quite smoothly and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Saturday 18 February 2012

Genealogy notes 18 Feb 2012 - Day 2 of Darwin battlefield tour

After a very nice buffet breakfast I joined everyone on the War Comes to Australia battlefields tour on a bus trip around Darwin to see the various military sites. As I explained in my Day 1 tour blog, I've been to most of these places numerous times but never as part of an organised tour. The first thing that struck me was that the commentary from the bus driver does really set the scene and that local knowledge is not something that you can read for yourself in the various tourist brochures on specific sites.

First we had a bit of a drive through the city as we made our way to Stokes Hill and on to Fort Hill Wharf. Then to our first stop which was the WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels and I remembered how surprised I was when I first went into them because they are so much bigger than you actually expect to see. My fellow travellers were equally surprised and everyone wandered the length of one of the tunnels looking at the various photo displays along the wall.

Then we went out to the Charles Darwin National Park which I had never been to so I was surprised to see the almost underground old RAAF ammunition bunkers and we had a quick stop at one with a comprehensive display inside. There wasn't really time to have a good look so we will go back out on Wednesday after the tour as I'm not sure why Max hasn't taken me there before, perhaps he has just forgotten about them or doesn't expect them to still be there. The lookout at the Park gives a magnificent view of Darwin and it's worth the drive out alone just for that.

Then it was back into the city and although I've walked past Christchurch Cathedral many times, I've never bothered to walk down and look inside. It's partially survived the bombing and Cyclone Tracy and is today a mix of the old front of the church and a more modern building behind. Back on the bus and we went out to the other side of the city and passed the 1934 QANTAS Hangar another place we've never visited. Unfortunately a stop there wasn't on the agenda so we will go there on Wednesday as it is run by the Motor Vehicle Enthusiasts Club so no doubt lots to interest Max.

Our next stop was the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory another familiar place for me and a great place to take the grand-kids. Still it was good to have a quick look around and I noticed that Frontline Australia was running a Darwin Film Festival there from 15-22 February including the National Sound and Film Archive film Out of the Ashes. Different films were running on the hour and you could easily spend the day in air conditioned comfort for free.

Then back on the bus and back to the hotel to get ready for the two afternoon lectures. First up was Dr Tom Lewis OAM, Director of the Darwin Military Museum and he is the author of a number of military books including A War at Home. I found him an entertaining speaker who talked fast and never used notes (yes an ex schoolteacher). Tom's talk was NT Under Attack: 1942 air and submarine attacks and introduction to war heritage sites, including Darwin Military Museum and I did wonder how he would fit it all in and finish on time but he did.

With the use of two large, easily read maps, Tom was able to discuss the Japanese and American strategies and where Darwin/Australia fitted in this bigger picture. While I was aware of the bombing raids on Darwin, I had not realised that submarines were also active in the area prior to the raids so I found this part of Tom's talk really interesting. Towards the end of his session, Tom then talked about the bombing raids and at this point I would have liked to see a slideshow of images behind Tom as he discussed the various ships, buildings and so on. I think this would have given a much more visual insight into the death and destruction that he was talking about. Given the scope of his talk I could have listened to more, but we are visiting the Darwin Military Museum on Monday (I've been several times and always found it fascinating) plus we are also going to the just opened Defence of Darwin Experience so that will reinforce the points Tom was making.

The next session was Brad Manera and his topic was on the Japanese Submarines in Sydney Harbour 1942 and again I had some familiarity with the topic. Although Brad has a script he doesn't refer to it very often and he is an easy speaker to listen to. Perhaps what struck me most about his talk, was the slide showing the map of Sydney Harbour and the paths taken by the three Japanese midget submarines that night of 1 June 1942. I hadn't realised that one of the subs had actually sailed down and around Fort Denison which is pretty close to where the Sydney Opera House is now. The other surprising fact is that Fort Denison bears two scars from the Americans trying to shoot one of the submarines when it surfaced. I would have liked to have seen a photograph at this point so that next time I'm sailing around Sydney Harbour I know exactly where to look as I've not seen it before, or not realised what I was actually looking at.

The other thing I really liked about Brad's talk was his detailed information on the crews of the three submarines. He had photos, biographical information and so on that showed they were people just like anyone else but caught up in a war. I'm not sure if it was the proximity to St Valentine's Day or not, but I found myself wondering about whether they had wives and families or girlfriends they had left behind like everyone else. And of course their mothers.

One submarine the crew blew up, the other ran aground and the captain killed his crewman and then himself and the third escaped but its fate was not known until it was finally found five years ago. In the chase that night   in 1942 there were casualties apart from the 4 Japanese crew, 19 Australians and 2 British sailors were also killed on board the HMAS Kuttabul which took a torpedo and sank within minutes. The Kuttabul is the focus of a commemoration project 1942-2012 and descendants and relatives are being sought.

After a few questions we were all heading out to the buses for the trip down to Darwin wharf and our sunset cruise around the harbour. I've done a few of these (even the pearl lugger used in the movie Australia) but never with a commentary specifically about the bombing raid and where all the various ships were in the harbour. The welcome champagne was nice and the nibblies delicious but then I've never met an oyster kilpatrick that I didn't like!

After sunset we headed into port and the long walk down the wharf back to the buses and the short drive back to the hotel. Tomorrow is the official memorial celebrations and we will all be making our own way there (just a short walk along the Esplanade). There's a free afternoon for people to do their own thing, I'll probably be catching up on my blog writing!

I should also mention that Unlock the Past and Gould Books are tempting people with their book stall at each lecture session and one lady mentioned to me on the harbour cruise that she had spent a small fortune. For once it wasn't me! Till next time.

Genealogy notes 16-17 Feb 2012 - Battlefield tours

Why is it when you have limited time, everything goes ever so much faster. Thursday was a blur with lots of unexpected things happening while I was busy trying to tidy up before leaving for Darwin and the War Comes to Australia tour. This has been organised by Unlock the Past and Mat McLachlan's Battlefield Tours and I am very privileged to be one of the speakers on the tour.

This is my first battlefields tour and I have contemplated doing one to Gallipoli or the Western Front as we have relatives who died at either place - Tasman Jarvis who died at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and Frederick Trevaskis who died at Langemark, Belgium on 13 Oct 1917. I'm a bit cranky with myself for missing Greece and Crete last year as Max's father Charles Douglas Spencer received his military medal in Greece in 1941.

I also wouldn't mind doing a South African one as two of my mother's uncles, Solomon and William Price went to the Boer War twice, both joined the South African Police and William even married a Boer widow before he died in South Africa in 1916. The other trip I would seriously consider doing is Tobruk where my uncle Leslie Gordon Price was a 'Rat' but his 'kidney dish' shows that he was at many other places in the Middle East and later the Pacific.

So in some ways it's a  bit odd that I have ended up in Darwin for a battlefields tour with no personal connection apart from Max's 25 years defence service which saw him in Darwin with both the Army and the RAAF in the 1960s and 70s. However,  it was a good opportunity to see how these tours operate and whether you do find out more about the military side of things as well as doing the touristy thing too. As we have four grandchildren in Darwin, we know the city fairly well but I was interested to see how others highlight Darwin to tourists.

So it was with some excitement that I made the trek out to Melbourne airport and after about an hour's delay due to 'paperwork', my Jetstar plane finally made it into the air. It's a long flight over Central Australia and I always get a window seat so that I can look down on the desert, see the sand dunes, the salt lakes, sometimes flooded creeks and rivers and so on. It's fantastic scenery even from that height although we didn't seem to be as high as usual. The pilot also managed to make up some time and after collecting our luggage we (other battlefields tour people were on the same flight) were quickly met and at the Novetel Darwin Atrium on the Esplanade in no time.

With about five minutes to spare before the official welcome dinner we all quickly checked in and headed back down for dinner which was postponed for a few minutes so that we could all settle. I had a bit of trouble with my key card not opening the door but that was soon sorted. Given my hearing issues, they very nicely left me a seat on one of the front tables where I was pleased to see two people I knew from Queensland and the gentleman on my right was from the same suburb where I live (talk about a small world).

Like most group dinners this was an either/or choice and I ended up with chicken for a main and the pudding for dessert with the other choices being steak and cheesecake. Tables of eight never really work for me but given the noise level everyone else seemed to be having a good time getting to know each other. A sponsor of the tour is Inside History Magazine and there was a complimentary copy of their magazine handed out to each individual or couple - appropriately it was their military issue Sep-Oct 2011. After dessert we had the first lecture of the tour, no wasting time!

Brad Manera's World War 2 1939-45: an overview of Australia's role in Europe and the Pacific was a very good introduction to the whole tour. Brad is an easy speaker and his photographic presentation supported what he was saying. At the end he took lots of questions from a very keen audience.

We all have to be ready for our tour of Darwin in the morning at 9.00am and as I had already lost 90 minutes that day (daylight saving & time differences within Australia for my overseas readers), I went to bed! Tomorrow afternoon there are two more lectures and a sunset cruise so another big day ahead. Stay tuned.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Genealogy notes 8-15 Feb 2012 - Cornish genealogy this week

Where does time go? I've spent a lot of the last week sidetracked by cleaning out my family history file cabinets and rediscovering bits and pieces I'd forgotten about. It really is amazing how much is now online. I must have spent a small fortune printing out images of BDM indexes and other genealogy resources on fiche and film which of course I no longer need hard copies of. Also lots of poor quality printouts from early newspapers which I can now get better quality digital images of through TROVE.

I also spent a bit of time looking at my Cornish ancestors as St Pirans Day is approaching in March. The FamilySearch website now has digitised images of Cornish parish registers so as long as you know the date of the event you can get an image from the digitised register. Certainly beats all those hours of winding through microfilm back in the late 1970s early 1980s when I first started researching my Cornish gg grandparents. The Cornwall Online Parish Clerks website is a perfect companion to the Family Search site and it's no wonder I lost a day or two.

Perhaps the most exciting news of the week was that I entered an Inside History magazine competition and was one of the lucky winners. I'm eagerly awaiting my prize which was a copy of the book Abandoned Women by Lucy Frost - all about Scottish female convicts to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).

I'm off to Darwin tomorrow for the War Comes to Australia Tour which is participating in the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin. It's only five days but the itinerary includes a lot of touring and seminars which should be interesting. Then I have three days off to see our four grandchildren and to do other touristy things in Darwin. We go up every year, usually in the rainy season as there are less tourists then.

Before we head back to Melbourne there is a Darwin family history seminar with the Northern Territory Library and the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory where  Rosemary Kopittke  and I are giving three talks each. I'm hoping to do some tweeting and blogging from the far north over the next week as I think it will be a fascinating time to be in Darwin.

Reading the Queensland State Archives Feb 2012 qsa-bulletin, I noticed that there is a new online index to lands sold 1842-1859 which is exciting and one of the reasons I subscribe to free government archive e-newsletters is to learn about new resources. The February issue also had lots of other interesting news and if you have Queensland interests then past issues may be worth looking at here.

One day I will catch up with all my reading piles, paper, email, and online but it won't be anytime soon. There's too much happening which is a good thing for family history. Until next time, happy searching!

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Genealogy notes 21 Jan - 7 Feb 2012 - Lots happening

It has been unbelievably hard settling back into a routine after our five week trip. Even with the laptop permanently set up and connected to the internet again, I find that it is not as easy to spend as much time online as I did before. Probably a good thing!

Part of the issue is catching up with everything - all the emails, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and so on. I feel that I have missed so much and just reading the online newsletters takes a while, especially if you stop and look at links mentioned. This is especially true for Lost Cousins, Dick Eastman, Now & Then (SRNSW) to mention just a few.

Then I have my 'paper' genealogy journals and magazines to catch up on and the various books I bought on the cruise. Plus I've been down to the local library and took out two books that people suggested I read for information and background on convicts (Alison Alexander's Tasmania's Convicts: How Felons Built a Free Society and Babette Smith's Australia's Birthstain: The Startling Legacy of the Convict Era).

We've also made a decision that we are definitely going to sell up in a couple of months so a lot of my time has been tackling various rooms of the house in a bid to declutter and pack. It's also been a discovery process as we are now looking at some boxes that we never really unpacked from Canberra (yes I know it's been nine years). Max has an incredible number of photo albums, loose photos etc plus we 'found' all his mother's albums as well which Max received after she died. So I have been distracted by early photos of Max including his school days!

What I also discovered going through some of Max's boxes was that he has kept all my letters to him after I moved to Melbourne (he didn't have email) so that is bringing back a torrent of memories for us both (and what do I do with them - never imagined anyone would keep my letters!). So while it is relatively easy to clear out cupboards, repack and so on, it is also incredibly easy to get sidetracked. Another bag of letters were from his mother and included all sorts of correspondence from family and friends so I have a lot of reading and sorting to do. It is all Max's family, but that's not what he likes doing so it's up to me to be the family archivist for his side, as well as my own.

I also have some genealogy commitments coming up so I've been busy reworking a military talk I am giving in Darwin for the War Comes to Australia Tour and another three talks for the Unlock the Past Darwin family history seminar on 25 Feb 2012. The AFFHO genealogy congress in Adelaide is fast approaching (28-31 March) and I have to get my two presentations to them in advance. The congress should be good as lots of my friends from around Australia and New Zealand will be there and we are even having a Genealogists for Families catch up as well.

The Kyabram Regional Genealogical Society have asked me up there for a seminar on 3 Mar so I'm fitting that in between Darwin and Adelaide - one day I will learn to say no, but these small societies don't get the chance to hear 'external' speakers all that often so it is hard to say sorry, can't do. Plus I have been friends with one of their members for a long time and she is letting us stay with her.

As well as my talks, I also try to do a blog or two and I participated in Twigs of Yore's Australia Day Challenge with my Thomas Price - Wealth for Toil blog and I can never resist a Geniaus challenge so I also did a My Bucket List geneameme. I'm also writing an article for Inside History magazine.

My aim is to get back to doing this diary on a more regular basis as well as keeping on top of my emails and other genealogy news. It makes me wonder how I fitted everything in when I still worked every day - was I just more organised and focussed or am I taking more time out now to smell the roses (and overdosing!). Enough pondering for now, it's back to work - should I tackle all Max's mother's letters or her photo albums? Stay tuned!