Saturday 31 March 2012

Genealogy notes 31 March 2012 - Day 4 of AFFHO Congress

The 2012 AFFHO Congress is over and the last four days have gone incredibly quick. An update on yesterday's blog - I forgot to mention that the conference dinner was sponsored by NSW BDMs although they didn't present any papers at the Congress. A representative whose name escapes me now did do a very short speech which prompted a few tweets to 'bring back the wildcard'. Other sponsors I've chatted to over the last few days not previously mentioned include Ancestry, Openbook Howden Design and Print, Abbott Printers and Stationers, State Records South Australia, State Library South Australia and the Adelaide office of the National Archives of Australia. A full list of Congress sponsors is here.

I collected my very weighty conference proceedings first up and I hate to think how many trees were cut down! It's good to get the other papers as with four concurrent sessions you miss so much. I haven't had a chance to look through it yet but the weight was noticeable in my handbag all day!

Now to the last day's sessions. As usual the day started with a plenary session - Stephen Young on Descendancy Research - When You Can't Climb Up Your Family Tree, Branch Out. Stephen is a good speaker and I enjoyed the talk which was well illustrated with his own family history examples. But his message could have been delivered in five minutes and is really something that most of us do anyway, although I know I'm not as lucky in contacting distant family members and finding treasure troves of photos and documents. I guess what I'm coming to is that this shouldn't have been a plenary session and that seemed to be the general feeling of those I talked to at morning tea time.

The next session I went to was Mike Murray's Ten Top Tips for Finding Your 'hard to find' UK ancestors on the Internet and while I already do a lot of the things Mike mentioned, I still managed to pick up a few tips on using the big subscription databases such as Ancestry and FindMyPast. Mike is a good speaker and his ten points were covered well in the time period.

Then it was the trek back to the exhibition area for morning tea and the trek back afterwards - I found this good because at some conferences if everything is close together you can find yourself sitting for most of the day without a chance to walk and stretch out. Almost like enforced exercise to walk off those delicious chocolate cookies!

This next session I was really torn between Roger Kershaw talking about the National Archives UK and David Holman's Source for Mr Goose and Mrs Gander: Overview of UK Repositories (and I wondered if David's should have been a plenary session as others had the same dilemma). Anyway I ended up at Roger's session where he took us through the website explaining various features and outlining changes and future plans. It was most useful as I often get a bit lost on the site but his delivery style is very dry and a few more jokes/humour wouldn't go astray.

At 1.00pm Geniaus organised  a photo session for all Congress geneabloggers so you can see what A Social Media Mob looks like with our beads and put faces to names. Over the next few days/weeks we should get lots of blog reports to read as most haven't had the time to do it during the Congress and Geniaus is coordinating this. Stay tuned!

After lunch there was the final plenary and this was Dan Poffenberger talking about FamilySearch 2012 and Beyond and again this plenary fell into my category of product promotion by a sponsor (and why FamilySearch had more plenary sessions than the principal sponsor FindMyPast made me ponder). Dan is an entertaining speaker and his walk through the FamilySearch website was informative but I would have liked to see more time spent on some of the features like the Learning resources and the wiki.

For the very last session of the Congress I took the final opportunity to listen to Colleen Fitzpatrick talk about another one of her cases - The Curious Case of James/Jake/Smithers/Gray and I will never think of my family history as complicated again. My problems are simple compared to others! As usual Colleen was entertaining and it would be great to work on cases like that.

Then it was raffle draw time and there were some very excited winners. Kerry Farmer from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies gave a brief blurb on NIGS which is more in keeping with my idea of sponsorship promotions at conferences (also similar to the brief speech from NSW BDMs at the congress dinner). Although I guess it depends on what organisers offer to potential sponsors in the congress sponsorship package and it is always a vexed question at archive and library conferences I've attended over the years.

David Holman as Chair of the Federation of Family History Societies had one more role to play and that was to hand out the annual awards to Australasian winners. In the Best Websites Awards the overall winner was the New Zealand Society of Genealogists, with NZSG taking out first, and the Genealogical Society of Queensland second and Genealogical Society of Victoria third in the Overseas websites category. The overall winner of the Elizabeth Simpson Award for best family history journal went to Ancestor and the Genealogical Society of Victoria. Very exciting that New Zealand and Victoria took out the overall winners awards and well done to all the others.

Thanking the Adelaide organising committee was next and I think they did a very good job of organising a smoothly run congress with very few hiccups that I could see. As usual I will do a conference overview blog and my overall thoughts will be in that after I've done some more pondering.

The final task was the handover to the Canberra 2015 Congress and the Convenor gave a few highlights on the venues which include the National Convention Centre, the Australian War Memorial and Parliament House, all former haunts of mine so I've definitely put it into the calendar.

Now it's time for me to pack up here at the hotel, move back into the caravan and head off to Berri, South Australia Max's home town (although he was born in Port Lincoln). From there we will travel back along the Murray River and should be home in time for Easter. It's been a great few days and I will be sad not to see all my congress friends today. Safe travels home everyone!

Friday 30 March 2012

Genealogy notes 30 Mar 2012 - Day 3 of the AFFHO Congress

Surprisingly after a great night, I'm up bright (not quite) and early and writing this at 5.15am with a strong cup of tea beside me. As I said yesterday it is so full on I haven't been keeping up with my emails or Twitter/Facebook messages nor have I had time to find/read any blogs written by other attendees. We have a group photo at 1.00pm today so I'll be able to write down names and then follow them up as I do like reading what others say about conferences.

Now for a round up of Day 3. The two plenary sessions today were both by AFFHO 2012 congress sponsors and I wrote about my thoughts on this in Day 1 and from discussions with various people yesterday and last night, I am not alone. First up was John Kitzmiller on FamilySearch Content Strategy and this was disappointing on a number of fronts. He finished his presentation twenty minutes early (almost unheard of for a keynote presentation) and then stood there chatting to fill in the time. Personally I think we should have all just had a longer morning tea.

There was no reason for the presentation to be so short - although he was giving this talk in Australia, there was no mention of what FamilySearch has done, is doing or will do in Australasia which is a real shame as there is some great material on the horizon. The other disappointing area for me was in his final slide he mentioned a number of terrific things and managed to do so in under thirty seconds. He should have given more information and he would have left the audience revved up instead of incredibly flat. I have read articles on their mass digitisation of microfilm program and the statistics are simply mind boggling but this wasn't shared nor was information on their DCAMX system which delivers new field capture images immediately to the web. Again amazing stuff, but sadly John did not achieve his keynote message and only reinforced the belief that sponsors should not give keynote presentations.

My next session was Colleen Fitzpatrick with more forensic genealogy CSI meets Roots and I was so rapt in the presentation I went out and bought the book The Dead Horse Investigation: Forensic Photo Analysis for Everyone. Colleen is a great speaker, adds humour and engages the audience and I know I'll be going home to relook at all my photos to see what I've been missing.

After morning tea, I went to Roger Kershaw's talk on Tracing Criminals Transported to Australia. Roger is from the National Archives UK so he was using UK records to illustrate his talk to start with and Australian records towards the end as he traced the life of a convict. I would have liked to see him cite the sources he was using on his slides and this might have prevented some questions/comments from the audience during the presentation. It's an area that I give talks on myself so there wasn't anything new for me but I did like some of his illustrations as a picture conveys so much more than just a few words can.

At lunch time I had to quickly eat a few sandwiches and then pop out to the shops as I realised that morning I had forgotten to bring anything to wear for the conference dinner. As I usually only wear black pants and different tops all I needed to find was a nice top quickly and as someone who hates shopping, that's not always easy. In the end I bought three because I couldn't decide but I will be able to wear the others in Sydney next month when I give family history workshops at the Royal Australian Historical Society.

Just as I was about to dash out, I met up with Aimee and  her new young one who didn't look at all happy to be attending his first genealogy conference and also Sharon, a Twitter/Facebook friend and fellow Unlock the Past cruiser. We had a few quick minutes to catch up on news and then I was out into the Adelaide heat (even though it is autumn) to shop. I managed to get back just in time for the after lunch plenary session on  FindMyPast presented by Vicki Eldridge a well known Sydney genealogist.

As the session was being filmed, there was additional pressure on Vicki as well as trying to talk about all the great things available on the three FMP sites - UK, Ireland and Australasia (they call it Australia but as it also has New Zealand and the Pacific I like the broader name, I'm guessing that one day there will be a FMP NZ) and the new British Newspaper Archive. I've been fortunate to hear many talks on FMP from a variety of speakers and one of the things that always stands out for me is how much new material is going online all the time. It's almost impossible to keep up!

As principal sponsor, FMP had a big exhibit area with three staff all busy most of the time doing free searches of the various databases and explaining the features of each. For the congress there were also special subscription deals which is a great opportunity for those wanting a personal subscription they can access at home any time. For those who don't need that much access, FMP is also freely available at libraries, genealogical societies and state/national libraries. As a keynote presentation Vicki gave a thorough and professional overview of FMP which gave the audience a detailed knowledge of what is on offer. I'm looking forward to 17 April when the new website for FMP AU is launched so mark that date in your calendars!

My next session was Stephen Young on Power Point Your Family History and I found this an interesting way to present a family history or a slice of history at birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and of course funerals. My Mum's 78th is coming up and I thought I might try and put something together to show the family when I'm up in Brisbane in June. Although I'm not across all the whiz bang features that Stephen used in his demonstration, I'm willing to try and learn a few new tricks. What I would have liked is for him to mention some of the other free software eg Google Docs that is similar to PowerPoint as not everyone has it and may not want to buy it just for the odd presentation.

At afternoon tea time, I finally managed to catch up with Stephanie from State Library of Queensland who I had seen from a distance at various times. After a soothing Earl Grey tea and some tasty biscotti, I went to the session on Juvenile Emigration with Elspeth Grant previously at the Migration Museum in Adelaide. I had met Elspeth the night before at the Lord Mayor's reception. Had she warned me it was going to be such an emotional session, I might not have gone. As well as giving us the history of the various 'juvenile' schemes, Elspeth also had two people come along to tell their own personal stories. By the end of Bill and Pat's stories there wasn't a dry eye in the room and a few people were reaching for tissues. It was a great way to highlight how some of these schemes broke up families and how people have since tried to refind their families with all the emotion that brings. It was certainly a different way of looking at genealogy and family history research.

Not surprisingly that session went a bit over time so I raced back to the hotel as I wanted to get Day 2 blog out before I went to the conference dinner. Thankfully I did, managed to tweet and Facebook it for those reading about our daily adventures and then it was pre dinner drinks with Helen and Seonaid before going back to the Convention Centre for dinner. I'm not sure if it was by luck or design but most of the dinner tweeters were on my table with the exception of Liz (aka Infolass) and we managed to tweet for most of the evening.

As I seem to have a reputation for my culinary wining and dining, I should make some comment on the dinner which was a self serve at table mixed breads and continental antipasto platter. We only discovered the olive oil after we had demolished the entree. The main was a herb crust chicken roulade with fresh (overcooked) asparagus, saffron cream sauce and no potato (which was the comment I heard from most people). We must all like our spuds with dinner! Dessert was another self serve at table variety of sweets including fresh fruit tarts, strawberry pavlova, apple and almond slice and hazelnut pannacotta. There was also coffee and chocolates and without thinking I had the coffee but thankfully it didn't keep me awake. Sometimes if I have coffee that late I'm up half the night!

June Penny was the recipient of the AFFHO award for meritorious service to family history and I've known June for many years. She was an inspiration to me when I moved to Canberra and joined the HAGSOC committee and I always admired her meeting style. I hope the citation goes on the AFFHO website as it would take to long to outline all the many things June has done over the years. Well done June. A list of former recipients is here.

There was some bush dancing and music and a few congress delegates joined in including our table member Seonaid from New Zealand. Then Dan Poffenberger was the after dinner speaker and I forgot to write down the name of his talk! But it was a very funny look at odd entries from parish registers and other documents and a great way to end the evening. Then it was time to say good night and totter back across the road to the hotel.

It's hard to believe that today is Day 4 and it will all be over for another three years. I'm already looking forward to Canberra in 2015. Time to get ready and across the road for the last day of talks and to look round the exhibits (and maybe spend money)!

Genealogy notes 29 Mar 2012 - Day 2 of Congress

This daily blog is a bit late because I slept in this morning - too many receptions and get together dinners! Barely made it in time for the first plenary session of Day 3 of AFFHO12!

Yesterday got off to a great start with Jenny Higgins from the National Library of Australia talking about Did They Do That In Those Days? which looked at why you should put social context in family histories. And of course she used the resources of the NLA to illustrate her points. I was very pleased to accept an I Love TROVE badge as I am one of its many fans and hardly a day goes by when I don't try and find something in it. I also mention TROVE in just about every talk I give so yes, I'm a fan (or is that an addict?).

The next session I went to was Barbara Baker talking about Scottish Research Online and I hoped she wasn't just talking about Scotland's People and although a great site, there are other sites which can provide different information and social context. I wasn't disappointed and Barbara mentioned quite a few URLs that I will have to follow up when I get home. One obvious omission, and you can't always fit everything into a presentation, was the FreeCen, FreeReg and Free BMD sites.

Then there was morning tea but as I was speaking next I quietly went to the big theatre where I was speaking and checked in with Liana from WA who was chairing the session. I always like it when I have long time friends chairing sessions as it makes me feel at home and amongst friends. You would think after giving talks for over 30 years I would lose the nerves but I don't. Today's talk was Are You The Family Archivist? and from verbal feedback afterwards, it achieved my objective to get people thinking about how their family records are kept and more importantly, what will happen to those records in the future. I have an earlier version of this talk on my website Resources page and it is also the basis of one of my research guides Your Family History Archives: A Brief Introduction.

With all my talks out of the way I could enjoy lunch and wander round the exhibits and catch up with people. I finally got around to renewing my membership of the Society of Australian Genealogists and it's always good to catch up with Heather. Over on the National Institute of Genealogical Studies stand I caught up with Brenda and Kerry and on the Genealogical Society of Victoria stand was Linley, another well known genealogist and expert on the GSV library.

After lunch we had a very entertaining talk from David Holman on Fascinating Facts and Figures which kept us all awake laughing at various name combinations and statistics. His section on Extreme Age interested me especially when he started tracking claimants back through the census and their ages varied considerably each ten years! One of the unusual forenames he mentioned was Zenobia and I have a surname and oddly enough, Alan another friend from Victoria and sitting beside me, also has a Zenobia but until that moment neither of us realised we had that in common. Small world, especially when you do family history.

My next session was Pat Lokan talking about Parallels and Contrasts Life in Cornwall and South Australia 1825-1875 and this was of personal interest as my Cornish gg grandparents came out  from Cornwall to Moonta SA in 1863. I really liked seeing the photographs of places in Cornwall and it is over 30 years since I first visited Moonta so time for another visit. It was also interesting to note that Cornish mining landscapes have achieved World Heritage status - see Cornish Mining World Heritage.

Afternoon tea goes so quickly because by the time you walk back to the exhibition area, it is almost time to turn around and walk back and that's not even factoring in toilet stops! Start chatting to someone and timing becomes real tight. My last session of the day was Dan Poffenberger giving a personal presentation on the life of his grandmother and I don't think I've seen that many marriages within a family before! It also showed how most of our ancestors lives took many turns depending on the circumstances they came up against.

Then it was a quick dash back to the hotel to get ready for the Adelaide Lord Mayor's reception for speakers and other dignitaries. Max came in to join me and while there were a couple of speeches, the wine flowed freely and the finger food seemed to be plentiful and delicious. Afterwards we joined some friends for a very nice and cheap Chinese banquet and again the drinks flowed freely as did the conversations. Perhaps that's why I had trouble waking up this morning?

Anyway Day 3 is now over and I am madly trying to finish this Day 2 blog before going out to attend the Conference Dinner and if you don't see the Day 3 blog tomorrow morning you will know I had a great time at the dinner and slept in again! Must dash now, until next time.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Genealogy notes 28 Mar 2012 - Day One at AFFHO Congress

Well Day One is over and already my notebook (still paper and pen I'm afraid) is starting to fill up with new ideas and things to follow up. The day started with John Bannon's opening address which recalled my years with the National Archives of Australia. John is the Chair of NAA's Advisory Council and he is a good spokesperson for their achievements and future directions. It was a good introduction to the AFFHO Congress and touched on many topics that I think will be mentioned again and again in other presentations.

Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist, was the first keynote speaker and I really liked her dry sense of humour that came out at various times even though she was largely dealing with a very sad topic - the death of nearly 1500 people when the Titanic sank in 1912. Colleen was involved with the identification of The Unknown Child on the Titanic and it was fascinating to see what steps were involved including exhumations and tracking families backwards to find common ancestors before tracking forwards to find living descendants. For a fleeting minute or two I wondered if I could exhume a few of my more difficult to trace ancestors but I suspect it's not that practical! It was a great talk and I'm now keen to read some of her publications as were others judging by the lineup of people waiting for her to sign their copies.

Just as I was about to go in for morning tea, one of the conference organisers grabbed me and said that they didn't have a copy of my two talks and as I had previously sent copies in separate emails I was a bit puzzled. Checking with the technician my talks were indeed missing in action. This was a bit deja vu as I had got up in the middle of the night looking for my spare USB stick when I realised I had left my USB with the copies of my talks on it, in my other handbag in the caravan down at Brighton. I always have a copy with me in case something goes wrong. To my horror, I found that I didn't even have a spare USB as I had cleaned out my laptop bag. Borrowing a USB from the technician I quickly went back to the hotel, did another copy and then raced back to the speaker's room and had my talks uploaded. At least it was sorted out before my first talk later that day!

However it did mean that I missed morning tea and the first twenty minutes of Kath Ensor's presentation on Unlocking Ancestors' Stories from Mental Asylums which is a topic that I give talks on too. Many of my ancestors were in various institutions and the records are fantastic as they usually have detailed biographical information. Kath's talk was on Victorian mental asylums and Public Record Office Victoria has many of the asylum admission books and case books digitised on their website.

Then it was lunch time and a chance to chat with people and it is great to see so many Canberrans here that I knew while living in Canberra a few years back. The strong contingent is because the next AFFHO congress is in Canberra in 2015. They have already done a lot of planning and have a website up and are starting a free e-newsletter to keep interested people informed of progress. Of course, I signed up there and then!

There is also plenty of time to wander round the exhibits and I managed to chat with a number of people, Ben from Inside History magazine, Paul from FamilySearch, Vicki from FindMyPast Australasia, Alona and Anthea from Gould Genealogy and Kim from MyHeritage to mention just a few. I will do a better list of exhibitors when I'm not racing the clock in the early hours of the morning! So far I've only bought one book but temptation is strong!

After lunch Daniel Horowitz was the keynote speaker on How we Share and Preserve Memories in a Digital Era and he is the founder of MyHeritage so basically the talk was about how MyHeritage lets people record their family history and share it with other family members. I'm always a bit wary about having major sponsors give keynote addresses as it can tend to be just a promotional talk for their products which some attendees may not want to listen too. Of course the reality is that congresses need sponsorship and if it was in a concurrent session, they wouldn't get as many people. Having said that, I did enjoy Daniel's presentation and it was good to see how MyHeritage operates and while I have a few family names in it myself, I realised I am not making full use of all the social networking facilities.

I missed the next session as I always like to review my talks before giving them and take time just to gather my thoughts. I also spent a bit more time going round the exhibits before I wandered over to the room where my session was. I was pleased to see that the Chair of the session was Don Mountain a long time friend from Canberra and a fellow HAGSOC committee member back then. I hadn't done Ancestors in Church before so I was a bit nervous as to how people would receive it as it is so broad ranging and I can't cover in detail all religions and denominations. I was pleased with comments afterwards when people said it had given them new ideas to follow up which is exactly the type of feedback I like.

I also used my session to give a plug to Geniaus' blogging beads and to raise the profile of the various Geneabloggers present at this conference. We are the ones with the bright, colourful, maybe small or large, beads hanging around our necks and we are all writing up our thoughts and comments on the various speakers and other activities. I'm amazed at how quickly Geniaus (perhaps that's why she's called that?) gets all her congress photos up - see her blog for all the latest photos!

I also missed the opportunity to get together for dinner with other members of the KIVA Genealogists for Families project (founded by Judy Webster) due to other commitments but there are a few of us at Congress as well. Geniaus even has those photos up - check it out here. It's a great way to help other people in mostly developing countries to set up or run their own businesses. I've got six loans and most of those are almost paid off and with the repayments I use them to finance another loan to someone else. If you haven't heard of it before have a look!

Today is another big day starting at 8.30am so I better finish this off now and get moving!

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Genealogy notes 22-27 Mar 2012 - At 13th Australasian Genealogy & Heraldry Congress

The trip over to Adelaide was great and as usual we wandered from our original itinerary and it's just as well we always give ourselves more time! We ended up staying a night at Dimboola in western Victoria (still trying to get over recent flooding), then onto Kingston SE on the South Australian coast (home of Larry the Big Lobster) where we couldn't resist a fresh cooked lobster and of course the obligatory champagne to wash it down and then we went to Goolwa, a very historic town at the mouth of the Murray River. From there we went up to Brighton and the nearest caravan park to where our family live. It was great to spend some time with them before I moved on into the CBD to be close to all the action at the 13th Australasian Genealogy & Heraldry Congress.

After checking in, I went down to the Migration Museum for a quick meeting with Catherine curator of their exhibition Who Are We Now? and to see how they had used one of my blogs on my Irish ancestors. The social media aspect of the exhibition was quite small but when it eventually moves online there will be more scope for online involvement. Still it was a thrill to see a page from my website blog and a small quote on why I think blogging our family histories is so important. I had an even quicker look at the other  non permanent exhibition outlining the life of a Japanese woman (Portrait of My Life: Tomono Wynn's Story) and it was a really interesting way to tell a person's life story. In the same building is Behind the Wall, the story of the Adelaide Destitute Asylum and some of the unfortunate people who lived there at various times. I've always been fascinated by asylums (several ancestors were inmates for various reasons) and am always drawn to photos and stories of inmates - there really is so much history inside asylum walls (same for prisons where even more of my ancestors resided)!

From there it was a quick dash back to the registration centre at the Adelaide Convention Centre where I collected my congress satchel and its various goodies (I always love taking it back to the hotel room and spreading the contents out to see what I've got). It was also a chance to have a quick look at the exhibitor stalls although some were still busy setting up and there were lots of faces I knew so quick chats here and there. One of the advantages of staying close to a congress venue is that you can duck back to your room and leave the satchel before heading back over for the welcome reception. The other advantage is that you generally run into other congress attendees, and I met lots of people in the hotel lift as well!

I'm not sure how many people are attending the congress, but there were lots of people at the reception and I managed to say hello to old friends from my former home towns of Brisbane and Canberra, while catching up with people from current home town Melbourne and Sydney, not to mention Adelaide and Perth. I didn't see anyone I knew from Darwin or Tasmania but with so many people it's hard to know who's there and who isn't. I love conference attendance lists so that you can find out who's there and actively look for them but so far I haven't seen one for congress.

While there were nibbles and soft drinks at the reception, I joined Kiwi  friends (New Zealand for American readers) Seonaid (Auckland City Libraries) and Robyn for dinner and international speaker David Holman (from Cornwall and Chairman of the Federation of Family History Societies) also joined us. Over a wide ranging discussion I enjoyed a soft shell chilli crab which was to die for and washed down by an equally good Margaret River semillion sav blanc. David made us all envious when he brought out his iPad to show us various apps and tell us about his travel plans while here in Australia.

Despite a much later night than I usually keep, I still woke up at 5.30am this morning all eager to get to Congress. The official opening is at 9.00am with an address by John Bannon AO, Chair of the National Archives of Australia Advisory Committee and former Premier of South Australia. At the reception last night, Geniaus (aka Jill) handed out her blogger beads (an innovation she brought back from Rootstech 2012) to a number of us who will be tweeting and blogging about the congress over the next four days. The Twitter hashtag is #AFFHO12 and I will try to pull some of the blogs together in this Diary and I will use AFFHO12 as a tag for this blog as well.

I always enjoy the congress which only happens every three years, and this one already seems bigger with its four days and four concurrent sessions plus plenary sessions, but there are congress proceedings so for all those talks I miss in person, I can still read the paper. Although often it's not quite the same but you can't be everywhere at once! And if I don't hurry up, I'll miss the opening. Stay tuned for congress updates and perhaps even breaking news!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Genealogy notes 9-21 March - getting ready for genealogy Congress

This Diary has been a bit quiet for a number of reasons. Our friends came for the Labour Day weekend so it was really good showing them around Melbourne and we had fish and chips down at Williamstown and explored all the old buildings. It's amazing that the main streetscape is very much as it was back in the 1800s. They ended up going home a bit earlier than planned as their first grandchild decided to arrive earlier and quicker thank everyone expected. So the champagne flowed and we shared in their excitement. But I still would have liked to take them to Werribee Open Range Zoo as I want to go back and see the silver back gorillas they have now.

The next week was quiet as I had a basal cell carcinoma (one of the better kind of skin cancers you can get) removed from the right side of my face, leaving a bit of a hole and ten rather ugly stitches. A few days later the doctor called to confirm that the biopsy showed that he had got it all and everything should be ok in the future. But I do need to look for any more that might pop up which is a legacy of growing up on the Gold Coast in the 1960s and 70s and slathering ourselves with coconut oil!

I did manage to finish sorting out my professional library and archive books and took three big boxes to one of the members of the local branch of the Australian Society of Archivists Religious Archives special interest group. Most of these people are part time or volunteers and don't always have access to professional libraries. I'm hoping that everyone will be able to select a book/s that will continue to help them with their work. I'd rather give my books to people I know who will use and appreciate them than sell them to a book dealer - it's like an ongoing legacy. I mentored many people during my career and it's one of the things I miss in retirement.

The other major thing I did was to finalise my two presentations for the 13th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry and sent them to the conference organisers. It starts next Tuesday night with the welcome reception which is always a good opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues from other States and New Zealand.

I've also made arrangements to visit the Adelaide Migration Museum to visit their exhibition Who Are We Now - last year I was privileged to be asked to contribute one of my blogs - Letters Home - My Irish Families to the exhibition. Due to timing and distance I wasn't able to get to the exhibition opening so I'm going on Tuesday to have a look and also chat to the Curator and find out how the exhibition has been received. I hope some of the other Congress attendees also make it to the Migration Museum as it's is definitely worth a visit.

We are driving over to Adelaide and taking the caravan so we will be doing some sightseeing along the way - going via the Coorong (vast unspoiled ecosystem of freshwater lakes, wetlands, ocean and saltwater inlets) and returning via Berri on the Murray River (where Max grew up) and should be home for Easter. Where is this year going - seems even faster than last year but then I say that every year lately. I will be blogging and tweeting from the Congress so if you can't make it, you can at least follow what's happening as there will be a few of us trying to capture everything through our tweets and blogs. Stay tuned.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Genealogy notes 1-8 March 2012 - Kyabram seminar talks

What a hectic week starting with my partner's birthday on the 2nd. We went down to historic Queenscliff the day before and had a great time looking at some of the very grand hotels and homes as well as the Fort Queenscliff Museum. It's also a seafood haven and we had some great meals including local mussels and fish. Then it was back home to get ready for the Kyabram Regional Genealogy Society seminar where I was giving three talks as well as selling some Unlock the Past publications.

Given all the awful flooding in north east Victoria we weren't too sure if we would even get there but Kyabram was just outside the flooded areas although a number of people who had booked couldn't make it because they were either already flooded or were afraid they wouldn't make it back home. It was still a great afternoon and my talks on Google for Family History, It's Not All Online and Archives You Should Know left most of them a little bit overwhelmed but in those talks I'm aiming to broaden their view of family history beyond the usual suspects. It's meant to give them lots to think about and I do put copies of the slides on the Resources page of my website.

I haven't done an evaluation of my talks for a while so I asked everyone to complete an evaluation form which most did. Even though they are anonymous, people still feel strange/reluctant about providing written feedback. The verbal feedback was good and I was kept busy with questions right up until the organisers were showing us out the door! Written feedback was more on the venue, a big hall with no microphone so I encouraged people to move their chairs closer to me but that didn't really help with the 'echoing'. It didn't help that I left my remote and laser pointer at home so I had to stay close to the laptop to change slides.

One person thought the seats too hard - I have seen people bring their own cushions to events so obviously they have been caught out by hard seats before! Also there were some beginners so a few requests for more basic talks but it is always hard to know at what level to pitch those kinds of talks. Hopefully they will join/ask their local society for help too.

One person said my three talks was a marathon effort and it did feel that way towards the end and a number found the Google talk 'enlightening'. I think a lot of people don't realise how much more to Google there is than just a search engine. One person said it was 'well worth driving in the rain for' and as it was a three hour drive there and three hours back for us that made me feel that it was worth our effort in appalling weather. I will give the final comment to the person who said 'loved it all - just what I wanted and needed'.

After that I veged out for a few days and devoted time to continue to pack and sort out which books I will keep and which will go. I contacted the Religious Collections Special Interest Group of the Australian Society of Archivists (they've got a great new website) to see if some of their members would be interested in having my library and archives books. Most of them are volunteers or part time and don't have access to work libraries and they were most enthusiastic. So I will drop off three boxes of books and then they can work out who wants what and I will be happy knowing that my books are still being put to good use.

I treated myself to a visit to the State Library of Victoria and it really is a great genealogy resource and they weren't that many people in the Genealogy Centre that day. I was surprised when one of the librarians told me they hate cruise ships visiting Melbourne - apparently a lot of people make a beeline for the Library to do their genealogy while in port! And these aren't even genealogy cruises, just ordinary cruises but people still take their genealogy away with them. Not sure why I was surprised really, I do that kind of thing myself!!

We have friends coming for the Labour Day weekend - we met them on the last Unlock the Past genealogy cruise and in January we stayed with them near Paynesville in the Gippsland Lakes and now they are checking out western Melbourne and the Bellarine Peninsula with us. There will probably be lots of genealogy talk over the weekend while our partners discuss their boats and fishing!

Next week I'm heading to Public Record Office Victoria for their Women, Children and Welfare History in the Archives free seminar which should be good. I've also got to finish and send off my two presentations for the AFFHO genealogy congress in Adelaide at the end of the month. I always look forward to the congress (every three years) as it is a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues. The next one is in Canberra in 2015.

Don't forget St Patrick's day next week - I always do an Irish family blog and have had great success with finding relatives in previous years so fingers crossed! Until next time.