Monday 23 April 2012

Genealogy Notes 17-23 April 2012 - Online or Offline

When you are travelling it's easy to lose track of the days and fall behind if you don't log on everyday. In my last Diary entry I was excited about going to the Society of Australian Genealogists' (SAG) library in Sydney and I did have a great day. What wasn't so much fun was the 'rain episode' Sydney had while I was there and I managed to get quite a bit damp as I walked to SAG and other places around the CBD over those few days.

I found the SAG library fascinating and managed to spend all day there, stopping for some lunch and a coffee with Heather. Like most older libraries SAG still has card indexes that have not yet been keyed into a database (although there are ongoing projects but it takes time and volunteers) so these indexes were a priority for me to check and I found some interesting references. I can't wait until they are all keyword searchable online as cards can only be filed in one place or only under a person's name and not by place or other identifier.

My next activity was to have a look at some of their books which I had previously looked up in the SAG online catalogue and again I made some interesting finds. You can save a lot of time by doing your catalogue searches at home before visiting a library, certainly beats the 'old days'. However for most of the morning I was the only one down that end of the room, everyone else was up the other end on the computers. Not everything is online but perhaps they had already looked at all the non online materials?

After lunch I could stand it no longer and I went down and took up a terminal, only to be surprised that there were over 1100 items to choose from! My purpose was to look at SAG's Australian Genealogical Computer Index (AGCI) four CD ROM's which have a wide variety of material on them but I could see others using FindMyPast, Ancestry, Origins and the older gentleman next to me was even using TROVE - I hadn't thought about those members who might not have a computer at home to do free web searches let alone access all the different subscription databases and material on CD ROMs. Fifteen minutes before closing I made a terrific find but of course there was no time to follow it through so I will need to access the AGCI CDs again either at the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV) or perhaps even the State Library of Victoria.

SAG's volunteers on duty were very helpful and as a new (rejoined) member they kept asking me if I was ok or if I needed any help which was great. It always mystifies me that more people don't join their local society as you can learn so much from the library volunteers not to mention all the great resources you can access in the society library. I'm currently a member of three societies, SAG, GSV and the Queensland Family History Society (QFHS) which somewhat reflects my own nomadic lifestyle but also that of my ancestors.

The following day there was even more rain so I bunkered down in the hotel room and consolidated my notes and did some online searching of digitised newspapers on TROVE. It's very easy to lose a few hours of time that way and even when I poked my head outside for lunch and a bit of a walk, my umbrella was not up to the winds whipping down Oxford Street!

Thursday was my flight home to Melbourne and Friday was a catch up with the housework, shopping and washing and all the mail, including a large envelope from London. Rosemary Morgan of London Roots Research has been doing some research for me and she found the death of someone whose death had been eluding me. His wife was called a widow in the 1851 census but not the 1841 census so I had assumed (that often fatal word) that he had died between 1841 and 1851 but without finding him. Rosemary took it back to the birth of his last child and it turned out he died in 1832! Some times it pays to get professional assistance with brickwalls, especially when you have looked at everything you can think off. Someone else's view and approach may be quite different from our own.

The weekend was wet here in Melbourne so I tackled some more decluttering and identifying items for our garage sale at the end of May. We have so much 'stuff' piled up everywhere it will be good to see it go, either at the garage sale or to a charity afterwards. We've also given away a lot to our children, friends and neighbours and also to some charities. Yet there still seems like a lot of 'stuff' left.Wherever we end up moving to, we have to make certain that we don't end up rebuying all this 'stuff'!

Over the last week I've been in discussion with a couple of people about doing talks later in the year so once details are finalised I'll be able to put those up on my Events calendar. I'm also putting some finishing touches to some new research guides for Unlock the Past - I have a tendency to want to include everything but that's not always possible so completing a guide is always hard for me. My ANZAC Day blog this year will be on my mother's eldest brother who was a Rat of Tobruk and he also served in New Guinea as well as the Middle East. Time to get back to work!

Monday 16 April 2012

Genealogy notes 14-16 April 2012 - Researching in Sydney

It's a very wet start to the day in Sydney so I'm catching up with the Diary while I hope the rain stops soon. The Australian Society of Archivists meeting on Saturday didn't quite go to schedule and I ended up missing my visit to Richmond Villa the home of the Society of Australian Genealogists. However it was good to catch up with many long time archival colleagues at the meeting and during the lunch break, there was an opportunity to dash out and see some of The Rocks famous weekend market.

Afterwards quite a few of us went to the Fortune of War hotel  which was established in 1828 and is reputedly Sydney's oldest pub. It's also where a former NSW State Archivist gave me my first ever glass of Guinness and I've never looked back! Sydney has some fantastic old pubs and on a former visit we did an historic pub crawl which was fascinating and we've also done the ghost tour!

Then I had dinner at Circular Quay with my bridesmaid from 1983 and amazingly we both recognised each other and had a great night catching up with all the news as we haven't seen each other in over ten years. It was so much fun we will be having dinner again tonight.

Sunday was a slow day, a leisurely walk around the city streets near my hotel, reading the Sunday newspaper in Hyde Park and then I spent the afternoon doing some TROVE digitised newspaper searching and preparing myself for the big research trip to the Mitchell Library and the genealogy section of the State Library NSW. When I walked out of the hotel Monday morning I couldn't believe the traffic noise and I thought Melbourne was bad but then I don't go into the city often these days. Perhaps after the quiet of the weekend it just seemed louder!

Anyway to get to the Library I had to walk through both sections of Hyde Park and it was unbelievable how the trees manage to cut down on the traffic noise. Also explains why so many people walk through there on their way to work plus you don't have the car fumes so full on. The tricky bit for me was that this space is also shared with cyclists who do ring their bells but for people who don't hear to well and aren't watching out for cyclists on footpaths, it makes for an interesting time at intersections.

I haven't been to the Mitchell Library (the Australiana section of the State Library NSW) since the early 1990s when I was doing my Society of Australian Genealogists Diploma. It has to be one of Australia's most beautiful libraries and the atmosphere almost makes you feel scholarly. The catalogue is online but only for items since 1992 so there are lots of card drawers with interesting indexes and these were what I mainly wanted to look through for my early research on Sydney. I was pleased to see old genealogy friend Aileen there and in the cafeteria at lunch time with Perry, I ran into my old archival colleague Paul.

I also spent time in the genealogy section of the State Library NSW finally looking at some microfilms I've been wanting to look at. It's not that they aren't in Melbourne, it's more the fact that I never seemed to find time to do it in Melbourne (or perhaps I don't stay there often enough?). I hadn't realised they had an online guide to convicts which is another reason why we should look closely at websites before we do our genealogy research trips. One of my other joys is browsing the shelf as you never know what you will find and I had some success just pulling out books and looking up the indexes. That's something we miss when we only do research online.

The walk back through Hyde Park was equally good and as I had been sitting for most of the day, I kept walking up Oxford Street for a while before returning to the hotel for the evening. The evening weather was all about how wet Sydney was going to be for the next few days and sure enough, I woke up this morning to the sound of heavy rain on the skylights. Walking over to the Kent Street library of the Society of Australian Genealogists is going to be interesting but I have an umbrella and perhaps later this morning the rain won't be quite so heavy. I haven't been to the 'new' library and it should be good. Stay tuned.

Friday 13 April 2012

Genealogy notes 12-13 Apr 2012 - historical Sydney

My partner and I have a saying - 'we always end up where we were meant to be' and this usually runs true to where ever we are travelling to, eating out or stopping for the night or whatever as we usually free wheel with no fixed plans. Sometimes fixed plans, if we have them, do change and that happened to me this week and instead of running a genealogy workshop I ended up being able to attend one of the best family history talks I've been to in quite a while. I'm talking about Paul O'Keefe's talk on The Girl Who Loved Ned Kelly and as two of my Geneablogger friends have already written about it I will simply say I totally agree with both their blogs - Geniaus Spine Tingling Stuff and Sharn Exceptional Talk by Paul O'Keefe . Paul will be heading to Victoria later this year so I hope to catch one of his talks again.

I was also privileged to see behind the scenes of Inside History magazine and talk to Cassie and Ben and their other staff. The magazine always comes out on time and has great articles but sometimes we don't appreciate (or comprehend) all the hard work that actually goes into getting a magazine from raw material to glossy end product so it was great to have that insight. Their despatch area was even more tidy than my study at home so they are obviously very organised people (or I need to get more organised)!

Then it was back into the city for me and another walk around my hotel - I'm starting to get my bearings on this part of Sydney. I'm at what is now called the EconoLodge and also the Schwartz Brewery Hotel but was formerly the Macquarie Hotel and it is a really interesting old building and has been a hotel since at least 1888. It has some amazing stained glass windows and pressed lead (or tin) ceilings, not to mention wooden staircases with lots of steps (which I keep calling exercise) up to my room at the top. Amazingly I have three skylights so I can lie there and look up at the moon and the stars! The wooden floor boards creak alarmingly and I wonder if anyone below can hear me walking around but carpet would spoil the ambience of the room.

After an early night I was up bright and early as I wanted to get some more sight seeing in. First up I went to the ANZAC War Memorial in Hyde Park and after walking up all the steps to the top floor, I finally found the exhibition area on the ground floor. There's not a lot of signage and if you enter by the wrong entrance you go round in circles until you finally see the sign. It's not as big an area as I was expecting but it was interesting and there were two areas where you could watch old movie footage which I always find fascinating.

Then it was a walk through beautiful Hyde Park, I really love those trees and it is an eye catching fountain with lots of tourists posing for photos in front of it. My destination was the Hyde Park Convict Barracks Museum now a World Heritage site. Although I've been there many times it has been some years so I wasn't surprised to see a lot of change especially with new interactive displays in the Convict Sydney exhibition. These are designed to engage school children (although I found myself lifting up panels to see what was underneath too)!

I found the lower floor was the most changed from my previous visits. However, I still bravely climbed all the stairs up to the second and third floors, bearing in mind that it was the top floor where they housed the old and infirm women when the building was used as an asylum after its convict days. It must have been really hard for them, not to mention cold in winter. There was also an exhibition area on the Irish Orphan Girls which I found quite poignant and I always find the sight of the room full of hammocks where the convicts slept a sad experience as they really had no privacy or space of their own.

Another change for me was that some of the court buildings surrounding the barracks are now also open for inspection so I checked them out as well. It was such a beautiful autumn day that I couldn't resist having a latte and panini sitting out in the courtyard watching all the tourists visiting the Barracks. It's amazing how quickly a day can disappear but perhaps I shouldn't have had that second latte.

I wandered back to my hotel room and made a determined assault on all the genealogy e-newsletters I have not read over the last few months and as usual I created yet another long list of things I should do/look at. I also went over the e-newsletters from the Australian Society of Archivists as I'm going to the strategic planning meeting being held tomorrow at State Records NSW in the historic Rocks area. After the meeting I'm going up to the Society of Australian Genealogists premises at Richmond Villa to collect my new (again) membership package so that I can do some research at their main library in Kent Street next week.

Then it's a walk back through the Rocks area to Circular Quay where I am meeting and having dinner with my bridesmaid (from my second and only formal wedding) who I haven't seen in what must be over ten years. It seems like only yesterday (but it was 1983) that she helped me pick out a wedding dress and bridesmaid dress that we both felt we could live with. A lot of water has gone under our respective bridges but it will be good to catch up and I'm expecting a late night!

I've got nothing planned for Sunday so perhaps just another catch up on my emails and newsletters and planning my research objectives for next week. It's nice not to have deadlines for a change!

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Genealogy notes 1-11 Apr 2012 - Researching in Sydney

I must have blogged myself out during the AFFHO12 genealogy congress as it is now 11 days later but admittedly some of that time was out in the wilds of outback South Australia and Victoria with no phone or internet connection. After leaving Adelaide on the Sunday we headed up to Morgan on the Murray River (mainly for sentimental value as my partner used to travel there from Berri to catch the train to go to Adelaide). Just like the might paddlewheelers, the train no longer runs either but we visited the museum and he was able to point out all the old places for me in their photographic collection. I was surprised by all the houseboats there but lots of places along the Murray in South Australia have houseboats. Brought back memories of our houseboat holidays on the Clyde River when we lived in Canberra!

Another surprise was all the carp in the Murray and we did our bit to get rid of quite a few. In some places baby carp are so think you can just scoop them up in a net! I do like sitting on the river bank, fishing rod in hand watching all the bird life and the peace and quiet is amazing - not like living in Melbourne. From Morgan we went on up through Berri and had a look at Martin's Bend which is another idyllic spot on the Murray. Then we thought we should head for home and travelled down the Calder, stopping at Ouyen the home of Australia's best vanilla slice. Obviously with a title like that, we had to stop at the Mallee Bakery and test it out. It was good but next time we will only get one between us, I think we overdosed on vanilla slice!

The next day we were travelling through Bendigo and decided we didn't really want to go home (grey nomads can do that sort of thing) so we rang friends in Yarrawonga and of course, they said come on over! So we again headed north to the Murray and spent a couple of days with them before going home to spend a quiet Easter. I had a lovely time doing some research and catching up on emails and blogs.

I even managed to do my Overview of AFFHO12 heraldry and genealogy congress which summarised the whole event and supplemented my daily blogs in this Diary. I was only home four days and then  I was heading out to the airport to go to Sydney. Originally I was going to be giving a family history workshop for the Royal Australian Historical Society but it was too close to Easter I suspect, and with poor numbers they cancelled it. But I have lots of friends in Sydney and I've always wanted to just spend a week here doing genealogy research so that's what I'm doing.

I've got visits lined up for the State Library of NSW and the Mitchell Library and of course a visit to the Society of Australian Genealogists is also a must. I'm also able to attend a strategic planning meeting of the Australian Society of Archivists which will be great as I haven't seen a lot of my archival colleagues since I retired in 2009. But tomorrow I'm excited to be going to Randwick Library to hear Paul O'Keefe talk about The Girl Who Loved Ned Kelly. I've spoken to Paul on the phone but haven't met him before so it's a great opportunity. Cassie from Inside History magazine is also meeting me tomorrow for coffee, so a big day out!

I'm also hoping to use this week in Sydney to totally catch up on all my emails and blogs as I seem to have been travelling since last October and there are lots of e-newsletters I've stockpiled. With no family here to distract me it should almost be like genealogy heaven. I'm looking forward to it!