Monday 30 June 2014

Genealogy notes 23 - 30 June 2014 NFHM and writing blogs

Well the last week did not go as planned.Mum's birthday party went well and we had our little trip to Sea World and unbelievably the baby polar bear came out to play when I was standing right in front of his enclosure thinking I was going to miss him. Mum polar bear wasn't far behind him and the Dad polar bear was in another enclosure where we saw him swimming and having a good time too. So all up an excellent few days of family fun.

Then I made the mistake of deciding to rearrange some book cases and the layout of the study. I am happier with this rearrangement but it does take time regrouping and reshelving hundreds of books. We are definitely never moving again! Of course I also found books that I had not yet read so a nice little pile of them to look forward to. The other thing is that I have too many genealogy magazines and I can't bring myself to part even with the very outdated ones. I find that flicking through them gives me ideas or reminds me of things that I have forgotten about. Yet space and storage is a factor.

Some of my genealogy society memberships and genealogy magazines are only digital these days which saves space but out of sight out of mind. I need to write myself reminders to read these digital copies.

I think all of this was a bit of procrastination as whenever I get towards the end of a big writing project I always seem to find other things to do rather than tackle the fiddly bits and pieces to finish a job. Still it won't go away and that is the goal for this week.

There are two new posts in my personal genealogy blog challenge - 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014. Week 19 is Family Bibles and Week 20 is Mining Records. I am finding it hard to keep up the weekly blogs but it is really good to look at each topic and then to think about what ancestors I want to write about or look up new information on.

National Family History Month is still taking up time with new events being added all the time. I posted an update on my website - read the update here. Invitations to the launch have gone out and I have booked my flight and accommodation for Canberra. I think next year it has to be a warmer launch (but I guess that will be determined by whoever the voluntary coordinator is).

My subscription allows me to access British newspapers online and in another obvious display of procrastination I spent a lovely afternoon finding interesting bits and pieces in UK newspapers. I often do this with Trove or Papers Past so it was interesting to spend more time exploring the UK equivalent.

On Twitter I have been following all the new indexes on the Claim a Convict website. They are doing really good work and it is a must go to website for anyone with convicts. Deceased Online is another website that I follow on Twitter for updates on UK burials and cremations and of course FamilySearch is always adding to their website. Then there are all the nice links I pick up from Facebook genealogy friends and sometimes I go on Google + but keeping up with everything is tricky.

Genealogy friend Geniaus speculated in a blog post How Do You React? if anyone ever reads what we write and should we even keep writing. While I do write to share bits and pieces with my genealogy cyber buddies, I also write for myself. It is a way for me to record what I am doing, to write down ancestor stories, and to look back on what I have done over the past few years of having a website and blogging. The Wayback Machine (part of the Internet Archive) has captured snapshots of my website over the years and this Diary is archived in the National Library of Australia's Pandora web archive accessible through Trove.

So yes I do think people should keep on blogging and imagine if every genealogist and family historian blogged their family stories. We would be finding cousins all over the place and brick walls would come tumbling down which are some of the positives I have seen so far in my own writing.

And on that note I have to get back to some serious work! Until next time happy researching.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Genealogy Notes 17-22 Jun 2014 - National Family History Month 2014

This past week has been busy with lots of preparation for National Family History Month 2014 which is an initiative of AFFHO (Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations). I am the voluntary coordinator so I have been making arrangements with the National Archives of Australia for the launch. NAA have hosted the launch since 2006 so their support is really appreciated. and FamilySearch are our two major sponsors this year and their is a long list of prize sponsors on the NFHM website.

Here is an image from last year's launch with Professor Cliff Pollard who spoke about WW1 nurses. Our 2014 keynote speaker is Dr Richard Reid on the Western Front 1914-1918.

Apart from launch arrangements I have also been busy checking events that ate being put into the NFHM web calendar. Spam is a problem for everyone so each event has to be approved before it becomes visible and lots of events have gone up over the last week. Any genealogy/family history society, library, archives or similar organisation can put their August events up in the web calendar. It is a great way for more people to see what events you hold.

I have also been doing a bit more promotion on the NFHM Facebook page and as of this morning there are 952 Likes so it definitely looks like we are going to hit the 1000 Likes before the launch of NFHM on 1 August. My thanks go to all my cyber buddies who help promote NFHM in their various social media circles.

I forgot to mention last time that Inside History Magazine asked me to do a guest blog on 'how to ask an expert'questions you have on your genealogy and family history research. You can read the blog post here. It is based on my own experiences trying to help people and the more clear and concise you are, the more likely someone will be able to give you the answer or suggest other things to look at.

It was a forgetful week last week as I also neglected to say that I met Rebecca Wheatley at the National Archives of Australia advisory meeting on the centenary of WW1. She is working on the Monash University One Hundred Stories Project and we were shown some very moving and emotional stories about soldiers who came home from the war. These are being put on YouTube and the link is here. Penguin is planning to publish a book of the One Hundred Stories in November 2015.

One of my favourite online newsletters is Lost Cousins which comes out every week. Another is Snippets from Queensland Family History Society and I am a subscriber to Dick Eastman's newsletter (plus edition as I like the longer articles as well as his short news stories). Dick also suggested that I put the NFHM event up on his web calendar which I have done and I must remember to check that more often myself.

My talk at the Caloundra Family History Research group went well and I was showing them some of my favourite Google tools for family history. As usual I have placed a copy of the talk on the Resources page of my website, scroll down to Presentations. Google is always changing so I need to update the talk every time I do that presentation.

I have got another busy week planned with lots of writing - there are a couple of jobs that I simply must finish before we get too close to NFHM. From 7-11 July I am attending the annual conference of the Australian Historical Association which is in Brisbane this year. There is also a Professional Historians Association Queensland day in conjunction with the AHA conference so I am going to that as well. Should be a stimulating week of history and networking.

Today we are finally getting to celebrate Mum's 80th birthday (having had to delay it several times due to her not being all that well). So I must dash as I don't think she will want to be kept waiting (we are the ones picking her up and taking her to the venue). Final thoughts - not genealogy I'm afraid but I am finally treating myself to a trip to Sea World to see the polar bears so an exciting week coming up. Happy researching.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Genealogy Notes 12-16 Jun 2014 Canberra & NFHM news

Well it has been a very busy few days and considerably cooler than what I am used to. The trek to Canberra involved a bus ride to the Brisbane airport, small plane to Canberra (didn't realise they still used propeller planes) then a taxi to the Forrest Hotel and Apartments which is where I stay as it is a nice, if chilly walk to the National Archives of Australia where my meeting was. Because of the time it takes me to travel to Canberra I always come in the day before.

This usually gives me time for a coffee and chat with the President of AFFHO who are the organisation behind National Family History Month. It is a chance for me to report on how it is going and to get support back from the AFFHO members. So after a spirited discussion we both went away with a 'to do' list for this year's launch and to make sure every AFFHO member across Australia remembers to put their events up in the NFHM web calendar. My Facebook NFHM campaign has been going well and the number of Likes is steadily creeping towards 1000 (865 at the time I typed this). I am reasonably confident this target will be reached.

Dinner was with an old HAGSOC friend from my time living in Canberra and again the conversation was all about genealogy, societies and NFHM. Again I came away with some good ideas for this and future years. It was also the most divine pork belly on Asian vegetable broth and as it was raining we had dined at the Sherwood Restaurant at the Forrest Hotel. It took me a little while to realise why they called the restaurant that but I put that down to the cold!

Next morning it was even colder as I did the 20 minute stroll to the National Archives of Australia for the advisory committee meeting for World War One. This is always a good opportunity for me to catch up with some of old colleagues as I worked at NAA at the beginning of this century for a few years. The new Discovering ANZACs website is at the testing stage and should be live before August so stay tuned for more news. It will be replacing the old Mapping Our ANZACs website plus there are a lot of new and exciting features.

As National Family History Month is being launched in Canberra at the National Archives it was also an opportunity to discuss the arrangements in person which is always much nicer than just over the phone or by email. Everything looks on track so I am quite happy with all the organising side of NFHM but I will make a call to all those genealogy and family history societies, libraries and archives who have not yet put their events into the web calendar, please do so that people can start planning what they want to attend and when.

Whenever visiting the NAA I take the opportunity to go to their latest exhibition which is A Place to Call Home, about post war migrants and their experiences in Australia. While living in Victoria we had visited Bonegilla so I found the photos in this exhibition fascinating and could appreciate the comments of the migrants featured in the exhibition. The exhibition is also linked to the NAA website Destination Australia.

For some reason I could not get a cheap flight home so I stayed another night and caught up with the current president of HAGSOC for another genealogy and travel chat over dinner at Ginseng in Manuka. The Forrest Hotel is within easy walking distance of Manuka and I have been slowly working my way around all the fantastic restaurants there. There is also a great little bookshop there and as I walked through the door, there was Carole Baxter's new book up on a stand taking pride of place on the shelf. Great to see her book so actively promoted.

Then next day it was the long trek home again. Last Diary was all about my exciting discovery on my Gunderson line so I was interested to see if there had been any feedback. My cousin had been so excited he contacted the American researcher for me and this person was initially skeptical as they were not aware of the illegitimate son which was what I had thought. He tried to prove my conclusion but was unable to find the entry in the online digitised parish registers. I had bought the certificate back in 1983 so I knew the entry was there so a quick scan, an email and when he rechecked using the references in the certificate he found the entry.

The question still in his mind is - was there more than one Gunder Jorgenson from Toe in Seljord? I did look at this back in the 80s and could not find anyone else but that was all before computers, indexing and digitisation. I still think it is right but another search now won't go astray.

Everything else is piling up around me as NFHM starts to take over my life but I am going to the Caloundra Family History Research Group on Thursday for a presentation. I am looking forward to this as they are a really friendly group. The following week should be a little quieter. Happy researching till next time.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Genealogy Notes 8-11 Jun 2014 Serendipity and Brick Wall Crumbles

This Diary post is a little early as I am off to Canberra tomorrow for a meeting at the National Archives of Australia and some catch up chats with some National Family History Month friends as the August launch of NFHM will be in Canberra this year. So I have been trying to catch up with a few things before I leave.

Week 18 of my 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 is all about almanacs as a source for tracing people. The last few weeks I have been using examples from my Gunderson family, my father's family who were Norwegian. While searching in Pugh's Almanacs (online and free at Text Queensland along with a whole lot of other Queensland resources) I found a brief reference to the death of my original Norwegian immigrant Anders (Andrew) Gundersen (Gunderson). He was accidentally killed in a dray accident and it was interesting to find him listed in the calendar of events for the year. Read more about my almanacs post here.

Whenever I think about Anders, I also think about his father who emigrated to America in 1850 with his wife and family. My Anders was an illegitimate son who stayed in Norway with his mother before emigrating to Queensland in 1873 with his own wife and two young sons. Anders' father was Gunnar Jorensen and anyone with Scandinavian ancestry will know it can be a nightmare trying to trace them with the various spelling variations, patronymics, anglicisation of given names and surnames and so on.

I first started researching the family in 1977 and back then I was lucky enough to have a genealogy pen friend in Norway who found the Jorensen family in a 'bygdebok', essentially a genealogy of families from a particular area. It took my family back to 1688 in a single leap. Since then Norwegian records have been digitised and are online free so I have been able to look at the original parish records too.

My next piece of serendipity occurred in the 80s when I decided to try and trace them in America. I picked a professional researcher and sent him the details. As luck would have it, his ancestors went to America on the same ship as mine so he answered my query almost instantly. Remember this was all mostly before the advent of computers and big databases.

My next break came when I decided to put an enquiry on a Norwegian genealogy forum and someone saw it and knew someone who was researching the same family. Again I was given a lot of information in a short space of time but the person was researching Gunnar's wife's family, not his side. So I still did not know what had happened to him.

As US census came online I gradually found references to the family over the decades with the spelling of the names varying quite widely each census. Fortunately they didn't move around much. But I still had not found Gunnar's death and I have not looked in years. So having just written about his illegitmate son again, I woke up this morning determined to find him. I use to search the US census so I rechecked that and again proved he probably died sometime in the 1870s.

I was using all kinds of spelling variations and was a bit amazed when a couple of public trees showed my Gunnar Jorensen as Gunder Jorgenson. Wife's name and children's names all matched up so I knew I was looking at the right family. Even more amazing they had an image of my GGG grandfather - it is not a good image but given that I don't have one of his son Anders I am so happy to have seen even a poor image. It is from a book so perhaps I can get an even better photo. As well as that the person had put up an image of Gunnar's headstone in the cemetery where he is buried.

One of Gunnar's sons fought on the Union side during the American Civil War and died aged 26 years. I look forward to doing some more research on this as the War has always interested me. It is also probably why my Irish ancestors came to Queensland in the early 1860s instead of going to the US.

I haven't emailed the people with the public tree yet as after all I am descended from the illegitimate son and they may not even know about him. But when I get back from Canberra and am less excited, I will certainly be contacting them to see if there are any more photos and information and do they want to know about their Queensland cousins!

This would have to be the most exciting thing that has happened in my own family history in quite a while. I know that there can be a lot of criticism of public trees as sometimes people don't check their information or simply copy from others but without there is no way that I would have made this connection and done it so easily this morning. We just need to remember that these big databases are tools that help us to do our research, they don't replace the need to still research in original documents.

Well none of my other news can top that and I have to finish packing for Canberra and my early start in the morning. This just proves that if you wait long enough that brick wall might just crumble, mine only took 37 years on and off! Happy researching.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Genealogy Notes 30 May - 7 Jun 2014 Probate records and other things

Winter snuck up on me and the last week simply passed me by. It is not really winter here as I still have my daily swim when home although it is getting a tad cooler in the pool. To try and get into a wintry mood I even made my favourite curried ham and pumpkin soup but we all agreed it was a bit warm to be having soup.

Not like Canberra  where we lived for a few years and I will be heading to next week for a few days. There is a National Archives of Australia WW1 advisory committee meeting and I will be taking the opportunity to have a look at where we will be launching National Family History Month this year. Not long now till August so I hope societies, libraries and archives are putting all their August events into the NFHM web calendar. A great way to attract newbies and even old timers to your events. I also have some catch up with friends dinners and coffees and tossing up whether to go to the National Library of Australia or the Australian War Memorial.

But that is next week - so what made me forget to write up my Diary this week. Well I did finally get my orchid house and we spent a bit of time deciding where to put it and moving my orchids. The weather has been glorious and we have made quite a few more changes to our fruit orchard and palm tree forest.

Time spent indoors saw me renew my subscription to the Cornish Association of Queensland and I managed to get back into my 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 personal blog challenge. Week 17 is all about Court Records and I have no shortage of personal examples there! I also finished my talk on Australasian probate records for the Queensland Family History Society which was today. A 9.00 am start is a challenge when you live outside of Brisbane but I managed to get there just in time.

First speaker was Saadia Thomson-Dwyer from Queensland State Archives talking about all the wills and intestacy records they have and how to access them. It was a perfect introduction to my talk which looked at the rest of the Australian States and Territories and New Zealand which have similar records. My presentation is as usual on the Resources page of my website, scroll down to Presentations.  Ann Swain followed with UK and Northern Ireland and there is quite a difference between the various countries with Scotland quite different from England and Wales. I must check out the National Archives of Ireland and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland for some of my Irish families as quite a lot has gone online since I last looked. There was morning tea, a lucky door prize, books for sale and time to catch up and chat with old friends. I think there was almost a 100 people there so a great day and I know what they will all be doing for the rest of this long weekend.

Tomorrow we are heading back to Brisbane for the History Alive festival at Fort Lytton which should be really good. I love their advertising - one place, two days, 2000 years of history. There are lectures, reenactments, people going around in everything from medieval wear to colonial uniforms including the American civil war plus an interesting range of food options too.

Monday I am planning a clean up the study day as when things get busy I just stack things - piles of journals to read, a list of emails to answer, online journals and newsletters to read and while doing the preparation of my probates talk I found all kinds of new information on the various websites and in Trove (love the new version 6.1) and Papers Past. That all needs to be added into my family history database.

I have also ordered some new book titles from Unlock the Past and there are quite a few titles that I simply want to sit down and read, not just browse. They should arrive next week just in time for my trip to the Caloundra Family History Research who have invited me up to talk at their June meeting. The Caloundra group have the most amazing purple shirts and I really wanted to join them but couldn't find a house we wanted on the Sunshine Coast. It's not far up the highway from Bribie Island so maybe I can go to some of their meetings!

It is Saturday night and I am home all alone. But when you do genealogy you are never really alone because there will be genie friends on Twitter, Facebook, Google + who will be able to share any genealogy happy dance should I discover anything super exciting from all the probate links I noted today. Happy researching and next Diary will be Wednesday before I head off to Canberra.