Day 2 of Congress 2015

I thought yesterday was full and then ran into today. 

Unfortunately I missed this morning’s Keynote by Joshua Taylor from Find My Past because I was a little late waking up (no young children equals sleeping until 7am – yay!) and then went in search of a good coffee.

The first session I attended was Pauleen Cass’s on ‘The marriage of local and family history’. I loved her presentation because it just made so much sense! Local and family history are intrinsically linked, particularly when researching early communities which were small and had very little in the way of public infrastructure. Pauleen’s talk was a case study on a line of her own family at Murphy’s Creek which had me wishing my family had come from there because she has unearthed so many wonderful historical sources about them. Challenge for me…find the same for two of my lines who live in striking distance from where I do now. Pauleen gave me so many new ideas for sources to explore. The only negative was when Pauleen said something about moving the NSW/Qld border South to Ballina. We all know that would never happen!

Morning tea was next. Lots of happy chat with geneablogger mates as we enjoyed Jill’s happy and lively talk about genaeblogging. If you have thought about it but aren’t sure, do it! I think it is the best thing I have done, apart from dive into Twitter, because I have met so many wonderful people I would never have met before. Also, it is fab ‘cousin bait’ as Jill discussed. People, all of us, Google our ancestors names hoping to find something about them. What if you find someone’s blog who tells you exactly what you have been searching for, or has  documents or photos of your ancestors? You get completely excited doing a crazy dance and your partner thinks you are mad! Imagine this in reverse, if people start contacting you because they find your blog and you can exchange information. Give it a try. It isn’t hard and you only need to do it when you can. You will meet fantastic people!


Jill Ball on the wonders of geneablogging 

I went to Dr Richard Reid’s session next on ‘Stories of the Western Front’. I was particularly interested in Richard’s talk because my grandmother’s uncle was killed at Pozieres in 1916 and I hoped his talk would shed some light on the life, or death, soldiers experienced over there. It did. He did. I have so much more to explore now. I have already trawled through my ancestor’s war record and have read the anguish of his mother when he was listed as missing in action. (Tragically she died before they could confirm that he had in fact died.) Richard’s talk though has inspired me to research the wider context of the Battle of Pozieres using photographs, diaries, and I need to check the Roll ofHonour  Circular for my great great uncle, Milton Simmons, to see who spoke for him and what they wanted recorded about him. (As an aside, I visited the Australian War Memorial this evening and placed a poppy next to his name on the Honour Roll and experienced the Last Post Ceremony. What a treasure the AWM is for collecting, preserving and displaying our nation’s war time memories and experiences.) Richard’s emotive strand during his session was the Seabrook family, who had three brothers sign up and were sent off to fight on the Western Front. They were all killed and unsurprisingly their parents were shattered. Maybe surprising, but certainly disappointingly, their broken parents were offered no support, were actually refused support. The most heartbreaking moment was seeing their mother’s, Fanny Seabrook, portrait on the screen with a hole in it. It was a photograph of her that was retrieved from the body of one of her dead sons. The family does not know which one because they were all killed in a short space of time. Heartbreaking and giving context to those at home who lost so much.


A poppy for Milton Simmons at the Australian War Memorial

The next session I attended was given by David Rencher on ‘Irish census and census substitutes’. I was amazed at the alternatives David offered for researchers to go to when trying to track down Irish ancestors. Word of slight warning, they may still be fragmented and cover different/limited time periods, but are definitely worth exploring if you have Irish ancestors. There are too many to list here, but include sources such as:old age pensioners applications; tithe applotments; school records; survey maps; valuation lists; religious censuses; and directories. Much to follow up here too!

My last session for the day was Richard Reid’s keynote address on Irish Assisted Emigration to Australia. We were treated to a serenade by Patrick Corr, singing Galway Bay, as an introduction to Richard’s talk. Richard impressed upon us the importance of discovering the townland of your Irish ancestor, where you can, to help you discover so much more about them. He gave many tips on sources such as looking at the applications to emigrate to Australia – records which hold high levels of birth or baptismal dates. He also talked about finding out about your ancestor’s townland…more of that putting local context to your ancestor that Pauleen discussed earlier in the day. Richard also mentioned a source I have to follow up on, the British Parlimentary Reports on destitute people, because my Irish ancestors appeare to be just that. Richard, both times I saw him today, was a very engaging and knowledgeable speaker, and I very much enjoyed listening to him.

My afternoon and evening was spent with my Mum, exploring the War Memorial. The Vietnam Memorial for my Dad who served there and the new WWI exhibition for my ancestor Milton Simmons. We didn’t have enough time to visit the exhibits relating to our other ancestors who fought in WWII. For me, that will have to wait for another time.


The Last Post Ceremony at the Australia War Memorial this evening

Day 1 of Congress 2015

Feeling a little weary from our late arrival, nearly midnight last night, but very excited, I stepped out this morning to find Congress 2015. It was a tad cooler than I expected after the last few days of humidity at home, but once I got used to it, it was quite refreshing…and woke me up.


Mum and I mucking around waiting for the plane at the GC airport. (Wine was involved!)

My first stop was to register and then I headed into the Exhibitors’ Hall to see what was around. I was very excited to see a FIBIS stand and decided I had to spend some time there finding out all I could that might help me track down hubby’s Indian ancestors. I was also able to say hello to Helen and Alona, and Cassie and Ben from Inside History. Lovely to see familiar faces.

I caught the opening address by Dr Mathew Trinca from the National Museum of Australia. His address set family history within the broader context of history, making us think about the roles our families have played in many events and also every day life over the ages. I particularly enjoyed his anecdotes about his 5 year old son who sounds very much like my 6 year old son, who also likes to ask many, many questions.

Wandering around at morning tea I managed to run into Pauleen Cass who I know via social media but had never met in the flesh. It was lovely to finally meet and have a chat, even if she is sporting a Queenslander sticker on her lanyard.

Next up was Simon Fowler who spoke about researching assisted emigrants in English archives. Simon’s talk suffered somewhat from the whiney sound system and the rather odd setup of screen, presenter’s computer and somewhere for the presenter to stand. The room also seemed too dark. If they could move the screen back a couple more metres I think that would help. Anyhoo, I was interested to learn more about why and how they assisted people to emigrate, particularly some bods that they would rather not keep in their own country. Why not ship them off to Canada!

Paul Milner’s talk on Buried Treasure:What’s in the English Parish Chest as informative and entertaining. Paul is a funny speaker who clearly knows what he is talking about. He took us through the records you might find in a Parish Chest, using just one Parish as an example, and highlighting where your ancestors may be found in various documents. The various types of settlement record seemed particularly interesting, and I need to follow up on one of my ancestors who was an apprentice and see if there are records of him being indentured in his local Parish.

Wandering out of this talk to lunch I ran into Shelley from Twigs of Yore. I was excited to also meet Shelley in person because we have ‘known’ each other for quite a few years, mostly through Twitter and our blogs, but had also never met. We spent a great lunch telling each other our life stories!

The next session was Roger Kershaw from the British National Archives. He shared a wealth of information about what may be found in their records. The record set that particularly interested me was MH12, Poor Law Union correspondence that has been digitised no is now searchable and downloadable from their website. I will have to look for a couple of my paupers there.

Carol Baxter gave an interesting and entertaining talk about evidence and historical truth. I’m going to go and have a little peek at her stand tomorrow and check out her books.

Shelley happily snaffled a chocolate biscuit at afternoon tea whilst I finally managed to track down Jill Ball for my geneablogger beads. Jill is so busy she can be hard to find sometimes! So with my new beads, fancy stickers and shiny Trove badge, I feel like I’m really into Congress 2015.

The last session of the day I attended was Helen Smith’s on English Workhouses. Helen set a fast pace to try and squeeze a lot of information into a short time frame and did a fab job of covering a great deal. There are quite a few things I need to follow up on from her talk, in particular, searching the Internet Archive for Poor Law Union records, inquiries etc. you never know what may have been digitised!

And then it was time to head off, meet Mum and grab some food for dinner. And some wine. Busy day with more to come tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it!

Off to Congress 2015

This will be short because it is late and I really should be asleep, but I am wide awake thinking about everything that has to be done tomorrow before I get on a plane and head to Canberra for Congress 2015.

I’m very excited because this is my first, more than 1 day genea event and I can’t wait to hear different experts, see the exhibits, meet new people and hang out a bit with my Mum. Mum decided to come along for the ride, and as she is not a genealogist will occupy her days somehow playing golf and checking out some of the huge array of museums and art galleries that Canberra offers. Unfortunately I don’t have time to do much of that, I will squeeze in a trip to the War Memorial, but research I would desperately love to do at the NLA and NAA has to wait for another time. Five nights away from my family is really pushing it, extra days for research weren’t an option.

I have downloaded the Congress app to my Android phone, and to my iPad but can’t get it to work on there, and have selected way too many talks to attend. At this stage I am finding it very hard to choose between some talks being run simultaneously, but will just have to manage on the day!

I’m trying to travel light, with just a carryon suitcase, so only my phone and iPad are coming with me. I have a small notepad, but am going to leave that at the hotel and force myself to take notes in Evernote. I do it now for work, so just need to extend its use to genea events. So much easier to search through than written notes that have no index!

Tomorrow will be a long day. Packing to do, reading and a cross country event at school in the morning, cooking to be done to leave for the family and then soccer training after school. Dinner at some stage and off to the airport. We arrive into Canberra very late, so if you see a zombie walking around Congress on Friday it will most likely be me. Please say ‘Hi’, I’d love to have a chat.

Excited! But now time to go to sleep!

Overview of a convict’s life by an 8 year old

My 8 year old daughter has begun Year 3 at school learning about the First Fleet, settlement of white people in Australia and convicts.

After Miss 8’s first history lesson she came home and excitedly told me everything she could remember that they had learnt that day, (which I am sure would be more than I would!).

As Miss 8 talked about convicts, the crimes some committed, how long they could be transported for and what may have happened to them after they reached Australia, I asked her if she remembered that we have a convict ancestor. She had forgotten, but her eyes lit up and she wanted to know all about him.

My children know I research our family and so she also asked if I had ‘any photos or files’ on our convict, George Simmons. When she came out with that phrase I realised they do listen to me sometimes! Miss 8 decided she wanted to interview me as if I was George and she was a journalist, so we spent some time playing our roles and teasing out some interesting facts about him and his subsequent life in Australia. I tried very hard to make few suggestions because I did not want the resultant interview to sound like me, and it didn’t.

It also didn’t stop there because Miss 8 decided that she needed to include a description about George, taken from his shipping record, and then a short narrative about how people could become convicts.

Miss 8 took it to school this week and presented what she had done to her class. She was so excited, as was I, that I thought I would share it here. Hopefully it will inspire some other little budding family historians.

NB. For anyone thinking of copying this information, please keep in mind that the copyright belongs to an 8 year old child. We would love to hear from you if you would like further information.


My Convict Ancestor

What was his name?
His name was George Simmons.

How many years was he sent to Australia for?
He was sent to Australia for ten whole years!

How old was he?
He was only fifteen.

What crime did he commit?
He stole a pair of shoes.

Did He survive on the way?
He survived on the way. However, he did catch a disease called dysentry.

When did he arrive at Australia?
He arrived on the 27th of April in the 1840s.

What ship did he come on?
A ship called Mangles.

Did he try to escape?


George was 5 foot 5 inches tall, he had a sallow complexion and brown hair with light hazel eyes. His eye brows practically meet in the middle of his head! He had a scar on the back of his head, a wart on the knuckle of right middle finger. He had T T J and other blurry letters tattooed on the back of his hand.

Other things about George’s life

  • He got his ticket-of-leave in 1845 (which means he wasn’t a convict anymore).
  • He left for Australia in 1839 on November the 28th
  • George bought some land, in fact he owned seven blocks in Milton, NSW. He must have done a great job in his days of enslavement
  • He was married in Australia in 1847 on August the 28th. He was married to Sarah Tuckerman in Braidwood, NSW. We think George met Sarah when he worked as a convict on the farm next door to her father’s.
  • Nobody’s really sure when George was born but they think it was the 1th January 1825 and he died when he was 49 on the 20th of June 1874.

What is a convict?

Well it starts like this a convict is a person that has stolen something from a shop or a different person then they either get caught by the police or get daubed in by somebody else and that’s kind of how it starts and then they get sent to someone called a judge then the judge decides if they go to jail, if they are instant or whether they go on the ship to Australia and that is what a convict. It is someone like George Simmons who has been banished to another place like Australia.


Angling for Ancestors Seminar – Gold Coast Family History Society

I had a great day today attending the Gold Coast Family History Society‘s seminar, Angling for Ancestors.

It was a full day, (my 6 year old actually tried to make me promise when I came home tonight that I wouldn’t ‘go away again for 10 hours’), including driving time, and so worth going to.

Jan Gow and Graham Jaunay gave three presentations each that were full of very helpful tips for extending your family history research, as well as some great reminders! I think this is why I like seeing experts speak because you always learn something new, and quite often are also reminded about tips and tools that you have forgotten are there.

Jan began the morning by speaking about “Ten ways to research your family tree – with and without a computer”. Initially I was wondering where this talk would go as it seemed to be directed towards those who did not use computers for genealogy, however, Jan had many tips that related to records regardless of whether or not you use a computer to access them. The main tips, and things I didn’t know, that I took away from this talk were:

  • it is essential that you understand the records you are using to get the most information out of them that you can. Research the background of the place, society etc of when and where you are looking for your ancestors.
  • the 1911 English Census collection was not completed until Dec 1916. Many deaths and births could have occurred during this time.
  • how to fold your own pedigree chart using an A4 page – this is a secret!
  • Reminder to me – check online cemetery sites for ancestors headstones. It is going to be a late night.
  • You can upload images to Google, and it will search for a match to that image.

The next talk was by Graham on “Research in England prior to civil registration 1837″. I was interested in this talk because I have done very little in the way of research into these types of records, and what I have done is online so that is completely restricted by what records have been digitised.

There was a great deal covered in Graham’s talk and he stressed at the beginning that he usually takes about 16 hours to cover this material in detail, rather than 45 mins. Fortuitously, for he and I, he has a book on the topic that I could buy so that I could refer to it when I need to. Some interesting points from this talk:

  • always use the standard County Codes
  • apprenticeship records can be held by the Parish – in the Parish Chest
  • ‘terriers’ is an old word for documents

There was so much more to this talk, but I listened rather than writing because I found i couldn’t do both!

Next we had a morning tea break and I had great fun chatting to Helen Smith who I have ‘known’ for a few years via social media but not had the opportunity to meet in person. Here we are.

Helen and me

The next talk was I think the one that I gained the most from. Jan’s talk “Delving deep in FamilySearch” gave us many tools to go away and try.

  • Research Wiki – if you are not using it you should! A good reminder to those of us who have forgotten…including me.
  • Learning Centre – watch the videos. There are also key presentations from the RootsTech conferences
  • The Source Box is a great tool where you can save your searches, and view them to you remind yourself of what you have searched for.
  • Use filters when searching.
  • Check first for the records that you want to search to see if they are even there – use the Catalogue. Once you find the record series you want, check what the coverage is to make sure the years you want are there. you waste time searching records if the years you want aren’t even there.
  • Only use the Mother’s maiden name when searching for Scottish records, because they used the maiden name and not the married name – NOT the same in England and Wales.
  • Use the Books search. You may find books on localities or your various family lines.
  • Maps. Type in a place name to see the Parish and Registration Districts. There is a lot of information to be found that is very useful in the maps on FamilySearch.

Next Graham presented “Researching the maternal line”. This was very interesting because Graham gave some great tips about going further towards finding those elusive maternal ancestors.

  • Find out how women of that time lived: social history; socioeconomic circumstances and how/where was she employed
  • Focus on the women: records they created such as diaries and letters; find your distant cousins and ask them for information and photographs; seek out BDMs and Census records; look for subsequent marriages; look for any local records that may include her maiden name – Parish Chest again; look for headstones and obituaries.
  • Check out the people around her: letters, diaries etc; check out her husband’s military records, any contracts her husband may have had with her in-laws; wills of relatives; newspaper notices of wedding; diaries kept by other immigrants that may have mentioned your ancestor; Parish Chest items such as school records etc.
  • Check out the associates of her husband: school mates; business partners – guilds and apprenticeship records, business licenses; friends – check marriage witnesses, death informants, diaries, witnesses in court cases, newspaper personal columns etc.

Graham then talked about ‘deductive research':

  • expand your search for records of all your ancestors children in the hope that one would contain her maiden name
  • look for unusual second given names, quite often the mother’s maiden name
  • search for a will, if she outlasted her husband
  • census records may record widowed maternal grandparents living with their family
  • hunt out less obvious government records that may contain required personal information
  • search out the census records of siblings

Jan’s last talk was a case study about serendipity and searching. This was a fun talk where she explained how she conducted a search for a friend with positive results. There were many useful titbits in this talk, the most useful for me was in regards to the FreeBMD site where you can add something called a Postem. I have suggested corrections before on FreeBMD but not used the Postem tool where you can add a comment to help future researchers and even include your email address so they can contact you if you wish to. I need to go back and look at this feature to see if I should leave a few details on records I know are there.

The last talk of the day was “Identifying and dating 19th century family photos” by Graham. This was a very informative talk where he gave 5 key steps to identifying photos:

  • determine the type of photo
  • analyse the mounting board itself
  • examine the back for printed information
  • examine the composition of the image – the pose and background
  • review costumes

Graham then went through each decade from the 1860s to the 1900s showing the key things to look out for when identifying and dating photographs. I learnt a lot from this that will help me narrow down the dates of a few photographs I have.

The seminar was extremely well run by the Gold Coast Family History Society. The food, venue and friendly volunteers were a credit to their organisation. I will be looking out for their next event.

Thomas Honey NOT Johnny Honey

I recently made a very exciting discovery. One I would have blogged about then if our internet had not been messed about by the last lot of torrential rain to visit us on the Northern Rivers.

I had visited our local Family History Centre in Goonellabah, NSW a couple of years ago with my friend Tracy to see what they had there and how we could use their services. It was an interesting for both of us to discover what we could potentially use. It took me another couple of years to organise some films to view.

I had ordered 2 films from Family Search. Both, I hoped, would help me find out more about my husband’s ancestors in India. I arrived at the Family History Centre quite excited, nervousy anticipating what I might discover. (I wondered more than once if this was really weird…and decided no, genies are like that!)

The team at the Family History Centre at Goonellabah are extremely helpful and had me organised very quickly with a microfilm reader that could print to a USB. Love it! No extra work required as I can copy directly what I am seeing. A bonus is not paying for the printing charge, but I am more excited about having a digital image to keep and be able to manipulate if I want to.

I began looking at the films I had ordered and the first film, which was actually the second one I looked at, confirmed a birth I already had details of, that is, John Samuel Westcott DYSON. Good to have extra evidence, but not that exciting, tingling feeling you want to have looking at microfilm you have been waiting to arrive for weeks.

So, that was the second film. What was on the first film? Hopefully someone out there is still reading…

About two years ago we were in Adelaide visiting my husband’s family and whilst everyone was talking I did searches on Family Search to see if I could find out anything about the boys, (4 brothers), great grandfather Brian St Clair HONEY. I found a small number of records relating to him, suggesting dates and events that we already had recorded and believed we had evidence of, and then saw a marriage index record that stated that Brian’s father’s name was Johnny HONEY. This was a name that no one, at least in the immediate family, recognised – not because it didn’t necessarily make sense, moreso because that did not have any family history on this man. (Or his wife, but that will be a harder nut to crack).

So the second film I looked at that day included the marriage record of Brian St Clair HONEY to Violet Helena ROACH in Bombay India in 1910. This was the record that suggested Brian’s father’s name was Johnny HONEY. When I looked at the microfilm I wasn’t immediately convinced that the first name was in fact Johnny, and as I looked longer and closer to it, I became quite sure that the first name of the father was actually Thomas. What do you think?

Thomas HONEY

Thomas HONEY’s signature on the wedding register of Brian St Clair HONEY’s marriage.

I was very excited to make this discovery, although I knew I had research at home from other descendants of my husband’s who surmised that Brian’s father was actually called Thomas and not Johnny.

The most important discovery I made that day, however, was that you should always look at the primary source if possible, because transcriptions or interpretation errors can occur.

It is also much more interesting to look at the originals to see your ancestor’s handwriting and any other historical context that may be there.

A week later, I discovered an image of this register entry on FindMyPast. :) It had probably been there for quite a few months, but I think I got more of a thrill out of finding the record on microfilm than in a database.

Trove Tuesday – Rat causes car accident

I came across this article on a Facebook page I follow called Know What I Miss About Byron Bay and thought it was interesting and funny enough to share for Trove Tuesday. As we have had a few rats in our ceilings over the years, I sympathise with anyone who has to deal with them!

"RAT IN MOTOR CAR." The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) 18 Apr 1939: 2. Web. 20 May 2014 <>.

“RAT IN MOTOR CAR.” The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) 18 Apr 1939: 2. Web. 20 May 2014 <;.

Trove Tuesday – Christmas Eve in Bangalow

Excitement is building in our household in anticipation of Christmas and the Christmas Eve celebrations that are held each year in the town we live in, Bangalow. The main street of Bangalow is closed to traffic, everything other than foot traffic, and locals and visitors enjoy buskers, food and catching up with family and friends. The Christmas Eve celebrations have a wonderful party atmosphere and as long as there are no thunderstorms, unfortunately this happens more often than we would like, it is a lovely Christmas tradition to enjoy.

In thinking about what to pop up as a Christmassy Trove Tuesday, I thought I would see if this Christmas Eve tradition in Bangalow has been around for a while, and it would seem that it is not a new event. (People who live in or visit Bangalow, however, would probably challenge the last sentence!)

Merry Christmas everyone.

1937 'Bangalow Christmas Eve.', Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 - 1954), 23 December, p. 6, viewed 24 December, 2013,
1937 ‘Bangalow Christmas Eve.’, Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), 23 December, p. 6, viewed 24 December, 2013,

Trove Tuesday – Mayor, James Simmons

My Trove Tuesday post this week is an article about my gg grandfather James Simmons. I have written about him here previously, however, this article from the Australian Town and Country Journal is one that I have not seen until recently, (tonight in fact!). James appears to have been a highly-thought of man in the area and well-respected as mayor of Ulladulla for two years in 1886 and 1887.

As a librarian, I particularly like reading in the article how he gave ‘…much attention to placing the Free Public Library on a sound footing, and strongly supported the levying of a special library rate for that purpose’.



1887 ‘Municipal.’, Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), 24 September, p. 19, viewed 17 November, 2013,

Trove Tuesday – I will pull your dirty nose

This is my first Trove Tuesday in quite a while so I thought I would try and make it a little bit off-centre. I have been doing some research into my HETHERINGTON  line and found an article about a distant cousin from that line who lived in the area I do now, although he was ‘active’ in the area in the first half of the twentieth century. It would appear that he was well-acquainted with the police and courts in Northern NSW and in this particular incident took umbrage with the local school teacher and threatened to “pull your dirty nose”. I wonder if that was a common insult at the time??

pull your dirty nose

1918 ‘LISMORE POLICE COURT. MONDAY, MARCH 11.’, Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), 12 March, p. 2, viewed 12 November, 2013,