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


7 thoughts on “Day 2 of Congress 2015

  1. This may be a fairly obvious suggestion, but I found the book, “Pozieres: the Anzac Story” by Scott Bennett very helpful in understanding Pozieres.

  2. Thanks Tanya so many of the talks today did stress the importance of place in relation to our ancestors and helping to understand them better. I will be relooking at some of my families too.

      • Yes I have a long list of to dos after Congress! Today’s technology is fantastic but maybe there was something good about having to wait ‘ages’ for our new information to arrive back in the 70s and 80s!

  3. Great synopsis Tanya. Thanks for your kind words re my talk…hope you find similar joy with your family places….even if they are below the border ;)

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