Days 3 and 4 of Congress 2015

I had intended to do a post describing each day of Congress, but lost my way when we went out for dinner with the the Kiva group on Sunday night and I was too exhausted by the time we got home to blog. And then I arrived home and was introduced again to reality. So in order to wrap up what I learnt and keep a record for myself, I am going to do one post for the final two days of Congress.

Day 3’s keynote address was by Michael McKernan and he talked writing and war from the home front. Charles Bean featured in this talk and I discovered a number of things I didn’t know such as, there are the names of 8,000 individuals included in Charles Bean’s Official Histories of WWI. I also did not know that the first ‘dog tags’ for soldiers were made of leather and therefore perished and made identification of bodies much harder than the later, metal versions. I enjoyed Michael’s talk because it gave me new insights into war from the home front, and sources to look for to explore this better, as well as people such as Charles Bean who wrote about it during and afterwards.

The next talk I attended was by Kerry Farmer and was on Migration schemes to Australia. I learnt so much from Kerry’s talk and have bought her new book via Unlock the Past so I can keep learning. In her presentation Kerry took us through various immigration schemes and how to find out more about them and if your ancestors were involved. It has given me so many more places to look for my ‘swimmers’, the Immigration Board interviews when immigrants landed in NSW is one record set in particular I need to check out at SRNSW. Kerry has some handy information on immigration on her website. So either take a look at that or buy her new book.

David Rencher’s session on Interpreting and evaluating name lists from Ireland. This was quite and amazing session as far as the amount of information was concerned. David suggested a number of Census substitutes, many of which we had heard about in a previous session, but then he moved on to explain how to evaluate them to obtain useful information from them. It was a hands on session with examples of name lists on our seats that we examined towards the end. It was a great exercise to challenge our brains and actually show us what we could possibly glean from these types of records.

I went to Cora Num’s session next on mapping our families and discovered some new resources I will have to try out. I was particularly interested in the search she showed within the Discovering Ancestors website where you can search on a locality to see what soldiers enlisted from a certain area. This link will take you to that specific search. I did a search based on my local area, and what was interesting was that it gave me quite a different set of results to that which we had found recently by using Honour Rolls/Boards and the AIF Project website. It just confirms you usually need to check more than one source.

I had been looking forward to the next keynote address, by Grace Karstens, ever since I discovered she would be at Congress. Her talk about a book she is currently writing on the Castlereagh area, north-west of Sydney was entertaining and fascinating. The relationships within the small and isolated settlement were complicated and intriguing. I look forward to being about to buy a copy.

The next session was by Pauleen Cass on blogging one place studies. I was interested to find out more about what is involved in a one place study, not so much about blogging it, but more about a one place study itself. This session tied in somewhat to Pauleen’s previous session about linking family and local history together, if you want to add context to your ancestors’ lives then you need to research the local area they lived in. Pauleen ran slightly ahead in time in her presentation which proved to be a positive because it allowed quite a few items to be discussed, particularly about blogging. Pauleen’s session made me think that I would love to do a one place study for one of my ancestor’s localities, probably Booyong/Pearce’s Creek in Northern NSW, however I would need to clone myself – one of Pauleen’s suggestions!

Another David Rencher session was next on the list. David was so informative I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see him again. Again I learnt a great deal about resources you could seek and search for information about your Irish ancestors. I will save details about this for another post.

That wrapped up Sunday’s Congress proceedings. Then it was off to dinner with a lovely group of geneablogger friends and Mum. :)

The keynote address on Day 4 was given by David Holman. It was a very light-hearted and funny talk about surnames, occupations and other interesting information gleaned from BMD and Census records. One of the funniest examples David gave was the marriage between Lottie Large and Francis Butt in 1914, which if Lottie hyphenated her surname would have made her Lottie Large-Butt. That was only an if, by the way…

Feeling more awake by now, I was interested to hear what Tim Sherratt from TROVE had to say. We all know and love TROVE, particularly the digitised newspapers, and as a librarian I would like to think I know how to efficiently search for my ancestors. However, you can always learn something, and I learnt that TROVE has become a platform for many historical projects, some of which Tim said the TROVE team had not even envisaged! Tim also mentioned that the NSW Govt Gazette is currently being digitised, exciting, and will be interesting to see how it differs to what is offered on FMP.

The next session I attended was by Carole Riley and was on finding NSW house and land records. I was keen to learn more about this because I am in NSW, most of my ancestors in Australia lived and were from NSW and I don’t really know anyone locally who can teach me how to do this kind of research. Carole stepped us through how to locate a property when you know the street address and then you can trace back through ownership. I think I will use my old family home as an experiment to see how I go.

Colleen Fitzpatrick’s session on six degrees of separation was next and it was very interesting. Colleen, with amusing anecdotes, stepped through how you can try and locate people through various records. I was starting to think that I might be good at this type of detective work when I realised that you also have to knock on doors and cold-call people – not something I am comfortable doing, so back to the drawing board!

The last keynote of Congress was one from Cora Num on digitised newspapers. Again this gave me a number of sites to explore, including http://www.onlinenewspapers.com, a current online newspapers website that is a great complement to TROVE, the Ryerson Index and eResources from SLNSW.

The last session I attended was the Panel Session, chaired very well and entertainingly (is that a word??), by Jill Ball. There was some pertinent discussion from the Panel, David Holman, Carole Riley and Joshua Taylor, about family history societies and how they can attract, retain, engage and remain relevant in with all the changes occurring. Comments from the audience were interesting, particularly one lady who said she saw no need for using social media to connect with other family history researchers. My take on that is completely different because I don’t live in a city with a society that has a large number of members, so I actually connected with fellow genies first via Twitter and blogging. Through this I have been introduced to the world of societies, for which I am very grateful, but would also not know as much about without connecting first with other genies online. Maybe traditionally back-to-front, but I’m happy.

After this wonderful download of all things genealogy and family history, Shelley, Mum and I indulged in a spot of shopping, and I am now the proud owner of a puffy jacket from Zara that I will probably never need to wear in Bangalow, even during our winter. Maybe I need to visit Canberra again!