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.

Looking ahead – my goals for 2012

I have been reading the goals of a number of other geneabloggers over the last few days and it seems like a good idea to put them down in writing – then I might remember what they were!

I only have 3 goals and think it may be a small miracle if I achieve all of them because I am also going to start studying again this year. Anyhow, here they are:

1. Spend more time with my Nan, who at 92 is doing well to still be here in such good health. I would like to be able to record more of her stories and ancedotes so I can save and share them with the rest of the family. I would also like to find out more details about the people in her photos because many of the names, stories of those people will be lost once she is gone.

2.  I would love to be better organised. I have played around with many different forms and ways of saving my research progress but until recently had not found anything that worked efficiently for me. After reading a post by Aillin at Australian Genelogy Journeys blog on Research logs I think I have put together 2 forms and a system using Google docs that will work for me – I hope. It needs testing!

3. I have one great great grandparent who is missing a surname and I would like to discover what that is. I have many other brick walls, however I feel that this is one that I might be able to break down more easily than the others. (You know the type: did they swim here??, died somewhere but can’t find out where etc.)

Hopefully I will be able to report positively on these goals this time next year.

Happy Goal Achieving!

Beyond the Internet Geneameme

I have enjoyed participating in some of the Geneamemes lately and although relatively new ot family history research wanted to join in with this one too from Pauline over at Family history across the seas.

As I only stared researching my family a few years ago and basically live in the sticks – or certainly not close to any major archives, I have probably done about 90% of my research via the Internet. This will be interesting.

As usual the process is as follows:

Beyond the Internet Geneameme

Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item

  1. Looked at microfiche for BDM indexes which go beyond the online search dates.
  2. Talked to elderly relatives about your family history.
  3. Obtained old family photos from relatives.
  4. Have at least one certificate (birth/death/marr) for each great-grandparent.
  5. Have at least one certificate (birth/death/marr) for each great-great-grandparent.
  6. Seen/held a baptism or marriage document in a church, church archive or microfilm.
  7. Seen your ancestor’s name in some other form of church record eg kirk session, communion rolls.
  8. Used any microfilm from an LDS family history centre for your research.
  9. Researched using a microfilm other than a parish register (LDS family history centre/other).
  10. Used cemetery burial records to learn more about your relative’s burial.
  11. Used funeral director’s registers to learn more about your relative’s burial.
  12. Visited all your great-grandparents’ grave sites.
  13. Visited all your great-great-grandparents’ grave sites.
  14. Recorded the details on your ancestors’ gravestones and photographed them.
  15. Obtained a great-grandparent’s will/probate documents.
  16. Obtained a great-great grandparent’s will/probate documents. (Was actually a 3x great grandfather)
  17. Found a death certificate among will documents.
  18. Followed up in the official records, something found on the internet.
  19. Obtained a copy of your immigrant ancestors’ original shipping records.
  20. Found an immigration nomination record for your immigrant ancestor.
  21. Found old images of your ancestor’s place of origin (online or other).
  22. Read all/part of a local history for your ancestor’s place of residence.
  23. Read all/part of a local history for your ancestor’s place of origin.
  24. Read your ancestor’s school admission records.
  25. Researched the school history for your grandparents.
  26. Read a court case involving an ancestor (online newspapers don’t count for this).
  27. Read about an ancestor’s divorce case in the archives.
  28. Have seen an ancestor’s war medals.
  29. Have an ancestor’s military record (not a digitised copy eg WWII).
  30. Read a war diary or equivalent for an ancestor’s battle.
  31. Seen an ancestor’s/relative’s war grave.
  32. Read all/part of the history of an ancestor’s military unit (battalion/ship etc).
  33. Seen your ancestor’s name on an original land map.
  34. Found land selection documents for your immigrant ancestor/s.
  35. Found other land documents for your ancestor (home/abroad)
  36. Located land maps or equivalent for your ancestor’s place of origin.
  37. Used contemporaneous gazetteers or directories to learn about your ancestors’ places.
  38. Found your ancestor’s name in a Post Office directory of the time.
  39. Used local government sewerage maps (yes, seriously!) for an ancestor’s street.
  40. Read an inquest report for an ancestor/relative (online/archives).
  41. Read an ancestor’s/relative’s hospital admission.
  42. Researched a company file if your family owned a business.
  43. Looked up any of your ancestor’s local government rate books or valuation records.
  44. Researched occupation records for your ancestor/s (railway, police, teacher etc).
  45. Researched an ancestor’s adoption.
  46. Researched an ancestor’s insolvency. (I have started to, need to complete this at SRNSW at Kingswood for 2 ancestors)
  47. Found a convict ancestor’s passport or certificate of freedom.
  48. Found a convict ancestor’s shipping record.
  49. Found an ancestor’s gaol admission register.
  50. Found a licencing record for an ancestor (brands, publican, etc).
  51. Found an ancestor’s mining lease/licence.
  52. Found an ancestor’s name on a petition to government.
  53. Read your ancestor’s citizenship document.
  54. Read about your ancestor in an undigitised regional newspaper.
  55. Visited a local history library/museum relevant to your family. (The wonderful Richmond River Historical Society in Lismore)
  56. Looked up your ancestor’s name in the Old Age Pension records.
  57. Researched your ancestor or relative in Benevolent Asylum/Workhouse records.
  58. Researched an ancestor’s/relative’s mental health records.
  59. Looked for your family in a genealogical publication of any sort (but not online remember). (Does a history of NORCO the dairy coop in Northern NSW count? It is a book.)
  60. Contributed family information to a genealogical publication.

99 Things Genealogy Meme – Aussie Style

Geniaus is encouraging Australian genealogy bloggers, (and those from elsewhere), to ‘dinkumise’ the ’99 Things Genealogy Meme’ post by Becky at Kinexxions. It is a fun idea so I thought I would join in!

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (color optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

Here is my contribution:

  1. Belong to a genealogical society.
  2. Joined the Australian Genealogists group on Genealogy Wise
  3. Transcribed records.
  4. Uploaded headstone pictures to Find-A-Grave or a similar site.
  5. Documented ancestors for four generations (self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents)
  6. Joined Facebook.
  7. Cleaned up a run-down cemetery.
  8. Joined the Genea-Bloggers Group.
  9. Attended a genealogy conference.
  10. Lectured at a genealogy conference.
  11. Speak about a genealogy topic at a local genealogy society.
  12. Joined the Society of Australian Genealogists.
  13. Contributed to a genealogy society publication.
  14. Served on the board or as an officer of a genealogy society.
  15. Got lost on the way to a cemetery. (Not my fault, the small section of the cemetery I was looking for was hidden up a hill!)
  16. Talked to dead ancestors.
  17. Researched outside the state in which I live.
  18. Knocked on the door of an ancestral home and visited with the current occupants.
  19. Cold called a distant relative.
  20. Posted messages on a surname message board.
  21. Uploaded a gedcom file to the internet.
  22. Googled my name. (and those of ancestors and distant cousins)
  23. Performed a random act of genealogical kindness
  24. Researched a non-related family, just for the fun of it.
  25. Have been paid to do genealogical research.
  26. Earn a living (majority of income) from genealogical research.
  27. Wrote a letter (or email) to a previously unknown relative.
  28. Contributed to one of the genealogy carnivals.
  29. Responded to messages on a message board.
  30. Was injured while on a genealogy excursion.
  31. Participated in a genealogy meme.
  32. Created family history gift items (calendars, cookbooks, etc.).
  33. Performed a record lookup.
  34. Took a genealogy seminar cruise.
  35. Am convinced that a relative must have arrived here from outer space.
  36. Found a disturbing family secret.
  37. Told others about a disturbing family secret.
  38. Combined genealogy with crafts (family picture quilt, scrapbooking).
  39. Think genealogy is a passion not a hobby.
  40. Assisted finding next of kin for a deceased person.
  41. Taught someone else how to find their roots. (How to get started at least)
  42. Lost valuable genealogy data due to a computer crash or hard drive failure.
  43. Been overwhelmed by available genealogy technology.
  44. Know a cousin of the 4th degree or higher.
  45. Disproved a family myth through research.
  46. Got a family member to let you copy photos.
  47. Used a digital camera to “copy” photos or records.
  48. Translated a record from a foreign language.
  49. Found an immigrant ancestor’s passenger arrival record.
  50. Looked at census records on microfilm, not on the computer.
  51. Used microfiche.
  52. Visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
  53. Used Google+ for genealogy.
  54. Visited a church or place of worship of one of your ancestors.
  55. Taught a class in genealogy.
  56. Traced ancestors back to the 18th Century.
  57. Traced ancestors back to the 17th Century.
  58. Traced ancestors back to the 16th Century.
  59. Can name all of your great-great-grandparents.
  60. Found an ancestor on the Australian Electoral Rolls
  61. Know how to determine a soundex code without the help of a computer.
  62. Have found relevant articles on Trove. (I love the old newspapers on Trove!)
  63. Own a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
  64. Helped someone find an ancestor using records you had never used for your own research.
  65. Visited the main National Archives building in Washington, DC.
  66. Visited the National Library of Australia. (Unfortunately not for genealogy though, it was on a school excursion, many years ago).
  67. Have an ancestor who came to Australia as a ten pound pom.
  68. Have an ancestor who fought at Gallipoli.
  69. Taken a photograph of an ancestor’s tombstone.
  70. Can read a church record in Latin.
  71. Have an ancestor who changed his/her name.
  72. Joined a Rootsweb mailing list.
  73. Created a family website.
  74. Have a genealogy blog.
  75. Was overwhelmed by the amount of family information received from someone.
  76. Have broken through at least one brick wall.
  77. Done genealogy research at the War Memorial in Canberra.
  78. Borrowed microfilm from the Family History Library through a local Family History Center.
  79. Found an ancestor in the Ryerson index.
  80. Have visited the National Archives of Australia.
  81. Have an ancestor who served in the Boer War.
  82. Use maps in my genealogy research.
  83. Have a convict ancestor who was transported from the UK. (I have discovered only 1 so far)
  84. Found a bigamist amongst the ancestors.
  85. Visited the National Archives in Kew.
  86. Visited St. Catherine’s House in London to find family records.
  87. Taken an online genealogy course.
  88. Consistently cite my sources.
  89. Visited a foreign country (i.e. one I don’t live in) in search of ancestors.
  90. Can locate any document in my research files within a few minutes.
  91. Have an ancestor who was married four times (or more).
  92. Made a rubbing of an ancestors gravestone.
  93. Followed genealogists on Twitter.
  94. Published a family history book (on one of my families).
  95. Learned of the death of a fairly close relative through research.
  96. Offended a family member with my research.
  97. Reunited someone with precious family photos or artifacts.
  98. Have a paid subscription to a genealogy database. (Used to, not at present)
  99. Edited records on Trove.

Using a Samsung Galaxy Tablet for genealogy, and other things

Reading Geniaus‘ recent post, Addicted to the Tablet, got me thinking about what I have found my Samsung Galaxy Tablet useful for so far.

I have had my Tablet now for about 5 weeks and during that time have added, and deleted, many apps to try them out. Most are free, (I admit to being ‘cheap’), and most are not particularly useful and are quickly uninstalled. My main reason for buying the Tablet was to be able to easily take a copy of my family tree with me. I don’t have a complete copy of my family tree, or my husband’s, on the web (I haven’t taken the plunge and properly published our trees), and I wanted something lighter than my laptop to cart it around on. I already had an Android phone that I love, so it made sense to buy an Android Tablet. To view my family tree files I have purchased (after trialling a number of different apps) the Family Bee app and am very happy with it. It does everything I need, except allow you to edit as you go, but you can make notes and email them to yourself or upload them to a Dropbox account to make changes to your data later. I found it was the easiest genie app to upload a GEDCOM to. Some other apps make you convert the file and are more complicated, Family Bee is very straightforward.

Other useful apps are simple things like Google Reader, Twitter and Dropbox. I’ve now installed the Dropbox app on my Tablet, phone and also access via my laptop, and have found this to be very useful for backing files up, but also for being able to share photos and files with other people. I have setup a number of separate files and ‘invited’ individuals to have access to those folders only. One folder contains scanned letters and photos from my husband’s Indian ancestors that I can easily share with a distant cousin in England, rather than trying to email or post copies to.

For web browsing I have mainly been using the Skyfire app, but am now giving the Firefox app a trial too after Geniaus’ mention in her post. My Tablet is WiFi only, so I generally use my phone for navigating with Google Maps and Navigator, however both work well on the Tab when WiFi is available. The Tab being WiFi only has been ok up to this point because most places I go, (and I don’t really go very far!!), have WiFi that I can log into. We have it at home, work, and many of the cafes etc I tend to go to. Admittedly, I am probably going more to places now where I know I can get WiFi access, even if I don’t end up using it. (It is almost as important as the coffee!)

I love the size of the Tablet, as it fits very well in one hand and makes a great ereader once you have downloaded apps such as Aldiko (good for pdfs too), Kindle for Android, Kobo, and Moon+Reader. The size of the Tab also means it easily fits into most handbags, which unfortunately also means I didn’t have an excuse to by a new handbag – didn’t think that one through!

Two other apps I have found useful are Power Note, by Diigo, and Evernote. At this stage I have mainly used Power Note for saving bookmarks, and it is great because you can sync it and access all your bookmarks wherever you are. (The app is also on my phone so I can access bookmarks, notes etc on it as well – particularly useful when I can’t get WiFi on the Tablet). I need to do some more investigating of Evernote. There seems to be some overlap with Power Note, but one great feature of it is its ability to search the text on photos you take via Evernote. I was a little sceptical about this, but have found it works well.

Other apps I use on the Tablet include, Gmail, Facebook, Barcode Scanner (for downloading apps), BeamReader (for pdfs), LibraryThing (for books), and Snapbucket (for photos). There are a couple of widgets I have found useful as well, a battery widget that tells what % of power you have left, (it is more accurate than the blue bar at the top of the screen), and a WiFi toggle widget that quickly allows you to turn WiFi on or off.

I’d love to hear about other useful Android apps people have found for their Tablets and/or phones. Please recommend any, I’d love to try them out.

I’m extremely happy with my Tablet and think it does a great job, not only for genie-related tasks but also with other tasks such as bookmarking, web browsing, emailing, and being an ereader, camera, scanner etc.

Could I do without it? Yes, probably, but most reluctantly.