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.