Guest Post on Inside History blog

I know it’s been a little quiet here lately – other things taking the front line – but  you may be interested in my guest post on the Inside History blog. It’s entitled Top 10 out and about Genie Activities and you can find it here: http://www.insidehistory.com.au/2014/06/top-10-out-and-about-genie-activities/

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute Cassie.

Lost in X – DNA that is

Despite having other pressing family tasks I’ve found myself lost in DNA results and especially the X chromosome matches. I had my autosomal DNA (aka Family Finder) tested some time ago but have never really come to terms with the matches presented by Family Tree DNA.

I’ve been fortunate lately to find a known second cousin has also been tested, and even better we have loads of DNA in common…well compared to my earlier matches. As we also know our genealogy from traditional methods, it means that we can focus down on where our X chromosomes may have been generated. Interestingly, we both have good overlaps on the X chromosome with a couple of women who only come in at the likely 4th cousin level, Sandra S and Linda S (who also have some reasonable shared Cms with me/us on some of the other 22 chromosomes).

To state what is generally well known, a girl child inherits an X chromosome from her mother and another from her father. The father’s comes down intact exactly as he inherited it from his mother. Any genetic jumbling, aka recombination, happened at his mother’s level ie with the paternal grandmother.

The X chromosome inherited from a girl’s mother will not match the mother’s exactly. Rather it goes through the jumbling or recombination process, amalgamating genetically the two X chromosomes the mum inherited from the female child’s maternal grandparents.

So the X-chromosome Dad gave me is a direct reflection of whatever his mother Catherine passed on to him. This is a genetic blend of the X-DNA from my great-grandmother, Isabella Morrison of Cairndow and Strachur in Argyll, and that of my Sim great-grandparents over in the east of Scotland, in Stirlingshire.

My mother’s X-DNA is a blend of her two X chromosomes, which were inherited from my maternal grandparents ie McSherry and Melvin, so a combination of Irish and Scots genes. A comparison between my mother’s X-DNA and mine will not be identical as it has been jumbled up before being passed on. There should however (I think) be a fair degree of overlap. This will become more clear (I hope!) to me when my mum’s results come back.

Follow the pretty pink lines for X-DNA.

Follow the pretty pink lines for X-DNA. While I haven’t filled in all the info I have, the question marks make it clear how many stumbling blocks are thrown up by Irish ancestry.

The chart here shows the pink boxes which generate our X chromosome material. As it cannot be passed on from fathers to their sons, we can eliminate whole sections of a genealogical chart when looking at X-DNA. As the Family Finder autosomal matches predict likely relationships, I found it helpful to illustrate which segments would apply to 2nd, 3rd or 4th cousins. I also noted which countries and known counties or regions my ancestors came from. I haven’t filled in every box but I’m sure you’ll get the drift. It does look like a bit of schmozzle, but what you’re looking for is the pink lines of descent, henceforth known as the “women in pink” and don’t forget you can click to enlarge it. (I acknowledge with thanks the work of Blaine Bettinger, the Genetic Genealogist, in providing us with this tool).

The X chromosome is one of the 23 DNA pairs which make up our genetic being and it is the one which determines our gender (boys only inherit one X and their father’s Y). It is tested as part of the FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder, or autosomal, DNA test. 22 of the pairs are a random mix of all the DNA which is passed on from generation to generation, making it possible to find relations via significant shared SNPs of shared chromosomes.

The X chromosome behaves somewhat differently from the other 22 autosomal pairs. This is partly because of recombination, though some researchers have found that it’s been passed down virtually unchanged over several generations. Even siblings will not necessarily have identical X-DNA for these reasons. I am happy to take the word of the experts that this little gene is rather tricky and not as predictable certainly as Y-DNA or matrilineal DNA.

The X chromosome is not to be confused with matrilineal DNA (mtDNA) which is passed virtually intact from generation to generation down through the mother-to-daughter-to-daughter line. In this case I can expect my mtDNA to have come down through the generations from my 2xgreat grandmother, Mary Camp from Hertforshire, and the women back in line from her.  While my father inherited his mother’s mtDNA he cannot pass it on to me…that’s a genetic “dead end” for me, which can only be tested via Dad’s maternal aunts (now all deceased) or their daughters.

A selection of women who share X matches with me.

A selection of women who share X matches with me. The one in orange is a 2nd cousin.

It seems logical to me (but am I right?) that if an autosomal DNA match includes a match to me on the X chromosome, this might be the best line of research to approach first, especially for those high in my overall matches and relationships. After all, the X-DNA has narrowed down my possible lines of ancestry with its focus on the “women in pink” (see chart). While I have over 400 DNA matches with Family Tree DNA, sharing a range of Cm from 378.4 to say 25, I have only 90 X-DNA matches among these. Some have trees listed, others have names and places (as I do), and some have nothing.

Among my matches I have five probable 2nd to 4th cousins and 25 x 3rd to 5th. While a fourth cousin may seem some distance away, that fades when I realise how much conventional research I’ve achieved through my 3rd cousin once removed in the O’Brien line. This includes providing me with mtDNA which will go back to my 3xgreat grandmother, Catherine O’Brien nee Reddan from Co Clare, Ireland, and generations of women beyond her.

I have had two good autosomal matches in my list for a while and have recently been in contact with the person who manages them. We share no X-DNA but we do have one narrow area of Ireland in common. Of course the problems with Irish documentary research make it difficult to go multiple generations without a fair amount of the luck of the Irish.

I’m by no means confident I’m correct on all these facts and happy to receive advice from more experienced readers –this is by way of “thinking out loud”. It all no sooner seems to make sense than I find myself in another spider’s web of confusion. Many’s the time I’ve wondered what happened to those five years of science I did at school and university.

In trying to get my head around these issues I’ve been assisted by the following blog posts as well as conference presentations by Kerry Farmer and advice from Helen Smith. In each of these posts there are onward links which are worth following. Any false deductions and reporting are entirely my own fault, not theirs. As I said, I’m thinking out loud here trying to sort out my own ideas, so feel free to weigh in with corrections.

DNA eXplained – Genetic Genealogy, Roberta Estes, on X Marks the Spot. (do read the comments as well) and That unruly X – chromosome that is.

The Legal Genealogist, Judy G Russell, on X marks the spot, Whence the X, and Looking at Recombination.

Genetic Genealogist, Blaine Bettinger, on Unlocking the Secret of the X chromosome and also More X Chromosome Charts. The image of the chart of X chromosome inheritance also comes from Blaine and I acknowledge, with thanks, that he has provided this for us to use.

The Lineal Arboretum, Jim Owston, in Phasing the X chromosome (in relation to male inheritance)

Book of Me: Week 34 Easter Memories

Book of meIt’s ages since I did a Book of Me post but then I found Julie’s topic for this week is Easter memories…just when I’d been reflecting on that very topic last night and how I’m completely underwhelmed by the Easter palaver these days.

This was Julie’s key question: What does Easter Mean to you?

A religious event?
The first main break (in the UK) since Christmas and New Year
A more general Spring/Autumn event
Easter Bunnies
Eggs
Chocolate
Traditions

Growing up very Catholic (no that’s not a redundant combination), Easter for me was all about the religious reason for the season. Even more it was all about going to church again, and again, and again. Even as a very good child I found this all a bit overwhelming. There was the Holy Thursday celebration with washing of the feet (something which has generated controversy for Pope Francis), and after Mass, the adoration of the Eucharist.

Friday was of course the commemoration of the saviour’s suffering on the cross with stations of the cross then in later years, a procession around the church. Throughout all this, all the church fittings were draped in purple and the tabernacle door left open to symbolise God was no longer present.

Good Friday was/is a day of fasting and abstinence from meat. What fun…South African yellow cod…one of my favourite delicacies…not!

Saturday involved confession and then the Easter Vigil Mass at midnight. This was a high Mass with white vestments and much grandeur and celebration. The Paschal candle was lit and this would be used throughout the year during church celebrations and baptisms.

Living in a sub-tropical city the change of seasons was immaterial. It was only when Easter was late that there might have been a nip in the night air as autumn approached.

A gift from Aunty Emily.

A gift from Aunty Emily.

What was more exciting was that Lent had come to an end…alleluia! No longer were chocolates on the banned list but we could pig out on Easter Sunday and indulge in all those lollies that had been hoarded in bottles throughout Lent (I don’t claim this was logical!). Mum told me recently that her Protestant aunt (a grandmother substitute for me as mine had died), used to give me little tea cups during Lent rather than buy lollies. I also had Easter egg cups from her which I passed on to my grandchildren a couple of years ago.

easter cups 2I don’t recall anything like the fuss and kerfuffle that exists today with Easter egg hunts etc etc. What I do remember are those candy Easter eggs with frilly icing around the edge and an icing flower in the middle, something like this modern-day version. They were so hard it’s a wonder we didn’t break our teeth on them. We lived in Papua New Guinea when our two older children were young and the chocolate eggs which arrived were invariably stale so we got into the habit of buying the kids something special in Swiss chocolate like a foil-wrapped chocolate orange. My grandchildren are happy to indulge in Swiss chocolates at any time of year.

A very rare occasion - the winning of an Easter basket at work.

A very rare occasion – the winning of an Easter basket at work.

In Australia, it’s quite traditional to go camping during the Easter long weekend. As we didn’t have a car and Dad had to work shifts, we didn’t do this when I was growing up. Nor was it a tradition when our children were smaller – after all how to reconcile all the tie demands of church-going with camping. Besides which the weather is invariably unpredictable except in the likelihood of rain. Hence why it bucketed down here yesterday <smile>.

The little tea cups my Aunty Emily gave me.

The little tea cups my Aunty Emily gave me.

There was the year we took ourselves off to Cairns for Easter leaving the teen and adult daughter behind. While we were sunning ourselves and lazing in the pool, Brisbane had a cracker storm and one of our big eucalypts quietly subsided onto the roof without any damage other than bent guttering. We weren’t entirely popular!

Mr Cassmob remembers our first Easter together when we drove out along Milne Bay to the mission at Ladava for Easter Saturday Mass and saw the moon rise over the bay. I have no reason to doubt him but I have no recollection of it…I think I was still in shell-shock from relocating from “civilisation”.

Over the years we’ve been fortunate to travel quite a bit and because we like to do that off season we have some special Easter travel memories.

The Florence festival, Easter 1974.

The Florence festival, Scoppio del Carro, Easter 1974.

On our first trip to Europe we were in Florence for Easter and were delightedly surprised by the traditional celebration that occurs there, Scoppio del Carro. Rather than try to explain this complex process and its symbolism why not read this article? The owner of the pension arranged for her husband to stay up to let us in after midnight Mass which was kind of her. There were two interesting events in the midst of the service, at least to us. Firstly people just wandered around through the Duomo (cathedral) during the Mass, and secondly when it came time for the Bishop to pour out water from the pitcher, it was completely empty – much flurrying as an acolyte had to rush off and fill it up.

One of my all time family favourites. DD1 and DD2 in Interlaken, Easter Sunday 1977.

One of my all time family favourites. DD1 and DD2 in Interlaken, Easter Sunday 1977.

On our second trip to Europe with darling daughters 1 and 2, we were in Lucerne for Easter. What better place to be for a chocolate treat or two, yet there’s not a single photo of our indulgences. It was also spectacular because overnight on the Thursday or Friday, there was a huge snowfall which got even heavier later on. The girls got to make their first snowmen and have a mini-snowfight. On Easter Sunday we headed off by train on the next stage of our journey. I particularly love a photo I have of the two munchkins in Interlaken taken while we waited for the next train. And yes, despite warnings, they did of course go off into the snow and get their shoes wet even though we had an overnight train trip ahead of us.

A plethora of clerics.

A plethora of clerics.

It wasn’t for many years that we had another opportunity to be in Europe at Easter time. We met up with DD3 and partner and gadded around, taking our chances with Italian traffic. One day we visited the lovely village of Montepulciano where we saw the delicious Easter treats in the window of Caffe Poliziano. By Easter Sunday we were a deux once again and staying in a lovely hotel where the “room was tiny but the view was marvelleuse”.

Easter Mass was celebrated in grand style with a cluster of clergy and a huge crowd of people. Afterwards we had booked Easter lunch – about five courses, all huge. It remains in my memory as the biggest meal we’ve ever eaten – and trying to cut corners was definitely not permitted. We were so piggish that by the end we could barely walk without groaning and couldn’t even indulge in a little post-prandial gelato.

Easter Mass in Assisi 2000 with a massive outdoor congregation and al fresco Mass.

Easter Mass in Assisi 2000 with a massive outdoor congregation and al fresco Mass.

These days our Easter celebrations are so low-key they’re virtually invisible. In fact this year we haven’t even indulged in any more than a Tim-Tam or two. No Easter eggs were bought as the smallest people had reached their quota of sugar-hit and as family were off on a bush adventure we had a quiet day catching up on blogs etc. I think I missed the Easter celebration gene.

The Italians do Easter treats more glamorously than anyone. Mr Cassmob looking happy despite the rain outside a Florentine Bonbonierie.

The Italians do Easter treats more glamorously than anyone. Mr Cassmob looking happy despite the rain outside a Florentine Bonboniere.

Thinking about linking – thanks to Geniaus

Once again blogger extraordinaire, Jill aka Geniaus, has challenged us to think about our blogging practice, and especially the use of hyperlinks. I only read Jill’s post about hyperlinking a few days ago and I’ve been reflecting on my practice ever since.

So what are my strategies – always assuming I’m not rushing, or distracted, and forget.

Referencing other posts

If I mention something about another person’s post I’ll link the actual story, after all that story is their copyright property and I’m recommending it to the reader as something useful or interesting, or both, to read.

If it’s a comment about a blogger or website in general, I link to their overall blog page or website. What to do with an example as above? If I’m going to mention Geniaus closely followed by a specific reference which will take you to the same site, I don’t link twice….it seems repetitious, but in this case I’ve linked to the post, and to Jill’s Google+ page.

This is not unlike using footnotes in a written document, though these may still be necessary in some cases.

Copyright images

Sometimes I want the reader to be able to see an image I found but it’s copyrighted. One way to deal with this is to hyperlink to the page where I found it. A good example is the gravestones on the Australian Cemeteries Index pages, which refer to East Clare people I’m talking about in my posts.

Prior history

We all know our readers join us over time. Sometimes it’s worth referring to an earlier post which the reader may not have seen when it was published or have forgotten (just imagine!). Or you may have more than one blog and want to cross-refer to a story.

Vernacular expressions

I’m sure I’m as guilty as the next person of occasionally taking some phrases for granted, but I do try to link to the more peculiar ones. Of course Aussies grow up watching American and British TV programs so we understand a variety of expressions. But who would have thought that “boiled sweets” would have caused as much confusion as it did in Susan’s post about her father on her Family History Fun blog?

Places

Strangely I’m a little more ambivalent about this. Sometimes it’s useful to hyperlink if there’s a particular aspect of a place that could be clarified by the link eg Charters Tower’s mining history. In other cases I’m not sure it’s necessary. If I don’t know where Chicago is, or much about it, it may not affect how I appreciate Kristin’s family stories on Finding Eliza.

On the other hand, perhaps I should be linking to information about specific places in my East Clare blog – or get permission to use a map which shows East Clare and its key towns. I think I’ll use the relevant Clare Library page for the parish, eg O’Brien’s Bridge, as it lists all available resources on their site. Thank heavens I don’t have too many posts which need additions.

How do you think about linking in your blog posts?

It’s Good News Week

Will you be going to Canberra?

Will you be going to Canberra?

I was excited to see the other day that the program for the 2015 Australasian Congress of Genealogy and Heraldry has been released. I already knew that my proposals for presentations had been accepted, but the cat is now officially out of the bag.

My topics probably won’t be a great surprise to regular readers of my blogs:

The marriage of local and family history: a bridge to the past. Use the combined skills of local and family history to draw past communities from the shadows.

From Dorfprozelten to Australia: how social media reunited the emigrants’ descendants across time. From cousin bait to match making: blogging isn’t just self-indulgence.

One of the memorial walls at the Australian War Memorial.

One of the memorial walls at the Australian War Memorial.

It’s exciting to see all the topics, and even more so, the presenters. My geneabuddies, Helen Smith, Kerry Farmer, Shauna Hicks and Carole Riley are among the speakers with topics ranging from migration schemes to land records. I’m also really looking forwarding to hear talks by Richard Reid, Perry McIntyre and Cheryl Mongan who are mates from Shamrock in the Bush conferences and Irish history gurus, and in Richard’s case also military experts.The icing on the cake is a bunch of speakers who I’ve never yet had the chance to hear present. What a treat it will all be!

I do hope I get to meet some more of my virtual friends in the nation’s capital, Canberra, between 26 and 30 March 2015. Just think of all the temptations – Congress, the Australian War Memorial, the National Library, the National Archives of Australia and all the museums and galleries. Time to start drawing up a running sheet for the “to do” list. Meanwhile I’ve got some homework to do.

Fun times ahead!

My thoughts on David Malouf’s A First Place

David MaloufI’ve just begun an e-book of short stories, A First Place, by David Malouf. Absorbing stories written by Australians always seem slightly disorienting, so accustomed are we (or is it only me?) to reading books whose settings are elsewhere. Which came first, the sense that “other is better”, leading to the exodus of much of Australia’s talent, or the relative weighting of other and local?

One story, A First Place, is about growing up in Brisbane and how its particular topography and lifestyle defines not only who we become as adults, but how we think. That certainly gave me pause for thought, and I can’t decide the merits of the case, but is that because it’s part of me?

Brisbane is a hilly city – not mountainous, just hilly, where travelling by car or foot anywhere involves the negotiation of hills. From a large-scale view, the hills are not so obvious, it’s when one is on the ground that it becomes so much more apparent. One of the earliest things a Brisbane learner-driver has to come to terms with is hill starts in a geared car. After nearly two decades of living in flat-as-a-tack Darwin I sometimes forget I have to change gears or use more power when going up a hill. Our geography does change our daily patterns.

Taken from a hotel in the CBD, this view is to the south.

Taken from a hotel in the CBD, this view is to the south.

Malouf posits that the topography of the city means “it shapes in those who grow up there a different sensibility, a cast of mind, creates a different sort of Australian”. The hilliness of the city means that its residents miss the long vistas of flatter cities like Adelaide or Melbourne. They become accustomed to new views at every rise, and this may make them restless in the absence of variety, as well as precluding a clear map of the mind. I’d suggest it might also inculcate a sense of mystery in the same way that a door into a garden, rather than shut you out, makes you more curious what lies behind…or is that, once again, the Brisbane girl in me? He’s certainly correct that it gives the legs a good workout, especially if you grew up relying on Shanks’ pony to get you everywhere – something that’s noticeably absent from Darwin’s flatness, and the laziness that tropical humidity generates.

He also talks about the river’s unusual snake-like twisting through the city: one of the reasons the flooding a few years back caused so much damage, as it has in the past. Add to that the relative lack of bridges forcing the traveller to negotiate twice as many suburbs as a direct route would allow.  The river conspires to shut off vistas as do the hills, but I think it also opens up a sense of a city of two sides on both banks.

Brisbane River snakes through the city and here, the CBD. You can see some of the bridges, two of which are new.

Brisbane River snakes through the city and here, the CBD. You can see some of the bridges -the one in the centre is a new pedestrian bridge, called the Kurilpa Bridge (or the Knitting Needle Bridge as I do).

Now that the river has become an active character in the Brisbane landscape with the arrival of the City Cats (ferries) along with the riverside walkways, it does open up the city in a different way. In much the same way as the hills, it makes you wonder (if you don’t already), what is round the next corner. No wonder a river tour has become so popular over the past decades.1113 Brisbane river and ferry stop

The hills and river combine in a story my father has handed down. I often wondered whether it was something he’d made up, even though it made eminent sense, until a friend whose father was also a born-and-bred old Queenslander confirmed the same story. In the pioneering days, the drays would travel across the city along the ridges of the hills when the river was in flood. My father did much the same when my cousin’s house was in imminent risk of flooding back in 1974, helping him to get his belongings up to the ceiling before the flood hit (reaching very close to the ceiling – two floors).

The Story Bridge at sunset, a city cat, and in the distance my school, one of Brisbane's heritage sites.

The Story Bridge at sunset, a city cat, and in the distance my school, one of Brisbane’s heritage sites.

As Malouf says, Brisbane has a radial design, striking out from the city centre. In the days when few families had their own car, this meant that setting out on a journey could make two suburbs seem immeasurably far apart, and mystifyingly disconnected. This is how I experienced visits to my grandfather at Buranda from Kelvin Grove, or family friends at the outside reaches of Mt Gravatt. It wasn’t until we acquired a car, or until I travelled more by car, that the geography of the city started to make sense in a quite different way. The CBD of the city may be suitably laid out in grid-fashion (and flat) but not the rest of the place. Motorways (and bus lanes) cut through suburbs like knives now, but the new tunnels and underpasses generate a lack of knowledge of the landscape above, until one pops out, bandicoot-like, at the other end, hopefully in the right place, or somewhere you recognise and can navigate from.

Although not in a very hilly street, the home my grandparents lived in is a good example of the Queenslander style of house.

Although not in a hilly street, the home my grandparents once lived in is a good example of the Queenslander style of house.

Malouf also has a theory that Brisbane’s tree-house-like homes, built on stilts to accommodate the hills and introduce breezes, affect the psyche of those who grew up there.  His argument is that their openness, with doors always ajar, introduce an element of not-seeing, not-hearing as appropriate to the circumstances. The timber of the building moves in a way that brick structures do not, and are more vulnerable to climate as well as protecting the family from it. I’m not entirely sure that I agree with his thesis on the effect of Brisbane (or more accurately, tropical, housing). It seems predicated on a particular type of house, the old Queenslander with its encircling verandahs rather even than post-war timber housing, and certainly not on the more modern brick bungalow or two-story house. On the other hand, doors are only shut here because of air-conditioning so perhaps he has a point.

“Under the house” is a different world from that above where all serious living takes place. Home of the household washing machine, tubs, wringer or boiler, Dad’s workbenches and the kids’ play area, it has a sort of wondrousness about it as well as a daily practicality. It offers the chance to explore what Malouf calls “a kind of archaeological site”, hosting as it does all sorts of odds and ends that have found their way to rest there, as well as on-going practical items. This space certainly features prominently in my childhood memories of both my own home and that of my grandparents next door. I used to love using my grandfather’s vice to crack the Queensland nuts (now known as macadamias) which grew on our tree. Usually enclosed by timber battens, “under the house” is both open and yet secure. Surely this experience is different from those for whom a basement may serve similar functions?

Malouf asks himself “what habits of mind such a city may encourage in its citizens, and how, though taken for granted in this place, they may differ from the habits of places where geography declares itself at every point as helpful, reliable, being itself a map”. I suspect it gives your internal GPS such good training that ever after you are more able to understand other places.

The Brisbane River approaches the city from the west.

The Brisbane River flows out to Moreton Bay -you can see the Gateway Bridge here, dwarfed by altitude. Very kind of the pilot to take the river and city route that particular time -doesn’t happen frequently, and then you have to have the camera ready too.

If a good writer’s goal is to make one think, and challenge our internal assumptions, then Malouf has achieved this for me today.

Have you thought about the impact of the geography of where you grew up? Do you think it has affected how you see the world psychologically and emotionally, your habits and sense of the world’s geography.

Book: A First Place, David Malouf. Random House 2014. A collection of personal essays and writing from David Malouf to celebrate his 80th birthday. This includes the following short story: A First Place. 1984 Blakelock Lecture.

Like so many cities, Brisbane has its own sight-seeing ferris wheel. Adjacent is the Cultural Precinct.

Like so many cities, Brisbane has its own sight-seeing ferris wheel. Adjacent is the Cultural Precinct.

Just cruisin’ – genealogy at sea

Some of you may have missed the post I submitted (late) as my February contribution to the new Worldwide Genealogy blog. It offered my perspective on the pros and cons of genealogy cruising.

You can read it here or find “genealogy cruising” in the left hand sidebar.

While you’re over there visiting, why not have a look at the diverse posts being submitted by genealogists from all over the world. It’s great to have so many different stories and approaches all in one place. This innovation was the brainchild of Julie Goucher from Angler’s Rest.

Diary of a Genea-cruise: Day 9 – the finale

314 pyramidWednesday was Day 9 and the final day of our cruise as we headed for Sydney with another warning from the Captain that there would be “motion on the ocean” but that he had no control over it, being subject to a “higher power even than my wife’s”.

The UTP cruisers had a full schedule of activities for the day ahead with some earlier talks rescheduled due to illness. It was difficult to buckle down to being alert and “on plan” after the time in port at Hobart and I confess I made this one of my “time out” days, missing a few sessions. Inevitably there were clashes in the programming so I still missed some I’d liked to have heard.

RESEARCHING A HEALTH HISTORY

Helen Smith kicked off the morning with excellent advice to prepare a family tree (genogram) without names but with gender, cause of death and age at death. Even reflecting quickly on the topic as Helen spoke I could see some scary family health risks, though to be fair, none that were a huge surprise….my family is largely blessed with longevity.813 dreamworks exp

She asked “what risk factors do you have?” and encouraged us to take preventive health measures to ensure we live long enough to do our family history. Also to talk with family members about health conditions such as miscarriages, mental health issues or cancers, but being aware of people’s sensitivities around the topic.

Key messages:  Approach your family tree using health data, rather than names and see what health conditions are prevalent. Talk to family members to tease out illnesses other than the specific cause of death.

IRISH LAND RECORDS

Chris Paton was as always amusing and informative.

I was excited to learn that the Irish National Archives will “soon” be adding to their site, the extant field, house and tenure books which lie behind the Griffith Valuations. I’ve used these in Dublin before for the townland of Ballykelly but not for some of my other places and I need to revisit the images I have to make more sense of them. The website to watch is http://genealogy.nationalarchives.ie/

I didn't get to spend a minute in the sun loungers...

I didn’t get to spend a minute in the sun loungers…

402 pool deck

Or on the pool deck….but I did make it to the day spa.

Chris also mentioned the Revision books (aka Cancellation Books) which update the original Griffith Valuations. These are absolutely gold in terms of tracing who took over your family’s property over the decades and can provide clues to when someone died. They are available through the LDS Family History Centres by ordering in the microfilm, but they’re very difficult to follow because they’re only in black and white whereas the originals are in colour so you can follow the entry across the page. The Valuation Office in Dublin will send a copy to you for E40 if you know where you’re looking. It may be expensive but it’s cheaper than a trip to Ireland, though nowhere near as much fun!

Other land records are available at different sites eg the Defaulters’ Books (for those who refused to pay the Tithes) is on FindMyPast as are the Landed Estate Court Records.

The National University of Ireland in Galway has a database on the landed estates of Munster and Connacht…the provinces where so many Irish in Australia came from. This database will let you search for the owners of estates and whether there might be surviving estate records (but do look elsewhere as well). Those with Clare ancestry can use the wonderful Clare Library site to learn more about their ancestor’s parish and the estates before turning to this database.

PRONI (the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland) also has great information for those with northern Irish ancestry, including a national schools index.

Key messages: All of the above. If you haven’t used any of these resources then check them out.

My advice: Land records are a key gateway into Irish genealogy though you do need to know where your ancestor came from (well anyone will tell you that!). If you’re struggling to locate their townland or village check out obituaries, funeral notices and funeral directors, newspaper stories, the name they called their house/property, gravestones, family stories, immigration records and so on. Be lateral, sometimes that’s the only way you’ll find them.

822 DreamworksFAMILY HISTORIAN: Queries and Plug-ins (Jane Taubman)

I didn’t attend all the Family Historian sessions offered by Jane, largely because of clashes with other sessions. I have the program on my computer and have imported some data but have yet to really play with it. The program I have used for years is an Australian one, Relatively Yours, which offers great flexibility but doesn’t export to other programs as consistently as I’d like.

Key message (for me): Get my act together, experiment with Family Historian and decide if it suits my purposes.

DNA FOR GENEALOGISTS

Kerry Farmer provides really clear advice in her presentations and the DNA session was no different. In theory I understand the process and significance but ….every time I turn my mind to this task I wonder how it can still befuddle me despite five years of science training, albeit a long time ago. One of my stumbling blocks is that I don’t have any other (known) relatives who have tested and all the 3rd or 4th cousins who pop up only identify relations within the USA. Kerry suggests asking them if they know of anywhere overseas their families came from. Perhaps it’s time to follow Kerry’s lead and offer to pay for tests for key people in my family puzzles.

Key message (for me): try, try again to understand my DNA results, read blog posts, download the data and try to make more sense of it. Kerry’s tips: get other family members tested, join the haplogroup that fits your profile (and perhaps a surname group, if applicable), and follow Family Tree DNA on Facebook to get early warning of special deals. There are also some good webinars online. Plainly there’s lots of homework to be done, and some concentrated thinking instead of head-in-a-bucket methods.

LOST IN ASYLUMS

Shauna Hicks gave a great talk on benevolent asylums and similar that housed consumptive patients or the infirm. The key places to find information about these is the relevant archive and they can be rich sources of information which can solve many mysteries or add more information not available elsewhere –I’ve certainly had great success with them. Many of the archives have at least some of these records indexed so do have a look at them. My notes on Shauna’s talk include a lot of reminders of action to follow up.

Key messages: Don’t forget to use an advanced google search combined with the relevant URL eg www.archives.qld.gov.au.

CRUISE FINALE

It was a shame to know the cruise was coming to an end even though our brains were getting rather befuddled and full of information. Once again our table had a lovely time chatting –what a pleasure it was to spend time with Cathy, Dot, Marlene and Thomas…we never did see the other person who had been allocated to our table (we must have looked scary). Nearly every evening we were among the last tables to leave the dining room. Thanks for your company each night my new friends!

319 the dining room

The evening post-dinner session was held back in Cleopatra’s Needle and there were lots of prizes handed out to participants and my table mates were all thrilled that the big prize of $2500 towards any Unlock the Past cruise went to our new-found friend Marlene!! I think we were more excited than she was as she seemed quite stunned but accepted her prize with what is her characteristic graciousness.

The waiter's finale

The waiter’s finale

Chris Paton gave the final presentation of the conference speaking on British civilian POWs in the First World War. While it has specific relevance to his family it had broader implications and was a fascinating study of Ruhleben Internment Camp. After the nuts and bolts of the conference talks it was intriguing to listen to a broader historical topic. It was amazing to hear the diversity of learning that occurred in the camp as professionals and academics (and no doubt tradesmen) passed their skills on to their fellow internees.

Thank you to Unlock the Past for the learning opportunity of a conference held on board ship. I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite my earlier “me, cruise…never!” attitude. Now I think I may have caught the cruising bug! I will most likely write a separate post in a day or two on my general perspectives of the cruise.

616 sunrise in Sydney

Thank you also to each of you for journeying along with me…I hope you’ve got a sense of the fun we had, and that I’ve shared some of the learning opportunities.

The steward's towel monkey...our final towel creation.

The steward’s towel monkey…our final towel creation.

Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Days 7 and 8 – Hobart Town

It was a longish voyage from Adelaide to Hobart (yes, I know, our ancestors would disagree!)  so we had a combination day with genealogy and then some sight-seeing after our arrival in port at 2pm.

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

I loved arriving by sea into Hobart because it brought to mind that Mary O’Brien had probably come this way before me, back on 4 April 1853. Just imagine the relief of all those on board the Florentia after four and a half months at sea, with a diminishing supply of provisions. Hobart is such a pretty town with its encircling hills and Mount Wellington towering over the city. It may not have the drama of Sydney’s sandstone cliffs but it has an amiable, welcoming vibe. I could happily live in Hobart but that wouldn’t be an improvement on the remoteness of Darwin, and my heat-loving tropical friends would simply refuse to visit. It must surely have been appealing though to the immigrants from Ireland, England and Wales on board the Florentia.(Apologies to my mates who are heartily sick of Mary O’Brien from County Clare).

It was a public holiday for Regatta Day as the captain brought his huge ship to dock at the wharf. Little boats were skimming round the harbour but my friend Sharn and I chose to head off along the wharf to Salamanca Place and Battery Point for some sight-seeing. Having decided to stop for a coffee, we joined other Unlock the Past Cruisers for a chat at a local coffee shop.

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

But first there was some genealogy while still at sea:

Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy (panel discussion)

GeniAus (Jill Ball) hosted this Panel on Ethics which got good feedback from the audience. The panel was Kirsty Gray, Maria Northcote and myself and Jill had prepared a range of pertinent questions for us to respond to in turn. It was interesting to see the consistency between our responses …and there’d been no prior consultation or discussion. (if anyone has thought on the session I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the panel – difficult to retain it all while in the thick of it)

391 ethical dilemmas

Chris Paton again unravelled the complexities and variability of Scottish records with his talk Scottish marriage: instantly buckled for life. Scotland may be (currently) part of the UK, but Scottish family history is really not the same as that for England, make no mistake! Among the warnings Chris issued is that people only needed to have a witness to their commitment and the marriage was a valid one, and also the the (wonderful) ScotlandsPeople only has marriages for the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Churches. If you can’t find your ancestors you may wish to follow up the Statistical Accounts to see which other denominations were active in their parish at the time. 

After arrival in Hobart people scattered to their various activities and plans. I was fortunate to spent a few fun hours with fellow genie and photo obsessive, Sharn from Family History 4 U. Some of my photos from the day will eventually make it to my photo and travel blog Tropical Territory and Travel which has been sadly neglected of late, like other things. Although the weather looked a little precarious in the beginning it turned into a magnificent afternoon with crystal clear vivid blue skies.

The day finished with a very good fireworks display over the harbour, with resounding toots of the ship’s “horn” in thanks for the display. It certainly gathered the crowds on the high decks and afterwards I was invited to join my table-mates, Cathy and Dot and friend Maria in the cocktail bar on Deck 14…a very pleasant end to the day.

547 painting the shipDay 8 was another full day in port and imagine our surprise to look out from the verandah and see another cruise ship had arrived overnight. It was interesting to see that life at sea involves little down-time for the crew who were busy painting any blemishes on the ship’s hull.

My priority for Day 8 ( a shore day) was to hit the archives in Hobart although initially I’d hoped to go to the Cascade Factory. However that was superseded by following up all possible leads on the Florentia and whether they would offer any further clues to whether Mary O’Brien was on board as an unassisted immigrant when the ship sailed into Hobart. Despite searching a range of pre-ordered documents, the answers were still ambiguous by the end of the day. My research outcomes re the Florentia will be the subject of an upcoming post.

And so we sailed from Hobart Town with my thoughts reflecting on whether Mary O’Brien and her sister Bridget were similarly sorry to leave this pretty place behind to head north to Moreton Bay, or in my case, to Sydney Town.

Leaving Hobart behind.

Leaving Hobart behind.

Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Day 6 – Motion on the Ocean

Before I tell you a little about Day 6 of our genea-journey, for those who are interested, the slides from my talk Becoming a fan of FANs is now on a separate tab on my blog under Presentations. Here is a quick link to it.420 shreck

Day 6 of our adventure was a sea-day en route between Adelaide and Hobart. The Captain warned us there’d be “motion on the ocean” but it was pretty good. By the time we got to Hobart we were swaying on land, not ocean.

Although we were so preoccupied with the many presentations in the conference room I occasionally caught a glimpse of the featured DeamWorks characters which are a feature of Voyager of the Seas so I grabbed photos of them for the grandchildren.

Kerry Farmer: Convicts from trial to freedom

Although I have no convicts in my ancestry (no royalty here or abroad! Just a peasant), I just had to listen to Kerry Farmer’s talk on Convicts. Kerry is such a good presenter and sets out information clearly and concisely. Ancestry and FindMyPast both have good convict records. I was interested in the Parramatta Female Factory information and especially the Roman Catholic orphanage.

She reminded us too, that it was secondary offenders who ended up in places like Moreton Bay, Port Arthur and Norfolk Island. However, there were exiles (the later convicts circa 1840s) who went directly to Moreton Bay receiving a conditional pardon on arrival.

Key messages (for me): this will be useful when it comes time to do Mr Cassmob’s convict research. Convict deaths may not be registered in the normal death indexes for NSW.

Jill Ball: Free Australian Websites.

Jill gave us a whirlwind tour through the websites she loves to use and it’s amazing just how many wonderful sets of information are online. I’m sure some were familiar were to listeners while others were great reminders of ones we may have visited once upon a time, but had disappeared into the maw of our bookmarks or forgotten. Others provided new points of research. I found I was making notes to myself about following up different aspects of my own research through the websites.

Key messages: Try the ABC (radio) podcasts, searching for genealogy. Visit Mapping our Anzacs (an ANZAC site) which is apparently being taken down “soon”. You can download the whole file so if you want information from there, do it NOW. Don’t forget Family Search wikis for information on your places.

Jane Taubman: Family Historian – Reports

Strange as it may seem I don’t much like genealogy programs as I tend to feel straight-jacketed. I generally prefer to have narrative instead which allows for more nuances.

However I’ve been using an Australian program Relatively Yours for many years because it offers the opportunity to add more personal information and allows for nuances in relationships which the bigger programs don’t always do. Having said all that, I like the clean format of Family Historian which tends to appeal to me.  Because I have yet to decide between these two programs and The Master Genealogist, I attended some of Jane’s talks. When I get home I’ll be playing around with it a little while I decide.

Key message for me: Come to grips with which program I want to use, and which suits my purposes best.

Thomas MacEntee: Google Alerts and Books

817 Thomas MacEnteeAs always Thomas’s talk was full of tips for making our genealogy research more organised and efficient. I knew some of this already from reading Thomas’s and other blogger’s posts on the topic.

Do you have alerts in place for your family’s street addresses, towns, your own website or blog, your areas of interest?

Don’t forget you can set up a Bookcase of books which you find on Google Books and mark them private or public. Don’t shy away from “limited view” books and also use more common phrases to look at other pages.

Key message: Use alerts and Google Books to the max. Kudos to Thomas for always repeating the question from the audience so everyone knows what was asked.

Geneareaders Circle hosted by Jill Ball

This was such a fun activity with a group of people sharing their favourite genealogy or history books. It was interesting to see even relatively esoteric books were held by others in the group.

Apart from the joy of learning about new books to follow up, it was a pleasure just to share with like-minded people.

It was both heart-warming and amusing to see Maria Northcote from Genies Down Under nearly fall off her chair when one of the participants, Alan Jones, talked about his SAG thesis on Kilmihil, the very place in Clare where Maria’s ancestors came from. You can imagine the chat that ensued!

Genies Down Under

After the circle, Jill Ball and I were interviewed by Maria for the podcast which was fun as well. Maria’s included her chat with Jill and I, as well as Alan Philips, Chris Paton and Joy Avery in her March podcast here. It’s very obvious we were having a good time and no longer noticed the ship was working its way through the captain’s famous “motion on the ocean”. Maria is just a delight to chat with, and so calm and quietly confident.

Key message: A great opportunity for attendees to get involved and share their love of books. Thanks Jill for this inspired idea. If you’re going on a genea-cruise do make sure you add this to your list of “must attend” events.

Sorry this has been so long arriving – it’s been sitting in my drafts waiting for the photos to accompany the story..and now can’t find ones I’m happy with…except a great photo of Thomas on the welcome night. I did better when I was on board ship.

art work

Anne Daniels from Drawing on the Past, offered sessions on photo collage for family history.