Guest post: Kate Cole on Local and Family History

Today’s guest post is by my friend, Kate Cole, in England who I met doing an online course several years ago. Kate’s just published her first local history book on the town of Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire. We had a virtual conversation about how she came to research and publish her book. I posed some questions, and these are Kate’s replies. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I have.

The correlation between local history and family history

Firstly, I would like to give my thanks to Pauleen Cass for inviting me to talk about my local history research on her blog.  This is Day 4 of my week-long tour of blogs around the internet where I’m talking about various aspects of writing history to celebrate the publication of my first local history book Bishop’s Stortford Through Time.

 How did you start on local history?

I originally started as a very traditional genealogist in the days long before the internet.  By a “traditional” genealogist, I mean that I started by trying to find names and vital dates of my ancestors, and then painstakingly tracing each line back using births/deaths/marriages certificates, along with census returns and parish records.  But the more genealogical research I undertook, the more I became interested in the history of the areas each ancestor lived in.  Through my genealogical research into my paternal family, I very quickly discovered that I’d come from an extremely long line of Londoners from the east-end.  Thus my first “local history” research projects were based around London – particularly east London history.  Yes, “local history” can include London’s history!

The marriage certificate of my great-grandparents – uncovering this certificate was one of my first purely genealogical pieces of research. However, the name and address of the bride has led me to 30 years historical research which has combined my own family history with local history in Wales, London and Suffolk, along with international history (the Crimean War) and even tales of Jack the Ripper’s London.

How did you build up your knowledge and skills?

In the early days of my research, I built up my skills and knowledge through pure leg-work of traipsing around and researching in the main London record offices and genealogical research repositories.  Always reading and researching, and always trying to learn from my (many!) mistakes.  Even now, after 30 years of research, I always find my first few visits to a new (to me) record office very daunting – navigating “their” systems, working out what they hold, viewing many (wrong) documents.  But I also get a tremendous thrill when I’ve got the “right” primary source and I start reading a document which I know will add to my research.

More recently, my chief way of building up my skills and knowledge as a historian was doing history undergraduate and then postgraduate degrees as a mature student.  I signed up with the Open University just before I became pregnant with my 3rd child and there followed about 4 or 5 years of studying for my BA in history.  I remember one of my second year assignments was due when my last child was about 6 weeks old.  Looking after a small baby whilst writing history undergraduate essays taught me very quickly how to skim read vast quantities of historical information, whilst writing the resulting undergraduate essays in double-quick time!

Whilst I don’t advocate that everyone interested in historical research (be it family or local history) should undertake a degree, for me, it was exactly the right thing to do.  My degree taught me how to undertake rigorous and professional historical research, along with turning research into good-quality written output by way of essays and dissertations.

Some of the 16th century primary sources I used for my masters’ degree in local history.  It was extremely thrilling to work with these documents: handling them, analysing them and understanding what they could be telling me about an English 16th century rural town.

In all, I studied for about 10 years as a mature student, finishing up with a master’s in local history at Cambridge University.  I was working full-time in the City of London and bringing up my 3 children.  Therefore, outside of my studies, I had little time for independent research projects or continuing my family history research.  But, to support my studies, I read avidly all the history books I could lay my hands on for the various history modules I studied.  From this, I quickly came to the conclusion that medieval and Tudor England, along with the social (home-front) and military history of the First World War, were “my” periods of interest and expertise.

 What’s the benefit of doing a course?

One of the biggest benefits of doing my degrees was to give me self-confidence and belief in my own academic abilities.  I am severely dyslexic – one of the very first children to have been diagnosed in England back in the ‘70s.  But, although diagnosed, I was unsupported at school so had underachieved and left with crippling self-doubt and zero confidence.  Doing my degrees in my 40s made me realise that even such an intensive academic/research based discipline as history was achievable for a severe dyslexic such as me.

The confidence I gained whilst doing my academic courses was incredible.  I also came to realise that, despite my dyslexia, I actually really enjoyed writing.  Writing for me is often absolute agony and a very slow painful process (thank goodness for computers and spell check…) but I do find it intensely rewarding.  I have love/hate relationship with writing – I’d much rather be washing the dishes then writing.  But the sense of achievement when I’ve finally got my thoughts down onto paper (and corrected all the mistakes) is remarkable.

Of course, the other benefits of doing courses was learning from wonderful tutors how to conduct professional rigorous historical research.  The Open University is extremely rigorous in its approach to teaching mature students the discipline of history, and I learnt more about the craft of being a historian on their courses then any of the other courses I have undertaken.

Although my academic days are now over (no, I’m not going to be doing a PhD!), I still greatly enjoy courses.  But now I take shorter courses and am currently working my way through some of the Guardian newspaper’s Master Classes in Writing held in London.  Although very short courses (normally an intensive weekend), I find that these master-classes immensely useful and they help keep my writing on track.  To carry on honing my research abilities, I use various family/local history courses – particularly the Pharos family history courses.  All these non-academic courses are intensely valuable to a family or local historian as they teach new techniques and approaches, along with putting students in touch with excellent tutors – who are often absolute experts and masters of their crafts.

 What’s the relevance to family history? Are you interested in Family History?

I am very interested in family history.  During my time studying, my interest in family history had to stop.  But then when I started writing my blog, Essex Voices Past, and was asked to write posts on other blogs, I’ve found myself writing a great many posts about family history.  I am a great believer in the “Great Men of history” theory – that it is men (and, of course, women) who shape history.  Therefore, to me, family history is a very important part within the entire discipline of “history”.  People and their families are the absolute building blocks leading to our understanding of the near-past.  After all, it has been feuding “families” (admittedly, dynastic families) who have caused some of the biggest battles, wars, and upsets for all our nations’ histories.

Family history is a great way for people to connect with history.  Very often, people who found history difficult at school (“all those dates and battles? Nah – not for me!”) don’t think that history is for them.  But then they start their research into their own families and, all of a sudden, history comes to life for them.  Their family’s history is their connection with the past.

Also, with the centenary of the First World War, now, more than ever, has become a time to look into a family’s past.  With just about every single family of all the combatant nations involved one way or another in the events of 1914-1919 (yes, I do mean 1919), “family history” has even more resonance with today’s people.

Robert Andrew Cole – my great-great grandfather – in the 1860s.  One of my oldest photographs in my family’s collection.  Born in 1819, he was a grocer and tea-dealer in the east end of London for over 40 years, at Spitalfields Market

What benefits are there to combining family history and local history?

Whatever happened to our ancestors in the past, didn’t happen in isolation.  They were a product of their time, their environment and their culture – just as today, we are products of our times.  Understanding the locality where our ancestors lived and worked can help with our understanding of their past. Moreover, researching “local history” adds new dimensions, or layers of interest and understanding into “family history”.   Indeed, I would argue that for anyone researching a family who lived in an industrialised/industrialising country, local history MUST be looked at to help understand a family in the context of their times.

For example, in my recent book on the east Hertfordshire town of Bishop’s Stortford, I explored the town’s river, and the pioneers who made it navigable to industrial barges in the eighteenth century.  This played an important part in the occupations of most of the town’s people during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. With a navigable river, barges were able to have access to the very heart of the town and thus move great quantities of raw goods and finished products to and from the town.  Not surprisingly, nineteenth century census returns show many of the town’s population were somehow effected by the navigable river: they were maltsters, millers, brewers, publicans or working in related trades.

I would also argue that “family history” research should not just include “local history” but also (inter)national history.  For example, one of my main family research lines, the Parnalls of Wales/London/Suffolk, became fantastically wealthy during the Victorian age.  They were merchant haberdashers and clothes-makers who had a relatively successful business from the 1830s onwards.  However, their business went to new levels of success during the Crimean War (1853-1856) when they supplied uniforms to most of the British army.  On another line, the Gurney’s of east and south London: my great-great grandparents went to Australia in the 1850s – where they had three children, after which they returned back to south London and went on to have another dozen or so children.  Again, the Crimean War paid its part in the Gurney family history because (allegedly – I haven’t found anything concrete to substantiate it, yet!) they went to Australia to be the bricklayers on the building of Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour – a fortification built with the aim of stopping the Russian navy attacking Sydney.

Understanding the times in which our ancestors lived in – in the context of local and national history – turns the raw data of our ancestors (i.e. their births, marriages, and deaths) into something much more interesting.  I could recite you the bare dates of all my Cole ancestors with their vital dates all the way back to the 1760s.  But far more interestingly, I could tell you that all my Cole ancestors lived, worked, married, died and were buried in east London.  With the furthest Cole generation I have discovered thus far – John Cole and his wife Catherine – I can tell you he was a master cooper working in one of the earliest industrialising docks of east London, where he, his wife and children worshipped at the same parish church as Captain James Cook.  I would not be able to tell you any of that information, if I hadn’t done some “local history” research in collaboration with “family history” research.

The War Memorial in my home town.  The First World War is one event in history when international, national, local and family history all merge together to give a multi-faceted insight into the past.

 How does local history help with a One Place Study?

One Place Studies and Local History go hand in hand with each other.  I personally find one-place studies fascinating and can give a real insight into the past.

The exquisite leather-bound book containing Great Dunmow’s churchwardens’ accounts. Made in the early 1500s and regularly written in until the 18th century, the book is the financial “reckonings” of an English parish church. But it can be used to answer questions about the town’s experience of Henry VIII’s English Reformation.

During my Cambridge University masters’ research, my major primary source was the churchwardens’ (financial) accounts of a tiny Essex town of Great Dunmow.  Within these churchwardens’ accounts are the meticulous details of when the pre-Reformation parish church had raised at least 7 separate forms of “tax” on all the people in the town during the 1520s-1540s.  Being ever cautious of recriminations, our Tudor ancestors had precisely itemised every single household in the town together with the amount of their compulsory “donations” to their parish church.  Some of these lists of “taxes” were documented in socio-hierarchy order – so the names of the great and the good at the top, with the paupers at the bottom.  Some taxes also listed street names of each house-holder.  It is primary sources like this that absolutely thrill me because using them in connection with other primary sources (i.e. church records, or Henry VIII’s tax surveys), you can reconstruct a community from 500 years ago. Maybe not technically a true One Place Study – but fascinating nevertheless.

I also find it fascinating that when studying just one tiny area, the same families and their names get repeated over and over again.  Eventually, with good quality data, all sorts of historical questions can be asked of individual communities and societies from the past.  With my Cambridge University masters’ and Great Dunmow’s churchwardens’ accounts, I was able to ask very precise questions about one East Anglian town’s experience of Henry VIII’s English Reformation and the impact his religious policies had on this tiny local community.  Whilst what happened in one community can never be the entire representation of all communities, it can give great us insight into the past.

Thank you, Pauleen, for asking me these questions.

I’ve read Kate’s book in e-book format and I find it so interesting to hear the stories of long-distant times past, but also to see traces of the history in its current buildings and geography. It’s frustrating to think how much we destroy our heritage here in Australia, even down to the lie of the land. I also agree with Kate on the joys of churchwarden’s accounts – they can be gold mines!

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kate!

Kate Cole’s blog tour
You can catch Kate on the following dates and blogs discussing “all things history”, along with explaining about her recent book, Bishop’s Stortford Through Time, on the following dates and sites

About Kate Cole
Kate has a MSt in Local and Regional History (Cantab); a BA History (Open University) and an Advanced Diploma in Local History (Oxon) – all gained as a mature student. Having been a business technologist in the City of London for the last 30 years, she is currently taking time away from her City career to write. Her first history book, Bishop’s Stortford Through Time, was published by Amberley Publishing in September 2014. She has been commissioned to write a further three history books for them:-

  • Sudbury, Lavenham and Long Melford Through Time (due to be published summer 2015);
  • Saffron Walden Through Time (due to be published summer 2015); and
  • Postcards from the Front: Britain 1914-1919(due to be published summer 2016).

She lives in Essex, England, and regularly write about the local history of Essex and East Anglia on her blog, Essex Voices Past.

Please do click on the image below to buy her book.

Bishop's Stortford Through Time

© Essex Voices Past 2014.

 

Sepia Saturday (or Tuesday): Kathmandu tales

Sepia Saturday 250Funny how things turn out isn’t it? All along my plan was to write my Sepia Saturday post on Kathmandu…after all my photos fitted the theme perfectly. Then I went off the idea, and life got in the way as I worked on photo books of our last holiday.

Vegetable and fruit sellars in a Kathmandu street.

Vegetable and fruit sellars in a Kathmandu street.

The universe had other plans though, because in my virtual mail box today was an unexpected Random Act of Kindness. Robert had retouched my old, faded Kathmandu photos so they were now punchy with colour just as they were back in the day. To say I was surprised and delighted was an understatement! So of course now I have to use them even if it is now Sepia Tuesday, but then they’re not really sepia anymore either. If you want to see what an amazing difference Robert’s skills have wrought, have a look at an old post I did on my Tropical Territory blog.

Although my children know the story of our trip to Kathmandu this seems an opportunity to preserve it for posterity.

We were living in Port Moresby in the 1970s when my colleague/boss moved to Kathmandu where her husband had gained a posting in charge of the electrical division of Kathmandu airport. Both Mr Cassmob and I had always had a virtual interest in India, Nepal and Mt Everest so it was very tempting when we were genuinely invited to come for a visit. Despite the temptation, I was adamant we couldn’t go because the children were only six and four and, I thought, vulnerable to all the potential illnesses.

One of the scenes when you wish you knew what was happening.

One of the scenes when you wish you knew what was happening.

In Papua New Guinea, as part of our employment conditions we got return airfares every two years to Australia (in our case Melbourne where my husband came from). Since it cost almost as much to spend months in Australia as it did to travel overseas, you might well guess which option we took.

So it was that in late 1976/early 1977 we were planning our next leave with a trip to Europe and the UK. Of course there was no internet, and no option for online bookings, so off to the travel agent in town we toddled.

Part way through the process DD2 took off up the street for a walkabout, with Mum in hot pursuit. We returned to hear “that’s …..Heathrow to Delhi, Delhi to Kathmandu, Kathmandu-Bangkok, Bangkok-Singapore, Singapore-Moresby”. Say what? Did she say Kathmandu? Indeed she did… the wily one had taken the chance of my disappearance to sneak in the diversion via Kathmandu!

One of our favourite photos of Kathmandu - what were they looking at?

One of our favourite photos of Kathmandu – what were they looking at?

And so we found ourselves landing in Kathmandu amidst a cracking electrical storm surrounded by mountains and being rather grateful for our friend’s role in ensuring the airport’s electrics were up to par.

We had a great time staying with them, being guided round the streets and byways of Kathmandu. So much to see and even by comparison with Papua New Guinea, so much poverty and illnesses like leprosy. It’s a bit daunting seeing people missing body parts like noses, fingers etc but the kids mostly took it all in their stride. They even coped with the cows’ “right of way” in all matters…well most of the time. They were even unfazed by witnessing a cremation ceremony on the banks of the river….I was ambivalent but my friend reckoned they’d be okay and they were. The Nepali people were so friendly and less importuning than we’d experienced in Delhi as well, so that helped our appreciation of the place too.

Tinsmiths or silversmiths working their craft.

Tinsmiths or silversmiths working their craft.

One day we were lucky enough to go for a drive with our friend up into the mountains while he completed some work. We drove through villages where the road was covered in grain and the passing vehicles threshed it as they drove over. We drove on steep roads with fierce drops on the edge of the road – much scarier than parts of the Highlands Highway in PNG. I remember being asked how close to the edge we were – not the best question for a person with a fear of heights, and especially edges. Sadly, when we went to take the film out of the camera that day we’d had a blooper – no film! Most distressing I can tell you.

We even managed an excursion flight out to Mount Everest which was a super thrill for all of us, and the kids still have their certificates from the flight. We were also lucky we were staying with our friends because it meant the water was triple filtered and the fruit and vegetables always cleaned in Condy’s-crystalled-water. Almost needless to say the kids didn’t get sick…that privilege was left for their mother. As we took that Kathmandu-Bangkok leg I was violently ill …hardly surprising I’ve avoided Bangkok airport ever since.

Sari making must be a time-consuming task, requiring lots of patience.

Sari making must be a time-consuming task, requiring lots of patience.

We duly arrived in Singapore and were met by family members of one of Mr Cassmob’s work colleagues. They really couldn’t do enough for us, guiding us around town and taking us out for special meals at places we’d never have found…though they were surprised we managed to get to Sentosa Island on our own <smile>.  And then, just as the piggy bank was nearing the bottom of its resources, along came the Australian baggage handler’s strike and the cessation of flights…but that’s a story for another day, along with the theft in Amsterdam of Mr Cassmob’s passport with all its visas, and his share of the money.

Thanks Robert for this wonderful and surprising Act of Kindness!

Why not pop over and see how other Sepians interpreted this week’s image?

Shall we have goat for dinner?

Shall we have goat for dinner?

 

Men of the Queensland Bush: Sepia Saturday 249

Sepia Saturday 249This week’s Sepia Saturday is about the horse, the cart and the drivers. While my Denis Gavin from Kildare and Dublin worked as a bullocky out west when he first arrived in Queensland I have no photos of him, or his bullock dray. Many of my ancestors also rode the iron rails but today’s photo is of none of these.

This photo is one I included in my Kunkel family history. It was given to me by Dad’s cousin and shows a bunch of dodgy looking blokes hanging around the 20th century cart and horse…a truck. I know my grandfather’s brothers worked as carriers but the cousin couldn’t identify which was her father, Matthew David John (John) Kunkel. If I was guessing I’d say it was the bloke on the front right, and strangely she wasn’t sure…or perhaps he was the photographer. Actually I’d have expected John’s brother Ken to have been with him as they were very close.qld mafiosi men incl john kunkel

But isn’t it a great photo?! All dressed in their Driza-bones and wearing hats with character. The front row are crouched in the typical bushie pose that Dad always took up when waiting for something. Time was I could do it too, but sadly I’m no longer that flexible or agile. The pipes remind me of my grandad who would sit on the back steps of their house tapping the tobacco out, refilling the pipe then having a quiet smoke, looking over the back yard.

The Darling Downs is the lime green area on the bottom right.

The Darling Downs is the lime green area on the bottom right.

While these men would have probably given anyone in need a hand, you can’t help feeling you wouldn’t want to meet them on a dark night. I’d place a good bet too that many, if not all of them, were returned service men from World War I. If you recognise anyone in this group, please do comment as I’d love to know about it.

It looks to me like a silo behind the men, which would fit with it likely being taken on the Darling Downs. To the right is a typical old Queenslander house, on stilts, with its two tanks and no doubt a slow combustion stove to cope with the chilly weather typical of winter on the Downs.

Gallop over to see how other Sepians transported themselves this week.

One Lovely Blog: Paying it Forward

one-lovely-blogI mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’d been nominated for the One Lovely Blog award by Deb from A Pocket Full of Family Memories, and Alona from Lone Tester. While I’ve been away I’ve again been awarded the blog by Niki Marie of My People in History and Helen Smith from who kindly mentioned my 2012 Beyond the Internet series. It’s such a privilege when readers enjoy what we’ve written and think of us when awards are being handed out. Thank you to Deb, Alona, Niki Marie and Helen!

In my previous response I alluded to a long discussion that had gone on some years ago and which I’d had on my blog tabs until recently regarding my approach to awards, and the rationale behind it. Instead of nominating other blogs I referred my readers to the list of some of the blogs I like to read (I have hundreds in my Feedly reader).

In retrospect this seemed a bit curmudgeonly so with these new nominations I decided to add a list of blogs I enjoy, some of which I’ve only just discovered; some I read all the time and love; and some which aren’t even about family history (gasp!). I know that at least some of these blogs don’t accept awards and so feel free to step off the award merry-go-round. However others may like to claim their award and carry it forward…entirely up to each of you.   I think that’s called having a dollar each way…For those who wish to participate here are the rules:

  • Thank the person that nominated you and link back to that blog.
  • Share seven things about yourself – see below.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire –or as many as you can think of!.
  • Contact your bloggers to let them know you’ve tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award

I hope you enjoy the reading opportunities – I think each of these blogs is One Lovely Blog irrespective of whether they take up the award. I hope you make some new discoveries among them.

By the Bremer (for those of us with Ipswich, Qld ancestry)

The Back Fence of Genealogy (Crissouli)

Bound for Australia

The Genealogy Bug (Sherie)

Family History Fun (Sue)

Library Currants

A Silver Voice from Ireland (Angela)

My Past Whispers (Lauren)

Tree of Me (Sharon)

Derek’s Den (Derek is new to family history, why not welcome him)

Essex Voices Past (Kate)

Wrote by Rote (Arlee of A to Z Challenge fame writes about memoirs)

Destination Unknown (fabulous travel photos by Kellie)

Honest History

Becoming Prue (Prue)

Stepping out of Pain

On a Flesh and Bone Foundation (Jennifer)

Shaking the Tree

Deb Gould

In the Footsteps of My Ancestors (Tanya)

The Empire Called and I Answered (Lenore)(Do explore the list of volunteers from Essington and Flemington)

Happy Reading!

Home again, Home again

yellow flowersOnce again Qantas has delivered me safely home and what a pleasure it is to be here after multiple trips to Brisbane in the past few months. As enjoyable as it is to see my friends down there, including meeting once-virtual friends, it’s so nice to be home. Mr Cassmob has almost forgotten what I look like and the cat has turned very sooky. Apart from being the essence of kindness and generally a very good man, Mr Cassmob had the house looking lovely, a bunch of flowers on the table, and a lovely meal prepared…and no, I’m not willing to trade him <smile>. I really am spoiled and I send up thanks to my in-laws for instilling the love of tidiness, order, cooking and flowers! Ironic isn’t it, given he grew up with house staff in Papua New Guinea?! As a special kindness my body decided to stop holding the cold virus at bay and let me have a couple of quiet days in bed…how generous! The only other down side to being home is the onset of the Build Up here in the Top End with the dreaded highs of humidity…ugh!

IMG_0567

The Darwin-Brisbane flight arrives just on dusk so we often see wonderful sunsets, or views over the city, even if it requires some wriggling in the seat.

QFHS Presentation: Hospital Records

MP900314367On Saturday last I presented at the Queensland Family History Society on Hospital Records. I’d like to thank them for the opportunity to be one of their speakers. For those who attended, my slide-show can be found on this blog under Presentations. Back in the dim and distant past I also wrote about them on this blog, in my Beyond the Internet series 2012.

Genealogy Rockstar Shauna Hicks presented on Asylums and Prisons and you can also find her slide shows on her webpage…you can learn heaps from them. She’s got lots of other good stuff on that page too.

Fellow blogger, Alex aka Family Tree Frog, who I was delighted to meet on Saturday, has done a review here.

Welcome

welcome matI’ve noticed while I’ve been gadding around that quite a few people have been signing up to read my blogs on email, and possibly also via blog feeds like Feedly. I’d like to thank each and every one of my readers, new and “old”, for your support.  It’s great to know that others enjoy what I write, and occasionally learn a little as well…I know I do from reading other’s blogs. If you have time, leave a comment when the mood takes you…just click in the bubble at the top or on the comments at the bottom of each post. Or just let me know what your research interests are, or topics you might like discussed….you just never know who’s out there reading…there’s been a few “matches” made through the comments alone.

Early Birds Catch the Worm: Congress 2015

Congress 2015

The shops are enthusiastically reminding us that Christmas is coming upon us in great haste.

However, another exciting event is also speeding towards us and that’s Congress 2015, the triennial Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry, to be held in Canberra between 26-30 March 2015.

The theme for the 14th congress is Generations Meeting Across Time, a great topic as surely that’s what we’re all aiming for with our family history or genealogy research.

It seems to me that our research goal is to reach out to those generations who’ve gone before us, learn more about their stories, and try to get a handle on the sort of person they were.

So why attend Congress 2015?

P1020406Congress 2015 has to be a prime contender for your travel and conference dollars. Its greatest strength is its focus on Australasian research with a good dollop of talks on the home countries of our ancestors.

To name just a few, Kate Bagnall is talking Chinese Australian ancestry, John Blackwood on Scottish separation and divorce, and Roger Kershaw and Paul Milner will present on British research topics. Of course with lots of Irish ancestry I’m looking forward to listening to Richard Reid’s keynote address as well as Perry McIntyre and Cheryl Mongan on our Irish immigrants.

Attendees from New Zealand are ably represented by Seonaid Lewis and Michelle Patient.

I’m quite intrigued by the Keynote to be presented by Grace Karskens: Men, women, sex and desire: family history on Australia’s first frontier. It sounds like a 50 Shades of Grey for family historians.

I’ve only dipped into the many offerings throughout the Congress but you’ll be hearing more about them in due course. You can see the full speaker list and their topics here.

What else is happening?

Many of us go to conferences, not just for the talks, even though they are the main course of the event. The dessert is meeting people we chat to on social media, have heard all about as speakers, connect with other genies and share our questions and enthusiasm. Just think, four days when no one will roll their eyes if you talk about nothing other than genealogy!

The Venue: Canberra – Australia’s capital

The Australian War Memorial, P Cass, 2010

The Australian War Memorial, P Cass, 2010. The walls document all the people killed or missing in Australia’s wars.

If there’s one city in the country where we can all do some of our own research, it’s Canberra. I feel sure there’d be research opportunities for the New Zealanders there as well. Just think of the great repositories we can access:

That’s just a sample of them so there’s bound to be lots of opportunities for us to bridge the generations with new information.

What’s Canberra like?

Canberra is a planned city with Lake Burley Griffin as its hub.

Canberra fall treesIn late March the weather should be pleasant and the leaves on the deciduous trees may be just beginning to turn, which is a novelty for some of us.

Although overseas visitors often expect to see kangaroos hopping down our streets, Canberra is one of the best places to see our native wildlife. You don’t have to get far beyond the city boundaries to get a sense of the Australian landscape’s expansiveness and to see a few kangaroos or wallabies.

Did I mention that Canberra also has great food and wine opportunities? I particularly like the Capital Region Farmers’ Market which is held every Saturday..perhaps dispatch your other half to hunt and gather for you, while you enjoy the presentations.

As a bonus it’s pretty central for people travelling from around Australia (except perhaps Darwin and Perth, but we’re used to that!) as well as for our friends from New Zealand. And what a great opportunity for a visit Down Under for overseas genealogists, as Jill Ball has shown in her Worldwide Genealogy blog post.

Official bloggersCongress blogger

Along with my genimates, Jill Ball (Geniaus) and Shauna Hicks, I have been invited to be an official blogger for the Congress. You’ll be hearing lots more to tempt you to join us at Congress over the coming weeks.

Congress 2015 Social Media

The Congress 2015 website is comprehensive and it will give you in-depth information on what’s happening.

Congress if on Twitter as @AFFHO2015 and also on Facebook here.

An early bird catches the worm

Early bird registration of $495 closes on 31 October 2014 and will save you $55.

Don’t forget to consider signing up for the social events as well.

Wouldn’t this make a great Christmas present from all your family? The gift that keeps on giving.

Are you going to join us?

My three Rs of Genealogy Research

For my topic this month on the Worldwide Genealogy blog, I drew on a mistake I’d made recently and published about the three Rs of family history research.

This worldwide collaboration by genies from many countries is well worth adding to your blog reading list. It’s always interesting to see the topics chosen and how people approach their research. Lots of posts with really helpful tips too.

Do your research a favour and check out the stories on the blog.

 

Tents, glorious tents

Flooded GuidesGiven the propensity for front page news to be all about disasters, you might be surprised that this is my mental starting point for today’s Sepia Saturday theme. You see it was the one and only time I’ve made the front page, and in my first term of high school no less. One way to get noticed I suppose.

I’d been in Girl Guides since 1960 and passed my camping test for the first class badge on 6 June 1961…coincidentally Queensland Day. We were transported to these camping adventures by an old three-ton truck, probably an old army vehicle. Guides plus camping requirements were piled in the back tray and off we went. Can you imagine that being allowed today?

I remember going to a farmer’s property on the far edges of Brisbane where we erected those big cumbersome tents typical of the era. Digging latrines and putting up hessian-screened bathing areas was also part of the fun. Bath time involved those big round metal tubs and the toilets were dirt ditches. Each day we’d get fresh milk from the farmer, or more accurately, his cows. No nonsense about pasteurisation either. Meals were cooked in large army dixies. We’d swim in the very chilly creek and hope not to encounter any eels, water snakes etc. At night we’d have a huge campfire and sing songs. The first time I went camping with Guides my parents came out for a day visit. How that happened I’m not sure – they certainly weren’t the only ones and as they didn’t have a car, they’d have had to come with someone else. I remember I was a little homesick but so were they because for the first time the nest was empty.Guides flooded Samford

Then a few years later, over the May school holidays, we went to a different site. This one was on a rise, with a dry creek-bed on one side and a small creek on the other. Overnight it rained, and rained, and we woke up to a raging creek all around us and no hope of getting off our new island. As an adult I can only imagine the anxiety and decisions the leaders had to make. You can read the whole exciting story in the linked post I wrote a while ago. Suffice to say, thanks to the Water Police, and a courageous Guide, we made it home safely and found ourselves on the front page of the local newspaper the next day.

There was no opportunity for holiday camping in Papua New Guinea, at least as far as I know, so it wasn’t until the early 80s that we introduced our own trio of little campers to holidays under canvas. This time we had been invited to join our neighbours on a camping trip to Hastings Point in northern New South Wales. Over the years our family had many great adventures there, and you can read a little about them by clicking here.

Camping in splendid isolation with a view of the sea...that's our tent.

Camping in splendid isolation with a view of the sea…that’s our tent.

The photo above (on a grey day) is of our favourite spot overlooking the creek where it joins the surf and the Pacific Ocean. It was always an anxious moment until we crossed the bridge and checked no one had usurped “our” tent site! The next chore was to check out the changes in the creek’s path and whether the pelicans were “in town” or not. In our energetic moments we’d explore the marine park among the rocks, go swimming (convincing the girls not to swim to New Zealand), or have a game of cricket , or just loll around reading a book. The wind could be pretty fierce there and by the time this tent was retired there was nary a straight pole among the collection.
The caption on this says "our firs camping weekend, Lamington NP, Anzac weekend 1985". Both tents are ours.

The caption on this says “our first (solo) camping weekend, Lamington NP, Anzac weekend 1985″. Both tents are ours.

One of our other favourite sites was at Lamington National Park where we’d see the bower birds, noisy pitta birds, rosellas and possums. It could get quite cold up there so we had some fun times rugged to our eyebrows, toasting marshmallows and playing maj jong or card games. During the day we’d go for walks in the magnificent rainforest, and perhaps feed more birds.camping Mt Lamington

And then there was the year I decided on the spur of the moment one school holidays to take DD3 and her cousin to the snow, a mere 1500kms or so away, as I’d heard there’d been great snowfalls. By the time we arrived at a motel after dark that night I was seriously doubting my sanity, especially as the motel seemed to have a high turnover of short term stays and a lot of cars coming and going! Once we reached Kosciuszko National Park, we camped below the snowline but believe me it was pretty cold just the same. The wildlife had grown accustomed to the campers so were on the lookout for snacks, like these two fellows. An improvement on our Bicentennial camping trip when the birds had eaten all our stone-fruit which we’d foolishly left on the table under the tent’s awning. When we returned the chairs were covered in the way you might expect when a critter has eaten a surfeit of stone fruit.

But it's cold and we need a snack!

But it’s cold and we need a snack!

Although it didn’t make the front page news, I regard my Big Trip of 1994 as my most memorable. Exhausted and burnt out from a high-intensity, very political job at a research centre it was time to take myself to the wilderness for a while (have I mentioned what a supportive husband I have?). So me, my tent and all my clutter took off in the car for points south of Queensland.

That raised bonnet suggests trouble was already afoot.

That raised bonnet suggests trouble was already afoot. Mt Kaputar National Park.

My first stop was Mt Kaputar where I arrived late in the afternoon. I got set up and made sure my brick-sized mobile phone was charged and checked in with himself. In the process I turned the car engine – and again – and again…to no avail. In the morning I got someone to jump start the car and made my way determinedly down the range to the nearest town, where I foolishly turned the engine off again. One day into my trip I had acquired a faulty alternator so I spent my second day cooling my heels in a country town waiting for it to be replaced.

Once again Hastings Pt 1989, but could be any/many of our campsites.

Once again Hastings Pt 1989, but could be any/many of our campsites.

Mercifully after that the trip went smoothly and I dawdled my way to Adelaide (I guess about 3000kms away) a couple of weeks later. While I often found myself camped with only a few other tents around, I also wasn’t being foolish. At one national park I got such a negative vibe that I just turned turkey and found a motel.

Mr Cassmob met me in Adelaide and we picked up DD2 and DD3 from the airport in Alice Springs, late as it happens, but that’s another story. This was our first excursion into the Northern Territory and little did we know then how big a part it would come to play in all our lives over the coming decades. By the time we pulled back into our driveway in Brisbane we’d notched up about 14,000kms and spent more than half the time under canvas.

At the time of the Bicentenary in 1988, submissions were sought from people around the country showing their favourite places and activities. We submitted this one of DD2 washing her sister’s hair, camping style.

Two of the Cass girls, Hastings Point. Page 272, My Australia, Robertsbridge Group Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1989.

Two of the Cass girls, Hastings Point. Page 272, My Australia, Robertsbridge Group Pty Ltd, Sydney, 1989.

As you can see, camping has been a large part of our family story over several decades. We don’t get to do it as much lately  – sleeping on the ground has worn off a little, but there is something very special about being out in the bush with a blur of the Milky Way over your head. The family cycle has turned and now our children and grandchildren love to escape the big smoke and head out to enjoy the nights away as a clan with glo-sticks, sparklers, marshmellows and a roaring fire. It is certainly creating some great cousin memories which will stay with them through their lives.

A souvenir photo, taken by one of the kids, when my parents came camping.

A souvenir photo, taken by one of the kids, when my parents came camping.

And as a finale, here’s a photo of an old-style tent taken at the Colonial Queensland exhibition in Brisbane in 1986. It was at this event that I enquired about family history research and signed up with the Genealogical Society of Queensland, thereby starting me down a path which has kept me engaged and happy for nearly thirty years.Colonial Day 1986

Now you’ve reached the end of this saga, why not head over to see what the other Sepians have had to say about camping or trios. It looks like it’s been a popular topic.

Did you go camping as a child? As an adult? Did you love it or loathe it?

Down Under’s Rockstar Genealogists 2014

Rock-StarIt’s been an exciting genea-jigging time for me lately. First up my blog appeared in the Inside History Top 50 blogs for 2014. Thanks Inside History, and Geniaus, who does the complex comparison between all the blogs…heaven knows how many she has on her list.

Then the voting on John Reid’s Rockstar Genealogist 2014 was completed and I found that my readers had voted me into 5th place for the Australia/New Zealand regional “honours”. Gold Star Rockstar was Shauna Hicks, well known to Aussie genies, and coordinator par excellence of Australian Family History Month. Silver Star performer was Judy Webster who is devotedly followed by all Queensland genealogists for her wealth of knowledge of Queensland archival sources and her indexes of some records, as well as being the initiator of the Kiva Genealogists for Families Team. No surprise either that Bronze Medallist was Jill Ball aka Geniaus, convenor of hangouts, Aussie techno-expert, blogger and blog-coordinator extraordinaire.geneajig_edited-2

Places 4 to 10 were as follows:

  1. Chris Paton (UK)
    5. Pauleen Cass (Aus)
    6. Thomas MacEntee (US)
    7. Dick Eastman (US)
    8. Cyndi Ingle (US)
    8. Sharn White (Aus)
    10. Nick Barratt (UK)
    10. Kirsty Gray (UK)
    10. Pat Richley-Erickson (DearMyrtle)(US)

I’ve been fortunate enough to hear many of these people in real life or hangouts, and very pleased to see some of my good geni-mates on the list. Last year my #5 place was overtaken by the bombing and hijacking events at Westgate Mall when we were staying nearby at our daughter’s place in Nairobi. So this year I thought I should celebrate a little…especially after my daughters gave me heaps for having to find out on Facebook <smile>.champagne

The downside of these sorts of lists is that there are so many great genealogists out there who are quiet achievers but definitely rockstars, and I’m proud to call many of them my friends as well as blogging colleagues. They volunteer, index, blog, coordinate facebook groups, initiate blogging themes etc. Without them we’d all be poorer so here’s a toast to all our genimates.

Thanks John Reid of Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections blog for hosting this rocking event.

Skylarking in the army

Sepia Saturday 245This week’s Sepia Saturday 245 is all about men larking about, perhaps with a wee drop of whisky in the background.

army group1My images today date from a serious aspect of our nation’s history, World War II, but it’s also obvious the men weren’t on the front line and were having a fine time larking around. This series of photos is from my aunt’s photo album which I inherited. Her husband, Pat Farraher, was a cook with the Army during the War and I wrote about the serious side of his story back on Sepia Saturday 180.Pat Farraher 4

In the photos Pat and his mates are having a play stoush, doing the seemingly-inevitable rabbit ears behind a mate and generally having a light moment or two with or without the wee dram. I don’t know whether the photos were taken at Enoggera barracks in Brisbane or somewhere in Papua New Guinea, but my guess would be the former except in the final photo. Seriously, would you trust these men with the nation’s security?Army mate

I wonder how other Sepians have responded to this challenge? Do their photos reveal lurking, posing, drinking or sharing?army friends

 

This photograph has the following names on the reverse: Ned Eteell, Slim Hope, and Percy Holt. My guess is this photo is in  PNG.

This photograph has the following names on the reverse: Ned Eteell, Slim Hope, and Percy Holt. My guess is this photo is in PNG.