Abundant Genealogy: Week 8: Fanfare and tribute for my genealogy libraries

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog, in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has a new series of weekly blogging prompts for 2012 and the theme is 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy . The topic for Week 8 is Genealogy Libraries: Genealogy libraries (and dedicated departments in regular libraries) are true treasures in the family history community.  Tell us about your favorite genealogy library. What or who makes it special? 

The more I reflected, the more unfair it seemed to single out just one library, so here’s my tribute, with fanfare, to the family history libraries in my life.  Like choosing between your children, picking your favourites seems unjust but I’d like to give my trio of Genie Awards  to the following: GSQ, LDS Family History Centre(s), and County Clare Library, for their contribution to my family history. Read all about my credits below.

Genealogical Society of Queensland (GSQ)

My family history would probably have languished in the “I wonder where my name originated” basket, had I not happened upon a Colonial Street Fair in William St, Brisbane in 1986. GSQ had a “get ’em interested stall” and over 25 years later, the rest, as they say, is history. Not only did GSQ launch my family history search, but it fed and fuelled it for a very long time until I moved to Darwin. In those pre-digitisation days, I used to visit the library to search their hard copy documents but also their rolls of microfilm and especially their wonderful and vast set of indexes prepared by family history centres around the country. They also had special interest groups and when possible I attended their sessions. The GSQ seminars were goldmines of information to new genies like me, and I made sure I mined them to the full. GSQ also established a Pioneer muster register to celebrate the Bicentenary in 1988 and I submitted my own family trees, such as it was after 12-18 months of research (info was much slower to find in those days). The register was updated for Q150 in 2009. So GSQ Library is my first and biggest trumpet fanfare of thanks!

Darwin’s LDS family history centre 

Darwin's Family History Centre and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

 

If I was pinned down to one library I really couldn’t do without right now in 2012, it would be the Darwin LDS family history centre. Not at all like the flash Salt Lake City facilities, it nevertheless provides me with access to all the diverse records microfilmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). The films may take their time venturing across the seas but when those films arrive they provide the gateway into so much of my family story, especially when it takes my stories back across the seas to England, Scotland and Ireland (sadly my German village records are not filmed).  I continue to harp on about how wonderful they are, so I’ll let you read someone else’s story about why they’re genealogical gold. It bemuses me that researchers just don’t seem to “get” how much they can learn through the Mormon library: it’s just not instantaneous and perhaps that’s the problem in our impatient world.

Clare County Library

You could search my blog and find many references to this wonderful library. An innovator over many years I can’t sing their praises highly enough. If you have Irish ancestry, you want them to come from Clare so you, too, can benefit from the riches on their website: this is a virtual library you want to visit, trust me. Even if your Irish family comes from elsewhere have a look on the site to see just what may lie hidden in your family’s county of origin. And if you’re lucky enough to visit Ennis, as I have been, calculate the time you think you’ll need then multiply it: they have riches galore.

My other drum-rolls are for these libraries that have served me so well over the years. Each has wonderful research opportunities that have contributed to my own family histories and can do the same for yours. To each I say “Thank You!”.

State Library of Queensland (SLQ)

In my early research days, SLQ was then housed in William Street (and if my memory serves, staffed with Shauna Hicks among others) and became another home-away-from-home. Here I again used BDM microfiche, microfilmed newspapers, and that wonderfully old-fashioned thing, reference books. In those early days I don’t believe I had ventured into John Oxley Library but when time permits on Brisbane visits there are always things to follow up.

Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society (TDDFHS)

With family in the Darling Downs, as I soon discovered, TDDFHS had an impact on my research long before I joined the society or visited their library. GSQ held their index to BDM events in the Darling Downs Gazette and this was the key to learning more about the lives of my ancestors. TDDFHS have continued to hold a place in my genie heart with their local indexes especially their published books of newspaper extracts (especially great for “my” Germans). Because I live so far away I rarely get into the physical library but through membership emails etc I’m kept up to speed with what they’re doing.

Queensland Family History Society (QFHS)

I must mention QFHS even though I visited them infrequently because they were on the other side of town when I lived in Brisbane. These days my Brisbane visits are so time-constrained that I rarely make it to the actual library but I’ve gained so much from the resources they produce. Their Hamburg shipping indexes, school admission lists, electoral rolls, and so many other indexes and services are fantastic resources. Some of the information you’re finding on Findmypast, for example, comes from their indexing work. Hidden heroes! They also awarded me a prize in 2004 for my family history – a huge buzz for me! QFHS had a great Q150 project, Queensland Founding Families, for 2009 and if you have Qld family it’s a must-read.

Northern Territory Library (NTL)

With the encroachment of Trove and online subscriptions, NTL hasn’t seen me as much as they used to.  Their wide range of newspapers has often been a godsend to me in following up leads and where they don’t have them in house, NTL is efficient in ordering them in on inter-library loans from The National Library of Australia and similarly books that I need or want to suss out, are dispatched from Canberra to far-away Darwin for researchers like me.  Thanks Ken for your wonderful service with these loans! Always very much appreciated. NTL also hosts or co-hosts family history seminars throughout the year and includes family history, and history, journals and magazines for reference. They also have a great facility for people to tell their Territory Stories via online submission so if you have a family member who lived in the Territory in the past, you might want to put your entry there.

Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory (GSNT)

I’ve spent many hours at GSNT scrolling through Board Immigrant Lists searching for east County Clare immigrants. There were some wags who thought I was going to grow cobwebs! Tucked among the bookshelves are a wide variety of reference books to assist with family history and the microfiche and CDs provide further opportunities to round out what’s known about our ancestors. GSNT also holds an extensive pioneer register which hasn’t been of interest to me previously but I’ve now learnt that one of my family connections was in the Territory so I’ll need to see what they may have on them.

Thank you to each and every one of these libraries, without which my family stories would be just a litany of names and dates!

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 48: Thanksgiving for family history blessings

Having been following the 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series devised by Amy Coffin’s and Geneabloggers, I was initially disappointed to read that Week 48’s topic was Thanksgiving, with the questions of: What was on your family’s Thanksgiving table? Do you serve the same dishes now as your family served in the past?

As an Australian plainly I wasn’t going to be able to respond to the question in this way and I really wanted to finish the 52 weeks now I’ve come so far. I decided to draw on the tradition of gratitude by offering my own thanks for the many people who’ve contributed directly or indirectly to my family history…a genealogical Oscars Awards speech. I’d like to thank:

A page of Kunkel and O'Brien photos from Nora's family album.

*        All my pioneer families but especially my early Queensland ancestors, for their courage, hard work, tenacity, determination, and open-mindedness in emigrating so far from home and family.

*        Anne Kunkel, grandchild of George & Mary Kunkel for sharing an oral history of these ancestors and their family, and for linking me to Mary O’Brien’s sister’s families interstate (Widdup,Garvey and Hogan).

*        My 4th cousin Nora in Sydney for sharing her stories and connections with the O’Brien families in Australia and USA not to mention a host of wonderful old photos.

*        Cameron, local historian for Murphy’s Creek, Queensland and the nearby Fifteen Mile, for sharing his knowledge.

*        The church archivists who have helped me in my pursuit of family and “my” Germans –a huge thank-you to Gabrielle!

*        All those who’ve shared their knowledge and enthusiasm for the specialty areas over the years.

GSQ publication indexes: the 1988 Bicentennial Muster roll and the Q150 updated version on CD as well as the stories of Qld Pioneers.

*        Family members, and others, who’ve shared their family’s stories and photographs and brainstormed links.

*        Betty and Carmel, the first two researchers with whom I worked on family history (it transpired we had all attended the same school, despite our geographic dispersal and different ages).

*        All those valiant people who indexed and transcribed records long before the digitisation of (some) records and whose publications are still out there waiting for new researchers to discover them.

*        Those who have written theses about my places and topics of interest.

*        Georg Veh for his local histories of Dorfprozelten, Bavaria.

*        The parish priests in Tullamore, Gorey, Broadford and Dorfprozelten, for showing me the church registers with my families’ baptisms and marriages.

*        The acting parish priest for Kilseily, Broadford, Co Clare in 1992, for dropping us at the doorstep of the unsuspecting family who inherited the O’Brien family farm.

An array of published indexes by QFHS and one by Dr Perry McIntyre.

*        Paddy who walked us over the old farm at Ballykelly townland and exclaimed in astonishment at the Australian half of the story, and Nancy who fed us and dried muddy shoes on our return.

*        My parents for clarifying more recent family and answering myriad questions.

*        The archives, libraries and universities which are digitising records eg the TextQueensland collaboration between State Library of Queensland and The University of Queensland; the wonderful George Washington Wilson photo archives at the University of Aberdeen which includes some old photos of Australia; and my old favourite the Clare County Library.

*       The innovative local councils which have made it possible to search their cemeteries’ graves databases online.

*        The family history libraries where I’ve researched.

*        Family history bloggers who’ve become part of my community.

*        Mr Cassmob who has visited countless cemeteries, listened to countless ramblings and supported my genealogical flights of fancy.

You are all STARS in my family history galaxy.

25 years of Family History: reflection and celebration: Part 1

As I lay awake the other night the penny dropped that I had started my family history research in Sept/Oct 1986 so it’s currently the 25th anniversary of my family history trail. This “hobby” quickly became a fascination and then an obsession for me. It has kept me interested through all these years, reinvigorated and energised me, and cheered me up when I’ve felt despondent or at a loose end…and those brick walls have occasionally made me feel like climbing walls.

How and why did I start my family history?

In Sept/Oct 1986, I went to a heritage fair in Brisbane’s William Street. The Genealogical Society of Queensland had a stall to promote tracing one’s family history – something that was by no means as popular then as it is now. I’d always wondered about my German surname and where it came from within Germany. This seemed like the time to get started.

My children were in primary and secondary school and becoming rather self-sufficient. My husband was studying and occupied with that. We were both working full-time so that left me with an urge to do something with my spare time. Little did I know how this obsession would take over my life even though occasionally it has also had to take a back seat to family, work and volunteer priorities.

I joined GSQ soon after the heritage fair and became member # 166.

Family history societies seem to have gone out of fashion these days but that really can be to the detriment of family historians. These societies have so many relevant published books and family histories, funeral company records, indexes of all sorts (many of which are not published online) as well as access, these days, to published CDs and online subscription sites, not to mention lots of people with varied FH skills. In short they can be a gold mine.

GSQ also held regular family history training sessions given by experts like Jennifer Harrison, whose particular expertise is Irish family history. I was able to learn a lot from all these talks. As now, they had specialist sub-groups with a focus on various nationalities. Obviously I joined the German group which turned out to be somewhat counter-productive. In those days I was repeatedly, and incorrectly, told there were no German Catholics in Queensland and no Germans from Bavaria. My own family research plainly demonstrated this was incorrect, with my Kunkel ancestor from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria settling in Queensland as did others from the same village. Hence the title of my paper at the 2006 Family History Congress called “They weren’t all Lutherans”.

How did family history research differ in those days?

Well the biggest difference is that personal computers had not really entered most people’s worlds. Sure we used specialised programs sometimes at work, but for family history it was all first-hand research and a notebook (the original thing, with paper, not a small laptop). As a result I’ve probably become over-dependent on paper-based archiving of my research.

Apart from visits to GSQ my research was done in four places about which I’ll provide a summary in Part 2: I used them then and I still use them now (read Part 2 and see why):

  1. Churches and Church Archives
  2. State Library of Queensland (SLQ)
  3. Queensland State Archives (QSA)
  4. Family History Centres of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints (LDS/Mormons)

Of course all these paper-based researches are, and were, combined with on-the-ground research of the places where my ancestors lived and worked, and especially where they were buried. My children still hate cemeteries which they say smell of dead grass. Local history museums were also useful with the Crows Nest Folk Museum volunteers being especially helpful.

So is this just a story of how great things were in the “good old days”? Not at all.

I love the speed, convenience and accessibility that comes with being able to search records by name or place, accessing a huge variety of information irrespective of where it is in the world.

I love that indexing and computers can (but not always) make it easier to find family even when they’ve moved long distances.

I love the fact that I can do a lot of preliminary research before I get to a records repository to look at those documents which aren’t available online and have my family strands and research strategy untangled before I get onsite.

I also love that it’s so much easier to locate distant cousins around the world.

However I do think that some of the skills I learned pre-computers are absolutely invaluable and current family historians sometimes ignore these amazing options at the expense of their research. There’s also a tendency to think certificates are optional extras rather than essentials for one’s own direct line – my birthday, Xmas and Mother’s Day presents for many years were more certificates. Yes, we can’t afford them all, but if we can afford to use subscription sites we can almost certainly afford to buy the key certificates.

I love my family history research and can’t quite imagine my life without it.