52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 44 Conferences

It is Week 44 in the 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy series by Amy Coffin and hosted by Geneabloggers. The topic this week is Genealogy ConferencesWhat was your best genealogy conference experience? Why is it so memorable in your mind? Who hosted the event? What did you learn from this experience? How does it impact your genealogy research today? I couldn’t resist this topic because of the significance of one talk way back in 1994.

The most memorable genealogy conference I’ve attended was the 7th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry hosted by AFFHO at The University of Queensland in Brisbane way back in 1994. I was waiting to take up a new position at UQ so I had some time on my hands and was able to attend, and it was a pivotal conference for my research.

One of the speakers was Jenny Paterson from New South Wales and she was speaking on the employment of German immigrants to eastern Australia in the 1850s[i]. She presented a list of some names with their corresponding places of origin. I nearly fell of my chair when one place recurred against several names, and that place was Dorfprozelten, home of my George Kunkel. Regular readers of this blog will know that George has led me a merry chase trying to find any immigration records (still unsuccessfully).

A street-side shrine in the village of Dorfprozelten: there when the emigrants left and still there today.

Jenny’s talk revealed the significance of the German vinedresser scheme which had been relatively unheralded. For years I’d been told there were no Catholic Germans in Queensland, even though George plainly fitted that bill. Her talk also opened the door to my sideways research into learning as much as I possibly could about this cluster of Dorfprozelten emigrants, their backgrounds and their migration experiences. It really was a pivotal moment in my German research and led to me presenting what I’d discovered about the Dorfprozelten migrants to the Darwin AFFHO Congress in 2006[ii].

Jenny Paterson continues to write on the larger German migration experience through her regular articles in Ances-Tree, the Burwood and District Family History Group’s magazine. They are valuable reading for anyone with German ancestry to Australia and would provide an excellent comparison for north American researchers whose German ancestors migrated around the same time.

It was at the AFFHO congress on Anzac Day 2003, that I was stunned to hear the British keynote speakers talking about my husband’s great uncle, Walter Edmund Cass. I posted about it earlier this year in this post.  Mid-year 2012 Mr Cassmob and I went to see an exhibition about Brig WEH Cass and his wife Helena at the Shrine in Melbourne.

You just never know what you’ll learn or who’ll you’ll meet at a genealogy conference. You may read about the topics and the speakers but every now and then, a total surprise will leap out at you and propel your research in a totally unexpected direction!


[i] Available from the National Library of Australia Blending the cultures : congress papers / 7th Australian Congress on Genealogy and Family History ; 7-10 July 1994, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

[ii] They weren’t all Lutherans – A case study of a small group of German Catholics who emigrated to Australia from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria. Cass, P. Published in the Proceedings of the 11th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry, Darwin, 2006.