No quibbling over Q

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). There really was no quibbling as to what Q was for….

Q is for QUEENSLAND and Q150    

Queensland is Australia's north-eastern state.

Queenslanders are a proud breed, as fiercely loyal to their state as to their nation. Like the little sibling made good, Queensland was formed in 1859 when the former district of Moreton Bay separated from the colony of New South Wales. My own Australian ancestry is almost entirely Queensland-based though with business or kin links into New South Wales.

The arrival periods of my Queensland immigrant ancestors.

Queensland (Qld) celebrated its 150th anniversary of separation in 2009 with many festivities but also many Q150 projects to commemorate the state’s heritage. Believe me, if you were a family historian you had a busy 12 months across 2008/09. I’ve been planning to talk about a few of the genealogical projects for some time and now’s my chance.

GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY OF QUEENSLAND (GSQ)

GSQ undertook two projects in 2009.

PROJECT 1 was an update of the bicentennial Pioneer Muster of people resident in Queensland between 1859 and Federation in 1901. This had two parts: the construction of a database from the names submitted in 1988 and an update with new names. Many volunteers work hard to bring this to fruition. So far a CD is available with 12,000 names and it’s anticipated another will be forthcoming.

Pluses:

  • A readily searchable database of names of Queensland pioneers rather than the three volumes which had no doubt been languishing on the bookshelves.
  • The ability to link up with other family researchers.
  • The 2009 versions are likely to contain more information as the internet has made research more accessible. However by preserving the 1988 work, the entries of researchers from the time is also available.

Weaknesses:

  • It would have been great if the database had been searchable by place as well as name. This would have been perfect for anyone wanting to undertake a One Place study or simply to learn more about the people who lived in the same place as their ancestors.
  • CD#2 is still outstanding no doubt due to the sheer volume of work involved.

PROJECT 2 for GSQ was a book of 400 stories about the early Qld pioneers.

Pluses:

  • I liked the thematic approach to the stories, clustering stories of people with similar backgrounds or occupations. This made it easier to see similarities and differences.

Weaknesses (for me):

  • Like short stories, I found it frustrating to only get a canapé size bite of information about families. Limited visuals.

The link to these publications is here.

QUEENSLAND FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY (QFHS)

QFHS’s Q150 project was Queensland’s Founding Families, the stories of people resident in Queensland prior to Separation in 1859. It includes approximately 16,000 names.

Pluses:

  • QFHS had a requirement of proof of residency prior to 1859, making it more stringent.
  • With its focus on Pre-Separation Moreton Bay, this publication complements GSQ’s Separation to Federation database.
  • The stories were limited to three pages which gave the writer sufficient scope to tell the family’s story and add some illustrations.

Weaknesses:

  • None for me but perhaps the book is too expensive and too heavy for anyone who doesn’t want to use the CD.

Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society (TDDFHS)

TDDFHS’s Q 150 project was to gather stories on a representative sample of people buried in the now-Heritage Listed Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery. The book’s title was Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery: Our Backyard and it includes some very interesting yarns.

Also worth mentioning in the context of the above databases and publications, thought not Q150 focused, is TDDFHS’s publications of the Darling Downs Biographical Registers: Part I to 1900 in two volumes, and the recently released Part II up to 1920.

Once again, if you have any interest in, or ancestry from, the Downs these publications are well worth tracking down in your local genealogical or research library.

State Library of Queensland (SLQ)

The Storylines Q150 project has only recently come to my attention and it’s well worth a look if you have an interest in Queensland.

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.

The Ancestors’ Geneameme challenge from Geniaus

Geniaus has set us another challenge with The Ancestors’ Geneameme. This is my response to the challenge.

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?

  1. Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents
  2. Can name over 50 direct ancestors
  3. Have photographs or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents
  4. Have an ancestor who was married more than three times
  5. Have an ancestor who was a bigamist (he wasn’t but his 4th wife was)
  6. Met all four of my grandparents ( I was lucky enough to have three of them into my teens or beyond.)
  7. Met one or more of my great-grandparents (all pre-deceased my arrival)
  8. Named a child after an ancestor (coincidentally though I knew it was similar)
  9. Bear an ancestor’s given name/s (not having an ancestral name was apparently intentional –ironically I’ve always felt like a Kate, a recurring family name on all sides: too late to bother changing it now)
  10. Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland (all branches except my German one).
  11. Have an ancestor from Asia
  12.  Have an ancestor from Continental Europe (George Kunkel always said he was from Bavaria, not Germany)
  13. Have an ancestor from Africa
  14. Have an ancestor who was an agricultural labourer
  15. Have an ancestor who had large land holdings (a few with centuries of property either leased or owned but not large land holdings)
  16. Have an ancestor who was a holy man – minister, priest, rabbi (with all those Catholics, no direct ancestors, and none in the Protestant denominations either that I’ve found though lots in one family serving as churchwardens, overseers of the poor etc)
  17. Have an ancestor who was a midwife
  18. Have an ancestor who was an author (oh, how I wish)
  19. Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy or Jones (but try googling Partridge or Kent)
  20. Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki or Ng
  21. Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X
  22. Have an ancestor with a forename beginnining with Z
  23. Have an ancestor born/died on 25th December (my great-grandfather died on Xmas Day, six weeks after his wife died. They left a large family orphaned ranging from 21 to 2)
  24. Have an ancestor born on New Year’s Day (not a direct ancestor, but a few siblings)
  25. Have blue blood in your family lines (blue babies with Rh- blood, but no blue-blood royalty)
  26. Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth
  27. Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth (two: Scots Presbyterian on one side and Irish Catholic on the other)
  28. Can trace a direct family line back to the eighteenth century
  29. Can trace a direct family line back to the seventeenth century or earlier
  30. Have seen copies of the signatures of some of my great-grandparents
  31. Have ancestors who signed their marriage certificate with an X
  32. Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university (no, mine is the first university-educated generation as far as I know)
  33. Have an ancestor who was convicted of a criminal offence (he and a few others went to jail over perjury but released soon after appeals to the Qld Executive in relation to the court case)
  34. Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime (only minor events: one ancestor had his chickens stolen, as he was a butcher this would have been a hassle, another had his horse stolen. However one was a witness to an event in one of Qld’s first court cases which gave me new evidence on his own life.)
  35. Have shared an ancestor’s story online or in a magazine (I use my blog to tell some of my ancestor’s stories, have had the story of my great-grandmother’s rather gruesome death published in GSNT’s Progenitor magazine, and published a large number of short family histories as part of the Q150 projects with QFHS’s Founding Families, GSQ’s Queensland Pioneer Families 1859-1901 and Muster Roll, and TDDFHS’s Our Backyard, Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery.)
  36. Have published a family history online or in print (Grassroots Queenslanders: The Kunkel Family tells the story of the Kunkel family from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria and the O’Brien family from Ballykelly, Broadford, Co Clare, Ireland. It was published in 2003. Time for another?)
  37. Have visited an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries: I’ve lacked the courage to door-knock current owners of most family homes overseas while in situ but we have stood on the land and among the house ruins where ancestors lived in Ireland, Scotland and Bavaria. Writing in advance to visit the surviving homes is on my courage wish list: one in Hertfordshire, one in Stirlingshire. And whoops, I forgot my Kunkel ancestor’s house in Australia which dates from the 1870s and which I have visited.
  38. Still have an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries in the family
  39. Have a family bible from the 19th Century (I know one exists but no idea where it went to before my grandmother died).
  40. Have a pre-19th century family bible (again I could wish, and wish)