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!

Family history seminar Darwin 25 February 2012

Yesterday I talked about the history seminars that had been held in Darwin over the past 10 days or so. Thanks to Unlock the Past and the War comes to Darwin tour, we were also fortunate to have an all-day family history seminar co-hosted by the Northern Territory Library and the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory. The guest speakers at Saturday’s seminar were Shauna Hicks and Rosemary Kopittke both well-known in family history circles.  Thanks to family links here Shauna has been a regular visitor and speaker in Darwin over the past few years.

Over forty people (my rough head-count) attended and were fortunate to learn from speakers with extensive and diverse experience. Shauna’s first talk was about state and national archives online and with her experience in both types of repositories she’s well qualified to talk on this topic and I imagine people got a lot from these talks. I would have liked to have seen some reference to the Board Immigrant Lists (which aren’t online) when referring to the NSW immigration records which have been digitised as the former provide far more information where they’re available. Shauna emphasised the need to “read the manual” ie check the background detail to see what’s included in the indexes you’re searching –an important tip. Another great tip was to use the Victorian outward migration indexes for your people as Port Philip was often a transit point for ships coming along the south coast or to/from Tasmania. I’ve used these regularly for my Germans and other families to great effect. The three different options cover different date ranges and the information included often differs slightly from what you find on the NSW immigration records so well worth a look. I also use the Victorian unassisted passenger lists as if they were sponsored by NSW they were still unassisted within the Victorian context.  This has been very useful for my German research.

Rosemary then spoke about the different branches of Findmypast (UK, Ireland and Australia) with a passing reference to the recently commenced American branch. Ultimately the plan is that all these will be combined in a layered subscription site but there is no timeline for this as yet. I was excited when Rosemary mentioned that Hertfordshire Archives and Library Services would be coming online this year with Findmypast. Having been behind with my blog reading I hadn’t then seen the references to this. It will be a great boon for my family history even though I’ve already read many of the microfilms I need through the Family History Centre. Still I’m hoping this will bring other records online. Exciting! Rosemary also highlighted other additions to the findmypast suite: the merchant seamen records from the 19th century, the Irish Petty Sessions (but beware, they’re not all there yet), Irish landed estate court rentals, prison records etc. One of my favourites on FMP is the Outward Shipping from the UK. If you don’t use FMP regularly you are missing out on something. I personally find their transcriptions much more accurate than some.

Shauna’s next was “it’s not all online” and I could hear so many echoes of what I’ve already said, and have on my 52 week plan, to say in my Beyond the Internet series. Her first point was that there seemed to be two groups involved with genealogy: the name gatherers who are mostly content to acquire names and dates for an expanding range of ancestors; and the family historians who want to learn as much as possible about their ancestors’ lives and experiences. I fall firmly into the second category so there was no need to convert me on this topic! Shauna’s talk provided many examples of the vast array of sources available beyond the internet through libraries and archives in particular. I smiled when she highlighted the importance of certificates and how at least one researcher had claimed a brick wall when a certificate promptly broke down the wall. You can read what I had to say about certificates here.

Convict ancestry was covered well by Shauna and I found the topic interesting even though I have no direct lines of “Australian royalty” as Jack Thompson called his convict. I do research one Irish exile who arrived in Queensland in 1849 who unfortunately isn’t as well documented as some of the earlier convicts. Quite a lot of people put up their hands when Shauna asked who had convicts in their tree and I notice she was surrounded by enquirers after this talk. I made notes for when my husband pursues his convicts in the future.

Shauna also made mention of the Genealogists for Families group which supports micro-loans to people around the world who are trying to improve their family’s economic security. If you haven’t heard of it, and the good work that is being done, do pop over and have a look. Since the group was established by Judy Webster back in October or so last year, nearly $10,000 worth of loans have been made by the 148 (mostly) genealogists who joined the group.

Rosemary gave two talks which might be broadly discussed together: government and police gazettes, and almanacs and directories. I really enjoyed these talks too and hopefully they convinced people of how much is contained within them…far beyond the mundane matters of business you might expect. I was particularly taken with the education gazettes which I haven’t used previously and will look at to learn more about Murphys Creek in Queensland and its education history.  All the snippets you can learn about your family in these documents where your family may be mentioned in terms of a licence they required, as a victim or witness to a crime, or indeed the perpetrator, etc.  Rosemary highlighted how an ancestor’s business may have an advertisement within the directories (not so far in my family’s case). You can also use the street indexes within the post office directories to pinpoint which side of the street and between which cross streets your family may have lived.  So much grist for the mill.

Both speakers will have their talks online: Shauna through her website and Rosemary through her profile page on Unlock the Past.

All in all an enjoyable and informative day…I’m sure people went home much better informed although a little mentally over-loaded. Rosemary and Shauna also merit our thanks for such interesting presentations at the end of a heavy week or so of touring. I reckon they’d have been pretty pleased to be on the plane home. Thanks!

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy Week 4: my kitbag of offline tools

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog, in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has kicked off 2012 with a new series of weekly blogging prompts themed as 52 Weeks of Abundant GenealogyWeek 4’s topic is Free Offline Genealogy Tools: For which free offline genealogy tool are you most grateful? How did you find this tool and how has it benefitted your genealogy? Describe to others how to access this tool and spread the genealogy love.

The (mostly) Irish migration corner of my library.

I confess that this topic confused me a little as I wavered between its meaning being a techno-tool which helped with my genealogy vs a source or repository, an equally valid interpretation. I opted to go with taking the term “tool” more literally as I’ll be addressing my offline sources and archive favourites in my Beyond the Internet series. So here is my priority offline kitbag (as you know I have trouble selecting just one):

  1.  My camera plus pen(cil) and paper.

This has been true for all the years of my research, long before digital cameras, or computers for that matter. I use my cameras (now digital) to photograph old family properties, streets where my families lived, their home towns, the cemeteries and the family’s graves, etc. In the various archives I can now mostly use my camera to photograph documents quickly and easily so I can skim-read them in situ,then transcribe and digest them at home at my leisure. I also use it to photograph images from microfilm, having been given permission to do this at the library. I truly would feel almost as bereft if I lost my camera as if I lost my computer. As to the pencil and paper, sometimes I find it easier to document information by hand – yes, regressive I know, but I do also use the laptop for specific projects.

Maps and War and a bit of Queensland

2.            My research reference library

Ever since I started family history I’ve been accumulating relevant research books (combines my love of FH + books). Since we’ve moved to Darwin this accumulation has accelerated and I now have a fairly substantial reference library of books, maps, CDs and DVDs to aid my research, not to mention my family-specific information in folders. I would be lost without having this library readily to hand when I need background to something I’m researching…but there’d be more space in my study :-)

3.                Inter-library loans

I do try to curb my enthusiasm for book-purchasing to references which I know I’ll use repeatedly or which are not available through the National Library of Australia on inter-library loan.  This is a great service and it means I can have resources sent up to Darwin from Canberra. These resources might be books but equally might be rural newspapers on microfilm which have yet to make it into Trove. Ken at the Northern Territory Library does a great job coordinating these loans at the Darwin end. (Don’t forget that if you live in Australia you can also get an NLA cardto access online resources).

Not to forget the Scots!

4.                My library and archive cards

I have a stash of these for libraries and archives from all over. Even if they have to be renewed from time to time they make for quick access when you arrive for a time-limited research trip.

5.                 Microfilms

I can’t say often enough how important microfilms from the local Family History Centre are to my research (see one post here, or search my blog). It’s not all online, so being able to research at least some parish records, shipping records, occupation documents etc is invaluable. Look at the FamilySearch catalogue for your ancestor’s home town, county or country to see which films might help your research. Order them online here, then when they arrive you’re in for tons of fun at your local family history centre, however big or small it may be.

6.                Scanners

My scanner is a vital part of my offline world. My old photos, slides, negatives and documents churn through the scanner and go into my digital records. I love the Flip-Pal for quick scanning of photos for my blog or similar. It’s the interface tool between my online and offline world. I talked about both scanners last year here.

So there you have it, some of my “can’t do without” tools.

Which tools do you use in your research and which is your favourite?