Diary of a Genea-cruise: Day 9 – the finale

314 pyramidWednesday was Day 9 and the final day of our cruise as we headed for Sydney with another warning from the Captain that there would be “motion on the ocean” but that he had no control over it, being subject to a “higher power even than my wife’s”.

The UTP cruisers had a full schedule of activities for the day ahead with some earlier talks rescheduled due to illness. It was difficult to buckle down to being alert and “on plan” after the time in port at Hobart and I confess I made this one of my “time out” days, missing a few sessions. Inevitably there were clashes in the programming so I still missed some I’d liked to have heard.

RESEARCHING A HEALTH HISTORY

Helen Smith kicked off the morning with excellent advice to prepare a family tree (genogram) without names but with gender, cause of death and age at death. Even reflecting quickly on the topic as Helen spoke I could see some scary family health risks, though to be fair, none that were a huge surprise….my family is largely blessed with longevity.813 dreamworks exp

She asked “what risk factors do you have?” and encouraged us to take preventive health measures to ensure we live long enough to do our family history. Also to talk with family members about health conditions such as miscarriages, mental health issues or cancers, but being aware of people’s sensitivities around the topic.

Key messages:  Approach your family tree using health data, rather than names and see what health conditions are prevalent. Talk to family members to tease out illnesses other than the specific cause of death.

IRISH LAND RECORDS

Chris Paton was as always amusing and informative.

I was excited to learn that the Irish National Archives will “soon” be adding to their site, the extant field, house and tenure books which lie behind the Griffith Valuations. I’ve used these in Dublin before for the townland of Ballykelly but not for some of my other places and I need to revisit the images I have to make more sense of them. The website to watch is http://genealogy.nationalarchives.ie/

I didn't get to spend a minute in the sun loungers...

I didn’t get to spend a minute in the sun loungers…

402 pool deck

Or on the pool deck….but I did make it to the day spa.

Chris also mentioned the Revision books (aka Cancellation Books) which update the original Griffith Valuations. These are absolutely gold in terms of tracing who took over your family’s property over the decades and can provide clues to when someone died. They are available through the LDS Family History Centres by ordering in the microfilm, but they’re very difficult to follow because they’re only in black and white whereas the originals are in colour so you can follow the entry across the page. The Valuation Office in Dublin will send a copy to you for E40 if you know where you’re looking. It may be expensive but it’s cheaper than a trip to Ireland, though nowhere near as much fun!

Other land records are available at different sites eg the Defaulters’ Books (for those who refused to pay the Tithes) is on FindMyPast as are the Landed Estate Court Records.

The National University of Ireland in Galway has a database on the landed estates of Munster and Connacht…the provinces where so many Irish in Australia came from. This database will let you search for the owners of estates and whether there might be surviving estate records (but do look elsewhere as well). Those with Clare ancestry can use the wonderful Clare Library site to learn more about their ancestor’s parish and the estates before turning to this database.

PRONI (the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland) also has great information for those with northern Irish ancestry, including a national schools index.

Key messages: All of the above. If you haven’t used any of these resources then check them out.

My advice: Land records are a key gateway into Irish genealogy though you do need to know where your ancestor came from (well anyone will tell you that!). If you’re struggling to locate their townland or village check out obituaries, funeral notices and funeral directors, newspaper stories, the name they called their house/property, gravestones, family stories, immigration records and so on. Be lateral, sometimes that’s the only way you’ll find them.

822 DreamworksFAMILY HISTORIAN: Queries and Plug-ins (Jane Taubman)

I didn’t attend all the Family Historian sessions offered by Jane, largely because of clashes with other sessions. I have the program on my computer and have imported some data but have yet to really play with it. The program I have used for years is an Australian one, Relatively Yours, which offers great flexibility but doesn’t export to other programs as consistently as I’d like.

Key message (for me): Get my act together, experiment with Family Historian and decide if it suits my purposes.

DNA FOR GENEALOGISTS

Kerry Farmer provides really clear advice in her presentations and the DNA session was no different. In theory I understand the process and significance but ….every time I turn my mind to this task I wonder how it can still befuddle me despite five years of science training, albeit a long time ago. One of my stumbling blocks is that I don’t have any other (known) relatives who have tested and all the 3rd or 4th cousins who pop up only identify relations within the USA. Kerry suggests asking them if they know of anywhere overseas their families came from. Perhaps it’s time to follow Kerry’s lead and offer to pay for tests for key people in my family puzzles.

Key message (for me): try, try again to understand my DNA results, read blog posts, download the data and try to make more sense of it. Kerry’s tips: get other family members tested, join the haplogroup that fits your profile (and perhaps a surname group, if applicable), and follow Family Tree DNA on Facebook to get early warning of special deals. There are also some good webinars online. Plainly there’s lots of homework to be done, and some concentrated thinking instead of head-in-a-bucket methods.

LOST IN ASYLUMS

Shauna Hicks gave a great talk on benevolent asylums and similar that housed consumptive patients or the infirm. The key places to find information about these is the relevant archive and they can be rich sources of information which can solve many mysteries or add more information not available elsewhere –I’ve certainly had great success with them. Many of the archives have at least some of these records indexed so do have a look at them. My notes on Shauna’s talk include a lot of reminders of action to follow up.

Key messages: Don’t forget to use an advanced google search combined with the relevant URL eg www.archives.qld.gov.au.

CRUISE FINALE

It was a shame to know the cruise was coming to an end even though our brains were getting rather befuddled and full of information. Once again our table had a lovely time chatting –what a pleasure it was to spend time with Cathy, Dot, Marlene and Thomas…we never did see the other person who had been allocated to our table (we must have looked scary). Nearly every evening we were among the last tables to leave the dining room. Thanks for your company each night my new friends!

319 the dining room

The evening post-dinner session was held back in Cleopatra’s Needle and there were lots of prizes handed out to participants and my table mates were all thrilled that the big prize of $2500 towards any Unlock the Past cruise went to our new-found friend Marlene!! I think we were more excited than she was as she seemed quite stunned but accepted her prize with what is her characteristic graciousness.

The waiter's finale

The waiter’s finale

Chris Paton gave the final presentation of the conference speaking on British civilian POWs in the First World War. While it has specific relevance to his family it had broader implications and was a fascinating study of Ruhleben Internment Camp. After the nuts and bolts of the conference talks it was intriguing to listen to a broader historical topic. It was amazing to hear the diversity of learning that occurred in the camp as professionals and academics (and no doubt tradesmen) passed their skills on to their fellow internees.

Thank you to Unlock the Past for the learning opportunity of a conference held on board ship. I thoroughly enjoyed myself despite my earlier “me, cruise…never!” attitude. Now I think I may have caught the cruising bug! I will most likely write a separate post in a day or two on my general perspectives of the cruise.

616 sunrise in Sydney

Thank you also to each of you for journeying along with me…I hope you’ve got a sense of the fun we had, and that I’ve shared some of the learning opportunities.

The steward's towel monkey...our final towel creation.

The steward’s towel monkey…our final towel creation.

Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Days 7 and 8 – Hobart Town

It was a longish voyage from Adelaide to Hobart (yes, I know, our ancestors would disagree!)  so we had a combination day with genealogy and then some sight-seeing after our arrival in port at 2pm.

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

The sailing ship Florentia. Image from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and reproduced with permission. Image PW 7704

I loved arriving by sea into Hobart because it brought to mind that Mary O’Brien had probably come this way before me, back on 4 April 1853. Just imagine the relief of all those on board the Florentia after four and a half months at sea, with a diminishing supply of provisions. Hobart is such a pretty town with its encircling hills and Mount Wellington towering over the city. It may not have the drama of Sydney’s sandstone cliffs but it has an amiable, welcoming vibe. I could happily live in Hobart but that wouldn’t be an improvement on the remoteness of Darwin, and my heat-loving tropical friends would simply refuse to visit. It must surely have been appealing though to the immigrants from Ireland, England and Wales on board the Florentia.(Apologies to my mates who are heartily sick of Mary O’Brien from County Clare).

It was a public holiday for Regatta Day as the captain brought his huge ship to dock at the wharf. Little boats were skimming round the harbour but my friend Sharn and I chose to head off along the wharf to Salamanca Place and Battery Point for some sight-seeing. Having decided to stop for a coffee, we joined other Unlock the Past Cruisers for a chat at a local coffee shop.

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

Sailing into Hobart on Day 7

But first there was some genealogy while still at sea:

Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy (panel discussion)

GeniAus (Jill Ball) hosted this Panel on Ethics which got good feedback from the audience. The panel was Kirsty Gray, Maria Northcote and myself and Jill had prepared a range of pertinent questions for us to respond to in turn. It was interesting to see the consistency between our responses …and there’d been no prior consultation or discussion. (if anyone has thought on the session I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the panel – difficult to retain it all while in the thick of it)

391 ethical dilemmas

Chris Paton again unravelled the complexities and variability of Scottish records with his talk Scottish marriage: instantly buckled for life. Scotland may be (currently) part of the UK, but Scottish family history is really not the same as that for England, make no mistake! Among the warnings Chris issued is that people only needed to have a witness to their commitment and the marriage was a valid one, and also the the (wonderful) ScotlandsPeople only has marriages for the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Churches. If you can’t find your ancestors you may wish to follow up the Statistical Accounts to see which other denominations were active in their parish at the time. 

After arrival in Hobart people scattered to their various activities and plans. I was fortunate to spent a few fun hours with fellow genie and photo obsessive, Sharn from Family History 4 U. Some of my photos from the day will eventually make it to my photo and travel blog Tropical Territory and Travel which has been sadly neglected of late, like other things. Although the weather looked a little precarious in the beginning it turned into a magnificent afternoon with crystal clear vivid blue skies.

The day finished with a very good fireworks display over the harbour, with resounding toots of the ship’s “horn” in thanks for the display. It certainly gathered the crowds on the high decks and afterwards I was invited to join my table-mates, Cathy and Dot and friend Maria in the cocktail bar on Deck 14…a very pleasant end to the day.

547 painting the shipDay 8 was another full day in port and imagine our surprise to look out from the verandah and see another cruise ship had arrived overnight. It was interesting to see that life at sea involves little down-time for the crew who were busy painting any blemishes on the ship’s hull.

My priority for Day 8 ( a shore day) was to hit the archives in Hobart although initially I’d hoped to go to the Cascade Factory. However that was superseded by following up all possible leads on the Florentia and whether they would offer any further clues to whether Mary O’Brien was on board as an unassisted immigrant when the ship sailed into Hobart. Despite searching a range of pre-ordered documents, the answers were still ambiguous by the end of the day. My research outcomes re the Florentia will be the subject of an upcoming post.

And so we sailed from Hobart Town with my thoughts reflecting on whether Mary O’Brien and her sister Bridget were similarly sorry to leave this pretty place behind to head north to Moreton Bay, or in my case, to Sydney Town.

Leaving Hobart behind.

Leaving Hobart behind.

Diary of a Genea-Cruise: Day 6 – Motion on the Ocean

Before I tell you a little about Day 6 of our genea-journey, for those who are interested, the slides from my talk Becoming a fan of FANs is now on a separate tab on my blog under Presentations. Here is a quick link to it.420 shreck

Day 6 of our adventure was a sea-day en route between Adelaide and Hobart. The Captain warned us there’d be “motion on the ocean” but it was pretty good. By the time we got to Hobart we were swaying on land, not ocean.

Although we were so preoccupied with the many presentations in the conference room I occasionally caught a glimpse of the featured DeamWorks characters which are a feature of Voyager of the Seas so I grabbed photos of them for the grandchildren.

Kerry Farmer: Convicts from trial to freedom

Although I have no convicts in my ancestry (no royalty here or abroad! Just a peasant), I just had to listen to Kerry Farmer’s talk on Convicts. Kerry is such a good presenter and sets out information clearly and concisely. Ancestry and FindMyPast both have good convict records. I was interested in the Parramatta Female Factory information and especially the Roman Catholic orphanage.

She reminded us too, that it was secondary offenders who ended up in places like Moreton Bay, Port Arthur and Norfolk Island. However, there were exiles (the later convicts circa 1840s) who went directly to Moreton Bay receiving a conditional pardon on arrival.

Key messages (for me): this will be useful when it comes time to do Mr Cassmob’s convict research. Convict deaths may not be registered in the normal death indexes for NSW.

Jill Ball: Free Australian Websites.

Jill gave us a whirlwind tour through the websites she loves to use and it’s amazing just how many wonderful sets of information are online. I’m sure some were familiar were to listeners while others were great reminders of ones we may have visited once upon a time, but had disappeared into the maw of our bookmarks or forgotten. Others provided new points of research. I found I was making notes to myself about following up different aspects of my own research through the websites.

Key messages: Try the ABC (radio) podcasts, searching for genealogy. Visit Mapping our Anzacs (an ANZAC site) which is apparently being taken down “soon”. You can download the whole file so if you want information from there, do it NOW. Don’t forget Family Search wikis for information on your places.

Jane Taubman: Family Historian – Reports

Strange as it may seem I don’t much like genealogy programs as I tend to feel straight-jacketed. I generally prefer to have narrative instead which allows for more nuances.

However I’ve been using an Australian program Relatively Yours for many years because it offers the opportunity to add more personal information and allows for nuances in relationships which the bigger programs don’t always do. Having said all that, I like the clean format of Family Historian which tends to appeal to me.  Because I have yet to decide between these two programs and The Master Genealogist, I attended some of Jane’s talks. When I get home I’ll be playing around with it a little while I decide.

Key message for me: Come to grips with which program I want to use, and which suits my purposes best.

Thomas MacEntee: Google Alerts and Books

817 Thomas MacEnteeAs always Thomas’s talk was full of tips for making our genealogy research more organised and efficient. I knew some of this already from reading Thomas’s and other blogger’s posts on the topic.

Do you have alerts in place for your family’s street addresses, towns, your own website or blog, your areas of interest?

Don’t forget you can set up a Bookcase of books which you find on Google Books and mark them private or public. Don’t shy away from “limited view” books and also use more common phrases to look at other pages.

Key message: Use alerts and Google Books to the max. Kudos to Thomas for always repeating the question from the audience so everyone knows what was asked.

Geneareaders Circle hosted by Jill Ball

This was such a fun activity with a group of people sharing their favourite genealogy or history books. It was interesting to see even relatively esoteric books were held by others in the group.

Apart from the joy of learning about new books to follow up, it was a pleasure just to share with like-minded people.

It was both heart-warming and amusing to see Maria Northcote from Genies Down Under nearly fall off her chair when one of the participants, Alan Jones, talked about his SAG thesis on Kilmihil, the very place in Clare where Maria’s ancestors came from. You can imagine the chat that ensued!

Genies Down Under

After the circle, Jill Ball and I were interviewed by Maria for the podcast which was fun as well. Maria’s included her chat with Jill and I, as well as Alan Philips, Chris Paton and Joy Avery in her March podcast here. It’s very obvious we were having a good time and no longer noticed the ship was working its way through the captain’s famous “motion on the ocean”. Maria is just a delight to chat with, and so calm and quietly confident.

Key message: A great opportunity for attendees to get involved and share their love of books. Thanks Jill for this inspired idea. If you’re going on a genea-cruise do make sure you add this to your list of “must attend” events.

Sorry this has been so long arriving – it’s been sitting in my drafts waiting for the photos to accompany the story..and now can’t find ones I’m happy with…except a great photo of Thomas on the welcome night. I did better when I was on board ship.

art work

Anne Daniels from Drawing on the Past, offered sessions on photo collage for family history.