I’ve been lucky enough to meet Cheryl Mongan several times in the past, when she’s been co-convenor of Shamrock in the Bush. Unfortunately I’ve never had the chance to hear her speak even though her passion for the Famine Orphans is well known. Her presentation at Congress 2015 will be a real treat for me personally as well as other congress attendees.
I wonder if you could tell us a little about your background? Are you a genealogist, researcher, historian or representing your organisation?
I initially worked in finance and retail administration and you could probably say I am now all of the above in a professional capacity as well as being involved as a volunteer for several community organisations .
How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life?
Inspired by my teacher at a small country school I have had an avid fascination with history from the age of eight. Encouraged to research and write about historical events, I never lost interest, despite in later years, not having the time to devote to it until 1995. Since then I have co-authored two historical publications and contributed to a number of others, managed an historical property, worked as researcher/writer in military history, curated museum exhibitions and organised conferences and seminars – all with an historical theme.
What do you love most about genealogy/family history/history/heraldry?
You might call it the thrill of the chase – finding some obscure reference that leads to a better understanding of the bigger picture and meeting like minded people. For the past three decades I have been heavily in involved in local and family history (though not necessarily my own family) and have presented papers on a variety of topics in various forums in Australia and Ireland. Having organised numerous Irish/Australian, local and family history conferences has enabled me to meet an incredible number of knowledgeable and widely respected speakers who have been willing to share their expertise with highly appreciative audiences.
Have you attended Congress in previous years?
Regrettably not since 1986 when I was a member of the HAGSOC organising committee for Bridging the Generations: Fourth Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry in Canberra. It was an interesting and rewarding experience and I am looking forward to Congress 2015 almost three decades later.
What are your key topic for Congress?
My topic is the discrimination that faced many of the Irish female famine orphans when they arrived in Sydney, Port Phillip and Adelaide between 1848 and 1850. Much of the agitation against the immigration of these young women was driven by political and religious interests. Some orphans were treated very poorly and exploited while others far from any surviving family and friends were indentured to sympathetic employers and went on to raise families and establish successful lives in a new country
How do you think your topic/s will help the family historians at Congress 2015?
Much has been written about the Irish famine orphans in recent years with some focus on the so-called ‘failure’ of the Earl Grey scheme which has for the most part overshadowed the overall real successes of the short-lived scheme. I hope that family historians will endeavour to establish how their orphan forebear was treated upon arrival and how her first experiences in the colony may have influenced her later life.
What do you think are the benefits of attending a large conference like this, for you personally and for others attending?
For me it will be an opportunity to renew old acquaintances and hear some really interesting speakers. The difficulty is choosing which sessions to attend!
Do you have a favourite piece of advice or a tip or trick you can share with conference attendees?
Take a notebook to record references and sources of information which are bound to surface during Congress.
Thanks for telling us a little more about yourself Cheryl and inspiring us with your Congress topic: with a Famine Orphan in my husband’s family tree it will be pertinent and well as interesting.