Today’s Congress 2015 speaker is Queenslander Helen Smith, who is well known to many bloggers and researchers for her wide-ranging knowledge. I’ve heard Helen speak on a number of occasions and I know she has a lot to offer anyone who attends her presentations.
I wonder if you could tell us a little about your background? Are you a genealogist, researcher, historian or representing your organisation?
I am a family historian, speaker, author and professional genealogist. I have been researching since 1986 started by her mother who had not known her grandfather due to a family split. I found information on him and was hooked from there. I have researched in Australia, England Ireland and Wales with forays into New Zealand, the USA and Canada as well.
How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life?
I have been a scientist, (public health microbiologist and molecular epidemiologist) for 28 years. This in common with family history makes you want to know why. Why things happen, why people make the decisions they did and how those decisions influence things. So you have to expand to do the social context research which breathes colour and life into our ancestors and their times.
What do you love most about genealogy/family history/history/heraldry?
I love finding out why and doing the social history research which helps explain that why. I also enjoy the contact with people all around the world who also want to know why.
Have you attended Congress in previous years?
Yes, this will be my sixth Congress having previously been to Brisbane, Christchurch, Perth, Darwin and Adelaide.
What are your key topics for Congress?
Friendly Societies and family historians.
One-name studies what use are they to you.
Distressed cotton weavers emigration scheme.
The English Workhouse and its records.
How do you think your topic/s will help the family historians at Congress 2015?
Friendly Societies were an integral part of many of our ancestors’ lives and the talks shows the type of records that were produced even though unfortunately survival rate of the records is patchy.
One Name studies are an underutilised resource by most family historians and but hopefully won’t be after the talk and that will be a win-win for both the study co-ordinator and the family historian.
The Queensland Distressed Cotton Weavers scheme is a perfect example of how social history research can add so much more to our knowledge about the conditions of our ancestors’ lives.
The English Workhouse was a place of fear and loathing even into modern times. This explains why and also the treasure trove of information you can find.
What do you think are the benefits of attending a large conference like this, for you personally and for others attending?
I firmly believe learning is a lifetime event so this is an excellent opportunity to hear speakers on a wide variety of topics. You can never know too much and it is worth attending all levels of presentations as you might find a golden nugget even in a basic level presentation. The Expo Hall with its wide range of exhibitors is a must-see. For me another major highlight is the networking and meeting up with my online friends from Facebook, Twitter and fellow bloggers.
Do you have a favourite piece of advice or a tip or trick you can share with conference attendees?
Dress comfortably with good walking shoes, sleep and be well rested before you come and be prepared for a number of intense days of learning, fun, networking and social occasions. Plan out what you want to do and who you want to see ahead of time and most of all plan to have lots of fun!
Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?
This is my main blog and my others are accessible from here.
Thanks so much for responding to these questions Helen and giving some insight into your passion for family history!