Setting Our Books Free

We are in the process of severely de-cluttering our townhouse. Even though we’ve been in the habit of regular-ish trips to the Salvos/Anglicare/Vinnies, the stuff just keeps mounting up. Or to quote Himself “we’ve brought in more than we’ve got rid of”.

Sisyphus and his rock - painting by Titian. Image from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus

Sisyphus and his rock – painting by Titian. Image from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus

The decision making of what to “get rid of” and what to keep has been causing me lots of grief over the past months, not least because it seems like a sisyphean task – you know how you’re pushing a very large rock up a hill and you’re in imminent danger of an avalanche. I’m consoled by the fact that I’ve been feeling increasingly weighed-down by our belongings in recent months (years?) and so decluttering will shed that big rock and let me fly…well perhaps float a little.

One strategy might have been to consider the following questions should a severe cyclone come round:

  • What would we take as precious-to-us items?
  • What would we want to replace if the items were lost?
  • What would we not miss at all, and perhaps be relieved we were shed of them?

However there are less extreme rationales to use when decluttering. Entirely coincidentally one of my friends shared this post on Facebook and it’s been wonderfully helpful. Appropriately it focuses on books, which along with papers, are the bête noir of this household. I was so relieved when I read this story as it made the process so much clearer. Hence, my strategy is going to be similar.

We will be keeping:

  • Most of my family history reference books.
  • Coffee table books which we particularly love.
  • Books which are relevant to our own personal history.
  • Books we want to re-read again and again.
  • Books that changed how I/we see life, or which made me say “me too!”
  • Any books which are not held elsewhere in Australia (there are a few).

    Maps and War and a bit of Queensland

    Maps and War and a bit of Queensland

We will be releasing:

  • Books we’ve enjoyed but would only look at occasionally in future.
  • Books which no longer have relevance for us eg our Kathmandu collection.
  • Books which have been superseded by new information/new editions.
  • Ones I know I’ll be able to find in a local library (mostly fiction)
  • Ones that may be in a reference library I can access – provided I don’t use that book regularly.
  • Ones I’ve started to read but can’t get into.
  • Books I feel I should read but just never get to.

DSC_2736

DSC_2738One of the big questions I’m dealing with though, is whether to keep some of my childhood books which I’ve only just re-acquired in the past 18 months. Like everything else children’s book fashions have changed massively since dinosaurs roamed the earth so they don’t suit the grandchildren’s reading styles.

Do I treasure them a little longer, purely for the memories? Or do I tell myself, you didn’t have them for 40+ years so why will you miss them?

Rather than just sending the unloved books to a charity store, I’m thinking of which of my friends would really love that particular book. Hey, don’t good friends share things – even clutter?! Others of our poor rejected books will go to the casual “library” of pre-loved books which Mr Cassmob set up at work and which has been quite popular.

Wish us luck – Himself will need more than me as my study is FULL of books. Perhaps that’s why it’s freaking me out more?

FMP’s Clare Electoral Rolls are grand

fmpfridays-homeIn recent months Find My Past[i] have been releasing a wonderful and vast array of records each Friday under the banner of Findmypast Fridays (the image here is their logo for this promotion). It makes for pretty happy Fridays!

Last Friday’s releases included Irish Poverty Loans 1821-1874 and the Clare Electoral Rolls 1858-1989. Sadly I had no joy with the loans records but found the Electoral Rolls to be quite wonderful.

Although I’ve only dabbled slightly in the records I can see they have great potential for family history research and especially for One Place Studies research. Let me give you some examples of what I’ve discovered.

 Relevance to Personal Family History

  •  There is no Martin O’Brien listed on the Griffith’s Valuations 1852 at Ballykelly townland, Parish Kilseily (various spellings), Co Clare. The electoral rolls of 1864 (the earliest available for Broadford polling booth) tell me that Martin resides at Killaderry [O’Brien] townland but has land there and at Ballykelly, with a combined value of £15/5/-.
  • My own Michael O’Brien, at Ballykelly, must be on a property worth less than £10 as he is not listed.
  • Similarly the Michael O’Brien at Kilseily (Kilsiley) townland is also not listed.
  • On some occasions the entries refer to a person by their alias which can also be helpful in differentiating people of the same name.
  • The rolls may also offer clues as to when an ancestor died and who took over the property (again of use in comparison to the revision lists).
  • They may also offer clues to when emigration took place…always assuming the person is on the rolls in the first place.

 Relevance for One Place Studies

I think the real value of these records is shown with One Place Studies. For example I am interested in Broadford (Parish Kilseily) specifically, and East Clare generally.

Over time I can peruse the electoral rolls which are available, year by year, and determine the changes in occupancy and compare them to the Valuation Revisions available on microfilm through LDS Family History Libraries.

I can also:

  • track changes in the use of a particular place name or townland and its spelling and perhaps identify locally-used names.
  •  differentiate between two people with the same name by comparing where they reside and what land is listed for them.
  •  compare when one land owner’s land values increase over time eg my ancestor’s land at Ballykelly finally enables his son to gain a vote much later on.

Much of this research is time-consuming and tedious, but then research wasn’t meant to be easy all the time (to paraphrase on of Australia’s Prime Ministers, and appropriately, Irish poet and writer, George Bernard Shaw).

Cross-Comparisons

By cross-linking the original valuations, the revisions, the electoral rolls, church registers, and other records which come our way, we can slowly come to understand the economic standing of people within the community, differentiate people with the same name, and generally get a clearer picture of the community. I’ve been lucky to be given an “off the back of the truck” source of information from one of my blog readers which I can use in triangulating this information, but even without that bonanza, the Clare Electoral Rolls can perform wonders in clarifying our understanding of communities and our own families.

My guess is that once again those of us with Clare ancestry will be the envy of our genealogical peers!

Resources

And if you have Clare ancestry and are yet to discover the Clare County Library’s proliferation of wonderful genealogical resources and indexes (all cross-checked). You can look through their offerings here. While some counties have been curmudgeonly with records, Clare Library has made it so much easier for us to trace our Clare-born ancestors…they really have been trail blazers.

If you don’t have a personal subscription to Find My Past you may wish to keep an eye on their website and Facebook pages as they’ve had some good specials lately. Meanwhile don’t forget your local family history/genealogy society or reference library may well have a subscription you can access. Why not give it a go? I’ve had wonderful success over the years.

———–

[i] I have a world subscription to Find My Past.

Congress 2015: Dr Jeff Kildea and the Irish ANZACs

Jeff KIldea 001One of the social treats that’s ahead of us for Congress 2015, is the Congress Dinner in Parliament House. I’m really looking forward to it as the last time I had this opportunity I was too sick to attend. Apart from the fun of being in Parliament House for dinner we have a further treat in store which will be of interest to those with Irish in their families: Dr Jeff Kildea and the Irish Ambassador. I’ll let Jeff tell you a bit more about what will be happening.

Can you tell us a little more about what you and the Irish Ambassador have in store for us at the Congress dinner?

At the Congress dinner it is proposed to launch the Irish Anzacs database with a short presentation by myself as to what it is and how to access it.

What is the purpose of the Irish ANZAC database?

The Irish Anzacs Project was set up with funding from the Irish government with the aim of identifying all Irish-born who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the First World War, or as close to all as is practicable, and of building a publicly accessible database containing information on each of them.

The database provides families with information on their Irish-born family members who served as soldier or a nurse in the Australian forces as well as providing statistical information to assist researchers understand the contribution of the Irish to the Australian war effort.

What triggered the development of the database and why focus on the Irish ANZACs?

Anzacs-and-Ireland-Cover-194x300The Irish Anzacs Project grew out of my book Anzacs and Ireland, which was published by UNSW Press in 2007. The book, which looks across the board at relations between Australian soldiers and Ireland, includes a chapter which discusses some statistics based on a small sample and tells the stories of a few of the Irish Anzacs. The project expands on that chapter by identifying all of the Irish Anzacs and providing more extensive and more reliable statistics.

How many names do you envisage being included in the database?

I estimate that there will be just over 6000 names in the database when the project is finished. The reason for the uncertainty is that not all of the service records are available on line and searchable by place of birth. So far we have identified just over 5740 Irish-born. The last 250 or so will be the hardest to find as they are contained within uncatalogued paper files that number in excess of 76, 000.

Are the men and women in the database Irish-born Australians or children of Irish immigrants?

The project is confined to those of Irish birth rather than of Irish descent for the pragmatic reason that, because AIF service records include place of birth, the Irish-born are capable of identification.

In the case of Australian-born soldiers it is not possible to identify from the records those with Irish parents or grandparents.

Are you planning to publish stories arising from the database?

While the database itself will contain the bare factual data concerning each of those in the database, one of the proposed spin-offs would be the publication of a book that tells the stories of a number of them. One idea being looked at is a book that includes a soldier from each of the 32 counties of Ireland.

What relevance does it have for genealogists?

The database will be a useful tool for genealogists tracing their Irish ancestors who served in the Australian forces during the war. The information in the database has been extracted from the service records held by the National Archives of Australia (NAA), and includes the following basic information: name, town and county of birth, date and place of enlistment, declared age, occupation, marital status, next of kin location, previous military service, religion, and the unit to which initially posted.

In addition, information has been added from sources maintained by the Australian War Memorial (AWM) such as the Roll of Honour (which records those who were killed or died as a result of their war service), the list of Honours and Decorations and the Australian Red Cross’s files relating to wounded and missing soldiers and to prisoners of war. Over time further information will be added from the Embarkation Roll and other sources. Links from the database to the NAA and AWM websites enable searchers to view the original records of the particular person they are researching. Ultimately the database will provide for each Irish-born soldier and nurse a comprehensive record of service in the AIF.

Is there any way in which the genealogy community can assist with information?

Most definitely. The database has been built from official records, which provide basic information, some of which is incorrect for one reason or another. In some cases it was the fault of the clerks compiling the records, but in others it was because the soldier gave incorrect information, eg. overstating or understating his age in order to enlist. Also, much of the information has been extracted from handwritten documents, so there are bound to be transcription errors. I would welcome feedback from members of the community who can help to fill out some of the basic information or who can help us identify and correct errors.

Will you give us the link for the database?

The database can be accessed at the following web address: http://repository.arts.unsw.edu.au.

Where can we read more about your research and activities?

My web page is http://jeffkildea.com/

Thanks for sharing that exciting news with us Jeff. I’m sure the gathered genies will find it of great interest in this centenary year of the ANZAC landing.

Today’s family anniversaries

This afternoon I opened up my Relatively Yours program to look at details for the Congress 2015 Research Interests. I was somewhat surprised to discover what an important date today is in the lives of my families. Perhaps it’s something we should do daily to pick up these coinciding anniversaries.

On 25th January my family honours these family anniversaries:

Hannah Partridge nee Kent is my 2 x great grandmother.

Hannah Partridge nee Kent is my 2 x great grandmother.

The birth of Richard Kent at Red Hill near Sandon, Hertfordshire, England in 1805. Today would be his 210th birthday! Richard is my 3 x great grandfather. He, his wife and family emigrated from Sandon on the General Hewitt arriving in Moreton Bay on 16 December 1854. This Richard Kent followed a long line of descendants with the same name, but it is through his daughter’s female lines that I am descended. My mtDNA comes from Richard Kent’s wife, Mary Camp later Shepherd.

The arrival of the Woodlark in 1877 with my ancestor Stephen Gillespie Melvin, and family, on board. Accompanying him were his first wife Janet Melvin nee Peterkin, and his young son, Laurence, named for Stephen’s father. Janet Melvin died at Peel Island on 2 March 1877. Stephen remarried on 21 August 1878, quite a long bereavement given he had a young son to care for. His second wife, and my ancestor, was Richard Kent’s granddaughter Emily PartridgeToday is the 138th anniversary of the arrival of one of my ancestral lines.Emily Melvin (nee Partridge) with her husband Stephen Gillespie Melvin, probably c1906-1910.

The death of Margaret Gillespie (born Tyneside) in 1906. Today is the 109th anniversary of her death. Margaret Gillespie had married Stephen Gillespie Melvin’s father, Laurence Melvin, in Leith in 1850 but was widowed as a young woman in 1858. She remarried in 1868 (again in Leith) to John Simpson Ward, a master mariner. She had worked as a stewardess at sea so perhaps emigrating when she was no longer young was not such a challenge for her as for some. After John’s death, she married Arthur Wheaton in Sydney and after his death, she moved to Charters Towers to join her son Stephen and family. Margaret was buried in the Charters Towers cemetery on Australia Day 1906.

The Melvin grave (2008) makes its own social statement in the Charters Towers cemetery. Easily the largest and most ostentatious of my family history gravestones.

The Melvin grave (2008) makes its own social statement in the Charters Towers cemetery. Easily the largest and most ostentatious of my family history gravestones.

I found it quite interesting that today’s anniversaries affected interweaving family branches on my tree.  Do you have similar anniversaries which link your families?

Congress 2015: Don’t forget your Research Interests

thanksThanks to Judy Webster’s recent post on the Top 3 things to do before a genealogy conference, I was reminded that Congress 2015 is offering delegates the chance to post their research interests. Without Judy’s prompt I suspect I’d have dropped the ball on this, so I’m sending Judy a huge thank you.

If you’re like me and haven’t submitted your interests here’s what you need to do.

Congress 2015To enter the Research Interests Register, click down through from the Registration tab on the Congress front page, you will need to submit a request. Once this has been approved you’re good to go.

Like Judy, I’m putting my list into Excel and tweaking it there, then adding details into the Congress page.

If you see anyone who researching the same family as you, all you do is click on the Show button which gives you more details. Send the person a comment and then you can be in email contact to follow it up, and to meet at Congress.

logo_One Place StudiesIf you’re doing a One Name Study or a One Place Study you will also want to look to see if any of those on the research list come from your place, or have your name.

Why not join me, and Judy, in submitting your details? You just never know when there’s a rellie out there and it will give you a chance to become mates before you arrive. And if your families come from the eastern half of County Clare, especially the small town of Broadford and surrounding townlands, I’d love to include a story about them on my East Clare Emigrants blog, so please do get in touch.

Also a reminder to check out the Delegates Zone: just submit your details from when you registered.

A Google Earth map of Broadford and surrounding areas, including the townland of Ballykelly.

A Google Earth map of Broadford and surrounding areas, including the townland of Ballykelly.

Meet Congress 2015 Speaker: Robert Nash

NashToday’s interview is with Congress 2015 speaker Robert Nash. So often our research takes us into new territory where we have to learn about a specific topic, which then becomes a passion. Robert evidently fits this mould with his enthusiasm and knowledge of Huguenot history and genealogy. I confess it’s a huge knowledge gap for me, so there’ll be plenty to learn in his talk.

I wonder if you could tell us a little about your background?  Are you a genealogist, researcher, historian or representing your organisation?

I see myself as an amateur historian, but I am also a researcher, a genealogist and the Secretary of the Huguenot Society of Australia, so I guess I am all of those things ! I think I am the only Huguenot genealogical researcher in Australia.

 How has genealogy/family history/history/heraldry improved or changed your life?

Since I became obsessed with the Huguenots in about 1999 they have certainly kept me busy.

My voluntary work for the Huguenot Society does take up a lot of time, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. The fellowship aspect of belonging to a society is important: I have made lots of friends, and am continually meeting new people.

 What do you love most about family history?

For me there are two things; first of all, being able to help people by supplying fairly simple historical information which throws new light on their ancestors; secondly, peeling away some of the layers of myth, misinformation and old wives’ tales with which family history (particularly Huguenot family history) is encumbered.

Have you attended Congress in previous years?

Sadly this hasn’t been possible.

 What is your key topic for Congress?

‘Across the centuries’. My talk emphasises the depth of time in Huguenot history. It is amazing that families now living in Australia can trace their ancestry back to people who left France in the 17th and 16th centuries.

Huguenot descendants can benefit from a wealth of records in France, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa etc etc.

 How do you think your topic/s will help the family historians at Congress 2015?

I hope the talk will be of general interest to everybody, regardless of whether they have Huguenot ancestry or not. It raises the whole question of refugees and immigration: topics very much in the news at the moment. It also asks the question, ‘Why do we research family history ?’ Many people get involved in genealogy without thinking “Why?” It is easy to become disappointed or discouraged unless we consider this first.

What do you think are the benefits of attending a large conference like this, for you personally and for others attending?

For me the huge benefit can be summed up in one word: people. It is a wonderful opportunity to make personal contact with many different people, all of whom have something to share. At a time when more and more of us are spending more and more time seated alone at our computers, this can only be good.

Do you have a favourite piece of advice or a tip or trick you can share with conference attendees?

Evidence, evidence, evidence. Look for the historical evidence, and use it as a basis for your story. If you don’t understand it, get someone else to help you. If you can’t find evidence for something, but you suspect it is true, then be honest about that. There’s nothing wrong with an honest supposition as long as you admit it is only that.

 Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?

The Huguenot Society has a website http://www.huguenotsaustalia.org.au

I can be contacted via the society’s email: ozhug@optushome.com.au

Thanks Robert for sharing your story with us and offering Congress attendees to learn more about this area of research. 

Meet Congress 2015 Speaker: Colleen Fitzpatrick

It’s just two months until Congress 2015 in Canberra. Are you getting excited? I know I am! If you haven’t registered yet, it’s time to get a scurry on because it’s going to be a genealogical smorgasbord, as today’s interview makes clear.

fitzpatrickDr Colleen Fitzpatrick will be a speaker at Congress and I asked her some questions to learn a little more about her and what she’ll be sharing with us in Canberra. Her enthusiasm shines through this interview. I know I’m going to really enjoy her presentations and hopefully learn more about DNA for genealogy and family history at the same time. I’m sure you will too.

I wonder if you could tell us a little about your background?  Are you a genealogist, researcher, historian or representing your organisation?  

As a prominent forensic genealogist, I have researched in about 50 countries. This has allowed me to combine my background in the hard sciences (PhD in nuclear physics) with my love of forensics and genealogy.  I was born in New Orleans, one of the most historic places in the US, and I was privileged to have known all four of my grandparents into my adulthood.  So I grew up around living history.  I never “became” a genealogist.  I was “born” a genealogist.

How has genealogy/family history improved or changed your life?

Family history has provided me with a rudder to steer my life through its unpredictable ups and downs.  Having moved countless times, and with several dramatic changes in career, I am still the oldest child of Emmett Fitzpatrick and Marilyn Rice, born in New Orleans, the granddaughter of Steve Fitzpatrick & Loretta Kelly, and Bernard F Rice & Margaret Bernard. I carry that ancestry with me no matter where I go.

 What do you love most about genealogy/family history/history/heraldry?

I love to challenge my skills with tough projects that require a combination of research and intuition. My favourites are adoption searches, especially the ones that seem impossible.  It is deeply gratifying to me to see the deep personal fulfillment of an adoptee reunited with his birth family, or to bring closure to someone who has finally discovered what happened to a lost family member.

Have you attended Congress in previous years?

Oh yes.  I was the keynote speaker in Adelaide in 2012 on the Identification of the Unknown Child on the Titanic.  I am very grateful to Kerrie Grey for allowing me to return this year.  The 2012 Congress was an all-time high for me.

 What are your key topics for Congress?

Not Just the Facts Ma’am – Give Me the Big Picture

 A Different Kind of DNA Talk

 Genealogy and the Six Degrees of Separation – How to Find Anyone in the World

 How do you think your topic/s will help the family historians at Congress 2015?

My talks will help people see at the “big picture” and take a more creative approach to solving their family mysteries.  I will explain that it is sometimes not a matter of “where” to look for new information, but rather “how” to look at the information you already have.

What do you think are the benefits of attending a large conference like this, for you personally and for others attending?

Genealogy is a social activity. Yet much of that activity has become electronic through social networking sites and the large amount of data you can obtain online without interacting with other people. Having the chance to meet and talk to other genealogists in person revives me, making me excited to go further and learn more, in a venue that is just full of interesting topics to soak in.

 Do you have a favourite piece of advice or a tip or trick you can share with conference attendees?

Keep your eye on the big picture, get excited about everything you hear.  Sit in on topics you know nothing about, talk to as many people as you can.  Have fun!

 Is there somewhere we can connect with you online?

Email:             colleen@identifinders.com

                        colleen@forensicgenealogy.info

Facebook:    www.facebook.com/colleen.fitzpatrick.986

                        http://www.facebook.com/groups/25598261937

Twitter:          @Identifinders

                        @CFitzp

Google+:       +ColleenFitzpatrickPhD

LinkedIn:       www.linkedin.com/pub/colleen-fitzpatrick/6/733/4a2

Blogs:            http://identifinders.wordpress.com/

Websites:      www.identifinders.com

                        www.forensicgenealogy.info

 Thanks Colleen for sharing your enthusiasm for genealogy and family history with us here and offering us further temptation to join you in one or all of your sessions.

 

Getting organised for RootsTech and the FGS Conference

The geneaglobe is abuzz this weekend with planning for the combined RootsTech and (US) Federation of Genealogical Society Conferences in Salt Lake City. While the start date is still more than three weeks away, we Antipodeans will likely be heading off a little earlier. For my part I’m leaving Mr Cassmob and the Furry Feline at home minding the house and having a few days in Brisbane en route. However, on the way home it will be a very long-haul flight from Salt Lake to LA to Brisbane to Darwin, a mere 33 hours in transit. Gee I’m glad I worked that out!

So what is on my planning list? This is all a bit nitty-gritty but it seems to me we often overlook the semi-obvious. With thanks to all those who’ve gone before me, and provided advice, wisdom and mateship.

TRAVEL

Flights booked and confirmed, and ESTA permit done

Hotel booked in Salt Lake.

Travel Insurance

Patience packed…oh well, this might be a stretch.

TECH STUFF

SIM cards for smart phone & iPad.

Laptop – to take or not to take, that is the question

Cash cards if required.

An amount of US dollars to pay for transit expenses, TRAX fare etc

US adaptors and charging cords.

ID protector pockets for passport and credit cards (thanks Gail for my birthday presents).

USB and backup drive.

In-flight reading, books and podcasts on iPad…oh yes, I’m supposed to sleep.

SOCIAL MEDIA and SCHEDULING

RootsTech App downloaded and profile updated. Thanks to genimate Caitlin Gow for helping me sort out my profile picture (click on the shaded face outline then load a photo).

Add friends as they come online: there seem to be huge gaps at present.

Work out which sessions to attend: lots of competing entries for me so far between FGS and RootsTech. It would have been ideal, as mentioned elsewhere, if the schedule had included the earlier FGS start.

Book and pay for lunches and computer labs if required/desired.

Sign up for the Geneabloggers at RootsTech Facebook group (I hadn’t known this was here but am now online, thanks Heather. You do need to be a geneablogger.) It’s a great way to connect with people in advance.

Sign up with Geneabloggers’ Thomas MacEntee for your blogging beads. (Thanks to DearMYRTLE and Russ Worthington for sponsoring the beads).

Download the Salt Lake City Visitors’ Guide to iBooks or equivalent.

RESEARCH

Save relevant documents to Evernote and sync if you have a full subscription, along with travel documents.

Prepare a list of things to search in the Family History Library: I’m focusing on books rather than microfilms which I can order in here and which take a lot of time to review thoroughly.

Work out my schedule so I can fit in more visits to the library after hours.

Pray for minimal jet lag so I’m functioning on arrival <smile>.

BITS & BOBS

Aussie souvenirs.

Business cards for my blog with family names on reverse.

Badges with my family names and places.

Bubble wrap and zip lock bags, as usual.

Dilly bag featuring my blog name (from Vistaprint).

Strong muscles for all the stuff I take and collect (hah!)

I wouldn’t mind seeing an at-home game for the Salt Lake City Jazz NBA team but don’t think that they’re around…shame.

CLOTHES

Boring but necessary. I’ll be going from 25-35C (or 85-95F) to -2 to about +5F so there’s quite a change. I’m telling myself we’ve often travelled in winter so it will be fine.

Lots of layers, a pashmina or two, coat, scarves, walking boots and hat: that should cover the extras.. a challenge for someone who lives in shorts and tank tops!

My genimates Jill Ball (aka Geniaus), inaugural Aussie explorer at the first RootsTech,  and Alona Tester (aka LoneTester) have also written posts about what to take to RootsTech and similar conferences (albeit with fewer numbers)

The good thing is all this will be good preparation for AFFHO’s Congress 2015 in Canberra.

I’m looking forward to it and it will be so interesting to see conferences on a scale which are impossible in Australia.

What have I forgotten? Any thoughts?

Meet Congress 2015 Speaker: Helen Smith

Helen SmithToday’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?

Email: HVSresearch@bigpond.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helen.smith.967806

Twitter: @HVSresearch

Google+: google.com/+HelenSmith

Linkedin: au.linkedin.com/pub/helen-smith/2/426/88/

Blogs: http://helenvsmithresearch.blogspot.com.au/

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!

Meet Congress 2015 speaker Cheryl Mongan

Cheryl MonganI’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.