Black Cats and Bingo Callers: Congress 2015 Final Registration

As the bingo callers say “13, lucky for some” as it is for genealogists who’ve been procrastinating about Congress 2Friday 13015 in Canberra. The big day is now only 13 days away and today is the last day to submit your late registration, sign up for the social functions, and generally start thinking about your session attendance and research plans. There’s going to be a whole array of great speakers, not to mention a mob of great genies, so do you really want to miss out?

Congress is a triennial event and Canberra is really not that far from any of the capitals except Darwin and Perth, but then we’re used to that. It also has wonderful research repositories: The Australia War Memorial (venue for the welcome function), the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia, the National Sound and Film Archive, Australian National University Library etc.

Congress 2015With more and more genealogists researching solo online and not members of societies, the Congress has the added benefit of meeting fellow enthusiasts, sharing knowledge and picking people’s experience to help with your own research even beyond the scheduled speakers.

I’d like to suggest that we all make a point of being open to meeting new people and welcoming them into the genea-fold. Sure we are all a little shy with people we don’t know, but we do have something in common with which to kick off our introductions – so let’s get our brief genie snapshot ready to tell others where we’re researching and the names.

Last night’s Hangout on Air from GeniAus has lots of tips on Congress and what to expect. Similarly the TravelGenee, Fran, also posted a good intro to Congress on her blog yesterday.

My checklist:

Image from

Image from


Why not join us all at Congress 2015 and take your genie learning to new heights?

Hurry, there’s only hours until registration closes.

Only 28 more sleeps to Congress 2015

Congress 2015It’s just a month today until we’ll be enjoying the excitement of the Welcome Reception for Congress 2015. Isn’t it funny how we wait and wait for something special to come along then all of a sudden it’s upon us?

The Welcome Reception is being held at the Australian War Memorial so it will be very special to meet up with our genimates, and make new friends in the impressive and sobering shadow of the huge Lancaster bomber, G for George. Many of us will try to visit the War Memorial during our stay in Canberra and they have lots on offer for us this year, with the centenary of Gallipoli and the opening of the new World War I gallery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we emerge from the welcome reception we’ll be able to look up and see the Roll of Honour names illuminated against the entrance to the memorial. I wonder if any of us will have a family name projected during Congress? You can search the roll of honour by name and see when that person’s name will be illuminated. Did you know you can sign up to receive the Coo-ee newsletter to learn more about what’s happening during the Centenary?

Then bright and early on the morning of Friday 27th March we will launch into the excitement of learning even more about this passion of ours, family history. There’s so much available for researchers with all levels of experience that I’m sure we’ll all learn so much, and be able to share our experiences with our family research during the breaks.

In recent months, the three official bloggers, Jill Ball, Shauna Hicks and myself, have been posting interviews with the various speakers at Congress. You can read more about each of them here by clicking the links: GeniAus, Shauna Hicks History Enterprises, Family History Across the Seas. I really think we’re in for a treat! You can also see the official Congress list of speakers here.

So here’s my checklist for your research preparation:

ChecklistHave you completed your Research Interest list? I wrote about this a little while ago.

Have you got your tentative schedule planned for the sessions?

Have you worked out what research you want to tackle while visiting the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial?

Perhaps you want to visit the National Film and Sound Archive which holds a range of audio-visual recordings?

Are you going to visit the family history society or other archives?

Have you printed off the opening hours for each of the repositories you hope to visit, so you can maximise your efforts?

Have you got your local family history membership card? And your National Library card?

Are you a geneablogger? If so please get in touch with GeniAus as she’s preparing a list for blogger beads…you don’t want to miss out on the bling which gives easy recognition of fellow bloggers.

Are you a member of Kiva Genealogists for Families and coming to Congress? If so perhaps you could leave a message on my blog and I’ll pass it on to Judy Webster.

I think I’d best get my skates on and sort out some of these myself. Meanwhile it’s back to finalising my speaker presentations.

What other preparations have you made for your attendance at Congress 2015? Why not share them with us as a useful reminder to us all.

Ethics, Genealogists and Conferences

Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar.
(DH Lawrence) from

family-history-back-to-basicsSometimes we need to be reminded that this genealogical passion of ours isn’t just about vacuuming up as many names, dates and data as we can track down, wherever we find them. We are also obligated to act responsibly, with respect for family (especially living family), ownership of information, and with accountability to those who share their expertise with us.

With the upcoming AFFHO Congress in Canberra, all attendees need to become mindful and informed of ethical standards which should guide our family history research and how we disseminate it. Let’s get back to basics with these issues.

One of the earliest sessions I attended at FGS/RootsTech was one entitled The Ethical Genealogist, by highly regarded speaker Judy Russell – click to see an interview with her by James Tanner of Genealogy’s Star blog. (Although her session wasn’t video-taped, you can purchase the audio-recording here for $US10).

I’d never heard Judy speak before, though I follow the wisdom she shares on her blog, The Legal Genealogist. Only minutes into the presentation it was obvious that her excellent reputation was entirely deserved…she’s an engaging and informative speaker. Aussie genealogists who are planning on taking the 11th Unlock the Past Cruise from New Zealand to Australia will have the joy of hearing her present.

Anyway, back to my theme. Straight up Judy mentioned that it was okay to take photos for social media (at least that’s what I wrote down). Blind Freddy could work out that she didn’t mean take snaps of every single one of her slides and share the whole content. What’s happened subsequently, for her and other speakers, has caused something of firestorm which is pertinent to any conference we attend, whether wearing our genealogy hats or others.

Image purchased from

Image purchased from

Judy captured the essence of ethics in the playground rules we learnt in kindergarten:

  • tell the truth
  • play nice
  • don’t tell tales.

I’m not going to elaborate on these here – I think they’re pretty self- evident though Judy’s nuanced discussion of them certainly wasn’t elementary. However, when in the 21st century, with the avalanche of interest in genealogy some of these golden rules seem to have been lost.

I’ve mentioned before in my blog posts, that we should always, always ASK for permission to use someone else’s content, research or images. We should always, always ACKNOWLEDGE the other person’s research (whatever form it takes). I’ve certainly had photos from my website siphoned off and attached to family trees, without either of these happening, despite the copyright notice across the photo.

Image created in Microsoft Office Word.

Image created by Pauleen Cass in Microsoft Office Word.

Just recently, I also found a blog post I’d written (of which I was rather proud) for World Wide Genealogy, “happily” conjoined with a genea-product promotion on LinkedIn. I was NOT a happy camper because in my opinion it inferred that the post belonged to the product-owner. Carelessness or contrivance? Only weeks later the same thing happened with other genimates’ posts. Needless to say this was not a booth I visited in the Expo Hall at RootsTech – the product may be useful but I voted with my feet, and my wallet! Mind you, if the same person had been working I’d have been tempted to shame-job them by visiting.


Image created with

It seems to me that too many of us are getting so absorbed with a belief in entitlement, with the justification that “I’m just sharing”, that we happily forget it’s not actually ours to share, and furthermore when we’ve signed up for programs we’ve specifically stated we will not abuse our membership in this way. These presentations, papers, slides, photos do NOT belong to us. After all if a person works making a chair, for example, we don’t think it’s okay to simply walk off with it and share it with our mates. Why? Because it’s the person’s income stream and also it’s THEFT. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s no defence.

391 ethical dilemmasBack in February 2015 on the 4th Unlock the Past cruise, Jill Ball aka GeniAus hosted an Ethics Panel which was very interesting. One of the questions was around photographing every slide in a presenter’s talk. The panel was universal in believing this was a breach of their copyright. We have regularly bemoaned that we didn’t tape this session.

There have been some excellent posts written post-RootsTech, which ought to be high on our compulsory reading list.

Credit and Copyright by Judy Russell

Copyright and the Genealogy Lecture by Judy Russell

More Genealogy Copyright Issues by Michael Leclerc on the Mocavo blog.

Genealogy’s Star: James Tanner regularly posts on similar issues, based on his legal experience.

You can read the AFFHO Ethics standards here.

For further reading you might want to look at the following sites referenced by Judy Russell as providing standards for genealogists:

Board for Certification of Genealogists– Standards

Association of Professional Genealogists – Ethics

Thanks Judy Russell for your knowledge, commitment and discernment in raising our performance standards as genealogists and family historians.

Congress 2015 meets RootsTech/FGS

DSC_2845My genimate Jill Ball (GeniAus) was generous enough to invite me to participate in an interview with Congress 2015 speaker, Josh Taylor at the combined RootsTech/FGS conference in Salt Lake City. It was my first experience of being interviewed, and interviewing, in a proper sound booth so that was fun…and slightly intimidating at first. Jill will be sharing the Josh Taylor video on her blog in the near future, so I won’t share any spoiler info with you.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the interview Jill and I did at RootsTech.

Josh Taylor’s RootsTech presentation: Tech tools

However, I did want to whet your enthusiasm further for Congress by sharing Josh’s online RT/FGS conference presentation about “30 pieces of tech I can’t live without”. I wonder how many of them you use and what you (and I) will try after viewing the video?

One of the things I like about the blogisphere is the sharing of tools, tips and techniques we use for our genealogy – so many of Josh’s tips were among my favourite tech tools. Having said that, there were quite a few other tools I want to try: mood board, flipboard, reddit, trello, some WordPress widgets, snag it and Archive Grid. Oh, and wouldn’t a Hovercam be nice <smile>, As Josh says himself, you have to choose the ones that work for you. I especially enjoyed his comment about why you save five minutes in a library – I could certainly relate to that <hint – about the 8 minute mark>.Tegxedo cloud

What I particularly like about listening to Josh is that he’s so passionate about his family history and he “gets” what we’re on about. I was also impressed that he mentioned JSTOR, which we can access through the National Library of Australia with our library cards – make sure you allow time in Canberra to visit the Library.

Sharing the learning online

RootsTech has some of the presentations online here and more are expected in coming days.

The Federation of Genealogical Societies has their recorded sessions available to purchase for $US10 which I think is a pretty good bargain. I’ve downloaded a couple I didn’t get to and two I did: one on long-distance membership, something of great relevance to me, and a genetic genealogy one I thought was very helpful. More about the latter on my Worldwide Genealogy post today.

Join us at Congress 2015

Congress 2015So if you’ve been feeling left out when following the Twitter, FB and G+ feeds of the 15 Aussies who went to what Jill calls “the greatest (genie) show on earth”, there’s still plenty of opportunity for you to get a taste of the experience. And of course, since you’ll be coming to Congress 2015 in just over a month, there’s lots more ahead for you, including enthusiastic keynote speaker Josh Taylor.

Jill Ball has stocked up on blogger beads for the Aussie bloggers so there’ll be plenty of fun in store, as well as all that learning.

Don’t forget you can read about all our expert speakers through their interviews on this blog and my fellow official bloggers Jill Ball and Shauna Hicks.

We’re looking forward to meeting you at Congress and renewing friendships with those we’ve met elsewhere.


Reviewing RootsTech 2015: The highlights

DSC_2893 crop
As I sit in the lounge at LA Brisbane airport waiting for the Qantas “bus”, it seems quite surreal to think of all that has happened in the short space of a week. Let me see if I can capture the highlights for you.


Hands down this was the keynote by Vietnamese-Aussie expat, Tan Le, a former Young Australian of the Year. Her speech was a testament to the resilience and courage of her family. She spoke so evocatively of her life’s transitions and challenges and the strength and influence of family. It was also a powerful testimony to the value our refugees have brought to Australia. Her talk should be compulsory viewing in schools (and parliaments!) around the country.The live stream is here now.  You can now click here for an extract.


On a personal note it was such a privilege to be part of her official photograph with the bloggers and ambassadors. I think she was pretty pleased to see some among Aussies among the crowd.


I enjoyed meeting up with Hope from StoryWorth as we'd been in touch before the conference. StoryWorth won the Innovation Challenge at RootsTech, and that's a big cheque you see behind us.

I enjoyed meeting up with Hope from StoryWorth as we’d been in touch before the conference. StoryWorth won the Innovation Challenge at RootsTech, and that’s a big cheque you see behind us.

Being a blogger as RootsTech is such a treat…we had a couple of great opportunities. One of them was being given a back-stage tour of the Expo Hall on the Opening Day, before it was open to the public. It was fantastic to have the chance to get your bearings before the cross arrived. A comment was made that RootsTech should be RootsTexas as it was now bigger even than Texas!

Imagine a conference where on one day there’s 20,000 attendees! That was the final day, family day, when the place was huge! It was also the only day I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the crowds….after all that’s about 20% of Darwin’s population in one place!


DSC_2781I guess every genealogist has a visit to the Salt Lake Family History Library on their bucket list, so it felt quite an achievement to get there. Despite spending two full days there and playing hooky from Saturday’s keynote (which I’m told was excellent) I didn’t get beyond the British floor B2. It was wonderful to be able to work through  the books I had on my list and see what I might have missed.


I made a deliberate choice to prioritise genetic genealogy talks and I now feel that I’m more confident in my understanding than I was before. Whether that holds true when I get immersed in my results remains to be seen. My commitment was demonstrated by buying an Ancestry DNA kit rather than a rather nice coat that caught my eye at Macy’s. It was a lot easier to do the test in the States and MAY give me different matches than I’ve got from my Family Tree DNA tests.

I was impressed by the professionalism, skill and knowledge of all the speakers…they were all in the 4 or 5 star range with one exception.


We bloggers are so much part of each other’s genealogy lives it was surprising to see how small a drop we were in the ocean of attendees at the combined FGS RootsTech conference. However it was a quick point of connection as we recognised people from our virtual worlds. Thanks to DearMYRTLE and Cousin Russ we were all bedecked in red and white beads which made recognition easier. Not to mention that the one and only Thomas MacEntee who bedecked us all with an array of ribbons.

Not all the Geneabloggers at RootsTech but a representative sample with keynote speaker . Not sure who took the photo, but thank you!

Not all the Geneabloggers at RootsTech but a representative sample with keynote speaker AJ Jacobs (on the right) . Not sure who took the photo, but thank you! As far as I know we gave each other permission to use photos at will.

Thanks to the wizardry of the RootsTech app it was easy to compare presentations and speakers – though a lot harder to get down to just one choice per session. I was annoyed that I dropped the ball with one session thinking it started on the hour, not the half hour. I used the app comprehensively to locate vendors, choose talks, and assess each talk.


It was a whole new experience to be in the media den, being interviewed by Jill Ball aka GeniAus along with Hilary from the UK and Tas from Sydney.


Thanks Sharn for being out photographer outside the glass room.

Straight after that Jill and I interviewed Josh Taylor who will be speaking at Congress 2015 in Canberra. We’ll let you know when the link is online.

I really admire Jill for her courage on her first trip to RootsTech in 2011 and then going solo in the media room. You’re a trail-blazer Jill, and inspire us all.


Needless to say the week of socialising was also a ton of fun from the Commonwealth dinner on Tuesday night to the Saturday night get-together at Dear Myrtle‘s home,  where Myrt also gave us some Hangout on Air tips. Thanks to Myrt and family who made the evening, and RootsTech, so special.

Dear Myrt party hangout

A great gathering of Geneabloggers at Dear Myrtle’s home as a conference finale.

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

I can be contacted via the society’s email:

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?





Twitter:          @Identifinders


Google+:       +ColleenFitzpatrickPhD





 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.


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?



Twitter: @HVSresearch




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.