Thursday, 24 April 2014

Genealogy Notes 19-25 Apr 2014 - Military Musings

Today is ANZAC Day and everyone's thoughts are centred around our military ancestors and the centenary of the start of World War One. Kintalk (Auckland Libraries) have organised their usual Trans Tasman ANZAC Day blog challenge and I posted my story on Jack Russell aka Thomas Henry Alphonsus (Alfred) Spencer who fought in both World Wars. Read his story here. I am also looking forward to reading the other blogs in the challenge.

Week 14 of my personal genealogy blog challenge, 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 is on Cemetery Records and you can read about it here. Each time I do one of these blogs, I find out a little more about one of my families as I revisit the research or look at things from a different angle. The weekly challenge also means that I do not let it slip down my to do list. have been releasing 100 records in 100 days and part of this exciting project is the release of thousands of military records for ANZAC Day.  The new collections contain nearly 700,000 detailed records of soldiers who served as part of the Australian Imperial Forces between 1914 and 1918.
The new records available on include:

•             Australian Embarkation Roll 1914-1918
Transcripts contain details of approximately 330,000 AIF personnel, recorded as they embarked from Australia for overseas service during the First World War. They include full names, rank, age, trade, marital status, address at date of enrollment, next of kin details, religion, date of joining, unit embarked with, and further remarks. Many of the next of kin addresses recorded are in the UK.

•             Australian Nominal Roll 1914-1918
This list contains details of approximately 324,000 AIF personnel who served overseas during World War 1. It was recorded to assist with their repatriation to Australia from overseas service. The transcripts include the soldier number, full name, final rank, awards, date embarked, and the date returned to Australia, killed in action, or died of wounds. The records also include soldier’s’ unit of service at the time of death or at the end of the war, and non-effective entries – how that person became no longer effective (for example, if they were returned to Australia).

Read more about the records and their ANZAC Memory Bank which contains personal stories here.

I have not had much chance this past week to do much genealogy but I did catch up on my back issues of the Journal of One Name Studies and I am really excited that there will be a meeting of the Queensland branch of the Guild of One Name Studies (GOONS) on Bribie Island on 31 May. At least I won't have far to travel! The other big reading catch up was with Quarterly, the journal of the Association of Professional Genealogists and it is always good to read about what others are doing.

I am a member of Kiva's Genealogists for Families team and took up another three $25 loans to help families in other countries. It is a great project and you can join me on the team here.

I am heading to Inverell, New South Wales today so that I can give my two talks at the Inverell District Family History Group seminar tomorrow. There is a military theme to the day and I am looking forward to hearing the other three speakers. I will be writing about that when I get back home. A busy weekend ahead and I hope everyone finds some time to think about their military ancestors and maybe even do some research and writing. Until next time.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Genealogy Notes 12-18 Apr 2014 Easter genealogy readings

I am currently in Brisbane all alone at Easter - not the plan but then things do not always go to plan. Two weeks before my mother's 80th birthday she went into hospital and it did not look like they would let her out. Then the day before her birthday she was allowed to come home provided I could stay with her. We had already cancelled the party and moved it to Easter Monday so we settled her at home. Then I tried to do things like pay her bills, pick up her medicines etc. I often get frustrated with the online world and the need for passwords and security but the real world is no different, especially if you are trying to act for an aged parent. Anyway just after I sorted it all out and jumped through all the hoops and did the required paperwork, Mum had to go back into hospital, the party was again cancelled and apart from hospital visits I am alone and catching up on all my genealogy readings (at least those stored on my laptop or online).

On the positive side I did manage to show Mum the Powerpoint presentation on her life that I had prepared for the party. A few tears, a lot of memories and she is looking forward to sharing it with the grandkids when she is well enough. We are now looking at Mother's Day in May.

So what am I reading? The last few issues of Lost Cousins, Irish Lives Remembered, plus issues from Dick Eastman, blogs from and, Queensland FHS Snippets, Society of Australian Genealogists Descent journal (I get the e-version), e-news from the National Archives UK, to mention just a few so far.

I am also taking the opportunity to clean up my email accounts, I have added more events to the National Family History Month web calendar, the list of sponsors and prizes looks fantastic, finished off an article for Inside History Magazine, and with a bit of luck after this I will finalise my two new talks for the seminar at the Inverell Family History Group on 26 April. Then the following fortnight I am giving a talk to the Bribie Island Family History Special Interest Group then the day after I fly to Adelaide to give a talk at the Unlock the Past Researching and Writing History seminar. The last two are revised versions of earlier talks which are a bit easier than doing a talk totally from scratch.

The latest installment in my personal blog challenge 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 was Week 13 on Personal Names and Surnames and it was a bit late due to everything else happening this week. Diary is actually a day early but I wanted a break from cleaning out Mum's garage. While we have a cleaner for her in the unit, it does not extend to the garage so that is a job for each visit. Amazing how much dust and leaves can get into a place that is closed a lot of the time.

Tomorrow after my hospital visit I plan to get started on the National Institute of Genealogical Studies course that I have agreed to do. Had I a crystal ball I would have said no back then, but on the other hand it will seriously occupy my time and attention now. I also still have to do my military blog for Kintalk's ANZAC Day Challenge which is now only a week away.

The other nice thing about being at Mum's is that I get to go for long walks along the walking trails that follow Enoggera Creek and play spot the tortoise, spook the ducks, watch the scrub turkeys and frill lizards, not to mention keep an eye out for snakes. Last night the mosquitoes got me so I plan to go walkies in a few minutes.

It is perfect Easter weather here in sunny Brisbane. I hope all my geneafriends are enjoying Easter with their families and friends. Until next time, happy researching.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Genealogy notes 5-11 April 2014 talks and travels

My time at the moment is taken up with doing some new talks. Later this month I am giving two talks at the Inverell Family History Group seminar day. One is on researching women ancestors and the other is on blogging, both topics where you can probably talk for hours! Then in May I have four talks - one on Bribie with the local society, one in Adelaide (part of Carol Baxter's research and writing history seminar with Unlock the Past) and two in Brisbane at the Genealogical Society of Queensland's seminar. Details on the Events page of my website.

I often wonder if people realise how much work actually goes into a 45 minute presentation. It is almost like writing an article or a book except you have to do it with less words and still get the message across. I also try to do the presentations so that attendees can go home and try out their own searches. Still it will be good to have some new topics available in the future. Recycling talks makes sense!

I have done another installment of 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014. Week 12 is on Gazetteers and their use in family history. One thing about doing a personal blog challenge is that you soon realise how quickly a week goes and where did those last 12 weeks go? But on the positive side I have done 12 pieces looking at various examples from my own family research and revisited research I last did decades ago.

Time has also been spent doing more articles for Inside History Magazine - I really love working on their 'archives series' as there are so many great places to research beyond the usual suspects. Some of the 'ask an expert' questions they send my way are truly challenging and sometimes I believe our ancestors do not want to be found! I am still thinking about my talk last month to the local historical society on my Carnegie family - why did the security alarm go off twice during my talk? This month's speaker was not interrupted once!

I have made my travel arrangements for the 6th Unlock the Past cruise and we are also going to the Norfolk Island conference so airfares and accommodation booked for that too. Both events are going to be good and next week I am going to do my early bird registration for the AFFHO Congress 2015 in Canberra next March. That is a fantastic program with so many good speakers and presentations.

Does anyone feel that we are starting to live on our phones, tablets, laptops? One of my emails this week was from the British Newspapers Archive inviting me to download their free app so that I can view daily fascinating historical articles, images and adverts on my phone for free. Or you can read these daily stories on their Facebook page! How tempting is that? I simply love reading and searching the historic newspapers  but if I also had access on my phone I would never get any work done but then it could come in handy when sitting around waiting for the doctor. If I don't log on to Trove everyday for a quick search I feel like I am missing something.

We had a very bad storm here last Sunday and we lost power due to trees falling down all over the island. No power meant no charging phones, tablets or laptops so one lesson learnt was keep everything fully charged! Luckily we were only without power for a few hours but dinner on the gas BBQ by candlelight was interesting and we must buy a better torch. As I write this there is a category 5 cyclone bearing down on the Queensland coast near Cooktown and I sincerely hope that everyone stays safe although the property damage will probably be massive. Mother Nature can be very destructive and it is a sobering reminder to us all to make sure that we have our precious heirlooms and research backed up and stored somewhere safe.

Finally I have started promoting National Family History Month and sending out invitations to participate to genealogy and family history societies, archives, libraries and so on. Don't forget to like the Facebook page if you have not done so yet. Happy researching until next time.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Genealogy notes 27 Mar - 4 Apr 2014 National Family History Month Aug 2014

This week I am travelling and it is hard to keep up with things on the road, especially in the caravan. Before we left I was madly trying to finalise sponsorship details for National Family History Month in August as there are only four months to go. As the voluntary national coordinator I have to do all the sponsorship arrangements, look after the website and put the events up in the calendar and then all the publicity and promotion via social media and our sponsors networks. Almost a full time job especially in the last few months before August but it is one way that I can give back to the genealogy community for the fantastic career and life it has given me over the last four decades (almost)!

I have put a blog on my website about progress on NFHM to date - read about it here and note all the fantastic sponsors and prizes. August is starting to look really good and I would appreciate all the help I can get in spreading the word about NFHM in Australia and New Zealand.

It is funny but whenever I travel I seem to receive requests from clients for research yet when I am home it goes quiet. Anyway from this trip I have a couple of research inquiries to look forward to when I get home. Although brick walls, which these two inquiries are, are not always easy to solve, I will at least be able to provide a fresh set of eyes and perhaps ask different questions and perhaps suggest new avenues to look. Always love a genealogy challenge!

My 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 personal blog challenge is on hold this week. I had also hoped to get some work done on my new talks for the Inverell Family History Group Seminar at the end of April but not to be. I was tempted by the Noosa Everglades tour (check out that photo the kangaroo hopping across the water) with The Discovery Group which was a fantastic six hour trip up the Noosa River. The next day the Eumundi markets beckoned and they have to be one of the best markets in south east Queensland. The Noosa Ferry tempted the following day and we toured down to Noosa Heads and Hastings Street and the famous Noosa beach. Not sure what today will bring but it is another glorious day so perhaps a spot of swimming and maybe even some fishing!

Before I finish just an insight into why we should publish our family stories. I wrote an article on film and radio archives in the Jul-Aug 2012 issue of Inside History Magazine with no response. The magazine then reused the article as a guest blog in Jan 2014 which then meant it was searchable by Google. Before we left I received a letter from the UK and it contained information that I had never heard before. A bit of a bombshell for the family I was writing about and I have not mentioned it to them yet as I am still exchanging details with the family in the UK. But without Google and publishing the story online I would not know this information about our family. Stay tuned!
 It will be back to normal next week but in the meantime don't forget to check out what's new with National Family History Month 2014! Until next time, happy researching.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Genealogy notes 19-26 Mar 2014 what's new

Another busy week writing articles for Irish Lives Remembered and Inside History Magazine. We have had a few rainy days recently so I caught up with recent issues of both magazines. As usual there was lots of news and great stories to read and my to do list got bigger. Irish Lives is moving to a new bi-monthly format starting in May/June with no April issue but it is still free online.

My personal blog challenge 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 continues to progress and Week 11 was Newspapers and the previous 10 weeks were on a variety of topics, all still on my website. I was pleased to learn that Campaspe Regional Library have taken up the challenge.

I have also caught up with media releases from and I was really excited to see that they have just added another 8,000 South Australian records including naturalisations, land owner records, cemetery inscriptions and destitute women. advised in their March update that 900 million records for 27 (or 67 - both numbers are in the media release) countries were added thanks to their collaboration with FamilySearch. Most of the countries are not of interest to me but the numbers are still staggering.

MyHeritage advised they have gone into partnership with Billion Graves (where people can upload images of gravestones) and MyHeritage record matching technology will be able to tell their users is any images match someone in their family trees. The records will be free on both sites and individual and societies are encouraged to contribute. Read more about the project here.

All of the major subscription sites have a wealth of information on them that we could never imagined pre internet days. Not to mention all the free sites such as FamilySearch and the UK Online Parish Clerks. Collaborative projects between all the players is great to see as it makes it easier and better for all family historians and genealogists. The hard part is keeping up with all the new information which is why it is a good idea to subscribe to their e-newsletters or blogs.

Queensland BDMs advised that a full range of historical birth register images is now available between 1906 and 1914. Images for the period 1891 to 1905 to follow. Death historical images are complete except for the period 1953 to 1964. The RBDM historical website features a table detailing the availability of historical images here.

I have accepted an opportunity to speak at the June meeting of  Caloundra Family History Research Inc and it will be good to catch up with friends there as we nearly settled in that area. If I had not decided to spend my birthday on Bribie we probably would have ended up on the Sunshine Coast. I have also done my bookings for the 6th Unlock the Past genealogy cruise and the UTP genealogy conference on Norfolk Island which is in October. Both events should be really good.

When you organise something you should always plan for the unexpected but sometimes it can take you by surprise. Our weekend visit by some members of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland) went very well with some great feedback. We had everything organised by the time they arrived, we had done a dummy run of the tour, pre-cooked the BBQ and had everything set up. We had allowed an hour and a half for the tour around the historic spots of Bribie Island, what we did not anticipate were the number of questions everyone had. Each stop took longer and longer and we fell seriously behind our timetable so much that we had to skip the stop at Bongaree.

Even with that we had lost most of our lunch time and after a hasty BBQ lunch at our place we arrived a little late at the Bribie Island Seaside Museum for a talk by the President of the historical society. Again I was amazed by the number of questions (and I think the President was too). In the conversation afterwards it was mentioned that people are not always tourists in their own home towns and that they may not think that other people's history is of interest  or of benefit to themselves. I think we can learn from these types of get togethers and of course they are also great opportunities to meet new people and network. I am going to make a more determined effort to try and attend similar events in Brisbane (which is after all my own old home town)!

Next week we are having a mini holiday in the caravan. It was going to be work free but I still have quite a few new talks to work on for April and May. I am still waiting to finalise sponsors for National Family History Month 2014 and I had hoped to have all that done before I left.  More news on NFHM in April.

Just as well Max likes to sleep in as I can get lots done as I am an early riser but it gets a bit tricky in the caravan. It is hard to use the keys on the laptop without making a sound and in the dark! Still if we have a quiet weekend I might get more done before we leave. Until next time, happy researching!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Genealogy Notes 12-18 Mar 2014 topographical dictionaries

Last Diary I was nervous about giving a presentation on my Carnegie family to the Bribie Island Historical Society meeting. Well the talk went well and a number of people told me it was interesting but the security alarm went off twice during the meeting. First time was about half way through the talk (was this the family trying to stop me telling their secrets?) and the second time was just as I started taking questions and being told information from those present. A few people said that they could tell me more but it was hard to hear over the security alarm so they promised to email me - I hope they do. First time only security turned up and the second time both security and the police, so it was definitely the end of the meeting.

The next day I went to a presentation at the Bribie Island Family History Special Interest Group meeting where a member was giving a talk on 'Build a Family Picture of the Period That One is Researching'. This was all about placing the family into the context of their time and community and looking at timelines so that you know what was happening in the family and in the wider context. The speaker mentioned using Samuel Lewis' Topographical Dictionaries published from 1837-1849 which I remember using at the State Library of Queensland back in the 1980s. Fantastic information on the places I was researching and it struck me that these publications should be online now.

So during the coffee break, out came my phone and a quick Google search later I had located free online copies of both Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionaries. The one for Ireland published in 1837 is on Ask About Ireland and the one for the England published in 1848, Scotland published in 1846 and Wales published in 1849 is on British History Online plus there are lots of other good resources on both websites. I have also added new places to my family history since the 80s so yet another thing added to my to do list. We should always be able to learn at least one new thing from every talk or meeting we attend which is a great incentive to make the effort to attend local genealogy and family history society meetings.

I am still keeping up with my 52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 and Week 10 is on Occupation Records and I used John Carnegie my oysterman is the main example but there are other useful hints in the post as well. The previous weeks are all on my website if you want to catch up with the challenge.

New Zealand friend Seonaid (Kintalk) has issued her annual ANZAC Day blog challenge and this is something that I have done each year, honouring different military ancestors. As this year is the anniversary of the start of WW1 it would be good to have more people participating.

Another friend and colleague Mark from the City of Sydney Archives made an exciting announcement about the Sands Sydney Suburban and Country Commercial Directories being free online from 1858 to 1933. There are other great resources online as well for anyone with Sydney interests. Quite a few States now have these directories or almanacs online and a quick Google search will find them or try the relevant State Library website.

My final talk for the Moreton Bay Region Libraries it tomorrow at North Lakes and I am happy to say that they have asked me to do some more talks in the second half of this year which is great. I am finding out so much about where we live now! I am also very pleased to announce that they have asked me to be their National Family History Month speaker this year. Details still to be finalised.

Speaking of NFHM I have been delayed a bit trying to finalise sponsors and prize donors but I hope to have the 2014 NFHM flyer out in early April. Then it will be full on trying to promote NFHM and getting as many societies, libraries, archives and so on organising events for August. NFHM is an initiative of AFFHO (Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations) and it is a not for profit organisation and it really does need sponsorship to continue to fund the basic costs associated with organising and promoting this annual event. I am the voluntary coordinator and do this in my 'spare time'. One day I will find out what that is! But getting back to sponsors, if there are any potential sponsors out there please contact me for details.

This weekend we are hosting a meeting of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland). We are giving them a drive around some of the interesting historic features of the Island and I have drawn up a tour guide so hopefully no one will get too lost. My main worry is all the roundabouts on the Island - we only have one set of traffic lights and all the other intersections are roundabouts. After the tour it is back to our place for a BBQ lunch and after weeks with no rain, it is forecast for Saturday! This could make things a little cosy inside as we were planning an outdoor setting under our palm trees. After lunch it is a tour of the Bribie Island Seaside Museum and a talk by the President of the Bribie Island Historical Society. A big day but I am sure I will learn lots more about Bribie and reconnect with all my old PHAQ friends.

A couple of my articles have been published in recent editions of Irish Lives Remembered (free online) and Inside History Magazine (a great sponsor of NFHM and a fantastic magazine which only gets better and better). I have more to write plus some new talks I need for April and a few other priority work items so next week looks like being busy too.

I celebrated St Patrick's Day and my Irish ancestors with a Guinness and lamb casserole and mash. No time to do an Irish blog but I did buy myself the cutest little leprechaun (about 15 inches high, with a green jacket, green boots and red cap and a pint in his hand) and he now resides in the palm tree outside my study window near the bird feeder. Talk about distractions, every time I look up now I find myself starting to think about other things! Until next time, happy researching.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Genealogy Notes 4 -11 Mar 2014 presenting a life story

Well another week over in the blink of an eye! A good part of my days were spent scanning, editing, naming and searching for photos. The end product so far is a Powerpoint presentation of 49 slides (multiple photos on most slides) to show the family at my mother's 80th birthday party in a month's time. It seems so little for so much time spent and it is still not quite finished as there are some gaps I would like to fill. It might have been quicker just to write her life story but then it probably would not be as interesting.

Photos are always more involving than words and they seem to invoke more memories than words. Having smuggled some of Mum's early photo albums and more recent photos out of her house for the project, I am finding that it is also a trip down memory lane for my brother and I. Sorting through all the photos took hours as there was no real order (most were just stuffed into plastic shopping bags) and then there were the frequent stops to remember the times the photos depicted. Both good times and bad times.

Mum's life has been fairly typical and nothing out of the ordinary - she went to school, married, had a family, worked, retired, became a widow, enjoys seeing her grandchildren grow up and has spent the last few years battling ill health. She looks older than her 80 years and I look younger than my years but in some of the photos I found for the early to mid 1970s we could have been sisters, we looked so close in age.

In the presentation I have early photos of Mum and her siblings, there is the engagement and wedding and early photos of my brother and I, then our school years, teenage years, our marriages (multiple) and our children from babies to adults. I also tried to get photos of Christmas for most years but there are gaps for various reasons. I have tried to have photos of everyone at different stages of their lives and I really do think that the family will enjoy seeing it at the 80th birthday surprise party.

Mum never wants a fuss and for those who might think I have just spilled the beans, Mum would never touch a computer and I do not think she even knows anyone with a computer. Which is a shame as I think she would be able to communicate a lot more with her family if she had an IPad, email, Facebook and so on. Anyway I have another few weeks to tie up some loose ends make sure it all flows smoothly on the day.

I am still keeping up with my personal blog challenge, 52 weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014, and Week 9 is on inquest records.  I have been fortunate (in a black humour kind of way) in that many of my direct ancestors and their siblings or other descendants have died in accidents, died in asylums or died suddenly resulting in a magisterial enquiry into their deaths. Witness statements in inquest files can provide some fantastic information so it is always worth following up if you suspect an inquest was held.

There is a fantastic seminar coming up on 11-12 October. The Gold Coast Family History Society is holding Angling for Ancestors and guest speakers are Jan Gow QSM and Graham Jaunay in a full day of talks. I have heard both speakers before so it should be a great day. On the following day there are tours to the Mudgeeraba Light Horse Museum and the Gold Coast Hinterland Heritage Museum, both places I would like to visit. So we have booked ourselves in a for a Gold Coast weekend.

My talk at the Redcliffe Library as part of the Moreton Bay Region Libraries genealogy program went well and a lady came up to me afterwards and said that she had first heard me speak at North Brisbane in 1981! That is 33 years ago and the only time I ever start to think I might be getting old is when people say things like that to me. Or I look at my adult son. One of the nice things about talking in South East Queensland again is that people still remember me so there is usually at least one friendly face in the audience. The final talk is next week at the North Lakes Library.

Just a reminder that the National Library of Australia's Community Heritage Grants 2014 applications are now open and close on 2 May 2014. The grants are provided to assist with the preservation of locally owned, but nationally significant collections of materials that are publicly accessible including artefacts, letters, diaries, maps, photographs, and audio visual material.

I'm way behind with my reading, both in print and digital but on a positive note I have had new family contacts as a result of putting my family stories on my website and using them as examples in my blog series. It is proof positive that advertising your family through blogging works yet at the Redcliffe talk yesterday only the librarians put up their hands to reading or writing blogs. It would be really nice to know how many people went home to check out my blogs and other links I mentioned.

Tonight is my presentation on the Carnegie family to the Bribie Island Historical Society. In some ways it is similar to what I have done for Mum's 80th. It tells the story of the family but I have also included slides on neighbouring families to make it more interesting to a wider audience. Doing this has highlighted some gaps in my research, uncovered new information and made me question some of my earlier assumptions. I had previously written up in draft form the whole Carnegie story but trying to condense it down into dot points and images really does make you focus on critical points. Perhaps this is something I should do with my other families as I revisit my research? Till next time, happy researching.