27 October 2011

'Beyond the Internet' Geneameme

My eyes lit up when I read Pauleen Cass's 'Beyond the Internet' Geneameme (and not just because of the reference to Tips for Queensland Research, for which I thank you, Pauleen!) - 'Beyond the Internet' is definitely my scene.

Copy the text below and paste it into your blog or into a note on Facebook. Substitute your annotations for mine, and change the font to show your answers. Overseas researchers may want to add to the list or replace items with ones relevant to their own research. Remember this is all about locating information from sources not on the internet (with a couple of small exceptions).

Things you have already done or found = bold face type
Things you would like to do or find = italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven't done or found and don't care to = plain type

You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item.
  1. Looked at microfiche for BDM indexes which go beyond the online search dates.
  2. Talked to elderly relatives about your family history.
  3. Obtained old family photos from relatives.
  4. Have at least one certificate (birth/death/marr) for each great-grandparent.
  5. Have at least one certificate (birth/death/marr) for each great-great-grandparent. (Many were born before civil registration. For the UK I have some certificates and lots of parish registers. One parish marriage register gave details that were not on the certificate!)
  6. Seen/held a baptism or marriage document in a church, church archive or microfilm.
  7. Seen an ancestor's name in some other form of church record, eg kirk session, communion roll.
  8. Used any microfilm from an LDS family history centre for your research.
  9. Researched using a microfilm other than a parish register (LDS family history centre/other).
  10. Used cemetery burial records to learn more about your relative's burial.
  11. Used funeral director's registers to learn more about your relative's burial.
  12. Visited all your great-grandparents' grave sites (some don't have headstones).
  13. Visited all your great-great-grandparents' grave sites (some are in Germany / Poland).
  14. Recorded the details on your ancestors' gravestones and photographed them (including one that has since fallen face down - and the oldest headstone I've found is for gr-gr-gr-grandmother Mary AGAR, died 1794).
  15. Obtained a great-grandparent's will/probate documents.
  16. Obtained a great-great grandparent's will/probate documents (but the most useful was for my gr-gr-grandfather's *brother* - always research the siblings!)
  17. Found a death certificate among will documents (lots of Queensland probate files have death certificates).
  18. Followed up in the official records, something found on the internet.
  19. Obtained a copy of your immigrant ancestors' original shipping records.
  20. Found an immigration nomination record for your immigrant ancestor (I wish! Mine seem to have been assisted or free, not nominated.)
  21. Found old images of your ancestor's place of origin (online or other).
  22. Read all/part of a local history for your ancestor's place of residence.
  23. Read all/part of a local history for your ancestor's place of origin.
  24. Read your ancestor's school admission records.
  25. Researched the school history for your grandparents.
  26. Read a court case involving an ancestor (online newspapers don't count for this). (Actually it was my direct ancestor's brother.)
  27. Read about an ancestor's divorce case in the archives (none of mine were divorced).
  28. Have seen an ancestor's war medals.
  29. Have an ancestor's military record (not a digitised copy eg WWII).
  30. Read a war diary or equivalent for an ancestor's battle.
  31. Seen an ancestor's/relative's war grave.
  32. Read all/part of the history of an ancestor's military unit (battalion/ship etc).
  33. Seen your ancestor's name on an original land map.
  34. Found land selection documents for your immigrant ancestor/s.
  35. Found other land documents for your ancestor (home/abroad).
  36. Located land maps or equivalent for your ancestor's place of origin.
  37. Used contemporaneous gazetteers or directories to learn about your ancestors' places.
  38. Found your ancestor's name in a Post Office directory of the time.
  39. Used local government sewerage maps (yes, seriously!) for an ancestor's street.
  40. Read an inquest report for an ancestor/relative (online and/or archives) (inquests - including fire inquests re damage to property - are fabulous!)
  41. Read an ancestor's/relative's hospital admission. (If only more hospital admission registers survived!)
  42. Researched a company file if your family owned a business.
  43. Looked up any of your ancestor's local government rate books or valuation records.
  44. Researched occupation records for your ancestor/s (railway, police, teacher etc).
  45. Researched an ancestor's adoption. (No adoptions in my direct line)
  46. Researched an ancestor's insolvency.
  47. Found a convict ancestor's passport or certificate of freedom. (No convicts in my tree)
  48. Found a convict ancestor's shipping record. (No convicts in my tree)
  49. Found an ancestor's gaol admission register. (My lot were too law-abiding to leave such interesting records. Sigh.)
  50. Found a licencing record for an ancestor (brands, publican etc) (horse and cattle brands).
  51. Found an ancestor's mining lease/licence (I haven't found any miners in my family).
  52. Found an ancestor's name on a petition to government (petition about a railway) (I should look for other petitions - lots in Government publications and Colonial Secretary's correspondence.)
  53. Read your ancestor's citizenship document (naturalisation record at Qld State Archives).
  54. Read about your ancestor in an undigitised regional newspaper.
  55. Visited a local history library/museum relevant to your family (several - and I was stunned to find a portrait of my gr-gr-grandmother's brother, John Campbell, in Sale museum in Victoria).
  56. Looked up your ancestor's name in the Old Age Pension records (mine aren't listed, but I checked the index as I was creating it!)
  57. Researched your ancestor or relative in Benevolent Asylum/Workhouse records (none of mine were there, but they are great records).
  58. Researched an ancestor's/relative's mental health records (sister of my direct ancestor was in Goodna Asylum).
  59. Looked for your family in a genealogical publication of any sort (but not online remember).
  60. Contributed family information to a genealogical publication.
Please leave a comment on Pauleen's post, with a link to your response to her Geneameme.

04 October 2011

Genealogists, Traditions and Kiva

There have been exciting developments since last week, when I wrote about continuing my father's tradition of setting aside a small sum of money (we called it his 'Do Good Money') for short-term loans to those in need. Pamela said it would be lovely if this became a tradition for other families - and (to my delight) that has already begun!

My family, friends and colleagues (and their family, friends and colleagues) are following my father's example, but with a modern twist. It works like this:

From the Web site of the non-profit organisation Kiva, you choose a borrower whom you would like to help. You make a loan of just $25, using PayPal's secure service to pay by credit or debit card or from a bank account. When the loan is paid back, you can either withdraw your money or lend again. It's a simple and sustainable way of helping someone to support their family and overcome poverty.

Two of my friends have been doing this for years, so I know Kiva is reputable. It is also a lot of fun! I really enjoy the process of choosing a borrower. For each individual or group there is a photograph, some biographical data, an explanation of how the loan will be used, and information about the country. (This would be an interesting way for children to learn about other cultures, geography etc.)

To maximise the fun and motivation, people with a common interest often form a team (but you can remain anonymous if you wish). Our team is called 'Genealogists for Families', but everyone is welcome - genealogists, family and friends, and anyone who believes that our small loans can make a big difference to those who are less fortunate. Our motto is, 'We loan because we care about families (past, present and future).'

It's very easy:
  1. Register with Kiva and join the team.

  2. Make a loan. If you do not have a spare $25 yet, join now and when you do make a loan it will be automatically linked to the team's efforts.

  3. To publicise your Web site or online family tree, enter its address in 'My Website' on your Kiva Lender Page.
As I write this, our 'Genealogists for Families' team page shows that we are currently helping sixteen small businesses in low income areas: farming in Peru; poultry in Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe; fishing and livestock (cattle, pigs etc) in Mongolia, the Philippines and Tajikistan; arts and crafts in El Salvador; food sales in Honduras; manufacturing in Nicaragua; sewing in Costa Rica, Paraguay, Peru and Tajikistan; tailoring in Tanzania; and an Internet cafe in Bolivia.

Join the 'Genealogists for Families' project and be part of the growing team of individuals who make a difference by helping families now and in the future!

29 September 2011

Genealogists for Families: keeping the memory alive (Thankful Thursday)

For as long as I can remember, my father set aside a small sum of money that he would periodically lend to a hard-working person in need of short-term help. We called it his 'Do Good Money'. Dad passed away last year at the age of ninety, and I want to honour his memory by continuing his tradition. I have just found an easy way to do so.

Carole recommended Kiva, a non-profit organisation that allows you to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income 'entrepreneur' across the globe. You choose who to lend to, and as they repay their loan, you get your money back. This is a simple and sustainable way to empower someone to support their family and lift themselves out of poverty. As your money is repaid you can either withdraw it or lend it again.

In the very unlikely event of a loan not being repaid, I can easily afford to think of the $25 as a donation. To me, $25 is a few takeaway lunches or coffees, which I would not miss. For the borrower, it may be equivalent to a fortnight's income. Micro-loans are also a good way of using money I earn from online surveys (which will be the subject of a future blog post).

The first four borrowers I chose to support were Janina in Peru (sewing), Leonora in the Philippines (rug-making), Roberto in El Salvador (food production/sales) and the 'Por un Futuro Mejor' (For a Better Future) communal bank (ten women involved in agriculture in Ecuador). By the time you read this, my sisters and I will have added to that list.

You are warmly invited to join the Kiva lending team named 'Genealogists for Families', whose slogan is 'We loan because... we care about families (past, present and future).'
  1. Register with Kiva and join the team.

  2. Make a $25 loan. If you're cautious, chose a short-term low-risk loan.

  3. To publicise your Web site or online family tree, enter its address in 'My Website' on your Kiva Lender Page.
The fun part is choosing a borrower. Use the map, check boxes and advanced options to narrow down the field; look at each person's story and photograph; then choose one that feels special to you.

Checkout and payment are quick, easy and secure. (If you have not heard of Paypal, I can recommend them. I have used them for business and personal transactions for many years.)

If you enjoy your experience with Kiva, please invite others to join the team. Let's show the world that family historians can make a difference! I hope you will share your experiences and suggestions by leaving a comment below.

('Thankful Thursday' is a theme used by Geneabloggers to express gratitude for anything that has had a positive impact on our lives.)

22 September 2011

Genealogy and Technology - my list for the meme

If new technology will save me a significant amount of time or make me a better family historian, I am happy to use it. If it won't, or if it is beyond my budget, I make no apology for sticking to traditional methods.

After reading the responses to the original list by Geniaus and the expanded list by John Newmark, I am relieved to see that I am not the only one with a low 'tech savvy' score. My list (below) is annotated as follows:

* Things I have already done / found = bold type
* Things I would like to do / find = italics
* Things I haven't done / found and don't care = plain type
* My comments are in [square brackets].
  1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad
  2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes
  3. Used Skype for genealogy purposes
  4. Used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor's home
  5. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree [The Master Genealogist]
  6. Have a Twitter account [JudyQld, where I share genealogy tips, not trivia]
  7. Tweet daily
  8. Have a genealogy blog
  9. Have more than one genealogy blog [Updated - now eight! Genealogy Leftovers; Updates Genie; Queensland Genealogy; UK/Australia Genealogy; Yorkshire Genealogy; Jottings, Journeys and Genealogy; Genealogists for Families; and Outback Story]
  10. Have lectured/presented to a genealogy group on a technology topic [as a small segment in a talk on 'Who Else is Researching My Family?']
  11. Currently an active member of Genealogy Wise
  12. Have a Facebook Account [but I prefer to use email to contact friends, and I find Twitter more useful for keeping up to date with genealogy news]
  13. Have connected with genealogists via Facebook
  14. Maintain a genealogy related Facebook Page [Queensland Genealogy]
  15. Maintain a blog or website for a genealogy society
  16. Have submitted text corrections online to Ancestry, Trove or a similar site
  17. Have registered a domain name [www.judywebster.com.au]
  18. Post regularly to Google+
  19. Have a blog listed on Geneabloggers [as per No.9 above]
  20. Have transcribed/indexed records for FamilySearch or a similar project [but I've indexed 51,000 names from archives and other sources and listed the names on my Web site]
  21. Own a Flip-Pal scanner
  22. Can code a webpage in .html [using a text editor; I keep the code simple so pages load quickly, and I can update them whenever I wish]
  23. Own a smartphone
  24. Have a personal subscription to one or more paid genealogy databases [FindMyPast]
  25. Use a digital voice recorder to record genealogy lectures
  26. Have contributed to a genealogy blog carnival
  27. Use Chrome as a Browser
  28. Have participated in a genealogy webinar
  29. Have taken a DNA test for genealogy purposes
  30. Have a personal genealogy website [on my own site and on WorldConnect]
  31. Have found mention of an ancestor in an online newspaper archive [Trove]
  32. Have tweeted during a genealogy lecture
  33. Have scanned your hardcopy genealogy files [most of them]
  34. Use an RSS Reader to follow genealogy news and blogs [I've tried Google Reader and Thunderbird but I generally just use the reading list on Blogger's dashboard]
  35. Have uploaded a GEDCOM file to a site like Geni, MyHeritage or Ancestry [to Rootsweb's WorldConnect, which, unlike Ancestry, is indexed by Google and allows anyone to contact me free of charge]
  36. Own a netbook [Acer Happy - 1.2kg - great for travelling]
  37. Use a computer/tablet/smartphone to take genealogy lecture notes
  38. Have a profile on LinkedIn that mentions your genealogy habit [I created a profile as an experiment, but I don't often use LinkedIn]
  39. Have developed a genealogy software program, app or widget
  40. Have listened to a genealogy podcast online
  41. Have downloaded genealogy podcasts for later listening [especially National Archives podcasts]
  42. Backup your files to a portable hard drive
  43. Have a copy of your genealogy files stored offsite [see Natural Disasters and Family History]
  44. Know about Rootstech
  45. Have listened to a Blogtalk radio session about genealogy
  46. Use Dropbox, SugarSync or other service to save documents in the cloud [I use Dropbox and Evernote to keep backups of my most important genealogy documents online.]
  47. Schedule regular email backups [every time I download emails]
  48. Have contributed to the FamilySearch Wiki
  49. Have scanned and tagged your genealogy photographs [most of them]
  50. Have published a genealogy book in an online/digital format.
I have only done four of John's extras:
  • Can code a webpage in .html using Notepad or any other text-only software [same as no.22 above]
  • Have a local library card that offers you home access to online databases, and you use that access [Brisbane City Council, State Library of Qld, National Library of Australia]
  • Brought a USB device to a microfilm repository so you could download instead of print
  • Started a Genealogy-related weekly blogging theme other geneabloggers participated in ['Thrifty Thursday']

Changing the subject slightly... One of John's items was 'Have used Photoshop or other editing software to clean up an old family photo'. Use caution if you do this. What if the position of a rip in a photo means that a facial scar is obliterated? 'Cleaning up' the photo may result in misleading information about that person's physical appearance.

Revenue from ads goes to Kiva

08 September 2011

More on Genealogy Conferences and Social Media Policy

I had such an overwhelming response to yesterday's post, Genealogy Conferences and Social Media Policy, that a follow-up post seems justified. Many people with strong feelings on this topic have sent them via email, and I will share them here without mentioning names. In some cases I have added my personal response in italics, but the other comments do not necessarily reflect my own personal point of view, so please don't shoot the messenger!

All of your comments will be helpful to conference organisers, but only a few actually addressed the original question, Why can't it wait until the end of the presentation? Who truly benefits from tweeting 'live' rather than when the speaker has finished?

  • Most of us have to work, look after a family, etc, and we read tweets later in the day. How many people sit glued to their computer reading hashtag tweets 'live'? (If you do - Get A Life!) There is no need to tweet during the lecture. Doing it later is fine for your readers, and it is more courteous to the speaker. [Judy's response: Like you, I have to read the tweets later. That's actually an advantage, because hashtag tweets make more of an impression on me when I read them in a batch.]

  • Helen said, 'I tweet because I am usually too busy to tweet after the presentation' - but Helen always writes a descriptive blog post afterwards, which contradicts her claim that she needs to tweet live.

  • Every time I've given a talk at which people were using phones or computers, one of those people has put their hand up during Question Time and asked a question that I'd answered in my talk (while they weren't listening). It is demoralising and infuriating. [Judy's response: I totally agree. This has happened to me too.]

  • We recently paid for an employee to attend a conference. We decided never to waste the company's money that way again, because we discovered that he had been tweeting instead of paying attention.

  • I like the NGS social media policy except I would prefer to exclude the word 'summarise' as I think that gives a bit too much freedom.

  • The social media policy should be part of registration and include 'no photographing of people's overheads' and the fact that attendance at the conference may mean your photograph could be taken and uploaded to the web as part of a blog or used in publicity.

  • I use a phone because I think that is less distracting than using a computer. I also think that anyone who chooses to tweet etc should sit over to one side so less of a distraction. [Judy's response: As a speaker, I say 'Not in the front row, please!']

  • Using a phone while the presenter is talking is just plain RUDE. If this is what Twitter is about, count me out! Good manners will never go out of fashion.

  • I would prefer to be told to have my phone on silent and to be reminded that texting or tweeting during the conference is VERY bad manners.

  • Not many people can multitask well enough to concentrate on the speaker and look at a phone at the same time.

  • As a speaker, I hate it when the audience uses phones or computers. Am I boring them? Are their emails more interesting than my topic? They are not looking at my slides, so why did I bother?

What do you think? This is your chance to help shape the policies of future genealogy conferences. If you do not want to comment publicly, select 'Anonymous' or email me privately at the address in the sidebar. But as I said... the comments above do not necessarily reflect my own personal point of view, so please don't shoot the messenger!

07 September 2011

Genealogy Conferences and Social Media Policy

I am speaking at a genealogy conference next week, and I asked the organisers about their social media policy. Apparently neither the host society nor the Association as a whole had an official policy (other than 'no recording of conference sessions except for personal note taking' and 'mobile phones must be turned off during presentations'). After hastily writing a more detailed policy, they have sent me a copy and asked for my opinion.

Before I reply, I would greatly value your thoughts on this. I need to address these questions in particular:

Can you explain exactly WHY people feel compelled to tweet while the speaker is speaking? Why can't it wait until the end of the presentation? Who truly benefits from tweeting 'live' rather than when the speaker has finished?

Obviously it's fine to tweet a 5-minute warning that a session is about to start, but it's what happens during the presentation that is really the issue in this case. All comments will be gratefully received!

05 September 2011

99 Things - an Australian Genealogist's List

The '99 Things Genealogy Meme' is a list of 99 genealogy-related things you can do or have happen to you in your lifetime. Jill (Geniaus) took the original list and 'dinkumised' it (which, for those of you who don't speak Aussie English, means 'gave it an Australian flavour'). If you would like to do something similar so your readers can get to know you better, copy the text below and paste it into your blog or into a note on Facebook. Substitute your annotations for mine, and change the font to show your answers, as follows:

Things you have already done or found - bold type
Things you would like to do or find - italics
Things you have not done or found and don't care to - plain type

Here is my contribution. Most links open in new windows.
  1. Belong to a genealogical society.
  2. Joined the Australian Genealogists group on Genealogy Wise. (I did, but not for long.)
  3. Transcribed records.
  4. Uploaded headstone pictures to Find-A-Grave or a similar site.
  5. Documented ancestors for four generations (self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents).
  6. Joined Facebook.
  7. Cleaned up a run-down cemetery.
  8. Joined the Genea-Bloggers Group.
  9. Attended a genealogy conference. (Next big one is the Australasian Congress.)
  10. Lectured at a genealogy conference.
  11. Spoke on a genealogy topic at a local genealogy society.
  12. Joined the Society of Australian Genealogists.
  13. Contributed to a genealogy society publication.
  14. Served on the board or as an officer of a genealogy society. (I only served as a library assistant.)
  15. Got lost on the way to a cemetery.
  16. Talked to dead ancestors.
  17. Researched outside the state in which I live.
  18. Knocked on the door of an ancestral home and visited with the current occupants. (My great-uncle did this to show me his childhood home.)
  19. Cold called a distant relative. (Via email, not phone.)
  20. Posted messages on a surname message board.
  21. Uploaded a GEDCOM file to the internet. (To WorldConnect, and I intend to upload one to FindMyPast.)
  22. Googled my name.
  23. Performed a random act of genealogical kindness.
  24. Researched a non-related family, just for the fun of it.
  25. Have been paid to do genealogical research.
  26. Earn a living (majority of income) from genealogical research. (I earn some of my income from genealogy, but not all of it.)
  27. Wrote a letter (or email) to a previously unknown relative.
  28. Contributed to one of the genealogy carnivals.
  29. Responded to messages on a message board.
  30. Was injured while on a genealogy excursion. (The Stinging Nettle Incident in the churchyard hurt enough to count as an injury.)
  31. Participated in a genealogy meme.
  32. Created family history gift items (calendars, cookbooks etc.) (Flip-books with family photos.)
  33. Performed a record lookup.
  34. Took a genealogy seminar cruise. (Unlock the Past's cruise.)
  35. Am convinced that a relative must have arrived here from outer space.
  36. Found a disturbing family secret. (Not always a bad thing. It may mean that interesting records exist.)
  37. Told others about a disturbing family secret.
  38. Combined genealogy with crafts (family picture quilt, scrapbooking).
  39. Think genealogy is a passion not a hobby.
  40. Assisted finding next of kin for a deceased person.
  41. Taught someone else how to find their roots.
  42. Lost valuable genealogy data due to a computer crash or hard drive failure. (I only made that mistake once.)
  43. Been overwhelmed by available genealogy technology.
  44. Know a cousin of the 4th degree or higher.
  45. Disproved a family myth through research. (No, but I proved one that nobody expected to be true!)
  46. Got a family member to let you copy photos.
  47. Used a digital camera to 'copy' photos or records.
  48. Translated a record from a foreign language. (With Google Translate.)
  49. Found an immigrant ancestor's passenger arrival record.
  50. Looked at census records on microfilm, not on the computer.
  51. Used microfiche.
  52. Visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
  53. Used Google+ for genealogy.
  54. Visited a church or place of worship of one of your ancestors.
  55. Taught a class in genealogy.
  56. Traced ancestors back to the 18th Century.
  57. Traced ancestors back to the 17th Century. (Via Clan Campbell Archives.)
  58. Traced ancestors back to the 16th Century. (Via Clan Campbell Archives.)
  59. Can name all of your great-great-grandparents. (Only 12 of 16 yet.)
  60. Found an ancestor on the Australian Electoral Rolls. (Queensland has four separate series.)
  61. Know how to determine a soundex code without the help of a computer.
  62. Have found relevant articles on Trove.
  63. Own a copy of 'Evidence Explained' by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
  64. Helped someone find an ancestor using records you had never used for your own research.
  65. Visited the main National Archives building in Washington, DC.
  66. Visited the National Library of Australia.
  67. Have an ancestor who came to Australia as a ten pound pom.
  68. Have an ancestor who fought at Gallipoli.
  69. Taken a photograph of an ancestor's tombstone.
  70. Can read a church record in Latin.
  71. Have an ancestor who changed his/her name. (Not that I know of, but maybe that's why I haven't found a death record for Robert BUTLER!)
  72. Joined a Rootsweb mailing list.
  73. Created a family website. (Separate sites for my maternal and paternal lines.)
  74. Have a genealogy blog. (Seven of them.)
  75. Was overwhelmed by the amount of family information received from someone.
  76. Have broken through at least one brick wall.
  77. Done genealogy research at the War Memorial in Canberra.
  78. Borrowed microfilm from the Family History Library through a local Family History Center.
  79. Found an ancestor in the Ryerson index. (Relatives but not direct ancestors.)
  80. Have visited the National Archives of Australia. (Brisbane Office only.)
  81. Have an ancestor who served in the Boer War.
  82. Use maps in my genealogy research. (Including those on CuriousFox).
  83. Have a convict ancestor who was transported from the UK. (Maybe Robert BUTLER. Not confirmed yet.)
  84. Found a bigamist amongst the ancestors.
  85. Visited the National Archives in Kew.
  86. Visited St. Catherine's House in London to find family records.
  87. Taken an online genealogy course.
  88. Consistently cite my sources. (Wish I'd done so when I was a beginner!)
  89. Visited a foreign country (one I don't live in) in search of ancestors.
  90. Can locate any document in my research files within a few minutes.
  91. Have an ancestor who was married four times (or more).
  92. Made a rubbing of an ancestors gravestone.
  93. Followed genealogists on Twitter.
  94. Published a family history book on one of my families.
  95. Learned of the death of a fairly close relative through research.
  96. Offended a family member with my research.
  97. Reunited someone with precious family photos or artifacts.
  98. Have a paid subscription to a genealogy database. (Read why I use FindMyPast.)
  99. Edited records on Trove.
I have also put a more personal (non-genealogy) '99 things' list in Jottings, Journeys and Genealogy.

Revenue from ads goes to Kiva

05 June 2011

Netbooks, Windows 7 and Genealogy

I am thinking about buying a Netbook computer before I go overseas. At just over 1kg, it would be a much better proposition than my current (heavy) laptop. With my trip just three weeks away (and very little free time to set up and become familiar with a new computer), my dilemma is - should I buy a new netbook with Windows 7 Starter or buy or borrow a pre-loved one with Windows XP (the operating system I know and like)?

Will my genealogy software work with Windows 7 Starter? I use The Master Genealogist v.7, SecondSite v.2.1.10, TMG Utility v.7 and Treepad. I have not had time to research this question, so I am hoping that you will help me to make a quick decision! I would love to hear (via a comment below) what you think of Netbooks (any recommendations for or against particular brands or models?), Windows 7 Starter, and any 'tech tips'. Thanks!

09 May 2011

Attending Genealogy Conferences

Earlier this week I wrote about my experiences as a speaker and a vendor at genealogy conferences. Now I will explain why I love attending, how organisers can entice me to continue doing so, and how I find out about conferences, save money, etc.

Genealogy conferences are for everyone, including beginners. I have been to fifteen two-day conferences and ten major conferences of four days or more (six in Australia, two in New Zealand, one in Britain and one conference on a cruise) - and I have lost count of the one-day seminars. I have vivid memories of my first big conference in 1986. I was very shy, but people were friendly and helpful and I was soon having the time of my life! Now I always make a point of speaking to anyone standing alone and looking a bit lost, because I remember how that felt.

Why do I love conferences?
  1. I learn so much from the lectures, the questions afterwards, the trade displays, and my conversations with all and sundry
  2. I make new friends, and I catch up with friends whom I rarely see. No matter how often I am in contact with someone via email or social networking sites, speaking with them in person is so much better.
  3. Most of my favourite conferences are interstate, so they give me an excuse to travel and do local sightseeing or research.
  4. There is always a chance of meeting a 'lost cousin'. I did!
One of the main reasons for going to a conference is to learn. The quality of the lectures is therefore very important. Speakers at the Australasian Congress always include a few 'big names' from overseas, and some (eg, Michael Gandy and Sherry Irvine) are absolutely brilliant (informative, entertaining and approachable). Choosing local and international speakers is a big responsibility for conference organisers, who often use some sort of 'quality control'. For example, prospective lecturers may be asked for a recording of a recent lecture so that the committee can assess their suitability.

As well as being educational, conferences are about meeting people and having fun. Be sure to read Amy Coffin's Rock Star's Guide to Genealogy Conferences. Another 'must-read' is Sue Maxwell's Prepare Before Attending a Genealogy Conference, which has many excellent tips.

What makes a conference more appealing or more enjoyable?
  • Being able to book for the whole event or just one day.
  • Lectures for all levels (beginner to advanced), and (for multi-day events) a range of topics - including social history. I want to learn about sources and techniques, but I am also interested in historical context and the everyday life of my ancestors.
  • Lectures whose content matches the title and description in the programme.
  • A programme that identifies (at the time of booking and on the day) which talks are aimed at beginners.
  • Pin-on name tags in large bold type. (My eyes are not getting any younger.)
  • A brochure (on paper) with lecture details (time, room number, speaker, title, topic summary, 'beginner' if applicable) and a map of the venue.
  • Signs that clearly point to and identify lecture rooms, exhibit hall etc.
  • Lunch/tea breaks that are long enough to allow people to eat, chat and explore the exhibits without feeling rushed.
  • Exhibits halls and tea-break areas that are not cramped.
  • Healthy options for lunch/tea (salad, fruit, sandwiches on multigrain or wholemeal bread, jugs of water).
  • As a member of the audience and as a speaker, I appreciate it when computer users are asked to sit towards the back of the room as a courtesy to those who find them distracting.
  • A large corkboard (with plenty of pins) to leave notes for other attendees.
  • Pre-conference advice about parking and public transport.
  • Lecture rooms where I can put my notebook on something other than my lap (a desk, or a small swing-out table attached to the chair).
  • A conference banquet that is optional and not too expensive.
  • A feedback form in the conference satchel. (We need to praise what was good, give constructive criticism, and be honest in our assessment of speakers.)
  • A 'delegate's surname interests' form to be submitted at the time of registration, so that all data can be combined into one alphabetical list and displayed at the conference.
  • The option to purchase a copy of individual lectures (by download) or the entire conference proceedings (with a choice of book, CD or USB flash drive). (I have a Web page that lists titles of many published conference papers. If the books are out of print and your local Society does not have them, borrow them via interlibrary loan.)
  • Affordable registration, and affordable accommodation on site or nearby.
I particularly look for conferences that are held at a university, college or boarding school while students are on vacation. Registration costs are often lower. Lecture rooms and common rooms are well equipped. Cafeteria-style meals in the student dining hall are a great opportunity to meet people and chat. Attendees can (if they wish) stay in simple but affordable student bedrooms on campus. (At the last Congress I had a modern, comfortable, single ensuite room with lots of desk space.)

In other situations a friend and I sometimes share a two-bedroom apartment and save money by preparing our own breakfast and dinner. For one-day or two-day events away from my home town, I can often keep accommodation costs down by booking through Booking.com or Wotif or staying in a cabin in a caravan park.

Which conferences particularly interest me?
  • Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry (4 days) - held every third year.  (P.S., Apr 2015:  I have been to ten of the last eleven Congresses. The next two will be in Sydney in 2018 and Brisbane in 2021.)
  • 'Lost In..' conference (2 days) - held by the Society of Australian Genealogists in either Sydney or a country centre, usually the first weekend in November. Themes have included 'Lost in London', 'Lost in a Woman's World', 'Lost in Black Sheep' and 'Lost in the Internet'.
  • NSW & ACT State Conference (2 days) - held every year, usually in September.
  • Victorian State Conference (2 days) - held every third year.
How to find out about conferences?

Sources of information vary from country to country, but examples include the Unlock The Past Web site, the AUS-GEN-EVENTS Rootsweb mailing list (or its overseas counterparts), Geneabloggers calendar, and (for the UK) GENEVA. I also use a Google Alert, and I 'search blog posts' for 'conference' in the Genealogy Blog Finder.

What does the future hold?

I think 'live streaming' sessions by remote/overseas speakers will become more common (especially if that reduces conference costs and registration fees). And I sincerely hope that Australian conferences will introduce lectures and networking opportunities for genealogy bloggers!

Other people's thoughts on attending genealogy conferences?

05 May 2011

Genealogy Conference Vendors

Days 1 and 2 of the current Geneabloggers discussion looked at planning and speaking at genealogy conferences. Today's topic is selling goods and services at conferences.

As a professional genealogist who also self-publishes indexes and research guides, I have had a 'sales table' in three different situations: (1) at small seminars where I am a speaker; (2) at the biennial Local and Family History Fair run by History Queensland; (3) at the NSW & ACT State Conference. Whatever the venue, assembling and packing all the 'vendor gear' takes longer than you might expect, especially if the display includes posters, banners etc.

Here are a few tips based on my own experience.
  • When you agree to do a talk, ask whether you can display and sell your publications or other wares. (I often speak at public libraries, and some do not allow sales.) Unless you are driving and can take a folding table, ask the organisers to supply something suitable. On the day, put the table where you can keep an eye on it.
  • Take a carbonless receipt book, a money belt and lots of change.
  • Take a notepad or A5 pages printed with your name and contact details. When people ask questions, jot down your answer (a book title, Web address etc) and hand it to them. I use a clipboard, and I attach a pen with string so I won't misplace it. I design my own notepads with Vistaprint.
  • Items that may come in handy are a magnifying glass, spare pens, sticky tape, yellow highlighter, paper clips, rubber bands and plastic bags.
  • If possible, keep the items that are for sale separate from the freebies (business cards, handouts, leaflets, bookmarks etc). Use price labels and signs such as 'Free leaflets'.
  • If you are on your own at an all-day event (as I usually am), arrange in advance for someone to come over occasionally and keep an eye on your table while you take a bathroom break.
  • For all-day events, take plenty of water and some food that is easy to handle. (I favour nuts, apples and cubes of cheese.) You do not want to put sticky fingers or sandwich filling on your display!
  • Take Butter Menthols or something similar for when you begin to lose your voice!
  • Many people seem afraid to touch a display or speak to the vendor. Encourage them by smiling and saying, 'Please take a free bookmark' or 'You're welcome to pick up the books and have a closer look' or 'Do you have any questions?'
The thing that I find most difficult is being on the sales table all day on my own. On the rare occasions when a colleague and I shared a table, the job was easier. Vendors at larger events will have a different point of view, and I look forward to reading everyone's comments.

Genealogy Conferences - Delivering the Content

This week's discussion at Geneabloggers is about genealogy conferences. On day 1 Thomas and Helen (and probably others whose posts I did not see) talked about conferences from the perspective of the planners. Thomas has also written a brilliant post about being a speaker.

Later this week I will explain why I love attending genealogy conferences, and the realities of selling goods and services there; but today's topic is Delivering the Content: what does it take to be a speaker at a genealogy conference? One thing it takes is courage! Even after presenting fifty papers to audiences ranging in size from fifteen to over one hundred people, I still get butterflies in my tummy. (Hint: take homeopathics such as Rescue Remedy or Brauer's Nervatona Focus before the talk!)

A wise friend once told me, 'Choose a topic that you know well. Then, as you look out at the sea of expectant faces, remind yourself that they have come to listen because you know more about the topic than they do.'

When I am asked to give a talk, this is what usually happens:
  1. The organisers and I agree on a date, time, venue, number of talks, length of the talk/s (with or without question time), and payment / reimbursement of expenses if applicable.
  2. Sometimes I am asked for a specific talk that I have given elsewhere, but usually I submit a list (titles plus content descriptions) and the host makes a selection.
  3. I ask what equipment will be provided (laptop, projector, microphone etc), and I ask permission to display and sell my books.
  4. I ask whether I need to put a purchase order number on my invoice. (I once waited three months for reimbursement of $600 travel costs because the host forgot to give me a purchase order number.)
  5. Only once have I been asked to sign a contract, but I was happy to do so. Occasionally I draw up an agreement based on the advice in Professional Genealogy: a manual for researchers, writers, editors, lecturers and librarians (Elizabeth Shown Mills; Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 2001). Usually I just send (and require acknowledgment of) an email that clearly states all the arrangements.
  6. I write or update the talk(s); do one or more practice runs to check the timing; prepare handouts; scan documents for use in overheads; and create a Powerpoint presentation. Non-presenters have no concept of how long all that takes!
  7. I save the Powerpoint show on a USB flash drive (or two), in several different formats including HTML. I once found that the host's laptop would not open my Powerpoint slides, so now I play it safe.
It's lucky that I enjoy travelling, because 90% of my talks have been a long way from home. A six-hour drive is not uncommon. If I need to fly, I check airline schedules before agreeing to speak at a certain time. I once had to leave home at 3.30am because I made the mistake of letting the organisers book my flight. After some panic situations due to cancelled flights or vehicle breakdowns, I now aim to arrive in town the previous night.

Many speakers enjoy being billeted in private homes, but I had a very bad experience with that. My hostess insisted on talking (picking my brains?) until midnight - and to make matters worse, I was allergic to her dog.

In Making Money from Genealogy, I talked about payment for speaking engagements. Unless I belong to the host society, I usually charge a speaker's fee and ask to be reimbursed for travel and accommodation expenses. The 2009 Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry was (to the best of my knowledge) the first Congress to offer speakers a really good deal. The organisers might not want me to publish all the details here, but you can email me if you wish. One of the conditions was that we should be available to delegates at all times (so no skipping social functions or sneaking off to go sightseeing!)

Talks are usually arranged many months in advance, but my most enjoyable 'speaking trip' was an impromptu affair. My sister asked me to relocate her campervan from the Gold Coast to Cairns. I drove 2,000 kilometres in nine days, and along the way (with only three weeks notice) I gave talks at Biloela, Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Mackay, Townsville and two in Cairns. I had contacted Council libraries and genealogical groups, told them what day I would be in town, and offered to do a talk for just $50. (Council libraries in Australia usually expect to pay about $100.) I gave them a choice of three talks, all of which I had done before. The trip was tiring but great fun, and the $50 fees plus sales of my books covered the cost of fuel, caravan parks and my flight home from Cairns to Brisbane.

I would love to do similar trips in the future, especially in rural Queensland, NSW and Victoria. Family historians who live far from a capital city really appreciate the opportunity to learn about sources and research strategies. I can empathise with them, because I grew up in the bush and started researching my family when I lived six hundred miles from Brisbane (with no Internet).

I wonder what other speakers find especially rewarding. For me, the ultimate thrill was having a member of the audience look at one of my overheads and excitedly say, 'That's my great-grandfather!'

23 April 2011

Making Money from Genealogy

There has been much discussion this week about 'genealogy blogs for fun or profit' and 'careers in genealogy'. Before I add my ten cents worth, let me explain my perspective. Although I am relatively new to blogging, I have been doing personal family history research since 1974 and paid research since 1986. As a medical scientist in a hospital, I was working a five-day week plus some nights, weekends and on-call. I switched to part-time employment because my parents were getting on in years and needed help. Less hospital work meant less income but more free time and flexibility, and part-time professional genealogy became an option.

I am the sort of person who reads the instruction manual before taking the new gizmo out of its packaging, so in addition to reading widely and attending many seminars, I wanted some formal training. After hearing an inspirational lecture by Elizabeth Shown Mills, I did a Graduate Diploma in Local and Applied History (University of New England, NSW). That was expensive and took four years (two subjects per year), but it was interesting, relevant and definitely worthwhile. I also taught myself to write HTML code in a text editor and create my own Web pages (the smartest move I ever made).

Genealogy Blogging for Fun or Profit

Should genealogy blogs have advertising, affiliate links etc? This was thoroughly debated in Genealogy Blogging for Fun or Profit (Thomas MacEntee) and Genea-Bodies: The New Somebodies (Joan Miller). In Beyond Genealogy, Illya defined 'information', 'research' and 'family-focussed' genealogy blogs, and said that 'Anyone who devotes significant amounts of time in their blogging efforts and produces meaningful and helpful posts that promote quality research and support the industry should... have the guilt-free opportunity to benefit financially.'

The phrase 'guilt-free' is interesting. No business survives without promotion, and no-one should feel the need to apologise for promoting their business - and yet, like many genealogy professionals, talking about fees often makes me uncomfortable. (Perhaps this week's discussion will help me to get over that!) I love helping people, and I spend quite a lot of time on genealogical activities for which I am not paid. It is not always easy to achieve the right balance between genealogy for fun and genealogy as a business.

In most of my blog posts I freely share my knowledge of family history sources, techniques etc. Occasionally I mention my own services or publications, but my blogs are more educational than promotional. They do not yet have many readers so they generate virtually no revenue from ads. For my main Web site, which shows Google ads, the situation is quite different. With a Google Adsense account I can tweak the HTML code to control which part of the page the ad server reads when it is deciding what advertisements will match the page content. I can also block ads that I feel are not appropriate for my site. This means that most ads displayed are relevant to my readers. It costs them nothing to click on an ad and get more details, and I earn about $600 per year (enough to cover the cost of my Web hosting fees and Internet connection). But, as I said, that is from my Web site, not my blogs.

What Do You Mean It Isn't Free?

I was impressed by the article You Pay Your Plumber, Don't You? (Thomas MacEntee). Many people simply do not understand what is involved in handling a research request, so I now put this on my Web site:

Fees are based on costs incurred and time spent on handling the commission. This includes the time it takes to analyse information supplied, contact you for clarification if insufficient data is provided initially, plan the research, search the records, assess results, order and collect photocopies, prepare reports, and read and respond to emails. Out-of-pocket expenses are extra (photocopies, phonecalls, certificates, photographs, postage, packaging etc). My hourly rate covers non-billable expenses such as stationery, computer hardware and software, equipment repairs, Internet access, Webpage costs, electricity, ongoing education (genealogy seminars, conferences and journals), books/fiche/CD-ROMs for my home reference library, etc.

Careers in Genealogy

For some interesting ideas see Careers in Genealogy: 'Off the Chart' Thinking (Thomas MacEntee) and How Do You Make Money in Genealogy? (Amy Coffin).

I earn money primarily from research, copying services and self-published books. The vast majority of my clients find me via my Web site, which has lots of free advice plus 53,000 names from archival sources that I have indexed. If you find a relevant name there, you can pay a 'copying service' fee and I will go to the Archives and copy the original document. (If you are determined, have lots of time and can visit the Archives in person, the source description on my Web page may be enough for you to find the document without my help.)

For speaking I usually charge a fee (unless the group is one to which I belong) and I expect to be reimbursed for all or most of my expenses (travel, accommodation etc). In Australia, Council libraries usually pay higher speaker's fees than genealogical societies. I do not give the same talk often enough for a speaker's fee to cover the time involved in preparing talks, overheads and handouts (not to mention travel time) - but in country areas people often buy my books after the talk, so that helps. In the future I hope to do more speaking, especially in rural areas and perhaps overseas. Some groups keep inviting me back, so they must think I give value for money. (I once extended a two-hour talk to four hours because the audience and I were enjoying ourselves so much, but I was a wreck afterwards!)

In Genealogy: Charting Your Own Course (Amy Coffin), Kerry Scott commented that 'some of the traditional advice to would-be professional genealogists can be (unintentionally) very discouraging.' There is a fine line between 'discouraging' and 'realistic'. Personally I like to understand the potential risks and rewards before putting a lot of time, effort and money into setting up a business. I am so often asked about genealogy as a career that I have prepared a leaflet on the subject. I will publish that in a future blog post.


When my accountant looks at the figures for my genealogy business, she shakes her head and says, 'Why do you bother?' I explain that it is not my sole source of income; that it gives me a lot of pleasure; and that being able to claim genealogy conference expenses as a tax deduction is a big plus! I do have plans for expanding and diversifying my business, but everything is on hold while I deal with family commitments, health issues, bereavement and executor duties. In the meantime, I am learning as much as I can from this wonderful community of genealogy bloggers. Thanks, folks!
I use and recommend

30 March 2011

Genealogy Conference on a Cruise (Pacific Dawn)

Pacific Dawn
On March 19th, when P & O's Pacific Dawn sailed out of Brisbane on a 7-night cruise to Noumea, Lifou and Vanuatu, the 2,000+ passengers included a group of about 250 family historians and their travelling companions. With a conference on a cruise, genealogists can 'do their thing' without feeling guilty, knowing that their families / friends are enjoying themselves elsewhere on the ship. This was Unlock The Past's first genealogy cruise, and overall it was a great success, thanks to the hard work of the Unlock The Past team and Clean Cruising.

Many of our group were family history 'beginners' (or close to it), and they seemed to find the lectures very helpful. Experienced genealogists who have heard many of the talks before probably picked up a few new tips or were reminded of neglected research tasks on their 'To Do' list. I suspect that all of us learned something useful during informal chats in places like the queue for breakfast!

Many people asked why I was not one of the speakers. For me, the cruise was primarily a much-needed holiday after two very difficult years. The genealogy component was a bonus; and I enjoyed making new friends and catching up with colleagues whom I rarely see. I've attended more than one hundred genealogy events, but this was my first cruise, so you can probably guess which aspect of the week I found most appealing!

Here are some extracts from my 'cruise diary':

Our cabin
Saturday: We were in the first group to board, so I had plenty of time to explore the ship, which is magnificent (and huge). Rain and poor visibility cannot dampen my spirits - I'm on holidays! I studied the blurb in our cabin to find out where things are (eg, non-smoking deck areas are on the port side, and an English afternoon tea is served in the dining room on days at sea). I'm glad I stayed awake long enough to go to the spectacular laser show in the Atrium at 10:30pm.

Walking track
Sunday: After a few doses of Nux Vomica, any hint of seasickness vanished completely. The main talks are in large rooms, but apparently we need to be downstairs by 7:30am to be in the race for seats for talks in the small Captain's Lounge. After a claustrophobic 15-minute wait near the lifts to be escorted there, I think I'll give the Captain's Lounge a miss in future. I was disappointed that Lesley Silvester ran out of time before she got to the 19th century in her 'Social History' talk. For 17th-18th centuries she recommended Early English Books Online, British History Online and Eighteenth Century Collections Online, ? at University libraries. Carol Baxter (an excellent speaker) talked about the 'Biographical Database of Australia'. Leigh Summers spoke about 'Fashion History' (interesting - good to see topics like this on the programme). The rain finally stopped late today, so I burned off some calories on the walking track in the cooler evening air.

Towel elephant
Monday: Today's non-genealogy events included an interesting 'virtual tour' of the ship's bridge (Pacific Dawn can go from 'full speed ahead' to 'stopped' in one mile); two shows (Transformation by Pacific Cirque, and Tahitian Experience, a local folkloric show); and a Cruise Fair (which included demonstrations of how to fold towels and table napkins to represent birds and animals). I am doing multiple circuits of the walking track morning and evening, and taking the stairs instead of waiting (forever) for a lift. The food is great, and there may be some truth in the joke about walking on as a passenger on Day 1 and being rolled off as cargo on Day 7. I would have liked to hear 'Google Your Family Tree' by Shauna Hicks, but the timing was unfortunate. I skipped it because I have Dan Lynch's book on the subject, and I heard his talks last year, and I really wanted to be on deck as we sailed into Noumea! I wish I'd booked a shore tour. Walking around by myself was not much fun, especially in oppressive heat and humidity. I've decided to give up on the themed discussions at lunch and dinner. With huge round tables for ten in a noisy room, I can only hear about 20% of the conversation.

Tuesday: Thanks to Chris and Ken, I found the secret spot at the front of the ship and had a great view as we approached Lifou. I didn't go ashore, mainly because of the heat, but from the ship we had great views of the beach, church etc. Leigh Summers gave an interesting talk on 'Contraception in the Victorian era'. A Mix-and-Mingle session (great idea) made it easier to find people we wanted to meet. Dinner in the dining room this evening was the best yet, with brilliant company (Adrian & Esther Cloonan and Kerin Stinear, family historians I've met on the cruise). Discussions are much more enjoyable at a smaller table!

Harbour at Port Vila, Vanuatu
Wednesday: I'm glad I got up early to take photos as we sailed into Port Vila. The small natural harbour is beautiful (and busy, with small boats, water taxis, jet skis, and even a man paddling a tinny with one oar). I took my time exploring the markets at the port. Many stalls have similar things, but I found some unique items that other people missed in their haste. Again, I wish I'd booked a tour or found someone with whom I could have explored by taxi or minibus. After a hot, humid day, it was lovely on deck as we sailed out of the harbour and into the sunset.

Carving watermelons
Thursday: I got up early for my morning walk and breakfast before Jeremy Palmer's 'Tracing Your Irish Ancestry' at 8am. Mike Murray's 'DNA for the Genealogist' was a complex subject, and many in the audience felt that there was too much scientific background and not enough about the tests that genealogists can use. I've heard several people speak on this topic, and Kerry Farmer's presentation at the Sydney Expo last year was by far the best. Shauna Hicks talked about digitised newspapers and other aspects of 'Trove'. She recommended setting up 'My Libraries' so you can see whether resources are available in your local area, and searching Picture Australia separately as well as within Trove. She also pointed out that Australian Research Online includes material useful for genealogy (University theses, papers by academics such as Dr. Jennifer Harrison, etc). Allan Murrin talked about 'FamilySearch' and mentioned that signing in (free) gives you access to extra collections.

Made from oranges & pineapples
Non-genealogy events today included a tour of the galley, which is huge, with separate sections for the preparation of sauces, fish, pastries etc. I was fascinated by the display of carved watermelons and other clever creations using fruit and vegetables. After dinner I went to a song and dance show (a tribute to the best of Motown) where the costume changes were even better than the music. After that came the baked alaska parade, a laser show and the champagne waterfall.

Friday: Cora Num's 'How Did They Get Here?' included good overheads about shipping and immigration records. She pointed out that National Archives of Australia records of passengers on ships to Western Australia in 1921-1949 include those who continued on to eastern ports. In 'Family History on the Cheap' (I can recommend the book) Shauna Hicks mentioned a trick with which I've had great success - namely, using postems on FreeBMD. Jan Gow's 'Let's Get Organised' showed many uses for the nifty little programme Treepad. I use the free version constantly, and I'm now considering an upgrade. Helen Smith's talk 'No Medicare for Them: How our ancestors accessed health care' mentioned Friendly Societies such as the Independent Order of Rechabites, whose records are apparently at the State Library of Queensland. Helen's overheads included material from my Web page about rules, costs and conditions for patients at Burketown Hospital in the early 1900s. Helen also mentioned mental asylum records (some of which I have indexed). It is important to understand the differences between records of mental asylums and benevolent asylums.

The outstanding non-genealogy event today was Meet the Captain, an entertaining and informative question-and-answer session with Captain Neil Turnbull. He told a story about a drunken passenger who fell overboard and was rescued and back on the ship within seven minutes (impressive!) I also loved the story about 2000 Australians going to the front of the ship to see a tsunami. (If there is a tsunami warning, the ship heads for deep water where a tsunami has much less impact.)

Saturday: I overslept and missed most the view of Brisbane as we came up the river, docking at 6am. The disembarkation process was incredibly well organised. In no time at all we were off the ship, had collected our luggage and were through Customs... and the holiday was over!

Would I do another cruise on the Pacific Dawn? Definitely!

Would I go to another genealogy conference on a cruise? Yes, if the speakers, the ship and the route appealed to me. (Some genealogists had family or friends who thought about coming on this cruise but decided they didn't want the hassle and expense of getting a passport.)

With the wisdom of hindsight, what would I do differently if I could do it all again? I would have dinner earlier and make a point of going to all the shows in the Show Lounge or Atrium; and I would book one or two shore tours in advance.

What would I change as far as the conference was concerned? I will need to think about that before the organisers send me a feedback form! Three things spring immediately to mind: (1) Having to rush down each morning to book for talks is no fun (but I realise that P & O's arrangements meant that there was no other option on this cruise). (2) Pin-on name tags would be better, as it was usually impossible to read name tags on lanyards. (3) Themed discussions at lunch and dinner are good in theory, but would work much better at tables for six.

If you were on this cruise, what were your favourite aspects of it? Would you go again?

P.S. - For different viewpoints, and tips from talks that I didn't hear, read what Jenny, Shauna, Aimee and Helen said about the conference and cruise.

30 January 2011

Natural Disasters and Family History

If a natural disaster occurred today, would your family history records survive?

In Hurricane Katrina and the Canberra bush fires, three of my clients lost everything. I was able to send replacement copies of my reports, plus the genealogical data and certificates that accompanied their requests - but many professional genealogists do not keep client files for very long.

During the past month, five Australia States have been affected by catastrophic floods, and an 'inland tsunami' destroyed one small town. Several other towns were hastily evacuated by helicopter. 75% of Queensland (an area larger than Texas) has been declared a Disaster Area. Now three cyclones (one potentially a Category 5) are expected to cross the coast in Queensland and Western Australia within five days. Severe weather events are becoming more frequent, and they are occurring in areas that have not traditionally been at risk. If you live in an area where bush fires, cyclones, hurricanes or tornadoes are common, you may be ready. The rest of us? Maybe not.

In the recent floods, electricity and mobile phone towers went out very early in some areas. Many people could not be warned to evacuate because they did not have a standard (non-cordless) telephone or a battery-operated radio. (Let that be a lessen to us all!) In pouring rain, with flood waters approaching Brisbane, I helped a friend prepare to move some of her belongings to storage on high ground. She has 10,000 books. Where to start packing?! That story had a happy ending, but it certainly made me think.

I live a long way from the river, but a major flood extends into large creeks, which could flow back into the small creek behind my house. If local heavy rain had continued, creeks would have been full before the flood peak arrived, and I might have had water through my house. As a precaution, I loaded the car with important personal and business documents, family history folders and notebooks, photos, laptop computer, data backups, mobile phone and charger, torch, radio, spare batteries, clothes, toiletries, medications, sheets, towel, pillow, blanket, and some food and water. Inside the house I lifted as many things as possible onto benches and tables.

It turned out to be total overkill, but it was good practice. For future reference, I have made a list (in order of priority) of other things that I would try to save if I had time. High on my list would be irreplaceable mementos from my travels (handcrafted wooden and pottery miniatures) and the beautiful beefwood fruit bowl, magazine rack, picture frames, coffee tables and book cases that my father made from timber he felled on the grazing property where I grew up.

Many Web sites have advice on disaster preparedness. As a family historian, I have some additional comments:
  • Think about what is stored where. Should items in lower shelves and drawers be moved higher?
  • If you only had minutes to grab books, could you find the ones you treasure most?
  • Some disasters wipe out an entire town. Store one electronic backup locally and another much further away, preferably interstate.
  • If you have a free account with Google, Yahoo, Hotmail etc, send yourself emails with important files attached, and save them there. You can retrieve them from any computer with Internet access (eg, at a library).
  • Upload a GEDCOM file to Rootsweb's WorldConnect (free). You can download it if you need it.
  • Various Web sites (eg, State Library of Qld) have advice on salvaging items damaged by water. Print a copy and store it in your Emergency Evacuation Kit (with some freezer bags).
  • If your computer is submerged, it may still be possible to retrieve data from the hard drive.
  • Read Geneabloggers' guides to data backup and disaster recovery plans.

24 January 2011

Ancestor Approved Award - my nominations

I have been neglecting my blogs due to a heavy workload, family problems, executor duties, a minor back injury, the floods, etc. I therefore felt quite unworthy when Pauleen wrote, I've nominated you for the Ancestor Approved Award as thanks for all your hard work in Queensland family history research.' Pauleen nominated my Queensland Genealogy blog, and this 'Genealogy Leftovers' blog was later nominated by Sassy Jane Genealogy.

The Award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou (whose blog is 'Ancestors Live Here') to acknowledge genealogy blogs that are 'full of tips and tricks as well as funny and heartwarming stories'. Recipients are asked to list ten surprising, humbling or enlightening aspects of their research, and to pass on the award to ten other researchers. Here are my lists.
  1. I was surprised to discover (years later) that a girl in my class at school was my third cousin.
  2. In the early days of my research, while tramping around Helidon cemetery looking for the grave of my great-grandparents James Campbell WEBSTER and Ellen BUTLER, I was surprised to find a nearby headstone for my other great-grandparents, George and Mary HUDSON. I promptly started researching that family too!
  3. As a tourist visiting the museum at Sale, Victoria, I was astonished to find portraits (by Alfred BOCK) of my great-great-grandmother's brother (John CAMPBELL of 'Glencoe') and his wife Susan.
  4. I was surprised to find (from a Justice Department register of criminal depositions) that my mother's uncle, who served in WWI, received a suspended sentence for stealing as a public servant.
  5. I was surprised when records of the Clan Campbell Archives, Inveraray, Scotland, confirmed a family story that my great-great-grandmother, Julia CAMPBELL, was related to one of the Dukes of Argyll. (I will be even more surprised if there is any truth in the rumour that my English grandmother, Florence HUDSON, was related to a 'Sir Benjamin PEACOCK'.)
  6. I was humbled and enlightened by my father's stories about life in outback Queensland. He described his 1920s childhood, education, daily routines, health and home remedies, changes in domestic technology, community attitudes, social events, the Great Depression, the War years, etc.
  7. I was greatly enlightened by an old family document (sent to me by a distant relative) with exact birth dates for William HUDSON and his wife Christiana. This confirmed that an 1806 baptism record was indeed for 'my' William HUDSON. That record names William's maternal grandparents!
  8. The same distant relative also sent me a most enlightening letter, dated 1879, from William HUDSON to his son Charles. It was a thrill to see William's handwriting and to form an impression of the man from the tone, content and composition of his letter.
  9. I am humbled by the generosity of Michael FLYNN, who shares his discoveries about our PORTER ancestors. Michael is the author of The Second Fleet: Britain's Grim Convict Armada of 1790. He also writes for the new magazine Inside History.
  10. I am surprised that more family historians do not use the free on-line guides and catalogues for National, State and other Archives. Some of the most enlightening sources are there, but will never be on the Internet!
In no particular order, here are ten blogs that I enjoy:
Four of my other favourites have already been mentioned by Pauleen: