The earliest records available in the new colonies were the church records of baptisms, marriages and burials. Many people are missing from these registers – not all records have survived and not everybody had a church ceremony (especially in those places where initially only the Anglican Church was recognised).
In due time, governments needed better records of the people in the colony, so they introduced government-administered registration of births, deaths and marriages – or civil registration. District registrars were appointed and information was reported to them. In an age where many people were illiterate, registrars had to guess how to spell the names. (Remember this when searching for names in indexes – often the reason for not finding someone is because of spelling variations.)
Church ceremonies continued to take place, so it may be possible to obtain a copy of the information collected by the church, as well as the corresponding civil certificate.
As a general rule, the government asked for more information on civil certificates than was contained in the corresponding church record – but sometimes the opposite is true. For example, NSW marriage certificates (especially in the 1860s and 1870s) may not include information such as parents’ names and occupations, even though such information might be found in the corresponding church record.
As English and Welsh civil registration began on 1st July 1837, the earliest Australasian colonies to issue civil certificates (of birth, death and marriage) followed the English model:
- Birth registrations asked for the child’s name, date and place of birth and the names of the parents
- Marriages registrations asked for the couple’s names, ages, residences and occupations and sometimes details of the fathers
- Death registrations included questions about the deceased’s name, age and occupation as well as the date, place and cause of death
When the Victorian government began civil registration in 1853, they requested more information on certificates. Other colonies (and Scotland) that introduced civil registration later largely followed the Victorian practice of collecting the additional information, such as:
- Birth registrations also asked for the parents’ ages, place of birth and marriage details, and details of previous children
- Marriage registrations asked for the couple’s birthplaces and details of both fathers and mothers
- Death registrations asked for the deceased’s birthplace, parents’ and spouse’s names, marriage details, children’s names and burial place
Some or all of these additional fields of information on Victorian certificates were added in later years to the certificates of the regions that had earlier followed the English style of certificates.
Colonies that followed the English model were:
- Tasmania, earlier known as Van Diemen’s Land (from 1 December 1838)
- Western Australia (from 9 September 1841)
- South Australia (from 1 July 1842)
- Northern Territory was administered by South Australia from 1863 to 1911, so their civil BDM certificates (from 24 Aug 1870) follow the South Australian pattern
- New Zealand (from 1848) – although registration was not compulsory until 1856
The colonies that followed the Victorian model were:
- Victoria (from 1 July 1853)
- New South Wales (from 1 March 1856)
- Queensland did not separate from NSW as a separate colony until 1859, so their earliest civil certificates were issued from NSW (1856-59)
- Australian Capital Territory (from 1 January 1930) – prior to that in NSW records
Even when registration was compulsory, not all births, deaths and marriages were registered and some registrations have been lost (especially in the early years). Perhaps the parties had to travel some distance to the District Registrar, and might not have bothered. They might have distrusted the government and been unwilling to supply the information.
Even if you find the certificate, just because a question is asked, does not mean that the informant knew the answer. Under such circumstances a field might be left blank, or the informant might simply have made a guess.
For example, in NSW the parents were required to register a birth, the minister registered marriages, and it was the responsibility of the owner of a house to register a death. If the parents registering a birth were unmarried, unwillingness to admit this might lead to an invented marriage date. Similarly a young couple might lie about their ages in order to marry without their parents’ permission.
Death certificates are notorious for errors and missing information. The informant might not have known the information – the son of an immigrant might never have met their grandparents, and so might not know their names. If the death took place in a hospital or institution, the owner might not know family details. There are death certificates where even the name of the deceased is unknown.
Each state and territory has their own Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. There are microfiche indexes, CD-ROM indexes and sometimes online indexes. Not all indexes contain exactly the same information, and sometimes an item is missing from one index but present in another. So if you can’t find the entry in an online index, try visiting a library or genealogy society that holds microfiche and/or CD-ROM indexes.
For privacy reasons there is restricted public access to ‘recent’ certificates of births, deaths and marriages. Each state or territory determines their own definition of ‘recent’. Generally more restrictions have been put in place for online indexes than existed at the time of the earlier microfiche and CD-ROM indexes. So if you can access these earlier indexes, you may be able to search more recent indexes than are available online.
When searching indexes, always ensure you write down reference numbers for records of interest, as certificates may be cheaper with reference numbers supplied. For NSW and South Australia it is possible to obtain transcriptions more cheaply than certificates. (Such transcriptions are not legal documents, but as they include all the information on the certificates, they may be suitable for genealogical purposes.)
Victorian online indexes cost to search, however it is possible to obtain a copy as an unofficial ‘historic document’ more cheaply than an official certificate. For New Zealand, obtaining a ‘printout’ of the information on a post-1874 document is cheaper than obtaining a standard certificate.
(This article was written for findmypast.com.au)
- Links to Australian indexes of BDM & transcription agents
- Contact details for Australian Registries of BDM, and costs of certificates (Cora Num)
- Available Australian BDM indexes (Cora Num)
- See also my blog post on BDM certificates & saving money
I’ve written previously about how I visited the archives and museums in Poznan and Leszno (Poland) looking for further information about my ancestors (Samuel and Isaac SHUTER, sons of Michael) before they migrated to London in 1848.
A recent episode of the TV show ‘Who do you think you are?’ (about actress June Brown) prompted me to look again at ancestors who came to London from Amsterdam – in particular Joseph MYERS. I’d seen books that included hundreds of years of Dutch Jewish records, but at that time I didn’t know how the Anglicized names I was seeing might have appeared in Dutch records.
Harold Lewin’s book (‘Marriage Records of the Great Synagogue London 1791-1885′) has been of great assistance in identifying the marriages of my ancestors in London. For most of the 18th, 19th and even early 20th century, the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place London was the main synagogue for Ashkenazi Jews (those who came from German and Eastern Europe, as opposed to the Sephardic Jews who came from Spain and Portugal). Because of the use of patronymic names, Jewish records contain not only details of the bride and groom, but also their fathers, and often addresses and sometimes ages. Because the Great Synagogue was the main place of worship for so long, families can be traced back over several generations, perhaps eventually identifying the original family member who migrated to London.
[For those unable to see Harold Lewin's book, Angela Shire also compiled a book 'Great Synagogue Marriage Registers 1791-1850' which might be more readily available and is also available through Amazon.co.uk. Shire's book has a little less information per entry but additional cross-indexing, when compared to Lewin's book.]
My 4xgreat.grandfather Joseph MYERS married Rebecca COHEN at the Great Synagogue in London in 1819. From the UK census of 1851, I learned that he was born in Amsterdam, probably around 1792. Harold Lewin’s book provided his patronymic name of Yosef Yozpa b. Shmuel Halevi – Joseph Juzpa, son of Samuel the Levite. Joseph’s sister Anna was enumerated with him in the 1851 and 1871 censuses – records show that she had been born about 1795 in Amsterdam. [In Shire's book he is given as Joseph Yozefa s. of Shmuel HaLevi.]
That was as much as I knew for many years, until recently I decided to have another look for Joseph in the Dutch Jewish records – and hopefully online.
I found the wonderful website called Dutch Jewry and within that the Ashkenazi Marriage database and the ‘Ashkenazi in Amsterdam’ database.
The Amsterdam Municipal Archives possess a complete set of registers of intended marriages from 1578 to 1811, the year when the present Civil Registry was started. Between 1598 and 1811, 15238 Jewish couples were entered in these books. (http://www.dutchjewry.org/tim/jewish_marriage_in_Amsterdam.htm)
The compilers of the online Ashkenazi in Amsterdam database have gathered together records of circumcisions, marriages, cemetery records and more, grouped into families – allowing researchers like me easy access to information held in a place I cannot easily visit and written in a language I could not read. I still might not have found my ancestor, except that I sent an email to the owners of the site, giving the information I had and asking for advice. I received a very helpful reply identifying that my Joseph Juzpa MYERS, son of Samuel, was likely to be the same person as Joseph Juzpe Kapper, son of Samuel Meyer Kapper – who previously had the family name of Levie-Drukker (Levie referring to ‘of the Levite tribe’ and ‘Drukker’ meaning ‘printer’). When the family had been naturalized in 1811, they adopted the surname Kapper (meaning ‘barber’).
According to those Dutch records, Joseph Juzpe was born 26 January 1793, of parents Samuel Meyer (Kapper) and Mariana Gans. The Dutch records confirmed that his sister Anna was born in 1795 in Amsterdam, and he also had brothers Joseph (probably deceased young), Simon, Meyer, Mozes and Nathan. So far I have followed the Dutch records back on some lines to my 9xgreat.grandparents. It’s not all just ‘names and dates’ either – there are fascinating detailed glimpses of family members in other records.
I haven’t yet finishing following my ancestors through all the available information, but apparently at least one of the families came originally from Hamburg to Amsterdam and another from Frankfurt, so there are clear directions about where to look next for earlier generations.
Recently I’ve spoken to a number of people involved in projects researching those who enlisted for World War 1. As the centenary of WW1 approaches, the many commemoration projects seem to be running largely in isolation.
Some projects are run in conjunction with local libraries, with volunteer researchers adding information to local studies collections. Other projects aim to produce CDs or books to be sold.
The lack of coordination between the various projects could lead to overlapping of people of interest. Someone might have been born in Mosman, but lived in Ryde at the time of enlisting – and so both areas’ projects might flag the individual as someone to be researched. Indeed that individual may even appear on the war memorial in yet another location, if a family member contributed the soldier’s name to their local war memorial.
When research resources are scarce, it makes sense for there to be some coordination between the projects to identify which individuals are being researched and in which resources. How best to do this? Local studies librarians’ networks allow sharing information about their projects, but what about projects not coordinated by libraries?
One possibility might be adding a small notice onto the Mapping our Anzacs website, which allows submissions of scrapbook entries. Obviously anyone can contribute photos or research about the lives of family members, but it would also be possible to add a scrapbook post that says something like ‘This individual is being researched by the Mosman 1914-18 project – further information can be found at …’
Thus whether the information gathered in research is intended to be freely available at a library or website, or even sold in a commercial publication, anyone interested in that WW1 participant would be directed to further information. Also the various project coordinators could make informed decisions about whether or not to proceed with researching an individual already being considered as part of another project.
‘War memorials in NSW’ includes a spreadsheet of summary information about names on particular memorials. The various projects could consider adding information to those spreadsheets, and also add details of additional memorials to those already included on the site.
Those involved in the various projects should also be aware of the Australian Government Anzac Centenary funding grants and publicity.
What other projects are you aware of?
It’s a common experience for genealogists – tracking ancestors forward through the UK censuses – to find that suddenly the whole family seems to vanish from the records. Eventually it might occur to us to wonder, did they migrate somewhere? If so, where did they go?
This is where the collection ‘Passenger lists leaving the UK 1890–1960′ on findmypast.com.au can be so useful. These are the digitised and indexed lists of passengers embarking on long-distance voyages made from all British ports (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales). If the ship stopped en route at additional ports, such as in Europe, passengers disembarking at those stops are also included. The original documents are held in The National Archives UK in series BT 27 (BT = Board of Trade). Findmypast has indexed together all departures from all British ports, allowing researchers to enter their ancestor’s name of interest and determine the destination.
The most common way of searching for immigrant ancestors is to search the archives of the destination country. But which government archives to check? In the case of passengers to Australia, the individual colonies (and then states) administered immigration separately until 1922, after which immigration control became a function of the Commonwealth Government. (A further complication when looking for immigration records is that, just as today, immigration is typically handled at the first port of call.)
Using findmypast.com.au, there is a better way. Look under ‘Travel & migration’ and select the record set ‘Passenger Lists Leaving the UK 1890-1960’. I was searching for the migration of my grandmother, Olwena KELLETT, who was born in Lancashire in 1901. I entered her name (with first name variants) and searched between 1901 and 1907. It is a free search – not even requiring a subscription to do the search.
I selected ‘name variants’ – which also allows for the fact that some passenger lists only identify people by an initial. I found her in 1905, where she travelled from Britain to South Africa.
The above information is as far as you can go with a free search. It requires a subscription or PayAsYouGo credits to see the transcription of the results or full image of the page. The amount of information available on the passenger lists varies widely over time. Some only have minimal information about the passengers, while others include their dates of birth, occupations, and addresses in Britain before departure as well as their ultimate destinations overseas.
I had already found the record of the family’s arrival in Australia, and had assumed they had travelled on that same ship from London to Sydney. But instead little Olwena travelled with her mother to South Africa first, and then 2 years later the family travelled on to Sydney.
As many of the passenger indexes available in Australia concentrate on ships that came from British ports, ancestors who travelled first to places like South Africa or North America might not be included in the indexes of arrivals in Australia. Looking instead at the departures from Britain might help us understand what happened.
Just as today, not every person travelling was an immigrant. Apart from the seamen, many of our ancestors (such as merchants) travelled for work and people travelled for holidays. Families who had already migrated travelled back to Britain to visit family and friends. In other words, a surprising number of our ancestors appear in passenger lists crossing the oceans. Using the indexes of passengers leaving Britain provides a very useful additional way of tracking their journeys.
DNA technology is advancing so rapidly that it is difficult to keep abreast of the advances and possibilities. Moreover rapidly falling prices make genetic testing more affordable and so more accessible. Here are some current options:
Test 1: Y-chromosome tests, for males to test DNA inherited from their father’s fathers
It is now possible for under US$200 for males to test the DNA they have inherited from their father’s father’s fathers, with sufficient accuracy to determine whether two men likely share a common ancestor ‘within a genealogical timeframe’ and how many generations ago that common ancestor probably lived.
I have used this test to discern whether two families with the same surname were actually related to each other, in situations where I have not yet found documentary proof. I have also used this particular DNA test to check (and finally refute) a theory about who might have been the biological father of an adopted male. It was necessary to find a living male descendant (down an all-male line) from the adopted male and also to find a living male descendant (down an all-male line) from the hypothesised birth father, and then compare the DNA that each inherited from their father’s fathers.
DNA is not related to surnames and so I am not restricted to testing two men with the same surname – the test is valid for any two men who might share a common male ancestor. However when I order this test, if I choose to use a commercial testing company like Family Tree DNA – which has a huge (and growing) database – I might find in their database a match with some living descendant who shares a common ancestor that I did not know about. This is especially useful for adoptees.
The above DNA test is only available to males (as only males have a Y-chromosome). Females like me need to ask a near male relative to be tested. I have asked my father and also my mother’s brother to be tested – this opens up for examination my nearest male lines.
Test 2: Mitochondrial tests, for anyone to test DNA inherited from their mother’s mothers
Useful DNA tests are no longer limited to males. We all have a different type of DNA (called mitochondria) that we inherit from our mother’s mother’s mothers. Mitochondria mutates so slowly that formerly the only conclusions we could draw from our maternal line was about ancient ancestors and their migratory patterns.
However that is no longer true. The company Family Tree DNA offers full sequence tests of all our mitochondria (DNA that is inherited from our mothers) that allow us to identify people who share an ancestor through our mother’s mother’s mothers, within about 200 years. [Thank you Bill Hurst for pointing out that while 23andMe also tests the 'coding region' of our mitochondria, they do not test or give results for all 16,571 locations, so theirs is not in fact a full sequence test.]
When the above matrilineal full sequence tests first became available, they cost close to $1,000. That price has dropped now to under US$300 (sometimes under $200).
Test 3: Autosomal tests, to test the DNA inherited half from each of our parents
We are not restricted to testing only the DNA of our father’s fathers or our mother’s mothers. Since 2010 it is possible to test the remaining nuclear DNA (that is, not the sex chromosomes). This DNA is called autosomal. Family Tree DNA calls their autosomal test Family Finder, while 23andMe calls a similar test Relative Finder. (Again these tests are under US$300 and sometimes under $200.)
These particular tests can check the DNA of our ancestors regardless of gender, because we inherit about half our autosomal DNA from each of our parents (and via them, from their ancestors) and this DNA can also be compared with the DNA of others. However as we inherit about one quarter of our DNA from each of our grandparents (and so about one eighth from each of our great grandparents) – eventually the inherited material from one particular ancestor becomes so small as to be difficult to identify definitively. Consequently, when comparing this autosomal DNA with someone else, our best conclusions are when the common ancestor lived no more than about 6 generations ago.
Use the tests in conjunction
While the above tests examine separate DNA, the tests can be used in conjunction. When looking at the summary of DNA results for people that 23andMe identified as likely to be my 3rd to 5th cousins (identified via the Relative Finder – or autosomal test), I noticed that one of the matches also seemed to have very similar Y-chromosome (father’s fathers) DNA to my mother’s brother. I sent an email and by swapping names of grandparents and their parents, we soon identified that this person was the son of a 3rd cousin to me (and so indeed within the range of 3rd to 5th cousins).
It is not necessary to understand how a car works in order to drive it, but it is necessary to know the functions of driving. In the same way it is unnecessary to understand much about the science of DNA in order to use it as a tool – but it is necessary to understand what sorts of questions can be answered by the different DNA tests so you know how to apply them as tools to aid your family history research.
This field is changing quickly
Because genetic tests available to the public are changing frequently (and certainly the prices are) readers need to beware of relying on conclusions written years ago or by someone who has not ‘kept up’ with tests currently available. This blog post is partly in response to an article I read this week entitled ‘The DNA dilemma’ – I do not agree with many of the conclusions in that piece.
It is no longer true to say that the only available information to be derived from maternal DNA (or mitochondria) is about ancient migrations of peoples – recent relatives can now be found by a full sequencing of the mitochondria (test available from Family Tree DNA for under $300).
It is no longer true that autosomal DNA can only make generalised indicators of race origins. (Autosomal DNA is sometimes referred to as ‘nuclear DNA’ but that is incorrect because the sex chromosomes are also inside the cell nucleus and the autosomes are the other pairs of chromosomes that are not the sex chromosomes.) Nor is it necessary to ‘test each generation in turn’. Autosomal DNA can identify that two people shared common ancestors within 6 generations (and possibly beyond, but it is less accurate beyond 6 generations). Many genealogists will not know all of their ancestors back even 6 generations, and so this DNA test can predict likely distant cousins who may not have been found by a paper trail.
There are differences between the DNA tests used in forensic law enforcement compared to commercial tests. Without going into too much scientific detail, legal forensics examine repeating groups of DNA at certain points on the autosomes whereas commercial autosomal tests examine the autosomal SNPs (something like ‘typo’ mutations). The tests are entirely different. Be wary about confusing the markers referred to in tests of the Y-chromosome (the DNA inherited father-to-son) – which are entirely different to the markers of autosomal DNA examined by forensic law enforcement agents.
Some people have suggested that male DNA studies are only relevant between males who share surnames. That is not true. There are many examples where family trees show a son with a different surname to his father – whether the name was changed by deed poll, by adoption, by remarriage of the mother – or for many other reasons. It is not the same surname that defines two people as father and son. Likewise DNA tests do not take surnames into account, so the test result is just as accurate whether two men share a surname or not.
In my opinion, the most recent DNA tests available to genealogists offer precise information which can supplement traditional genealogical methods. Family trees are still needed to identify ancestors and draw conclusions, however DNA tests can supplement other genealogical research, filling in gaps left by paper trails. With such tools we can test our conclusions and assumptions in constructed family trees as DNA can confirm or disprove reputed relationships. As databases grow, commercial DNA tests are more likely to help us find relatives that we might not have found by ‘traditional methods’.
For this year’s Anzac Day blog post, I thought I would share some extracts from a memoir written by my father-in-law, Noel Edward Farmer (1923 – 1999). In December 1941, after waiting impatiently for three months for the Navy to find a slot for a seaman who “knew how to handle boats”, Noel wrote to the Navy to ask if they were aware that Japan had entered the war. A month later a slot at Flinders Naval Depot was found. He was soon appointed a midshipman, although he rose to Lieutenant by the end of the war, and to Captain in the Naval Reserve.
The following extract describes an incident in 1942, when Noel was just 19.
‘Westralia’ went to Brisbane after Aitapee to pick up air force stores. When leaving the Brisbane River the gyro compass system broke down and the Navigator, running along the upper deck to the gyro room, fell over a deck bolt and was badly concussed. Young Farmer, despite or because of his lack of knowledge/experience at that time, was training as Navigator’s assistant and was promptly propelled into the top job – and hence the immediate task of taking a 14,000 ton vessel drawing 30′ through the Barrier Reef and Torres Strait to Darwin with only a magnetic compass. All Navy captains may, and all merchant masters must, unless they have specially qualified for an exemption, take on board a Torres Strait Pilot when making this trip of some 2,000 km – but not my Captain. I had a canvas deck chair placed on the port side of the bridge and spent the next five days there except for toilet visits below. The Captain did somewhat similar and about six days later Westralia berthed safely in Darwin. After about three months, and to my great surprise, the Captain’s secretary handed over a cheque in favour of Midshipman N E Farmer from the Navy in Canberra for about 14 pounds, with a chit attached saying “Pilotage – 1100 nautical miles at 3d per mile”.
This next extract describes a day in 1944, when Noel was aged 20.
It was a grisly day. … The 7th Fleet had a policy that any enemy soldier taken alive in a landing be sent promptly to a designated ship for interrogation. After replacing the originals on our ill fated southern beach with reserve troops I agreed to take two prisoners in my boat to be interrogated. When the prisoners were dragged to the beach they were young, hurt, shell-shocked and stark naked. My boat was beached, bow on, about ten feet from the water’s edge so that anyone boarding had to walk out into water at least one foot deep. The prisoners were in no condition to walk. Their escorts informed me that they were not intending to carry the cretins aboard and began to swing the first by hands and feet to throw him about fifteen feet on to the steel deck.
“Not on,” I said. “Carry them aboard or take them back to your own medics for treatment.” It was the only argument I ever won with a revolver and a threat to shoot US servicemen, if they threw the prisoner aboard – I’ll never know if I would have shot them. For their part they were young, scared, had seen many of their buddies killed and were fearful of their short term future when darkness fell on a slaughterhouse beach.
When hoisted back aboard ‘Westralia’ on conclusion of that eventful day I was told to report to the Captain. He sat me down and handed me a signal from the Navy saying that brother Charles had died.
The final extract describes a time in January 1945, when Noel was 21.
When we entered Lingayen Gulf air attacks increased in fury and desperation. Every second plane seemed to be Kamikaze and after dropping its bomb load headed for its selection of target and tried to crash on its bridge. … As in Hollandia and Leyte, I led the first wave boats to our allotted beach. We kept on unloading troops, equipment and stores forever it seemed from all variety of ships. Our boats crews tried to ignore the fear and death around them – and tried to conceal their own gut feelings from the green troops we carried.
We fed off the land – that is, we broached the stores we carried to meet our needs – and that day I first saw and ate canned grapefruit pieces. I liked them and ate a lot. The US knew how to feed its front line troops. Here we were in Lingayen on day one with guns and bombs going bang, Kamikazes having a suicide picnic and death all about – cruising slowly towards a beach carrying tons of grapefruit pieces for those who survived to eat them.
Lest we forget.
I’ve just returned from the 13th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry Adelaide 2012, where I delivered one talk (on ‘Which Genealogy Program?‘) and attended more than 20 others. I thoroughly recommend attending genealogy conferences – they provide access to a wide variety of speakers, with the opportunity to ask questions and discuss particular issues in my own family history. Websites are changing daily, and as more information is published online, conferences such as these allow attendees to learn about what is available and what is coming.
In addition there is the ‘buzz’ of spending days with others who share my passion for family history research, often also learning from discussions with other conference attendees. Genealogists are generous with their knowledge and usually keen to support other enthusiasts. Once you start attending conferences, your circle of genealogy friends and contacts grows. A highlight for me at this Congress was meeting up with friends from around Australia and some internationals – some friends I had previously only ‘met’ online.
Morning and afternoon teas, lunches and dinners were all busy times. In addition to looking at the offerings of the exhibitors (purchasing books, trying out websites, asking questions of librarians and society members) I enjoyed catching up with genealogy friends and swapping contact details with ‘new friends’.
So many genealogists gathering in one place provides the opportunity for meetings with some groups, sometimes over a lunch or dinner. I am proud to be a member of ‘Genealogists for Families’, whose motto is ”We care about families (past, present and future)”. Through Kiva (a non-profit organisation) genealogists worldwide (and their non-genealogist relatives and friends) are working as a team to help less fortunate families. Kiva’s motto is “empower people around the world by making a $25 loan”. When many $25 loans are combined, borrowers without access to traditional banks can expand their business or support their families, and work towards raising themselves out of poverty. When the loan is repaid we can withdraw the money or lend it again.
Some of the ‘Genealogists for Families’ group in Adelaide met for dinner on the Wednesday (first) night of Congress. The dinner was an enjoyable time, with good food, chatting and much laughter, and when we passed around a collection box for spare coins, enough money was raised for 2 more Kiva loans.
Other nights were busy too: the (Tuesday) night before Congress was a Congress Welcome, Wednesday was the above Kiva dinner, Thursday night was a Lord Mayor of Adelaide’s function for speakers and exhibitors at Congress, and Friday night was the official Congress dinner.
Taking advantage of the trip to Adelaide, I flew over several days earlier in order to have some research time. Arriving on the Saturday afternoon before Congress, I spent Sunday and Monday researching in the State Library of South Australia and Tuesday at State Records South Australia. In addition I made brief visits to the Adelaide City Council Archives, to the Probate Registry – and also to photograph an old house in Norwood where my Grubb family ancestors made soft drinks in the late 19th century (F. C. Grubb soft drinks).
If you’re interested in family history and have any occasion to travel to where ancestors lived, prepare as much as possible before you travel. The time flies when you are actually in that library or archive office. You can be much more efficient if you have already searched online catalogues, and come prepared with references for books, microfiche, microfilms or computer files that you want to check. I had my netbook with my family history database, but I also had prepared reports of all those I knew were in South Australia at some time, so that I could quickly check whether accidental discoveries were likely to be my ancestors or not.
A digital camera is a great asset in libraries and archives offices, to quickly capture images of records found. A USB flash drive is also useful, as sometimes you can scan a document directly to a file. I had my new Flip-pal portable scanner with me (only owned for a week). Although scanning is slower than taking digital photographs, the Flip-pal did an excellent job of scanning & stitching documents and even screen images from microfiche or microfilm seen in the State Library. I was not allowed to use it in the State Archives.
So I’ve returned from a week in Adelaide with many books purchased, records scanned and photographed, pages and pages of lecture notes with clues to follow up for my family history – and also a backlog of emails and work that built up while I was away. One week in Adelaide is going to take me a lot longer than that to process! But it was a most enjoyable time and an experience I would heartily recommend.