Posts filed under ‘Education’

Ancestor Approved Award

Ancestor Approved

Ancestor Approved Award

I was delighted to be nominated for the Ancestor Approved Award from Pauleen at ‘Family history across the seas‘.

I have been busy preparing for an engagement party, worrying about weather and tidiness – but then came horrifying tales of the floods. How could I worry about rain at the party, when others were struggling with the loss of lives and possessions? Likewise, when I consider the difficulties and personal tragedies faced by some of my ancestors, it puts into perspective my own concerns.

This Award was created by Leslie Ann Ballou at Ancestors Live Here and asks two things of those who receive it:

  1. They should write 10 surprising, humbling, or enlightening aspects of their research
  2. Pass the award on to 10 other researchers whose family history blogs are doing their ancestors proud.

So here are my 10 surprising, humbling or enlightening findings, in no particular order of importance:

  1. I am humbled by the difficulties faced by immigrant ancestors, like David and Jane MOORE and their three small children, who were shipwrecked when the “Sacramento” was wrecked at Point Lonsdale, Victoria, in 1853. They were rescued, but their possessions were lost. Our ancestors faced incredible difficulties leaving their families and settling so far away.
  2. I am humbled by the personal sacrifice of the many young men who ‘did their duty’ and fought in the various wars overseas. Whether they died overseas or returned to deal with their memories of war, they were willing to ‘do their bit’.
  3. I was surprised and enlightened when I found (via the internet) the relative in England who held a letter from 1903, which detailed how the ancestor I’d long been searching for had also lived under another alias.
  4. I was surprised by the number of ancestors who committed bigamy (or else had more than one partner at the same time, with children, and without marrying either partner). It was enlightening to read the detailed report of the Old Bailey Trial of my 4g.grandfather, Thomas MILLS, who married 3 times and was sentenced to transportation for 7 years for bigamy.
  5. I was surprised by the number of my ancestors who went bankrupt, and enlightened by reading the detailed accounts of their debts and possessions.
  6. Searching the births and then the deaths indexes for NSW, I was humbled and saddened to discover that Thomas and Ann ETHERINGTON lost 9 children in 20 years – one daughter reached 18 years, the rest did not survive to double digits. Then Thomas died, and Ann lived another 30 years as a widow.
  7. I am enlightened and fascinated when interviewing elderly relatives, with the details of early lives. For example, an elderly relative spoke of her grandfather’s car and how he would chain a log to the back of his car, to function as a break when he drove down the long slope from Armidale to Tamworth.
  8. I was enlightened by 2 reported desertions from the army of an ancestor, William Joseph ETHERINGTON. Orphaned at aged 7, he travelled with his brother to Victoria and enlisted as a drummer boy. When the regiment was to leave Victoria, he deserted and was recaptured. He deserted again in New Zealand 2 years later, trying to get back to Victoria. Police gazettes gave detailed physical descriptions at the time of each desertion, so now I even know how much he grew in those 2 years.
  9. I was surprised to discover that my ancestor, James BOND (with a son Felix), belonged to the BOND family whose motto was ‘The world is not enough’.
  10. I have been surprised to discover several family members who were not the child of their commonly believed ‘parents’.

Our ancestors are not just names and dates, but were real people, and we understand them better when we consider how we would cope with some of the events in their lives.

And now to nominate 10 other researchers whose blogs are doing their family proud: (I’m sure some of these would have been nominated before.)

  1. Shauna Hicks at  http://www.shaunahicks.com.au/shhe-genie-rambles/ (Someone else has probably already nominated Shauna, as she does so much for family history in Australia)
  2. Australian Genealogy Journeys at http://ausgenjourneys.blogspot.com/
  3. Lyn Dear at http://genealogy-new-zealand.blogspot.com/
  4. Carol Baxter at http://www.carolbaxter.com/blog/
  5. Family History South Australia at http://familyhistorysa.blogspot.com/
  6. Kylie Willison at http://kyliewillison.blogspot.com/
  7. Kirsty Wilkinson at http://professionaldescendant.blogspot.com/
  8. Blair Archival Research at The Passionate Genealogist
  9. London Roots Research at http://londonrootsresearch.blogspot.com/
  10. Amanda Epperson at http://scottishemigration.blogspot.com/

17 January, 2011 at 6:03 pm 5 comments

Testing genealogy knowledge

This week I prepared my first exam, for the ‘Australian Births, Deaths and Marriages’ course for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. I actually found it surprisingly difficult, partly because I remember sitting many exams in the past & finding fault with multiple choice questions where answers could be argued.

How do you measure somebody’s skills at using births, deaths and marriages indexes, and interpreting certificates? I didn’t want all answers to be found in the notes. (Although knowing “What year did civil registration start in NSW?” – 1856 – might be useful, because there is usually more information on a civil birth certificate than the early church records baptism certificate.)

I believe that effectively using BDM indexes is more about your searching skills and being able to analyse and look for clues in the results found. Such skills improve over time – perhaps because after falling into a trap you are less likely to do so next time.

In this exam I tested skills like recognising the possibility of spelling variations, where you won’t find the birth if you search for the name exactly as it appeared in the death index (using a wildcard helps). Or linking that bride named Annie with the birth of a daughter named Ann.

I think these are the real skills of researching family history. Not jumping to conclusions when you stumble on one person who happens to have the right name and is born in the right place, before looking to see if they might have died as an infant and so could not possibly be the groom in a marriage 25 years later.  Alternatively if you look and don’t find, then thinking  about how else to search.

Researchers need to be aware that just because the marriage certificate said they married at age 20, doesn’t mean it’s true. I always start searching a range of dates and increase or decrease the range if necessary. One couple in my family had 5 children and then were married. (The bride was previously married and could not remarry until after the death of her first husband.) I would not have found the marriage if I only looked before the birth of their first child.

One skill that improves over time that I did not test in this exam, is handwriting recognition. (Ironically someone in my family has dreadful handwriting and he is fantastic at helping me interpret old hard-to-read handwriting.)

What do you think of this? (I remember how hard I found this at first, but now it seems not bad.)

Recognising handwriting in a will

10 December, 2010 at 5:38 pm 1 comment

Busy times – and handouts

I’ve been very busy lately, writing and teaching, but without time to write new blog entries.

At the recent History and Genealogy Expo, run by Unlock The Past,  I gave talks entitled ‘Which Genealogy Program?’ and ‘DNA for Genealogists’.

Which Genealogy Program?‘ is the title of the book I wrote with Rosemary Kopittke, and it is available through Gould Genealogy & Heraldry. Actually today I finished the revisions for an updated edition 2 of the book, which will be launched next week at the History and Genealogy Roadshow. Edition 2 of the book includes reviews of the latest versions of Ezitree Plus, Family Tree Maker 2011 and MacFamily Tree.

A second talk I gave at the Expo was ‘DNA for Genealogists’, and a short excerpt from my talk can be seen in this clip. (Having seen it, I realise that I really must learn to trust the remote controls for changing slides, so I don’t need to keep looking down at the computer in order to step through the slides of my presentations!)

I have also attended the ‘Lost in the Internet’ seminar at the State Library of NSW, conducted by the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG). My topic to speak on there was ‘How Pay-to-view Websites can be Good Value’. A photo from that day can be seen here.

Today Louise St Denis, the Managing Director of the National Institute of Genealogical Studies (NIGS) released some information that will also be announced next week at the Roadshow – I am to be the Director of Australian Studies for an Australian Certificate course run through NIGS. Her announcement can be seen here. The various courses will be released over 2011.

Anyway all that is why I haven’t had time to write about anything in particular, although I have actually been doing a lot of genealogical writing. With all these talks, I decided to make available on my website the handouts from some of the talks I have given in the last few years. (Bear in mind that some of these handouts were prepared some years ago – each shows the date indicating when it was prepared.)

I retain the copyright, but hopefully at least some of the information contained might be useful for others. Handouts include: Arrivals (Immigration); Australian births, deaths & marriages; Australian government archives; DNA for genealogists; Pay-to-view websites; New Zealand research; Publishing personal research to the Internet; Scottish research; Victorian Goldrush; Western Australian genealogy.

2 November, 2010 at 8:04 pm 2 comments


Discoveries and musings of a family history researcher and instructor - including tips and hints.

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