It is now the end of Day Two of the Unlock the Past NSW Expo at Coffs Harbour. It has been a great day. There were again a wide range of talks available and I attended some excellent presentations today:
Finding the address isn't enough: the links between local and family history by Dr Carol Liston was very informative. It is so important when researching that your ancestors are more than names and dates. Putting your ancestors in context in their community gives life to them and they become people who work, live and play. Using local history resources to do this is essential and as the people we research were part of their communities if we don't use these resources we are short-changing our research.
Dr Liston gave a well rounded talk with very good resources and she showed how these resources were used in her own family research to answer some questions about how two people knew each other and subsequently married. The gasp of astonishment from a person in teh audience who recognised their own ancestor's name in the selection map being shown was enough to make all of us smile (and wish it was us!). The maps that are available in New South Wales for what appears to be a quite reasonable fee was remarkable. I wish I had lots of New South Wales research to take advantage of being able to get the files which allow you to track land ownership sent as a PDF.
This led beautifully into the next presentation by Nola Mackey on Regional Newspapers: their value to local and family history. We all know the value of newspapers for hatch, match and dispatch notices but they contain so much more. Nola explained some of the valuable things she had discovered while indexing papers and how the newspaper could give information not easily found elsewhere. this is particularly true of local papers. Apart from the disasters and major events that are always reported the activities of life are meat on the bones for us.
Knowing your ancestor won a medal at the shooting competition or scored a goal at the football match adds life to them. Knowing what the weather was like on the day they married, knowing that they had written a letter to the paper complaining about the state of the roads or the lack of a school. regional papers generally provide more local information than do the papers that cover a much larger area but all papers should be investigated and with Trove we have a great online resource but it is important to remember that not all papers are online and to check out the holdings of your local history library and State library for what be available in hard copy or microfilm as well as what is online.
I did my "Time with an Expert" session after this presentation and had a wonderful time. A large part of what i find fascinating in research is looking at a problem and teasing out possible avenues to follow to answer the questions. I find everyone's family interesting and love talking to people about ways of solving their family history problems. One of the delightful people I spoke with today had a problem relating to the fact she had ann email from 2004 found in the Rootsweb Mail lists archive which gave detailed information about her family line but the email address is not current.
Again this shows the problem of not keeping an email address such as Gmail as a family history email as no matter how often you change ISPs you will always be able to be found in the future. How many messages have you put up where the email address is not current and how many disappointed people may be out there hoping to contact you?
At the very least repost messages to the email lists your interests and queries so you are able to be found.
I also attended a special presentation by Mark Cryle:
Bound for Botany Bay: the Irish in Australia in story and song which was very informative and very entertaining. Mark has a lovely singing voice and provided some very interesting information as well. It was over all far too quickly. I did consider asking for an encore....
Today was also the launch of Mark St Leon's boo: Circus the Australian Story. It is full of information and gloeious pictures about the various circuses that toured Australia. It has a detailed bibliograpghy and is obviously the result of many years of work.Circuses roamed the country and many of our ancestors would have marvelled at the attractions such as
"Zoological marvels from every clime and country will be found in this Menagerie. Wonderful performing camels, a troupe of Royal Stallions and a combination of WILD ANIMALS of curious interest to lovers of the animal kingdom" taken from an advertisement of St Leon's Four Continent Circus to Mount Gambier.
If you have circus ancestors this book is a must and I think it would be a worthwhile addition to any library for the information of how our ancestors were entertained.
There were many other interesting presentations which I will leave to others to discuss as I have rambled on for long enough. While I am sad the Expo is over I will be back in Coffs Harbour in August doing a presentation at the Library and a workshop at the Family History Society the next day. Details to follow soon.
Next on the agenda is the Cairns Expo 24-25 June 2011. The program for this is available and again it will be a great two days. I hope to see you there. I will be giving a number of presentations.
Now it is time to go to bed before the drive back to Brisbane in the morning. I hope I am able to take some of this glorious weather back with me as recently he sun has been in short supply in Brisbane!