Sadly Congress 2015 finished this afternoon after four days packed with great speakers (mostly), meeting old friends and making some new ones. Following is a recap of the past three days. I won’t mention every session I went to, just the memorable ones.
Saturday morning’s keynote was given by Josh Taylor who wears a number of hats including being the current President for the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), a presenter on Genealogy Roadshow and Who Do You Think You Are in America. He told the wonderful story of his summer holidays traveling with his grandparents across America and visiting all the family history societies and graveyards. Look out to my girls! Fun times ahead! His message was about tying in family history with popular culture and the fun and adventure of discovering your own history.
I attended all the sessions for Paul Milner except the lunch time session as it was already booked out. His Scottish gazetteers session was excellent and although I thought I knew quite a bit about the subject I still gained some knowledge. He speaks very well and retains the audience’s attention. One of his differences was that he was early for his talk allowing the audience to ask questions ahead of the session. The first moderator couldn’t quite come to terms with this. Paul spoke about the wonderful variety of maps online via the Scottish National Library. Another great idea was to add your own findings to the familysearch wiki so that you could always retrace where you’d found something. Paul spoke on Sunday about tracing pre-WWI British soldiers which was very informative. You can trace an officer’s military life through the records but it is slightly more difficult for enlisted men. If the regiment came to Australia we have the regimental pay lists on the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) held at the National Library in Canberra and also at the State Library of Victoria. Otherwise you still need to visit the National Archives of the United Kingdom in Kew, just outside London, or have a researcher do so for you. His final talk was on tracing your mining ancestors which was also full of great resources and ways to research. He has a background in mining which added to his knowledge and expertise. I have tin miners from Devon in the late 1700s which I need to do more work on. This is the Kent family from Beer Ferrers, Peter Tavy and Mary Tavy. There is a plethora of websites and books to refer to on this subject.
The next session was as good, David Rencher from familysearch on the Irish census and census substitutes. Again I almost didn’t attend thinking I knew quite a lot about the topic. I did, but he told us so much more and how to interpret and analyze what we are looking at. Invaluable. I have found one of my ancestors, John Dunlop, on the 1796 spinning wheel premiums and now I know what it means exactly. His next talk was on interpreting and evaluating Irish name lists. He used Leck parish in County Donegal which borders Raphoe parish where my ancestors are from. I recognized a few of the names. This talk was really about the methodology and interpretation of the documents you are studying. It was a very insightful talk. It was hands on with the audience analyzing part of the population from a hearth roll and a protestant roll. You could work out family groups, religions and more from this analysis. David also did a talk on the Irish poor and landless and mentioned quite a number of resources available for finding people despite the loss of so many Irish documents in the 1922 fire. There are possibly many documents to be found on our Irish ancestors depending how lucky we are. However, not all survive.
David Holman was another excellent presenter from overseas. He is from England. I attended his talk on military medals which was most informative and interesting. He explained gallantry awards and medals. He also gave the Monday morning keynote on the amusing forenames and surnames there are in England and includes some of his own so as not to offend anyone. Very entertaining!
Another inspiring speaker was Perry McIntyre who spoke on memories and remembering our ancestors. She is the chair of the Irish famine commemoration committee. She spoke about the Irish famine memorials both in Ireland and the one in Sydney, a must see at the Hyde Park Barracks, Macquarie street, Sydney. It’s all about connecting back to our families in Ireland. Perry also spoke about the documents available in the National Archives of Ireland using convicts as her case study. One very interesting website is the registered papers of the Office of Chief Secretary of Ireland (CSORP) from 1818 to 1852 that were digitized by a Frank J. Crowley bequest. I’ve found some names of interest in these already.
DNA is a fascinating part of genealogy and Kerry Farmer’s presentation on autosomal and X-chromosome DNA was absorbing. We should all be having our parents or grandparents (if possible) take a DNA test. I will be doing this and it will be interesting to see what I can find out.
Michael McKernen’s keynote on Sunday morning was moving as he recounted stories of the families here in Australia who suffered the loss of a son or, in the case of one family from Briagalong, four sons out of their six sons in WWI. Loss in war is always personal and tragic. The parents of one soldier posted a memoriam in the paper every year from 1916 for thirty years after his death. One thing I wasn’t aware of was that the families of soldier killed in WWI had to pay for every letter including spaces, for a personal message on their headstone in Europe. Many could not afford it.
One of Monday’s keynotes was by Grace Karskens (Associate Professor at the University of NSW), she spoke on men, women, sex and desire within family history on Australia’s frontier. It was centered on the ‘lost world of Castlereagh’ and told a story that is worthy of any soap opera on tv today. There were multiple entanglements within the people of the district, with stories including murder and the marriage of very young girls to their father’s contemporaries. An intriguing story.
Overall it was a wonderful four days with motivating speakers and a wonderful group of people to network with. The next Congress is in Sydney in 2018.