Sunday, October 22, 2017

Chance to win a free RootsTech pass

UPDATE: The winner of the free RootsTech pass was Julie Wood


As a RootsTech Ambassador, I get to give away a free pass for RootsTech 2018, valued at $279. If you win and have already registered for the conference, your registration fee will be refunded.

The conference will take place in Salt Lake City from 28 February to 3 March. The pass gives access to
  • Over 300 classes
  • Keynote / General sessions
  • RootsTech classes
  • Innovation Showcase
  • Expo hall
  • Evening events

This 4-Day Pass DOES NOT include airfare, hotel or the coverage of any other expenses.

In order to go into the draw to win you must send an email to jennyjresearch@gmail.com with the answer to the question below:

Who am I?
  1. I was born in 1819 in Kensington in London.
  2. My father, Edward, had died before I was less than a year old.
  3. I married my first cousin.
  4. I had nine children.
  5. I lived into the 20th century.


All correct entries received by the closing date of 12 noon, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on Sunday 5th of November, will go into a draw and one lucky person will win the RootsTech pass.

The winner will be notified by email by Tuesday 7th of November at the latest. One entry per person.



Disclaimer: As a Rootstech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

NSW & ACT Conference in Orange

Recently more than 300 people trekked out to Orange in the mid-west of NSW for the annual family history conference.  This year it was hosted by the Orange City Library, aided by the Orange Family History Group. The hosts of this event were so friendly and welcoming that it was an absolute stand-out feature of the conference.

In a break from tradition, some long workshops were held on the Friday. A few were only one hour long, but several were two hours, a couple were three hours and one was five hours long.  We hadn't known this when we signed up, so it did eat into the time we had available to look at the Family Fair. 

One of the workshops I did was "Eat Your History" with Jacqui Newling of Sydney Living Museums (formerly known as the Historic Houses Trust).  We started by talking about food memories, and then looked at some old recipes from books in the houses managed by Sydney Living Museums, and discussed the differences from recipes and menu items we see today.  Then we got to try out a recipes.  But first we had to make our own butter, which was to be used in our cooking.  Then we made a soufflé omelette, and we had to beat our egg whites in the same way that had been done by the girls at the house named Meroogal in Nowra: namely, by beating it with a knife on a dinner plate!  The end result was served with some jam, and tasted very nice!

Egg whites in the process of
being beaten

Omelette being cooked

The finished product

The class

The conference theme was "Your Family Story: Telling, Recording & Preserving" and the talks mostly fitted into this theme. The keynote speaker on Sunday was the very tall (6'4") actor William McInnes, who told us lots of stories of his family. The other speakers included Gail Davis from State Archives of NSW, Perry McIntyre, Jacqui Newling (who also gave a lecture as well as running the workshop) and Shauna Hicks, amongst others.


William McInnes with Lorraine Henshaw,
who is taller than me (but not much)
As usual, there was a Meet & Greet and a Conference Dinner, which were both great chances to catch up with old friends.

After the conference closed at lunchtime on Sunday there was a chance to visit local historic house "Duntryleague", which had been the home to the Dalton family, and now is home to the local golf club.







Thursday, October 12, 2017

Time to start thinking about RootsTech 2018

Next year will be my fourth RootsTech Conference.  The fact that I have attended so many times, given the expense of flying there from Australia, will give you some idea of how worthwhile I think the RootsTech Conferences are. In fact here is my post anticipating the last conference explaining why I was looking forward to attending RootsTech 2017. As it turned out, the conference didn't disappoint.  The Keynote talk by LeVar Burton was one of the most moving things I have ever experienced, and I don't think a single person who attended it would disagree with me. Here is my report on that session. 

RootsTech Expo Hall, 2017

This year's theme is "Connect. Belong" and there will be a few changes. Firstly, and most excitingly, the main conference will now run for four days from 28 February to 3 March. Previously the Innovator Summit and some sessions connected to it were on the Wednesday, with the Conference proper starting on the Thursday.  Now there will be an Innovator Showcase, where invaluable technologies for genealogists that have been nominated by genealogists themselves will be highlighted.  Read more in the press release about these changes. 

The next change is that the Expo Hall will now be open from 6pm to 8pm on Wednesday night. This will be a great opportunity to look at the hall while not missing any of the sessions.

The first of the keynote speakers, Scott Hamilton, has already been announced.  He is a figure skater and Olympic gold medalist. And schedule of talks has already been published, though it is subject to change. The biggest problem with it is that with over 300 sessions you can't attend everything. Last conference there were large numbers of DNA talks, and the next conference looks set to exceed them.  Like everything, there are talks for all levels with all sorts of different aspects of DNA research being covered.


But if you are not interested in DNA, there are still plenty of other sessions to pique your interest.  These include technology talks and talks about recording your family story amongst all sorts of other talks.

As I am from Australia, with English and Irish ancestry, I am not very interested in the talks relating to US genealogy. But that isn't a problem, as there are also talks relating to England, Ireland and Scotland.  As I mentioned before, the only problem is that I won't be able to attend all the talks I am interested in.

As well as the formally scheduled classes there are always other sessions in the expo hall, especially the sessions given by the major players like FamilySearch, Ancestry, Findmypast and MyHeritage. These can be incredibly worthwhile so don't forget to see what they have on.


But don't just take my word for it. Amy Ohms Archibald has written a  blog post about why she keeps attending RootsTech.

Early bird registrations for $169 are currently open here, but that is scheduled to end on 13 October and the price will go up.  Register for the event here.


Disclaimer: As a Rootstech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Monday, September 18, 2017

RootsTech 2018 is coming

RootsTech 2018 is coming! RootsTech is the largest family history conference in the world, and attending it is a fantastic and unforgettable experience. I highly recommend attending it if possible. If you can't attend in person, some of the sessions will be live streamed, so you will be able to view it from home.

One of last year's keynotes was LeVar Burton, from Roots, Star Trek Next Generation and Reading Rainbow. His talk moved us all to tears. My report of it at the time is available here. Initially, his wonderful and incredibly powerful talk was not available online, but recently it has been published.  I strongly recommend everyone list to it, available here, but make sure you have your tissues ready.

LeVar Burton being presented with his family history
by Thom King of FamilySearch at RootsTech 2017

This year there will be some changes to RootsTech. Firstly, it will now last four full days, Wednesday to Saturday, starting on 28 February 2018. Another change is that the Innovator Summit and Innovator Showdown will be replaced by the Innovator Showcase, which will be part of the general opening ceremonies. It will highlight technology and products for the genealogy industry from around the world.

Up until 15 October 2017 you can nominate your favourite family history related app, product or service by using #RootsTechInnovation on Facebook or Twitter, or visit the Innovation Showcase Page or go directly here.

Following Wednesday’s General Session and Innovation Showcase, the Expo Hall will be open from 6-8 p.m. This will be a chance to look around the hall without missing out on any of the talks going on.

Registrations for RootsTech 2018 will open on September 20. Register soon if you can so you can take advantage of early bird pricing.





Disclaimer: As a Rootstech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some exra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Researching Abroad Roadshow at Parramatta

The first day of the Sydney Unlock the Past Researching Abroad roadshow kicked off at the Parramatta RSL with Dirk Weissleder talking about German and European Research. Over the day he gave several talks with several useful messages.

Dirk started by acknowledging that German research is difficult,  even for Germans.  Archives are spread far and wide, and just one example is that there is not one National Library,  but two: one in Frankfurt am Main for the old West Germany, and the other in Leipzig for the old East Germany.
Dirk Weissleder

He made a very important point that needs to be kept in the forefront of your mind. Germany as a country only came into being in 1871. Before that it was several independent kingdoms and duchies. Then after World War II it was split into two separate countries: East Germany ans West Germany, and wasn't reunited as a single country until 1990. So when looking at or for something always ask yourself what country that place was part of at the time in question.

It is also important to bear in mind that there is a different mindset prevalent in Germany (and also in other European countries) than that in England or Australia. One example is that Germans all have to carry ID cards, and cannot understand how society can possibly function in the UK without them. There are also different perspectives throughout Europe over how easy or quick access to records should be and whether they should be available for free or only for a fee, and whether or not photography of records is allowed.

Another thing to be aware of is that throughout Germany graves are reused, often after 25 years, but as quickly as four years in Munich. Therefore if you go to a graveyard you will not be able to find the graves of your ancestors.

It is important to keep these different perspectives in mind, and research in advance what you are likely to find and what conditions will be attached to it.

The second day was a British Isles research day, with talks by Chris Paton. His first talk was a beginner's guide to British and Irish Genealogy.  Even for someone who was not a beginner I think there was much to gain from this talk, with some good advice about brick walls (try going around them, not through them), and the advice that we should question everything.
Chris Paton

His next talk was about Scottish Church Records.  In case you are not aware, there were many, many changes and factions within the history of the church in Scotland. Chris compares it to the Hokey Pokey (which appers to be called the Hokey Cokey in the UK) - They put the Bishops in, They took the Bishops out, Bishops in, Bishops out, shake it all about ....

Chris's website has a brief outline of the history of the Scottish Kirk here: http://www.scotlandsgreateststory.bravehost.com/scottishkirk.html

Chris's third talk was on Irish Family History resources online. This talk was a great illustration of the fact that while Irish Genealogy was difficult in the past, there is now a great deal online, making it a much easier undertaking.

Kerry Farmer
His final talk was about Discovering Irish Land Records.  For those not experienced in Irish research, one of the most difficult aspects can be understanding the various land divisions, like townlands, baronies and so on.  Consequently the first part of this talk was dedicated to describing these different boundaries. He then went on to explain how to find out where your ancestors were, where to find records of tenancy, ownership & valuation, and a few other points to help fill out our understanding of where our people lived.

The two day roadshow also had a few other presenters: Kerry Farmer did a talk on using DNA to solve genealogical puzzles, which was excellent (as Kerry's presentations always are); Heather Garnsey from the Society of Australian Genealogists did a couple of presentations on the holdings of the SAG for European research and for British Isles research; and Rosemary and Eric Kopittke each did a presentation on MyHeritage. These were really just info-mercials, but I guess that was what MyHeritage, who was a sponsor of the roadshow wanted, and it is something we have to accept from a sponsor, because this keeps the price down for the attendees.
Attendees watching a video from LivingDNA

Keep an eye on the Unlock the Past website for future events.

**Disclosure:  As a roadshow Ambassador I received free admission to this event

Sunday, August 6, 2017

International Speakers Coming for Australian Roadshow

It's always exciting when we get the chance to hear overseas speakers here in Australia.  And the Unlock the Past Roadshow is once again giving us just that opportunity.  Chris Paton and Dirk Weisleder are doing a series of talks around Australia, coinciding with National Family History Month.

The tour is entitled Researching Abroad: Finding European and British Isles Ancestors, and will be visiting Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.


The talks last for two days, but you can chose to attend just one day, or both. Each location has a slightly different program and some additional speakers, so check out the program for the location closest to you at http://www.unlockthepast.com.au/events/researching-abroad-finding-british-isles-and-european-ancestors

In Sydney, for example, the speakers also include Kerry Farmer, who is giving a talk on Using DNA to solve genealogical puzzles


Chris Paton is a professional genealogist based in Scotland, but born in Ireland. His business is called Scotland's Greatest Story https://scotlandsgreateststory.wordpress.com/. I have heard Chris speak on several different occasions and he is a knowledgeable and engaging speakers, and sometimes also a very humorous one.  I have never come away from one of his talks without having learnt something. 


Dirk Weissleder from Germany is the National Chairman of the Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft genealogischer Verbände, the umbrella organisation of the genealogical and heraldic associations in Germany. He is also the coordinator of the German-Australian Genealogy Alliance and thee International German Genealogical Partnership. I have never heard Dirk speak, but Jill Ball interviewed him at Rootstech this year.


Why not think about coming to the roadshow this year. More details are available here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Definition Day: Reeve

This is the first of what will be an irregular series where I define terms that the genealogist might come across. This time I will explain the role of a reeve.

A reeve was a very important man in Feudal England.  The term originates back in Anglo-Saxon times, deriving from the Old English word ġerēfa.

In some manors the reeve was appointed by the lord of the manor, but in most he was elected on a yearly basis by the peasants from among their own number.

His job was three-fold: to represent the tenants in negotiations with the lord of the manor, to allocate and oversee the work that the peasants were obliged to perform for the lord on his land, and take responsibility for many aspects of the finances of the manor, like sale of produce, collection of revenues and payment of accounts.

Medieval illustration of a reeve directing serfs in their work

A special type of reeve was the "shire reeve", a term which over time evolved to become the word "sheriff". The shire reeve was appointed by the king to collect his revenues, supervise the county and make sure the local citizens performed their law enforcement functions correctly according to the frankpledge system. Under the frankpledge system groups of families formed together to protect each other and also to produce any man from amongst them suspected of committing a crime. The role of shire reeve later came to include the direct responsibility for apprehending people who had broken the law. It was a paid position, assisted by constables, and would not have been from the villain class.


The connection between what became two different roles lies in the original function of collecting revenues and in implementing the decisions of the lord of the manor, or in the case of the shire reeve, the common law.