Day Four of AFFHO Congress 2015
I forgot to mention Day 3’s lunchtime keynote address by Grace Karskens, Men, Women, Sex and Desire: Family History on Australia’s First Frontier. In this talk, Grace presented some of the findings of her research on relationships, marriage & families in the early community of Castlereagh, on the Nepean River in NSW. Wow! The relationships & events that Grace shared reminded me of the plotlines on The Bold & the Beautiful – talk about complicated & scandalous! It’s absolutely incredible that the details of some of the lives of the early settlers can be reconstructed to give us such an insight.
I began the final day of the conference by listening to Paul Milner’s talk, Digging for Gold - Locating British Miners and their Records. I have some Cornish miners who migrated to South Australia & continued mining. I learnt from Paul that Cornwall mines were hard rock mines – tin & copper (fingers crossed that I’ve remembered that right). The conditions in hard rock & coal mines were quite different – the size of the mine that was being worked in, the dangers involved, etc. Paul discussed the history of mining in Britain, the conditions that miners (soft rock & hard rock) miners worked in, the records that were created & where to locate them. He pointed us towards a range of online & printed resources to learn more about mining & the definitions of technical & colloquial terms that we might come across. My favourite quote from this session was: if there’s a hole in the ground, you’ll find a Cornish miner at the bottom of it.
Next up was A General and Indiscriminate Stigma - the Irish Famine Orphans, 1848–1850, presented by Cheryl Mongan. The Irish Famine Orphans were young girls (generally between the ages of 14 – 19) from the workhouses of Ireland who came to Australia as part of the Earl Grey scheme. The Earl Grey scheme bought over 4000 young Irish females, who had been left orphaned by the Great Famine of Ireland, to Australia to work as indentured domestic servants. Most were orphans in the true sense, but others were termed ‘orphans’ if their parent/s were alive but unable to look after them. These girls were often met with criticism & prejudice; they were considered disobedient, untrained & unsuited for domestic service. Cheryl spoke about the experiences of the Irish Famine Orphans and how many of them overcame the prejudice & hardships to establish successful families of their own. Some of the descendants of these girls come together for the annual commemorative service at the Great Famine Memorial at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney or Famine Rock at Williamstown in Victoria. Irish researchers have been working to unite families with their distant Australian relatives – which reminds me, the last time I checked the Irish Famine Orphan Database, there was a contact name from Ireland Reaching Out listed with my ancestor that I need to email.
The final presentation I attended at the conference was by Michelle Nichols, Discovering the Hidden Riches in Public Libraries: Fostering Family History in Local Studies Collections. I got two things from this session – that Hawkesbury Library serves as a model for other local libraries to provide access to & promote their local collections; & that I need to visit Hawkesbury library because my great grandmother’s family lived in the area, at & around St Albans, from about the 1830s to the 1980s.
The local library’s holdings can support family history & local community research. Resources can include local government records, historical photos & maps of the area, & local & family histories – resources relating to that specific community & the families who lived there. I have used Blacktown’s local history collection, at least what I have seen on the shelf, but perhaps there are many other records at the library that I’m not aware of. I know that I haven’t seen any church & cemetery records, or historical maps & photos. Local libraries should be promoting their local history collections, even if it’s just by a webpage that outlines the materials that are available & how to access them. Being able to access some of these records online would also be a bonus.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear Michelle mention some of the family history resources that her library has, particularly the Jurd family history book, To Live on in the Hearts & Minds of Descendants is to Never Die by Peter Newman. This book is about my 5th great grandfather, Daniel Jurd, who married Elizabeth Douglas, & their descendants. I have that book & I can attest to just how large, & heavy, the book is! I was also intrigued when Michelle showed an image of something that was written from a soldier, or to a soldier, in WW1 to an Olive who lived in the area – I could swear that was my great grandmother, but I didn’t know anything about her knowing a soldier in WW1. I wish I had taken a quick picture of it because last week I got a pile of photos from Olive’s daughter, my grandmother, & inside was an envelope with postcards from an unnamed soldier in WW1 to my great grandmother.
I have been making a list of books that I wanted to look at since last year – these books could help me break my biggest brick wall – Helena Lindner - & the closest place to access them was at the National Library in Canberra. I had limited time in Canberra, having to be back in Sydney & up bright & early to go back to work on Tuesday, so I decided to leave the conference a bit early so that I could go to the National Library. This unfortunately meant that I had to miss the afternoon session I had planned to attend, Cora Num’s lunchtime keynote address on using online newspapers, & also the panel discussion L However, I got to read through the information in the relevant books so I have a possible new lead.
I absolutely loved being at the conference – getting the opportunity to listen to speakers in person, the information that was presented – basically being immersed in genealogical learning for 4 days straight! It was also great to be able to meet other geneabloggers, some of who I know, or know of, from the online community. Jill Ball, you were especially welcoming & introduced me to quite a few other people J. I bought a few resources & I have many new research areas to follow up. The only downside was how incredibly exhausted I was after each day, & not feeling well enough to catch up with fellow HSP105 UTAS students at the dinner on Sunday night L.
I know that I will definitely be attending Congress in Sydney in 2018!