Friday, 27 June 2014

Canberra calling - March 2015

Well I'm back in the land of the living after 4 loooooooong months without the internet. We have NBN now, which is nice and fast, but I've realised that NBN Co couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery. (Not slander, just a statement of fact.)

One of my uncles held some money aside from his share of the sale of my grandparents' house about 15 years ago, which he's gifting to his nieces and nephews seeing as he has never had children of his own and he's now 82. When I heard about this I was moved to tears (which, to be fair, doesn't take much doing) and have resolved to use the gift towards furthering my genealogical knowledge and resources, like books and certificates, etc. I feel that getting more involved in my family tree is a fitting way to honour the gift. I'm sure my grandparents would approve, and as one of my strongest family history supporters my uncle is thrilled.

With that in mind I've booked myself into the next Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry, being held in Canberra at the end of March 2015. I've wanted to go for a few years now, but the registration fee was a luxury, and the travel and accommodation on top of that put it out of reach. I've put my new-found wealth into a high-interest online savings account, and will save a few more dollars each week to pay for the accommodation, meals, etc. March feels like a long way away (nine months actually), but every day flies by (except 1-4pm on workdays - that drags haha), so it'll be here pretty fast. I've resolved to go, even if I have to sleep in my car, although I'm sure it won't come to that :) .

The list of speakers is fantastic and I can't wait to listen to their expertise. I've seen Kerry FarmerPaul Milner and Joshua Taylor speak at various conferences, and have heard Carol Baxter, US forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, SAG royalty Heather Garnsey, author and blogger Shauna Hicks, librarian Michelle Nichols, and Carol Riley speak on webinars or other podcasts/interviews, and I'm always impressed with how much they know, and how well they get that information across to listeners with varying levels of genealogical experience. All very inspiring.

As a Library Technician, I'm also going to the Librarian's Day, which is being held the day before the conference. I don't use my genie skills as much as I'd like in my current job, but who knows what the future holds. I may as well attend, seeing as I'll already be there.

I heard a rumour that the 2016 Congress will be held in Sydney, which is fantastic news seeing as I only live an hour away, so I'll be able to go each day. In the meantime I get to spend five full days in Canberra, which is still a plus. I'd love to hear from any other genies going in March. Can't wait!!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

G'day USA

I'm a big fan and a member of the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG), and love to participate in their webinars, which are usually held each month. It's just like attending a speaker at a conference, but the venue is your home and the speaker is on your computer screen. The SAG have a mix of Aussie and overseas speakers, who are all very knowledgeable and inspirational. The next few months includes subjects such as goldfields research, English BDM's, and Sydney's cemeteries. Quite a variety!

We get a handout emailed at the end of each event, which summarises what we heard, and provides links to any websites mentioned, so we're not furiously writing notes instead of listening and learning. These webinars are $10 each, which is great, although you need to be a SAG member to register. Membership is $72, or $92 in the first year. So I figure that makes my webinars around $16 each, even if I never step foot in their door. Still cheap.

But now I've found some FREE webinars, run by the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society. They tend to run at 7pm their time, which converts to midday in Sydney time (at the moment = our daylight-saving time/summer), which is great for those days I'm not working. Their subjects over the next few months are probate records, DNA, and Irish research. Some are quite US-centric, and others have worldwide appeal. I'll certainly be registering for the DNA topic, to learn what all the fuss is about. Today's speaker was by genealogy royalty, Thomas MacEntee. The subject was Building a Research Toolbox, which covered things like organising your internet favourites/bookmarks, and a bit about Evernote, as well as lots more.

Legacy Family Tree webinars are also interesting, as well as free, which is great. They sometimes start at 7pm in the USA, which has been 5am Sydney time, and I don't think I could get out of bed that early unless the house was on fire! They run about 6 per month, and are archived for 7 days to watch for free (at a time that suits you, like not 5am). Members can watch older ones as part of their membership package. Their list covers webinars from some very well-known presenters and really interesting topics as far back as 2011. Their membership seem to be on special at the moment, at US$9.95 for a month, or US$49.95 annually, which gives access to their full back-catalogue.

To calculate when the webinar would start in your local time, this website is handy: Time Zone Converter. They even take daylight saving into account, which I am grateful for. Working out the time difference and taking into account both countries and their various time zones and daylight saving schedules would do my head in I think!

If you haven't joined a webinar before, they're easy-peasy. Don't be scared!! Near the details about the time & date, etc, will be a link to register with the organisation for that particular event. You'll be asked a few details like name & email address, maybe your suburb, and if there's a fee there will be a checkout process at this stage. They will send you a confirmation email, and another one the day and an hour before (from my experience, anyway), with a link to click to join up. Most organisations use the host GoToWebinar which needs you to download a little something (a programme??) prior to your first time so you can run their format. The SAG recommend signing in about 10 minutes early for your first ever webinar, where they run through what's involved. You can participate with or without a microphone &/or headset. If you want to ask a question (they usually have question time at the end), when you are prompted by the speaker you can ask your query by speaking to your microphone, and if you don't have one you can type your question in the panel to the side of the main display screen. If you get the opportunity to ask a question you can virtually raise your hand by clicking on the little hand, and then the facilitator will know you're waiting for your turn to speak. They'll un-mute you so you can ask your question/comment, and then mute you again ready for the next person when it's time. It's all really simple.

If you're more of a visual learner, YouTube has a short tutorial on how webinars work, using the GoToWebinar host in particular.

So if you're looking to expand your mental horizons, check out the webinars run by societies you may not have even given a thought to before. You might be surprised by the variety they offer.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Another use for Evernote

I am fairly new to Evernote, and lots of people in the genie community rave about it. So I'm going out of my comfort zone and giving it a try, and it really is awesome. I've been searching for some information from many sources, and the Evernote tagging system comes into its own in situations like this. I just save each email or web page to my Evernote account, tag it with a relevant description, and bingo, it's done. It's then super-easy to search the tags to find related items. You can download the app to smart phones, tablets, and PC's (Macs too, I presume), so all your saved results are available when you're out and about.

Following on from that I've stepped up a notch (in an attempt at being organised) by saving and tagging a bunch of items and search results from the State Records NSW website, so when I'm ready for my next excursion to my version of a Cathedral I'll have all my records in front of me to request, ready for the amazing staff there to pull and have ready and waiting for me. (I love SRNSW. They're like my slaves, only better, because they know sooooooo much.)

So try Evernote, and see if tagging what you've saved makes it easier to retrieve things when you really need them.

Monday, 9 December 2013

I love Trove, but sometimes ......

I don't know of one genie out there who doesn't love Trove for newspaper searches related to our ancestors, but sometimes, no matter how well we fill in the search fields the article we know is there just won't show up. This was the case for my gg-grandmother, Ada MORRANT (1864 - 1913). I'll write her story another day, as it's quite a doozy. 

I was searching for any kind of death notice in the paper for her,  so I was typing my fingers down to stubs on Trove, looking for her using a name-based search. Nothing. I tried variations on the spelling of her married name, Barrett, as well as her own name, Morrant - still nothing. I KNEW it was in a newspaper because I'd found it on the wonderful Ryerson Index, another resource us Aussies are lucky to have at our disposal.

Ryerson Index result for Ada Barrett's funeral notice

Luckily, there is more than one way to skin a cat (apologies to cat lovers). Instead of searching using Ada's name, I searched as if I was reading an actual paper edition of the Sydney Morning Herald for 27 December 1913, and virtually turned each page until I got to the Funeral Notices. And there she was. 4 times! How Trove didn't OCR these entries correctly I'll never know, but at least Ada was there, and well loved by her children and friends judging by the notices.

Sydney Morning Herald funeral notices 27 Dec 1913
So even though I've had a whinge about Trove in the past here, still 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Week 5 - Your Childhood Home - very late in coming :)

This blog post is really late, as I've recently started a fantastic job in a library and that keeps me really busy. This will be my last post in the series, as I'll be writing blog posts about my ancestors and their stories, which has gone by the wayside lately. I skipped week 4 because I don't really have a favourite season. I'm such an indoor girl that I really don't notice the weather. Living in Australia we have stinking hot summers, and the winters aren't terribly cold where I live (like maybe down to 4 degrees Celcius), with no snow because the coast is close by. There's something I like and also dislike about all of the seasons. If it could be spring or autumn temperatures all year round I'd be fine with that. :)
So that's my poor excuse for week 4. Now onto week 5......

The prompt for week 5 is Your Childhood Home

When did you leave home? I left home in a couple of stages. Firstly I moved out during the school weeks to live with my grandparents and go to the senior high school that my mother had been to, which was close enough to my Dad's parent's place that I could be a day student. I would come home very weekend and for the school holidays.

Where was it? The first house I lived in was in a Hunter Valley mining town called Pelaw Main. Our house was a first-home-buyer's-special miner's cottage that backed onto the bush and some grazing land. There was mine-subsidence under the house, and Dad said if you put a marble at the front door it would roll straight out the back door, so the house was on a bit of a slope! There used to be a whole other street full of houses behind ours, but they all started to fall into the coal mine, so they were demolished. Mum said that in winter you could see steam from the mine coming up through the grass out the back. We lived there until I was 3 and my younger sister was about to be born. I presume we needed a house big enough to hold the growing brood.
The photo below is my Mum holding me in her arms, and my Dad's brother, Uncle Max. I think that was Max's car. Mum hadn't learned to drive at that stage, and Dad had a motorbike for getting around. The house looks nothing like this now. It's been extended on most sides and you wouldn't recognise it as the same place. I even had to double-check the house number with my Mum to make sure the one I can see in Google Street View is the same. The only things I remember about the house was that the verandah floorboards had many splinters, and I was taken to Kurri Kurri Ambulance Station to get a large one removed from my toe. And my Dad would park his motorbike there and I was allowed to climb onto it, but I did burn my leg on it when the muffler was still hot one day. Ouch!

Our Pelaw Main house c1968

You can still see the ghost of the streets behind the houses where whole families lived & played up until the 1960's.

Where did you move to?

From here we moved a whole 4.1 km the neighbouring town of Weston. I can remember the layout of this house better, as I we lived there until I was nine. It had a bedroom on each side of the hallway at the front, and another opposite the lounge room as you walked further down the hallway. Behind the lounge was the kitchen, and opposite that was the bathroom and laundry. We had an inside toilet, too, which was a step up in the world after our last house! I can't imagine Mum toilet training two toddlers with an outside toilet, as well as contend with the rain, the dark, spiders, etc. Thank god for modern plumbing. Two days after we moved here my sister was born. I'm sure Mum was thrilled to be moving house at nine months pregnant!! As an adult I've driven past the house and it looked so much closer to the road that I remembered. When we moved in it had plaster moulded into fruit shapes around the hallway, which was painted to be the colours of the actual fruit. Ugh! It was quickly painted over in white. My sister and I shared one of the front bedrooms, and I can still see our twin beds and matching blue & white floral bedspreads. I can remember it was a long dark walk down the hallway at night to the toilet. There was a park within walking distance, which I was allowed to go to ALONE (times sure have changed, and maybe not for the better) and play on the fun but apparently dangerous equipment (if you believe the people who make the current park regulations and equipment). The slippery-dip was always blisteringly hot on the backs of my legs, and very high up, so I didn't go on it very often. Behind our back fence was a cream or yellow weatherboard church, which I used to climb through some broken palings in the back fence to see. I don't recall ever seeing people there, though, but occasionally there was confetti in the grass, which was very exciting. Now it's a duplex - typical. We had hydrangeas planted down the side of our house, and Boston fern along the back verandah. My grandmother helped me plant some zinnia seedlings along a side garden, but I think the soil was pretty hopeless so they didn't sprout. My lack of understanding of the importance of regular watering might've had some part to play. The front fence was chain-link when we lived there, and the front porch had a brick half-wall instead of pickets. The side fences were wooden palings, and there were three huge (to me!) garages at the end of the driveway that aren't there any more.
Our Weston house where I lived from age 3 to 9

In 1977 we moved again, an hour's drive away, to be closer to Dad's workplace, and we ended up at Gorokan on the beautiful Central Coast of NSW. I think I was lucky to grow up in the area that I did. It was full of families, with no real trouble around, burglaries or vandalism, etc. Sadly, the area isn't the same now. The house was sold about 15 years ago and The house is now rented, to one of our old neighbour's children (who is now over 30). I wonder if she feels weird to be sleeping in what was my Mum & Dad's bedroom, a room where she would never have been allowed to venture as a child coming to play with my sisters.

I lived here until I moved to Sydney for work in 1987. My first marital home was only around the corner, which was very handy for babysitting. As I was growing up in Gorokan, a group of neighbours would get together regularly for Guy Fawkes Night, Christmas celebrations, and a weekly tipping (betting) club, and called themselves the Minnamurra Mugs, named after the street. Those were the days........

Gorokan house
My Uncle Max painted each house on a corner of a tablecloth as a wedding present.
Pelaw Main house
Weston house


Cessnock house
Gorokan house
The Cessnock house pictured on the tablecloth at was my grandparent's home until they both died and it was sold in 2003. It was in the family since the 1930's. My grandmother lovingly tended some rose bushes near the front fence, one of which flowered into a large bloom that had huge petals like maroon velvet and smelled divine. Sadly, I can't find the same one anywhere. If I could find one I'd grow it as a reminder of my grandmother. This is what the house looks like. It was freezing in winter, and hot as hell in summer, but it was the place we all gathered as a family, and that's what it's all about after all.

Monday, 23 September 2013

My great-great-grandmother's brooch

Elizabeth Lorne ("Lizzie") BRACKENREG (1853 - 1949), the eldest daughter of Charles John BRACKENREG and Mary Ann BAILEY, was born at home into a family of publicans and racehorse owners in High St, West Maitland. Charles was the grandson of a NSW Rum Corps soldier, James BRACKENRIG, who arrived on the Neptune with the Second Fleet, and Mary Ann's father was a convict from London, Samuel BAILEY. Lizzie's younger sister, Ruby, lived with my father's family when he was a child, and he remembers her saying that her grandfather "was on the Governor's second boat".

Lizzie was an accomplished pianist, who played on a Sunday at one of the Anglican churches in Maitland. They lived at a property called "Wyndella", at Luskintyre, which is 18 kms from Maitland. There is now a suburb named Windella near that area. She also gave piano lessons. Her piano was handed down to her granddaughter, Florence Mary O'NEILL, who then passed it onto her only daughter who is my Aunty Rea (Marea). There are little holes on the front of the piano where the candle holders that lit up the sheet music were removed. Lizzie's great uncle, Thomas STUBBS, was a well-known violinist and composer, as was his granddaughter, Maud FITZ-STUBBS, as well as her brother, Percy FITZ-STUBBS and her daughter, Madeline WOODS. Sadly, their musical ability has not trickled down to my branch at all.

The family must have made a comfortable living, as I have a few photos of Lizzie throughout her life, and she was very well dressed in each of them. In every photo she is wearing a gold brooch, that has worked it's way down the generations, and the current custodian is another Australian descendant who lives in England. It must have been important to her if she wore it for every special occasion. I have no idea if it was a gift to her, maybe as an engagement present from her future husband, John CRUCKSHANK, who she married when she was age 25, or maybe it was left to her by her own mother. There is no specific mention of it in her will, although it was handed down to her fourth daughter, Ruby. Maybe Lizzie gave it to Ruby before she died, rather than through her will.

Ruby's daughter had the brooch cleaned in 1984 for her daughter (Patricia, the current owner) to wear at her wedding as her dress was Victorian in style.  Patricia remembers her Mum saying that she loved to play with the dangly bits as a child and had actually pulled one off although it's not obvious from the photo, so she thinks a jeweller must have repaired it at some stage. The brooch has a pin on the back to fasten it to clothing.

Gold brooch with seed pearls and emeralds

Lizzie Brackenreg wearing the brooch.
Elizabeth at the wedding of her daughter, Ida, in 1915, age 62

Lizzie's husband, John CRUCKSHANK, predeceased her by 37 years, and although she lived in Westmead (Sydney) after he died, they are buried together in the Anglican section at Cessnock's Nulkaba Cemetery. I hope Lizzie's longevity genes are very strong in me, as she was 96 when she died.

Elizabeth and John's grave at Nulkaba, near Cessnock

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Book of me, Written by you: geneameme week 3 - describe your physical self

The prompt for week 3 is - describe your physical self.

Eeeeew! Whose idea was this???! Deep breath.

I'm 5 foot 2 with eyes of blue. Seriously! I'm a shorty, but I don't mind. Lots of my friends are the same height. I'm under-tall for my midriff, though. I would need to be about 6' tall to be as thin as I'd like - based on my current level of cuddliness lol. My warped logic is that I have a tall person's stomach muscles in a short person's body, which is why they pop out at the front. That's my excuse & I'm sticking to it! I'm an average size in clothing, except the hems of jeans always need to come up a bit. Even petite jeans usually need a bit off the bottom. Luckily my Mum taught me to sew. And her Mum taught her - see? a genealogy link! One can always be found!

My hair is dark brown with the odd grey, but I try & keep them under control. I can't see myself being one of these fabulous women who embrace the grey. It's past my shoulders, & wavy, & goes frizzy after one sleep. Surprisingly for a Leo, I'm not that worried about my hair, so it's usually in a no-maintenance ponytail. Today it's out loose.

My skin is fairly pale, and freckly on my arms & hands. I think the freckles on my face have faded away with age. There are a few wrinkles on my face, but if my only choices are ageing or death, I know which one I pick. Hopefully I won't look leathery in years to come because I avoid the sun, especially on my face. Sunscreen wasn't around much when I was a kid, so my Aussie childhood of frequent sunburns could well haunt me later in life.

Scars: one under my right eye (which now conveniently blends into a crow's foot! Wrinkles do have their advantages haha) from the chickenpox I had when I was 9. Another on both sides of my right ankle to fix the break that happened when I was 4 mths pregnant with my 18yo son. Chasing after his older brother while pregnant & in plaster was so much fun!!! (NOT).

Today I'm wearing blue denim jeans & a grey T-shirt, a gold watch, & 4 gold rings. One is my plain band wedding ring. My engagement ring has 3 diamonds in a row. On my right hand (I'm right-handed) is a ring that looks like diamonds in the shape of a flower. I call it my divorce ring :). We get rings for every other occasion, I figured I deserved one for having the courage to leave a bad marriage. The 4th ring was a present for Mother's Day from my sons who are now 18 & 20. It has I LOVE YOU written across the top & diamond chips as well. I love it & it reminds me of them now they don't live at home. I'm really touched that they bought it for me together.

I'm not the slightest bit fit, although I would like to be. I know that's up to me to arrange, but I feel so busy with everything else that it's not in my time budget at the moment. My 6yo daughter & I have taken to walking around the block after dinner. She holds my hand & notices things that I don't, which is priceless. We might upgrade to walking around it twice, just for starters. 

Yes, 45 years of use
Wrinklier on the right from driving.