Monday, 18 August 2014

She did have a cute nose, though!

I found this funny piece while I was Troving the other day, searching for any snippets I could find about my ancestor, Esther Salamon/Spencer/Stubbs/Bigge. I'm not sure how useful it would actually be to have the capacity for looking around two opposite corners simultaneously. Maybe the excess alcohol helped. I couldn't find much about her elsewhere on Trove. One lady of the same name was charged with infanticide, so I hope it wasn't this damsel. Poor Jane.

Trove article from The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Saturday 12 May 1832

Thursday, 14 August 2014

No more stripping in the living room for me!

Recently I'd been contemplating buying the Victorian BDM indexes on CD-ROM (or however they come), because about half of my family originated from Victoria at some stage or other in the past 200 years. At over AU$200 each I wasn't in a hurry, but I was also sick of the online indexes, having to pay per search, with $5 pre-set spending limits, enter in my Visa number every time, etc, which was getting to be a pain. Then I saw a post on an Aussie genie Facebook page about the indexes being available with the Internet Archive and I just had to investigate. They are available as Full Text, HTTPS, and Torrent files. I chose to download them as Torrents, as I already use uTorrent for other things, so I'm familiar with it. This programme sucks them off the net (technical terminology which demonstrates my knowledge of how the internet works) in a csv format, and saves it all as a txt file. I'm OK with all that - it's just Excel jargon.

So I opened Excel, and (using a video off YouTube to refresh my memory of how to do the task) imported the txt files into Excel, and voila!, I now have my very own set of Vic BDM's!! Unfortunately, during the process of doing the transfer Excel did pop up with an error message, to which I said "Yeah, whatever, just get on with it" and accepted it, which has resulted in there being remarkably similar numbers of births, marriages, and deaths imported into my file. I know that some must have been left out because poor Excel couldn't cope with the whole lot, but I have still ended up with 1,048,576 births (1836 - 1920), 1,048,776 marriages (1836 - 1942), and 1,048,572 deaths (1836 - 1985), which *should* include almost all of my folk, if not all of them.

Screen shot of some of my results
So then the fun began! I sorted them all alphabetically by surname (can't help it, I work in a library) and I've been colouring my surnames in blue, and turning red the ones that I know for sure are mine. I could highlight them, copy and paste subsets into another Excel workbook so I can sort them further, and even have a list of registration numbers to use when I want to order a copy of the image from the Registry. Then I can tick them off once I have the document in my family file.

Prior to this discovery I've been taking screen shots of the Registry's results page, printing them out, and cutting them into little strips, to try and recreate some family groups within certain surnames. My husband remarks that I've been stripping again (he wishes!).

My 7yo geneapprentice, Georgia, helping match births to the relevant marriage of the parents

This is a perfectly fine method if you don't mind spending a lot of time on your knees the floor, and live without the fan operating to circulate the hot air around. In my mind, Excel is now the way to go. Thanks internet!

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.