Participating in RootsTech without leaving home (and at no cost!)

The Melbourne Cup of genealogy conferences, RootsTech starts in Salt Lake City in the US on Wed Feb 27 and finishes on Sat 2 March.


Many of us don’t have the money, holidays or health to make such a big trip to the US but there are ways for those of us staying home to participate. We can watch some of the presentations online in real time (live streaming) and in past year, they have put up recordings of presentations on their website in the days following the conference.

In the Gould Genealogy blog, Alona has listed all the presentations which will be live streamed and has kindly converted the US Mountain times to Australian EST so we only have to convert them to our region.  Thank you, Alona.

This year, you can also buy a Virtual Pass to access online 18 more presentations.  If you want to see every presentation on offer, here is the full programme.

This year for the first time there will RootsTech London 2019be a Rootstech held in London in late October which is handy if you happen to live there.  Here is the  introductory information.  I believe that there are 3 major genealogy conferences to be held in the UK this year.


In Australia this year in August we have something special to look forward to also, Gould Genealogy are touring Blaine Bettinger who is a USA expert on DNA.  The DNA Roadshow is something for us to look forward to.

DNA Roadshow



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Well, it’s finished now but we can still learn from it. I’ve been following it from my iPad thanks to a couple of my favourite bloggers who were there and shared their experiences with us.

Rootstech 2018

First of all, I follow GeniAus aka Jill Ball from NSW /  who not only wrote posts while she was there but has recorded short interviews with exhibitors in the Exhibition hall and people she met in the official Media centre.  They are available on her Youtube channel “Jill Ball”.   Jill included several photos in her posts to give us an idea of what it was like to be there.

Secondly is US’s Roberta Este’s blog DNAeXplained.  Roberta blogged in very great detail about who she heard speak (or not, if she hadn’t been able to get a seat) and who she met in the Exhibition hall . Her blog is alive with photos which I really appreciated; I particularly enjoyed the changing view of the snow capped mountains from her hotel. It’s great to be able to put faces to names you normally only hear about.  Although, how you ever find anyone when there are nearly 15000 people attending this major event, I don’t know.

Finally, we can also watch from the comfort of our own homes some of each day’s talks – check out   There are 47 videos available to watch!

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2018 The Year of the Scanner

I don’t normally bother about New Year’s resolutions as I’ve never successfully completed them.  I find life tends to get in the way.

However, as I’ve had some time after a wonderful Xmas/New Year with the extended family, I’ve been doing some belated data entry and filing.  As a result, I realised that I can’t put off any longer a task I’ve been delaying for years.  I have to start SCANNING, Yes, scanning.  I do have 2 scanners so it’s not for lack of equipment but more the lack of determination and “stickability” as it is such a boring task.  I love researching and trying to work which resources to use to solve problems.  I love finding further info about people but the basic work bores me to tears – hence my lack of success in the scanning dept.

Like many people, I started this passion for my family’s history back in the mid 1980’s when you had to write away for certificates, visit interstate libraries to look at old newspapers (gosh, I do so appreciate TROVE – not only cos it is online but because it is indexed), visit interstate archives, BMD offices and go regularly to your own genealogy society and the local Mormon research centre.  These last two were great places to meet other people who shared your passion who were happy to offer help.  People starting now have many advantages but I miss those places.  They were very hectic on a weekend, I can tell you.


So as a result, I have several lever arch files full of certificates that I have purchased over the decades that I need to scan.  I always feel nervous when I go on holidays in case we have a fire but so far, it has been needless worry.  Of course, I also have many photos and slides to finish scanning too.

I have designed up a simple spreadsheet to track records as I scan them so I don’t waste time scanning them twice.  It looks a bit overwhelming but I’ll just plug away at it during the year.  I’ve also decided that it would be a good time to listen to my favourite genealogy podcast, The Genealogy Guys and their second one, Genealogy Connection while I’m working.

How do you handle the backlog of scanning?

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Naturally, Christmas preparation turns the mind to the past but I struggle to remember a lot of details about Christmas as a child in the 1950’s.  They were certainly much quieter and much less was made of the celebration. Another pointer to how less important they were, is that I don’t have a single Christmas photo from our childhood.  Whereas, I’m sure there are photos of every Christmas since my own family came along. Christmas always meant an extra Mass for the week but it was a great celebration with lots of carols.  After breakfast and looking at our presents, we would walk to our local church often wearing a new dress our nana had made.

IMG_4063 edited

We did always have a live Christmas tree, something we’ve done in our family till a few years ago; I do miss the marvellous pine smell.  I can’t remember much about what we ate apart from a roast chicken and a home made Christmas pudding.  Chickens were a luxury food and we only had one at Christmas time.  Other luxury food we only had at Christmas and birthdays was lemonade and ice cream.  Keep in mind that fridges were relatively new (we had an ice chest when I was younger) and small so the ice cream compartment was a narrow 2 shelves about 15 cms wide and similar in height.  The ice cream came in a rectangular shape that fitted into that shape and was enclosed in a waxed cardboard box.  This was before the use of plastics in packaging.  The only things you put in the freezer was ice cream and iceblocks – our fridge only had 2 shelves not three like this picture.

1950's freezer

Photo courtesy

We were always tremendously excited to put our pillow cases on the ends of our beds before we went to sleep.  I still recall the huge excitement of waking in the morning to explore what was in it.  While I can’t remember any specific presents, I do recall we always got a bag of popcorn (another rare treat) and chocolate coins in silver paper which we loved.  We were the original nuclear family as we didn’t have any family in our state having only a grandmother interstate.  Christmas for most of my childhood was just with my immediate family but we still loved it.

I do remember that when we moved interstate, we did attend a few wonderful large, noisy gatherings at someone’s home.  It’s taken years to work out how my parents knew these welcoming people and as far as I can ascertain, they were relatives of the husband of one of my mother’s aunts – how convoluted!  From memory, it was the gathering of 4 siblings, their families and their parents – I’m ever so grateful for their generosity in inviting complete strangers to their family gathering. Those years stick in my mind as they were great fun for us.  There were big long trestles in the lounge and dining area with lots of children and adults.

One odd memory of those Christmas dinners was Dad in his work van driving us home in the dark with us children in the back.  As the eldest, I had to hold onto the door to stop it opening thus preventing us falling out.  We were on the floor as there were only 2 seats in the front for mum and dad.  No seatbelts for anyone; how times have changed.



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GRO in England announces another 3 month online PDF trial

It’s amazing what you can learn from reading other genealogist’s blogs.  This week some of my blogs contained the great news that for the next 3 months, we can order PDF copies of Birth and Death certificates for only £6.    Check out the details here.

I am very excited that I can buy more certificates for my money.  Not that I think English certificates are expensive at £10 when I compare them to Australian certificates (remember you have to research BMD by state and order certificates by state).  There is no overall Australian BDM except on subscription sites and you still need to order certificates directly at each state’s BDM website.

I had great fun yesterday and ordered 4 death certificates I wanted and it cost me just under $AU42 as the exchange rate is very much in our favour now.

The only disadvantage is that you do have to wait for up to 5 days for the PDF unlike Victorian BDM where you get instant gratification. But it’s much better than waiting 2 or 3 weeks for the mail to be delivered.  Needless to say, I’m now checking my email regularly this week.

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Wonderful seminar

I thoroughly enjoyed the “Researching Abroad” seminar last week with guest speakers, Irish/Scottish genealogist, Chris Paton and German genealogist, Dirk Weisleder at the German club in the city. They and Unlock the Past staff travelled from Brisbane to Auckland, back to the eastern states and finished in Perth on the weekend.

From Dirk, I learnt a lot about the effect German history has on the availability of records today.  As my ancestors came from parts of Germany that came under the control of the East German government after WW2, I am in big trouble as genealogists don’t know where the records are or if they have been destroyed.  And of course, with the extensive WW2 bombing, many records from the 19th century that we might be looking for were destroyed.  He was also surprised how women predominate in genealogy in Australia whereas in Germany, the majority are male.

From Chris, I learnt about Scottish resources prior to 1800, I didn’t realise that the Scottish records, census and legal system is so completely different to that of England and Ireland.  While familiar with many of the Irish sites, he mentioned there were a couple I needed reminding about for future research.  Chris very kindly had set up a tinyurl for us to pick up his notes which I find really handy when you get home and try to remember the name of a particularly interesting site.

For me, a highlight of this type of event is the opportunity to talk to people who understand the passion that drives us.  It’s wonderful to be able to openly discuss my research without getting the usual bored looks. I’ve realised that I rarely find a genealogist who doesn’t have something interesting to say.

We are lucky that Unlock the Past were prepared to organise this Australia wide tour at an affordable price to give us the chance to hear international speakers.  I know we can watch webinars and aren’t they marvellous?  But there is something special about sitting in an audience and hearing them live.  Also when they aren’t talking, we had the usual opportunity to individually ask them questions and I think most of us took that opportunity.  I know I did on 3 occasions.

Alona loves to collect the photos of bloggers at these events and this was no exception.  I was thrilled to be part of such an august gathering – check out her Lonetester blog here to see her photos of the speakers, the event and the bloggers present.  Chris Paton has posted some great photos on his The Genes Blog about the Adelaide leg here

There was great info available from tables set up and staffed by the Pioneer Assoc, SAGHS, SLSA, Open Book Howden and Lutheran Archives

Thanks to Alan, Anthea and Alona for organising this event and to Rosemary and Eric Kopittke who travelled with the event all around the country and made sure that we were on time and organised on the day.


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Irish, Scottish and German family history research roadshow coming in August

I was honoured but surprised when I received an email last week from Unlock the Past’s Alan Phillips inviting me to be an Ambassador for the upcoming 2 day “Researching Abroad” seminar in August.  I am such an intermittent blogger that I never expected to be doing this along with my blogging heroes.

We are talking about a 1 or 2 day seminar focussed on the British Isles and German research in Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth.

But I am more than happy to promote this series of talks as I can genuinely recommend the wonderful Chris Paton as I heard him speak on a 2014 UTP Genealogy cruise.  I never expected to have the opportunity to hear him again so I am personally thrilled to have the opportunity. I follow Chris’ blog, The Genes Blog and invariably learn of a new Irish, Scottish or British resource to investigate.

Chris is very good at sharing his exceptional knowledge of Irish and Scottish family history research.  He is a professional genealogist who was born in Northern Ireland and lives now in Scotland. He is the author of the number of UTP titles about Scottish and Irish research.

I am looking forward to hearing Dirk Weissleder speak as I have German ancestry and no likely opportunity to travel there so I’m hoping to pick up some ideas from his talks. Today, I found an interview GeniAus (aka Jill Ball) did with him at Rootstech earlier this year which I recommend to you.

We are very fortunate that UTP and Gould Genealogy are prepared to give us the opportunity to hear these 2 International speakers in our capital cities and Auckland in NZ.  I think the price is very reasonable when you compare it to other offerings.  The 2 day ticket costs $87 or the 1 day ticket is $57.

As a  keen researcher in Adelaide, I was able to attend the 2 day DNA seminar org by UTP earlier this year at our German club.  It is at 223 Flinders St in the city (between Frome St and Hutt St) and is fairly convenient for those travelling into town by public transport.  I looked at the Adelaide Metro site and it looks like you can get off the Free City Loop bus in Hutt St. I found that car parking wasn’t difficult either.

Check out the  Adelaide programme and booking details online or check out the details of the event in other cities.

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What are the chances?


I’ve been researching in Northern Ireland for months now using the FAN (Friends, Associates, Neighbours) technique to build up a picture of the extended family.

I have James and Mary FITZSIMONS who married in Portaferry in 1854 and had their children on the townland of Tullcarnan/Tullyharmon from 1854 – 1873 but then they disappear from the records.  I can’t find the deaths of the parents or marriages of the children.  I’ve wondered if they migrated as at least 4 of Mary’s siblings did?

Last week, I thought I’d take a fresh look at this family.

After some research, I thought I had hit the jackpot and was preparing to get up and do the geneadance of joy when I realised there were some discrepancies between the info I had verified during previous searches and my newly discovered info.

I found a 1901 census record of the widowed mother, Mary living with a married daughter, whose name was the same as one of the daughters of the original family.  Then I backtracked and found the death of a James I thought was her husband a few years prior to the census.  Fantastic!! BUT ….

Then I looked more closely at the death certificate and realised that while the townland name was correct, it was actually on the other side of the Strangford Lough.  Portaferry is on the Ards Peninsula, south of Belfast and bordered by the beautiful Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea.  Further research confirmed my suspicions that yes, there are 2 townlands in Co Down called Tullycarnan.


What are the chances that there were 2 FITZSIMONS families with parents of the same name both living on Tullycarnon but those townlands were on both sides of the Lough?  Or could it be that my FITZSIMONS lived on the one near Portaferry and then moved across the water to the one near Ardglass?  Or were there 2 families who accidentally were around the same age and just happened to live on the townlands of the same name?  My feeling is that the latter is true till I have further information.



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TROVE Tuesday – Australia Day

australia-1296727__340After watching the Australia Day celebrations last week, I started thinking about how Australia Day was celebrated in the past.  I didn’t remember any great fuss during my earlier years so I decided to consult TROVE to see how it was reported in 1950.




Mr Menzies might be surprised at how many flag and flag products are available now. Just check out the shopping catalogues that end up in our letter boxes every week.





1950 ‘”Celebrate Australia Day With Flags”‘, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), 26 January, p. 2. , viewed 31 Jan 2017,




Bordertown, S.A. 

I see that the Post Offices were open for 1 hour in the morning. It seems tennis matches were the main way of celebrating Australia Day in the towns around Bordertown.

1950 ‘PUBLIC HOLIDAY NEXT MONDAY’, Border Chronicle (Bordertown, SA : 1908 – 1950), 26 January, p. 1. , viewed 31 Jan 2017,




A very different Australia Day programme to the celebrations in 2017.


1950 ‘RADIO ROUNDABOUT’, News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 28 January, p. 5. , viewed 31 Jan 2017,
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Adelaide History & Genealogy Expo

Sept 2016

I was excited when the initial ads came out for the Expo. Firstly, it was in my state, secondly, it was affordable and thirdly, the weather wouldn’t be too hot.

Really, the word expo doesn’t do the 2 days justice as it was really a conference with a trade exhibition. The trade exhibition was well worth a number of visits over the 2 days. I had some useful discussions with a number of vendors and volunteer local and family history groups. Even all the SANFL football clubs were represented as they really value their history.photoThere was a wonderful smorgasbord of speakers to choose from. The hardest part was choosing which talk to attend as there were generally 5 concurrent sessions to choose from. Thankfully, a few were repeated but I still had to miss some topics I really wanted to hear. But that always happens.

I don’t know what is in the water in Queensland but most of my favourite speakers were Queenslanders. I particularly enjoyed Helen Smith’s talk on “Google, the Genealogist’s friend”, Shauna Hick’s talks on “Online newspapers – Trove from Aust and PapersPast from NZ”  and “Sporting Ancestors”.  Sadly,this one was only scheduled for 30 mins when 50 mins would have been better.  It was held in the corners of the Exhibition hall where it was difficult to hear over the noise from the exhibitors. I left another because I couldn’t hear and didn’t even try any on the second day.

Another Queenslander, Eric Kopittke’s lecture on the history of Germany was fascinating but pity it was only scheduled for 30 mins, it was definitely a 50 mins talk.  Sadly, I didn’t get to hear Rosemary Kopittke’s talks but I did see her being very busy making sure that the 2 days talks programme went smoothly.  Of course, I acknowledge that UTP as organisers had to make the difficult decision as to which talks to make 30 mins and which were in the 50 min slot and that must have been a nightmare.

I found the talk by one of the Archivists from the National Lutheran Archives (which is in Adelaide) really useful.  I’ve made my first visit today and what a welcoming and professional group they are.  And yes, I found a few interesting things eg my g grandmother’s birth and baptism dates weren’t listed in the Baptismal register beside her name and that of her parents whereas most of the other entries on the page had those details, why?

Although I’ve been using FMP for several years, I still found the presentation by FMP’s F. Brooker to be of great assistance.

This beginner blogger was encouraged by the wonderful Alona to accept my first blogger beads photo

and have my photo taken with the other bloggers attending.  It was quite daunting meeting a number of my blogging heroes.

All in all, a wonderful 2 day conference which was affordable; most are beyond my pocket. I hope that UTP do it again in a few years as we have so little here in the way of genealogy conferences.

Nearly 3 years ago, I was fortunate in being able to go on one of UTP’s genealogy cruises with a fantastic range of speakers and I highly recommend this way of going on holiday and attending a genealogy conference. Apart from the speakers program on “at sea” days, the chance to socialise with like minded people and enjoy the full benefits of a cruise was simply wonderful.

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