Monday, August 4, 2014

National Family History Month - QFHS Seminar Fortune and Misfortune

From the Library of Congress Pauline Frederick's Potiphar's Wife

National Family History Month got off to a great start on Saturday in Queensland with the QFHS' latest seminar at the Queensland Baptist Conference Centre.  It was called Fortune and Misfortune: Parish Chest, Poor Law and Bankruptcy.

Over 40 hardy family historians decided to forgo the beautiful Queensland winter sunshine and participate in this very worthwhile educational exercise.

 I took notes using Evernote on my iPad.  I'm not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of each of the speaker's talks because that would discourage you from going along to QFHS talks.  What I shall do, instead, is attempt to give you a taste of what  was covered to encourage you to attend in future.  

The three speakers each undertook a different facet of the subject matter.

The first speaker, Bev Bonning, introduced us to the delights of the Parish Chest and all the treasures that it contains. 

I guess what I got most out of Bev's talk was that we are all guilty of sometimes being lazy and only using sources for which there are indexes.  I count myself as one most susceptible to laziness in the face of increasing time pressures.  However we are doing ourselves a great dis-service by not browsing or reading un-indexed resources.  Bev's talk introduced me to the concept of Settlement Examinations, Removal Orders and the like.  Treatment of the poor was governed by law - laws such as the Elizabethan Poor Act of 1601 and the Poor Relief Act of 1662.  The Poor have always been with us and government has been trying to figure out what to do with them for a very long time.  It's a bit sad that we are still wrestling with this issue today.

Bev commended to us County Archives, Local Researchers, Family Search filmed records and of course our own dear QFHS Library .

The second speaker was Sue Reid, former President of QFHS.

Sue's talk was well structured (as you would expect from a former teacher).  
She begged our indulgence while she went over a few definitions,for which I am very grateful.  We tend to use the terms insolvent and bankrupt interchangeably and they are very different things.  Sue drew our attention to the fact that to be considered bankrupt, you had to be regarded as a trader.  Bankrupts didn't go to jail.  Only insolvents.  Hence a lot of people tried to to describe themselves as traders when perhaps they weren't.  If you want to get a flavour for the era of mid-nineteenth century England, Sue referred us to examples in literature such as Vanity Fair and David Copperfield.  Sue also referred us to relevant legislation such as the Bankruptcy Act of 1832 and the Insolvent Debtors Act of 1813.  She recommended two sources - Newspapers such as The Times and The London Gazette (freely available through membership of the National Library of Australia or your local library so you won't become insolvent) and The National Archives.  

The final speaker, Chris Scheutz, spoke about Bankruptcy records in Australia.  

Chris emphasized that Australian law was not necessarily reflective of what was going on in England at the time but rather a mish-mash of what England was doing and our own new laws.  He also highlighted that the beauty of information to be found in Bankruptcy records was that you were catching someone in the middle of their lives while they were still very active, rather than at the end, as for example in a will.

Chris showed us examples of Bankruptcy files h'ed found at Queensland State Archives and recommended using Guides such as those published by the QSA to help you find and interpret available resources.  Importantly QFHS holds indexes to Gazette entries for Intestacy, Insolvency and Wills from 1859-1900.

To put your family's fortune and misfortune in context, Chris also recommended using a great tool Querypic which maps the incidence of keyword searches such as "bankruptcy" or "insolvent".

All in all it was the usual immensely satisfying morning - all for the bargain price of $15 for members.  A chance to catch up with like-minded people, share a cuppa, browse the bookstore and even have a go at fortune with a Lucky Door Prize.  Chris' talk even gave me a new lead in my own Daw research.  Thanks Chris, Sue and Bev and thank you QFHS.

How are you going with your Family HIstory Month Activity list?

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