14th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry - Reflections and Wrap Up

Standing Figure by Ante Dabro at University House

I promised to write a wrap-up post of my experience of Sunday's talks at the 14th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry in Canberra so here goes..


Keynote Address: Meeting people at war: writing war on the home front - Michael McKernan

Michael McKernan - photo courtesy of Allen and Unwin

I was really interested in listening to this talk mostly because I've been busting a gut (to use an impolite phrase) creating PowerPoint presentations for our library service to commemorate the lives of the soldiers from the region who enlisted in the Great War.  The PowerPoints are just part of the displays we have in each library and they include display cases filled with artefacts from local RSLs and museums and some A2 sized themed posters.
Foyer Caboolture Library with WWI Displays

WWI Display Caboolture Library

Burpengary Library posters

These photos give you a rough idea of what they look like.  My colleague, Wendy, did a fabulous job with the display cases and it was a huge job - 10 libraries in 2 days.  Pat, Kelly, Tara and Pam I couldn't have done it without your support.  Thank you.  But enough of that.

This was my first exercise in writing history for work rather than for fun (blogging) and it just about did my head in.  Of course there is always the time constraint to deal with; you never have enough time.  But choosing which soldiers to focus on was also difficult.  I wanted to choose soldiers from each suburb or area that each library was in...but sometimes those areas just didn't exist back in 1914 e.g. Arana Hills.  And then I wanted to illustrate the stories and we didn't have photos of every soldier - let's be honest, hardly any soldiers. If I analyse how much I wrote about each soldier we're talking 3-4 sentences maximum.  Very sad.  How to encapsulate a life in 4 sentences?

What I'm talking about is "selection".  And that really was the nub of Michael's talk.  My take-away statement from this talk was "Selection is the key to writing something worthwhile about the past" and I tweeted it here.

Michael studied his doctorate at ANU.  His latest work is Victoria at War 1914-1918 and you can read about it here.  His challenge was to capture the lives of what he dubbed the "none of name" or stories of what some might call "cannon fodder" - the ordinary soldiers.  He spoke of a long mourning and deep grief for each life lost.  He referred to one family, the Fothergillls, who published a new ""In Memoriam" poem each year for 30 years for their son Jack as an example.  It was a very moving talk.  Thank you Michael. 

Tracing Your Pre-WWI British Soldier - Paul Milner

Do you know I almost didn't attend this talk?  I was going to listen to Kerry Farmer talk about migration schemes to Australia because I always need to know more about that.  And according to fellow genes - Kerry's talk was great.  

But oh boy, am I glad I went to this talk.  It's the first time I've heard Paul Milner speak and I am a new convert.

What a professional, energetic and inspiring speaker he is!  Confident.  Knowledgeable.  And he gave me genea-gold.  What a treasure.  The Congress program advises that Paul is a native of England but he seems to speak with an American accent.  Ah, I see from his website that he studied at the University of Wisconsin and has lived in the US ever since. Paul, you've won a new convert.  

I attended this lecture because my husband's ancestors were in the military in Barbados.  The genea-gold he revealed to me was that Halifax Nova Scotia was the central command post for Nth America including the Caribbean so it is really worthwhile checking records in Nova Scotia if you're trying to find out about ancestors in the Caribbean.  Who knew?

Thanks too to the HAGSOC host of the session who encouraged us just before the session started to take advantage of the much under-utilised AJCP microfilm for an index to the British army in Australia.  

Paul was anxious to let us know that he could easily have spent hours if not days in telling us about this rich subject area.  He did his best in 40 minutes giving us an overview of how the Army was structured before 1660, then from 1750-1870 and 1870-1945.  He walked us through using the National Archives resources and then gave us some case studies.  A very well organised and delivered session.  If you ever get an opportunity to see this man in action, don't miss him.

Mapping our families - putting them in their place - Cora Num

Having enjoyed Cora's pre-recorded session the day before, I went back for more!  

Cora spoke about the Discovering Anzacs site and I was interested to learn that it covers the Boer War as well as WWI.  

She also showed us the NLA Map site which has 600,00 maps of which 17,200 are digitized.  

Other sites referred to included:

Cora also spoke about mindmaps and if you've been following me lately you'll know how enthusiastic I am about those.  If mind maps float your boat she recommended inforapid knowledgebasebuilder here.  You might want to turn the sound down after a while as it has an annoying keyboard clicking soundtrack. Cora also remarked that you can import gedcom files into a mindmap which I thought was really interesting. Must try that one day.

After lunch fellow QFHS members and stalwarts of Unlock the Past cruises and publications, Rosemary and Eric Kopittke were presented with their AFFHO Meritorious Service Award Insignia.  Hooray!

Rosemary and Eric Kopittke being presented with their AFFHO Meritorious Service Award Insignia

Keynote address: Men, women, sex and desire: family history on Australia's first frontier - Associate Professor Grace Karskens 

I confess to suffering from a bit of a post-prandial snooze during this session although I was interested to hear that Castlereagh was the first Soldier Settlement and tweeted accordingly.  Grace is writing an ethnographic environmental history of Castlereagh in Western Sydney to be published by CSIRO press.  Those with ancestors in the area should be pleased.

Harness the power of blogging - Pauleen Cass

I couldn't resist seeing fellow-geneablogger in action at this session and was delighted to see so many other supportive geneabloggers.   I discovered the session was really called Blogging a One Place Study which I didn't mind at all really.  Pauleen gave an overview of why she chose to blog about one place and the benefits that brought to her and others research.  The take home message from this session was blogging about a place gives context to your family history.  You can read about Pauleen's presentations on her blog here.  Pauleen's presentation was short and sweet which allowed for discussion about the benefits of blogging versus traditional publishing.  Many agreed that blogging democratizes research - i.e. so that history is not just about the great and the good but the ordinary folk too.  It was also pointed out that blogs can be searched.  Not all books have fabulous indexes or can be searched as easily.  An interesting session.  Heck!  I might even be inspired to start yet another blog.  Saints preserve us!

For King and Empire - services rendered: WW1 Medical Records - Roger Kershaw

Roger is the Head of Military, Maritime, Transport and Family records for the Advice and Records Knowledge department and Acting-Head of Editorial and The National Archives (TNA).  I attended this session for obvious reasons - my work in researching soldiers' records for the Centenary of WWI.  

Roger directed us to MH106 records from the Ministry of Health and WO339 and WO374 in particular - neither of which have been digitised.  These are the officers service records...sigh.  WO363 and 364 are for the ordinary soldiers.  WO95 are the War Diaries.  PIN26 and PIN82 are the pension records.  There are 23,000 case files.  WO95 locates field ambulance units.  

Roger spoke about the conditions of war leading to poor hygiene and the infectious diseases that spread from that - trench fever, malaria, mumps, typhus to name a few.  

It was the end of a long day and I rather wished I had attended another session.

Oh well - that's why you get the Congress papers.  And you can too by emailing bookshop@hagsoc.org.au.  They're available in hardcopy for $35 plus postage or on a USB stick for $20 plus postage.  Well worth it - if like me, you missed out on a day - or wished you could attend two or three sessions at once!

The day finished with drinks at the Crown Casino to meet up with fellow Kiva supporters - cards were exchanged and lovely Fran Kitto showed me how to save them to my contacts using Evernote.  Thank you to Judy Webster for organising.

Then I went to dinner with Uni Tas course graduates at the Jamie's Italian restaurant which was lovely to meet everyone.  Thank you to Janelle for organising it and thank you to HAGSOC hostess with the mostess Jenny for giving me and Prue a lift back to our motels.

Ribbons and Blogger beads

Thank you again to Jill Ball for my Blogger Beads and Pauleen and Judy for my Congress ribbons - #genealogy, Queenslander and Kiva Genealogists for Families.  Thank you to Shauna Hicks for greeting me so warmly and sharing goodies with me.  I really appreciate it.

Last but not least thank you to my QFHS Library Assistant buddies for covering my shift on the Sunday afternoon so I could attend. You are legends.

So - what was the damage?


2 days attendance @ $160 per day - lunch included - 7 talks a day not including presentations at speaker's corner during lunch hour. Let's say $20 per talk and $20 per lunch.
Originally $401.70 but I changed my return flight to stay an extra night. For international folk Canberra is about 1200km from Brisbane and the flight is nearly 2 hours each way.
$145.00 per night – yes you can get cheaper but I like my own bathroom and wanted to be within walking distance of the venue.
Lunch was included in congress so this was for 3 x breakfasts and 2 dinners plus drinks with friends.  The flight was late home so I survived on the free cheese and crackers and wine supplied by Virgin. $40 per day
At the airport out in the open with Budget Airport Parking booked online for 3 days 
This is for trips to and from the airport and then 4 more trips on Monday to and from archives  and the War Memorial - cheaper than a hire car which always seems to cost more than they promise.
Kiva - I know, pathetic - I'm sorry
Going mad at the War Memorial Shop
Somehow I managed to resists all the stalls in the Exhibition Hall at Congress but came undone here – I found a fabulous Map of the Western front, playing cards featuring Tommies and a Ben Quilty catalogue (pressies for the forbearing folk at home), postcards, books and a trench sign” Roo de Kanga” that I couldn’t resist for my desk at work.  I swear I bought half of what I wanted.

$1656.30 or $552 per day - ouch!  Back to the salt mine.  

The next Congress will be held in Sydney in 2018 and then the next one in Brisbane in 2021.  Yay!  Perhaps I will see you there?


GeniAus said…
If I am still breathing and have my marbles I'll see you in 2018 ifnot before.

Thanks for sharing details of the sessions you attended - so many that were differnet from mine. These blog posts certainly add to the value of Congress.
Alex Daw said…
Thanks Jill. My pleasure. It was so lovely seeing everyone and being in Canberra.
Janelle Collins said…
Hi Alex, it was great to meet you! This is a great blog post.I'm too scared to add up how much it cost me :) As it was so obviously work-related you can claim it all against your tax.
I'm looking forward to reading the proceedings to catch the talks I missed out on because my clone is still a work in progress.
Alex Daw said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex Daw said…
Dear Janelle - thank you for your kind words. I do fear I banged on a bit. You're right I am going to claim it on tax. Ah yes - the clone....that like the "beam me up Scotty" machine are a while away yet.
Thanks for writing up these sessions Alex, I didn't get to most of them so good to read your comments. When working out your costs, you should also divide by 3 as Congress only happens every 3 years. Looking at it that way, a great investment in genealearning, either for work or pleasure!
crgalvin said…
Great write up, thanks as I've yet to read all those papers from the sessions I didn't attend.
Alex Daw said…
Thanks Shauna - that makes me feel much better. Truly when you do break it down, it is all excellent value.
Alex Daw said…
Thanks Carmel. I do hope I get to read up on them all. I fear other stuff will get in the way though.
Thanks for the summary, Alex, and it was interesting to see the expenses break-down too ...it does add up.Thanks for the mention of my talk - sorry about the topic mix-up in the publications. It was great to see the engagement of fellow bloggers to share the enthusiasm of blogging. Yikes, another blog - don't forget the clone machine.
Judy Webster said…
Alex, I'm sorry we weren't able to have a proper chat during the Congress - and at the Kiva team get-together I was focussed on looking after a friend who was suddenly taken ill.
Alex Daw said…
Hi Pauleen - Yes well I almost didn't post the summary of expenses - but heck - it will be of historical interest one day I'm sure ;) Don't apologise regarding topic mix-up - I reckon some really worthwhile discussion and throughts were provoked. Ah yes - the clone machine.
Alex Daw said…
Dear Judy - Me too. I must confess to being a bit overwhelmed by all the lovely people there and was not my usual bouncy self. Trust you and your big heart to be helping someone :) I'm so pleased that the drinks went well and $ were raised for Kiva.

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