Friday, 23 January 2015

Some Highlights of 2014 and what's to come.....

Some Genealogy Highlights of 2014 and Plans for 2015...

2014 was an interesting genealogy year for me.  My passion for blogging family history through my blogs FamilyHistory4u , Family Convictions - A Convict Ancestor and Sharn's Genealogy Jottings,  earned me a place in the top ten Genealogy Rockstars in the Australasian catagory of this competition for the second year running. I was most humbled and grateful that others found my blog posts interesting enough to vote for me, especially since my blogs had to take second place last year to a number of things, including ill health and study. I hope that in 2015 I will be back up and running - well writing! Here in my first post on the Worldwide Genealogy Blog, I will look back over the past year of 2014, and illuminate some of my genealogical highlights as well as looking ahead to the exciting family history events planned for 2015. I am writing this post from Tamworth in NSW ,where I am enjoying the Country Music Festival, which of course has nothing to do at all with genealogy, but is a whole lot of fun. I did however, manage to stop off on the 6 hour drive from Sydney, in  the Hunter Valley town of Singelton, to hunt down a convict ancestor's grave. Like most genealogists, I never miss an opportunity to visit the places where my ancestors came from. So, on to my genealogical highlights of 2014....

The most wonderful, heartwarming and exciting highlight of  my year, 2014 was, without a doubt....


Shortly before I left for the 2014 Tamworth Country Music Festival, in January last year, I noticed a particularly touching post from a friend on facebook who had shared a 1970's photograph of his biological father. It was his hope that through friends resharing his post all around the world, that he might find his father. I have read some heartwarming and moving stories about family members finding each other through social media, however, rather than leave the search to  facebook, I decided to see if I could find my friend Martin's father, hoping I had the skills to do so. Because this was such a personal search for my friend, and one I knew must surely meant a great deal to him, I telephoned him to ask if he would mind if I looked for the man he only knew from a 1970's photograph.
The journey began with a name, an occupation, a place where he lived in England from the 1970's, and the information that he was last though to have lived in Canada in the 1980's.

Martin was born in England but had emigrated to Australia as a young child with his mother and step father and no contact had been kept with his biological father over the many years. He had grown up not knowing what his father's background was but thought it to be Jamaican. I knew that this was an important search for my friend to find his father and his paternal roots and I wanted to help.

This search, with its twists and turns and amazing coincidences, along with its wonderful outcome, will be the subject of another blog post on my Family4u blog because I cannot do the story justice unless I tell it in its entirety. So stay tuned for that story....


2014 began with an exciting History/Genealogy UnlockthePast Cruise in February. As the huge ship, Voyager of the Seas pulled away from the dock in Sydney Harbour, I could hardly contain my excitement. Not only was this my first ever cruise, but the thought of nine days of fascinating conference topics whilst meeting up with old and new genea-friends  as we enjoyed the luxurious Royal Carribean Line  ship, was intoxicating. 

Even wild wind and rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the brave or foolhardy who stood on deck to gaze upon Sydney's glorious harbour as we made our way towards the Heads and out to sea southwards towards our first stop in Melbourne. From there we were headed to Adelaide then Hobart and back to Sydney on a nine day voyage of discovery.

Image SharnWhite
At the end of the cruise I had gained so much new knowledge, and was eager to put into practice the information I had gleaned from a wide range of speakers. A highlight of the cruise was joining the Society for One Place Studies which Kirsty Grey spoke in depth about. I was thrilled to receive my One Place Studies badge as well! I had already a one place study of Kaimkillenbun on the Darling Downs in Queensland, Australia although I must admit that registering my study is a goal for 2015! 


2014 was a year filled with new family connections, as my blog posts, Ancestry Tree and FamilyTree DNA linked me to family members in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Germany and here in Australia. In March I travelled to Brisbane, Queensland, to meet members of my paternal McDade family. We discovered our connection through a photograph on my blog that they recognised. We now chat daily via facebook. This year in 2015, I will finally meet my McDade third cousins in Chicago Illinois with whom I have been corresponding via facebook for several years now. Their great grandmother, Agnes McDade (Married name Leonard) was the sister of my great grandfather, John McDade who arrived in Australia from Glasgow Scotland in 1923. Since I am attending for the first time, the RootsTech Conference in Utah, I will be travelling on from Salt Lake City to meet my too many to name cousins. Very kindly my cousin Betsy is having me stay with her. I have a sneaking suspicion that we are in for lots of chatting and much fun! This trip will be another first for me as I am not used to such cold winters. 

I look forward to catching up with my genea blogging friends at the Rootstech Conference, to proudly sporting my brightly coloured blogger beads and to acquiring much new information which will help me in my research. 


Following the Unlock the Past Cruise, I was contacted by a researcher from the Great Southern Television Company with regard to an up and coming episode of Coast Australia; the second series. One of the episodes was to be filmed on Norfolk Island and part of the program was to feature the second settlement, which was the notorious convict establishment the island is infamous for, between 1825 and 1855. While researching ideas for the Norfolk Island episode, someone had discovered my blog posts in which I had written about my great great great grand uncle, convict Laurence Frayne. Laurence penned a 74 page most descriptive and eloquently written memoir of his long sentence on Norfolk Island and I had transcribed the diary, which is held in the Mitchell Library in Sydney. I have researched Laurence (also spelled Lawrence) Frayne extensively and after meeting with a director and producer of Coast Australia, I was invited to travel to the island to participate in the program and to be interviewed by Neil Oliver.

It was my great honour to accompany Dr Tim Causer, UK historian and transcriber and Norfolk Island second settlement expert. Missing our connecting flight in Brisbane, however, was not part of the plan, although I am certain that our trip to Norfolk via Lord Howe Island and then in our own special 'chariot' (below) was a much more exciting and adventurous way to arrive than on the usual Air New Zealand A320.
Image taken by Tim Causer-  a 3 hour flight from Lord Howe to Norfolk Island
The Norfolk Island episode airs in Australia on the History Channel on February 16....I will be in Salt Lake City following the Rootstech Conference and en route to Chicago so I am lining up a friend to tape the episode for me.


Before being invited to travel to Norfolk Island to appear in an episode of Coast Australia, I had booked to attend another Unlock the Past History/Genealogy Conference to be held there. Norfolk Island had long held a great fascination for me. Having researched the Convict settlement of the Second Settlement and knowing that I had two ancestors who had been convicted to serve sentences on the notoriously harsh penal colony, seeing Norfolk Island and walking in my ancestors' footsteps was something I had wanted to do for a long time. To achieve this dream twice in one year was much more than I had hoped for.

The conference was a great success with guest speakers who included, Shauna Hicks, Cathy Dunn and Liz McCoy. Liz is a Pitcairn descendant who possesses an in depth knowledge about the second settlement on Norfolk Island. She and Cathy Dunn also gave a most fascinating tour of the historical part of the Norfolk cemetery. I managed to completely fall in love with Norfolk Island and can highly recommend a visit to the KAVHA research centre and wonderful museums which tell the story of the island's history.

Convict ruins on Norfolk Island Image SharnWhite


Not only was 2014 a most successful year for my own personal family history research, but I also successfully helped find a few ancestors for other folk as well. I plan to post the stories of my 2014 discoveries in blog posts this year. 2015 posts will how I  solved a 106 year old mystery and found the mysterious Miss Pickles and how a DNA test may have put me on the road to finding the unknown German father of my great great grandfather.
I traced  my German ancestors back many more generations than I had previously done, thanks to the release of  German birth death and marriage records and many others. If you are a long time member of as I am, it is wise to continually check for new records that are released. I suggest you regularly take a look at the records added as those waving green ancestry leaves do not always point in the right direction and you might miss something!


One of my 2014 New Year's resolutions was to make more use of libraries and archives. One can become far too reliant upon the ease of internet and forget the wealth of information still 'hidden away' in archives


2014 was a year which saw me join a few new specialised genealogy facebook groups. I am not one to post for help much on facebook but I discovered that there is a significant amount of excellent advice and links to useful websites on many of these genealogy focused groups. In particular, I found several German groups most informative. If you have German ancestors I would recommend joining groups such as German Genealogy, German Genealogy Records Transcriptions, Brandenburg Genealogy/ Familienforschung Brandenburg and Baden Genealogy. There are groups for almost every region you might have ancestors from in Germany and other European countries. I found links to websites which were extremely helpful in my own research by participating in these groups. Facebook genealogy help groups are becoming increasingly popular and it is a wonderful way to share the knowledge you possess or to learn from others more knowledgeable than yourself or with access to records in countries you cannot visit. I joined new Australian, Irish and Scottish facebook  family history groups in 2014 also. It doesn't take long to become aware of which groups are going to be useful to you but it is a great way of expanding your genealogy research and keeping in touch with other like minded people.

I focused very much on my German ancestors in 2014 and I found the Online German Genealogy Records and Databases, an excellent place of reference for links to very useful German resources. FamilySearch has an excellent German database of German Church records. Free access to german records and databases can be found through a google search. One of my favourites can be found here.

As always, 2014 was a year in which I enriched many of my family stories through the use of the National Library of Australia's digitalised newspaper website, TROVE. It has been the personal stories that I have discovered in newspapers, that have added so much depth of understanding to the lives of my ancestors. Searching newspaper reports and advertisements will again be a significant part of my 2015 research. Local newspapers, in particular, can be the source of information such as where your ancestors went on holidays, what sporting teams they belonged to, donations they made locally, the church events they took part in, the opening of new industries or events they attended in the places where they lived and so much more and obituaries can be a veritable wealth of information.


2015 is already filling up with genealogical events for me. In February I am attending RootsTech 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. I am looking forward to meeting up with many genea-friends, some of whom I know personally and other whom I know through blogging or social media platforms. I am thrilled to be part of the largest Australian group of genealogists and genealogy bloggers to yet attend this event. Bring on the bright coloured blogger beads!

After an 8 day holiday on Norfolk Island in early January ( which of course included a good measure  of convict research as well as snorkling and exploring) and now a 7 day stay in Tamworth for another Music Festival, I will head back to my home in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, to pack my bags for the USA.

Following the Rootstech Conference I am flying to Chicago to meet my McDade third cousins with whom I am well acqainted on facebook but whom I have not yet met in person. I am very much excited to be able to meet her and my many other relatives in Illinois, and to make this part of my family history become a real life story.

Returning to Australia in March, I will not have much time for jetlag, as I will be heading south from Sydney to Canberra, our National Capital City. In Canberra, I will attend the 14th Australasian Heraldry and Genealogy Congress. Time for meeting up with like minded friends, for information overload and loads of fun. And of course, out will come the blogger beads one again.

2015 is shaping up to be a busy year for me as a genealogist and a blogger and  I plan to continue keeping updated with regard to records and resources which are continually being updated and added to the internet as well as records being digitslised by archives and libraries.

One thing I very much look forward to in 2015, is being a member and participant of this worldwide blogging collaboration. As you can see from this post, I have very much been 'on holidays' for this month of January and I apologise that my blog may be somewhat in holiday mode. I am very much enjoying reading the posts from other group members and what better a way to share our knowledge and learn from each other. Many thanks to Julie Goucher of the blog Anglers Rest, for the many hours she must certainly put into co-ordinating such projects. 

1 comment:

  1. I love going around the World with you. So much insight into what we miss Stateside. Have a Great time in SLC!


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