I wanted to blog about this excellent day on Saturday when it was fresh in my mind but I was thwarted by an electrician who clumsily ripped out the phone wires under my house.
Having attended a few genealogy days recently I have been disappointed at times at the lack of passion, depth of knowledge and presentation skills of the speakers. This was not the case at The Society of Australian Genealogists "From Ireland to here" day last Saturday. The speakers were of a high standard, three having PhDs in the area on which they spoke and they all demonstrated a passion for their subjects. It was pleasing to see all of the speakers being introduced and formally thanked. I was thoroughly entertained all day and came away with a long list of tips and resources to help me knock down some of my Irish brickwalls.
Dr Richard Reid from Canberra acted as chairman for the day. Richard gave an informal and entertaining introduction to the day's proceedings. First Speaker, Dr. Perry McIntyre, spoke about our convict ancestors who were "Forever banished from Ireland". She exhorted the capacity audience to look at images and think about lands the convicts came from and illustrated her talk with slides of paintings and drawings from the time. In addition to official records she reminded us that we might find details of convict trials in rural Irish newspapers and The Freeman's Journal from Dublin that was published from 1763-1924. She also suggested looking at Peter Mayberry's Irish Convicts to New South Wales 1788-1848 site for further information on convicts.
Perry has recently written a book "Free Passage: The Reunion of Irish Convicts and Their Families in Australia 1788-1852" that I have ordered as a Christmas gift for myself for $AU33.81 in paperback from the Book Depository. Thanks to the audience member who suggested this site that charges no freight for orders to Australia.
Dr Liz Rushin from Melbourne, who has co-authored several books woth Perry McIntyre, followed with a talk on early Irish female emigrants to colonial Australia. Liz discussed the motivations that saw these women emigrating. Some came on bride ships and some came with family and friends. Among other things Liz suggested that the emigration files of The Colonial Office at The National Archives, Kew, may hold some information on thes that give us an idee women. I was delighted to be sitting next to this gentle scholar who was very generous in offering assistance to many who approached her.
Keith Johnson, former President of The Society of Australian Genealogists was the last pre-lunch speaker. In a laid-back fashion Keith, who has collected and published books for 40 years, demonstrated his love of the printed word and his passion for old books. In his lecture Keith showed many treasures from his personal library and related how they could be used to extend knowledge of one's families. Keith provided a useful handout that highlighted some of the Irish holdings of SAG. As a former librarian, who loves the smell and tactile nature of books, I particularly enjoyed Keith's presentation.
During the lunchbreak the speakers generously offered one-on-one advice to audience members and Keith left his selection of precious books out for browsing. SAG had set up a bookshop that was doing very brisk business.
Dr Richard Reid, the fourth and last speaker on the program, took the stage after lunch. Richard was able to give an extended talk as the last speaker for the day had been affected by the overnight deluge and was unable to appear. Richard, an affable Irish-Australian with the "Gift of the Gab" could have kept us entertained all day. In his talk "Across the foaming billows" Richard mentioned a number of resources that might give clues about our Irish ancestors. He, like Perry McIntyre, emphasized the importance of visual references that show our ancestor's homelands and examples of homes and articles from thie times. He mentioned The Lawrence Collection from The National Libray of Ireland and The Illustrated London News as potential sources. I am pleased that I can access The Digitised Illustrated London News with my State Library of NSW library card from home.
During his talk Richard made numerous mentions of an exhibition on which he has been working that will be opened at The National Museum of Australia on St Patrick's Day, 2011. Irish in Australia "will cover the Irish presence in Australia from the day in January 1788 when a small number of Irish convicts, marines and officials walked off the transports of the First Fleet to the continuing arrival in our own time of young Irish backpackers." Richard's description of this exhibition made it sound like an essential event for all of Irish heritage.
To wrap up the day the speakers formed a panel for a Q&A session from the audience. The speakers collaborated well to answer to these questions from their various perspectives.
The only chilly note to the day was the cold blast that came from the airconditioning otherwise the warmth of the Irish spirit pervaded the gathering. Thanks to all from SAG who were involved in its organisation.