Friday, October 29, 2010

Recording my life's stories

Do you keep a diary?

I have a couple of shelves of hard copy diaries in my garage. There are work diaries and personal diaries. I started recording a personal diary around 1980 but missed a couple of years in the eighties.

Around eighteen years ago when I first acquired a PDA I decided to move to an online diary as I realised that I could move entries from my PDA into a file on my computer, enhance these with anecdotes and keep them as a diary. In those early days there weren't many pieces of  journalling software around and I don't think blogs were around either. I decided to keep my diary in a simple spreadsheet. Today it is still in that spreadsheet and still using the headings I set up all those years ago
Diary Headings

It's not meant to be pretty just functional.

I started by importing all of my PDA calendar entries into the spreadsheet then I  transcribed all of my diary entries; these triggered memories so I was able to add detail to the dry dates and facts. Once this was completed I was on a roll. I then added entries for events prior to the days when I kept a diary. I added dates and memories of family events, looked at my dated photographs and recorded the stories these told me. My kids let me look at their old school diaries and calendars; these provided more dates and memory prompts.I have since gone through some of our old credit card bills and added details of important purchases.

From time to time family members make a comment about an event in the past and their recollections of it.  I note these on either a scrap of paper or a note in my phone and put them in the diary as time permits recording the source of the comment. I always record my sources, not in a formal academic sense but with labels like Aunt May, 1983 school diary, Letter from Fred to Sue, Current, Photo etc.

When my Dad passed away I discovered where my hoarding gens came from. He had kept every receipt from every purchase he had made. I added these and the memories I have related to these purchases: our first refrigerator, our first radiogram, our first television, holiday dates. One of my dear friends had saved all the postcards I have sent to her, when she knew that her days were numbered she gave these back to me. I have added all of the test to the diary; these entries demonstrate in my words the awe and excitement I had when visiting distant lands.

I cannot remember when my friends got married or had their 21sts or when their kids were christened but I have vivid memories of some of these events. Whenever I come across someone whose wedding I attended I ask when they got married and add this to the diary. I then record my memories of the event.

As technology has developed I have added entries from other sources. My daughter's emails from boarding school tell of the fun times she was having. My Facebook wall posts are wonderful sources of my thoughts and activities at a particular point in time. Each month I import my outlook calendar into the diary. Whenever I travel I record my doings on a spreadsheet on my smartphone as I go and import this into the main document on my return.

The diary now sits in a folder called OurDiary into which I paste scanned images of tickets, invitations, programs etc. I hyperlink to these from the Excel spreadsheet. I also add hyperlinks to information about people, places and events. I once started to transcribe old letters and didn't get far but now I scan and hyperlink them.

What started out as a simple spreadsheet has now grown into a multimedia resource that spans my lifetime. This diary is much richer than a simple paper based diary as it combines information from a range of sources to give a picture of our family and work life. When I finish digitising my photos I will add selected ones into the folder. Whether it will stay in Excel or migrate to some other product I don't know.

Hopefully some of my descendants will be interested in our family life and gain enjoyment and enlightenment from Our Diary.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2010 History & Genealogy Expo at Parramatta - Saturday

Was it only four days ago that I retraced Friday's steps to Parramatta for the second day of the expo?

My Saturday started on a high note with  "Immigration from Ireland" by Dr. Perry McIntyre. After my initial shock in finding that Perry, whom I had read about for many years, was a girl not a boy I settled in for a most informative talk. Who said academics were boring? Kerry was the anthtihesis of boring as she spoke with passion and a depth of knowledge on this subject.  Kerry skillfully placed her talk, that was illustrated with images and statistics, in an historical perspective giving us an understanding of why our ancestors left the Emerald Isle. Kerry confirmed that finding traces of Irish ancestors can be a challenge but that with persistence one can sometimes be successful.

A silde from Perry's talk

In my second talk I went on a virtual tour of the treasure of the Mitchell Library with Paul Brunton. In his talk " The Mitchell Library and its collections" Paul,  after giving a short history of the library, focussed on some of the treasures of the library that are not what they seem. He talked about collection items that included, maps, letters, manuscripts, china and artworks. Paul indicated that looking at these old items in current often gave historians clues about social life and conditions of the times in which they were produced. Paul,a polished presenter who gave a talk laced with humour, demonstrated a passion for the Mitchell and its collections.
A 19th century cartoon from the Mitchell
I felt like I had won the trifecta after attending my third talk "The SAG Treasure Chest: how the Society's collections can help you" with Heather Garnsey, SAG Executive Officer. I had heard three competent, passionate and knowledgeable speakers in one morning.

An introductory slide from Heather

In her informative session Heather gave the audience a history of the Society and then outlined the items in the collection and how they can assist with one's research. She indicated the economic benefits of membership for those join up and use SAG's facilities. I am a longtime member of the Society who does not use these facilities nearly enough, Heather gave me a wakeup call.
Heather's conclusion
During the next two sessions I spent time volunteering on the TMG Sydney User's Group table. It was an honour to sit with these enthusiastic people who give of their time and energy so freely to promote the package about which they are so passionate. One thing users need to consider when purchasing software is the amount of support available. Apart from online support from the vendor members of the users group offer their expertise generously through a listserv and regular meetings at SAG.

There is no rest for the wicked so at 2:00 pm I found myself at the back of a crowded room for Chris Paton's talk "Discover Scottish Church records". Chris did his best to liven up this rather dry and confusing topic. My enjoyment suffered as I was unable to see Chris' slides on the screen and  seeing these visual prompts was vital  in following Chris. Additionally, as I could not see I was unable to record any of the URLs to which Chris referred. I hope I can find them in his book.

During the break I purchased a coffee and came across Neil Chippendale, Local Studies Librarian from Hornsby Library, who was scheduled to give a talk. I lamented that speakers had not been giving handouts; Neil promptly produced from his bag those he had prepared. Good on you, Neil, I didn't go to your talk but know that your participants would have been happy to get those notes of yours.

The last talk I attended certainly was the jewel in the crown of a fantastic day. Kerry Farmer presented a talk on "DNA and genealogy". I am scientifically illerate but came away from Kerry's talk feeling as though I had a basic grasp of the concepts she had outlined. Kerry was a calm and competentent speaker who was exceptionally well prepared. At the beginning of the talk she shared a wonderful handout, her many slides were attractive and informative and she made those of us in the audience who didn't have a clue about the subject comfortable enough to ask our silly questions.

Thanks again to the people from Unlock the Past and Gould Genealogy (it's hard to work out which is which or if they are one and the same) for putting together this event.

See my post for Friday's talks  here

Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 History & Genealogy Expo at Parramatta - Friday

The first session of my crowded timetable was Discover Scottish Family History by visiting Scottish expert, Chris Paton. In his first couple of minutes Chris connected with his audience with a relaxed speaking style peppered with humorous asides. Chris' informal style was in contrast to the depth of information he presented in the 45 minutes allocated. After the presentation someone commented that "he went so fast", I love this style of presentation where the presenter can pack plenty of information into a short time. This talk told me so much more than I have heard from other presenters in Australia talking on a similar topic. Thank you, Chris, for not turning your talk into an infomercial for your book but for simply mentioning it in your final slide. I bought a copy!

Chris' blog, Scottish Genes, is one of the best in my RSS feeds, it is an essential read for those with Scottish links. presented Social Media for Family Historians

Carole Riley, a SAG Councillor and professional genealogist from Sydney presented Social Media for Family Historians. Although this talk was targetted towards beginners I was interested in hearing how Carole approached this topic for which I have a passion. In the time allotted Carole gave an overview of a number of products that she uses to enhance her research and maintain family connections. It was evident from the number of questions from the floor that the family historians in the audience had little knowledge of the tools. This talk certainly hit the mark with the majority of audience members.  I must agree with Carole's statement " I think social media is the best thing since the personal computer was invented." Carole did not plug her book ad nauseum - so I bought a copy.

Geniaus meets Chris Paton
I nabbed a front seat for Chris Paton's second talk " Discover Scottish Land Records. Chris made this dry topic interesting  with his clear summary and explanations; I took copious notes but think these are not necessary as all of the information is in Chris' book. Listening to the man in person was far more enjoyable than reading his words on a page.

At the last minute I purchased a ticket to Megan Gibson's "How to get more family tree time: tips for the time poor!" Megan only had a thirty minute slot to share her tips. Unfortunatley her introduction and promotion of her book took up the first fifteen minutes of this time so she was not able to share many tips with her audience. Megan did give a handout of a proforma for documenting a day's activities.

In contrast Shauna Hicks in her presentation "Family History on the cheap" packed a lot of content into the time allocated. Shauna talked to a great number of slides as she showed the audience sites and places where they could research for little outlay. The best tip I got from this talk was on how to search I had been disappointed when I had my free trial, that I could not find many ancestors in this database. I had been searching for them in the surname field. Shauna said that many of the documents in the database are in .pdf format and that one must search by the keyword  field to get some hits as surnames are not separately indexed. Now I'd like another free 24 hour trial to test this out. I would add to Shauna's list the GenealogyWise site as a wonderful way to network with other genealogists with similar interests.

I enjoyed most of these talks and took away many ideas from the speakers to help me with my research. One suggestion I have for all of these speakers is to provide a handout or link to a webpage with the slides from the presentation or a summary of the references given.

I usually take a few notes  on my smartphone and take digital photos of the presenter's slides which I paste into the notes. Unfortunately, as I am 5 foot nothing, I could not see the screen when the rooms were crowded and I was beyond the fourth row so I was unable to record some of the URLs given by the presenters. I just hope they are in Chris' book!

See my post on Saturday's talks here

2010 History & Genealogy Expo at Parramatta

I had a wonderful time at this event last Friday and Saturday and, after a hectic weekend, feel the need to blog about it. I will probably do a few posts, a general one and one each for Friday and Saturday concentrating on the sessions I attended.

Firstly I want to thank Allan Phillips and the crew from Unlock the Past for organising the event.It was pleasing to that The Australian Society of Genealogists supported the event. Heather Garnsey and her crew from SAG were very busy proferring assistance to visitors right through the event.  Having been a chair and member of conference  committees during my working life I know how much planning goes into staging such an event.

As with  many such events it is not only the formal program that enriches ones experience but the opportunity to meet and network with like-minded people. I was delighted to finally meet a number of online genealogy contacts in person including Kerry Farmer who was my tutor in an excellent  NIGS Genealogy course and Cheryl-Ann who was a fellow class member. I also got to finally meet Shauna Hicks in the flesh after sharing many months of online communication.
Kerry Farmer proffers advice

The program was varied; providing sessions for those who were beginners to those who were old hands at the genealogy game. There was something on offer to satisfy all tastes. It was regrettable that due to a timing glitch Heather Garnsey, especially as she is such a font of information, was told during her talk that she had to cut it by fifteen minutes. Apart from this sessions ran on time with sufficient time to move from room to room.

I attended around ten talks and found that most of the speakers were knowledgeable in their areas of expertise and had a reasonable presentation style. I thought I had chosen wisely omitting a few I had heard befare who weren't quite up to scratch. So over the two days I would only label one of the the speakers as woeful and a waste of time.  You win some, you lose some!
An earlybird waits  for a talk

I was disappointed that most of the speakers did not provide a handout or a link to a site where an outline of their talk could be found.  Kerry Farmer and Neil Chippendale were well prepared with handouts, sadly others were not. It was disappointing that some speakers appeared to use their sessions as infomercials to peddle their publications. Sessions of this type should perhaps be free.

The exhibition or trade fair had a great representation from voluntary and commercial organisations. There were numerous opportunities to part with ones pennies or pick the brains of enthusiastic volunteers. I spent some time working on The Master Genealogist Sydney User Group Table where users of TMG demonstrated its features to visitors. As a new member of this group I am in awe of  ways members have customised this program to suit their particular research needs.

Arriving at the venue and finding a free covered carpark just across the street put me in a good frame of mind for the event. Registration at 8:30 am was a painless process; I received a smile, an envelope containing tickets for the talks I was scheduled for and a goodies bag within a minute or two of appeearing. When I decided to attend an extra talk it was a simple matter to exchange my $5 for a ticket. This organisation was excellent.

The venue was clean and airy with a coffee shop and bistro facilities. On day two I packed some peanut butter sandwiches for lunch to avoid the long queues at the coffee shop. The bistro dinner shared with TMG mates and Unlock the Past staff was hot, freshly cooked and tasty.

As someone who has mobility problems I found the multi-level venue hard to navigate. There was an inclinator for those who needed help to get to the auditorium for the exhibtion but I could not find an alternative to the steep stairs down to two of the seminar rooms ; I am glad that I was not an exhibitor who had to transport boxes of goods for sale up and down the stairs to get in there.

I commend Allan Phillips and the crew from Unlock the Past for bringing this event (and Chris Paton) to Sydney.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Expo

It's a genealogy who's who here at Parramatta RSL. I spent an hour on the TMG table in the crowded exhibition hall and catching up with Pat and Chris two colleagues from my life when working in schools.

Now it's time to listen to Chris Paton, who in his first few minutes, has demonstrated a sense of humour. Love your style, Chris.

Pleased to hear news of the 1911 Scottish census shared by Chris.

A Family Sojourn

Although this blog has had a rest I have been very busy with family matters.

Together with Mr Geniaus I joined one of my sons and daughters-in-law and two little grandsons on a spring sojourn in Hawaii.  I had intended to blog while on holiday but once we got together I chose to concentrate my energies on spending time with these lively members of the family.  I could not forgo this precious opportunity.

I took hundreds of photos and have recorded many snippets in my diary. From these I will  produce some photo books that will details the fun times we had together. In years to come these will provide a permanent record of a wonderful time spent enjoying the joy of our grandparenthood.

Now back in Australia I am off with my camera to the 2010 History & Genealogy Expo at Parramatta from which I blog.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Follow Friday - Australian FamilySites - Gransden Family

I am interested in this site as I know someone in Australia with the surname Gransden but do not know if she has a relationship to the family on this site. I must find out.

The Family Tree section of this site demonstrates that one does not need expensive software to post a tree on the internet. The free Personal Ancestral File software produces a neat site to share on the web.

Site URL

Site Name



Tina Bean

Author's Contact Details

Email link from family tree pages

Last Updated


Age of Site

Not apparent.

Family tree  - 17 Jun 2008
Software Used Site - Net Objects Fusion9

Family Tree - Personal Ancestral File
Persons in Database

Cannot ascertain

Time Span


Index of names


Prominent Surnames

Bean, Gransden

Password Protected No

Details of Living Persons Supressed


Data Sourced

Yes. Some events sourced

Search Facility

Not apparent


Link to photos on Flickr



Sidebar and Bottom menu on some

No link back to home page from family tree


Basic, neat.


Site Map

Family Stories

Gransden Stories

Lists of unrelated Gransdens

St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Windsor

As this was in the  public domain on the list I am reposting it on this blog for the information of those with an interest in St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Windsor.

As many people on the list have ancestors who were baptised, married or buried at St Matthew’s Anglican Church at Windsor I thought you might like to know of that they are holding an open day for people wishing to view the historic St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Rectory & Stables on Sunday 24th October 2010.

The foundation stone of Francis Greenway’s St Matthew’s Anglican Church was laid by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in October 1817. The St Matthew’s Rectory and Stables (1824-5) were built by William Cox, Principal Magistrate to the colony of New South Wales, 1810 - 1837. Please note that One final opportunity for 2010 is being provided to view the ground floor of the Rectory & the stables. Devonshire Tea plus tours of the church, graveyard, rectory and stables will be on offer.
Where: St Matthew’s Anglican Church Moses Street, Windsor, NSW 2756
When: Sun 24th October 2010, 1-4pm (Rectory & Stables) + church & graveyard tours at 1pm & 2.30pm Bookings essential, enquiries to Helen Williams, 02 4577 6677

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gerringong Municipal Council 1871-1954

The message copied below is shamelessly snipped from a message on the Sydney DPS Rootsweb List. I don't think that the Gerringong and District Historical Society will object to the publicity but I have written seeking thier approval.

"A new book, "Gerringong Municipal Council 1871-1954" was released on Friday. It can be obtained from the Gerringong Museum, or by mail/email using the links at

The book details every Council election from the formation of the Council in 1871 until its amalgamation with Kiama in 1954 with, in most cases, vote counts and details of unsuccessful candidates. Every Alderman who served on the Council is identified, and his precise
term of service detailed.

Also included is the story of the controversial elections of 1911.

The GDHS has decided that the book will only be available in pdf format, to reduce the cost. The pdf can be printed and bound by the purchaser if required for about one-third the cost of the postage to
supply it already bound.

John Graham
Gerringong and District Historical Society"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sweet memories


Several months ago I read this post about a PhD student on the ABC Blog: "Lollies as social objects... not just food - ABC New South Wales - Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)"

With a little  googling I found further information in this article about Toni Risson's PhD study on Australian lollies.  Toni also wrote about lollies in her blog. What memories these brought back!

It took me back to a time when my mother and aunt had a mixed business (delicatessen and milk bar) in Sydney's Kensington. There, stacked behind the counter in glass jars, were many tooth-rotting delicious treats. At school we were also able to buy all manner of lollies from our tuckshop. Some were two a penny and some were a penny each. In those days there were no healthy school canteens.
I invested many of the pennies given to me by my tribe of aunts and uncles on these sugary treats.

Musk Sticks
 My favourites were Cobbers (Chocolate coated hard caramels), Freckles (Milk chocolate disks covered with hundreds and thousands), Musk Sticks (Long pink sickly sweet sticks) and Sherbets (Powdery substance that tingled  on the tongue served in a paper bag).

I am wondering what memories other genealogists have of sweet treats from their childhoods.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Follow Friday - Australian FamilySites - Hickman History

Hickman History is my selection for this week's Follow Friday Australian FamilySite.
Hickman History Home Page
This Australian site is hosted on the free TribalPages site. This package appears to give users quite a deal of control over the site settings although the design of the various TribalPages Sites I have visited seems remarkably similar.

The longer I spent trying to look at this site the more frustrated I got. As I tried to navigate this site I kept getting this message "Family Member please Sign In to view private data" or ""Invitation Required! You do not have permission to view private data on this site." I can only surmise that the site mostly has details of living persons.

Site URL

Site Name

Hickman History



Author's Contact Details

Link to a message facility on Tribal Pages

Last Updated

22 August 2010

Age of Site

Created 23 July 2009

Software Used Tribal Pages software and hosting

Persons in Database

1472 persons

Time Span


Index of names


Prominent Surnames

Password Protected Membership available on request

Details of Living Persons Supressed

Data Sourced


Got this message "Invitation Required!

You do not have permission to view private data on this site."
Search Facility

Yes - prominent on top manu bar


84 photos


Not evident


Good menus

Links within individual entries




Not unattractive

Ten years ago - 1 October 2000

From my listserv posts in 2000:

Sunday was a very long day. A t 9:00 am I met my MLC girls at our transport
hub from which we were bussed to the Olympic site.  It was a sunny day with
big winds.  On arrival we were allocated our space for the day at SIAC
(Sydney International Athletics Centre - used during the games as a warm-up
field for track and field)  - a sloped section of damp grass - this was to
be my home till 11:30 pm.  It had no shade, shelter or comfortable seating.
On arrival we collected our lunch - sandwiches, fruit, cake, meusli bar and

The girls were called for dress rehearsal about 11:30 - I was supposed to
sit with the bags for the afternoon.  No way!! I had proper accreditation, a
lot of front and the encouragement of my girls who said "Just get in the
middle of us and come into the stadium".  So I did. I planted myself in a
front row seat to witness the afternoon's proceedings. There were policemen
and security people all around but no-one challenged me.

Two teachers had girls absent from their groups so they got the girls
costumes, put them on and took the place of the kids in the show.  They just
made sure that they kept their hats down over their eyes and didn't go near
the production staff!!

The dress rehearsal was an absolute schmozzle.  As the centre stage was
still under construction (and still was when we left at 4:00pm) no
rehearsals could take place on the stage.  Many of the performers were lined
up under the stadiun waiting to rehearse but didn't get a chance because of
technical difficulties and the march of time.  Other performers came on and
had to practise on the grass.  Some artists only had the opportunity for a
sound check. Some of the large inflatible figures deflated in the middle of
their item. David Atkins, the director, appeared to remain cool during the
proceedings - I would have been tearing my hair out.  As we walked back to
SIAC the girls and I wondered how the show would ever come together at

Faced with a cold night on the damp grass I decided to follow the girls into
the stadium for the Opening Ceremony. Level 0, under the Olympic Stadium
(from where the athletes enter) is like a mini-city.  There is a road under
the track, parking for ambulances and service vehicles, storage rooms,
offices, kitchens, toilets and goods lifts. My girls were performing in the
stands and had said there'd surely be empty seats in their section - but I
had to find the girls. I have no sense of direction - so I spent a fruitless
hour wandering around under the stadium trying to find the correct entrance-
my accreditation got me to all areas - I stood at the tunnel and watched the
marathon runners enter the stadium, I rubbed shoulders with the VIPs in
their entry foyer, I got into the press area.  I asked numerous staff for
directions to the entry I wanted but due to a combination of their scanty
knowledge of stadium layout and my lack of spatial skills I had to give up
and go back to my wet grass. I procured an unattended chair and space
blanket and tried to keep warm while listening to the Ceremony and reading
my book.

It was still awesome being on the periphery - I saw and felt the fighter
plane fly over as the flame was extinguished, I heard Juan Antonio lead the
crowd in Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi, I could see the crowd in the stands
waving their torches along with the music and I was only a fence away from
the fireworks launch site.  I took heaps of close-up photos of shivering
performers as they lined up to exit SIAC and make their way to the stadium.

The MLC girls were exhultant when they returned to me - they'd been on the
field mixing with the athletes, getting autographs, swapping pins and
falling in love (so easy at 16) ....  they couldn't believe that such a
disastrous dress rehearsal could turn in to such a perfect performance.
There was a transport lockdown which meant we had to hang around until the
Olympic family had left the precinct.  This gave time for the girl who
wanted to marry the Mexican hunk to cool down before I delivered her back to
her parents at the transport hub. With my charges back in parental care I
headed for home.  When I woke on Monday I wondered if the last two weeks had
been a dream or if I'd really been to the Olympics.

It was an affair to remember.


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