Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It looked like a Seniors Convention

The few youngsters who attended the seminar organised by Unlock the Past at the North Ryde RSL last night were outnumbered by the many enthusiastic seniors at the function. I was pleased to find two retired librarians that I worked with at Waverley Library in the early seventies. The number of enthusiasts at the function , some of whom had travelled quite a distance, indicates that family historians want to hear from speakers with international credentials.

Elaine Collins (pictured), from findmypast.co.uk, was the star turn of the evening. She gave an overview of the various product offerings of Bright Solid and a comprehensive tour of the findmypast site that would have been very informative for those not familiar with the product. Speaking to an audience with such a range of skills and knowledge is a tough gig. Elaine was a competent speaker who was able to engage a large and disparate audience.

After a presentation by Rosemary Kopittke on Scotland's People Elaine returned to the stage to give an overview of the new find.mypast.com.au and tell of plans for the development of this product that is presently available on a subscription basis for $59.95 per annum. The datasets on this site differ from those on the UK site; there are a number of fulltext documents such as government and police gazettes that can be searched by keyword. Unfortunately for those of us who already subscribe to the full findmypast.uk offering there is not discount for taking up this additional product. In the future consideration will be given to providing a facility to search both product sets at once but this will not be in the short term.

I had hoped to meet some fellow Twitterers and some of my online genealogy pals but they were difficult to find in the crowd. I think that I was the only person Tweeting from the audience!

Although the evening could have been seen as a sales pitch for the products of Bright Solid, Gould Genealogy and Unlock the Past it created an opportunity for a large group of people with a shared interest to get together. As I walked in by myself I was immediately befriended by two ladies who graciously invited me to join them for dinner. In the line to enter the auditorium and in the wait for the presentations to begin strangers chatted amicably about their ancestors, brick walls and triumphs in search of their ancestors. I was impressed by the convivial atmosphere of the evening.

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