AFFHO Congress 2015 Day 2

Another 8.30 start this morning but I wanted to be at the venue earlier.

I had arranged to meet with fellow geneablogger, Jennifer Jones (See Jennifer’s blog here )

We had managed to swap messages and tweets throughout the day yesterday but not managed to actually catch up with each other.  Imagine our mutual surprise when we discovered a longstanding family connection! Isn’t this what Congress is all about? If we’re not discovering new ways of uncovering what has happened in the past, we’re establishing ways of taking our family’s stories forward.

Not all “Family” is biological – for my family, there was one special family who, although not related by blood, were a significant part of our early lives as children.  The adults stood as my godparents at my christening. Before this, they had stood beside my parents as witness to their wedding….and even before this, had been involved with my mother’s school life and when she was first in business as a florist.

They were intricately entwined in our early years, as many a Christmas night gathering would attest.

Recently, I was allowed the box of old family photos to scan and amongst them are pictures of my mother and father as children, teenagers and “young marrieds “.  Naturally, their special friends Ailsa and Les, featured throughout.

This one’s for you, Chris.

Ailsa (2nd from left) and Mum (4th from the left) are in the second row.... photo dates from mid1940's
Ailsa (2nd from left) and Mum (4th from the left) are in the second row…. photo dates from mid1940’s

So…. it was on with the day.

The proceedings opened with Joshua Taylor from FindMyPast as Keynote speaker. He promised it would not be 45 minutes of continual advertisement for the Congress’ main sponsor and it wasn’t.  We delighted in his recounting of his own induction into the world of genealogy, how Disney is building the family tree into many of its movies and supporting products, his experience of working with celebrities on “Who Do You Think You Are?” and how Grandmothers are just the best people!

From here I moved to hear Dr Richard Reid talk about the experience of Australians on the Western Front.  He focused on the stories of four servicemen and took us through the experience and the impact of those bloody campaigns.  It was hard to sit and listen to Richard talk about the events of 20th September 1917 and to see the contemporary images of the Menin Road battle when this was where and when one of my great uncles lost his life. He was 20 years old.



My Morning sessions concluded with a tour through the UK Gazettes with Jenny Joyce.  This was a great introduction to the gazettes and all the wonderful opportunities they hold for expanding our understanding of our ancestor’s lives. As Jenny pointed out, this might be the only place we find reference to some of our antecedents and their activity.

In between morning sessions I had attended Jill’s talk in Speaker’s Corner about blogging… and was officially “beaded”! It only took me a day and a half to find her in the crowds!

Lunch! ….. and a bit of a breather.  I was in need of a little time to settle and as a consequence missed attending the group photo session for all the ‘Beaded Beauties’.  Sorry, Jill.

To be continued……


AFFHO Congress 2015

Well…. that’s Day 1 done and dusted!

Canberra has turned on a beautiful day but several hundred people have only glimpsed it through the windows of the National Convention Centre today as they moved from lecture theatres to exhibition halls and back.

Opening proceedings at 8.30am saw us all in the Royal Theatre, welcomed to Congress and to Canberra by Kerrie Gray, chair of the organising committee.  The opening address by Dr Mathew Trinca from the National Museum of Australia was both personal and global – a fascinating insight into his family’s migration experience. He emphasised the importance of examining the family experience in the light of local, regional and global influences and how we can enrich our research and the stories we tell of our family and our own understanding of self if we take a wider view.

The rest of my morning programme included David Berry presenting about the digital resources for tracing my ancestors available through State Library of NSW

Digital resources are becoming the primary means by which researchers, especially those not held locally, can access primary and secondary sources – and its amazing the range of material held in public institutions like libraries.  Seonaid Lewis from Auckland Libraries, NZ, reaffirmed this in the second presentation I attended this morning when she detailed the wide range of digital resources held by her libraries and these were just the materials relevant to researching and commemorating WW1!

The afternoon Keynote Presentation was from Roger Kershaw from The National Archives, UK.  He gave us many avenues to pursue in finding out how our ancestors arrived here in Australia – from the UK end of the process.  Tracing those who came freely is far harder than following those who arrived unwillingly and at the insistence of the Court!

Carol Baxter’s presentation “Help! What information is Correct?” was a great refresher for me as I have just finished a unit of study at UTAS on Family History with Dr Diane Snowden.  How easy is it to just accept that record or family story as the truth?  Too easy! Carol’s talk reminded us all, no matter how seasoned a researcher we may be, of the necessity to think critically and to analyze carefully what we have uncovered.  Find Carol’s website and information about her books here

Lastly I decided that David Holman might be able to offer me some  background and insight into British Medals.  My grandfather had been awarded a Military Medal in Oct 1917 and not two weeks later, Mentioned in Despatches.  He was 20 years old and had been in the Australian army since 1915 after having fudged his way through the medical (his eyesight was was definitely suspect!)


David’s talk gave me a much clearer understanding of the history and hierarchy  attached to the awarding of medals, citations and commendations for members of the British and Commonwealth Forces.

An early night is on the cards ….. a chance to process all the information and refresh before Day 2.

Getting a little distracted….

Yesterday, I remarked that I would need to spend the next few days getting myself organised for #AFFHO Congress2015. Those preparations would include some more work on the research project I am undertaking for my friend.

How easy it is to get off the track?

I had set myself the task of ensuring that I had completed the pedigree to 4 generations back on every side. Sometimes that involves going a little sideways to see if you can collect clues that can confirm or deny your direction being correct.

It was proving to be a little difficult to establish what had happened to each of the grandparents siblings. I had marriages and children sorted for all bar one who happened to be the second youngest daughter.  I had found the announcement of her engagement via TROVE where, at 19 years old, she was declared betrothed to the son of a doctor.

Then nothing.

No marriage.

No births.

No death or cemetery records in either her name or nor his.

What had happened?

I widened my search to include the father – and back I went to TROVE and the Adelaide papers.  Eventually I turned up an obituary for the father of the potential groom where his widow, children and step children were acknowledged.  His only son was reported to be in England working as a doctor.

Had my girl followed him there? Was there no South Australian marriage because they wed in England?

Off to search the English records – and there was the man in question.  Not many months after the announcement of their engagement, it appears that he had graduated from University of Adelaide and left for England where his registration as a Doctor was confirmed.  He never returned to Australia, dying quite young in 1952.

But had my girl gone too?  So far there’s no suggestion that she did.  Electoral rolls for the UK show our doctor firstly living in the hospital, and then at an address where there was a woman living with him with the same surname.  Wife?  Seems it may have been possible but he did have a sister (who was unmarried at the time of her father’s death) with the same first name.  There was no UK marriage record to be found so far.

Three hours of back tracking, cross checking and searching – all to discover that it looks very much like he stood her up!

Not being a party to the family folklore, I have yet to establish whether any of this story was a subject of the family’s oral history.  No doubt I will find out when I share all my research with my friend.

I’m no closer to putting all those branches in place, but I have explored a “what might have been” moment.  These “off track” ventures can sometimes help to put a more human face to the facts, the dates, the official records….

It was a distraction but it certainly wasn’t time wasted.



In a few days time I will be leaving for Canberra to attend four intense days at the AFFHO Congress for 2015. There’s been quite a bit happening personally, so preparations for my attendance has been a little haphazard.
However, I have been reading a bit of timely advice and taking note:

Keeping up with Congress2015 through Jill Ball at and Pauline Cass

How to pack for every circumstance with Susie Zada ….

……And discovering that I really did need to get some, new up to date business/contact cards thanks to Judy Webster …..


and now I have the Congress App (It’s iOS and Android friendly) as well….

The App allows for me to load up my personal programme of lectures and events and for timely updates to be sent straight to my phone or iPad (both of which will be packed with chargers according to Susie’s instructions!)

I’ve registered some of my research interests…. I need to go back and put in a few more names.  This event draws such a wide range of attendees, it would be a shame to miss an opportunity to connect.

The final part of my preparation for this event involves being right up to date with my online study commitments (UTAS and NIGS subjects underway and FutureLearn (Monash) about to start) and to resolve as many of the outstanding research queries I have on a project I am completing for my friend as I am to deliver her a preliminary report on my way to and from Canberra.

Having taken part in UTAS Introduction to Family History class with Dr Dianne Snowden  over summer, I was one of over 1,000 people who stepped back into formal study or undertook a university subject for the first time.  Many connections were formed and online groups were started – Facebook and Google+ – and some of us are getting together for a social evening during the conference.

Enough said…. its back to work for me…. counting the days!!!

Fashion Friday

My Great great grandmother was Lucy Jane Banks – born in Bootle, West Derby, Lancashire in February 1839.  By the time she died, she had migrated firstly to New Zealand and then to Australia and settling in Footscray, Vic.

Lucy as a young woman in Liverpool
Lucy as a young woman in Liverpool

Amongst the family treasures are photographs of her family in Liverpool, examples of her needlework and her own school book all of which she had brought with her from England.   The journey from England to New Zealand was uneventful until the ship neared the Southern Ocean where its masts were damaged in a storm.  The master of the ship continued to sail to New Zealand, where reports of near wrecking were recounted by the grateful passengers when they finally made landfall in Auckland harbour.  The ship was so overdue that little hope of their survival was held. To still have these precious items is quite remarkable considering just how difficult the journey had been.

Lucy - part of a group of pictures that seem to have been taken just prior to the family's departure for New Zealand
Lucy – part of a group of pictures that seem to have been taken just prior to the family’s departure for New Zealand


Lucy, her husband William and their two surviving daughters (including my great grandmother) relocated to Footscray in Melbourne in the early 1880’s. Two of her sons joined the family at a later date.  One remained in New Zealand for the rest of his life.


In her final years in Footscray... my grandmother recalled her looking just like this.
In her final years in Footscray, Vic … my grandmother recalled her looking just like this.

Lucy Jane Banks: born 21 Feb 1839 in Lancashire UK, married William Dixon 17 Nov 1857 at Walton on the Hill, UK and died 22 February 1910 at her home, 22 Charles Street, Footscray, Vic and was buried the next day in the Boroondara General Cemetery, Kew.


All images shown here are from the Stockfeld/Richardson Family collection. Please request permission to use these images and an archival quality file will be supplied by the author.

Fashion Friday

Recently, a collection of family photographs was made available to me for the purposes of archival scanning (and for attaching to the files I have on various family members!)

One of the most delightful parts of the collections were the studio portraits taken of my grandmother as a child.  My great grandfather (William Andrew Richardson) was living and working in Club Terrace, Victoria; a long way from the rest of the family in Footscray.

Gran (Dorothy Una Ophelia Richardson) was born in Footscray in 1900 and the collection of images had been taken at 6 month intervals…. I believe copies were then sent to her father so he could see how she was progressing.  In the collection there were also pictures from and of him, annotated with the message that they were for his daughter, Dorothy.

What a stylish young thing she was!

Dorothy Una Ophelia Richardson - 2 years old in 1902.
Dorothy Una Ophelia Richardson – 2 years old in 1902.