I made a comment to a fellow researcher that I would be attending the VAFHO conference in Colac, Vic., in October. She asked “Why? Do you have family in Colac?”
I don’t have any living family in Colac (that I’m aware of) however there were a few distant connections that resided permanently in the local cemetery so I thought I’d go visit, photograph, fill in a few gaps and whilst I was at it, find out a bit more about Writing Non-Boring Family History with the wonderful Hazel Edwards. Besides, I needed a bit of a break.
I had few expectations of the weekend except that I could indulge my passion for family research without deliberately boring anyone else to death. What a fabulous weekend it turned out to be!
Friday’s trip down was going to be at least 2 1/2hrs driving – I love long distance country driving and this was fun. No-one else much on the back roads, pleasant temperatures and some spectacular scenery. Of course there needed to be the odd diversion – so it was off to find the cemetery at Rokewood and to check in with the great great grandparents William Henry Dawkins and Mary Ann Considine.
Rokewood Cemetery has a Pioneers Section and in 1993 a family reunion was organised and a commemorative plaque erected by the descendants. William and Mary Ann have been joined by quite a few more in the Pioneer Section over the years since that reunion.
Colac Family History Group, members of VAFHO, were hosting this weekend’s activities and the first part of the event was a seminar with Hazel Edwards on writing Family History. This 3 hour session was just fantastic – Hazel had us talking, writing, laughing, planning, motivated and resolving to get started as soon as we could. No more procrastination, just great writing!
What did I come away with from this event? Two new friends one of whom, it transpires, was distantly connected by marriage. Neither of us had any idea that there was a link however we discovered over the course of the weekend our familial connection whilst asking questions of each other, helping solve each other’s mysteries, enjoying a shared meal or two and searching around those rows of gravestones for further clues.
The Colac Family History Group members were welcoming, enthusiastic and willing to share their love of their region and its history. Who knew that Colac was famous for growing onions and had its own rail line devoted to ensuring those onions made it quickly to the city markets? I certainly didn’t. I came away with some great images of the landscape coupled with a better understanding of how the area was developed and thus how my family members fitted into that environment. I discovered more family than I knew about previously, found their final resting places and I now know how to find where they worked the land they were granted.
This is why we conference.
To make new connections, to share what we know, learn about what we don’t know, to reconnect with old friends, to enjoy the company of fellow travellers on the road to understanding ourselves by understanding the dynamics of our ancestors’ lives.