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Back to Study time… February 1, 2018

Posted by Robbie in Musings.
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Its hard to believe that today is February 1st and that we are already one month into the new year. All my resolutions to spend the summer break finessing some of the lines of research I had pursued over the last year have disappeared in the heat haze.

Next week I begin a short course offered as MOOC through FutureLearn and the University of Glasgow:

Early Modern Scottish Palaeography

So – what’s Palaeography?

According to Wikipedia, its the study of ancient and historical handwriting – see their entry here.

What does this mean for a family historian? Let’s face it, the typewriter, printer, computer etc are all relatively modern inventions.  Not everything we might wish to examine appears neatly completed in Times New Roman and easily read.  If we have been successful in tracing our family’s line back to a time where all documents were handwritten in a variety of styles and on a variety of surfaces, we will find ourselves challenged to interpret them even if they are in a language we are supposed to understand.

Being able to interpret historic writing styles in handwritten documents will give us much better access to the content of original material which we should hopefully decode with enhanced skill thus reducing the risks of errors in our research.

It’s an additional skill in our repetoire as researchers and historians, and continually building that investigative skill set can only serve to broaden our knowledge and understanding resulting in better quality research results.

There is still time to enroll in this course – follow this link to the information page: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/ems-palaeography While you’re at it and on the FutureLearn site, you might like to consider the University of Strathclyde’s short “Introduction to Genealogy” course as well.

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Why do we Conference? November 8, 2017

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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.

Charles Clinton Dawkins (1stC2R) remembered in Colac Cemetery.

 

 

 

Define your Dash…. January 11, 2017

Posted by Robbie in Musings.
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When this line popped up in my Twitter feed, I was sucked in.  I had to go and see what this was all about. It seems that there’s a challenge been started to define the bits of your life that fall between the two dates that bookend your life – birth date and death date.

Memorial Plaque for Marion Dawkins 1918 - 1997 at New Ballarat Cemetery

Memorial Plaque for Marion Dawkins 1918 – 1997 at New Ballarat Cemetery. Image by R Stockfeld 2013.

I had to think about this for a bit – here I am spending hours each day or so ‘defining the dash’ of my ancestor’s lives, but I spend no time at all thinking about my own experiences, memories, stories, achievements, failures, the joys or sad moments. My first reaction was that this was a rather narcissistic exercise, then I thought it would be time wasted as no one would be interested.

The idea of this challenge is that you put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard – and write once a week. Now that for some would be a challenge in itself but the proposal contained lots of handy hints about topic areas you could address if inspiration failed you. By the end of the year, you would have put together 52 little vignettes that would tell others something about you and your life in that time represented by the dash.

I made the first move – I acquired a notebook.  That was the easy bit.  So far the notebook has just found its place on a table somewhere and hasn’t managed to tempt me to sully its virgin pages as yet. The discipline of regular writing isn’t something that comes naturally to me: I often start with good intentions and fail to follow through.

So, its off to read that blog post again recommending this activity taking note of those prompts and perhaps managing story number one this week (and to make the resolution to catch up on the other weeks I have missed!)

 

Spreading the love January 25, 2016

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It came as a surprise to be asked to facilitate a beginners family history course.  It seems our local neighbourhood centre are quite keen to see a course offered that starts with the basics of sound research with a view to providing an ongoing family history study group.

Researching family history is a pasttime that’s attracting more and more people – especially with the increasing amount of material available online making research far easier.

Is it easier? Or is it just more convenient? Some online providers would have you believe its simply a matter of typing in your name and off you go.  Given that the basic records of births, deaths and marriages within Australia are embargoed, its highly unlikely you will find your own birth listed unless you are a centenarian!

Some of us of a certain age may, however, find the notice of our arrival in that wonderful resource known as TROVE.

I did.

Type in your name in the Trove search box and it may just pop up in one of the hundreds and thousands of digitised newspapers now fully searchable via the website of the National Library of Australia. This is certainly easier that scrolling through miles and miles of michrofiched newspapers in the Library’s Reading Rooms.

One of the research skills I plan to cover in the course is how to access and use newspapers – TROVE and the NZ equivalent, PapersPast will both feature strongly.

Snippet from Trove - Argus Masthead, Tuesday Oct 5 1954

Snippet from Trove – Argus Masthead, Tuesday Oct 5 1954

 

 

Back to the Books December 10, 2015

Posted by Robbie in Musings.
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Its hot and dusty here in my Spot already and I find myself more than ready to hunker down and sweat out the summer over the books again.

This semester I have signed up to study two units online at UTAS. “Writing Family History” is only three weeks old and already my head is swimming with ideas for stories.  Do I write a ‘fictionalised’ account of one ancestor? Do I try to tell the stories of several of the most interesting characters? Do I try to unravel some of that confused oral history and attempt to set the story straight?

The last thing I want to do is to write something that is essentially boring. Lots of family histories are boring – lists of dates of  births, deaths, marriages.  In ours, at least, there would also be a list of divorces and remarriages to make it a little more interesting if I took the conventional route.  Then there’s the rest of the family to consider. How would they feel about some of those stories being investigated, recorded and subsequently published? Its the conundrum that faces every writer of family history when dealing with those closest to you especially if the family story has been tucked under the carpet or hidden in the closet for many years.

We’re on semester break shortly so I have ordered an ebook for some light holiday reading : Hazel Edwards’ ‘Writing a Non-boring Family History’. I’m hoping this will give me some technical help and inspiration as I work through the remaining exercises or e-tivities, as they are called in the course.

The hardest task of all has been deciding just who to write about – there are so many little vignettes that bear recording before they are lost. I’m frightened that I might find myself taking a scatter gun approach and in the wash up, not do any of the ancestors’ stories the justice they deserve.

I’m tending towards a series of short stories – fictionalised accounts of separate incidents – that may or may not be about my family. ‘Names changed to protect the innocent’ and all that sort of stuff. Using a short story format also gives me the opportunity to explore a range of styles of writing.  I like the constraints of a word count – it focuses one’s attention on making sure there isn’t any ‘waffle’.

And I can waffle with the best of them!

 

‘What was the other unit you are studying?’ I hear you ask.

‘Photography and Social Media’

More about that some other time, dear reader.

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Geelong and District

covering local and family history in the greater Barwon region

The Wool Stash

Maldon, Victoria, Australia

Neil Vincent's Course Journal

UTAS Photography & Social Media Unit