#Congress_2018: The Lighter Side

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#Congress_2018 – Bridging Past and Future

Wow! What a ride Congress 2018 has been. Meeting so many lovely genies, learning so many new things. I barely had time to draw breath during Congress 2018 and now that I’m home, I’m still processing all the things I experienced.

I would like to share a little of these Congress experiences as well as some of the highlights from the talks which stuck with me the most.

First of all, Lilian Magill – super-awesome genie lady! Lilian took me under her wing for Congress and introduced me to so many wonderful people.

My last Congress was a very lonely affair. I had only just started blogging and knew no-one. I just attended sessions, struck up one or two conversations and went home. It felt very isolating and lonely.

However, Lilian’s kindness and generosity ensured that I was not left friendless and forsaken. Thank you, Lilian!

The beautiful Lilian Magill (Lilian’s Tree) and me

There were lots of opportunities for social hobnobbing including pre-Congress dinner at Pancakes at the Rocks, the official Welcome Function followed by the unofficial get-together at the Harbourside food court next door, Congress Dinner, casual lunches and dinner get-togethers with new acquaintances, and so it went on.

Here I am taking my first selfie with Emily Peace (Diary of a Young Genealogist)! Congress was full of opportunities to meet wonderful genies.

Here I am taking my very first selfie with the lovely Emily Peace (Diary of a Young Genealogist)! Congress was full of opportunities to meet wonderful genies.

I woke up every morning exhausted from the social whirl! But it was so terrific to meet new people and put faces to names of people I’ve chatted with in Facebook groups. And best of all was how friendly, welcoming and inclusive everybody was. From my point of view, Jill Ball’s wish to have this Congress be known as the Friendly Congress was well and truly achieved.

Sydney putting on a show - lovely weather every day!

Sydney putting on a show – lovely weather every day!

But what about Congress itself? Did I actually attend any sessions? You bet. But there were so many to choose from that a complaint I heard constantly from others was the struggle to choose which session to attend.

There were too many interesting sessions, so I chose to focus on sessions that would help me with areas of my research that I was currently either struggling with, or covered areas of interest that I constantly run across in my research.

I attended sessions covering topics on Irish, German and London research, non-conformists, writing stories, tarting up your blog, various technologies of interest (e.g. GEDmatch, Google Earth, visualisation technologies), and, of course, Judy G. Russell’s sessions on “Copyright and Copywrongs” and “The Language of the Law”.

Judy is a wonderful speaker who can make even the most impenetrable subjects comprehensible and fascinating. If you ever get the chance to hear her speak – grab it! You won’t be disappointed.

But it was Judy’s plenary talk that I found most thought provoking and had what I think was probably the most important message in the entire Congress.

Family memories, stories, facts can all be lost…in Just Three Generations.

That message hit me right in the head and the heart. It is so easy to get lost down research rabbit holes, chasing those Bright Shiny Objects – and meanwhile the research is just piling up. It is just as important to share that research and those stories – share as widely and as often as possible so the stories are not lost and gone forever.

While I acquired lots of invaluable knowledge about various topics, there were two other messages apart from Judy’s “Just Three Generations” that struck a chord with me:

Be brave on the page – say what hasn’t been said before.

Jan Worthington: Your Story

Tell their stories. Take them home.

Pauleen CassParallel Lives – Irish Kin Down Under and Abroad

Be brave on the page – what an important reminder. So often we play it safe. Why not show more emotion and heart when writing down our family stories? Surely our ancestors deserve more from us than just dry facts, dates and places?

Complementing Jan’s message is Pauleen’s message which was tucked in at the end of her presentation. When I saw the words, it suddenly seemed so clear why we do what we do as family historians.

All three messages neatly encapsulate for me the whole idea of Bridging Past and Future – but with so much more. Here I will partly quote and partly paraphrase – with apologies to Judy, Jan and Pauleen – and say:

By serving as the family historian, we are truly bridging past and future by documenting and passing on our family stories – not only deliberately and accurately, but with heart, gratitude and passion. And we do this not only to discover more about ourselves but to acknowledge, understand and remember our ancestors so we can, finally, take them home.


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F/O Alvan Rodney Wecker (1919-1943)

F/O Alvan Rodney Wecker (1919-1943)


Every family has that someone special. The one who is held close to the family heart. The one whom stories are told about to generations of children. The one who was lost. The one who is always remembered.

That place in my family is held by my great uncle, Alvan Rodney WECKER.

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Memories of Then

Sugar Cane Crop with Mountain in Background at Cairns, Qld. Photographer: Gregory Heath on 1 Jan 2002. www.scienceimage.csiro.au/image/3729

Out of all the Aussie songs I know, this is the one that most evokes “home” for me.

My earliest years were spent growing up in North Queensland. I still have dreams of sugar cane fields standing tall, the sugar cane trains rattling amongst the fields and highset Queenslander homes with their wraparound verandahs.

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Blog Caroling: Carol of the Bells

In case you haven’t noticed, “Tis the season to be jolly” and footnoteMaven has sent out the call for everyone to blog about their favourite Christmas Carol.

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Friday Funny: Baby Driver

Baby Driver - Fiat - 1920s

I wonder where this cute and chubby balloon baby is going? Look at that determined look on her face. She has her hand firmly on the suitcase so must have a destination in mind. And she’s also looking pretty possessive and proud of the car. Is it hers? Does she have her licence yet?

Once again, another mystery photo from my orphan photo collection.

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Family Photos: Sydney Harbour Bridge Construction

Modified photo of Sydney Harbour Bridge - familyfractals.wordpress.com

Aunt Camie and Uncle Bob’s photos are the gifts that keep on giving. I found a series of photographs showing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in various stages of completion. These are not unique photos by any means. There are plenty of photos around of the Coathanger being built. After all, it took about 10 years from the sod-breaking ceremony in 1923 to De Groot’s famous ribbon-slashing upstage of the opening ceremony in 1932. And the Bridge was being built right in the middle of the city – a bit hard to miss, really.

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Friday Funny: Abandon All Hope!

Abandon All Hope Sign - Family Fractals

How many times have you looked through your family photo collection and despaired? How many unlabelled photos have you let drip through your fingers in anguish? How many unnamed people, places, dogs, houses, pot plants, whatever have you seen?

How many times have you raised clenched fists in the air and wailed to your ancestors: “Why didn’t you just label your damn photos! Just because you know them doesn’t mean anyone else will! Curse you!!”

Well, it turns out it may not have been all their fault.

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The Mystery Chimney Ruin of Michelago

Michelago Chimney - Monaro Highway

About 40 minutes to the south of Canberra, you will discover a small ruin – just a chimney – sitting forlornly beside the Monaro highway. I’ve passed this remnant of forgotten history so many times. I’ve watched it flash by my window and thought fleetingly of who might have lived there and why it was now a ruin.  I’ve often wanted to just stop and pause for a time. But we are always in such a rush in these modern times, aren’t we? Well, on my last trip, I finally did stop.

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Friday Funny: Cabbage Patch Kid

Super size cabbage and child in cabbage patch

Another family photo – another mutant cabbage.

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