Talking about BSOs, I recently attended my first family history conference, The 14th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry, also known as Congress2015. Four days of genealogical research heaven!
I had an amazing time at the Congress. I met some great people, spent far too much money on books (is that even possible?), learned so much that at the end of every day my head was spinning and was so exhausted, I crashed every night!
I’d previously heard of many of the presenters, read their blogs and seen their names bandied about on forums. So it was all very exciting to get the chance to see them face to face and hear them talk. It was all a bit rock star, really.
To give you an idea of what was available…Every day, there were two keynote addresses, a lunchtime session (which I missed because they were booked out), and then four sessions with four streams of talks from which to choose. For some sessions, I wanted to see all four talks and it was incredibly difficult to choose between them. No wonder I was exhausted every day!
Everyone will have a different experience of the same event (you only have to do research on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony to know that), so I thought I would briefly mention some of the talks I went to and what stood out for me the most.
Opening Address: Dr Mathew Trinca, Director at the National Museum of Australia, spoke about his own family’s immigrant experience and related it to the Immigration collections at the museum. He talked about his son’s growing awareness of the world around him – “wondering about himself by wondering about others”. I really enjoyed his talk which was very warm, human and full of love for his family.
Session 1: What can I find using eRecords – Cora Num
Cora’s website, CoraWeb, is an amazing treasure trove of resources. Cora was unable to attend Congress personally as she had unfortunately hurt her neck the day before. However, the Congress organisers sent someone to her home on the NSW South Coast to record all her presentations and Cora rose to the occasion. Cora introduced a range of options and reminded me of many more that I had forgotten about. There were enough BSOs just in Cora’s talk to keep me distracted and busy for weeks. Many of these resources are listed on her website.
Session 2: DNA for genealogists: introducing the DNA tests that can be used as tools in FH research – Kerry Farmer
This was a rather overwhelming talk. Kerry really knows her stuff but there was so much information it was hard to take it all in. Luckily, we had morning tea before the sessions began and I took the opportunity to buy her book anticipating that I would probably need more information. This turned out to be a rather prudent thing to do as her book sold out after her session! What stood out most to me was Kerry’s analysis methodology but I’m going to have to read her book a few times to really get to grips with it. Kerry also has a lot of resources available on her website.
Lunchtime Keynote: Tracing free emigrants to Australasia – Roger Kershaw (The National Archives – UK)
Unfortunately, I found Roger’s talk to be a bit dry and he rushed through it very quickly because there was so much information. Luckily the congress proceedings had a detailed copy of his talk as I couldn’t write down all the information fast enough before he moved on to the next slide. However, the information was basically a list of the various resources that were available at The National Archives. Useful, but not a lot of depth or insight into the collections.
Session 3: Help! What information is correct? – Carol Baxter
Carol is obviously an old hand at presentations and was very dynamic and entertaining. Carol’s talk was about evaluating evidence and determining historical truth. I was very interested in her talk as it directly related to my desire to revamp my own research methodology. Carol outlined a number of strategies which is useful for focusing your research analysis. Amongst other things, she covered different models used for Genealogical Proof Standards and explained the differences between original and derivative sources. Two points in particular stood out for me:
- Build your theory around the evidence – no cherry picking evidence to fit your theory.
- When assessing evidence, whose voice are we hearing? What is their motivation for providing that information? (especially when it conflicts)
I wanted to learn more. So, of course, I bought her book.
Session 4: Not just the facts, Ma’am, give me the big picture – Colleen Fitzpatrick
This was my favourite session in the whole Congress. I made absolutely no notes and just sat back and enjoyed listening to Colleen’s forensic analysis of the famous Dead Horse photo. From analysis of shadows, angles, items identified in the photo, and so on, they figured out the exact time of day the photo was taken and one of two dates it could have been taken. It was an amazing piece of analysis and Colleen’s very dry and humorous style made it, for me, the standout presentation of the Congress.
I loved it so much, you guessed it, I bought her book!