Yesterday I attended the Unlock the Past History and Genealogy Roadshow here in Canberra. I had been looking forward to this event, as it was a rare (for me) chance to get out and among people while in pursuit of my family tree. I not only took the day off work, but took the evening off family! That's actually kind of momentous for me.
My day started with a minor hiccough. When I looked at my map I discovered that the venue was not the hotel I had been thinking of. It was ten minutes further away from home. On arrival, the car parks were already full and it took me a while to find a suitable parking spot. I walked into the first session mildly late, and feeling flustered.
First up I had a choice of hearing Rosemary Koppittke talk about FindMyPast.com.au, or Cora Num discussing "Irish research in the electronic age". It was a difficult decision, but I chose the FindMyPast session. I have recently taken out a monthly subscription to FindMyPast.com.au in order to give the site a proper chance. I think that the search tips Rosemary provided may just make all the difference for me. I hope that FindMyPast will add more information to their site on how to search effectively there.
Next up was a choice between Louise St Denis with "Can I Learn Everything I Need About Records and Research Strategies Online? Genealogical Education from a Distance..." and Tom Foley with "Treasures of the National Library of Australia". In her blog post, Shauna Hicks expressed surprise that so many Canberrans attended the National Library session as we would "almost live at the library". Before I had little children that was true for me. I can't speak for all attendees, but I was interested in this talk precisely because I spend so much of my research time at the Library. Imagine if I missed out on something fantastic that I could have accessed so easily?
After a short break the late afternoon sessions began. It seems that a choice between Dan Lynch, the author of Google Your Family Tree and the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra (HAGSOC) was no choice at all. The HAGSOC speech was cancelled as the overwhelming majority of attendees chose to sit in on Dan Lynch's talk. And no wonder. Dan's style was immediately engaging, and he conveyed his information clearly. For me, Dan's speech was the highlight of the day. Although this session only covered the basics, and I thought I had the basics pretty well covered, I still picked up plenty of ideas. I bought a copy of the book between sessions and look forward to making my way through it and trying things out for myself.
The next session presented me with another difficult choice: Shauna Hicks with "Archives you may not know - but should!", or Cora Num with "How Did They Get Here?: Locating Shipping and Immigration Records". I decided to hear Shauna speak - but not before dashing out to my car to get a jacket, as the air conditioning was uncomfortably cold. Shauna spoke well and introduced the audience to archives large and small, and portals for finding out about them.
Dinner time arrived. I was pleased when Shauna joined me as I had "met" her on twitter but not in real life. It was good to have a chance to meet her in person. Also joining us was one of the very few other younger attendees - who, it turned out, reads this blog! Although I know from the page statistics that a few people out there must read this blog, it still came as something of a (pleasant!) surprise to meet one of them.
The evening sessions held more difficult choices. Either "FindMyPast UK and AU" with Elaine Collins and Rosemary Kopittke or "I Found It Once, Why Can’t I Find It Again!" with Louise St Denis. Then, either "Google Your Family Tree: Images and Video" with Dan Lynch or "ScotlandsPeople: the place to launch your Scottish research" with Rosemary Kopittke.
As I had already heard a discussion of FindMyPast.com.au, I went to Louise St Denis' session. It was good to see that the majority of attendees in that session already cited their sources.
Finally came a choice between hearing Dan Lynch again, or learning about ScotlandsPeople. It was another hard choice, but Dan Lynch had whetted my appetite for Google tips! This time I'm not sure I picked up quite so much. In some cities, I gather, the Roadshow extends over two days and Dan Lynch gives four different speeches. As the population of Canberra is smaller, the Roadshow here was a one day event. This second speech was more of a whirlwind tour of the three other speeches and, although I enjoyed it, I think I would have preferred to hear a full speech on one topic.
During the day I bought a few other books, and was lucky enough to win one of the early registration prizes. I also signed up with HAGSOC again, after a lapse of 15 years. Aside from the chilly air conditioning, the only other thing that I would have changed about the organisation of the event would have been to provide water and tea/coffee facilities for attendees, rather than having to purchase drinks from the bistro.
And that was it!
The roadshow still has a few more stops, and from what I saw I can recommend the event to anyone thinking of attending, assuming of course that the presenters don't collapse with exhaustion before they get there...