Blog post

Thursday, November 22, 2012

My Ancestry DNA results are in

After a long wait, my Ancestry DNA results are finally in! So far, there are not too many surprises. My 'genetic ethnicity' is 91% British Islands. My closest matches are predicted 4th cousins - which is not surprising considering that the vast majority of people in the Ancestry DNA  database at present are based in the USA.

I will post more when I have had a better chance to look at the results.

By the way, if this post looks funny, that's because I'm blogging from my new Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone. This post is a an experiment.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It’s my blogiversary, and I want presents


It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since I uploaded my first, tentative post. I didn’t know if anyone would ever read it. I thought it quite possible that I would put up half a dozen posts then realise that the whole thing wasn’t really me. That was three years ago and since then I have made 167 posts – just a little over one a week on average.

Today, in honour of my third blogiversary, I’m going to come out and say it…

I want presents!

If you think that was in bad taste, then wait a minute longer because I’m going to tell you exactly what I want.

I would consider it a fantastic gift if you could spend a few minutes today correcting text on the National Library of Australia’s Trove newspaper site. You don’t even need a login to do so, just search for an item of interest and correct away. If you happen to find something relevant to your own research in the process, then consider that my gift to you.

Thanks for your support and encouragement. Every comment counts! I’m looking forward to the next year of blogging.

Friday, July 20, 2012 World Subscription Offer

Earlier today I read on Dick Eastman’s newsletter that a beta version of FindMyPast’s international records site was now available, and offering an introductory World subscription at just $4.95 US per month.

I found that I was able to log into’s site using my Australian site ( credentials, and to apply the remainder of my subscription to purchase of the World subscription.

The end result is that I now have a one year World subscription for only $25 out of my pocket. That’s a pretty good discount, considering that purchase of a World subscription via the Australian site would have been $224.96 less my existing credit (a bit under $200 out of my pocket).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

AncestryDNA for people outside the USA

I have been reading posts relating to’s DNA offering (eg this one by The Genetic Genealogist) with great interest. Currently going for $99 to existing Ancestry subscribers, AncestryDNA looks like a bargain. I’m curious to see how it will tie in with member trees – the possibilities are very exciting.

The DNA product is still in beta and is currently available by invitation only. I wondered if non-US residents were eligible. The DNA page doesn’t appear on the Australian site but it can be accessed from Australia here. I submitted a request for an invitation at the end of May, wondering if they would sent one to an Australian site subscriber.

They did. It arrived in my email this morning.

Non-US residents can purchase the test. International postage is not too bad at about $10 to Australia. The only special requirement is that you have to agree to the US Ancestry site Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. They point out among other things (you should read them for yourself if considering purchase) that:

  • your sample will be tested and stored in the United States,
  • privacy laws in the US may differ from those of your home country,
  • “you may not be able to use the results in a website targeted to your country of residence or hosted outside the United States”.

I had assumed that the first two points would be the case. I’m not concerned about the last one as I know from experience (I checked again just now!) that I can log on, search records and view records, view member trees including my own – in fact do anything I normally do via the .com site instead of the site.

The invitation is time and quantity limited. You can order one test only but if you don’t take up the offer within three days, it’s gone. Adding to the sense of urgency is a prominent countdown timer.

It must have been the countdown timer that got to me. I ordered the test.


No disclaimer needed. No-one gave me anything to write this and the links are not part of any affiliate scheme.

Friday, June 8, 2012

E is for… Emigrants

I have joined Gould’s ‘Family History Through the Alphabet’ challenge. I can’t promise to participate for every letter (my track record for sticking with challenges is not good!) but I didn’t want to miss out on the fun. Here is my contribution for the letter E.

E is for… Emigrants

It’s so hard to find suitable ones.

As I was browsing the Twelfth General Report of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners I came across this passage describing the difficulty in finding suitable emigrants to the Australian colonies:

“… Besides this it is to be remembered that the class of emigrants to which our selections are almost confined, as the only one entirely satisfactory to the colonists, is more limited than at first sight would be imagined. Paupers, as they are called, are below the required class, mechanics arc generally above it; old people are useless; young children inconvenient. Idlers are mischievous in a colony; active people can generally get on at home. Single men are not desired in excess of single women, and respectable single women are not generally anxious to try the risks of a new country. People whose savings would enable them to become employers of labour instead of labourers, swell the evil which they are sent out to remedy. Lastly, the rate of contribution required by us from the emigrant himself was a further and very operative check on the number of applicants.”

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons.  Colonial Land and Emigration Commission. Twelfth general report of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, 1852.

I was going to make this a stand-alone post called “Old people are useless; young children are inconvenient”, but thought better of it…

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

It only took me five years

Way back in 2007 I took out a monthly subscription to I searched and downloaded feverishly for a month, then cancelled.

The collection I hit the hardest was the Australian Electoral Rolls. Now almost five years later I have finally made my way through all those pages I downloaded and entered them in my database.

My Family Historian plugin provided the final push I needed to get the job done. It made setting up the source records that little bit easier, so I could get on with concentrating on the information.

Information I have gained by entering the records in my database includes:

  • Middle names I didn’t know before
  • Clues as to birth, death and marriage dates
  • Occupations, and occupation changes over time
  • Addresses
  • Names of people who are probably spouses or children of known relatives

It feels so good to have the backlog cleared! Of course, back in 2007 Ancestry only included electoral rolls up to 1936. Now, they have them up to 1980 – and I have an ongoing subscription. I might just have to search out some more electoral rolls entries…

Saturday, June 2, 2012

D is for… Details

I have joined Gould’s ‘Family History Through the Alphabet’ challenge. I can’t promise to participate for every letter (my track record for sticking with challenges is not good!) but I didn’t want to miss out on the fun. Here is my contribution for the letter D.

D is for… Details

  • The details that give us a picture of our ancestors – her black hair just beginning to turn grey, she wore a widow’s bonnet with a black veil.
  • The details that are so hard to track down – when did James Bennett (1831-?) die? He was last seen in Avoca, Victoria, Australia in 1883. If anyone knows where he got to, please let me know…
  • The details you can use to find more information – if you can’t find a name in online newspapers, try searching for a street address.
  • The details you overlooked the first time around – that lead to new information. It pays to revisit your (d is for.. ) documents.
  • The details you find – at last! And you do the genea-happy-(d is for.. ) dance!
  • The details you pick over (or don’t) – entering every scrap of information in your (d is for.. ) database, getting source citations just so.
  • The details you would forget – if you didn’t carry a copy of your database in your preferred electronic (d is for.. ) device!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting technical with Family Historian software

I’m feeling rather chuffed with myself tonight.

My genealogy software, Family Historian, is very customisable. Even more so now that version 5 has introduced “plugins”, which allow users to download or write their own code to act on their data.

I’m not a programmer and coding looked daunting - really not something I wanted to commit time to learning - but a comment on Geniaus’ post Fresh Eyes gave me an idea. I borrowed heavily from the sample plugins and ones other users have created and had a go at creating my own plugin. To my delight, it works!

The plugin creates a source record for an Australian electoral roll entry. When I run the plugin I get a pop-up box like this:


The box prompts for all the changing parts of the source record. I have set the State “Victoria” to appear as a default, as 99% of the entries I make will be for Victoria. The plugin then adds a new source record to my file like this:

Australian Electoral Commission. Electoral roll. State of Victoria, Division of Bourke, Subdivision Mitchell, Black entries for 1931; digital images, Australian Electoral Rolls 1903-1980, ( accessed 29 October 2011).

It also adds some bits and pieces in other parts of the source record. It’s probably not technically perfect, but it’s so easy and perfectly consistent from record to record.

Then I got greedy. I wanted my plugin to do more. I managed to find what I needed in the help file and now after I see the initial box, a prompt for multimedia files comes up. It only works for multimedia items that have already been added to Family Historian, but that suits me fine. I have a lot of unlinked images of electoral roll pages attached to my file that I need to make my way through. This speeds the process up considerably.

I’ve also set up a custom query that lists the electoral roll images that haven’t been linked to sources, so I know what I still have left to enter. In Family Historian the query results are usually live, clickable links to records. I can use this to my advantage in my data entry process as well.

Now my process for setting up a source record for an electoral roll page/pages is:

  • Run the query to identify unlinked electoral roll entries.
  • Highlight the multimedia items I want to use in the query results.
  • Run the plugin – complete the boxes show above.
  • Click “OK” when the multimedia box pops up (the records I highlighted are preloaded).

And that’s it. The source record is created with the image(s) attached.

I should just say, you don’t have to do this kind of thing to get good use out of Family Historian, but it’s rather nice that you can.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

C is for… Cooper

I have joined Gould’s ‘Family History Through the Alphabet’ challenge a little late. I can’t promise to participate for every letter (my track record for sticking with challenges is not good!) but I didn’t want to miss out on the fun. Here is my contribution for the letter C.

C is for…
Cooper: A craftsman who makes and repairs wooden vessels formed of staves and hoops, as casks, buckets, tubs.

"cooper, n.1". OED Online. March 2012. Oxford University Press. (accessed May 24, 2012).

My ancestor, Robert Couper (1825-1898) was a cooper. Although the surname Couper has occupational origins, he was not from a long line of coopers. His father was a shoemaker; his grandfather a farmer and fisherman.

Robert worked as a cooper both in his native Scotland and in Australia, having immigrated in 1852. As well as working as a cooper, he was also a (c is for) contractor. I suspect that he is the same Robert Couper who supplied timber for some government road contracts. Related to the occupation of cooper, he possessed a beer licence.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Land records: Don’t annoy the surveyor

When I ordered my first batch of land records, the one I was particularly interested to see was for my great-great-grandfather James Bennett (1831-?).

James has not been easy to pin down. Last year I confirmed that his parents were Michael Bennett and Elizabeth Ann Barnes.  I still haven’t confirmed the date and place or fact of his marriage and have found no record of his death. I don’t know when or how he arrived in Australia. So, anything I learn could be very useful in addition to being interested in the land transactions for their own sake.

Having seen very little of him in my records, I now have copies of pages and pages of handwritten letters from him. There are about 20 letters in his hand on the file. I can see that he signed his name as “James Uxbridge Bennett”. I hadn’t seen a middle name before.

What was in the file

I started working my way through his land file from the back, so that I could read it in chronological order. It didn’t start well.

First, an application form dated 29 September 1871 for a licence to occupy land. Then, a short note from the surveyor, Mr O’Leary, dated almost a year later on 27 August 1872 saying that the delay in surveying the land was caused by James declining to live on the land.

Whether this is true or a misunderstanding is unclear. At any rate, James Bennett must have annoyed Mr O’Leary:

“According to instructions the garden must be included, and if the Northern boundary be moved further to the South a portion of the garden would be cut off and doubtless on the representations of Bennett who is very fond of complaining, I should be ordered there again.”

While O’Leary delayed, new regulations came into force and James was no longer eligible for the 60 acres he had hoped for but had to be satisfied with 20. James also hoped that a water hole might be included on his land, although O’Leary recommended against the inclusion of the water hole on grounds of public convenience.

James was not pleased with the reports O’Leary gave of him:

“In answer to yours of the 7th saying that I declined to proceed with my application I beg to state that the Contract Surveyor  utters a most deliberate falsehood as I have been into Maryborough several times to get him to survey it and have also written to him.”

James persisted with enquiring after the land when nothing seemed to be happening. He succeeded in having the President of the Shire, Chairman of the Mining Board and two other mining board members write a letter on his behalf:

“As it was no fault or omission on the part of the said James Bennett that his application was not dealt with prior to the issue of such regulations we consider it would only be an act of justice to grant his application.”

A poor laboring man

Adding insult to injury, two large adjoining plots were granted to “strangers” to the area while James waited for the survey of his plot to be finalised.

“Mrs Mills and Fishburn applied for 200 acres each, including the land that I applied for and had it granted my application for 60 acres is refused and I am alloted 20 acres. So that it appears that the law is attend at Mr OLeary pleasure though I have been applying for the land for four years another party can get it because they are rich people and that I am only a poor laboring man”

I found his remark about being a poor laboring man interesting. He had come from a wealthy family and later in 1884 would inherit several hundred pounds from his father. I still don’t know how he came to Australia but had assumed he had some financial means behind him, perhaps not as much as I thought.

There was a lot more to-ing and fro-ing in the file over the detail of if he was really living on the land (yes, he was) and if he had fenced the land as he was supposed to (no, because OLeary didn’t finalise the survey to tell him what the boundaries were). The frustration of all the parties – James, O’Leary and the department - is quite apparent.

The officials from the department note on the file:

“It is much to be regretted that Mr OLeary’s transactions with the department are productive of so much trouble and waste of time. A recurrence of a similar unnecessary delay will be visited by a recommendation to have Mr OLeary suspended from working selector’s surveys.”

All up, the land file is 103 pages long with documents from 1871 through to when James Bennett was finally able to purchase the 20 acres of land he had been leasing in 1881.


This post is based upon information contained in a land file for James Bennett in the parish of Bung Bong (5188/49.4), held at the Public Records Office of Victoria.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Merry Month of May Music Meme

Pauleen at Family History Across the Seas has put up a fun meme – the Merry Month of May Music Meme. The instructions are:

“The Merry Month of May Music Meme: a meme for your amusement.

“Since the whole point of this is to have fun, retrieve memories and generally chill out (very 60s!), feel free to amend/add/subtract. I’m not even going to ask you to do the usual checklist of have done, want to do, don’t want to do. If you feel the urge, go ahead, you know how it works. And, geneabloggers, yes there is still family history value in this: give your descendants a laugh, let them get to know you with your hair down. Don’t forget, anyone can join in – it will make it much more fun.

“I’ll be posting my responses later today and I’m even going to try to be spontaneous – first song/music that comes into my head. If you decide to join in please let me know via the links below (it’s supposed to be fun, so I’m not going to learn about linky-doo-dahs).”

I have linked to songs on YouTube along the way, since I was watching so many as I wrote this! The YouTube links are also relevant as video clips really emerged in my era (“my era” makes it sound so long ago) and I consumed music on TV shows such as “Countdown” or “Sounds” as much as I did on the radio or listening to albums. I have tried to avoid versions with advertisements, but some of them make you listen to five seconds of an ad before you can click Skip Ad.  Don’t feel obligated to watch any of them!

  1. Song(s)/Music from your childhood:
    Lots of ABBA. Lots and lots. See 3. and 4.
    There was the usual Purple People Eater as others have mentioned, and similar silly songs. By my childhood “Bananas in Pyjamas” was among them. I remember hearing it on the radio, when we were away on holidays in our caravan.
    The ABC seemed to play “Butterfly Ball” between every kids program.
    Children’s art show Take Hart used what I now know is the beautiful “Cavatina”. That brings back fond memories.
    For something completely different, there was “Up There Cazaly” (I did grow up in Melbourne, after all!).
  2. Song(s)/ Musos from your teenage years:
    There were too many songs and acts to think of them all. Off the top of my head, either because I liked them or they were big names are:
    ustralian/NZ - John Farnham, INXS, Pseudo Echo, 1927, Ice House, Crowded House, Mental as Anything.
    International - Pet Shop Boys, U2, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Wham!, A-Ha, B-52s – plus a
    ll sorts of over-the-top acts that were so prevalent in the 1980s eg Dead or Alive “You spin me round (like a recABBA socksord).
  3. First live concert you attended: ABBA! It was the Melbourne concert in 1977. I was all of six years old. I had the album. I had the T-shirt. I had the lunch box. I had the socks. I still have the programme.
  4. Songs your parents sang along to: My parents both liked ABBA. I remember my Dad singing along to Fernando.
  5. Song(s)/Music your grandparents sang/played:
    They had a single of the Baby Elephant Walk, which they played a lot for my benefit. I can’t remember them singing or playing other music, but I remember my grandmother saying she liked The Village People.  
  6. Did your family have sing-a-longs at home or a neighbours: No.
  7. Did you have a musical instrument at home: We had an organ which my mother was learning to play, and I had a recorder for school.
  8. What instruments do you play (if any): None. I once took up the bagpipes, very temporarily. My fingers weren’t long/wide enough to cover the holes on the practice chanter properly. Oh, and I wasn’t allowed to practice within a certain radius of the house. Quite a large radius, as I recall. It was winter. I lasted about two weeks.
  9. What instruments do you wish you could play: I think it would be nice to be able to play an instrument but there’s no particular instrument that calls to me.
  10. Do you/did you play in a band or orchestra: No.
  11. Do you/did you sing in a choir: No, never could hold a tune. I was in a small number of amateur musical theatre productions in my 20s, always in non-singing roles.
  12. Music you fell in love to/with or were married to: Our wedding dance wasIt had to be you” (Harry Connick Jr).
  13. Romantic music memories: Listening to the The Whitlams as background music in the early days of dating my husband. It’s not romantic music, but I still associate it with romantic times.
  14. Favourite music genre(s): Very hard to say. Either “Popular” or “Alternative”, with a hint of Latin or Dance.
  15. Favourite classical music: I will plead some degree of ignorance on this and the following questions. I do like music in these genres (other than country) but I couldn’t name anything in particular.
  16. Favourite opera/light opera:
  17. Favourite musical:
  18. Favourite pop:
  19. Favourite world/ethnic:
  20. Favourite jazz:
  21. Favourite country or folk: Country is not my thing.
  22. Favourite movie/show musical:
  23. Favourite sounds tracks:
  24. What music do you like to dance to: See 14.
  25. What dances did you do as a teenager: We didn’t really have dances that everyone did, unless you count Nutbush City Limits which made an obligatory appearance at each school social.  Slightly post-teens came the Macarena – again, an obligatory once per event.
  26. Do you use music for caller ID on your mobile: No.
  27. What songs do you use for caller ID your ringtone: I had “Starlight” (The Superman Lovers) as my ringtone on a previous phone. My current phone doesn’t let you use songs as ringtones.
  28. What songs do your children like or listen to: My six year old informs me he has outgrown The Wiggles. He has not informed me what he has moved on to.
  29. Favourite live music concerts as an adult: I’m not sure why it is, but I have only ever been to three live music concerts. ABBA as a child, 1927 as a teen, and Michael Jackson’s “History” tour as an adult. I’m not so much a fan of Michael Jackson myself. I went with my sister, who was desperate to go but couldn’t talk any of her friends into an overnight trip to Sydney during University exam period. We had terrible seats, but the concert was good.
  30. Silly music memories from your family: My sister and I as teens - in front of the TV energetically copying [too embarrassing to say which group] dance.
  31. Silliest song you can think of: I’m too Sexy.
  32. Pet hate in music/singing: People who sing at you. Don’t sing at me.
  33. A song that captures family history for you: Sorry, stumped on this one. 
  34. If you could only play 5 albums (assume no iPods or mp3) for the rest of your life, what would they be:
    “Watermark”, Enya
    “Singles”, New Order
    “Discography”, Pet Shop Boys
    “Laundry Service”, Shakira
    “All that you can’t leave behind” U2
  35. Favourite artists (go ahead and list as many as you like):
    Too hard! It depends on my mood.

Friday, May 11, 2012

50 genealogy blogs you need to follow

It seemed to be all over the blogosphere. Jill Ball of Geniaus had written an article for Inside History magazine on the 50 genealogy blogs you need to follow. Among the list were 10 personal blogs and as it turns out I already follow all but one of them – Twigs of Yore. I’m trying to cut back on paper publications, but I think I will make an exception for this issue of the magazine.

Thank you Jill and Inside History magazine!

The list is very relevant to Australian genealogists, and also includes some international sites to follow. Some of those I already do, some I don’t. It looks like my blog list will be growing.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

BillionGraves – a six-year-old could do it

Preparing to take a photo using the BillionGraves app

We’re half-way through the school holidays and this morning my six-year-old was bored and in a bad mood. Whatever I suggested, he didn’t like it. I decided to forget about pleasing him and do something I wanted to do instead. The weather was perfect for taking headstone photos so I took my reluctant, grumpy boy to a local cemetery.

I have both and iPhone and an android tablet, both with the BillionGraves app installed. Before we got to the cemetery, I checked that my devices were charged, the apps were up to date, and I could still log in to BillionGraves on either device. All was in good working order.

I also checked the settings on both devices. Most importantly, I checked the setting to prevent photos from uploading immediately. I wanted to let my boy try taking some pictures but I didn’t want the pictures to upload if the photos weren’t acceptable.

Once we got to the cemetery I picked a section where there would be no tidying of headstones or plaques required. I gave my boy the iPhone, which I have found is easier to handle for headstone photos, gave him some basic instructions about what the pictures needed to include and how to line them up, looked over his shoulder as he took the first few, then left him to it as we photographed alternate rows. That was his suggestion, but what I had intended we should do. Smart kid!

He did great! He seemed to enjoy the activity – wanted to stay longer and take more pictures but we were out of time. He’ll deny later that he enjoyed it or said any of that… but he did. It was only a short trip. It had taken us a while to leave the house (someone didn’t like any of his socks…) and I hadn’t planned to stay for long anyway, not knowing how the outing would turn out.

Later at home I reviewed the photos and culled the ones that didn’t have useful information. I cut out a few of mine where I had my finger on the lens (whoops! I did say the tablet was more awkward for photos), a few of his where he took an interest in a grave decoration or the scenery generally, and occasional duplicates where one or the other of us tried to get a better shot. Between us we had a total of about 70 usable photos. Only 20 of them were mine!

So there you have it, proof that BillionGraves is so easy to use, a six-year-old could do it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

ANZAC Day 2012 – A mother’s perspective

ANZAC Day, observed on 25 April each year, is the national day of remembrance for Australians and New Zealanders who died at war.

Last year I co-hosted an ANZAC day blogging challenge with Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries. This year I have bowed out of co-hosting, due to commitments of life in general. However, I didn’t want to miss out on participating. This is my contribution to the 2012 ANZAC Day Blog Challenge.

My great-uncle Charles George French was not yet 21 when he tried to enlist in the military. It was a little too soon for his mother’s liking:

“I have no objection to his enlistment for Home Service. I object to his enlistment for Active Service Abroad he is too young. Make any use you like of him for Home Service”

Elizabeth French, 3 June 1918

Digital copy of item

Creative commons logo
© Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2012.

Without consent for Active Service Abroad, Charles’ application to enlist was cancelled.

Charles must have talked his mother around, as just a week later he provided a consent form with her signature. With her consent, his application was accepted. He embarked for France on 31 August 1918 the same year. His elder brother Walter had already seen service and returned home to Australia, discharged from duty with deafness.

As I was reading Charles’ military service file, I already knew that he had returned home alive. Having come home in October 1919 he married in 1920 and went on to raise a family. His mother Elizabeth didn’t have the reassurance of this knowledge as he set sail for France. On 31 August 1918, Charles’ fate was unknown. How hard it must have been for Elizabeth to let her young son, just 19 years of age, go off to war.

© Shelley Crawford, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Land records: A lot to take in

I received my DVD of digitised land records yesterday. Between the eight correspondence files I asked for there were over 250 document images. Needless to say, that’s a lot to take in.

I have confirmed that the Bennett records most definitely relate to my family and from skimming the files I have already had some insight into their life.

I wasn’t in the mood tonight for trying to absorb all that material, most of it handwritten. I will come back to that on a less busy day. Instead, I had a long overdue play with Google Earth and marked out the plots owned by my ancestor James Bennett and four of his six children. I must make more use of Google Earth!

Location of Bennett family land near Bung Bong, Victoria


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Land Records: Finding the Bennetts in Bung Bong

In order to order land records for my ancestors, I first need to find out if they actually had any land, and exactly where it was located. In many cases probate and administration papers provide the details. When if came to my Bennett family I didn’t have that information, but I have been able to identify their land with enough confidence that I have ordered copies of the records.

There are gaps in my information about my great-great grandfather James Bennett. I only confirmed his parents to my satisfaction last year, but I still haven’t found a marriage record for him and my great-great grandmother, Catherine Lucy Darcy, nor any record relating to his death. As he was born in 1831, I’m pretty sure he’d be dead by now!

Until recently, the only clue I had that my Bennett family lived at Bung Bong – that this was a place likely to be of interest to me - was a place abbreviation of “BUNG” on the birth index entry for one of James Bennett’s grandchildren. Other places have appeared to be far more closely connected to the family.

The Amherst hospital records I viewed last year confirmed that James Bennett’s parents were who I thought they might be and also showed his family living at Bung Bong through the 1880s.

View Larger Map

The next clue to the land records was found in the Genealogical Society of Victoria’s Genealogical Names Index (GIN). If you are researching people in Victoria I highly recommend signing up to take advantage of the members only index, which in some cases even includes digitised records!

The GIN showed that there were several listings in the Victoria Government Gazette regarding the land holdings in Bung Bong of people named Bennett. The trouble was that although knew that my Bennetts had lived there, I could also see Bennetts who were not part of my family with land at Bung Bong.

It was only when I finally looked at the parish plan that I felt confident I had the right family and could pick out the relevant file references. The Bennetts I thought might be “mine” had plots adjoining one another, the other Bennetts were located elsewhere on the map.

I’m very curious about the contents of these land records and would wait by my letterbox on Monday for the records to arrive (or at least keep an ear out for the postman), if only I didn’t have to go to work!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Land records: Preparing for my first look

I’ve taken another first step. I’ve arranged to have some land records held at the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) digitised and sent to me. This is the first time I’ve looked at land records so I can’t wait until they arrive.

Archive envy!

Have I ever mentioned that I have a terrible case of archive envy? Whenever I see posts exhorting genealogists to look beyond the internet I think “I know!!! but I can’t get there!”

The archive most relevant to me, the Public Record Office of Victoria, is 600+km away and with small children the idea of making a research trip is a distant dream. I have used research agents occasionally to collect things for me but it can be hard to know exactly what to ask for when you’ve never explored archival records yourself. I guess I don’t feel entirely comfortable with something unless I’ve had some hands-on experience with it, however minor. Fortunately, the Public Record Office of Victoria has quite a few indexes online and some records (eg probate records) have been digitised and put online for free. I’m also slowly finding my way through their catalogue which provides a fantastic amount of very useful contextual information about each series.

Back to the land records

Between the PROV online guides, their brick of a Lands Guide (which weighs in at 1.2kg. Yes, I weighed it), and various other sources I have been able to find the “fractions” written on the plans that relate to the relevant correspondence files. I also now have some idea of the processes by which they acquired the land.

All this relies on knowing where the land is. In most cases I’ve found that information recorded in probate files. For some reason I have never followed up to see exactly where all these Allotment x Section y’s were before. I think I’ve scrutinised the detail of overseas maps more carefully than Australian ones, perhaps because I have a general idea of Australian locations but not such a good knowledge of Scotland, for example. At any rate, I got a huge kick out of it when I saw “J.W. French” written down on the parish plan right where it was meant to be!

In the case of my Bennett family, the process of discovering that they even had any land was a bit more circuitous, but I’m confident that the records I’ve asked for will be the right ones. I think that finding the Bennett land should be a separate post.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

More DNA tests mean more information (part 2)

In my last post, I looked at how I could use the “matches in common” lists on Family Tree DNA to pencil in which branch my DNA matches (probably) belong to.

With the addition of my father’s and two cousins’ match-in-common lists, I was able to label each of my matches as connected to my:

  • maternal side,
  • paternal side, or
  • a specific branch on my paternal side, “French”.

Up to this point, all that I have used is the lists of names. My next step is to start looking at the chromosome browser results. This is where you can see what segment(s) of DNA you have in common with each of your matches.

What I intend to do is much like the logic I have discussed before, only this time I want to take it a few steps further.

Matches-not-in-common with a known cousin

The key point to remember here is that for each stretch of DNA, half is from my mother’s side, half is from my father’s. If I match person “A” and person “B” at a particular location, but they don’t match each other, then I know that one is from my maternal and one is from my paternal side. Without additional information, I don’t know which! I now have that additional information for my own DNA matches, as I can see if my father (who happens to have contributed half of my DNA) matches.

For my father’s matches, I can look at his matches not-in-common with our “French” cousins to do something similar. If my father matches a “French” cousin at a particular location then anyone who matches him at the same location, but is NOT a match in common with my “French” cousins (who are on my father’s paternal side), must somehow connect to his maternal side, the “Bennett” branch.

Then it gets weird

So far so good. I started working away at my file on this basis and quickly found a match to my father at the same location on his DNA as my “French” cousin matches, who didn’t show as a match to them. Great! This person must match my “Bennett” family! Then I noticed that I had another match with the same surname and same contact email address on the same segment of DNA, who also did not match my French cousins.

No problem there? Well actually, there was a little problem. When I said “I” had a match I really meant “I” and not my father. My father’s matches not-in-common with my “French” cousins must connect to his “Bennett” branch. My matches not-in-common with my “French” cousins must connect to my mother’s side. Any yet – the two matches had the same surname and contact email address.

I wanted to find out more about these odd matches, so I sent off an email and asked. It turned out that one of our matches was the uncle of the other. My father matched the nephew, I matched the paternal side uncle. So, by using the same sort of logic, my father connects to the maternal side of one match, and I connect to the father’s maternal side of the other. Like a mirror image of how they connect to me. All on the one segment of DNA.

At least, I think that’s how it goes. It took a bit of getting my head around this. Another way of looking at it is this:


But what a funny coincidence that it’s all at exactly the same location on our DNA. It’s even possible that our relationship looks like this:


Ouch! My head hurts!

I think that the moral of this story is that when you pencil in a branch, you really need to pencil it in and keep your mind open to other possibilities.

I think I’ll have to leave it there for tonight…

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More DNA tests means more information

I love the puzzling-it-out aspect of genealogy DNA investigation. I’ve now had two known cousins (both on my father’s side) and more recently my father contribute DNA tests. We are using Family Tree DNA. With each additional test comes a big increase in possibilities for narrowing down which part of my family tree is relevant to each of my matches.

I thought it might be of interest to see what I am learning from these tests, despite not yet finding the paper trail to any of my previously unknown matches! I’m very pleased to say though that the results confirm the paper trails to my father and known cousins. A big Phew! there – those relationships are close enough that surprising DNA results would most definitely not be welcome.

When I had only myself tested, this was the extent of my knowledge about my 103 matches:image

Note: I’m using all my current matches which include my father and cousins throughout this post for illustration purposes.

Not very helpful.

Then, two known cousins tested. I discussed the results of one of those cousin’s tests here. With Family Tree DNA, once a known relationship is confirmed by both parties you are able to see which of your matches you have in common with that person. As I am not controlling their accounts, I don’t have access to my cousins’ match lists, just to who we have in common. Both of my known cousins are connected to my French branch but their “matches in common” with me didn’t overlap with each other. In total, I was able to pencil in ten of my matches as somehow connected to my French branch. My cousins are actually half-cousins, so it narrowed down the possibilities to just one eighth of my tree for those ten people.  

This is the state of my knowledge after my cousins tested:image

At new year my Dad agreed to testing. That was very much to my surprise as he had previously turned up his nose at all attempts to discuss it. His test results came back just a few days ago, and what a lot of extra information they provide!

  • by comparing his results with my cousins I see that 10 matches are connected to my French family (no change here yet, but this number may increase when both my cousins have confirmed their relationships with my Dad)
  • as well as those ten, 28 more of my matches are somewhere on my father’s side of the tree
  • my remaining 65 matches must be from my mother’s side of the tree
  • PLUS I have names for 48 new matches on my father’s side of the tree.

This is what the state of my knowledge looks like now:


So far I have only looked at name lists, but even that gives a great starting point for when I compare notes with my matches. I am thinking through the steps to run this sort of analysis in an automated way so I can update it easily as new results come in.

I think it really shows that it’s the more the merrier, so far as DNA testing is concerned! I wonder who else would be willing to part with a bit of spit…

This is just step one. There is a whole lot more narrowing down that will be possible once I start looking at the data on the matches themselves (ie, the location of the match on my DNA) but this post is quite long enough for one night.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Twigs of Yore site makeover – getting started

It’s time for a makeover!

My genealogy research website runs on software called The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (TNG). TNG has recently released version 9, which seems a fitting time to think about a makeover for my site.

It is especially suitable as Kathleen Moore at " Misadventures of a genealogist" is posting a series of tutorials as she redesigns her combined TNG/blog site.

Kathleen’s site is one that I especially admired when I first set up my own research data site. I particularly liked how her research data and blog fit so nicely under the same interface. Such a presentation seemed beyond me so I was content with keeping it simple and just making my research site and blog as consistent with each other as possible.

So far, as I have followed along, I have started thinking about what I want and don’t want on the site. Yes, actual planning. I have also set up a test site for myself to experiment and try things out. I can’t wait for each next instalment!

I’m not sure yet how far I will go with my own redesign. It could be anything from just tidying up the current customisations, to a complete overhaul! I keep on imagining soft silvery colours, like a misty eucalyptus forest… Blog and research data integrated on the one site…?!?!?

For the sake of documentation, here are screenshots of my research site and this blog a few days ago. My research site now differs slightly as I made a bit of a mess of the upgrade and I haven’t completely fixed the customisation again.

This blog, prior to any changes


Research site, prior to any changes



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Update on my genealogy world.

There are a few things happening in my personal genealogy world at the moment.

DNA – Around about New Year, my father agreed to genealogy DNA testing! I purchased him a kit on special from Family Tree DNA. His sample is now at the FTDNA lab with results due back at the end of March.  I’m looking forward to seeing the results. At the very minimum they will show which side (maternal or paternal) my matches come from.

More DNA – I’m also excited about the news that Family Tree DNA is accepting uploads of 23andMe data. This is, for now, at the bargain price of $50. I encourage any genealogist who has tested with 23andMe to submit their data to FTDNA as well. Note that FTDNA does not have an ongoing subscription fee. There’s more information on the Your Genetic Genealogist blog, which is where I first saw this news.

TNG – TNG (The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding) is the software that I use for my family tree site, Version 9 has just been released. I have purchased the upgrade and am thinking of giving both the site and this blog a makeover at the same time.

See Jill Ball’s Geniaus blog for her interview with the developer Darrin Lythgoe at the recent Rootstech 2012 conference. Go Jill!

Desktop software – I have deliberately avoided customising my Family Historian software until I became more familiar with it. Now I think it’s time to start setting things up to suit myself. I’m starting with setting up a property tab for convenient entry of probate records. I have at least half a dozen probate records or letters of administration that need to be entered so I will be able to put my customisations to the test.

I have also been doing bits and pieces of research, but not in a very focussed way.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Australia Day 2012 – Wealth for toil – All the posts

Happy Australia Day!

I recently issued an invitation/challenge to geneabloggers to blog on Australia Day (today!). The theme I chose was “Wealth for Toil”, inspired by Australia’s national anthem.


The instructions were:

To participate, choose someone who lived in Australia (preferably one of your ancestors) and tell us how they toiled. Your post should include:

  1. What was their occupation?
  2. What information do you have about the individual’s work, or about the occupation in general?
  3. The story of the person, focussing on their occupation; or
    The story of the occupation, using the person as an example.

Responses may be as long or short as you like, and as narrow or broad as you wish.

It was lovely to see so many people reply straight away that they intended to participate, and even better to see the posts start appearing.

So, for your enjoyment, in the order that I found out about them, here are the “Wealth for Toil” posts.

I will continue to add posts for the next day or two. If I have missed your post it’s not intentional - please leave a comment and I’ll add you to the list.

Jill Ball – Geniaus
Frank Duncan moved from job to job

Shauna Hicks – Shauna Hicks History Enterprises
Thomas Price led a varied life

Sharon – The Tree of Me
Dr William Lee Dawson

Helen V Smith - From Helen V Smith's Keyboard
William Busby, stonemason and George Howard Busby, a taste for adventure

Tanya – My genealogy adventure
George Thomas Smede, military and police

Linda Ottery – Questions about my Quest
Toiling in the Tobacco Fields

Merron Riddiford – Western District Families
Haddon family, working on the land and working on the roads

Fi – Dance Skeletons
Arthur Louis Alexandre Bastin, sailor, deserter, miner, bookseller

Kerry Farmer – Family History Research
Commercial travellers

Sharn White – FamilyHistory4u
John Morrison, builder

Pauleen - Family history across the seas
Denis Joseph Kunkel, working on the railways

Judy Webster – UK/Australia Genealogy
William Donald Webster, working with horses

Julie Goucher - Anglers Rest
John Hunt Butcher, magistrate?

Frances – Rebel Hand
Nicholas Delaney, building roads

Cassie Mercer – Inside History Magazine
Tom Readford, convict to innkeeper (and he met Charles Darwin!)

Alex Daw – Family Tree Frog
Harriet Rowland, teacher

Ann O’Dyne – Trying to be Ann O’Dyne
George Sedgwick, carpenter

Shelley Crawford – Twigs of Yore
Daniel Miller Couper, butcher

Australia Day 2012 – Wealth for toil – Butcher

Recently I invited geneabloggers to join me in Australia Day blogging on the theme “Wealth for Toil” (from the Australian national anthem). The instructions I gave were:

To participate, choose someone who lived in Australia (preferably one of your ancestors) and tell us how they toiled. Your post should include:

  1. What was their occupation? 
  2. What information do you have about the individual’s work, or about the occupation in general?
  3. The story of the person, focussing on their occupation; or
    The story of the occupation, using the person as an example.

Responses may be as long or short as you like, and as narrow or broad as you wish.

This post is my response to my own challenge. I selected an ancestor for whom I had recently found occupational information, and who I thought I might be able to dig up some more information and context in the time and with the resources I had available.

[I will post a list of all the challenge responses received to date shortly]



The first mention I have of my great-great-grandfather Daniel Miller Couper’s occupation is on his marriage certificate in January of 1879. By then 28 years old, he was a butcher. Whether he already had his own business by then or was working for another butcher, I don’t know. From that time his occupation is uniformly given as butcher in all the documents I have viewed – up until the time it changes to retired butcher!

Becoming a butcher

I have not dwelled on the physical skills needed to become a butcher – I am too squeamish for that and it is certainly not an occupation that would suit me! I had always assumed that Daniel Miller Couper must have gone through an apprenticeship. Perhaps he did as there was an apprenticeship system in place in Victoria, modelled after the English system. However, in researching for this post I’m not so sure.

The requirements for a slaughtering licence outside of Melbourne were quite straightforward - a slaughtering licence could be had for one pound if the local council was satisfied that the applicant was of “unexceptionable character and that the situation of such slaughter-house or place is not objectionable”1. There was no requirement for any particular training. It seems probable that he learnt the trade from another local butcher, although not necessarily under a formal arrangement.

The first indication I have of Daniel owning a butchers store comes in the Sands Melbourne Directory of 1880. I have not done a thorough enough search to feel confident that this was when he opened shop. His butcher’s shop was on Broadwood Street, Oakleigh, and his slaughter yard not far away at Mulgrave.

Daniel himself had workers at his store. I know this not from employment records, but from when things went wrong.

In 1885, Daniel hired Joseph Jose for 25s per week on a verbal agreement at the Melbourne Meat Market. However, the employment didn’t last. Joseph left without giving the (allegedly) agreed one week of notice. On 6 March 1885 Joseph was arrested at Walhalla. For his part, Joseph said that he occasionally had to work late at night and, in fact, there was money owing to him. Neither party had evidence to support their claims and the case was dismissed.2

Later, in 1900, John J Keppel, a stout 28 year old butcher of fair complexion, was charged with embezzling 11s. 4d. of Daniel’s money3.

Legal requirements

Being a butcher involved a lot of red tape. Slaughterhouses had to give notice in writing at least 12 hours in advance of any animal to be slaughtered. They also had to keep a book with detailed records of the animals they slaughtered that specified the “color marks brands sex and apparent age of such cattle…” and a copy of these records had to be provided to the nearest court of petty sessions every month. The definition of cattle was broad – it included any “bull ox steer cow heifer calf ram ewe wether lamb goat kid or swine”4.

The purpose of all the red tape and detailed records was to prevent the theft of cattle, or of any other livestock worth stealing. Failure to comply could mean hefty fines.

Abattoirs also had special mention in the public health laws5. In the late 1800s it was well known that unsanitary conditions contributed to the spread of infectious diseases. Inspection of abattoirs and butchers premises was a public health measure.

The public health laws allowed members of the local council and their officers to inspect a butcher’s premises at any time. The local board could give 24 hours notice that any “manure dung soil filth offal coal ashes or other offensive or noxious matter whatsoever” they found was to be removed. Penalties for non-compliance could range from fines up to hard labour.

The fledgling town of Oakleigh struggled with problems of drainage and of livestock being kept within the town limits. On one occasion, as late as 1891, a flock of around 150 sheep belonging to Thomas Jones, a long-time Oakleigh butcher, was found straying on Oakleigh’s streets6. It might not have been so bad if a ram hadn’t started butting a woman!


OAKLEIGH POLICE COURT. (1891, December 5). Oakleigh Leader (North Brighton, Vic. : 1888 - 1902), p. 5. Retrieved January 26, 2012, from

As the town grew, some slaughtering licences were not renewed. In January 1887 Charles Newport’s application to renew a slaughtering licence at Dandenong Road was refused, on the grounds that the area was becoming more populated. However, the application of one J T Clarke with premises directly across the road was going to be granted. The unfairness of this was noted and the decision deferred to the next meeting.

While Daniel had the occasional slap on the wrist from council e.g. for keeping pigs within the town limits or for leaving bad smelling fat and putrid bones lying around, he seems to have always had his licence renewed.

Technology and advancement

The latter half of the 1800s was a time with many changes affecting butchers’ ability to run a business. Through good management or good fortune, Daniel Couper seems to have navigated them all.

Viable systems of refrigeration had been invented, and as the technology was being adopted, the ability of a butcher to refrigerate his wares was a fact worthy of advertising7. Investing in a new technology is a risk, but in the case of Daniel Miller Couper the risk seems to have paid off as he eventually retired a wealthy man.

The spread of the rail network also brought both the risk of losing custom, and opportunities to sell to new markets.

I have only a few details of Daniel Miller Couper’s own business. I have located his butchers shop in Melbourne Directories but this tells me little. I hope to gain more information from newspaper advertisements. In Taking its Place: A history of Oakleigh by H.G.Gobbi mentions Daniel advertising his business – the source is not clear but probably in the Oakleigh and Ferntree Gully Times based on the surrounding source references. This publication is not (yet?) on the Trove Newspapers website and I have not been able to find examples of him advertising in other papers.


As it happens, Daniel Couper Miller did become a very wealthy man (although that was not why I chose him for this challenge). He was able to retire and lived for many years as a gentleman of independent means, leaving a sizable estate when he died in 1935.


[1] Victoria. “The Licensed Butchers and Abattoirs Statute 1864”. These provisions were retained in later replacement legislation.

[2] OAKLEIGH POLICE COURT. (1885, March 25). South Bourke and Mornington Journal (Richmond, Vic. : 1872 - 1920), p. 3 Edition: WEEKLY.. Retrieved January 21, 2012, from

[3] Victoria Police. and Victoria. Police Dept. and Victoria Police Force.  Victoria police gazette  4 Jan 1900, p7.

[4]Victoria. “The Licensed Butchers and Abattoirs Statute 1864”. These provisions were retained in later replacement legislation.

[5] Including the Public Health Statute 1865 as well as earlier and subsequent legislation.

[6] OAKLEIGH POLICE COURT. (1891, December 5). Oakleigh Leader (North Brighton, Vic. : 1888 - 1902), p. 5. Retrieved January 26, 2012, from

[7] Gobbi, H. G. & Oakleigh and District Historical Society.  2004  Taking its place : a history of Oakleigh marking its sesquicentenary, 1853-2003 / H.G. Gobbi  Oakleigh and District Historical Society, Oakleigh, Vic.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Australia Day – Wealth for toil – Don’t forget!

My reminder is probably coming a little late, but here it is…

Don’t forget to join in the Australia Day 2012 geneablogging!

You don’t need to be Australian, you just need to be able to write about someone in Australia. This year the theme is occupations – “wealth for toil” – inspired by our national anthem. Check my earlier post for the details. I’m happy to offer a little leeway with the timing of your post considering that most of the world experiences 26 January a day later than we do here in Australia.

I’ve been wondering if I will get my own post done in time. Early in December I fell and broke my foot. While I’m well on the way to recovery and can now walk without crutches, I’m still following doctor’s orders and heading down to the local pool to do physiotherapy exercises every day. With two small children, I need to be able to not only walk but run properly! The only time I can get there is in the evening after the aforesaid small children have gone to bed – time that usually goes towards genealogy.

I’m really looking forward to reading all your posts.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Deaths in my tree on Friday the 13th

When I realised the date, I thought I would see if Family Historian could produce a list of people who died on a Friday the 13th.

No problem! Family Historian allows you to filter on just the day (13th) and just the day of the week (Friday) without needing to do anything too complex. I quickly identified three people who died on a Friday 13th. Curiously, all three were from Scotland.

They were:

James Couper, the two year old son of William Couper and Anne McKenzie. He died of croup on Friday 13th March 1857 at Portmahomack, Ross, Scotland.

Elizabeth Sinclair died in Lybster, Latheron, Caithness, Scotland at age 93 on Friday 13 May 1864. I think she is my 5xgreat-grandmother, but I need to gather more evidence to be sure I have the right Elizabeth Sinclair.

Alexander Miller died a pauper at the age of 74 after six months suffering from chronic bronchitis on Friday 13th April 1877 at Bardfellister, Clyth, Latheron, Caithness, Scotland. He is my 4xgreat-grandfather.

If you are related to any of these people, please get in touch. I’d love to exchange information.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Australia Day 2012 – Wealth for Toil

Australia-day-logo-2012Last year I was pleased (and astonished) when my timid invitation to join me in Australia Day geneablogging was met with great enthusiasm. I was thrilled to present 22 fantastic responses from bloggers around the world, that provided great examples of quality research and writing with an Australian flavour.

Let’s do it again!

This year I invite you to join me in Australia Day (26 January) geneablogging on “Wealth for Toil”. The theme is inspired by Australia’s national anthem, Advance Australia Fair:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We've golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Australia Day 2012: Wealth for Toil

To participate, choose someone who lived in Australia (preferably one of your ancestors) and tell us how they toiled. Your post should include:

  1. What was their occupation? 
  2. What information do you have about the individual’s work, or about the occupation in general?
  3. The story of the person, focussing on their occupation; or
    The story of the occupation, using the person as an example. 

Responses may be as long or short as you like, and as narrow or broad as you wish.

Publish your post on or before Australia Day (26 Jan 2012) and leave a comment here or send me an email with the URL. I will create a summary post of the responses.

I look forward to learning how your ancestors toiled!

Update: You can find a list of responses to this post here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking backwards, looking forwards: My genealogy year in review

This post flits past my goals for 2011, reviews my genealogy achievements for 2011 and sets out my hopes for 2012.

Looking back: 2011 goals

In 2011 I didn’t make resolutions as such, but provided a long list of long-term goals. Rather than describe my progress on each item, I will dwell on just one: Don't bite off more than I can chew!

My results on this item for 2012 is – fail. I did get some good things done, but felt burnt out by the second half of the year.

Looking back: Highlights of 2011

  • Using my first ever FHL film. At one stage I almost lived in the National Library of Australia but my archives research has been limited by distance to the appropriate archive and with small children it’s hard to even get to the library too often any more. Just getting out of the house to do some research was exciting for me and I found all the information I was hoping for.
  • The Australia Day challenge! In January I issued an invitation for other bloggers to join me in an Australia Day blogging event. I had given quite a bit of thought to the wording of the question as I was hoping to engineer a certain type of response. Yes - I had in mind the type of post I would like to read and asked questions that I hoped would deliver the goods. I was amply rewarded when 21 other bloggers posted fantastic articles – and from the feedback I got it wasn’t just me that liked the results.
  • “Opening” my research data website I have already had quite a few cousin connections thanks to the site. I think that my decision to put up more data rather than less has contributed to people who find the site actually getting in touch. This has lead to lots of new information and I have also been making an effort to gather more information about other descendants of my ancestors, so I’ll understand how my new-found cousins are connected to me.
  • A joint ANZAC Day blogging challenge with the Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries. Again we had a great response. I found the sad stories of the impact of war heartbreaking.
  • Meanwhile I completed three basic Australian genealogy courses with the National Institute in Genealogical Studies through the year, and have almost completed a fourth. I found that when I did just one course at a time I was wished the course was more challenging (that will come if I move on to more advanced courses, I’m sure), but when I did two at a time any unexpected life event put me in danger of not completing. With a five and a three year old, unexpected life events are to be expected! One course at a time it is for me from now on.
  • Changing genealogy software. This I did with some sadness, but it was time and I still think I made the right decision. Changing genealogy software can be quite a challenge. There is a lot of potential for data loss and general messing up along the way, but I have come through the process reasonably well and am slowing tidying up my database. I’m very happy with the querying and multimedia capabilities.
  • DNA. I have now tested with both 23andMe and with Family Tree DNA. I have not yet worked out my connection with anyone, but two of my (half) second cousins tested during the year. Aside from being interesting to see, the results supported our paper trail (phew!) and gave leads on some of our matches.
  • Giving back. I haven’t joined an indexing project or similar, but I have joined Judy Webster’s “Genealogists for Families” team on Kiva. Kiva is a site that facilitates small loans (just $25) to assist people move out of poverty. It’s hard to call this giving back as you can reclaim the money once it’s repaid, but I don’t intend to. I will reloan it to others who would benefit from help.
  • Discussions with other bloggers. In particular I enjoyed having discussions in both public and private fora with Jill Ball aka Geniaus and Tanya Honey about the use of our latest toys – Samsung Galaxy Tablets. These Android devices are bigger than a mobile phone but smaller than an iPad. I have enjoyed exchanging notes with Jill and Tanya on the genealogy (and other) uses of our toys. Keep an eye out for Jill talking about our Galaxy Tabs at Rootstech!
  • More and more Victorian newspapers appeared on Trove through 2011. This has been a goldmine for some of my families (see Bad smelling fat and putrid bones for an example) and I hope to do “more” with some of the information I’ve found and not yet blogged about. I’m still not sure what that “more” will be.

This is one of the advantages of blogging. If I wasn’t blogging I’m sure I wouldn’t be looking back on the year and seeing just how much I’ve done – and I certainly wouldn’t have the blog posts to prove it!

Looking forward: What’s coming in 2012?

  • DNA. Great excitement. Yesterday my father agreed that he would do a genealogy DNA test for me – just in time to take advantage of the Family Tree DNA sale. As he is a generation further back than me, he will have bigger matches with my cousins who have already tested and this may allow us to narrow down more matches to our shared portion of the family tree. It will also show me whether my other matches are on my maternal or paternal side, and may help narrow down the estimated generation distance of some matches.
  • Australia Day challenge. It’s definitely on again and this year the topic is… no, wait a minute, that’s another blog post… (coming soon!!)

In terms of resolutions, the main one, once again, is Don’t bite off more than I can chew! I don’t want to get that burnt out feeling again – genealogy is a leisure activity for me, after all! – and so I will be careful to avoid excitedly signing up for anything and everything.

Related to that, I also want to do a better job of planning my activities. Not necessarily to stick scrupulously to the plan, but to be able to make good use of my time when I feel like making good use of it.

As for what else, I don’t know. I will see what eventuates. Who knows what path a cousin contact or DNA discovery may lead me down.