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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.