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Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014: Quality over quantity!

The start of the new year is a time to look back and look forward. Jill Ball of GeniAus has encouraged bloggers to look back with an eye for the positive. Although I haven’t followed her prompts, and I’m late joining the party, I hope she will include me in her annual ‘Accentuate the Positive' roundup!

2014 started with the immediate concerns of my family demanding precedence over hatches, matches and dispatches in the past. I’m not sure how I managed to write five blog posts that month!

In the space of a day my five year old daughter went from being a lively child with a mild case of the sniffles, to child very ill with pneumonia lying in a high care hospital bed. I’m glad to say that after a week in hospital on oxygen, nebulisers and antibiotics she had recovered well enough to attend her very first day of school at the same time as the other children.

This came only a few months after my son’s case of scarlet fever! His temperature hit 40 degrees and he was clearly a very unwell boy, but he quickly recovered with antibiotics. It was not a big deal.

This left me feeling reflective. Many of my ancestor’s children had similar illnesses at similar ages, with much less happy results. I felt very grateful to live in the time and the place that I do.

My first notable genealogy achievement of the year was finding merchant seaman records for my ancestor, John Lee. This supported the family story that he was a crew member who left the ship in Australia, and disproved the theory that he was an “exile” – a convict sent to Port Phillip (now Victoria) and pardoned on arrival. I still need to follow up on engaging a researching to dig further into the records for me!

The highlight of the year was my research trip to Melbourne. I got such a kick out of seeing the documents for myself. Those big old registers really are big! I made some great discoveries, boosting my confidence that I really could track down and find information that I wanted in the archives, and I met my cousin Shirley for the first time. I also spent time with my aunt, uncle and cousins who I haven’t seen in years which was worth a trip in itself. I said that I would like to make the research trip an annual event – I’ll have to get planning!

Finding copies of my ancestor’s letters at the National Library of Australia came a very close second in terms of genealogy excitement. As it happened, Shirley was in Canberra and we had planned to meet again. It was great to have someone else to ooh and ahh over the papers with.

I have made progress on a number of other fronts:

  • I have all but finished the Basic level Australian courses at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.
  • I started putting words on the page, writing up what I know about my Couper family.
  • DNA research has begun picking up steam as more people test. It has now moved on from being something that I thought of as fun, but only likely to be useful long term (if ever) to a potential source of breakthroughs. I “met” a Couper/Allsop descendant, and a Bennett/Darcy descendant through DNA testing – it’s nice to have support for the paper trails. I also “met “ a predicted 2-4th cousin. Such a close match! We think that our respective Halliday ancestors may have been siblings (making us 3rd cousins twice removed, if I’ve worked the relationship out correctly) but don’t have any information to confirm this. What we do have is a hypothesis to follow up on which we would not have had without the DNA tests.
  • I upgraded to version six of Family Historian and have spent quite some time playing with the new features. Version six has added ‘witness’ support (which I’m very happy with) and place support (which is a step in the right direction) but it’s the new minor features that I would look straight past in the product description that I’m most taken with. This deserves a post of it’s own, which I may or may not find time to write!

Overall I think it was a year of quality, rather than quantity, and I’m very happy with that!