Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Moving Day!

Please don't mind the mess. The new website is online.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Last post?

Apologies to anyone I haven't replied to as yet, but I've been very busy with a couple of projects. This will probably be my final post here on blogger, before unleashing a new, more easily maintained and organised blog elsewhere. That's project numero uno.

Project two involves a larger scale, collaborative project. More on that when I know exactly where I'm going with it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Patience!

Patience is the name of the game, especially in relation to the release of new archival sources to the internet. Do you get excited when you find a new email waiting in your inbox, notifying you of a new research source available at Ancestry? Can you contain your enthusiasm for the regular Lost Cousins newsletter? Or how about notification of new newspaper batches placed onto the NLA newspaper site?

I'm guilty of all the above. It may be particularly geeky to be so enthralled and enraptured by newly available resources, but that's OK. It's just you and I that know, right? I won't tell.

At the moment, I'm drumming my fingers waiting around for the above mentioned NLA newspaper additions. It's been some time since the last official update via email, and one is generally given by February, but there is no sign so far. The crux of Australia's major metropolitan newspapers have been digitized and uploaded, and now, hopefully, we'll see the addition of some more specialized, regional/rural newspapers as the original release list hints. The Sydney Morning Herald has been a gold mine for researching my family history, and for history in general. The Melbourne Age has been interesting and useful as well. But it's the regional newspapers that will give the best results, I think, given that my ancestors were based primarily in the Far North of New South Wales, and around the Murray / Riverina areas. Time will be telling. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

WDYTYA, USA - s01e01 Review

Having viewed the latest iteration of Who Do You Think You Are, I must say that I'm quite surprised! The American edition, produced by Lisa Kudrow and featuring Sarah Jessica Parker as the star of the first episode was an enjoyable piece of television. It remained true to the formula as originally set out by the UK production, despite a sometimes overt push for drama where it only existed in a mild form. Yes, it did have the obligatory American styled 'Entertainment Tonight' angle, pumping up the story, complete with dramatic music, but in most cases it didn't interfere with the basic premise of the show. It allowed for the story to unfold, and with help of the program's focal point (Parker), who offered her voice to the bulk of the programs narration (a welcome change to previous version's relying upon face to camera interviews).

I didn't learn much about American genealogy research, but the show did offer some excellent insights into events such as the Salem Witch Trials, and the California Gold Rush (which I'm interested in for a branch of my mother's genealogy that ventured there from Australia in the early 1850's).

The American WDYTYA is a worth addition to the others so far developed. It may not be a great research help, but it is highly enjoyable.

Friday, February 12, 2010

WDYTYA - USA

A long time coming, but finally the US series of Who Do You Think You Are has finally been wrapped up and is ready for the public. Great stuff. I've greatly enjoyed the original UK offering, the occasional Canadian episode, and the Australian series has fantastic production values as well. Hopefully the wait for the US series will have been worthwhile and it won't be another in a long line of watered down American translations of a hit British television programs. However, given the quality of the previews so far, I'd imagine it will pass with flying colours.

WDYTYA on NBC

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Restricted web searching

Of the many genealogical tools at your disposal, which do you use most often? Is it ancestry com? How about your local family group? Maybe even a major archive or library? Whilst these are all common and well used research tools, I’d suspect that for most genealogists the most commonly used tool would actually be google.com.

Google is many things. It’s a starting point and a friend when we’re sometimes stumped for ideas, and it’s also so ubiquitous in our daily lives that at times we can barely register the truth of just how often we use it. Google has strangely become a universal font of knowledge, and one that is all too easily trusted, despite the obvious myriad reams of crap one must trawl through in order to find the truth. It is what it is, and quite clearly it’s a search engine. THE search engine.

However, is that about to change? Is google about to find itself caught between a rock and a hard place? The evidence is certainly building to that being the case, with the news that Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd empire (Sky TV UK, Star TV Asia, Fox USA, Foxtel Australia) is no longer going to allow google to index its websites.

So what does that mean for genealogy? Well, immediately it means very little. But in the medium to long term it means that google, bing, yahoo and all of the other competing search engines are going to find that they will no longer be the one-stop solution that has served us so well.

Currently, search engines are formatted so that an illusion of universal record is maintained. The expectation is that almost every website on Earth has been indexed, and can be found in searches in descending order of popularity. This however is only partially true. Search engines often rank lesser websites ahead of those that have earned their popularity, simply because they provide the engines with a revenue source. They then rank the remaining websites only after the paying customers sites have been indexed.

Can you imagine doing a search for your great grandmother, and only having a third, or less, of all search results that are currently available missing, simply because the websites that contain your ancestors data are no longer dealing with the search engine you most commonly use?

This perhaps is the stark, unfriendly online world that we will face, and only just around the corner. So, enjoy the encyclopaedic form of web searching currently available, as it may soon be a thing of the past.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Websites

What are your favourite genealogy resources? Are there any that you find particularly rewarding for your own research which would more than likely prove fruitless for the rest of us? Here’s the first part of my list of what I consider to be the best and worst resources for the past year; hopefully there might be a reasonably useful find or two amongst them for you.

I’d imagine that for the majority of people in the English speaking world, Ancestry.com is a goldmine for research data. For me, it’s probably the least financially reasonable site I’ve come across (although I did take the plunge this year regardless). The majority of my European ancestors came to Australia before the 1841 census, and a large percentage of them resided in parishes that aren’t as well documented as others. My Aboriginal Australian research receives almost no benefit from the site, save for the rare mention of family in electoral rolls and in the few Australian cemetery records. Despite my personally negative experience with the site, I still see great value in the site for the majority of those of us with American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, British or Irish roots.

A useful site and especially to those who are just starting out in their discovery of their ancestral roots. The site allows a user to match their uploaded tree to that of other members, of which there are almost always bound to be a large number who share at least some of your ancestors. So basically, the site model is one that does little to discourage laziness and a reliance on the hard work of others in researching your family.
The drawback clearly for this particular site is that many people fall prey to those who are simply collecting names, and are intent on building huge meaningless databases of loosely related individuals. Your hard work, in tracking down an elusive ancestor may help you to gain contact with a distant cousin, but you also run the risk that your data will be entered incorrectly into that person’s database, and if they are a particularly active member, many other members may naively look to their database as a root source, helping to pollute both genesreunited.com, and other websites with reams of false data.

The risks are the same on most major genealogy websites, however if you are confident in your own research, and don’t mind it being bastardised across the world wide web, those risks may be worth taking for the potential to break down the occasional brick wall and meet relatives you never knew you had.

If ever there were a genealogy website worthy of greater recognition then lostcousins.com is it. Whilst the majority of genealogy websites are a hit and miss affair in matching research data, lostcousins results are almost 100% foolproof. Members results are matched via census returns, ensuring that almost no false-positive returns are made. If the site has a downside it’s that not enough people are aware of its existence, thus the number of matches made are far from what may be gained via the endless weeding through mountains of results at genesreunited.com and ancestry.com

The primary research hub for Aboriginal Australian genealogy and history, AIATSIS has a web presence which is slowly but surely growing, but for the moment their primary use is in first hand visits to their base of operations in Canberra, to see their extensive holdings across all media forms. Online, AIATSIS provides a name index as a handy but inconsistent tool that has a long way to go before it can claim to be of any significant use to the average researcher. Spelling mistakes and inaccurate logging of data are common.  Another important tool of use is their index to Dawn and the New Dawn magazines.

I cannot recommend this website enough. It is an absolute treasure trove for the Australian genealogist. Newspapers are logged from 1804 (Australia was first colonised by Europeans in 1788), and the records stretch toward the limit of copyright allowances, with the upper end being 1954. The site includes such treasures as the Melbourne Argus and the Sydney Morning Herald, which is supplemented by further indexing at Google News. If your Australian based ancestors did anything of note, you stand more than a fair chance of finding the details here.

The only drawback, if it can be called that, is that it can be exceptionally hard to wait impatiently for the next batch of newspaper records to be digitised and then given the all clear for viewing.

Friday, January 22, 2010

New addition to the tree

Just a quick update to make note of the newest and most significant addition to my family tree, my son, Tiriki, born lunch time yesterday. I'm over the moon with pride and joy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kreativ Blogger

I’ve been nominated for a Kreativ Blogger award. Sweet! It’s nice  to know that there are some people out there that read my blog, let alone actually enjoy it! It's also rather encouraging.
As part of the nomination, the recipient is supposed to write seven things about themselves, along with nominating a further seven bloggers.

So, seven things about me:

1.    There is a strong suggestion in my family of Asian ancestry (Indian, Tamil, Sri Lankan etc), which may or may not be true. I intend on finding the truth, one way or the other.

2.    I am slowly, but surely, teaching myself to speak both Bundjalung and Yorta Yorta, my paternal grandparent’s languages.

3.    I work in I.T, for the state education department, whilst studying.

4.    At university I studied graphic design.

5.    I have a family tree that includes roughly 30 or more past and present professional Rugby League football players, which are also joined by a handful of professional Australian Rules football players and professional boxers.

6.    My primary interest outside of genealogy and my family is sustainability.

7.    Drink of choice – Theakston’s Old Peculier.

Seven nominee blogs to greatly enjoy, in no particular order:

1.    The Professional Descendant
http://professionaldescendant.blogspot.com/

2.    Twigs of Yore
http://twigsofyore.blogspot.com/

3.    George Geder
http://geder.posterous.com/

4.    Ginisology
http://ginisology.blogspot.com/

5.    Genealogy in New South Wales
http://heritagegenealogy.com.au/blog/

6.    Rosie-Cotton
http://rosie-cotton.blogspot.com/

7.    Aussie Maria
http://aussiemariafamily.blogspot.com/

Visiting my grandfather

I’m currently on holidays, waiting for my wife to give birth, and I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. For the greater part, my time is being spent in entertaining my folks, who are visiting from interstate, waiting for their grandchild to be born. Monday was a special part of that time spent with my folks, as the three of us, and my very heavily pregnant and lovely wife Lucy, all ventured together to Fawkner cemetery, where we visited my grandfather’s resting place (my dad’s dad).

I never had the pleasure of meeting my grandfather (he died decades before I was born), but when I moved to Melbourne last year, his grave was one of the first places I visited. I don’t know what I expected, but it was a little upsetting to find it as a bare patch of earth, with the grave marked only by a small, broken piece of marble, which had my grandfather’s name faintly etched into it, and probably only legible to someone like myself, familiar with his name.

This time around was my dad’s first opportunity to see his father in some form, since grandad passed away in 1957. A very emotional day, and one that we’re going to make an effort to revisit on a more regular basis, now that I live closer than 24hrs travel by car, as I did when growing up, and that my father now has more reasons to venture south by 12 hours from the Blue Mountains in New South Wales.

It was a surprise that recently I found out the identity of the person who had etched my grandfather’s name into the small strip of marble lying upon his grave. It turns out that my dad’s younger brother (now deceased) had visited the grave site in the 1980’s, in the company of his cousin Herb.

It was also surprising to find just how many hoops I’m going to have to go through in order to have a plaque placed on my grandfather’s grave. In all I’m required to order two birth certificates, two death certificates, a statutory declaration of a death and two copies of people’s drivers licenses. I asked that I might plant some flowers on my grandfather’s grave, red, black and yellow (the colours of the Aboriginal flag), and it was stated that the flowers would be pulled out if planted. Flowers in a vase are OK, but I’ve never believed that giving a person a dead plant is a good idea, preferring instead a plant with its roots still firmly attached.

I also asked if I might be able to place a bush rock from my grandfather’s tribal country there, complete with one of the cemetery’s own plaques, and this was also frowned upon. Basically, nothing is allowed unless it contributes entirely to the cemetery’s coffers. If anything, I’m sorry that my grandfather has been interred at what amounts to merely a business without heart or appreciation of those they are supposed to serve. Even worse, that he is buried in the same cemetery as John Batman (1801-1839), the criminal who robbed the Wirundjuri Nation of Melbourne of their tribal lands, in what is still rudely called a treaty.