Unlock the Past post-seminar report

Key speaker: Chris Paton
Recently we were fortunate to host Unlock the Past and their speakers, prior to them setting sail on their Scottish/Irish History and Genealogy Cruise aboard the Holland America's line ship "Volendam".

Saturday's programme was a full day seminar event, and well-worth the $35 entry that UnlockthePast were asking for. Altogether there were five seminars, and each one was well polished and really informative.

Chris Paton was the main speaker and he gave three talks. His talk on Irish Family History Resources Online, just touched the tip of the iceberg of what is available and is described in more detail in his new book of the same title (on order at the Research Centre). Chris has a list of these online resources with a brief explanation on his website, but I recommend that you read his book, to gain an understanding of where to start or go to next for your own family research.

Chris' other talks covered Scottish Land Records and Scottish Church Records. Both entailed quite a history lesson in order to provide the background to where to find records and how to use them. Chris explained the changes in the Scottish Church very clearly and concisely, and in a very entertaining way also. The Scottish land system was distinctly different to the English one, and required quite a bit of explanation also. Again this was fascinating. Chris has a book out "Discover Scottish Church Records" and I'm not the first one to say he should write one about the Scottish Land System!

Rosemary Kopittke gave us a summary of what you can find online in the three FindMyPast websites - Australasia, UK, and Ireland. We haveFindMyPast UK available now through all 55 of our libraries which is proving very popular - but we don't yet have the Australasia or Ireland versions of the site unfortunately. More and more is being added to these sites all the time, an astonishing 56 million more records will be added in February/March 2012 which will double the current content!

Shauna Hicks gave us a very informative and clear "Google Your Family Tree: Tips and Tricks". Her talk was based on Dan Lynch's bookGoogle Your Family Tree and his presentation of the same name. However, Shauna had used her own examples to illustrate features, updated it to reflect the considerable changes to Google since Dan wrote his book, and made it her own. Her style of presenting this reminded me that she had been a librarian - especially when she was describing search techniques.

Shauna wrote a blog about the day on her website. Shauna also writes another more informal blog "Diary of an Australian Genealogist" where she is also currently writing about her experiences on board the cruise.

Monday's programme was a free library event, and just a short half day, as the speakers had to board their cruise ship just after lunch.

Our programme started with an optional tour of the Research Centre, where there were enough people to necessitate splitting into two groups - I took one, and Marie Hickey took the other round.

At 10.30am Dr Perry McIntyre gave us an overview of how to begin researching your Irish family history. She gave us an Australian view on the subject which was refreshing as it enabled us to think laterally about our Irish ancestors who might have previous gone to Australia, before coming to New Zealand.

At 12 noon, Dr Richard Reid gave us a talk about Irish immigration to Australia and New Zealand. Richard's presentation was based on his published thesis "Farewell my Children - the Irish Emigrant Journey to Australia" (on order for the Research Centre), which he had expanded a little to include New Zealand.

I've been given a lot of new knowledge and a whole lot of information to follow up and research. I left feeling energised and motivated and can't wait for some spare time! The cruise ship is stopping at ports all round New Zealand, and there will be shore based seminars at each stop (organised by the NZSG). The audience at each stop will be in for a rare treat!

We've been very lucky to have had the calibre of speakers presenting for us this year - and the UnlockthePast speakers have definitely been the icing on the top for us!


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