Category Archives: Family History

Unlock The Past Cruising

I can’t say enough positive things about attending a genealogical conference — unless it also happens to include a cruise! Even so, the words wonderful, fabulous and excellent “do not” do a genealogical cruise justice.

The Australian genealogical community has been very blessed that we have Alan Phillips, of Gould Genealogy, along with his dedicated Unlock The Past team of Anthea Phillips, Alona Tester, Helen Smith and Eric and Rosemary Kopittke, who have been providing wonderful opportunities over the past eight years for genealogists — not just in Australia— but also from far places around the world to sample the fabulous world of genealogy cruising.

I admit I’m a late starter on these tours having only attended my first genealogy cruise in 2016 – New Zealand to Fremantle. And I couldn’t have asked for a better lineup of speakers which included Judy G. Russell and Paul Blake.

My second cruise with UTP should have been the 2018 trip to the Alaskan Inside Passage only to see me having to withdraw two days out from flying to Seattle to join the cruise due to an unexpected health problem.

So, it is only now, in 2019, that I am on my second cruise with UTP as we travel from Sydney to Singapore. And while it is only day four of this 15-day cruise, there is nothing that hasn’t come up to expectation from the Unlock The Past team.

To have David Rencher, Chief Genealogical Officer for FamilySearch, and Dr Richard Reid, Executive Officer for the Australian War Memorial in the project to return the Unknown Soldier to the Hall of Memory at the Memorial, has been a standout coup.

However, I don’t want to appear to be discrediting the other speakers on this cruise because they continually work to further their knowledge and update their topics accordingly.

No matter how much you think you know about genealogy, when attending any conference, taking in the latest presentation from a speaker (who undoubtedly has spent hours working on or updating their talk) there is always, no matter how small, something new will be learned.

And yes, as experienced as I am, I still take away something new from every conference I have attended from subjects I am well versed in. I am more than grateful that all our genealogical speakers go that extra length to bring to enthusiasts like me the latest updates, tips and methods for anything genealogy related.

2019 – Bursting Forth

Woohoo – 2019 is turning out to be a fabulous year for all thing’s genealogy in my life.

I was pleasantly surprised in January to receive in the mail a Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Service to the Society of Australian Genealogists. What an honour and totally unexpected. The Certificate would have been handed to me personally had I been in attendance at the Christmas thank you function for the Society’s volunteers – I had planned on attending, however, at the last minute I was laid up with the flu.

I can still remember the first time I walked into the Society’s rooms at Richmond Villa in the 1970s – I was only 16 and my mother accompanied me so that she could check out “this Society” which she was convinced was some crazy “Charles Manson-like” sect that would brainwash me!

Some might say I was definitely brainwashed but I admit – I received it eagerly – turning a passing interest in genealogy into a thoroughly addicted pastime and eventual profession. Addiction doesn’t even come close to my love of genealogy and, to this day, I am still able to experience my family’s eyes glaze over when I start talking family history.

Holidays too, are another part of my genealogy addiction. There have been countless local and overseas destinations travelled to so that I could visit a cemetery, an archive or a church. I also needed to walk in my ancestor’s steps.

In just over a week I am off on the first of my genealogy travels for this year when I board the Explorer of the Seas for a 15-night cruise to Singapore as part of the latest Unlock the Past Genealogy Conference at Sea”.

The UTP crew have put together another fabulous conference itinerary taking in Irish, Scottish, English, Military, Australian and German research as well as an amazing DNA stream.

In June I head back to the United Kingdom to attend the inaugural THE Genealogy Show being held 7-8 June at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. The organisers have put together a great line-up of speakers including Judy G Russell, Blaine Bettinger, Lisa-Louise Cooke, Nathan Dylan Godwin and our very own Australian “Rock Star Genealogist” – Jill Ball. It will also be a great time to catch up with many of my genealogy mates from around the world including Pat Richley-Erickson, Ruth Blair, Sylvia Valentine, Kirsty Gray as well as another good ol Australian friend, Lilian Magill.

Of course, travelling halfway around the world to attend a 2-day event requires justification. So, I’ll also be spending a week in Glasgow where I will be found most days at the wonderful Mitchell Library. After Glasgow it’s time for family and friend catch-ups but I can guarantee there will also be a fair bit more genealogy time spent in the UK before I arrive back home.

Next on the list is a total 3-day immersion in DNA when I travel to, and stay at, Castle Hill (yes, I know that Castle Hill is still in Sydney but from my home I may as well be travelling overseas). I’ll be attending another Unlock the Past super conference – DNA Down Under – with Blaine Bettinger headlining a host of acclaimed DNA specialists including Helen Smith, Louise Coakley, Michelle Patient and Kerry Farmer.

And the final event for the year sees me travelling once again north of the Harbour to attend the 3-day NSW & ACT Association of Family History Societies annual conference – Exploring the Past – being hosted by Ku-ring-ai Historical Society at Knox Grammar School, 11-13 October. Accommodation has already been sought out and will see me staying at my first AirB&B. This conference brings together many of my local cohorts in genealogy to talk, think and dissect genealogy over the 3 days. I must remember to get myself on the same table as Gail Davis from State Records and Martyn Killion and Heather Garnsey from Society of Australian Genealogists in case there is a Trivia Night organised! (Gloating here as I was on the winning table with said persons at the 2015 Port Macquarie conference.)

Additionally, on 11 May, I will be one of the many fabulous volunteers at Botany Bay Family History Society promoting our annual Heritage Fair at Gymea Tradies. This one-day event is always a huge success, and in my role as Guest Speaker Seeker, I have managed to signup Angela PhippenLet us break their bonds asunder’: Divorce in NSW, Sharn White House Histories, Jeff Madsen Google Maps and Gail Davis Grandparents in the Archives. All the talks are free to attend, and we will also be showcasing our various Interest Groups – DNA, Australian, English, Scottish, Irish, Writers, Reunion for Mac, Family Tree Maker and Legacy Computer Program.

What a great year 2019 is going to be!

RootsTech Free Broadcast Schedule Times for Sydney, AUS

For all us who live in and around Sydney, Australia, and who are not able to attend RootsTech this year, using I have uploaded a schedule of the Australian Eastern Daylight Times for the broadcasting of the free RootsTech Broadcasts.

How wonderful is technology that, while I can’t be there in person in Salt Lake City, I can actually watch some of the presentations “live” from my own home.

Hopefully, I haven’t stuffed up the time conversions and all you need to do is click on the following link – RootsTech Free Broadcast Schedule Times for Sydney AUS


Eight Reasons to Attend RootsTech

I recently received an email from the RootsTech 2018 team that shows the 8 best reasons to attend a RootsTech conference and which I wholeheartedly agree with –

  • RootsTech is a Community
  • It Sharpens Your Skills
  • Takes In the Family History Horizon
  • Brings Your Family History Life
  • Builds Relationships
  • Shows Where Genealogy and Technology Intersects
  • Learn Your Story
  • Incorporates Family History into Your Daily Life

The full article can be found here at

Jim and Elsie’s 1978 Tour – Day 93

Sunday, 2 July 1978

Fine, warm, cloudy

Car to hotel. Dropped bags. To Holland Park – nobody there 3.00. Wrote on the delivery slip and left through door.

Walked to Kensington Palace saw State apartments.

Back to hotel. Elsie did some letter writing. I checked accounts to come.



What an amazing adventure Jim and Elsie must have had – and it didn’t end here. After departing London they had 6 nights in Hong Kong on their way home.