Category Archives: News

RootsTech 2017

rootstech-logoWith the announcement of the official opening of registrations for RootsTech 2017, came a bright and colourful new website and publication of sessions and labs available throughout the conference.

The 4-day conference will offer attendees a full line-up of inspiring and well-known keynote speakers with more than 200 Breakout Sessions covering DNA, Tools, Photos, Stories, Organising and Discovery, including hands-on computer labs taught by industry professionals and leaders.

And then there is the interactive activities and exhibitors in the Expo Hall. Along with Innovation Alley, Discovery Zone and the Demo Theatre, RootsTech 2017 will see the introduction of two new events in the Expo Hall:

Coaches’ Corner will provide one-on-one mentoring from an expert genealogist; and

Heirloom Show and Tell where you can bring in any small item or photo of a large item you’ve been wondering about, and they’ll tell you about it.

Early bird discount pricing is available for a limited time with 4-day passes at just $159 and $189 for the RootsTech plus Innovator Summit pass. Passes for the Getting Started track start at $49 for a single day and $69 for a limited 3-day pass. All passes include access to the popular expo hall and morning keynote sessions.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog

Late in July I came across an online blogger who was undertaking the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge put forth by Darren Rowse of Problogger. Now this was something I could see merit in doing having started a genealogy blog late last year.

I immediately jumped in and purchased a copy of Darren’s e-book and, after reading the first couple of chapters, made the decision to dedicate the month of August to undertake the challenge. But as Robert Burns famously wrote in 1785 – The best laid schemes of mice and men, Go often askew and now it’s August 29 and I still haven’t started!

However, that will all change today. Instead of waiting for another 31-day month, I am going to make a start and continue working through the program – whether it be one post per day or several.

So to get the ball rolling …

Exercise 1 of 31-Days to Build a Better Blog

Write an Elevator Pitch – Wikipedia defines an elevator pitch as a short summary which can easily define an idea for a product, service, organisation or event that can be delivered in the time spent during an elevator ride.

I see my genealogy blog elevator pitch as being:

To attract and interest readers with personal family stories and genealogical research tips and news.

RootsTech 2017

February 2017 will see me fly off to the US for attendance at the annual RootsTech convention in Salt Lake City. I have wanted to attend RootsTech for a number of years so I am very excited to finally be able to attend, physically, IN PERSON!!! The flights are now booked as well as the accommodation.


Hosted by FamilySearch, RootsTech is hailed as the largest family history conference in the world. Between the daily keynote speakers (that have included First Lady Laura Bush and Donny Osmond in the past), and an Expo hall packed with interactive and innovative tools for genealogy, there will also be over 200 exciting classes to attend, and evening entertainment for winding down and relaxing.

Three other major events are :

  • RootsTech Showdown
  • RootsTech Family Discovery Day

And it looks like I have picked the perfect year to attend and listen to some great speakers including Kirsty Gray, Helen V Smith, Thomas MacEntee and Dear Myrtle & Cousin Russ. It will also be an opportunity to catch up with several overseas genie mates and entertaining, RootsTech Ambassador, Jill Ball – organiser of the Commonwealth Cousins casual dinner and who, like me, hails from Sydney, Australia.

When: 8-11 February 2017

Where: Salt Palace Convention Centre, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Photo Scanning

Over the past few weeks I have been busily scanning my large photographic collection. Not so much the genealogical photos, more the holiday snaps taken over a lifetime.

1992 - my first overseas trip

1992 – my first overseas trip

I made the decision to do this now after watching a friend preparing to downsize and realised that at some stage in the future I probably will also need to downsize. So, rather than waiting until it becomes a major rush job, I’m taking my time scanning all my large and heavy pre digital photo albums to create new smaller photobooks, the type that are now available through many companies such as Clickonprint etc, as well as wading through the various boxes of photos that didn’t make it into albums previously. Most of these I will happily just store on my computer.

Until last week, the process of scanning has been extremely slow – scanning one or two photos at a time then having to manually crop to separate them. However, last week I discovered my  friend is able to stick a whole selection of 4 or 5 photos on her scanner bed which will scan and separate the photos as one action. I couldn’t believe that in all the years of my computer use, I wasn’t aware there was software out there that could scan and separate at the same time!

After searching the internet for available software programs I settled on purchasing  the download program AutoSplitter from Chimera Creative Studio. At only US$19  it has radicalised my scanning. Whereas before I would tire of scanning after 10 or 20 photos, I am now whizzing through my stash at around 100 photos in the same time.  And the scanned images are very good quality (in fact, sad to say, better than my original scanning software which I had stuck with for years).

And one thing that this whole process has achieved, is the bringing back of wonderful memories of times past.

Unlock the Past Cruises

I recently spent 18 wonderful days combining my two favourite passions – cruising and genealogy.

Participating in the 10th Unlock The Past Genealogy Cruise I boarded the Celebrity Solstice in Auckland, New Zealand and sailed to Fremantle, Western Australia visiting the Bay of Islands, Tauranga, Wellington, Akaroa, Dunedin, Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, along the way.

The magnificent Celebrity Soltstice

The magnificent Celebrity Soltstice

Our Unlock The Past team: Eric Kopittke, Alan Phillips, Rosemary Kopittke, Helen Smith, Alona Tester

Our Unlock The Past team:
Eric Kopittke, Alan Phillips, Rosemary Kopittke, Helen Smith, Alona Tester

The concept is wonderful – each evening after dinner a talk was presented, then on sea days you could attend all, or as many, conference presentations as you wanted while also enjoying the opportunity to visit travel destinations on the port days.

The team at Unlock The Past put together a terrific mix of 75 lectures plus 3 one-on-one research help zone sessions covering an eclectic mix of research strategies, case studies, techie and general interest presentations.

I especially found the number of 50+ participants to be a good size allowing more flexible and friendly dining and activity options than is available at land-based conferences.

Louis Kessler, Alona Tester, Judy Russell and Helen Smith - great dining companions

Louis Kessler, Alona Tester, Judy Russell and Helen Smith – great dining companions

More dining options were available than land-based conferences

More dining options were available than land-based conferences

Our conference room located on Deck 14 was amazing, with a floor to ceiling glass wall that allowed us the opportunity to search for marine life while listening to our speakers. So important was this feature, in fact, that the order was given by Judy Russell to disrupt her talks should a whale or any dolphins be seen!

Judy Russell - preparing to speak

Judy Russell – preparing to speak

Judy Russell is better known through the genealogical world as The Legal Genealogist and based on her humour, knowledge and presentation of her talks, I would loved to have seen Judy in action in the courtroom.

Covering such topics as copyright law for genealogists, women under common law, DNA and ethics of genetic genealogy, circumstantial evidence and reconstructing life-changing events, Judy had a full room of participants completely enthralled from go to whoa.


Our other international speakers were: Paul Blake from England who delivered several informative presentations covering British probate records, Irish research, the English manor and tithes and crime and punishment; Louis Kessler from Winnipeg, Canada, opened our eyes to improving our research with source-based genealogy, making the most of our genealogy software, organising our computer files and using life events to solve genealogy problems; and Jan Gow from New Zealand enlightened us with new gadgets and better ways to internet search, prepare for research trips as well as new ways to look at familiar procedures.

Our #10th Unlock The Past Cruise speakers: (Standing, l-r) Eric Kopittke, Shauna Hicks, Paul Blake, Judy Russell, Jan Gow, Louis Kessler. (Sitting) Rosemary Kopittke, Diane Foster, Helen Smith, Geoff Doherty, Marg Doherty

Our #10th Unlock The Past Cruise speakers: (Standing, l-r) Eric Kopittke, Shauna Hicks, Paul Blake, Judy Russell, Jan Gow, Louis Kessler. (Sitting) Rosemary Kopittke, Diane Foster, Helen Smith, Geoff Doherty, Marg Doherty

Our Australian presenters – Helen Smith, Geoff & Margaret Doherty, Diane Foster, Rosemary & Eric Kopittke and Shauna Hicks – also covered an amazing range of topics, too numerous to mention here.

I’m already booked and looking forward to meeting up with the UTP team for the #13th Unlock The Past cruiseBrisbane to Papua New Guinea – on board the Pacific Aria 28 July to 7 August 2017.

Mud Slide - official drink of the #10 UTP cruise

Mud Slide – official drink of the #10 UTP cruise


Christmas 2015

Rog and I were finally not committed to spending Christmas 2015 with family.
So how did we spend it? We went to Taronga Zoo, Sydney.

IMG_0069 IMG_0118 IMG_1904 IMG_1928

It wasn’t a pre-booked visit or, in fact, anything booked at all for Christmas. We just went along to Taronga to enjoy a peaceful day among the various animals of the zoo.

I would say that about 80 per cent of the other visitors were international tourists and it was great to see that they were able to do something on an otherwise “everything’s closed” day.


We were also fortunate to get a table at The View restaurant inside the zoo and sat down to a scrumptious Christmas meal of beer battered Cod with smashed peas and chips.

This year (2016), Taronga Zoo will celebrate its centenary. Much has changed over the years for the resident animals since the zoo first opened its gates, but my fondest memory is of visiting as a IMG_1887child and enjoying the fabulous elephant rides that are such taboo these days. I only wish I had been photographed with the elephants at the time.


New Year Resolutions

I think most of us are guilty of making resolutions and then breaking them. And many of us are guilty of not being as organised as we would like.

With genealogy we’re also guilty of a lack of patience when it comes to our research – we want the answers straight away, if not sooner!

Of course, this mindset naturally makes it easier to break our new year resolutions.

For 2016 – I’m going to make a few new year resolutions that I hope will keep me focussed and committed to whatever job is at hand

Smiling businesswoman with new year resolutions list

  1. Pay more attention to searching instructions on websites to obtain better results.
  2. Organise myself better.
  3. And instead of trying to be more organised with everything, just concentrate on one or two things – break the job down.
  4. Try to stay focussed on what I am doing rather than losing myself because something else attracts my attention.
  5. And make myself more available to help others which can often lead to reciprocated help.