31 Ways to Make the Most of National Family History Month

August is here, which means Australia and New Zealand’s National Family History Month is here. The launch has happened, the events are underway, and you may well have attended a talk or two already.

While there’s over 200 events scheduled, unfortunately not everyone is able to attend onsite events for various reasons, but even so there are still plenty of ways you can celebrate and be involved with National Family History Month.

First up I do have to give big a shout-out to my good geniefriend Shauna Hicks, who originally came up with this idea of having a 31 ideas list few years ago for National Family History Month. And I must say I loved it. I even printed out the list, and ticked them off as I did them. This list is not a copy of Shauna’s but rather one that I’ve made up, but click on her name above for even more suggestions.

Have a read through the list, see what you’d like to achieve, and count what you’ve done at the end of the month. You might be surprised.

  1. Contact a genealogy, family history or historial society near you
  2. Visit your local State Archives or library
  3. Write your life story (or at least begin it!) (click here for some topic suggestions)
  4. Interview a relative about their life story
  5. Hold a family reunion (it doesn’t have to be a big one, even a catchup with a reli or two)
  6. Attend a family or local history talk, seminar or information session
  7. Label some family photos
  8. Scan some of your photos
  9. Most genies I know have “piles of paperwork” (myself included). So filing is a must. However filing is never a fun job, but do it in small doses, and it’s do-able
  10. Read a genealogy magazine (or emagazine)
  11. Read a genealogy book (or ebook)
  12. Create a to-do list of family-history related things you’d like to achieve this week/this month/this year – it will help you focus
  13. Add another few names to your family tree
  14. Photograph and document the story of an heirloom
  15. Create at least a 4 generation chart showing your family
  16. Note an ancestors ‘day’ (birth, marriage or death) that occurred during August, and highlight it
  17. Order a certificate (or other original record)
  18. Visit an area with family connections
  19. Visit a cemetery
  20. Watch a webinar, there’s lots to learn
  21. Listen to a podcast, again SO much to learn from them
  22. Read a few Aussie genealogy blogs – there’s an awesome bunch of bloggers out there. Here’s a list of 50 of them.
  23. Many people use Ancestry, but not the others. So why not try a different one. You never know what you’ll find as they’re not all the same (Findmypast, MyHeritage, TheGenealogist)
  24. When did you last visit Cyndi’s List? If you can’t remember, it’s too long, so go and recheck it out
  25. FamilySearch has billions of records, all FREE. Do you use it? If no, it’s time to do so
  26. Trove is the National Library of Australia’s website, which includes millions of digitised old newspapers, use it to discover an article about your family
  27. And while you’re on Trove, take a few moments to do some text correcting of the old newspapers. Every correction helps someone else find something
  28. Take a DNA test
  29. Even better, convince a relative to take a DNA test
  30. Discover how useful Facebook is for genealogy by downloading the latest list for Australian genealogy
  31. Remember to check out NFHM website for events in your area

Happy National Family History Month everyone.

Enjoy August, and enjoy your family history … as a geniefriend of mine said “If You Think Family History is Boring, You’re Doing it Wrong”. So very true!

Follow what’s happening with National Family History Month on Facebook, or by following the hashtag #NFHM2018.

National Family History Month 2017


NFHM Blog Challenge Week 3: History

August continues, and so does National Family History Month, and now I’m up to Week 3 of the Blog Challenge, and this week my topic is “history”.

But history is such a broad topic. Family history, social history, local history, ancient history, heirlooms  … oh the list goes on. What do I write about? Well it took a while to work it out, but for Week 3 I’ve chosen something that not enough people think about, and that is “Present History”.

As historians and researchers it’s natural that we focus on the past. Our parents, grandparents, great greats and so on. The further back the better. And there is nothing wrong with that at all.

But we also need to remember that “today is tomorrow’s history”, so we should be recording our OWN history. Now. While we can. Afterall you know your life better than anyone else right?

But HOW do you record your own history?
Most people will come up with an excuse along the lines of “my life isn’t interesting”, or “I can’t write” … or both. You don’t need to write a novel, you just need to record life as it happens along with your memories.

Some of my family are avid diary writers, and for that I am eternally grateful. Not only has it instilled the diary-writing ethic into me from a young age (and I “mostly” still do it), it means that my parents are diary writers, my grandparents too, my great aunts were, my great grandma was too, and even a great great grandma. We are fortunate that a number of these diaries have survived, and that we are able to “see” life as it was, through their words. When flowers were planted, who preached at church, who came to visit, who was unwell, what they bought or made, family celebrations, what the weather was like, when babies were born, or others died and so on.

A favourite entry from my great grandma’s diary is as follows …

“August 19th [1900] Mr W.J. Hannaford came over to dinner with JBR, had a good time, then Mr Hannaford went to school, and my beloved and I walked up the flat and all up round the peas, it was very sloppy.”

[Note: to put that in context, there had been a lot of rain in the previous days, hence the reference to the ‘sloppy’ paddock or vegie patch.]

I’m not saying that you all have to start writing a diary now, but if you do, good on you, your descendants will thank you for it. But what I am suggesting is to dedicate a little time each week to writing about your life.

But WHAT do I write about?
Anything and everything. There are oodles of suggestions, like those as part of the “Genealogy and the 52 Week Challenge“. So grab yourself a notebook and a pen, and you’re good to go.

If you want something a little more structured there are some really fabulous Q&A fill-in books. Created with a question written at the top of each page, the rest of the page is left blank for you to write your response. The questions in the Book of Myself and the Book of Us will make you think, as they are not just the standard ones – which make them really good. Pick and choose the questions you wish to answer – but I guarantee that much of what you record will be information your family would not have known about, and won’t unless it’s recorded:
The Book of Myself: A Do-it-Yourself Autobiography in 201 Questions
The Book of Us: A Journal of Your Love Story in 150 Questions
Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy

So do yourself a favour, and do your descendants a favour, and record the present. Record YOUR own history. That is just as important, and it really is the best heirloom you can leave them.

NFHM Blog Challenge Week 2: Family

Week 2 of the National Family History Month blog challenge, and this week I’m writing about “family”. Family for a family historian is such a broad topic. Do I write about an individual, or a family? A recent story or an old one? So. Many. Choices. And surprisingly it’s taken me a while to narrow it down.

Reunions are a place where ‘everyone’ is family, so it seems appropriate to write about big a big family reunion one of my family’s had … the Kelly Family Reunion.

31 December 1938 was the date chosen as it marked both 100 years since the arrival of William Kelly and his second wife Jane (nee Caley) in South Australia from the Isle of Man, as well as 50 years since the death of William.

The reunion was held at the Kelly family property, “Sulby Glen”, in the tiny country town of Cudlee Creek, South Australia, the drew 300 of the 400 descendants, with quite a number making the trip from interstate.

The article in the Advertiser, dated Monday 2 January 1939 writes …

Never has the old Sulby Glen property at Cudlee Creek seen so many visitors as passed through its beflagged entrance gates on Saturday morning, when almost 300 of the 400 descendants of William Kelly, from the Isle of Man gathered together to pay homage to his memory and to commemorate the centenary of his landing in Australia. The gathering was certainly unique as far as South Australia, is concerned, and one of the very few of its type ever held in the Commonwealth. The day was also the 50th anniversary of the day of his death.  Sixty cars and a large motor bus brought the visitors, who came from New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia, and from many parts of South Australia … [read the full article here]

It really was a big do. Even making the South Australian newspapers. Being such a big event, I’ve often wondered if anyone had any movie footage of the day, alas to date I’ve never heard of any in existence (but you never know) … and that would certainly be amazing to see.

However one thing we do have is a group photo that was taken on that day. Click on the photo below for a larger image.

Kelly Reunion group photo 1938[Click for a bigger view]

Kelly Reunion group photo, 31 December 1938

For more about the 1938 Kelly family reunion, see an earlier blog post that I’ve written about it here.

NFHM Blog Challenge Week 1: National

August is National Family History Month, and fellow geneablogger, Alex issued the NFHM Blog Challenge.

Using a theme of authors from the past, Alex posed an interesting challenge. It’s a great challenge, don’t get me wrong, but after thinking about it for weeks, nothing was jumping out at me, so I’ve decided to write my NFHM posts using a different theme.

Week 1: something NATIONAL related
Week 2: something FAMILY related
Week 3: something HISTORY related
Week 4: someing MONTH related


As I’m already a little behind, I’ll get going with Week 1 now. And for this I’ve decided to take a look at Australia’s national anthem, “Advance Australia Fair“.

So just how, when, and why did this song become the national anthem? Let’s find out.

So let’s start at the beginning. Peter Dodds McCormick is the man behind the anthem. Born in Scotland in c1834, he emigrated to Australia in 1855. The son of a seaman, Peter himself was a teacher for most of his life, and he was the man who composed “Advanced Australia Fair”, and used the pen-name Amicus. Written and first performed in the late 1870s, it went on to become a popular patriotic song.

In a letter dated 1 August 1913, McCormick described the circumstances that inspired him to write “Advance Australia Fair”:

One night I attended a great concert in the Exhibition Building, when all the National Anthems of the world were to be sung by a large choir with band accompaniment. This was very nicely done, but I felt very aggravated that there was not one note for Australia. On the way home in a bus, I concocted the first verse of my song & when I got home I set it to music. I first wrote it in the Tonic Sol-fa notation, then transcribed it into the Old Notation, & I tried it over on an instrument next morning, & found it correct. Strange to say there has not been a note of it altered since. Some alteration has been made in the wording, but the sense is the same. It seemed to me to be like an inspiration, & I wrote the words & music with the greatest ease.

While “Advance Australia Fair” was sung by a choir of around 10,000 at the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901, it didn’t actually get “official” national anthem status until 1984.

Up until the mid-1970s Australia’s national anthem was actually “God Save the Queen”. And it was in this era that government decided the people should have their say on what anthem they’d like, and actually held a Referendum to decide. Voters were given a choice of four songs:
Advance Australia Fair
The Song of Australia
Waltzing Matilda
God Save the Queen
You can see the state-by-state results of this vote here, and it was as a result of this vote that Advance Australia Fair became Australia’s new national anthem in 1984.

You can tell by this vote, that “God Save the Queen” really wasn’t a favourite. But I think it hadn’t been for a while, as browsing on Trove there’s numerous references to “national song” competitions over the years, but for whatever reason nothing became official until the Referendum.

And while these days many Australians believe that Advance Australia Fair is rather boring as an anthem, you’ve got to agree that it sure is better than God Save the Queen.