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 4: Month

With August progressing, as is National Family History Month, here is my final post for the NFHM Blog Challenge, and this week the topic is “Month”.

Out of the four weeks of topics (National, Family, History, Month), this has proved the hardest in coming up with something, but as I am a fan of “on this day” history, I have settled for giving an “on this day” history of events that have taken place during the month of August.

Covering Australian related history as well as overseas, some events date back hundreds of years, while others are relatively recent and you’re likely to remember. Some certainly changed the world, while others you probably didn’t even know about. Still I find it fascinating to find out what happens in history, so here’s a little taster of August …

1 August 1831 – New London Bridge is opened, replacing the 600-year-old London Bridge
2 August 1997 – After three days, skiing instructor Stuart Diver is pulled alive from the rubble of the collapsed Thredbo resorts
3 August 1990 – The highest temperature ever known in Britain is recorded in Leicestershire … at 37C
4 August 1906 – Central Railway Station in Sydney is opened.
5 August 1914 – Australia enters World War I.
6 August 1945 – The first atomic bomb is dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
7 August 1928 – Dingo hunter Frederick Brooks is killed, sparking the Coniston Massacre of Australian Aborigines.
8 August 1789 – The first police force in the convict colony of New South Wales is formed.
9 August 1173 – Construction begins on the Tower of Pisa, which is later to become the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
10 August 1844 – Charles Sturt sets out on his final expedition to search for an inland sea in Australia.
11 August 1824 – New South Wales is constituted a Crown Colony.
12 August 1829 – The city of Perth, Western Australia, is founded.
13 August 1888 – John Logie Baird, inventor of television, is born.
14 August 1861 – William Landsborough organises a relief expedition to find missing explorers Burke and Wills.
15 August 1904 – Dalgety is named as the site of the future Federal Capital Territory of Australia
16 August 1995 – Microsoft launches the first version of Microsoft Internet Explorer
17 August 1813 – Matthew Flinders writes to Sir Joseph Banks, outlining his reasons for suggesting New Holland be called Australia, after Banks disapproves of the name.
18 August 1786 – The decision is made in England to colonise New South Wales with convicts from Britain’s overcrowded gaols.
19 August 1839 – Louis Daguerre invents the daguerreotype photographic process, allowing an image to be chemically fixed as a permanent picture.
20 August 1908 – The first successful Australian transcontinental motor car journey is completed.
21 August 1990 – The announcement is made that the Australian 1 cent and 2 cent coins will be withdrawn from circulation.
22 August 1917 – Stockman Jim Darcy dies, causing a chain of events that eventually leads to the founding of Australia’s Flying Doctor Service.
23 August 1617 – The first one-way streets are opened in London.
24 August 1995 – Windows 95 is released by the Microsoft Corporation.
25 August 1944 – Paris is freed after four years of German occupation.
26 August 1835 – Governor Bourke declares John Batman’s treaty with Aborigines, which enabled the founding of Melbourne, to be invalid.
27 August 1970 – The Southern hairy-nosed wombat is adopted as the official faunal emblem of South Australia.
28 August 1894 – Paddlesteamer, the “Rodney”, is burnt by unionist shearers in protest at it being used as a strike breaker.
29 August 1941 – Arthur Fadden, the second of five men who served as Australian Prime Minister during World War II, is sworn into office.
30 August 1853 – The last ship to carry convicts directly from Ireland to Australia arrives in Fremantle.
31 August 1882 – Cricket’s legend of The Ashes is born with the first of two mock obituaries lamenting England’s loss to Australia.

For more “on this day” history, check out the 1000s of entries on the This Day in History website.

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.