Unlock the Past’s Researching Abroad Roadshow in Adelaide

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to attend the Unlock the Past Researching Abroad Roadshow, with Chris Paton from Scotland and Dirk Weissleder from Germany as the key speakers.

This two day seminar was designed specifically for those who are researching their British Isles (particularly Scotland and Ireland), and European (particularly German) ancestors. But first up a little disclosure: technically I went as part of the organising committee (Unlock the Past), and as an exhibitor (Gould Genealogy). But still, I got to enjoy, learn and be inspired by such great speakers … so I wasn’t complaining.

Chris and Dirk, along with  others from the Unlock the Past crew have been touring Australia and New Zealand for the past 2 1/2 weeks already, with Adelaide being stop six of seven. Perth is the last one, which is on today, before they head on home.

DAY 1 – Wednesday
Chris kicked of the event by talking about British and Irish Newspapers, and says that if you haven’t been using newspapers as part of your research – you should be. There was a new-to-me Irish one he mentioned which was the Irish News Archive. A pay-site, they offer a 1 day, 1 month and year options, so that will be something I need to check out when I tackle my Irish lines. Also be check which edition of the newspaper you’re looking at of that day (early edition or late edition) as they can vary.

Chris Paton gets the show going ...

Chris Paton gets the show going …

Rosemary demonstrated the usefulness of the MyHeritage website

Rosemary demonstrated the usefulness of the MyHeritage website

Chris did three other talks throughout the day: Scottish research resources before 1800, British censuses and substitutes, and Irish family history resources online. I’ve got a bunch of notes scribbled down together with web addresses to check out … so really, I just need more time to research, and an interpreter to make sense of my notes. 🙂

Apart from Chris’ talks, Eric and Rosemary Kopittke did a talk on MyHeritage which was great, as I do have a subscription to it, but I’ll be honest, I haven’t used it to advantage, so I’ve learnt some tricks for searching the site which will be useful. We also got to see a Living DNA video that featured David Nicholson and Hannah Morden (founders of the company), and they discussed how Living DNA started, what their goal is, how to take a test, and what you can expect when you get your results. Marie from GenealogySA also gave a talk, highlighting all the resources they hold that are relevant to British Isles research – and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who found out they had a whole lot more than I realised.

DAY 2 – Thursday
Day 2 was European and German day, with Dirk Weissleder being the primary speaker. Dirk is the National Chairman of the Deutsche Arbeisgemeinschaft genealogischer Verbände e.V. (Dirk did tell us how the German LOOOOOVE their long words) but we’ll just call it the DAVG (www.dagv.org). So the DAGV is the umbrella organisation of the genealogical groups in Germany and currently they have 67 groups/associations which totals more than 22,000 members. Not bad eh? I’ve not even tried to follow Mr Lonetester’s German lines to date, so all of Dirk talks were useful. From learning about the resources, to understanding that there was no “Germany” before 1871, to the restrictions on records, and even about German mentality and their way of thinking. As Chris did in his talks, Dirk gave us a bunch of websites to check out which I’ve added to my “must check out” list.

Dirk gets started on Day 2

Dirk gets started on Day 2

For those who think that German is just too hard because of the “old German writing”, German’s themselves have the same trouble. So don’t despair. If you persevere, not only will you gain a valuable skill, but also just think of all the amazing records that you’ll be able read and understand that you wouldn’t have otherwise. And just a tip: German’s like to be on time, and like order. So if you’re planning on visiting Germany, you’d better be sure go with a plan.

Ben Hollister from GenealogySA’s German/European Special Interest Group gave a talk on the resources that they society holds that are relevant for researchers. The primary collections are the Dulcie Love Migrant Card Index, which gives info on over 23,000 German migrants to South Australia. As well as Dulcie Love’s Folder Collection. The red folders contain information on German surnames, with the green folders being general info on Germany and European research and this is a BIG collection of folders. We’re talking shelf-fulls, not just a few. Anyway these records are ONLY available to view at GenealogySA’s premises at Unley. As one of the co-founders on the German-Australia Genealogy and History Alliance (GAGHA), Ben also spoke on what this is, and how it’s useful for people. Essentially it is a place where German Groups and German Interest Groups can be a part of, and collaborate together. With a number of projects underway, the group is already compiling a German Surname Interest list, so you can always add those you’re researchign there, or check it to see if anyone is researching the same names as you. Apart from that they compiling a “Change of Surname” database, so German names that got radically changed can be hard to track – but this should help. You can read more about these and GAGHA at http://germanheritage.org.au/research.

Janette Lange was the guest speaker for the Lutheran Archives, and unfortunately I didn’t get to hear all of this talk, but I did hear that even though the Archives are based in Adelaide, they do have records that relate to Lutherans and Germans Australia-wide … so that’s something to keep in mind. I also visited their stand later and found that they do have records relating to Mr Lonetester’s German families. So a trip to the Lutheran Archives at Bowden is in order in the future.

the geneabloggers group photo in Adelaide: Chris Paton, Eric Kopittke, me, Jenni Gay and Kylie Willison

the geneablogger group photo in Adelaide:
Chris Paton, Eric Kopittke, me, Jenni Gay and Kylie Willison

So it was a busy two days of learning, working at the Gould Genealogy stand, and catching up with genie-friends.


I wanted to say a BIG thankyou to Chris Paton and to Dirk Weissleder … sorry about our lousy, cold winter weather, but thankyou for coming to Australia, and sharing your knowledge with so many along the way. I know it’s been a whirlwind trip for you, but I do hope you enjoyed the visit, and managed to see a few sites along the way.