DNA Down Under is Coming!!

Have you taken a DNA test, and apart from seeing your ethnicity estimates, you wonder what’s next? Have you tried to get in contact with a ‘DNA match’ and not got a response? Have you found ‘surprise matches’ and are unsure what to do about that. Or maybe you haven’t even taken a test, and wonder what all the fuss is about? Or you’ve heard about DNA tests being used by authorities to catch criminals and it’s made you wary. All of these aspects and plenty more will covered at Unlock the Past’s upcoming event “DNA Down Under“.

Blaine Bettinger, author of the best selling book “The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy”, heads a lineup of world-class genetic genealogists, who are touring Australia during August 2019, holding 1-day seminars in most cities, and culminating in a 3-day DNA-fest in Sydney.

The dates:
Brisbane – Wed 14 Aug
Perth – Sat 17 Aug
Adelaide – Tue 20 Aug
Melbourne – Fri 23 Aug
Canberra – Mon 26 Aug
Sydney – Thu-Sat 29-31 Aug

The speakers:
These speakers will take your understanding of DNA to the next level, no matter what level you’re currently at. The team brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in family history and in particular DNA and its usefulness as yet another tool to help you in your research:
– Brad Argent
– Blaine Bettinger
– Fiona Brooker
– Louise Coakley
– Gail Edwards
– Kerry Farmer
– Mike Murray
– Michelle Patient
– Jason Reeve
– Helen Smith
For more on the speakers, click here.

The options:
Book for a 1-day event in your own city, or head to Sydney for a 3-day DNA-fest. … OR do ‘DNA to the MAX and book for your city AND Sydney and save. Note: Sydney’s 3 -day program is different to the other cities, so you won’t be overlapping in the talks offered.

Early Bird Prices End Soon
Whatever you choose, be sure to book before 30 April 2019 to take advantage of their early bird rates, and save. Save $30 for a one day event, $60 for Sydney (3 days), or $80 on DNA to the MAX (Sydney+1 other city).

DNA Down Under Ambassador
I’ve been chosen to be one of the DNA Down Under Ambassadors, and I will be attending both the Adelaide and Sydney events, so I hope to see some of you there.

I’ll admit I’m almost a ‘total newbie’ to DNA. I’ve done the tests, but am really still working on the papertrail of genealogy, rather than focusing on the DNA side of things at present, so no doubt there will be plenty for me to learn. Anyway I shall be reporting on the events, and what I’ve learned from them in due course.

More information:
For more information and booking head on over to their website, and follow the event on Facebook


14th Unlock the Past Cruise: Days 6-8 Friends, Canada, Chainmail and Martinis

Now for the last installment of my Alaska cruise reports. With squirrels, icebergs, seals, an aurora, and a whale already sighted on the trip, who knew what else was to come?

Wednesday – 12 September 2018 (at Sea)
Wednesday was a sea day, which means a whole day of talks scheduled. And as often happens at conference, there were some tough choices to be made as to what to go to. But the eight I made it to were:
– My Ancestor was a 19th Century Goldminer: Don’t Rule it Out (Kae Lewis)
– Begotten by Fornication (Helen Smith)
– Caring for your Family Archives (Shauna Hicks)
– Madness, Mania and Melancholia: The Mental Health of our Ancestors (Janet Few)
– Seven Habits of Highly Effective Genealogists (Pat Richley-Erickson)
– Beyond Just Indexes: Why We Should Check Source Records (Rosemary Kopittke)
– Software Your Never Knew (Ed Thompson)
– Are You Related to Royalty? (Caroline Gurney)

a busy schedule for the day

It was a long day, and a lot to take in, and I admit that by the afternoon I wasn’t taking as many notes as I did in the morning, as weariness had set in. So I must check the speakers handouts for those.

The evening began with a very special presentation by Mia Bennett who represented the Society of Genealogists (London), in presenting Cyndi Ingle with her Prince Michael of Kent Award for her contribution towards genealogy. You can read more about the award and how seriously awesome it is here.

It was a fabulous presentation, and one which had Cyndi and few others shedding a few tears. As it was streamed live on Facebook, you can watch the presentation here if you wish. But I don’t think you’ll find a person that doesn’t agree with the SOG’s choice to give the award to Cyndi. So very well deserved.

Cyndi sheds a a few tears

Cyndi Ingle and Mia Bennett with Cyndi’s award

it really is a gorgeous award

After the evening talk on Are You Related to Royalty? by Caroline Gurney, the evening was spent celebrating with Cyndi and some friends.

celebratory drinks with Caroline Gurney and Cyndi Ingle

me and my roommate, Helen

my new friends Mia Bennett and Helen Pickles

Thursday – 13 September 2018 (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)
Yay, I made it to Canada. For a day. But I got there. Another first. And I even got my passport stamped to prove it!

The day started cool and cloudy, but fined up to a beautiful day. Again I didn’t have any tours booked, so my mum and I caught the shuttle bus into Victoria and just wandered the streets. It’s such a pretty place, so clean and well looked after.

Welcome to Canada

the orca whale garden feature

I found the chocolate shop!

you know you’re in Canada when you see Maple Tea and Maple Coffee

I’m pretty sure we went into every single souvenir shop that place has, along with numerous stores, including the bookshop (of course). But my favourite part was the markets.

One of the sellers was making chainmail, and while it’s not something I’d wear, his creations were stunning. For those interested in this kind of thing, he has pics on his Facebook Page. Anyway I didn’t buy any those, but I did buy a bracelet that he’d made. So now I have bracelets from the US, Indonesia, Germany and Canada! And, yes, I do have a thing for jewellery.

wear it, chainmail-style

add some colour with chainmail

Anyway, back to the report.

The top photograph of two ships was the view I had when coming back from the day in Victoria. Our ship, Royal Caribbean’s ‘Explorer of the Seas’ is on the left, with a Princess ship on the right. It’s always an amazing site to see more than one ship docked together. Particularly when you walk between them.

There was one final talk scheduled for the evening, Maurice Gleeson’s “How I cloned myself after a Couple of Martinis” which is one that needs to be heard if you ever get the chance. It was a great closing talk for the program. After that we had the prizedraw, and the group photos were taken. Then it was back to our rooms to finish packing our bags (if we hadn’t already), then out for a final drink with friends, before we departed back to our various corners of the world.

Maurice Gleeson talks on “how I accidentally cloned myself over a couple of martinis”

(most of) the speakers on the 14th UTP cruise (photo: Evan Lewis)

the group of genealogy bloggers on this cruise (photo: Evan Lewis)

drinks to finish off the cruise

Friday – 14 September 2018 (Seattle, Washington, USA)
Well, that’s it folks. The cruise is over. By 9.30am we were off the ship, collected our luggage and on a bus headed to the airport … ready for the long three-flight-home scenario.

As with all the genealogy cruises I’ve been on, it was a lot of fun, a lot of learning, great places too see, great food onboard, and of course great to catchup with friends, and make new ones.


If you are ever interested in a genealogy cruise, why not check out Unlock the Past cruises, they currently have three cruises that are open for bookings  (Singapore, Mediterranean, and Tasmania). So maybe I’ll see you on a future one?

14th Unlock the Past Cruise: Days 4-5 Paw Chocolates, Icebergs, a Whale and an Aurora

Continuing on my report of the Unlock the Past Alaska cruise … and we’re up to day 4, and there was more exciting happenings!

Monday – 10 September 2018 (Skagway, Alaska, USA)
It was another super stunning weather day with blue skies all round. I heard a fellow cruiser say that they never expected to get sunburnt in Alaska … but they did! We docked at Skagway early and those on tours made their way off. Many went on long train rides which certainly was one way to see the place.

the LOOONNG train at Skagway

I didn’t have any tour booked, so wandered ashore, then took a shuttle bus to the town for a walk around with my mum.

selfie with my mum

To say that this town looks like it’s out of a western movie is an understatement. It really, truly does! You can totally imagine gun fights happening in the streets. Well I can anyway!

the main street … looks just like a Western right?

One thing that fascinated me was the painted rocks near where we docked. They were painted with a ship name, and usually the captain and often a date. So there’s me thinking what a fabulous (but rather unusual), genealogical source they would be. Proof that your seaman captain was here at that date! Now if I could just find one that related to my seaman ancestor dating back to the early 1900s! Hmmmm.

the ship banners are painted right up high

a close of up a few of the painted ship banners

Anyway the town of Skagway was full of little shops, most selling jewellery (despite what the vintage sign outside said – obviously they were just for looks). I did find a little store selling chocolates, and each variant was a different “paw” type. I bought a few but then remembered I wasn’t meant to bring food back on board, so had to eat them quickly!

paw chocolates

a pretty view of our ship

she’s big!

As it was a tourist day, there weren’t any talks on until the evening, when Dick Eastman had a talk on ‘Genealogy searches on Google’.

During the evening there was talk about a possible aurora. While I wasn’t prepared to stay up till 2am, I did stay up and fortunately it appeared around 11pm, and kept ‘dancing’ and moving for maybe 12-20 minutes. That was exciting. I’ve never seen one before, and aren’t likely to any time soon (unless I get down to Tasmania).

a pic of an aurora

While my photos really don’t do it any kind of justice, you can see a smear of bright green in the sky, with the silhouette of mountain in front of it. Still I saw it, and I have some kind of photographic evidence of it too. So YAY!!

Tuesday – 11 September 2018 (Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska, USA)
I was still kinda on a high from seeing the aurora last night, and maybe that’s why I didn’t sleep so well … whatever the reason it was good, as it meant I was up before 6am on my balcony watching us sail through icebergs in the the Tracy Arm Fjord. Ooh another first for me … ICEBERGS!

I managed to take about 180 or so iceberg pictures. Do you know how hard it was to cull those down to show you these few! So you’re getting the teeny-mini version here.

Anyway my roommate Helen and I stayed out on our balcony for several hours watching the sun rise, and the icebergs glide past, and even seeing some seals and birds on them.

the stillness was incredible

sunrise from my balcony


another iceberg

dirty iceberg with seals on it

pretty iceberg

iceberg with seals

and still more icebergs

We sailed the fjord for most of the morning, though apparently didn’t get the the end as the icebergs were getting too big, and the captain didn’t want to re-enact the Titantic scenario.

During my lunch in the Windjammer (buffet area)  I (along with a heap of others) was fortunate enough to see a whale. So yet more excitement. YAY! And I even managed to get a fin of it on camera. So ta-da …

fin of an orca whale

Ok so it’s not the super-pod that the whale-watchers saw on their tour, but it’s still cool. But trust me, if you ever get the chance to go whale-watching DO IT! The only thing I regret about my trip is that I didn’t do the whale-watching tour.

Talks were scheduled all afternoon, and the two I went to were
– Is it true?: The Facts, Fun and Fiction of Family History (Michelle Patient)
– Cornwall’s People and Emigrant: Where did they go? (Susan Brook)

The DNA Panel with the topic of “DNA Ethics and More” with Helen Smith, Maurice Gleeson, Cyndi Ingle, and Michelle Patient was held in the evening and it was so engrossing it went way overtime, no-one wanted to leave. But it was a really good discussion on numerous aspects of DNA and ethics. 

the DNA panel. From left: Helen Smith, Michelle Patient, Cyndi Ingle and Maurice Gleeson … Helen asks a question and the others are deep in thought about it

The cruise continues, with still more to see and places to go … so stay tuned.

14th Unlock the Past Cruise: Days 1-3 Embarking, Glaciers, a Squirrel, and a Saloon

The Unlockthe Past Alaska cruise was one I’d been looking forward to for a long time as Alaska was a place I’d never been to (and in reality probably won’t get back to again). But everyone who’s done an Alaskan cruise said how totally fabulous it was. So it sounded a great place to visit.

Add in a genealogy conference and we had 7 nights, 17 speakers, 45 talks, and great places to see along the way! Sounds awesome.

This cruise started in Seattle,Washington, USA, the went up through the Inside Passage to Juneau, Alaska, then Skagway, Alaska, before heading back and sailing through the Tracy Arm Fjord, stopping at Victoria, Canada and then back to Seattle. There was certainly plenty to see, which means plenty to write about.

So let me take you on the cruise …

Friday – 7 September 2018 (Seattle, Washington, USA)
Embarkation day, so we (note: by ‘we’ I mean the UTP organising team) got down to the port as early as we could which was good and bad. Good to be there early, but bad as it was crazy with people, as three three ships had arrived in that morning with passengers leaving, and who knows how many thousands of passengers arriving to go on them. Anyway we were onboard the “Explorer of the Seas” before lunchtime, and made our way to the Conference Room down on deck 2, and set up the registration desk for the UTP cruisers.

she’s a big ship for sure!

So throughout the day people from ‘our group’ could come and collect their name tag, lanyard, program book and other bits-and-pieces. And after the compulsory lifeboat drill, the ship left at 4pm, and while it was a grey day in Seattle, the rain did hold off.

entrance to the Conference Rooms onboard

a grey day as we left Seattle

The conference officially started in the evening with the Meet & Greet session which was followed by Dick Eastman talking about ‘Going Nearly Paperless’. Good talk, but I don’t believe I can go paperless anytime soon. I like my filing cabinets too much.

the conference begins

Saturday – 8 September 2018 (at Sea)
This was a sea day, and actually it was grey and drizzly, not that we cared as we had a whole day of conferencing! The program had talks starting at 9am and going through until 8pm, and you just chose the ones you wanted to go to. The talks I attended were:
– Lost in London: Breaking Down Brick Walls in London (Caroline Gurney)
– Why Transcripts Are Essential to Includes in Your Family History (Teri Shaller)
– Be Your Own Digital Archivist: Preserve Your Research (Cyndi Ingle)
– Toleration or Turmoil: English Non-Conformity and Our Ancestors (Janet Few)
– Using Evidentia to Organise Your Research and Analyse Your Sources (Ed Thompson)
A great mix of talks from a great bunch of speakers, with lots of notes taken.

I was excited to catch up with Brenda from Queensland along with Charlie B (her bear) (see the pic below). For those who are interested in Charlie B’s adventures, you might like to follow his Facebook page.

Ed Thompson taking about Evidentia

it was a grey, drizzly day

A reminder of how good their food is! The choice is endless

Charlie B, with his UTP lanyard and Seapass card too

Sunday – 9 September 2018 (Juneau, Alaska, USA)
This was a tourist day at Juneau, although we VERY NEARLY didn’t make it. The weather was sunny with blue skies, BUT (here’s the but) the wind was causing big issues for the ship to dock safely. Anyway after a 1 1/2hr delay we made it in, and I went with a bunch of others who had a hired a minivan (thankyou Michelle and co), and we went off to see a glacier. Ooh, how exciting – my first glacier! I heard later that other ships didn’t make it in at all, so we were very fortunate, and had a great day in Juneau.

the Mendenhall Glacier at Juneau

When leaving the glacier, we spotted a squirrel just racing around, and to my surprise I managed to snap a half-decent pic of him before he scampered away. Squirrels are gorgeous, but they’re just too hyper to take decent pics of.


Anyway then it was of into Juneau itself, and we ended up at the Red Dog Saloon (as you do). But wow, what a place. It’s just like a western movie with the flippy-entrance-doors and all, and there was even sawdust on the floor. It was an interesting place for sure. Check out this video for more.

the saloon!

see I really did make it Juneau

Back on the boat in time for tea, then the evening talk which was ‘Where Else to Look?’ by Maurice Gleeson and Michelle Patient. This was essentially a talk on “you had a DNA match but the match has no tree, where do you look?” and they came up with plenty of useful suggestions, but you just need to be a detective about it.

evening talk with Maurice Gleeson and Michelle Patient

Next up is a day in Skagway … so stay tuned.