Sunday, April 5, 2015

AFFHO Day 2 Keynotes

The first Keynote speaker for day 2 of the AFFHO conference was Josh Taylor, talking about Connecting Across Past, Present and Future.  He was introduced by Jan Gow from New Zealand who quoted a Chinese proverb that I thought was very powerful 

"When the winds of change blow some people build walls. Others build windmills."

Josh told us how his grandmother got him interested in family history when he was ten years old.  As a child his holidays were spent accompanying his grandmother to cemeteries and family history societies, and he loved the experience.

Josh Taylor

These are the things he said he learnt from his Grandmother:
  • There is always another way to break down your brick walls
  • Cite your sources
  • Family history societies are an incredible resource (his grandma joined him up in every FHS they stopped at and renewed the memberships until he went to college)
  • You will never find everything (its ok if you can’t fill in every date and place)
  • Grandmothers are the best (his gave him $20 per month as photocopy money)
  • The past is full of adventure

He also showed us a graphic displaying the hierarchy of interest in family history:
  • not interested
  • curious
  • casual explorers
  • frequent explorers
  • addicted

Next were a few insights into his work on the Rob Lowe episode of Who Do You Think You Are? He spent an entire day looking through tax records for Philadelphia and it ended up as a 3 minute segment.  Similarly on the Genealogy Road Show he might spend 6 months researching a subject only to have it cut down to a 2 minute segment.

Finally he showed some fictional family trees - Donald Duck’s family, the people from the Harry Potter books, Star Wars characters & James Bond.

All in all an amusing Keynote speech.

The afternoon keynote speech was given by Richard Reid, whose talk was entitled If you ever go across the sea to Ireland: Realities of 19th century Ireland. It started off with Patrick Corr (I hope I have spelt his name correctly) who sang an acapella version of the Bing Crosby song Galway Bay. Richard then took to the stage.

Richard Reid and Patrick Corr
He stated that a lot of the information in his talk comes from his book Farewell my Children, so if anyone is interested in learning more about this you can consult a copy of that book.

He stated that although many people believe that assisted immigrants often lied about their age or occupation in order to qualify for the assisted passage, his finding contradict this.  He points out that the application form submitted to the Land and Emigration Commissioners had to be sworn in front of a clergyman – a disincentive to lie – and that his study of one Irish parish showed that 98% of the applications were correct.

He also provided some statistics on the type of Irish immigrants to NSW.  Of those travelling between 1848-1870 there were 12,0001 families, 1920 couples, 1068 married people with a spouse in the colony, 19,357 (which is 44%) were travelling alone, 2,451 (6%) were widows or widowers, and 7,391 (17%) had relatives in the colonies.

He also gave some advice on sources that might help find a person's place of origin in Ireland.  Headstones may have place of birth and death certificates (for place of birth & marriage).  Once you have found the townland of origin you should find out what is was like to live there.  Has anyone written about it?  All this will help you understand the motives for your ancestors' decision to emigrate. 

One source of information is the Irish Censuses.  Although the returns for early censuses were destroyed in 1922, the statistics compiled from those censuses were published in the British Parliamentary Papers.

Irish newspapers can also have lists of people evicted by landlords.

His take-away message was "look at everything - open the box and search out your ancestor."


  1. Thanks for these notes, Jenny. Trying to decide if I am addicted!

  2. A disincentive to lie unless the clergyman was also bending the Richard's book relates to "my" Irish parish.

  3. Jenny, thanks for the notes about these 2 talks. According to my DNA I nearly have 30% Irish but no one has come up in the research yet. It was good to hear info about Irish research as one day I am hoping I will require this knowledge. Fran