Monday, January 29, 2018

Looking forward to RootsTech again!

Previously I wrote about why I was looking forward to attending RootsTech in February 2017. Well, it's nearly time for this year's RootsTech conference, and I'm awaiting it just as eagerly.

Me with CeCe Moore
LeVar Burton with FamilySearch's Thom King
So what is it I am looking forward to?  Well, all the reasons that I gave in that earlier blog post still apply. Meeting up with old friends and making new ones is always a highlight.  Another is the keynote speakers. Often I hadn't heard of them before I heard them speak, but I have enjoyed them so much. As well as David Pogue, A.J. Jacobs and Tan Le, who I wrote about in my previous blog, last year had some standout keynote speakers.  Cece Moore gave a fantastic and inspirational talk on DNA and there was a very interesting talk by the Property Brothers (who I'd never heard of before), but no one who was there will ever forget the keynote session given by LeVar Burton.  My blog about it can be read here.

This year's keynotes include Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton, Brando Stanton from "Humans of New York", Henry Louis Gate Jr (who I have heard of – I've watched some episodes of "Finding Your Roots") and singer/songwriter Natalie Lafourcade.

Lunch with friends - Jan Gow from New Zealand and
Audrey Collins from the UK

While I am there I will, of course, visit the Family History Library. I wonder whether I'll notice many changes.  As I understand it, as microfilms are being digitised, they are being removed from open access.  As many of those that have already been digitised are only available in a FHL or associate library I'll have plenty to look at.

Last year I got to spend time looking at the (then) new Family Discovery Experience.

Me at the Family Discovery Experience last year
(Photo by Jill Ball)

I always enjoy looking around at the Expo Hall (and they say it will be bigger than ever this year), seeing the new developments in Innovation Alley and the social events are always interesting. And of course, there are all the other speakers. There will be 13 different DNA sessions, as well as lectures on British, Scottish and Irish research, genealogical software, photos and so much more.

The Aussie contingent at RootsTech 2017

If you haven't registered, why not think about it? If you register before 30 January, US time, you can get a 4-day pass for only $199 - a saving of $80 off the regular price of $279.  You can register here.

Disclaimer: As a Rootstech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Anticipating the RootsTech Keynotes

As 2017 draws to an end and we look forward to 2018 thoughts turn to RootsTech.  It is less than two months now until the biggest genealogy conference in the world.

Each year has interesting keynote speakers, and this year will be no different.

Henry Louis Gates Jr
Henry Louis Gates Jr has a list of achievements way too long to list here (if you are interested, check out his Wikipedia page or the RootsTech Speakers page).  He is an expert on African American history and culture. But to most people he will be best known as the host of the TV program Finding Your Roots, which used genealogy, history, and genetics to tell the story of a variety of celebrities and high-profile people.  If you haven't seen it, it is similar to Who Do You Think You Are?

Brandon Stanton
Brandon Stanton is the creator of Humans of New York, a huge collection of photos and stories of thousands of everyday people of New York. Everyone has a story, and by giving them the chance to tell their stories, Brandon has made each of them feel important and feel that they matter.

Scott Hamilton is an American champion figure skater, who won numerous US and world figure skating competitions, and won a gold medal in Sarajevo in 1984. His titles, awards and honors for figure skating number more than 70. He also survived cancer which interrupted his skating career.

I have no doubt that each of these keynotes will have fascinating stories to tell, and I look forward to hearing them at RootsTech 2018.
Scott Hamilton
Why not give some thought to attending RootsTech next year. You won't regret it. 

Disclaimer: As a Rootstech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Rootstech Photo + Story Competition

There are just 90 days to go before RootsTech 2018 gets underway.  To get in the mood, why not enter the Photo + Story Competition

Brandon Stanton
This competition complements one of the Keynote Speakers, Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York.  The RootsTech press release says "Recognized worldwide for his revealing photographs of everyday people and their stories, Stanton will be a keynote speaker at RootsTech, held at the Salt Palace February 28 to March 1. His personal glimpse into the lives of ordinary people in New York has set a standard for quality photo stories."

Brandon's web site has photos of everyday New Yorkers and their stories.  Why not write your own  story or a story of your family?

The competition is looking for photos and stories in one of four categories: Connect, Belong, Family, and Heritage. The objective is to use the power of both photo and story to share, persuade, inform, inspire, connect, and belong. This links back to the theme of this RootsTech conference:

Connect. Belong.

Me and my Teddy Bear
Everyone has stories. I have been using my blog to record some of mine, like the day my father blow-dried the cat, the story of my Teddy Bear, my grandfather's World War I experiences, and even the story of my chimney-sweep ancestor who hunted with the Duke of Badminton.

Why not write down your stories and enter the competition? You can submit one photo and story in each of the categories. Winners will receive prizes from Canon or Dell. The deadline is 31 December 2017. More information is available here.

You don't have to be attending RootsTech to enter, but it's a worthwhile experience. And until December 4 you can register for just $169, instead of the usual $279. Use the promotional code CYBER18.

Note: Entrants must be at least 18 to apply. No professional qualification, licenses, certificates, or certification is required. You to not need to be registered for RootsTech to enter.

Disclaimer: As a Rootstech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Day my Father Tried to Blow-dry the Cat

I grew up being owned by two Siamese cats. They were mother and son, and the mother cat, Kiki, was really my cat, whereas her son owned the whole family.  Both cats have long since passed away, but I still have so many fond memories of them.  Like the day my father tried to blow-dry Kiki.

My family lived in a bushy area of Sydney, and one problem with that is that when the cats and dogs go out exploring they are very likely to get fleas. This is not any more pleasant for the animals than for the humans they inevitably pass the fleas onto, so it has always been necessary to try and prevent them from getting fleas, or to get rid of the little critters if your cats (or dogs) do end up with them. In the 1970s the first main option was to put a flea-collar on your cat. These strong smelling accessories were never terribly successful in tackling the flea problem.  Even when they were "fresh" they only seemed to reduce the number of fleas, not eliminate them completely, and as the toxins wore off, the flea numbers increased. 

My father discovered that far more successful was giving them a periodic bath with some anti-flea preparation.  As you can imagine, the cats did not like this, and considered it way below the dignity of a cat.  But the cats knew us, and knew we looked after them and wouldn't hurt them, so they accepted that the bath must be necessary. But each bath was accompanied by a constant low growl to protest the ignominy of the situation.

One winter's day Kiki's bath didn't take place until early in the evening.  My father was worried that a wet Kiki would be cold, or even catch a cold, if all he did was towel dry her after her bath.  The only thing they had that could be used was that old hair-dryer belonging to my mother.  You know the kind: a kind of shower-cap like covering that used to go over the hair rollers, connected to a source of warm air by a hose.  Dad just used the hose bit to blow dry Kiki.  She had no idea what was going on, and not only was there the constant growl, but also the tail flicking back and forwards that indicates a cat is not happy.  Then Dad decided that the easiest way to get her tail dry would be to put it down the hose. That was too much! A cat has to maintain her dignity at all times, and this was definitely undignified. With a yowl she jumped off his lap, raced to the other end of the house and hid under a bed.

He never tried to blow-dry her again.

Kiki on the day we got her

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Just who was Cordelia Knight?

On 27 Feb 1823 the Lord Sidmouth arrived in Sydney carrying a cargo of female convicts and stores for the colony. One of those convicts was Cordelia Knight.  She had been tried at the Old Bailey in the previous June and found guilty of stealing 20 yards of silk, with a death sentence being pronounced. Luckily for those of us who descend from her, her death sentence was remitted to transportation for life.

This was her second appearance at the Old Bailey. The first had taken place in April 1820, when she was found guilty (under the name Cornelia Knight) of stealing 11 yards of printed stuff and sentenced to one month in Newgate gaol.

On the voyage to New South Wales she took her four daughters: Sarah, born 16 Nov 1810; Lucretia, born 7 Jul 1814; Mary, born 7 Dec 1817; and Caroline (sometimes called Louisa), born 23 Apr 1821.  The eldest three girls had all been baptised in Hampstead, Middlesex, on 11 Jan 1818 as the children of John & Cordelia Knightes [sic]. The youngest was not baptised until 1828 in Windsor.

St John-at-Hampstead, where three of
Cordelia's daughters were baptised
[Chris Gunns, via Wikimedia Commons]

So the natural course of events would be to search for the marriage of Cordelia to a John Knight or Knightes. The only such marriage people have found is the marriage of John Knight and Cordelia White on 5 Jun 1810 in Bloomsbury.  The date looks reasonable, given the birth of their first known daughter, therefore many people have seized on it and used it in their family trees. Subsequently, more and more people have copied that information, so that it seems to many that it must be correct.

But there is a problem with this. 

Cordelia's first conviction, in April 1820, says she was aged 26.  This would indicate a birth about 1794.  At her second conviction in Jun 1821, she is still said to be 26, though she should have aged a year by then.  This would make her born about 1795. The 1828 census of NSW says she is 33, indicating a birth about 1795. Her ticket of leave, granted in  1830 says she was born in 1794 in Hampstead, and her conditional pardon in 1852 says she was born in 1795 in Hampstead. Finally, her burial record in May 1853 says she was 57 years old, pointing to a birth in 1796.

So most records point to a birth in 1794-95, with only her burial record – when she was unavailable to provide the information – gives a birth about 1796. And the convict records state she was a native of Hampstead, and these records are usually correct in this regard.

And here is where the problem arises. Why would someone born in Hampstead (and whose children were baptised there) go down to Bloomsbury to get married? And not only did they marry there by banns, they were both said to be "of this parish", which means that they were definitely living there at that time (though not necessarily born there).

Further, most online trees have decided that she was Cordelia Elizabeth White, who was baptised on 7 Oct 1781 in St Peter le Poer in London. This is 14-16 years before Cordelia Knight always claimed to have been born. And she was not born in Hampstead, as the convict records state our Cordelia was. And there is no single record showing the woman who was transported to NSW having a middle name of Elizabeth. Could this really be the same person? 

There are other online family trees that say Cordelia's surname was Rudd, but none of them give any source for this or place of marriage to check.

Just because only one event for a particular named person has been found, it doesn't mean that it is the correct one. Even now, not all records are online, and not all records have survived. It was not unusual for a parish priest or clerk to forget to record some of the events.  If other surviving records provide conflicting information to the one record found, then it should not be accepted as the truth without further confirming evidence being found.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Chance to win a free RootsTech pass

UPDATE: The winner of the free RootsTech pass was Julie Wood

As a RootsTech Ambassador, I get to give away a free pass for RootsTech 2018, valued at $279. If you win and have already registered for the conference, your registration fee will be refunded.

The conference will take place in Salt Lake City from 28 February to 3 March. The pass gives access to
  • Over 300 classes
  • Keynote / General sessions
  • RootsTech classes
  • Innovation Showcase
  • Expo hall
  • Evening events

This 4-Day Pass DOES NOT include airfare, hotel or the coverage of any other expenses.

In order to go into the draw to win you must send an email to with the answer to the question below:

Who am I?
  1. I was born in 1819 in Kensington in London.
  2. My father, Edward, had died before I was less than a year old.
  3. I married my first cousin.
  4. I had nine children.
  5. I lived into the 20th century.

All correct entries received by the closing date of 12 noon, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) on Sunday 5th of November, will go into a draw and one lucky person will win the RootsTech pass.

The winner will be notified by email by Tuesday 7th of November at the latest. One entry per person.

Disclaimer: As a Rootstech Ambassador I receive complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bear the cost of my return airfares from Australia and pay for my accommodation and meals.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

NSW & ACT Conference in Orange

Recently more than 300 people trekked out to Orange in the mid-west of NSW for the annual family history conference.  This year it was hosted by the Orange City Library, aided by the Orange Family History Group. The hosts of this event were so friendly and welcoming that it was an absolute stand-out feature of the conference.

In a break from tradition, some long workshops were held on the Friday. A few were only one hour long, but several were two hours, a couple were three hours and one was five hours long.  We hadn't known this when we signed up, so it did eat into the time we had available to look at the Family Fair. 

One of the workshops I did was "Eat Your History" with Jacqui Newling of Sydney Living Museums (formerly known as the Historic Houses Trust).  We started by talking about food memories, and then looked at some old recipes from books in the houses managed by Sydney Living Museums, and discussed the differences from recipes and menu items we see today.  Then we got to try out a recipes.  But first we had to make our own butter, which was to be used in our cooking.  Then we made a soufflĂ© omelette, and we had to beat our egg whites in the same way that had been done by the girls at the house named Meroogal in Nowra: namely, by beating it with a knife on a dinner plate!  The end result was served with some jam, and tasted very nice!

Egg whites in the process of
being beaten

Omelette being cooked

The finished product

The class

The conference theme was "Your Family Story: Telling, Recording & Preserving" and the talks mostly fitted into this theme. The keynote speaker on Sunday was the very tall (6'4") actor William McInnes, who told us lots of stories of his family. The other speakers included Gail Davis from State Archives of NSW, Perry McIntyre, Jacqui Newling (who also gave a lecture as well as running the workshop) and Shauna Hicks, amongst others.

William McInnes with Lorraine Henshaw,
who is taller than me (but not much)
As usual, there was a Meet & Greet and a Conference Dinner, which were both great chances to catch up with old friends.

After the conference closed at lunchtime on Sunday there was a chance to visit local historic house "Duntryleague", which had been the home to the Dalton family, and now is home to the local golf club.