Saturday, March 31, 2012

AFFHO Congress Days 3 & 4

There was no time last night to blog about the day’s talks as it was the Conference Dinner.  So I will just cover some of the highlights of the last two days.
I went to a talk by Roger Kershaw of the National Archives of the UK about tracing convicts in the National Archives.  Disappointingly I realised almost as soon as he started that I had already heard this talk as a podcast as I recognised the name John Jobson.  The positive side is that it was so full of good information that I hadn’t deleted the podcast as I intended to listen to it again and make notes.  So now I’ve had the chance to make notes, and it was a good talk.
I also went to a second talk by Roger about the National Archives web site, and the new catalogue, which is available now, but is not the default way to search the catalogue, however it will be in a couple of weeks.  The contents of Documents online can already be accessed through the new catalogue, but the old way of accessing it will be turned off on the 23rd of April.  The other thing that was new to me was their media centre.  I have long had a link to their podcasts from my iGoogle page, so didn’t realise this media centre existed, or that it contains videos as well as podcasts.
Another good talk was by Todd Knowles on the Tax Records of England.  He talked about estate duty records, hearth tax, window tax and many more.  Although I did know these records existed, I didn’t realise that they had been filmed and are available through the FHL.
But far and away the highlight of the conference for me has been Colleen Fitzpatrick’s talks.  I have already mentioned her talk on the unidentified child from the Titanic, but I attended two of her other talks.  One was Forensic Genealogy: CSI meets Roots.  This was about getting information out of old photos – looking beyond the clothes and the mount and discovering all sorts of interesting things.  This is the subject of one of her books which I bought, so I am looking forward to reading it.  The final talk of hers that I attended was The Curious Case of James-Jake Smithers-Gray in which she described the search for a man known only to his Australian children as John Henderson Grey.  They knew this wasn’t his real name, but with Colleen’s help tracked down his true identity (James W Smithers) and many of the details of his life.  It was the kind of story that if a novel had been written it wouldn’t have been believed.
The conference has been a great opportunity to catch up with many people, some of whom I see only rarely, and to meet others, who I will hopefully see again.  It has also been a great learning opportunity, with plenty of entertainment.


  1. Colleen Fitzpatrick's talks were the highlight of Congress for me too. I bought her book Forensic Genealogy and am looking forward to reading it!!

  2. nice posting.. thanks for sharing..