Family Heirlooms – The Photograph

Perhaps you have heard ‘that a photograph is worth a thousand words’.

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Then let me write for you, at least a thousand words, about this photograph. The who, when, where, how and why this photograph was taken. The story behind this ‘one second in time’.

Perhaps I should tell you I hold the original photograph, and shared it some forty years ago with my surviving paternal aunts, giving them all a copy of the only known photograph of their father, who had died, when most of them were only small children. This above photograph has been clipped from the original photograph I shared.

It was shared with love, but now I find it thrown about the Internet like a bit of flotsam on a boiling sea. Sometimes with the correct name, and sometimes not. Sometimes placed in the right family, and sometimes not.

Let us start with the who. This is my paternal grandfather, William Growcock, born 1867 in Ireland.

No ‘T’ as a second initial, or ‘James’ as a second name. Just plain ‘William’, nothing else. How do I know this? I have been researching this family for over forty years, and long ago I interviewed his wife, children and first cousins about the family, which I followed up with documentation. I know that this family in Ireland, for at least two hundred years and perhaps more, and on all family lines, called the eldest son ‘William’, without exception.

It pains me to see the added ‘T’ or ‘James’ with his name.

Where does this ‘T’ come from? It is found on the Internet at the NSW Marriage Index linked to several subscription sites, and has been for unknown reasons incorrectly added to his marriage entry. On his original marriage certificate held at the Registrar General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in Sydney, there is no ‘T’, nor is there on the original index held there at that office. The ‘T’ only exists on the corrupted modern computer index, on the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages website, and on some linked subscription sites.

‘William James’ is my father. There is no other person of that name in the family, anywhere.

Now let us look at where this photograph was taken. It was taken on the family farm at Tygalgah on the Tweed River in northern New South Wales. In the original photograph, ‘William’, known to family and friends as ‘Bill’, was dressed in the obligatory ‘flannel’ and ‘kerchief’ of the Australian farmer of that time.( If he had still been in Ireland, he would have been wearing a long shirt with a kilt.) He was carrying out a daily morning chore of feeding the hens and rooster, outside their ‘chook-pen’.

When was the photo taken? We know it was taken in 1925, as other photos in my possession, taken at the same time, were notated on the back.

The photograph was taken by Bill’s daughter, not yet twelve years of age, with her new Brownie camera.

In 1900 the Eastman Kodak Company introduced a low-priced, point and shoot, hand-held camera. This camera was a simple black, rectangular box, covered in imitation leather with nickeled fittings. To take a ‘snap shot’ ,all one had to do was to hold the camera waist high, line up the subject and turn a switch. It was reasonably affordable and the company sold many thousands all over the world.

After World War I this camera was heavily marketed to children and advertisements were placed in popular magazines. Children under the age of sixteen were also urged to join the Brownie Camera Club. A camera owner could buy a six-exposure film cartridge that could be loaded in daylight. Kodak also promised for a small fee to develop the film for the camera owner rather than them having to invest in materials and a dark room. You could post the film to them, or leave it at an agent.

How did Bill Growcock’s daughter come to be the owner of this wonderful camera?

Bill Growcock was the eldest son of a family of eight in Ireland. Although he wasn’t the only one in the family, who had married, he was the only one, who had a family of his own,at that time, which he was very proud of.

He had arranged to have some professional photographs taken of his two older daughters, before the War, and sent them home to his mother in Ireland.

By the 1920’s, Bill Growcock and his family had moved to a dairy farm at Tygalgah, but life there was tough, as not only had the Tweed River flooded their farm every year, but the dreaded ‘cattle tick’ had virtually brought many of the farmers to near ruin.

The Growcocks with a family of five children by 1925, although not destitute were struggling to make ends meet on the farm, as were all their neighbours.

Bill Growcock was a very strict, but a just parent, and loved to ‘spoil’ his children from time to time, but when his daughter asked for a camera for her birthday, he couldn’t really justify that expense for her gift, but told her that if she could earn most of the needed £1 which was the price of the camera, he would see what he could do. His daughter, who desperately wanted the camera took up the challenge, but how could she earn the money.

Arthur Yates, opened his seed business in Sydney in 1887, and ‘Yates’ Reliable Seed’ became the saviour of many New South Wales farmers, including those in northern New South Wales. Bill Growcock and his neighbours having to replant their maize after the floods, bought Yates seed at their local seed merchants.

In 1893 Arthur Yates had launched his seed packet service for the home gardener. Two years later he wrote the first Yates Garden Guide, which became a valuable asset to every home gardener. In the country all families had a garden of some sort to grow their own food, and often used the catalogue services of Yates for their packeted seed.

It was these seed packets that were to earn Bill Growcock’s daughter, the money for her coveted camera. She bought by mail order from Yates, bundles of packets of the most popular garden seeds, at a small discount. She then sold these packets of seeds at Yates catalogue prices to the family and friends of the Growcock family. They were happy to pay her the full price of the packeted seeds as it saved them time and money in sending their own orders to Yates. Depending on the size of the packets and type of seed, Bill’s daughter, was able to make a profit of a farthing up to a halfpenny per packet of seed. To earn the money for the camera, she needed to sell well over five hundred packets of seed. She carried on this task diligently over several months throughout the Summer of 1924 and then well into the Spring of 1925. Her father added the occasional halfpenny he received in change, until in late 1925 the target had been reached, and her father helped her to get her new Brownie Box Camera.

One of the first photographs she took was her father feeding ‘the chooks’, which unfortunately was a little out of focus. She also took a photograph of her brother, Bill, who was standing close by her father, and another of the ‘chooks’ themselves. Then I believe the horse and cows came in for planned stardom. Later these photographs were developed by Kodak and the two family snap shots, those of Bill Growcock, and his young son,Bill, were sent home to Bill’s sisters in Ireland.

Over the years, this camera was used to send further family snap shots back to Ireland, including photographs of some of Bill Growcock’s grandchildren in the early 1950’s.

What happened to this camera? It was lost in the 1954 Flood in Murwillumbah, when a sea-trunk, originally owned by Bill Growcock, and by which time held many of the family treasures, including the camera and many of its precious photographs, was destroyed by rising flood waters before the family could rescue them.

In 1974 I found and corresponded with “Bill’ Growcock’s only living relative in Ireland. She shared with me the photograph of ‘Bill feeding the chooks’, which had been sent home to Ireland in 1925. I copied and shared this photo with Bill’s surviving children, some of whom copied, cropped and enlarged a section of this photograph, which is the one floating around on the internet.

I believe the camera is perhaps the greatest of inventions, especially as far as family history goes anyway, in that it captures one second in life, that can be held ‘forever’, or at least many years, if care is taken. What I find even more fascinating is the story behind that ‘one second in time’.

Now a plea to all those friends and relatives at least when you see this photo, no matter where on the Internet, that you will pause and remember, not only the man behind that ‘one second in history’, but the wonderful efforts of his daughter, who earned that camera, which captured the many priceless family heirlooms.

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© Copyright 2012-2015 Nola Mackey at nolamackey.wordpress.com

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 10, Honfleur, France

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Marco Polo docked at the Honfleur Cruise Terminal early in the morning, under a dark threatening sky and strong winds.

Honfleur is an ancient town in north west France and is located on the south bank at the mouth of the Seine River. It is known for its old picturesque port with its houses of slate covered frontages, and has been painted many times by famous artists, including Claude Monet.

St Catherine’s church which has a bell-tower separate from the church is the largest  wooden church in France.

Many tours had been offered for those who wished to go ashore, from ancient towns to D-Day Landings in World War II.  However, before we could disembark we had to retrieve our passports from Reception, so we could enter France.

We had booked a tour to the ancient town of Bayeux, where the famous Bayeux Tapestry is displayed. It was over an hours bus ride to the town. We had a local guide who gave an interesting commentary on the history of the area, from Roman times to World War II, as we passed through the various villages and towns. By the time we reached Bayeux the weather had cleared to a fine warm day.

In fact the ‘Bayeux Tapestry’, is not a tapestry, but a beautifully embroidered linen cloth some seventy metres long. Wool yarn, coloured by vegetable dye, was used for the embroidery and the work is divided into fifty panels. The story begins with Edward the Confessor sending Harold Godwinson to Normandy, and ends with English troops fleeing the battlefields at Hastings. About six metres of the ‘tapestry’ is missing. These scenes were probably centred around William’s coronation.

It is believed to have been commissioned by William the Conqueror’s half- brother, Odo, who was bishop of Bayeux and Canterbury, and may have been created in Kent, by monks in the 1070’s some years after the conquest.

Originally it was hung in the Bayeux Cathedral, but is now housed in a specially built museum in the old abbey complex near by. An audio explanation is delivered by headphones as you walk along the glass panelled exhibition.

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We also visited the awe inspiring Bayeux Cathedral and were able to take lots of photos, both inside and out.

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In the afternoon we returned to the ship via a route that allowed us to view the ancient part of Honfleur.

I had made arrangements to meet with Eileen O’Duill in the Research Help Zone to find how I could access on-line, some of the ‘movie clips’ she had used in her presentation. There is much of this kind of material available to help family historians understand  important events in history.

Two sets of lectures were presented in the early evening. ‘Manorial Records’, by Paul Blake and ‘Ideas for researching non-conformist ancestors’, by Jackie Depelle. I found choosing between these two difficult, as I needed to go to both, but finally decided on ‘Manorial Records’ and made many notes to follow up on in the National Archives the following week.

In the second set of lectures we had the choice of ‘How to reopen and work a genealogical cold case’, by Lisa Cooke and ‘Matchmaking and marriage customs in  19th Century rural Ireland’, by Sean O’Duill. I went to Lisa’s presentation, as I’m always opening ‘cold cases’ and trying to move my research forward.

After a break, Eileen O’Duill delivered the last of the Unlockthepast lectures. ‘Mrs Fancy Tart is coming to tea: Making sense of family stories’.Eileen used one of the stories in her own family history, on her father’s side. It was many years before she could solve this little mystery, and it was all down to her father’s interpretation, as a small child, of the unusual surname of his mother’s visitor. Delivered with warmth and gentle humour, this presentation was excellent and really enjoyed by all present. A great way to wrap up a big ten days of wonderful presentations.

We rounded off the night with a cocktail party where prizes were drawn, photos taken and a wonderful time was had by all.

We were not able to sit on deck after dinner as the weather had turned dark, wet and windy, and we needed to pack and put our suitcases outside our cabin door, to be collected by staff ready for disembarking the following morning. Our cruise was coming to an end.

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 9, St Peter Port, Guernsey

Sunday, 27th July 2014

St Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, which are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies, off the French coast of Normandy. They are considered to be remnants of the Duchy of Normandy and are not part of the United Kingdom.

Guernsey has been administered as an ancient Bailiwick since the late 13th Century,  with its own independent laws, elections, flag and currency. Although we found English money was accepted here, we learned that you couldn’t use Guernsey money in England.

As a child who grew up in country New South Wales, I had heard about the Channel Islands. We had a beautiful creamy-orange and white ‘house-cow’ named Petunia. We were told she was a type of dairy cow called a ‘Guernsey’ who had originally come from Guernsey, in the English Channel. There were other differently coloured cows who had originated on the islands of Jersey and Alderney, too.

The Marco Polo arrived off the port as the sun was rising, and the town’s white buildings glistened in the morning light.

The ship’s tenders were again used to ferry those passengers who wished to go ashore.

There was quite a sea-swell and the tenders rose high, then dipped low, alongside the ship’s loading platform, and those standing on the stairs and platform waiting their turn to board the boat, felt they were swaying in rhythm with the sea,and it needed discipline to carefully listen to the assisting crew’s instructions, when to ‘wait’ and when to ‘go’, to step into the boat. When we were seated, the sea slapped noisily on the craft and then there were the ‘Ohhs’ and ‘Ahhs’ from the passengers, when we got under way, as the boat rolled this way then that, until we were closer to the sheltered marina.

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We had not booked a tour in St Port Peter, but had decided to walk around the bay to the Castle Cornet, which rose darkly on the rocky foreshore. There was much to see as we strolled along, including beautiful garden plots and baskets spilling over with brightly coloured flowers in full boom.

The huge tidal differences between high and low tide was very evident in the marina, and we were amused how people went about the task of boarding their fishing vessels and yachts, which at the time were moored in the marina, but many metres below wharf level.

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Castle Cornet was built in the old Norman style with huge towers and iron gate. The castle complex itself is now a museum, which gave us some idea how these garrisoned castles worked in the past. It also housed five modern museums of the 201 Squadron (RAF), Maritime, Royal Guernsey Militia and the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry. These were housed in old stone buildings with modern purpose built interiors. Absolutely wonderful to wander through at your own pace and read the history.

We were also there for the Noonday- Gun ceremony and were told to cover our ears as it was very loud. It was interesting to watch the 18th Century red-coated gunner march to his post by the huge cannon. The big disappointment was that the gun failed to fire. They did not try the second time, and we were told it was the second time this year the gun had failed to fire.

We returned along the marina foreshore to the floating pontoon, where the ship’s tender was waiting. The sea-swell had abated, somewhat to our relief, so the journey back to the ship was not as rough.

I had arranged to meet Lisa Cooke in the Research Help Zone to purchase some of her e-books. It made sense for her to download them onto my usb flash-drive, rather than waiting to download from the Internet, when I got home.

Then I dashed off to hear Helen Smith’s promised ‘Time-line’ repeat lecture.

The Unlockthepast evening lectures were the choice between Eileen O’Duill with ‘Dublin, 30 June 1922: did everything blow up?’, and Marie Dougan, on ‘Scottish Wills and testaments’.

As I’ve said before, my focus is Ireland so I went to Eileen’s presentation. I have been researching in Ireland for many years and am aware that not all Irish records were lost in the 1922 bombing and fires, but there were records lost, that would have been very useful in researching my Protestant families.

The Irish government is initiating programs that are digitizing many surviving records and making them available on-line.

What really gave me an insight into the whole Dublin situation in 1922 were the ‘movie clips’ Eileen used in her presentation. I wondered how my paternal grandfather, who had immigrated to Australia in 1891, felt when he read in the newspapers about all the troubles in Dublin. Although his parents had died by this time, he had several siblings living near or in Dublin, whose safety he must have been concerned for.

In the last presentation for the evening, the Unlockthepast team outlined all the up and coming planned conference cruises for the next couple of years. Some really great ones close to home, but also in the Baltic and Europe.All the details can be found on their website at http://www.unlockthepastcruises.com/cruises/.

As we sat on the deck after dinner, and discussed the possibilities of the future cruises, we could see the white cliffs of the French coast in the distance. Tomorrow we would be in Honfleur.

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 7, Dublin, Ireland

I woke very early as I was excited to be coming back to Dublin. We had visited this city some ten years before, and since then I had done extensive research into it’s history.

On our last visit I had felt at home in this city, and we had walked many of its streets and visited a number of the sites, including the National Archives and Library, and had even viewed the National treasure, ‘The Book of Kells’.

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The highlight of our previous visit had been to meet with ‘cousins’ on my paternal line. My paternal grandfather, William Growcock, emigrated from Ireland in 1891 and I had tracked down many of his relatives, including those who had remained in Ireland. We had corresponded for nearly thirty years before we were able to meet face-to-face ten years ago. These days e-mail, Facebook and Skype are a great ways to keep in touch.

When we decided to visit Britain and Europe this year, and found the cruise ship was visiting Dublin for the day, we made plans with these cousins again.

The Marco Polo docked at the quayside early. The weather was warm and sunny.

After breakfast we were able to go ashore and board the free ‘shuttle’ bus service made available to cruise passengers. The bus dropped us off in Kildare Street, near the National Library.

A number of Unlockthepast cruise participants went to the National Library to attend a presentation by Carmel McBride, the research manager of ‘Enclann’ a professional research company based in Ireland. This had been kindly organized by one of our cruise lecturers. Carmel’s talk was an introduction to the library and their records for those who wanted to do research while there.

I certainly would have booked on this tour, if I had not be meeting with my cousins.

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We decided to use the same landmark as of our last meeting, the ‘Spire.’

The Spire, is a large stainless steel, pin-like monument of more than 120 metres tall located in O’Connell Street, opposite the General Post Office, the scene of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Until 1966, Nelson’s Pillar had stood here, but was destroyed following the bombing by former IRA members. It was replaced by the Anna Livia monument, which stood there for a number of years before it was moved and replaced by the Spire in 2002. It can been seen all over Dublin.

We had arrived there shortly before the appointed time, but it was not long before I saw the party of four, coming towards us. After we had exchanged greetings, we found a quiet little tea-room where we ordered morning tea, of freshly baked scones with blueberries and cream and a welcome pot of tea. Shortly afterwards we were joined by another cousin from a more distant branch of the family.

What a wonderful few hours we had, exchanging information, family documents and photos. Just one of those days you wish would never end, but of course it has to.We were reluctantly finally ‘dropped off’ back in Kildare Street, to catch the shuttle bas back to the ship.

There I went to join Helen Smith in the Research Help Zone. Helen has family from Kent and has much experience in research there. Although I have many years of experience there also, I have not been successful in locating some 17th Century Wills , and thought she may have been able to suggest some avenues. We discussed several possibilities, but finally came to the conclusion, that for some reason, there may not have been any ‘Wills’ in the first place, however, I should not completely give up the quest, because there are sometimes those wonderful serendipitous miracles that ‘drop in your lap’ from ‘out of the blue’.

In the evening there were two lectures offered, unfortunately both on at the same time, with ‘Genealogy on the go with the ipads and tablets by Lisa Cooke and ‘How to make your on-line searching more effective’, by Mike Murray. I went to listen to Lisa Cooke as I have both a mini-ipad and an android tablet, which I am beginning to use for organizing my research in the field.  I have to admit I am often ‘technology challenged’ with all these new gadgets, but I have grandchildren, who can help me when I’m stuck.

After dinner I spent the ‘free time’ going through photos the cousins had shared. I had not seen these family photos before, including photos of my grandfather’s younger brother and his wife, and one of three of their sisters.

It had been a long and busy day in Dublin, but it could not have been better

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 6, Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Day 6, 24 July 2014

The next morning we arrived at Tobermory, the capital of the Isle of Mull, which had been established as a fishing village about 1789. Again we had to stand-off shore and use the ship’s tenders to be transported into the town. An amazing little town snuggly tucked under the hill with the shops and houses brightly painted. It is not until you look carefully that you see there is more of the town high on the hill, behind the trees. The brightly coloured buildings seem to be a feature in the western highland ports, as we saw the same thing at Portree on the Isle of Skye, when we were on tour there a few weeks before.

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The town was busy and there was an air of excitement, as the crowd grew on the town foreshore. We had arrived in time for the annual Highland Gathering, which was to take place on the plateau above the town.

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The procession, led by the pipers assembled on the foreshore and marched up the hill to the sports ground. They were followed by both competitors and spectators in a brightly coloured mass, as they snaked their way up the winding road. We enjoyed the stirring music of the bagpipes, as we sat on the foreshore, and watched them out of sight over the brow of the hill.

We also made use of the free wifi offered in town to contact family at home and confirm arrangements to meet some Irish cousins in Dublin the following day.

Although we decided to remain in Tobermory for the morning, many other cruisers took a variety of interesting tours, including the seven hour round trip to Iona, where St Columba established a church in the 6th Century. The island is steeped in history, including being the burial place of many of the early Scottish Kings.

We were to be all on board the Marco Polo by 4 pm, but then there was a delay with the tour to Iona, so the ship’s departure was an hour later than planned.

Unlockthepast had a full block of lectures from 3.30pm with the first hour’s time-slot allotted to Geraldene O’Reilly, with a ‘Portrait of a parish with focus on place names’, and Jackie Depelle’s workshop on ‘Family Historian’, a genealogical software program. Unfortunately Jackie was stuck on the Iona tour, so her talk was postponed to later on the cruise. I went to Geraldene’s presentation, as I’m a great believer that you can only understand your ancestors ‘by walking in their shoes’ one might say.  I delve deep into the local history, and place names can reveal much.

Geraldene O’Reilly, came from New Zealand, and although this was her only presentation, she has had a long association with family history groups, giving regular talks on a number of topics.

In the next set of lectures it was a choice between Sean O’Duill on ‘Country cures from Irish folklore’ and Lesley Silvester on ‘Quarter Session records’. Sean’s presentation was open to all passengers on the ship, while all other talks were only available to the Unlockthepast cruise participants.Again I was drawn to the Irish presentation which was very interesting.

After a few minutes break, more lectures to choose from. ‘Family History sources before 1837’, by Jackie Depelle and, ‘Timelines as a research tool’, by Helen Smith. I choose Family History Sources before 1837, as nearly all my research at present, is before that time, but I’m a great fan of time-lines and was disappointed to miss Helen’s talk. However, we were all very happy to take advantage of Helen’s offer to repeat her talk a couple of days later on the cruise. It was a great talk, and showed how ‘time-lines’ should be a basic tool, for all historians, especially family historians.

For the last set of lectures for the day, it was a choice between,’Highland Clearances’ with Mike Murray, or ‘Understanding the context and why social history is important in your research’, by Helen Smith. As we had heard so many references to the ‘Highland Clearances’ on all our earlier tours throughout Scotland, I decided it was time I found out more about them, and the part they played in Scottish immigration. Mike’s presentation was excellent and he was able to present the topic in a simple, but very effect way.

After dinner we had free time, and I decided to review all the notes I had made during lectures,and made a list of all the questions I wanted to discuss, along with the list of experts, whom I hoped could help me during the Research Help Zone. I also checked all the catalogue references and printouts I had made during my preparations, before I left home several weeks before, and brought along with me.

I had been holding off consulting these experts because I wanted to allow others to make the most of these wonderful opportunities, however we only had a few days left and time was running out. I needed to make appointments with my lists of experts, which I did.

I went to bed late in the evening, and as the weather had remained calm and warm, sleep came easily and quickly.

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 4, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

Day 4, 22 July 2014

The wonderful thing about this cruise was that we went to bed, and while we slept, the ship took us to the next port,.

We arrived in Kirkwall early in the morning. The weather was a little over-caste, but the town looked beautiful in the morning light, as we patiently waited for the port authorities to complete their work, so we could go ashore on our next adventure. By then the sun had come out and it was a glorious day.

The shore excursions offered at Kirkwell were very different to what had been offered at Invergordon the day before. Most were about 4 hours and offered an option to visit the sites either morning or afternoon.

One of the tours took you along the sea front overlooking the historic Scapa Flow where HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1939, with heavy causalities. Then there were the Churchill barriers built by Italian prisoners of war during World War II. They also built themselves a chapel constructed from Nissen huts, plasterboard and other available material at the time. The little Italian Chapel is an amazing building with delicate wrought tracery, and frescos. The  artist, Dominico Chibocchetti, returned in later years to restore his original work.

Just out of Kirkwall is the unique Highland Park Distillery , the most northern distillery in Scotland, and  founded in 1798. A nice tour for those who love whiskey.

However, most of the tours were of Orkney’s Neolithic World Heritage Site of the Standing Stones of Stenness, Ring of Brodgar, Ness of Brodgar and Skara Brae.

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Then there was Skaill House, a manor house built by the powerful bishop, George Graham, on the site of an ancient graveyard, in 1620.

In its 400 year history, twelve generations of the same family have lived there. Wonderful family history if you happened to be connected to this Graham family.

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We took a morning tour of these sites, and the lecture by Lesley Silvester, the day before, gave some a good background to really enjoy them.

We were back on-board for lunch, and I took the opportunity in the Research Help Zone to talk to Lesley Silvester about Irish records. I was hoping she might have come across sources, which I hadn’t. Although she couldn’t come up with any new ones, she did remind me I should go back and review many of the records, as the National Archives of Ireland, had introduced better cataloguing of their resources, and have placed them on-line. I made a list of resources she suggested, and will check them out when back home and have the time.

Everyone had to be back on-board by 5pm, so there was plenty of time to hear the Unlockthepast lectures before dinner. The only catch was we had to choose between, Lisa Cooke on “Evernote: and how the Genealogist can remember everything.”and Paul Blake on “British army records 1660-1913”. Evernote is a free ‘app’ and a great help to the dedicated family historian. As I use it to save much of my on- the- spot research, I went to Lisa’s talk and found it most interesting and helpful. I was sorry I missed Paul’s talk, as I have recently found one of my Irish ancestors was in the army. I made a note to ask Paul about this topic, when I made an appointment with him during the Research Help Zone.

Having these experts available at these extra periods of time is invaluable to the family historian. They are completely free and are part of the Unlockthepast conference package.

After a short break we had to make the choice of the Unlockthepast panel explaining many of the new features of several Genealogy computer software programs, or Sean O’Duill with a talk on the Irish Language. As I already use a Genealogy program,( which I am happy with), for recording my family history, I went to listen to Sean on the Irish language. As we have so many Irish ancestors, no doubt some would would have spoken ‘Irish’, perhaps all their lives. Although I had no plans to learn the language, I hoped that at least hearing a little of it, I might have gotten some clues to track down some useful material.

The time after dinner was rather special in that being so high in the earth’s latitudes, (59 degrees N) and up towards the Artic Circle, the twilight was so long. I  wondered how it affected the people of Orkney, to have such long warm summer days. Such a contrast to the long cold nights they endure for many months in the winter.

Unlockthepast 5th Genealogy Cruise- British Isles, 2014-Day 2, At Sea

Day 2 Sunday, 20 July

 

It is normal for the second day of any cruise, for it to be ‘at sea’, without calling into any ports. To whether it is a medical requirement to make sure the passengers have not brought a sickness on board, as many infections show up within 24 to 36 hours of exposure, or it is just to allow passengers to get their sea-legs, I don’t know.

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The sea was calm and the weather fine. 

To the Unlockthepast participants and lecturers it meant a great day of lectures and interaction.

However, we knew it also meant no internet. Throughout the cruise we relied on free wifi, when we visited the onshore towns. Some lecturers and Unlockthepast team members purchased pre-paid usb mobile services, which worked well when in most ports, but of course not at sea. In an emergency we could have used the ships satellite internet connection, but it was very expensive and definitely ‘out’ as far as using it for family history research. All online research would have to wait.

The ship’s Cruise Director and staff had an information morning on the up- coming shore excursions, which we attended in the Marco Polo Lounge.

I had booked our tours many weeks before, but I wanted to check them out, as this was the time I could change them if necessary.

Unfortunately this presentation clashed with the first of the Unlockthepast lectures. This was about “The mystery of the standing stones-Orkney, Lewis and Ireland”, by Lesley Silvester. To quote from her biography, “Lesley from Western Australia, is a Londoner who came to Australia with her family in 1961. Her expertise and knowledge of history is wide ranging and her topics of her lectures during the cruise reflect this from the Lesser known records of research in London to the mystery of the Standing Stones in Orkney and the Outer Hebrides.”

As I love archaeology, and all that it encompasses, I would have loved to have heard Lesley’s presentation, but I couldn’t be in two places at once.

After a short break Rosemary Kopittke presented on ‘Government and police gazettes’, which are an amazing resource for family history, followed by ‘TheGenealogist:what’s the difference’. This is a subscription site particularly strong in non-conformist records in Britain. She compared it with other subscription sites. I have had a subscription to this site for several years and have found some amazing leads for some of my families. A little information on Rosemary from her biography. “Rosemary Kopittke, from Queensland is part of the Unlockthepast team who regularly gives presentations not only on Unlockthepast Cruises, but many other events throughout Australia. She is also an author and editor for many of the new Unlockthepast publications.”

After a quick lunch in the Bistro we were ready for the afternoon lectures. First up was Eileen O’Duill with ‘Introduction to Irish genealogy:where do I start?’ Although I have been doing research in Ireland for many many years, I love to hear what other people have to say on the topic, not only to check my own research methods, but to see if new resources have been released. From her biography we learnt that “Eileen lives in Ireland and has been a professional genealogist for many years, specialising in legal and probate research. She has lectured at national and international conferences and on this cruise was speaking specifically on many aspects of research in Ireland, which many people find very challenging.” As we have about ninety percent of our ancestors coming from Ireland, researching there is challenging, but also very rewarding when you make that breakthrough.

Eileen was followed by Lisa Cooke on ‘How to create exciting interactive family history tours with Google Earth.’ Lisa was from the United States of America, and owns a genealogy and family history multi-media company. She was scheduled to give several talks on how to use the latest technologies in our family history quest. As I am a great fan of Google Earth, and have invested in much of the new technology, I found Lisa’s presentation very interesting and inspiring and bought her publications as e-books to supplement my notes.

There was a another short break before Paul Blake presented his talk on ‘British probate records:an introduction to sources.’ Paul who came from England is a full-time researcher, lecturer and writer. He was to present several lectures on records from manorial to army.

Although I have been working in British probate records for years, they are very complicated, especially trying to locate where and what has survived. I had been having difficulty locating some 17th Century wills, so I was on the lookout for new strategies or resources to locate these.

Marie Dougan was next and she spoke on ‘Families moving between Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales.’ “Marie is from Scotland and is a professional genealogist who also uses technology to deliver lectures worldwide by webinars. She is also a tutor in a range of genealogy and family history courses at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Her presentations on the cruise were on families migrating between areas throughout the British Isles, to resources at the National Archives of Scotland.”

After another break, where several of the lecture team were engaged in Research Help Zone, which was very busy, we had the last two lectures before a late dinner. The first was by Mike Murray on “Crofts and crofting-a unique way of life in the Highlands and Islands”.Mike is from Western Australia and works as a professional genealogist helping people trace their roots. One of his passions is Scottish peoples migration and immigration, which he presented on, as well as tips on-line researching.

The last lecture for the day was Sean O’Duill’s “Death and burial: peasant Ireland in the 19th Century. Sean is the husband of Eileen and comes from County Mayo in Ireland. He is fluent in the Irish language and works as a researcher at The General Register Office in Dublin looking into Irish Folklore. On the cruise he presented on the Irish language and Irish Folklore concerning medical cures; marriage customs and burial customs.

As preparation for this cruise the Unlockthepast team had put on their cruise website the full program as well as biographical material on the presenters, some of which I have quoted here to give you some idea how ‘top notch’ this cruise conference was.

It was a formal night for dinner and the Captain’s ‘ Welcome’ cocktail party. Many of those on-board went, but we decided to have dinner in the Bristro and then retired to bed to read. I was getting quite a collection of books by this time, and welcomed the opportunity to delve into some of them.