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.

DSC04183

We had not booked a tour in St Peter Port 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 were 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.

IMG_1626

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 of 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’.

DSC04053

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.

IMG_1487

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 bus 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.

IMG_1472

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.

IMG_1479

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.

My Up and Coming Overseas Research Trip to Britain and Europe.

In a couple of months or so I will be on board the Marco Polo, cruising around Great Britain. I am attending an Unlockthepast Family History Conference Cruise and am particularly looking forward to the many presentations on a great range of topics. Check out http://unlockthepast.com.au/ for all the details.

As a large number of my husband’s, as well as my ancestors are from the Emerald Isle, I will be attending as many of those presentations with an Irish connection as I possibly can. I also believe a couple of my Irish families originally came from Scotland, so I will hopefully gain some ideas from the Scottish presentations too.

It is not only the lectures that attracted me to this Family History Conference Cruise, but a daily segment called ‘Research Help Zone’, which is a one on one or small group session with an expert, which is designed to help conference participants break down those stubborn ‘brick walls’. Helen Smith’s excellent  blog at ( helenvsmith.blogspot.com.au/) informs us about the Research Help Zone and advice on how to prepare for this segment of the cruise. It is great advice for everyone wanting to get the best from the cruise.

This is not my first cruise with Unlockthepast and Gould Genealogy. I attended the 2nd Cruise, Auckland to Sydney in 2011, which also had a Scottish and Irish Theme with many wonderful presenters over 14 days of cruising.

I not only gleaned many research follow up ideas from the lectures, but I also participated in the Research Help Zone sessions and received great advice from Perry McIntyre, Keith Johnson and Chris Paton, which enabled me to make further progress with my Irish research, when I returned home.

I also caught up with many friends made over forty years on my family history journey, as well as making many new ones. Many people are happy to attend conferences on land, but these are always very busy and somewhat rushed as everything has to run to a strict timetable. On a cruise there is a timetable, but you can always find time after hours to continue to converse with like minded people on your favourite topic and of course listen to others family history stories and problems. Sometimes you can even make some suggestions which might help them in their ancestor hunt too.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing with you how I am preparing for not only the Unlockthepast Cruise, but other tours in Britain and Europe and extensive research sessions in libraries and archives I’m planning, especially in London.