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Unlock the Past Cruises

Unlock the Past Cruise March 2011 - Day Five

We were back into the swing of things now that the off-shore touring was over. The Unlock the Past program ran all day, beginning at 8am and not really stopping until about 9pm. Different things cater for different people’s taste - there were the general forty-five minute talks for the entire 240 delegates, shorter sessions for 60 people, as well as table discussion groups for either lunch or tea (I have noticed that different generations or localities speak of dinner as either lunch or tea, so I’ll avoid the word entirely to save confusion). A good number of people manage to find their way to the first talk beginning at 8am. Why the early start you ask? So do the bleary-eyed delegates! We are having to accommodate our timing with the ship’s entertainment program, and considering the large and diverse program the ship has, we are most fortunate to have exclusive use of the main rooms on such a regular basis.

During the middle of the day people have the option of attending the smaller seminars, which are generally booked out before 8.30am. Tea bookings at 8pm have fluctuated in attendance for a number of reasons, some people preferring to eat earlier in the evening, others preferring other restaurants, while others may have chosen to attend a particular night but not the next due to a preference in table discussion topics. However these table groups are still favoured by many and over all the program variety seems to be popular.

Today we had five general talks, beginning with ‘Tracing your Irish ancestry’ by Jeremy Palmer. He began and ended far more relaxed than he had the first day, and his talk made it clear that though Irish research has a reputation of being too hard, there are sources out there if you know where to look. He touched upon BDMs and nicely demonstrated the ‘Ask About Ireland’ website. Church registers, the Irish Family History Foundation website, as well as the National Archives of Ireland were also mentioned. Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) also gives a good description of Ireland before the potato famine devastated not only their way of life but also their population count.

Mike Murray followed with the always difficult topic of ‘DNA for the genealogist: what can DNA testing tell us as genealogists’. Being barely out of nappies himself with this topic Mike presented it as (nearly) a beginner, for beginners, which was entirely appropriate for the vast majority of the audience. Naturally it was still very complicated and forty-five minutes did not give it justice, however through the use of pictures and diagrams I believe most people learnt something. I certainly did!

For the next couple of hours some went off to the Captain’s Lounge for their booked seminars. This is an exclusive area of the ship where people must be escorted to and from by either Jacqui or Alan. One lass in a senior position on the ship has never been there, so how privileged we are! I instead attended some of the ship’s programmed events, beginning with a culinary tour by the head chef and maitre d’ - an amusing 30 minutes where they cooked and generally made light-hearted comments about one another - before heading off to a galley tour. This was certainly enlightening, particularly as the exit was preceded with a piece of paper saying ‘guest area, speak English, smile’ (the middle directive is very pertinent as all waiters come from the Islands or India). Lunch then ensued and, appropriately, the radio could be heard playing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ (the theme from Titanic). Those at my table subsequently discussed the implications of such a bad omen if one were superstitious.

The afternoon was spent with an interview with the production cast and then a VERY quick tour backstage. There was not much to see due to confined space but it was interesting to see it. General staff then put on a show for an hour, where any who wished to get not only 15 minutes of fame but also 15 minutes off work could contribute. There were the inevitable singers before the comedy skits occurred. It was a very funny and very talented show, if a little crass for my liking (though I have found this to be the case with most performances I have seen or heard).

The general talks began once more at 3pm, starting with Rosemary Kopittke’s talk on ‘Findmypast.com: what is there, what is coming and how to use it’. A competent speaker, Rosemary certainly knows this on-line database inside and out, and her talks are always well attended as people seek to hear the latest updates. Shauna Hicks followed with ‘TROVE’, referring, of course, to the National Library of Australia’s (NLA) search engine. She demonstrated it well, showing her 30 years of working with both archives and libraries. TROVE allows users to search, among other things (the list was too long for me to copy completely) books, maps, magazines, diaries and journals, articles and music. It also incorporates other databases, such as Pandora, which collects and provides long-term access to publications and websites, and is particularly useful when these publications and websites no longer exist in real-life. Australian Research Online is another such database, consisting of over 500,000 research inputs (ie. the user can search, for example, university theses or papers presented at conferences). Having said all of this, Shauna also insisted that researchers should not neglect other aspects of the NLA, such as Picture Australia, Historic Newspapers, and even its subject guides, as these may search faster and bring up different results.

Allan Murrin then spoke about ‘FamilySearch’, the free online database of the Latter Day Saints. His primary purpose was to show people the differences between the old website and the new, as it has only recently been changed, and to make people feel comfortable using the new site. He demonstrated the site and went through a basic search, saying all the while that his wife, Joy, was meant to be doing this but she was on holiday so he had to work instead. Joy was sitting in the audience…

The sea was a bit rougher today, this being seen while sitting in the Dome for the afternoon general talks (this being the coldest and bumpiest place in the ship). I looked out the window from a distance and saw sea, then sky, then sea. I decided to stop looking after that. Even as I sit here now and type, I feel myself moving gently from right to left. A number of people I know are currently sick though not many still suffer sea-sickness. My stomach still protests on occasion at the injustice of being at sea, but apart from the first day or so I have been quite fine. Unfortunately I am developing a cough and sore throat, which could be the result of recycled air or catching a bug that’s going around. Looks like I might have to have a week off from work next week to recover from my holiday!

Today I will have changed clothes 7 times. I include changing from shorts to trousers in the count - one of the rooms is so unbearably cold!!!! Tonight was also cocktail night once more.

Thus far I have walked up or down approximately 55 stair cases, which equates to 1045 steps. I say ‘approximately’ and ‘roughly’ because I did not keep good count of events (my counting is always a little dubious anyway), and much to my horror I discovered today that the steps between level 7 and 8 actually number 31! I have not accommodated for this adjustment as it’s hard enough for me to count, let alone actually think about what I need to count. Suffice to say that though I have not finished my counting stairs today (the night is still young at 10pm), I have surprisingly not walked as much as yesterday, even though most of my time yesterday was spent on shore.

I was just wondering what else I could write about when I noticed just how long this blog entry is, so I had better end here. Until tomorrow…


I had a friend who went on a

I had a friend who went on a P&O cruise as an entertainer/singer. She was singlng popular songs from the seventies onwards and was told to tone her show dhown as it was too highbrow. She was stunned.

It's a shame that you were relegated to such early morning sessions.

hello to participant

Big ask I know but could you say hello to Jennie Staines from Bunbury WA from Irma and Rob

Hi Rob, sorry but didn't read

Hi Rob, sorry but didn't read your request until today (Sunday). A shame as I would've trawled the ship looking for them! (I like a challenge)