Unlock the Past Cruise March 2011 - Day Six
I apologise to all my fans that I did not manage to write this blog on either Friday or Saturday. Friday I could not arrange to have a computer, and Saturday I did not have access to one until I finally arrived at home at 8pm, at which point I wasn't particularly interested in writing a blog.
Friday was a very busy day - between the ship's program and conference program time was limited. It began at 8am with a talk. Die-hard genies dragged themselves out of bed though I did notice a drop in numbers. Cora Num spoke first on 'Locating shipping and immigration records'. The first key to research begins, as always, with family stories and information/documents, and these records are no different. An estimated year of arrival is extemely useful as well, if you can figure this out. Once the preliminaries had been explained, Cora then went into sources such as www.theshipslist.com, Trove, National Archives of Australia (passenger arrivals index), www.ancestorsonboard.com, Passenger Arrivals in WA cd (produced by Western Australia Genealogical Society - WAGS), and many many more. I am sure the list can be found on her website, www.coraweb.com.au. Cora's talk was very informative for those who are just delving into this area of research, and I found it worthy of dragging my tired self away from my rather comfortable bed.
Both Cora and the next speaker, Shauna Hicks, spoke well and made good use of PowerPoint. Shauna spoke on 'Family history on the cheap', and this talk was open to the entire ship. I have heard this talk before but this time the content fought its way through my now weakening 'not-interested-in-family-history' defences and I listened with particular interest. Most of the talk is in her book by the same title, published by Unlock the Past and available through Gould Genealogy and History, however a good summary of her points is:
- exhaust all family sources
- be organised
- invest in a family history program (I have Family Tree Maker, primarily because it has a user group near my house)
- apply for free e-resources through your State Library and the National Library of Australia
- look out for discounts!
- join a family history society (the benefits far outweigh the costs)
- use Trove
There were, of course, many more and much more to be said about each.
Straight after Shauna's talk a group photo was held, before we dispersed until early afternoon. There was a very busy program of smaller seminars which people could choose to attend, such as 'London Research' with Leslie Silvester, or 'The future of genealogy software' with Mike Murray. I stayed for 'Meet the Captain', with the Captain of the ship (on the ship's program). He was a relaxed and amusing man, answering questions and telling stories. Being a Pom he describes Aussies as 'barking mad': on a recent cruise he had to give a tsunami warning to the passengers. If it had been English on board then they would have hidden under their beds wearing life jackets. Not so the Australians! Instead he found them all crowded at the front of the ship, jostling to see the huge tidal wave they imagined would come towards them! Of course, there was nothing to see, as ships in deep water aren't affected at all in tsunamis, but he cannot look at Australian's in quite the same way anymore.
Five minutes later I partook in a fun and reminiscent time of origami. We were instructed on how to make a crab before left to our own devices with a swan. I then ventured forth and made a pig (it was a thematic session). My skill wasn't quite high enough for performing complex folds while following simple directions, and unfortunately our instructors were no better. Thankfully I was with work friends and Sharon was a real whizz at it. She quickly made my swan actually look like a swan in no time at all. I did wonder how much time she had on her hands when not at work... My other work friend Jenny, on the other hand, was a different story and made me feel pretty darn good about my lop-sided pig. She added to the amusement of the whole episode however. Overall is was a fun and entirely non-therapeutic (did I mention I have no patience!) time.
Lunch followed once more in the restaurant (the last time!) and I decided to be adventurous and for my entrée choose the 'clear chicken broth with vegetable wonton'. I must admit that it was nothing terribly special, with just a single wonton bobbing up and down in the middle of a watery soup. I then had a steak for mains. This was also somewhat of a disappointment as it was a bit tough, but then I don't like my meat to walk off the plate leaving a bloody trail so I suppose that's what you get when you ask for 'well done'. It came with a mushroom sauce and an excuse for potato. But one bad meal out of a potential life-time of good food to be had at that restaurant did nothing to dampen my enjoyment of the experience. Dessert followed for others except for me (and what wonderful desserts they have!). We were placed once more on a table with strangers (you do not choose your seating in the restaurant but they fill all the tables - an impressive display of coordination). This is a good opportunity to mix, as well as inform them about Unlock the Past, so I didn't mind. I heard from this couple that the husband had locked himself out of the room the night before - he thought the cabin door was the toilet door and didn't have his key card to let him in. As neither his wife nor two children woke up to his cries for help (the neighbour did though), he trotted off to the purser's desk for a spare key. His only consolation was that it was 3am so only a few people saw him wandering around in nothing but his jocks...
Three talks were scheduled for the afternoon, beginning with Ron Austin informing us about 'Using the London Gazette to confirm honours and awards'. He spoke with experience and intimate knowledge on the subject, answering questions and giving plenty of examples. Suffice to say that the London Gazette included many award listings, not just military but also civilian awards. But it isn't perfect as it relied on human entries so awards may be incorrect or even omitted entirely. If your record isn't in the gazette, try the war memorial.
Jan Gow followed, speaking about another computer program, Treepad. Her talk was about getting organised and discussed the use of this word processor in helping you do this. It would have been good to hear of other methods and ideas as well, however she covered its capability and gave testament of its usefulness in her own life.
Helen Smith then talked about 'No medicare for them: how our ancestors accessed healthcare'. I had heard this talk before but the refresher was more than welcome. Life was certainly different now than it was just 100 years ago: we go to a doctor, a diagnosis leads to drugs, and then we (hopefully) recover while taking sick leave from work. This was not the case for our ancestors! Doctors weren't affordable and hospitals were considered the last stop before death. Medicines often contained poisons, and if you were pregnant you really weren't welcome anywhere. Instead they joined friendly societies (such as the Independent Order of Oddfellows) where, for a small fee a week, they could access a doctor, obtain sickness benefits, and even attend social gatherings and enter their children into education programs. Sources include Trove, family documents, newspapers, and more which I didn't have time to write down.
The afternoon meant more sessions for some to attend, but for me it was off to High Tea in the restaurant. I had been looking forward to this all week but it only occurred between 3.30 to 4pm (very efficient!) and only on days at sea. We sat wherever we liked this time and were swamped by waiters offering tea, coffee, sandwiches, scones, biscuits, and cakes. I had been warned to take everything I fancied the first time as they wouldn't be around again, so after a confusing moment I found myself with a cup of tea I didn't want, 2 scones (with strawberry jam and cream), and a chocolate biscuit. I soon discovered that they hadn't yet mastered the scone recipe and it was extremely sweet. I myself prefer savoury scones and add the sweetness with the toppings, so as a result I simply couldn't eat it all. It was delightful experience though.
As I was meandering my way back to my cabin I was informed that we had to have our bags packed and outside the door between 5 and 8pm that night, so the ship's people could get them ready for off-loading the following morning. This should not have come as quite a shock as I was quite capable of reading the information given to us the day before about disembarkation procedures. I just didn't. So the next hour or two was spent packing my main bag, worrying about the extra weight (of the bag and possibly my own person - I do like my food!), and what the weather would be like in both Brisbane as well as my final destination of Adelaide. By 6.15pm however all was ready before I trundled once more to the dining room for tea. I finished the week with the sesame encrusted chicken wings as an entrée (a favourite, even if you do have to squint to see the two teensy chicken wings among the other noodle-stuff) and lasagne for mains (very nice and well worth it).
The night's program was called 'Footloose' and consisted of a tiny bit of singing but primarily focussed on dancing. This is clearly their strength and they danced very well. One negative aspect of all of their performances, unfortunately, is that it is highly sexualised and can be crude, something I dislike and find unnecessary. I was also horrified at the number of children who were watching these styles of dancing. The night was still young at 8.30pm so my comrades and I bought a hot chocolate for $3.50 and sat on the non-smokers side of the ship, which always tends to be deserted. It was a warm night and neither the moon nor stars made an appearance. The absence of mosquitoes just made it that little bit more pleasant (oh the joys of being at sea!). We then headed off to bed, where we turned the clocks back one hour and mentally prepared ourselves for the following day of disembarkation, lengthy queues, and a long wait at the airport. I also checked whether I had mobile reception yet.