Archives for 2008

Living in Poverty

Many of our ancestors came to this country to seek a better life for themselves and their children. Life in the old country left much to be desired and in desperation they sailed to the far side of the world in search of something better. Many needed help to emigrate, from their parish and from the colonial government.

Many of them were in abject poverty. No food, no education, no clothes, nowhere to live but the workhouse. I am thinking in particular of the thousands of immigrants who left Ireland during the Great Famine. The potato crops failed two years in a row, the weather was too rough to go fishing, and there was no food. They were evicted from their homes for not paying rent and the workhouses were overcrowded and couldn’t cope. Typhoid and other fatal diseases were rampant. It was a time that we today can scarcely imagine.

And yet there are many in the world even today that live this way. Watching their children starve and die and being able to do nothing. Refugee camps are overcrowded and under-equipped. Borders are closed to keep them out. Diseases spread easily. Natural disasters flood the landscape and wipe out crops, homes and livelihoods. Governments keep charity workers out.

There is as much poverty and misery in the world now as there was when our ancestors sailed for many months to find a new life here in the Colonies. A few, a very few, are accepted as immigrants to start a life here and elsewhere, in a new country with a new language and customs. The rest hang on as best they can. Or they don’t.

Today’s post is in honour of Blog Action Day, to raise awareness of the poverty that still abounds in the world.

Digital Microfilm at the National Archives

From the webpage of the new Digital Microfilm pilot project of the National Archives in the UK:


Digital Microfilm is a project piloting a new way to deliver records online. The National Archives has a large collection of microfilmed records, and by making these available online we hope to increase their accessibility. This will ultimately allow the microfilm readers used at The National Archives, Kew to be retired.

We have digitised four records series Link to glossary - opens in a new window of military and naval records. If the project is successful, we intend to add a wide variety of record series covering many different areas of interest. Many of the records are indexes and we hope that these will be helpful in locating other relevant records.

The new way of delivery is by using very large pdfsLink to glossary - opens in a new window, each of which contains a whole pieceLink to glossary - opens in a new window, which could be up to 800 pages long. This means that Digital Microfilm is only available to online users with a broadband connection, and to users in the Reading Rooms at The National Archives.

These records have not been indexed, and so you will need to scroll through the pdfs, much as you would when using a microfilm. However, we would be more than happy for users to transcribe any of the Digital Microfilm content, and post it on Your Archives, The National Archives’ online community of records users.

These documents are free of charge to download. If you try out the Digital Microfilm pilot, we would be grateful for your comments.

Browsing the documents

The Digital Microfilm pilot means that we have made entire piecesLink to glossary - opens in a new window available free of charge. We have not indexed the detail within the records and so you would not be able to search them in the same way as you could search for a medal card, for example. Instead you will need to scroll through the pdfs, much as you would when using a microfilm.

You can use our Quick and Advanced search forms to search for the full catalogue reference, for example WO 144/1. Alternatively there is also a specific search form for these documents.

If you are unsure which catalogue reference interests you, we would recommend searching the Catalogue first. In each of our guides to the records below, we have included a link to the catalogue entry for each collection to help you with your search. When you are viewing the catalogue entry for a piece which interests you, click on the ‘Request this’ button and follow the instructions to download the item.

Technical Requirements

These are large pdf files, and you will need to have a broadband internet connection in order to download them. It may take your computer some time to download each file. Once you have downloaded the pdf file, we recommend that you save the document to your computer for future reference.

These are large files to download, being on average 400MB. You may wish to contact your broadband provider to check whether large downloads will incur a cost to you.

To view the pdfs you will need to have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. Read more about Adobe Reader

When printing from these files, be careful that you do not opt to print the whole document, because some of them are over 800 pages long. Instead, specify which page numbers you would like to print.

I’ve tried this and although it’s slow it does work. I downloaded a coastguard file from Ireland which was 314MB. I have a broadband connection but we must remember that the speeds we get in Australia are very slow compared to other countries.

The files that are available so far are probably of limited use to NSW genealogists. The names in the files are not indexes so you have to have an idea that you might find something useful in them to start with, and then go looking. The usual problems of reading old handwriting and microfilm quality are apparent.

Notwithstanding the problems I think this is a brilliant way to get records out there quickly. If we were to wait for the National Archives staff or volunteers to index the records we would be waiting for many years. The alternative is for a commercial company like Ancestry or FindMyPast to do it. Searching would be easier but the cost is a factor and the perceived value of these records may be such that they may not get around to them for some years.

Show your support for this project by giving it a go. The more people they have using it the more successful they will see it, and hopefully the more records they add.

The webpage is here.

12th AFFHO Congress in Auckland – more education in one place than you’ll see anywhere else!

If you are considering going to Auckland in January for the Australian Federation of Family History Organisations 12th Congress then let me remind you that the early-bird registration closes on the 30th September. If you were not considering going then let me try to change your mind!

This is a marvellous opportunity to hear speakers from around the world and to learn more about how to find your ancestors and discover more about their lives. The opportunity to mingle with other researchers is also a huge, often overlooked, benefit. People who think the way we do! People who don’t think it’s odd to include cemeteries in the sights of a town, and who understand how exciting each new discovery is.

Dick Eastman, the technology guru; Paul Allen, co-founder of and now the CEO of FamilyLink; Elaine Collins, Commercial Director of FindMyPast; John Grenham, the Irish research guru; Michael Gandy, editor of the Society of Genealogists’ journal and a very entertaining speaker; Megan Smolenyak, an expert on DNA research; Cora Num, website guru; these are a few of the famous international speakers that will be lecturing and running workshops over the four days of the conference.

Topics cover research in Australia, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, technology, DNA, and specific how-to sessions such as preserving documents and heirlooms and writing your family history. Many sessions run concurrently so that you can always find something of interest for every session, and some lectures are repeated at other times so you can sort out clashes in the programme with other lectures you want to see. Hands-on workshops are available in many of these subject areas as well.

Accommodation is available at the College where the conference will be run, or alternatives can be found in nearby motels.

These Congresses are only run every three years. The last one was in Darwin in 2006 and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it; it could have gone on for another four days and I would have been happy! The next one will be in Adelaide in 2012, which seems a long way away at the moment.

Here is the message from the Convenor, Richard Hollier:


For those of you who have not yet registered for the AFFHO 2009 Congress this email is to remind you that the earlybird registration closes on 30 September 2008.

Still undecided?

Look at the benefits:

  • Around 15 speakers from outside Australasia
  • Four consecutive lecture streams
  • Plus parallel workshop stream with up to 4 additional options
  • Networking with fellow genealogists from throughout the world
  • On site accommodation in gorgeous surroundings
  • Range of social events and tours
  • Registration cost lower than previous AFFHO congresses and comparable to NZSG when compared on a daily cost
  • Convenient online registration

Go online and register now

Don’t miss this highlight on the 2009 genealogical calendar!!

Any questions or issues please email me or one of the congress committee. Contact details are on the website.



Richard Hollier
Conference Convenor
c/- 24 Gretel Place
Hillcrest, North Shore City 0627
New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 4190521

I personally will be taking advantage of the opportunity to do some research on my long-neglected New Zealand ancestors and I am going over a week early. Perhaps I’ll see some of you there!

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