Jill Ball has set a January challenge on GeniAus for a yearly blog to Accentuate the Positive. My first thought when this challenge was shared with me was the lyrics of the song “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don’t mess with Mr In-Between”. So 2021 is my first effort and it has provided an opportunity to review the positives in a year that has presented many challenges. The challenge has 20 set points, and I was able to respond positively to most of these.
I got the most joy from helping members of the GSQ Writing Group by setting topics to prompt them to begin writing their family stories. Members were tasked to write 250-300 words on a particular topic and their stories were then shared with the group as a whole. Many members found that these exercises helped them to start thinking about different ways of writing their family stories; as well, comments from other members helped them to identify ways in which they could enhance their own writing.
The Covid situation gave me an opportunity to revisit some of my earlier research. I worked on my Norwegian great grandfather, Martin Johansen. The last definite sighting I have of him is boarding a ship as a steward/interpreter in Liverpool travelling to America in 1894. Also, I discovered the orphanage admission records for his sons, my grandfather Walter and his brother Martin, in 1899 in Liverpool. They were both committed to an orphanage by a local magistrate as they were found “wandering the street and having no home”. Their mother had died in 1897 and I don’t know where their father is. I found it quite upsetting that other family members were unable to care for these two young boys.
I managed to attend several face-to-face monthly meetings of a genealogy group that I belong to. We are a small group by choice and our research interests are quite broad. We meet in a public library meeting room, share what we’ve learnt and work on challenges to improve our research skills. Some of the challenges that I’ve worked on have then morphed into blog posts for GSQ and have taken me in many different directions.
I focussed on several areas this year especially for GSQ. I convene the GSQ Writing Group and we met via Zoom in 2021. I’ve written blog posts and have assisted in convening the GSQ Wednesday morning Zoom meetings. For the latter, I’ve researched and prepared several short presentations throughout the year.
A new piece of technology I mastered was using the Zoom platform. I scheduled and hosted five meetings of the GSQ Writing Group; participated in the Wednesday morning Zoom sessions at GSQ, one of which I hosted; attended a wide variety of meetings and many online education sessions, not only in Australia, but also in the UK. I also heard many live presentations of the virtual FHDU2021.
A geneasurprise I received was being awarded Honorary Life Membership of GSQ “for many years of service to the Society and its members”. I subsequently received a gold-edged GSQ name badge. This award is special as GSQ has been part of my life since I started my family history research in 1987.
Facebook Groups that helped me were those associated with FHDU2021 – my main interests were with the Researching Abroad and Australia and New Zealand hubs.
I had two 2021 social media posts that I was particularly proud of. These related to the Priestley family who were distantly related. Much of my GSQ November 2021 post explored the life of Jared Priestley, whose obituary was published in the Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge newsletter of 23 April 1909. Lancashire-born cotton mill worker Jared not only spent time on the goldfields in Victoria, but also worked in Russia, where one of his children was born. My previous post in September 2021 told the story of Jared’s brother Enos, who was the earliest member of that family to travel to the Victorian gold-fields. Enos sadly died of dysentery probably as a result of the unsanitary conditions.
A new (to me) genealogy/history book I enjoyed was Kate Grenville’s memoir of her mother One Life.
I was impressed by my friend Bobbie Edes who did so much in 2021 to advance the skills and knowledge of GSQ members, through the GSQ blog, facebook site, Wednesday morning Zoom sessions. She spent so much time exploring and learning new technical skills, such as using breakout rooms and was willing to help all those who needed it. My heartfelt thanks go to Bobbie.
It was difficult to decide on what particular journal or newspaper article to include. The obituary of Jared Priestley (see earlier) was one. It was also interesting to find a funeral notice for my paternal grandmother Lizzie and see myself included in the list of mourners. I had no memory of this myself as I was living in London at the time.
I got the most value from my subscription to FHDU 2021 which was conducted as a virtual event, with four streams: DNA research; Researching Abroad; Australia and New Zealand; Methodology and General. My go-to site for researching my UK ancestry is FindmyPast and I cannot wait for the 1921 census to be released in January 2022.
I have not yet ventured into DNA research although realise that this may be the key to unpicking my Norwegian ancestry.
I taught potential genimates to research their 20th century immigrant family to Australia; how to find their female ancestors; how to find out more about their ancestors’ occupations, as well as shorter presentations at the Wednesday morning Zoom group.
GSQ’s blog is published weekly on a Monday morning. I enjoy reading the variety of posts and generally learn something new every week.
A DNA discovery I made was that if I want to include DNA results in my research I have to actually have my DNA tested – this is said very much tongue-in-cheek. I still have to venture into DNA research.
A newly found family member shared his research. This connection was through a GSQ blog post about the Curtis family of Leicestershire. It appears that the family used the surnames Curtis and Cutler interchangeably until deciding to adopt one or the other. My family took the surname Curtis and his chose Cutler. The relationship is fairly distant, but helps to confirm research I undertook a number of years ago and identifies further avenues to investigate.
Although this wasn’t a long search, I found Enos Priestley six feet under in Tinpot Gully, Sandhurst, Victoria. He had died on the Victorian goldfields in 1853. As I was born in England I am always intrigued to find relations who have made the long journey to Australia before me as I believed for many years that I had no prior connections to this wonderful country.
I splashed out and purchased membership of the Australian Society of Genealogists Sydney. Although I do not have NSW ancestry as far as I know, my membership provides yet another opportunity to extend my knowledge and skills. I also renewed my membership of the Society of Genealogists UK.
Another positive I would like to share is that genealogy/family history research, not always for my own family, has generated an awesome set of achievements for me during 2021. I have researched, designed and presented education courses for three different organisations, two were new for 2021. The GSQ Writing Group goes from strength to strength and continues to receive positive reviews from members, as does the Wednesday morning Zoom group where I act as assistant convenor. I am excited for 2022 because I will have an opportunity to travel to Norfolk Island to attend the rescheduled AFFHO Congress and present my paper on the convicts I have researched. I will also be able to experience what Norfolk Island has to offer.
2021 presented many challenges for me personally, but this exercise has helped me to reflect on the positives and hopefully these will continue in 2022.