Jill Ball has set a challenge for several years on GeniAus for a yearly blog to Accentuate the Positive. I first completed this as a year in review for 2021, so this post now looks back on 2022. I commented at the beginning of last year’s post that 2021 had presented many challenges; I therefore looked forward to 2022. Sadly challenges remained, not only in local, national and global events but especially on a personal level. It is probably even more important therefore to acknowledge the positives that have brought light into our lives. I was unable to respond to some of the 20 set points. Jill said, however, that we could write as much or as little as we wanted and complete as many statements as we wished. So here are my positives for 2022, some of which are combinations of Jill’s statements.
Life in a post-Covid world. I had adopted a low-risk approach to dealing with Covid and limited my interactions with others quite significantly in 2022, especially if I wasn’t feeling well. For a variety of reasons – not all related to Covid – I was unable to attend every monthly face-to-face meeting with a small group of fellow genealogists. It was therefore pleasant to get together in December for our end-of-year gathering. We take it in turns to come up with a topic which will provide many avenues for research. In December we worked on descendants of Mary Reibey, former convict, whose image appears on the $5 note. I learn a lot when undertaking research in Australia.
Writing. Apart from several blog posts, my main writing activities in 2022 centred around design and delivery of education materials for GSQ. An article I had written on the Dyche family of Derbyshire will be published in the Derbyshire Family History magazine in March 2023. Grace Dyche was my paternal grandmother’s cousin and was a witness at my grandparents’ marriage in 1919. Grace, and her sister Amy, were two of five bridesmaids and I discovered a wonderful description of the ceremony, including their dresses. My grandmother was a dressmaker and she may have made all their dresses. Despite living some distance apart, the two families obviously maintained a close relationship. I am now working on a story focussed around my great grandparents’ 14 children, also in Derbyshire.
I decided to learn how to use two new (to me) software packages in 2022, but haven’t got too far due to other commitments. The first is Canva (https://www.canva.com/en_au/) a design tool that I’d like to use to enhance my family stories. The second was Charting Companion (https://progenygenealogy.com/products/family-tree-charts/). GSQ offered education sessions on both packages, but I have yet to produce anything useful. I can’t claim to have embraced them yet.
I would have loved to have taken a sledgehammer to my main brickwall, but I have probably only used a chisel! This is still a work-in-progress. My maternal grandfather’s complicated history has featured in previous posts. Piecing together his life story is like creating a quilt – lots of small pieces, which will hopefully end up as a whole. It’s details of his first 15 years that have been quite hard to come by and verify. The records for the orphanage where my grandfather and his brother were admitted have now been deposited at the Liverpool Record Office, but weren’t indexed, digitised or on open access. After paying what was a relatively modest fee, an archives research assistant found their entries for me; I was shocked and saddened to find they had been found “wandering the streets with no home” and a magistrate admitted them both to the orphanage. My grandfather was 10 years old and his brother only 8 years old and they were to stay there until they were 16. Their mother had died two years earlier and the whereabouts of their father were unknown. Many questions still remain. Another element of my maternal line relates to my Norwegian ancestry. I thought I had found my great grandfather’s parents in Norway some years ago, but based on more recent input from others, I now have doubts that I have the correct family. I regard every step in this research as making progress, but there is still more to discover.
Genealogy/history books I purchased in 2022 concentrated on writing. I’m always looking for resources to share with Writing Group members. One that sparked my interest was Ruth A. Symes book on tracing ancestors through letters and personal writings. Many different types of written materials, not just letters and diaries, can add to the context of our ancestors’ lives. Another book was by Roslyn Petelin, How Writing Works. This is described as a field guide to effective writing and provides lots of strategies and exercises. A copy is now in the GSQ Library for all members to access.
I was pleased I could contribute to the organisation of two seminars for GSQ. A Writing mini-seminar Sharing family history: telling, writing was held via Zoom in June 2022 and featured an interesting group of speakers, whose talks covered connecting kids with history; inter-generational interviewing and writing; strategies for creative story planning; benefits of blogging, and different ways of storytelling with pictures.
GSQs main event for 2022 was a full-day seminar in September on Life in Victorian Britain. Most speakers were in the UK and their presentations covered issues and organisations which our 19th century British ancestors probably engaged with: the law; education; asylums and mental health; the post office; transport such as canals and railways; newspapers and gazettes. All presenters attended a live Q&A session at the end of the day when they answered questions raised by attendees.
I also contributed to the design and delivery of a 4-session Introduction to Genealogy program; this program covered the basics of researching family history. At the final Q&A session all 3 presenters were available to answer questions on any aspect of what had been covered. A 5-session follow-on intermediate program is to be offered in February 2023. This will take attendees into more in-depth research topics such as immigration, convicts, military, researching overseas.
A geneasurprise I received was the help provided by members of the GSQ Wednesday morning Zoom group to try and untangle several of my family mysteries, which I’ve outlined earlier. One member in particular went to some lengths in researching in Norway, which is something I’d not done for many years.
An informative journal or newspaper article I found was the description of my paternal grandparents’ marriage in 1919 – see earlier. This described the clothes worn, the music and the names of all the bridesmaids. My grandmother’s brother acted as best man. The reception for 60 people was held at my grandmother’s family home, a small cottage – I wondered how they all fitted in.
I spruik the thrill of the joy of genealogy to anyone and everyone who will listen. My mantra has been ‘don’t be bored during Covid, research your family history!’ I particularly enjoyed sharing some of my finds with a niece, who was keen to learn more about her maternal ancestry.
The best value I got for my genealogy dollars in 2022 was upgrading my subscription to FindmyPast to gain full access to the 1921 census. I am now filling in gaps, especially in my paternal ancestry, which is where I started in 1987. The 1921 census provides a bridge between the 1911 census and the 1939 Register. It helps to work out the various families, who all seem to use the same first names in each generation and each branch of the family.
I enjoyed my first post-Covid face to face event – the AFFHO Congress on Norfolk Island, which had been rescheduled from 2021. I presented my paper on the convicts I had researched for my daughter’s friend. The serenity of the island was a welcome respite from the pressures of day to day living. I enjoyed chatting to other attendees and listening to the presentations. Talks by keynote speaker, Larissa Behrendt, offered different perspectives on indigenous history and prompted me to read further in this area.
I get the most joy from the GSQ Writing Group and am saddened that those members who do not use Zoom have been missing out for some time. This group has been operating for over 10 years now and several strong friendships have developed. I really value the collaboration and cooperation amongst members and appreciate immensely working with Janice, my co-convenor.
Another positive I would like to share is the joy that can derive from sharing with others – this is when our discoveries become much more meaningful.