This page has details of the conference talks
To read a speakers bio click on the speakers link.

Keynote Topic: The Almighty DNA Wave
Speaker: Louise Coakley

In this keynote, Louise will review the waves of change that have impacted family history research over the last century, including the almighty DNA wave that is currently sweeping across genealogy like an unstoppable tsunami. Louise will describe how and why DNA testing has transformed family history research, and how you can use it to help you. She will incorporate real stories and anecdotes, consider unexpected results, ethical and privacy concerns, and provide a glimpse at the future and evolving uses of DNA. (See in program.)

Topic: The Next DNA Wave – Testing Family Relics
Speaker: Louise Coakley

In her Sunday session, Louise will explore the next DNA wave: testing family relics to extract the DNA of deceased ancestors. Since the DNA wave rolled in, direct-to-consumer testing has been limited to samples provided by living people. But new services are emerging that can extract DNA from items left behind by our deceased ancestors, such as from under envelope and aerogramme seals, stamps, photo corners, and more! Learn what can be tested, at which companies, how much it costs, how we can use the data, and the limitations and risks involved. (See in program.)

Topic: Chinese – Making Queensland Home
Speaker: Cara Downes

The history of Chinese migration to Australia is one of many trials and tribulations. Chinese people are now considered to be the oldest continuous immigrants to Australia outside of those from Great Britain.

During the period of gold rushes large numbers of Chinese made their way to Australia. Some would remain and this would influence immigration policies for over a hundred years. Racist fears about Chinese migration were one of the driving factors behind the Australian Federation.

Despite these attitudes and restrictions many people with Chinese heritage managed to make Australia their permanent home. The policies of the Australian Government became known as the ‘White Australia Policy’.

While this policy was a great trial for Chinese Australians, it has left a wealth of documents through which we can explore their lives. These records are held by the National Archives of Australia and are publicly available. The records reveal the politics of restriction but also a diverse range of information and photographs on the Chinese who managed against the odds to make Queensland their home. (See in program.)

Topic: The Ryerson Index
Speaker: John Graham

In this session, John will give a brief rundown on the Ryerson Index website, with particular emphasis on tips and tricks for efficient searching, and how to access online notices which are otherwise unobtainable. (See in program.)

Topic: A Mixed Bag: Midwives, Nurses and Other Female Attendants in Queensland to 1915
Speaker: Dr Madonna Grehan

In both family and local history it’s not uncommon to find mention of nurses and midwives. Most people today know what a nurse is and what a nurse does. The same may go for understanding what a midwife is and what this practitioner does. Historically speaking, it’s a different story.

In nineteenth century Queensland, there were many more individuals plying their trade or claiming their profession as bedside attendants.

Waves of migration brought new categories of attendant with lofty titles: monthly nurse, ladies’ nurse, nurse tender, sick nurse, invalid nurse, granny midwife, trained nurse, and registered nurse. Who were these individuals? What preparation did they have for their work? What did they do at bedsides?

In this presentation Dr Grehan will unravel the seemingly complex web of female bedside attendants in nineteenth century Queensland right up to 1915. She will offer examples of these attendants and explain what the nomenclatures applied to them were meant to convey. She will discuss the primary sources that family and local historians can use to investigate attendants in the family. (See in program.)

Topic: In Their Own Words: How 1860s Immigrants Sailed Waves in Time to Queensland
Speaker: Dr Jennifer Harrison

The decision to migrate with a family across half the world was not one to be taken lightly. Occasionally the far destination might sound tempting and exciting and allow reunion with some family and friends but then, so many more were left behind. Older folk and women with children often were more reluctant to travel than young single tradesmen and servant girls. How did our forebears cope with all the mixed feelings?

Resources to ascertain the innermost thoughts of travellers are accessible to researchers. What were the incomers’ impressions of their new address? How different was the climate? How lonely was it having children away from home villages? Were the sharks, spiders and snakes as dangerous as feared? This lecture, concentrating on the 1860s passengers to the new colony of Queensland, will encompass shipboard diaries, both of passengers and surgeons superintendent, on board newspapers, a few letters home, government reports and newspaper articles on arrival. Be bold and courageous, come and sail these Waves in Time. (See in program.)

Topic: Wait, I Can Map That?
Speaker: Liesl Harrold

Maps can be used to understand the location of a town, a suburb or a street. While this function is vital, they can also be used to understand social contexts such as migration patterns, socio-economic conditions and cultural identity. This presentation will summarise the components of a map, including elements such as scale, date and spatial layers, to help understand and use them.

Participants will be shown how to cite a map in their research. Some of the uses of a map in displaying historical information will then be demonstrated with the view of inspiring participants to include more spatial information in their historical writings.

Specifically, this presentation will include overlaying thematic maps, plotting journeys, and highlighting land parcels. Creating customised maps, including using Google Earth Pro, will be briefly discussed but due to time constraints and the technical skills required, a step by step demonstration will not be done (See in program.)

Topic: Tips & Tricks for Beginners: Avoid some Common Mistakes
Speaker: Shauna Hicks

Tips & Tricks For Beginners: just starting your family history journey, then come along and avoid some common mistakes. (See in program.)

Topic: Convict Women Ride the Waves
Speaker: Dr Lynne Hume

This presentation reflects on the convict women and their children transported to Australia in the early days of colonising. It will focus on the physical and social hardships these women faced and the ways they dealt with them.

Three major ‘waves’ on their arduous journey included:

      1. the crimes that warranted incarceration, and conditions in gloomy Newgate Prison, London;
      2. life on board the overcrowded, unsanitary transportation ships;
      3. their arrival in a strange new land and their imprisonment in the Female Factories.

These women had three choices: to comply and wait out sentences of from seven to fourteen years, to find a husband, or to escape. As we follow these possibilities, we touch upon the women’s economic strategies for staying alive and the history and events that brought about social change. Research methodologies will also be discussed.

To survive required a quality of resilience that is thought of as characteristically Australian: the ‘Aussie battler’. (See in program.)

Topic: Using Google For Family and Local History
Speaker: Milli Kafcaloudis

A free Google account can be useful for individuals and groups world wide with 15 Gb of free storage Google will give you ample space to take it for a test run.

Build Google websites for free on Google Sites
Use Google Photos to create online digital backups in the Cloud – collaborate with family and other groups
Google Keep – keep track of your research wherever you can access the Internet
Google Drive – take advantage of one of the most powerful search engines available
Google Maps & Google Earth – both will link with your research
Google Docs, Sheets, Slides – create family history resources and manage recording and indexing projects

Share your family history via your own website or just from Google Drive for family and groups – you will be amazed at the things you can do for free. (See in program.)

Topic: Writing and Publishing Memoirs and Biographies Seminar
Speaker: Dan Kelly

Unfortunately, many retirees pass on without their children and grandchildren really knowing who they really are. We had a very short time with our children. For many retirees their children left home in their teenage years or early twenties. Parents were so busy nurturing; there was little time to tell their story.

We see many biographies and memoirs of “famous” and infamous people, but very few of the ordinary Australians who live not only unique lives, but in many cases, fascinating lives. The now retiring baby boomers and their parents have lived in incredibly interesting times – WWII and the aftermath, rock n’ roll, the sexual revolution of the 60s, Vietnam War and political demonstrations, the introduction of computers, mobile phones and much more.

This seminar provides everyone the opportunity to think about the process of writing his or her own memoir or biography. It includes the processes of evaluating your life and presenting it in an enjoyable, readable structure.

In addition, the publishing process is covered depending on the chosen market for your book. (See in program.)

Topic: The Paisley Emigration Society and How It Shaped Queensland’s History
Speaker: Jacqui Kirkman

In the Scottish summer of 1862, Jacqui’s great-great-grandfather sat with other members of the Paisley Emigration Society and debated the relative merits of emigration to Queensland and Canada. Many of the members of the society were textile workers down on their luck because of grim economic conditions. The society had previously existed in the 1820s and 1840s and now its third incarnation came into being in 1862. Some members did migrate to Canada and some ended up in Queensland, arriving on three ships in 1863.

Jacqui’s presentation will explore the obstacles in the way of the prospective migrants, how they settled on Queensland as their destination, the journey, and the fortunes of some immigrants after their arrival. These families became the backbone of a number of Queensland towns, Maryborough in particular, but also spread further afield and individually and collectively their descendants have influenced the development of Queensland and Australia. These societies existed in other English and Scottish towns as well so their stories represent the stories of many. (See in program.)

Topic: After the War
Speaker: Dr Marion Mackenzie

What happened in local communities in the immediate aftermath of world War I? How did residents respond to those who returned from battle, while grieving those who did not? What efforts were made to care for the injured and those suffering from respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis? Who cared for the widows and children? How did the influenza pandemic impact the local area? What organisations emerged from these conditions? How did they operate? What other changes were taking place in society at the time that affected local government, education, sport, recreation and social activities? What role did women play?

Using examples from an area of Brisbane covering five suburbs, the Oxley-Chelmer History Group will share how it intends to research and document events from 1919 to 1929. The session is intended to be one of sharing knowledge of the sources available in libraries, archives, organisations and family histories.

Members of other societies will be invited to contribute ideas for suitable publications, exhibitions, events or collections. (See in program.)

Topic: Family Search
Speaker: Paul Parton

This presentation will be an introduction to FamilySearch’s rich collection of records from more than 120 countries which are being digitised and placed online at more than a million records a day. The presentation will demonstrate how to use this free website and will cover the most recent changes, record collections, innovations and future pathway of FamilySearch at the time of the conference. (See in program.)

Topic: The Girl in the Photograph
Speaker: Niles Elvery

When we discuss an object held within the collection of Queensland State Archives we pride ourselves on knowing, of being an expert on that object. However, what of those objects that have inadvertently found themselves in our collection? What of those objects that we know little about?

The talk will share the detective story that emerged when a family photo album was recently discovered within QSA’s collection. A message in a bottle, whose monochromatic glimpses covered the early part of the 20th century, and a journey that spanned Siberia, China and Brisbane. We wanted to understand who the people were in the album; the life they might have led; the worldwide events, from war to migration, that had impacted their lives.

And we wanted to find out what had happened to the girl in the photograph.

And could we find her relatives today?

The talk will share the experience of this journey; discuss the story of the lives of those in the album; and how far along the journey of reuniting family with album we have come. (See in program.)

Topic: Reviewing Your Research – Or How to Get Past that Roadblock in Your Tree
Speaker: Michelle Patient

Brick walls and roadblocks can be found in most family trees. Many of us leave these branches to one side for “later” or decide to just stop looking at them altogether. Returning to these road blocks and reviewing the previously gathered evidence with fresh eyes, often helps us to move past or around these barriers.

Over time we have learnt more about genealogy research, hence it is well worth revisiting our early work to see if any resources have been missed or if new records have become available. Maybe you are not sure what sort of evidence to gather or where it might be available? Michelle will provide a checklist to help.

Revisiting our research, along with access to newly available records and data, can provide new leads to follow which often results in opening up new branches to include in our ever-growing family trees. Michelle will discuss all this and more, while covering the benefits of reviewing your research. (See in program.)

Keynote Topic: North Brisbane Burial Ground – Solving a Mystery
Dr Jon Prangnell

The North Brisbane Burial Ground (1843-1875) was the first cemetery of free settlement Brisbane and it became the resting place of between five and ten thousand people. As part of the redevelopment of the site into Suncorp Stadium an archaeological salvage excavation was conducted that disinterred the remains of 397 individuals.

The burial registers were lost over a century ago and the remains were far too degraded for DNA analysis so it was not possible to identify any of the remains. However, a very small item found in one of the coffins was the catalyst for a journey that involved extensive forensic archaeological, archival and family history research to identify the remains of one of those early settlers. (See in program.)

Topic: Using for Family History & an Introduction to AncestryDNA +Q&A
Speaker: Jason Reeve

Have you heard of Why should you use it? How can you find the help you need to overcome obstacles with your research and where does AncestryDNA fit in to the picture? Join Jason Reeve,’s Content Acquisition Manager for Australia and New Zealand as he explains using Ancestry, taking an AncestryDNA test and discovering your own family history. (See in program.)

Keynote Topic: Sure a man can find his way home: Signposts and Treasures in the Family Papers
Speaker: Dr Richard Reid

Things left by my parents – object, documents and miscellaneous fragments of personal memory – cast small shafts of light on the past experiences of family members in Ireland and beyond. To recover these people from the mountains of public archives and other sources would have required a lifetime of labour that I would never have embarked on.

But from the surviving family bits and pieces, mostly dating from c.1800, connecting them with now more easily available records, I have glimpsed some personal stories of love and death, of social change and emigration, of war and of some small portion of all that went on the complex, and largely unknowable lives of these recent ancestors. It has been a personal journey of discovery that takes me to somewhere I once called ‘home’. (See in program.)

Topic: When Charles 1 came to Bowning Public School and Mrs Thompson was Queen for a day in Yass – finding personal stories in local history collections
Speaker: Dr Richard Reid

… there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. So said Ratty in Wind in the Willows. I would transpose his words to read: … there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in archives.

For years I have had the privilege of being able to mess around in what is undoubtedly a most significant local archive collection in New South Wales. It has been lovingly put together by volunteers over nearly 40 years and its loss to the region would be tragic. What enchants me there is the way personal experiences and stories lie hidden in dozens of boxes, filing cabinets and map drawers, stories that intersect with so many local, state, national and international aspects of Australia’s history. The challenge is to bring these narratives of forgotten people and events to audiences less engaged by the traditional ways in which local history societies, even national museums, have approached archival material. This presentation is simply a start in that direction. (See in program.)

Topic: Lost Records Hurt Historians
Speaker: Dr Jonathan Richards

Good family and local history depends on adequate regional and national history, but the work of historians can be very difficult if records are missing.

Records may simply not have survived. In Queensland, flood, fire and cyclones destroyed letters, photographs and other precious historical material. Records were not only deliberately destroyed. Some were stolen. William Gall, a senior public servant, died in 1938. His collection of ‘historical papers’, mostly “collected” when he was a government employee, were found beneath his house. Returned to government custody as the ‘Gall Estrays’, they continue to remind us that the records we need to write worthwhile family, local and regional history, may sometimes prove elusive. (See in program.)

Topic: “Lost” Lists of the 1860s’ Immigrants to Queensland
Speaker: Stephanie Ryan

After Separation from NSW in December 1859, the Queensland Government keenly promoted immigration to the new State successfully. Unfortunately, many lists from the 1860s’ wave of immigration were lost in floods of the 1890s. However, there are alternative sources which name these 1860s’ immigrants.

This session will look at these options and what they reveal. The starting point for many researchers is the main immigration index on the State Archives website Assisted immigration 1848-1912. For the 1860s there are also useful records at the National Archives of Australia, the Eric and Rosemary Kopittke series Emigrants from Hamburg 1860-1869, and over fifty newspaper lists of nominated immigrants (particularly useful when the registers are otherwise unavailable).

Additionally, there are compilations in booklets and other records which link the names of some immigrant ships with arrival dates and passenger names. There are also lists identifying groups of passengers who disembarked and were registered in NSW but who travelled on to Queensland. Other overlooked lists, although not digitised, are publicly available. (See in program.)

Topic: Some Practicalities and Pitfalls in Compiling Torres Strait Islander Genealogies
Speaker: Dr Anna Shnukal

This presentation discusses the practicalities of how, when, where, who, what and why of compiling Torres Strait Islander genealogies today. It includes information on where to find records; when and by whom they were created; how to interpret them; and what they reveal about Islander kinship networks and significant historical events. It also deals with some pitfalls in compiling accurate family trees, chief among them the unique identification of individuals from multiple sources.

Having been privileged to compare family stories from Torres Strait Islander and Cape York Aboriginal elders with written documents, I have compiled over 1250 family databases from the 1830s through the 1940s. I argue that only through genealogical research can we understand the relationships between individuals, families, clans and place in Torres Strait – relationships which have continued to influence the history of the Torres Strait/Cape York Peninsula region and, therefore, of Queensland more broadly. (See in program.)

Topic: DNA: What it can do for your Genealogical Research
Speaker: Helen V Smith

DNA testing has come into the mainstream as a genealogical research tool. Want to learn more about how it can be used to enhance your genealogical research? Just doing a DNA test can give fantastic information depending on who has already tested and is present in the database.

However, to answer specific research questions, to shed light on a family mystery or break down a specific brick wall you need to consider a number of things. Things such as what is the best DNA test for your specific question, who should be tested and how do you maximise your testing dollar? These are all important parts of your DNA Research Strategy. (See in program.)

Topic: Trove and other National Library Newspaper Treasures
Speaker: Shannon Sutton

The National Library is responsible for preserving the memory of Australia through its rich and diverse collection of documentary heritage. Family Historians make up approximately 30% of the Library’s users, with amateur and expert genealogists making use of our collections both within the Library building and increasingly online.

The Newspapers and Family History team respond to well over 1,000 written enquiries each year, sent to the Library not just from within Australia but from all over the world. The team is also responsible for developing and delivering popular learning programs – both at the Library as well as online through our new webinar service – on an array of subjects including Researching the history of your house, Using government gazettes, and Trove newspapers for family history. (See in program.)

Topic: Who Wants My Work?
Speaker: Barbara Toohey

You know the years of paper printouts will end up in the bin! The organised folders will follow soon after and the backup disks and USBs will never be looked at. What should you do? Let’s look at some possible answers in this presentation.

Getting rid of the paper, publishing your research. Are you finishing that book or are you focusing on a digital solution?

Can you leave your research papers to the Library in your will? Which Library? What about your local Society? What happens to the various documents then? Are they resourced to deal with it?

What are some online options? A brief discussion of the main alternatives, including looking at estate planning for your online presence. What can or should be deleted when you are no longer around and who can access all your online logins?

Who wants my work? You all do! How do I make it available?

Find out my own decisions and some of the challenges I’m meeting to make it a reality. (See in program.)

Topic: Telling Your Immigrant Ancestors’ Stories
Speaker: Sharn White

This presentation highlights the importance of seeking, telling and preserving the stories of our immigrant ancestors. She will outline ways to tell a meaningful story about your immigrant ancestor and demonstrate methods of storytelling both written and oral.

She will outline the essential components of an immigrant ancestor’s story, using several of her Queensland immigrants as examples and share websites which can help publish or share immigrant stories.

The telling of stories of immigrant ancestors is important to remaining connected to our own heritage and understanding where our own immigrant ancestors fit within Queensland’s and Australia’s immigration history.

Our identity comes from the places of our immigrant ancestors, their cultures, traditions, religious affiliations, foods and lifestyles.

Our heritage of family remembrances is passed from one generation to the next through the telling of stories. When people immigrate that heritage of remembrances that connect us to past people and places can be discontinued.

When immigrant stories are in danger of being lost, family historians can be the voice of immigrant ancestors and tell and share their stories. (See in program.)

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