FHDU 2022 - Family History Down Under

23rd November 2022
By Michele Rainger
Personal reflections on an informative, motivating and very social week of conferencing

FHDU 2022 - Family History Down Under

38 speakers from overseas and Australia

90 presentations and workshops

And not one, but two, conference dinners.

Which ones to attend? These were the choices facing those of us who travelled to Castle Hill in NSW for FHDU 2022 from 8 – 11 November.

But we did not need to worry because the face-to-face sessions delivered that week were recorded, along with additional presentations from speakers unable to make it to Australia, and are available for all registered attendees to view online up until February 2023.

After a two-year delay caused by covid, the team from FHDU hosted an event that included personal attendance for those of us preferring that option (and which allowed us to also catch up with our fellow family historians from across the country), and a virtual option for those unable to travel to Sydney for a week.

The Conference Program featured four tracks that gave participants an abundance of choice:-

1. DNA: Genetic Genealogy,

2. Researching Abroad,

3. Researching in Australia and New Zealand, and

4. Genealogical Methodology.

Not content to stick to one stream, I participated in sessions presented by a variety of speakers including: Mia Bennett (Probate and Wills) and Maurice Gleeson (DNA) from the UK; Angie Bush (DNA), Paul Milner (English and Scottish Resources) and David Rencher (Family Search and Irish Records) from the US; and Hamish Maxwell-Stewart (Convicts) and Perry McIntyre (Irish Orphan Immigration) from Australia.

But for me the most moving session was the very last one, The Rest of the Story presented by Judy Russell from the US. Judy entreated us all to look beyond the basic BDMs; to go behind the records to put people into context of time and place; and to share the stories of our ancestors for we, as family historians, are the “storytellers of the tribe”. We were all reaching for our tissues as Judy recounted fascinating and emotional tales of ordinary people who encountered and overcame extraordinary events—all discovered because researchers went looking for the stories!

Judy’s presentation dove-tailed nicely with the after-dinner address earlier in the week when Paul Milner recounted the story of a young woman who stumbled across the WW1 Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. This memorial to the missing British and South African servicemen who died in the Battles of the Somme, with no known grave, is inscribed with 72,194 names. Looking around the young lass recognised the name of a family member which unsettled her greatly. Seeing her distress the local caretaker sought to comfort her but all she could manage to utter was “Nobody Told Me”.

Needless to say I came home not only weighed down by the many books that I had bought, but also inspired and rejuvenated, keen to make some more time to do my family history research and to write it down and share it!

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