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Showing posts from 2015

Yet another blog post about Ancestry's decision to retire Family Tree Maker.

The big news today being talked about on social media by pretty much everyone involved in genealogy is the announcement by Ancestry about the end of Family Tree Maker.

It's not the most popular of decisions, and as the day progresses the levels of anger are increasing.

I was at first surprised by the news. I received the email from Ancestry at around midnight Paris time and spent about 5 minutes wondering what I will do with my genealogical research in the future before I remembered that I actually run two pieces of genealogy-specific software, and have the information in these also saved in other formats (.doc, .xls, etc).

I stopped worrying about myself and my own research - knowing I will still be able to save my research if I am working offline (I also use Family Historian).

Roll around to this morning and I find myself thinking about this more (thanks to coffee, the neurons are firing and I can actually form coherent arguments and questions) and the impact of this decision is hug…

A-studying we will go

I like to think of myself as relatively widely read, somewhat intelligent and borderline academic. The reality is I can easily become obsessed by a book/books/journals/articles/other ready-type things, I am probably more smartarse than smart and have delusions of grandeur when it comes to my academic capabilities.

I like writing, but I'm not a prolific or fluid author. My writing is a lot like my thoughts - random, haphazard, often long-winded and sometimes very confusing. Editing is difficult because I always want to move onto the next big thing. I'm definitely more of an orator. If you put me in a room in front of hundreds of people and ask me to read something or talk freely on a subject, I'm in my element. Ask me to write a paper of tens of thousands of words and I'll attack it with gusto, but will probably lose steam some point around the 35% mark, get frustrated and end up handing in something that probably could have been a lot better.

So, why in the hell am I now…

WWI - Olaf Milford Johanson - The Enlistment

One hundred years and ten days ago, my great, great uncle Olaf Milford Johanson enlisted for service abroad with the Australian Imperial Force.



He enlisted at Claremont in the state of Tasmania, which is 26km from the town of Cambridge, where he lived. Both towns are now suburbs of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania.



He was 21 (and 1/2, by his own hand) on the date of enlistment and, thanks to the records I have, I know he was 5'9"/1m75cm tall, weighed 193lbs/86kgs and had brown hair and light brown eyes (like me!).

Under "Distinctive Marks", the following is written: "Tattoo Heart cross and anchor on right forearm. Anchor & ribbon on front of left forearm. Anchor on back of left wrist." It comes as no surprise that next to "Profession or Calling" he has written "Sailor".

Olaf was assigned the service number 3483 and initially served in the 11th Reinforcements of the 12th Batallion. (The 12th Batallion were originally raised within weeks o…

DNA - learning to expect the unexpected

This is the first part in a multi-part blog series about DNA testing and genealogy.
After 20+ years of genealogical research, I like to think I know my family history pretty well. As an Aussie, I am a big of a genealogical mongrel, or as my nan used to refer to her dog, Cindy, a “bitsa” as in “bits of this and bits of that”. It’s pretty simple, really: Lots of ScotsLots of IrishLots of EnglishA smattering of SwedesFour convicts
So I was relatively certain of the results of any genealogical DNA test I would do. I imagined it would look something like this:

When I decided to try the Ancestry DNA test, I was a bit put off by the fact that I’d need to gob into a test tube. Someone as classy and sophisticated as me simply does not spit, regardless of the scientific results. But for the sake of science, history, genealogy and my own bloody curiosity I built a bridge and got over this particular wave of discomfort. (This is proof that I am actually on my way to becoming a true professional).
To b…

Organisation, shmorganisation

One thing that people who know me well will say about me is that I come across as organised, determined and singular in how I work. I know what I want, I know how I want to do it and I usually have a pretty clear plan of attack in my mind.

What people who know me really, really well will also say about me is that I am a mucky pup.

My desk at home is a total mess. Papers and books everywhere. Pens hidden under all this stuff which, of course, means I have trouble finding one and invariably end up buying another (if only to add to my ever-growing collection).


My desk at home, when tidied.
That said, I tend to know where things are. Kind of. Well, I have a rough idea of in which general physical area they can be found.

What does this mean for my genealogical research, preservation of documents, reports, and (possibly more importantly) my research plans?

Well, I'll be honest with you, it's all a bit haphazard at the moment. Having been an amateur genealogist for so long, and having done…

A Family Secret Resolved

(This post is a follow-on from this one)

The prospect of phoning someone you are potentially related to and announcing that their grandfather had an illegitimate child is, to say the least, rather daunting.

I sat in my living room, phone in hand, papers strewn around me, rehearsing what I would say. "Hi, so uhmmm, I think we're related". No, no. That's too blunt and too vague. "What do you know about your grandfather's activities before he married your grandmother?" Ugh, too clinical and cold. "So did you know your grandfather went and got some girl knocked up?" Ugh, no, no no no no no. "I'm really not trying to ruffle feathers, but the evidence I have strongly points to your grandfather having been with a woman called Catherine Robertson before his marriage and, as a result, being the birth father of my grandfather". Yes, that's as good as it gets.

Geoffrey Hartley Crawford (R) with his (adoptive) parents Henry and Sophie Crawf…

A Family Secret (or, How I Learned To Tread Carefully When Doing Certain Research)

I have a big family.

If I count my parents, step-parents, half-brother and sister, my step-brothers and sister, their partners (and their children) plus my grandparents then we're up to twenty-two people. Add cousins, uncles, second cousins and the like (and their children, partners, etc), and we're inching close to one hundred people.

Most of my large extended family is on my father's side as my mother is an only child. Born in 1953 to Geoff and Anita Crawford, she didn't encounter a large family until she married my father. I've not asked her how she dealt with that, but knowing my mum, she took it in her stride, rolling her eyes at all the quirks that come with large families.

Her parents also came from small families. My grandmother, Anita, was also an only child and my grandfather, Geoff, had one sister. She has cousins, who I never knew as they lived in Queensland as we in Victoria, but all in all - small family was the way of the Crawfords.

In the 1980s, my gran…

Concerning Convicts

A much-loved go-to pseudo insult of Australians by the English is "convict" or, if they're feeling particularly nasty, "crim". I am here to declare once and for all - calling us "convict" is not insulting. In fact, we love it.

No, really, we absolutely loooooooooove our collective convict heritage and, as a genealogist, there is nothing better than finding a convict in my family tree or the tree of someone for whom I am doing research.

The BBC series Banished has rekindled an interest in the plight of convicts sent to Australia, a place which is often referred to in the series as a "godforsaken corner of the world". This is just unfair. Sure, they landed at Botany Bay (original name Stingray Harbour, but changed out of respect to Steve Irwin[1]) but it's not the fault of Captain Arthur Phillip that he chose to land in what would become Sydney. Had he simply persevered further south, he would have been able to land in what would become Melb…

Genea-what-ogy?

Oh look another genealogy blog. What's different about this one? For the moment, not much, it's quite empty. Unlike my family tree. A couple of thousand people (including extended family) and counting.

In October I will begin postgraduate studies with the University of Strathclyde in Genealogy, Palaeography and Heraldry. As I move from being an amateur genealogist to (hopefully) a professional genealogist, I would like to document my experience. While I feel I have a lot of experience in researching family history, as my studies progress I am certain that my methodology and understanding of documents and processes will change.

Hopefully, it will make for interesting reading.

So, why does a customer support manager with 15+ years professional experience decide to change career so extremely?

Well, as with all (good) stories - Once upon a time...


When I was 14 years old, I snuck into my grandmother's bedroom, rooted around under her bed, and withdrew an old tattered suitcase that …