Learning to be a Family Historian

In August last, I (we) went to Hobart for the first time in 33 years; last time, it was one night, this time two nights (or sort of – two and a half). The trip logistics were a nightmare; starting three days before departure, every day saw a flight cancellation until the day before we came home. And then, we flew into Darwin just in time for lockdown announcement and in the frenetic atmosphere aboard the plane, I left my iPad behind.

Still, we had a spare and free day in Hobart and achieved an ambition of curried scallop pie – two, in fact. A big shout out to the Old Wool Store Apartment Hotel: nice place to stay, great bar, and a superb restaurant with fantastic food. We also had a pleasant day and two nights in Adelaide with our daughter and her hubby.

The reason for the Hobart trip? To attend the University of Tasmania graduation ceremony and receive my Diploma of Family History. Starting out in July 2019, I completed the course in two years. The subjects undertaken were:

  • Introduction to Family History
  • Convict Ancestors
  • The Photo Essay
  • Convicts in Context
  • Families at War
  • Writing Family History
  • Oral History
  • Migrant Families
End Goal

The least enjoyable module? The Photo Essay – and this is disappointingly problematic for a (still) fledging Blogger to confess. I felt the goalposts kept shifting during the course and the marking of my final effort a tad unfair. Convicts in Context was the most challenging in an academic sense but the most useful to instil research method and discipline.

Families at War and Writing Family History were the most enjoyable modules. The former was an opportunity to expand on my knowledge of Fred Sexton. I have been researching him for some time, and Fred Sexton: From the Trenches to the Air covers just the first World War I phase. Posts and papers about Fred’s between the wars adventures and his World War II career are to follow. Writing Family History gave me the opportunity and challenge to write in a descriptive non-fiction style about my third cousin (once removed) in Elva Trevelion: Through Falling France. I have blogged about Elva before; see Elva Trevelion – An Untold Story from Trove | njsfamilyhistoryresearch (My apologies for the missing images; something happened in the intervening 7 years since the original post.)

 It was only in Oral History that I was able to engage with Chinese-Australian history. I am still finally completing transcribing the second interview; it is nearly three hours, and there is no doubt about it; transcribing is a laborious process. Dr Kate Bagnall assumed the role of Senior Lecturer halfway through the course; Kate is one of Australia’s premier Chinese-Australian historians.

My few followers will note that already I have used a couple of my essays as posts on this Blog, and a couple more will follow. What did I learn? I think there is improvement in my writing, although that will always remain a challenge. As for research method and research discipline? Well, yes, but the active word is ‘discipline’:  self-discipline!

About njsresearch6

I have lived in the Northern Territory most of my life, although raised in Western Australia. Memberships include the NT Genealogical Society (Committee), Australian Museum and Gallery Association (NT Chapter Committee), and Chung Wah Society (NT Chinese Museum Coordinator).
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