Monday, 27 February 2017

Point of no return

University of Tasmania Family History course - Writing Family History

Assessment Task 2: Write a short narrative focussing on one person, place time or event from your family history.
Word limit 1,000 words.

Point of no return

One silly mistake changed my life. It should have been easy. Just cut a hole in the window, retrieve as many items as possible, then take the goods to the Benjamin house.

When Mrs Benjamin suggested the idea to the three of us we jumped at the opportunity to earn a little money. Finding a job was not an easy task. For three years I worked for Henry Jacobs learning about glass, including how to cut glass with a diamond. But once I turned fifteen I was out on the street looking for work once more.  

The chosen time was six o’clock on Friday evening, 8 December 1798 to be exact. A date I will not forget. Being winter, it was totally dark as sunset was before four o’clock. Most people were indoors, especially in this Jewish community where the Sabbath was usually strictly observed. It was unlikely that we would be noticed. Cutting a hole in the window with a diamond rather than breaking the glass would also reduce the chance of anyone hearing us. 

What could go wrong?

I cut the glass and reached through the hole to collect items to pass to the other two lads who were my accomplices. It all went well until I misjudged the opening in the glass and cut my hand. There was blood everywhere. The other two disappeared into the night but I decided to finish the job. Taking as many items as I could carry I hurried to the Benjamin house as planned.

Mrs Benjamin ran a lodging house and I rushed upstairs to hide the items in the designated spot. I then set out to find Mrs Benjamin. When she saw my cut hand she cursed as she bandaged it quickly in an old, not too clean, shawl and told me to hurry to the hospital.

I managed to make my way to the river, crossed the bridge and finally arrived at Guy’s Hospital. My hand was cut in several places and there was a lot of blood on the shawl. I was in bed in a room with many other people when a constable arrived to arrest me. Mrs Benjamin had told him where I had gone.

Someone must have seen me leave Mr Holmes’ shop and followed me to the house where most of the stolen items were found. The constable asked me how I cut my hand and I told him that I had had a fall when crossing London Bridge. The teapot I was carrying broke when I fell and I cut my hand. He did not believe me.

When I arrived at the hospital I hid the one card of lace that I kept under the mattress. I did not see it again.

Newgate Prison was a dismal place. Although the prison building had recently been rebuilt, for those of us incarcerated within these walls it was dreary, crowded and dirty. And then there was the noise and the smell… So many people crowded together in unsanitary conditions. I was used to crowds in the streets and laneways in Whitechapel. I was used to living in crowded lodgings. But in here there was no escape from people. Occasionally we were allowed out in the prison courtyard for a short time and no matter what the weather it was good to have some fresh air. Food in the prison was also an issue. Prisoners with money were given better treatment and food while the rest of us had to exist on the slops provided.

It took a while for my family to find out what had happened and where I was.  My father visited me but I did not know what to say. We did not know what would happen to me but the future did not look good.

I had been in prison for a month when one morning a group of us was called to go to court. We were taken down a narrow passage connecting the prison to a dingy, crowded room beneath the court where we waited to be summoned.

The courtroom was a different world compared to the prison. The room was huge and from the high ceiling hung four chandeliers. I had never seen anything like it. I was told to stand where everyone could see me. Mrs Benjamin was there too.  A mirror was angled to reflect daylight on my face. During the trial there were lots of people talking about what had happened at Mr Holmes’ shop, at the Benjamin house and at the hospital.  They asked a lot of questions. When I was asked about events I said, 'I know nothing at all of it'.

Kitty Jacobs and three other witnesses were called to testify about my character. I don’t think that they knew that Kitty is my sister. Kitty said that I was honest when I worked with her husband. 

Then the verdict was given - Guilty with Death as the penalty. I stood there shaking and was hustled back to prison.

We had all seen prisoners leave down a narrow passage leading to the gallows outside the prison, never to return. We also knew that watching a hanging was considered a public entertainment. So this was to be my fate. I as only eighteen and would lose my life because I stole a few cards of lace and some cloth.

Then my luck changed. I was to be transported to another country for the rest of my life. I knew I would never see my family again but I was to be given a second chance.

Another year and the prison gates are closed behind us. Chains on, we are loaded into a cart. Our destination is a hulk in Portsmouth. Eventually a ship will take us to the other side of the world with no hope of returning to England, home.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Rosemount 2017

Why have a family history blog? 
 
It is amazing the contacts that can be made and additional information gained when people locate your blog posts in a Google search. 
Original Rosemount homestead
Yesterday I received a message from a Queensland real estate agent who is selling a property owned by my family in the 1950s and early 1960s. She had discovered my blog posts about Rosemount (from 2013) when searching online for information about the property and thought that I might be interested in seeing pictures of the property today. 
Out-buildings near the Homestead
Obviously there have been many changes to the property in the past 60 years. Some of the land has been sold, the old barn has gone to be replaced by a more modern building, the water tanks are much more substantial and do not look as if they will blow off the stand during a cyclone. However the original homestead, with alterations, still stands with newer accommodation built nearby.
Mount Archer
There are many images provided in the information about the property including some providing a 360 degree view. 
Neurum Creek - where we used to swim
There is also a map of the land of the current property.
Looking at the images brought back many happy memories of a child spending family holidays on my grandparents' farm.
 
If Annette from Cloud Real Estate had not found the blog posts and contacted me I would possibly not have had the opportunity to see what the property looks like today. Needless to say I have shared the link with other family members who may remember time spent at Rosemount.
 
The link to the real estate blog - http://cloudre.com.au/rosemount/

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Looking after special items in collections

For Christmas my family provided the money for me to order, from Archival Survival, some polypropylene boxes, polyethelyne bags, acid free card, photo hinges, tissue and labels to begin storing some of the special items in my family history collection.

The first project was to safely house copies of the Argus newspaper from the early to middle 1950s, some copies of the Australian Women's Weekly published around the time of the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956 plus a few copies of the new Smith's Weekly which made a short reappearance in the 1968. My father was a sports journalist on The Argus until its closure in January 1957 so the newspapers, especially the articles in the years leading up to the staging of the Olympic Games in Melbourne, are an important part of his story.
I already had a few large polypropylene map bags that I had acquired for another project - not enough for individual newspapers - but I was able to store similar newspapers in bags. The newspapers in the bags are now stored in a large A2 polypropylene newspaper box.
I purchased one A2 box for the newspapers but also purchased five A4 boxes for other collection items. A label holder is attached to the outside of the box indicating the main contents of the box. In time a contents list of items in the box will also be prepared.
The first project with the smaller boxes was to safely store items relating to my father and World War II. One of the objects was a wallet that I used for one of the projects in Image, Place, Object, one of the subjects in the University of Tasmania Family History course. A copy of the piece that I wrote about the wallet can be found in my Exploring Military History blog. This post describes some of the other items now stored in this box.

The wallet, dog tags and negative wallet were wrapped in acid free tissue paper. Ephemera such as tickets were housed separately in small polyethelyne bags from another project as were telegrams and correspondence. Fragile items were supported by acid free card.
My father helped write the book, White Over Green, the history of the 2/4th Battalion. A collection of photographs was sourced for this project and Dad kept a few of them which have now been attached to acid free card with acid free photo corners. When information about the image is known I have added this in pencil. The sheets of photos are stored in polyethelyne sleeves and then placed in the box.

Project 2 will be to store other material relating to my father including his involvement on the Publicity Committee for the Melbourne Olympic Games and the the 1956 Olympic Games in general. The other three boxes will be used for storing material relating to other major family history projects I have recently researched. I will then need to order additional boxes and supplies from Archival Survival - maybe the family can fund this project for my birthday.

NB: If you have problems assembling the polypropylene boxes leave them in the sun for a short time, which makes them more pliable, and then assemble them. Apparently a hairdryer on low can also help, though I have not tried this.

Social media for family history part 2

When I recently ran a social media for seniors session at the library we discussed a number of well known social media sites that people may be interested in. As the session progressed it was obvious that most of the social media sites have common features. Once you are aware of these it should be relatively easy to navigate a social media site. The examples below are from Facebook but the features can be located on most social media sites.
To use most of these features you will first need to sign up to the social media site.
Posts not only provide information but also provide readers the opportunity to comment often adding to discussion.
Readers can like a post
Comment on a post or
Share a post
 There is a box beneath the post where you can write a comment and / or add an image.
You will also find a box allowing you to write a new post and add a photo or video.
In Facebook, once you start writing a post additional features appear including the Post button to post the message.
There is also usually a search box so that you can search for pages or groups of interest.
Some pages or groups allow you to search for specific content. Some groups also allow you to search for topics of posts of group members.

Enjoy exploring some of the social media sites mentioned in the previous post and determine how they may assist with local and family history research.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Social media for family history

For work I am preparing a presentation introducing social media to seniors. Although the presentation will deal with social media in general, social media can be a useful aid for family history research. This blog post therefore provides a brief introduction to social media for family history research but the principles apply for using social media for any topic.

What is social media?
Social media can be defined as 'websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking [Oxford dictionaries]. Social media is about sharing and communicating. This includes communicating with friends, family, peers, or just people with the same interests with you. Social media is particularly useful for the sharing of information within an interest group.
 Examples of social media sites include Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest, blogs, podcasts and communication sites such as Skype.

Social media for connecting with people and organisations.

Facebook
Facebook is the largest and possibly best known social media site. It can be used to keep track of friends and family. It allows family and friends to keep up to date with activities and it allows communication between people of similar interests.

In August last year I gave a presentation on using Facebook for Family History Research. This link will take you to a brief summary of that talk plus a selected list of Facebook pages that may be helpful when researching family history.

Twitter
Twitter is an online news and social networking service where users post and read short messages of not more than 140 characters. Twitter is a blend of instant messaging, blogging and texting but with brief content and a very broad audience. Many organisations, including libraries and archives, have Twitter accounts where they promote or comment on events, resources or news items. Twitter also allows users to follow people of interest using Twitter to communicate their views.

Twitter is also often used by participants and speakers at conferences to promote and comment on papers and events. Twitter users the # symbol (hashtag) at such events so that tweets concerning the conference or activity can be grouped and easily accessed. An example is the Roots Tech 2017 conference where  #rootstech is the official hashtag though #rootstech2017 is also used. @rootstechconf is the user name sign for the conference.

Sharing media

YouTube
YouTube is a free video sharing website that makes it easy to view and upload videos online. You will find a wide range of vidoes on almost any topic on YouTube.

Anyone can search for topics on YouTube. For example searching for terms such as 'genealogy' or genealogy and family history research' produces a list of 'how to' videos that may be useful, particularly for those starting out in their search for their family history. Of course you can also search for specific subjects such as 'First Fleet Australia' or 'Convicts Australia' or names of people and places. Have fun and investigate.

Flickr
Flickr is a photo sharing resource where you can view and share images. If you want to upload photos to Flickr you must open an account. Uploaded photos can be shared with the world or just to a selected group

If you upload an image additional information and comments can be added to the image.Selected images can be added to albums created by the owner of the images. Links to an album or an individual image can be sent in an email to those who may be interested.

Group boards can be set up on Flickr relating to a theme. You can search for and locate images on almost any topic on Flickr.

Pinterest
Pinterest describes itself as 'the world's catalogue of ideas'. Users of Pinterest create a 'board' and then 'pin' relevant items to the board. The boards on Pinterest are classified into broad subjects which can be a starting point for searching Pinterest. You can also search for specific subjects such as 'Trove Tuesday' or a place such as 'Bath Somerset' or a building 'Westminster Abbey London'.

PC Magazine article 'How to use Pinterest for beginners'

Blogs
The word blog is a truncation of web log. A blog consists of a series of articles called posts.In some cases it may act as a person's journal or diary. It can be used to express a person's thoughts or passiona in general or may be confined to one topic. Blogs are often used for publishing information about your family history. The use of labels is a useful way for connecting posts on a simialr theme.

Blogs are regularly updated and posts are arranged with the most recent post first. A person who writes a blog is called a blogger. Blogs can be set up so that more than one person can add posts to a blog. Blog posts can be made anywhere provided that there is an Internet connection. People can comment on blog posts and if there is a contact box they can contact the blogger directly.

The two main blogging sites are Blogger and Word Press.

There are many blogs useful for researching genealogy and family history and a list of selected sites is provided elsewhere in this blog. Typing a name in inverted commas followed by the word, blog, in a Google search can help locate information about people and places in blogs.

Podcasts
A podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device. Typically podcasts are available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. Podcasts can often be downloaded via a subscription service such as itunes. In some cases they can be downloaded directly from a website. Podcasts are normally free. Search Google for free podcasts on any topic. A search for 'genealogy podcasts free' provided this list on Google.

Social Media for Communicating
Communicating with other people is an important feature of the Internet.
Email is now accepted as the accepted method of communication.
Text or Instant Messaging is another communication method used by a growing number of people.
The Internet also allows people to use Voice Chat and Video Chat to communicate with family, friends and for business. Voice Chat and Video Chat are sometimes used for providing information to a group, perhaps a lecture on a genealogy topic.

There are a number of ways voice chat and video chat sessions can be conducted via the Internet. Skype (owned by Microsoft) and Face Time (Apple) are two programs used by individuals to contact people from home.

Skype
To use instant messaging, voice and video chat you will need an Internet connection and a broadband account with an Internet Service Provider. To use Skype you will also need to download Skype from the Skype website and set up an account with Skype. People you wish to communicate with also need to set up Skype accounts. If the computer does not have an inbuilt  microphone or webcam these will be needed for voice and video chats.

The Help feature on the Skype website provides information for using Skype on different devices. When you search Help it automatically knows the type of device you are using.

It is important to remember that while Skype to Skype calls are free, there are charges if a call is made to normal phone.

For family history research, Skype and similar programs can be useful if you want to interview a family member or discuss a project with family members.

Another program for voice and video chats and instant messaging is Google Hangouts.No additional computer software is required to use Google Hangouts.

Other Social Media Sites that are often mentioned

Instagram
Instagram is an online mobile photo sharing site allowing users to share pictures and videos on the app as well as via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. 
Link to a useful article on How to Use Instagram.

Google+
Google+ is a social networking site similar to Facebook. However it allows you to set up Circles of friends rather than one large group. It also has a section for Collections.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social networking tool specifically for the business community. LinkedIn aims to help people build a professional identity online as well as discover professional opportunities.

Tumblr
Tumblr is a microblogging tool enabling you to publish short posts containing images, text, audio and video. Tumblr posts are much shorter than traditional blog posts.

Tech Savvy Seniors provides useful information on social media and how to use social networking tools.