Thank You RootsWeb!

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Sometimes I have to bite my tongue again and again to refrain from an outburst but this morning I read an email that was the last straw and yes, this is an outburst.  BUT it will be a considered, thoughtful and polite outburst – I have no intention of naming and shaming anyone.  Because most of the people who make me bite my tongue probably wouldn’t subscribe to a blog site like this I may actually post a link to this blog on the List Owners Mailing List to which I’m referring.  (Gosh, the nuns at school – more than 50 years ago – would be smiling down on me for remembering ‘up with which I shall not put’!)

Back to the matter in hand.  There are some things we can look back on and reflect on ‘the good old days’.  With genealogy and technology it is sometimes much better to look forward and not complain about ‘what was’.

[Option 1] Who can remember trying to find a birth certificate (I’m talking Australian States here).  You had to come up with an actual date or as close as possible and pay for a search that was +/- n-years from that date.  Nope – you couldn’t go online and request and pay for this certificate.  You had to get a form – sometimes available through a Post Office, fill it out, include a cheque or Postal Note, and post it SNAIL MAIL to the relevant State Registry Office.  Then came the anticipation – waiting MONTHS for the envelope that either included the desired certificate or a ‘Dear John’ letter stating that it couldn’t be found.

[Option 2] Come forward a number of years and joy of joys – Microfiche INDEXES of the State BDMs.  You then had to go to a major library, record office (PROV) or larger genealogical society to search these indexes.  If you found the entry you wanted, you then had to follow the procedure above – fill out a form, post it off with your payment, (or visit the Registry Office), then wait a month or two for your certificate.

Things have progressed with a few more options in between.

[Option TODAY] For Victoria, Australia you can go to the Vic BDM Registry web site and search HISTORICAL Indexes, find the certificate you want, pay online and instantly download the certificate you wanted – fully digitised and immediate!

Which option would you prefer?

I know there are some who would still prefer to search the Digger CDs as they found them easier to search.  The problem is that the older technology Digger CDs didn’t function under new versions of Windows.  Yes, I know there are some technological work-arounds but these are outside the skill sets of the majority of people wanting to search the indexes.  The cost and effort to reproduce new versions of the Digger CDs that worked with the new version of Windows and continue to update them again and again just wasn’t a viable option.

So what has this got to do with RootsWeb – Mailing Lists, Web Sites etc.

It’s an example of some of the demands and rudeness appearing on the RootsWeb ListOwners Mailing List in response to the resurrection of the RootsWeb – they want everything they used to have but with the added advantes of today’s technology.

I won’t rehash all the history but from the mid 1990s there was a free service called RootsWeb.  It included Mailing Lists, Boards, Web Sites and various other functions.  It used emails to communicate with those subscribed and was a fantastic resource for family history and local history researchers around the world.  Personally I adminned a couple of Mailing Lists and still do.

RootsWeb was bought by Ancestry – and of course there were plenty of Ancestry critics who complained and said Ancestry would steal everything and charge us to access our own work.

What eventually happened was that the hardware and software used to run RootsWeb (on multiple different servers) became outdated and needed massive upgrades.  For some time we were without any of the RootsWeb functions.

All that has changed – RootsWeb is back up and running and is still FREE to us all.

That required new servers and new software to handle the myriad options previously available on RootsWeb.

Yes there were teething problems that were being worked on – some functions were suspended for a while as technical issues were sorted out.  They were brought back online but as you can imagine there were thousands of List, Board and Web admins wanting THEIR part of the system working the way THEY wanted.

Throw into the mix a wonderful RootsWeb / Ancestry person called Anne Mitchell.  I was in awe of the patience, clarity, support provided by Anne.  A lesser person would not have had the patience to put up with the abuse and complaints!

One of the guidelines of Admins is to ensure their area (Mailing List etc) remained polite and positive!  Unfortunately many of them didn’t apply those principles to their own behavious on the ListOwners Mailing List.

There are plenty of examples for those with access to the ListOwners Mailing List but basically some Admins DEMANDED functions that were previously available in obsolete software that was no longer available and at the same time DEMANDED new functions.  YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

I can only guess at the difficulties that Anne had keeping on top of the messages pouring into ListOwners.  Even when she asked for examples it was sometimes like bashing your head against a brick wall.

And inflammatory subject lines – wow!

It was getting impossible to find messages relating to particular topics – there were so many agressive and me-too messages.

Anne made use of newer technology – a RootsWeb Blog that would be easier to manage and allow easier searching for specific items.

Well – the abuse started on the Mailing List about the Blog – complaints, don’t want to use, etc. etc. etc.

I shudder at emails from supposedly adult list admins saying just ‘dumb idea’.

It was encouraging to see many messages saying ‘Thank you Anne’ – there should have been more.

At one stage there was a war between UK and USA users – how each looked on things differently!

When the Blog was created to make things easier there were replies such as …

Have far far too many alerts popping in daily to accept anymore.
Not joining any blog. Your list you made for announcement was enough if it
is used it hits all those people with lists. Send it the notice we will get
it. Having this n that to watch is getting overwhelmed.

Then there was a question about Web Sites – some had been reinstated but not all.  On July 3rd, Anne explained that …

You will be able to request it [web site] to have it reinstated sometime early next week.  We will publish a form to fill out.

Today – July 20th – an admin on the ListOwners Mailing List said …

Anne

It’s been two weeks.  When will the form be available?

Another Admin politely referred them to the Blogthe Form had been implemented on July 5th!

RootsWeb users and Admins – you demand things from the past and won’t accept things that are NOW and easily available.

YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

It is WONDERFUL having the Mailing Lists back again (and Web Sites etc) – there are a few issues still being sorted but they are working and all those wonderful archives are being restored – a HUGE asset for all Family History reasearchers.

Thank you Anne, RootsWeb and Ancestry.

Always check the HOME page

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Most of us have links to specific web pages that we use regularly BUT this is why it’s important to check the HOME page.

Planned outage

There is a planned outage on Saturday 7 April 2018 from 10am to 2pm due to network upgrade.

During this time you will not be able to access our online services.

We apologise for the inconvenience.

You might change your plans or times for your Family History research this weekend!

 

World ??? Day

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They say a lovely image of animals will attract people to a blog more than a boring photo or no photo at all.

This blog is about a ‘boring’ subject and has absolutely nothing to do with those adorable meerkats!

Who is responsible for World ??? Days?  Who decides what and when?  Who is responsible for maintaining THE list?  And who backs-up the list?

Have you picked up the hint?

Do you know what today / tomorrow is?

World BACKUP Day!

And if you wanted a boring image then this has to be it!

The image may be boring but the subject is SO important.  Remember how many hours you’ve spent researching and collecting your local or family history?  Can you imagine if that was all lost in a flash?

We all know of someone or heard of someone who has lost everything – hard drive failure, bushfires, floods, human errors?

They say the date is important because it’s the day before April Fool’s Day and of course no-one wants to be an April Fool.  Although it is a little difficult from the various articles to tell if World Backup Day is 31st March or 1st April.

It really doesn’t matter because in reality EVERY day is important but today is a good reminder of what you should be doing – backing up your data!

Dick Eastman reminds us at the beginning of every month to BACK UP YOUR DATA.

I was once manager of the I.T. Department of a large public hospital.  Our procedures were locked in stone – backup two copies to tape, then cycle what was called Grandfather – Father – Son backups.  We never missed and the operator signed the daily ops sheet to confirm it was done.  When the backup was completed, one set was put aside to be transported off-site so if anything happened to the computer room, mainframe, hard drives or local backups, there was always a safe copy kept off-site.

What could go wrong with such watertight procedures?

WE DIDN’T REGULARLY REVERSE THE PROCEDURE – we didn’t check restoring from the backup tapes!  We found out the hard way – when we tried to restore from backup – we found that our tape unit had a parity error which meant that for months ALL tapes were useless.

To recover the hospital’s vital database an expert had to be flown out from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania to Australia to ‘recreate’ that part of the database that was corrupted with the parity error – literally bit by bit.

Remember to regularly test that you can restore and read the files that you’ve backed up.

Today I got a new external 4 TB (terabyte) hard drive to backup my Desktop Computer, my Notebook Computer, my iPad, and my smart phone.  There are 1,024 gigabytes in a terabyte, and 1,024 megabytes in a gigabyte.  4 TB = 4,194,304 MB – that’s a LOT of room for backups.

It’s a PORTABLE Drive – it fits in a small padded zippered pouch that can travel with me or be stored elsewhere.  It’s my newest backup but I have 2 TB drives that I’ve tested restoring.

No system will be totally perfect but it’s better than nothing.

Have you backed up your precious files?  If not, DO IT NOW!

Finding records on PROV website

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PROV Simple Search 01aPeople don’t welcome change but sometimes the NEW version is better than the OLD version.  That’s the case with the updated PROV website!

There is still more to be added but it’s definitely worth using the new version.

Learn some simple steps and start to really enjoy using it!

VAFHO Family History Expo in Sale, April 2018

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Start planning NOW to get to the VAFHO Family History Expo in Sale – it’s just 2 months away so a good time to make bookings and plan your visit to Sale.

VAFHO has a web site and blog that will continue to give you updates on the Expo – the details, the speakers, the exhibitors, and anything you need to know about the Expo.

History comes alive!

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History can come alive in video even if it’s static photos.

This image is of Ocean Grove shows the main shopping strip – The Terrace – from the corner of Presidents Avenue near the bottom right up to the intersection with Hodgson Street at the top left.  The building at the top left is the Corner Store on the south east corner of The Terrace.

Watch these amazing videos of The Terrace.

More than 5 decades of research – where did it start?

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I have recently made contact with a new branch of my maternal family – the MURRAY family.  I was going to explain how it started when I realised it should really be a blog.  It’s appropriate here but even more appropriate on my AncestorArrivals blog so that’s where I posted it.  You can read the rest of the story there.

Blowing up the Milo tin !

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What?  What has that got to do with history?  Well a lot more than you think but you’ll have to be patient.  I have to set the scene, explain the background, then we’ll get to the blowing up bit.  The big problem is where to start.

I think it has to start with my darling late Dad.  He would have been 95 tomorrow – 13th December 2017.  I think about my Dad often – and ‘chat’ to him regularly.  He died far too young – back in 1989 – but in my mind he is as alive today as way back when those Milo tins were getting blown up.

But I digress – a bad habit I have.

My brother and I had a totally decadent upbringing – Dad was Production Manager of Peter’s Ice Cream and we were the official taste testers of EVERYTHING that came out of that factory.  There’s a special photo of Fussy and me in an earlier blog.  Fussy is my brother – two years older – and he was called Fussy because our surname was Fussen (French) but as a little tacker I couldn’t say ‘Graham’ – Fussy was MUCH easier to say!  And more than 60 years later he’s still called Fussy!  And of course he answers to it.

See – I said I have a bad habit of digressing!  Back to Peter’s Ice Cream.  That’s the factory in Adelaide although Dad started at Peter’s in Taree, then Grafton before the family moved to Adelaide.

The two-storey part at the front was Dad’s floor – his office, laboratory, cool room, and a view and access to the factory floor below.

Getting back to that decadent upbringing – Fussy and I would get home from school, grab our homework and run around to the factory and upstairs to Dad’s area.  What new exciting concoction had Dad created that he needed an honest opinion on?

Of course the BIG one was the Drumstick – yes, our Dad created Drumsticks.  And lemonade ice blocks and all sorts of other things.  Every kid’s fantasy!  And of course the workers at the factory also believed in spoiling the boss’s kids.  Can you image a birthday party when a team of men jogged around from the factory with a special ice cream cake for me.  Remember the little plastic dolls with a fancy ice cream skirt?  Well, the reason for the special trip from the factory – that doll was bigger than ME – I think it was my sixth birthday.

There I go – digressing again.  Drumsticks – some years ago I met my brother in Mount Gambier.  He lived in Adelaide, and still does, and I was living in Ocean Grove at the time – Mount Gambier was about half way and he was there at a Rotary Conference.  He stayed on so we could have a bit of time together.  We went down to Port Macdonnell doing the tourist bit.  We remembered we had been there on a holiday with Mum and Dad when we were quite young.  We were about to walk out on the very long jetty when Fussy yelled … WAIT!  Why?  He ran across the road and bought two drumsticks – we couldn’t reminisce about Dad without having a Drumstick!

In the early 60s we moved from the house around the corner from the factory to the house that Dad built – and he really did build most of it.  He hired the tradesmen and worked side-by-side with them every weekend until we were able to move into our first ‘real’ home in Adelaide.

OK – I’m getting to the Milo tin but this is an important part of it.  It was a two-storey house – my bedroom was the dormer window on the left and Fussy was in the one on the right.  We had our ‘wardrobes’ in the eaves of the roof and for two little tackers it was so easy to crawl from one room to the other via the built-in-wardrobes.  We rigged up a string on hooks just inside each cupboard door and attached a small cardboard letter box which we could send to and fro simply by pulling the right string.  And of course we rigged up a small bell to signal when there was mail.  Just like on your computer these days – You’ve got mail!

Back then there weren’t as many obstacles in the front yard and there was no roller door blocking the driveway – it was important to be able to run quickly from the back yard to the front yard.  YES – this is ALL relevant!

Although we’d moved further away from the factory we were still regular visitors to the tasting laboratory a number of times each week.  Dad was also the ‘ice-cream’ man for our school fetes.  He would pack up the big green canvas bags with the obligatory dry ice in the bottom.  The walls of the green bags were a good four inches thick – heavy insulation.  On top of the dry ice was a thick wad of newspaper, then the bag was chock-a-block full of Dixie Cups (ice-creams) to be sold at the school fetes.  Dad had a trailer that was loaded up at the factory with a number of canvas bags that he would then deliver to the schools.  He’d also collect the bags to go back to the factory and sometimes there were a number at home in the carport or on the back verandah.  The ice cream was all gone but that dry-ice lasted forever.

OK – I’M GETTING THERE!

Because we spent so much time roaming around the factory, in and out of the freezer rooms, and helping Dad load up the big green canvas bags, it was essential that we were taught about the dangers of dry-ice and how to handle it without burning the skin off our fingers.

OK – ARE YOU READY?  Back in the 60s we didn’t have computers and the electronic games etc that are so prevalent today.  We made our own fun and games and unless it was bucketting down we spent weekends outside.  The neighbourhood kids gathered at our place because we had the best game – and their parents were happy – as long as they could hear the explosions they knew where their kids were!

Of course these days we wouldn’t be able to blow up Milo tins – for LOTS of reasons including:

  • We wouldn’t be able to get hold of dry-ice
  • Milo tins aren’t real tins any more – they’re foil lined cardboard or thin tin – not nearly sturdy enough for our needs
  • Our game would be deemed too dangerous – no-one EVER got hurt!

It was SO MUCH FUN and we got HEAPS OF EXERCISE.

This is how the game worked.  Only Fussy and I could set up the ‘bomb’ as we were trainined in the use of dry-ice.  We knew exactly how much water to put in the milo tin and exactly what size piece of dry-ice.  We pounded the lid on so that only a really good explosion would blow it off.  We also had a little mound of sand to tilt the Milo tin at the right angle.  This was all done in the back yard so all the kids in the front yard couldn’t see what we were doing.

Then we ran like blazes to the front yard (with no roller door blocking our path), and then we waited, and waited, and waited, and then BANG.  That’s why it wouldn’t work these days – the Milo tin was STRONG so that only the lid blew off and the tin stayed intact.  The lid went flying up in the air, OVER the two-storey house, and into the waiting arms of the excited mob of kids in the front yard.  The winner was the one who caught or grabbed the lid first.  Lots of cheering and shouting.  And then we did it all over again … and AGAIN, and AGAIN, and AGAIN.

We never tired of blowing up that old Milo tin.  We sometimes stopped for lunch – a picnic lunch that Mum or one of the other mothers supplied – then it was back to blowing up the Milo tin.  All the other kids understood that you needed special training to set up the ‘bomb’.  There were never arguments about it, just the excitement of waiting to see the lid come flying over the roof of the house.

By the end of the day we were exhausted but happy and safe.  The explosions stopped and the other Mum’s knew their little darlings were on their way home.

Now do you understand why Dad’s birthday tomorrow reminded me of blowing up Milo tins?  Oh, and of course tomorrow I will be eating a Drumstick and ‘chatting’ with Dad.  And YES – this is all important history that should be recorded.  These days I have diabetes but one of the first things I worked through with my Diabetes Educator was how I could eat an occasional Drumstick without causing havoc with my blood sugar levels.

It’s a bit like making a toast with Champagne or Whiskey – in our family we make a toast with Drumsticks!

Happy Birthday Dad – love you lots.

Not sure? – ASK !

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When you’re at that stage in your research that you’re sure something should exist but you just can’t find it – sit back and think quietly and logically – and if you’re still stuck – ASK!  I’m not simply talking about asking questions on Facebook – and don’t get me wrong I personally have had a lot of success on Facebook and hopefully helped many others with their questions.

I’m talking about asking experts – and sometimes more than one expert – two or more brains are often better than one!

I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog – Ask a librarian – it’s wonderful!  And there have been many other occasions where the opportunity to ask a librarian has been an absolute gold-mine.

This time I was stuck with some land records from the Public Record Office Victoria – VPRS 460.

I also made a big MISTAKE – I didn’t read and understand the description for VPRS 460: Applications for Certificate of Title.  I merely groaned and said … “Murphy’s Law – the ones I want aren’t there!”

I had quickly read the description that said …

Note that VPRS 460/P0 units 3213 to 30298 do not exist.

I had incorrectly presumed that the FILES I wanted weren’t there whereas the description stated that the UNITS weren’t there!

If you read the description now, you could be forgiven for saying I was silly not to read the next couple of sentences which were perfectly clear.  BUT I wasn’t that silly, I’m just grateful that PROV have since updated the description in the catalogue so others don’t make the same mistake that I did.

After I ASKED for help, the verbal explanation made perfect sense … part way through the consignment [P0], they had changed the way the Application files were catalogued – initially UNITS equated to boxes which contained numerous FILES.  From Application File Number 30299, each FILE was a UNIT.

The Application files EXIST – all the ones I’d grumbled about as “missing” were there!  My big mistake – I didn’t read the Description properly and I didn’t ASK!

And why are these files so important?  The contents can be amazing.

The ACTUAL Application files are currently in the Land Titles archives at Laverton – the General Law Library for the Registrar General Office documents.  The SUPPORTING documents are at PROV.  From the PROV description of VPRS 460:

If the researcher holds a certificate of title for the piece of land, then the application number may be marked on that certificate. If present, the number may be shown with the words, for example, “derived from application number 12345”.

This series consists of the files created to record the progress of applications to bring land alienated from the Crown prior to 2 October 1862 into the Torrens system of land registration.

VPRS 460 at PROV contains the details and background documents.  At the beginning of this blog is an image of a death certificate.  Why?  In VPRS 460, together with a Statutory Declaration they were evidence as to why the family of the late John MACKEN / McKIE had no claim to the land.  In fact the Stat Dec gave amazing details of John MACKEN’s life and work on the property in question.

Another property I was researching contained multiple documents including an Indenture for a Mortgage.  It was a LONG document to transcribe but well worth it when you find these amazing words:

portion of the said land has been and is now used as a cemetery

Not exactly what you expect to find but it had been claimed that two people were buried on the property.  Other documents in the VPRS 460 file also refer to this private burial ground.

Now do you understand why I love finding VPRS 460 Application files?

And I am so glad that I ASKED!