June 24

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History, genealogy, technology and everything in between

By Cathie

June 24, 2019


I went to a small one teacher school in north Queensland for my primary schooling. The school had about 12-14 students at various times, usually more during the milling season of June-December as seasonal workers came into the area to cut the sugar cane – there were no mechanical harvesters at this time. Even though it was a small school in a very rural area 40km from the nearest city (no electricity until I was 12), it had great learning outcomes – my final year class of five girls produced 4 teachers, with three of us going on to become leaders in related professions.

It was at this very small school where I really became a lover of history.  It was one of my favourite topics and when I finished primary school, my end of year prize was a book on the pharaohs of Egypt – The Lost Pharaohs by Leonard Cottrell. My teacher obviously thought that this was a book that a 12 year old could easily read and devour it I did.

For my secondary schooling, my parents sent me to a girls only boarding school about 500km away – the same school my mother had attended when she was a girl as did my four sisters.  This was my home (except for school holidays) for the next five years.  Of course I was homesick, but this was also a wonderful time – friendships were made and once again history was my favourite subject, both Modern and Ancient History. Throughout my College years, for my teaching qualification, I took History majors and continued the trend with my Bachelor of Arts degree at The University of Queensland. (I broke the mould with my research Masters degree as I had now discovered another passion – computers.)

It was a natural progression from being a history buff to becoming interested in geneaology/family history.  My maternal grandfather had been a local identity, the son of an Irish immigrant, while my paternal grandfather was born in India and raised in Scotland by his grandparents so there were some interesting family stories which led to me wanting to find out more.  Over the next few decades, I continued with both passions – I became a university academic, specialising in information technology, while dabbling in family history in spare moments.

Technology (ICT) played a major role during this time and even more so when I took early retirement. I had been totally engaged with it for my work but also used it for my family history research – to access online resources/collections but also to digitise my paper documents, to store these files and to more easily identify family connections, which on paper may be quite obscure but on the web or through software can be easily found (but still need to be proved or disproved). I use it to keep track of my DNA matches, looking for the clues which may help me take my ancestry back another generation.

I also use these two passions in my second work life – researching the family history of others. I also write family stories, restore old photos to bring them back to life, create web sites so that scattered families can share the information but the best thing of all is being able to use these skills to help break down brick walls.

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