by Helen Smith
One of the great pluses of the Unlock the Past cruises is the scheduled Research Help Zones (RHZ). These are wonderful opportunities to get help in your research from experts in their field. There are formal scheduled sessions where an expert will be available to answer questions. This may be one on one sessions or perhaps in a small group.
I have had the pleasure of helping people with their brick wall problems for a number of Cruises and Expos now and it is great fun and there have been a number of happy dances performed! One thing I have noticed though, is that a number of people are not getting the maximum benefit from their consultations. This is perhaps because they did not realise the Research Help Zone existed and did not come prepared. They came and mentioned they have a problem but couldn’t remember a date or who married whom, which is easy to do, particularly when you have a few generations with the same or similar names. This makes it very difficult to provide the appropriate answers that would work to explode that brick wall.
So how do you prepare for maximum success?
To get the most out of the RHZ you need to be prepared well ahead of time. In fact now is the time to start!
- First work out what the problem is: perhaps a marriage you can’t find, an ancestor that has disappeared, you can’t pinpoint where they originated etc It is important to write down the problem.
- Then determine what information you already have and where you found it and write that down.
- Determine what documentary evidence you have, a birth certificate, a marriage certificate etc but please, only bring legible photocopies of your original records. Do not bring your originals, leave them safely at home. Bringing a USB with scans may also help.
- Determine where you have already looked, what you found including negative findings as this helps give the background and saves duplication of effort.
- Remember to bring a printed family group sheet and pedigree chart for the people in question. You know the ins and outs of your ancestor, but it may not be as clear to others.
- Writing down this information and putting it together so that all the information is available when you ask your question of the person at the Research Help Zone means you will get the maximum benefit and hopefully then we will be doing Genealogy Happy Dances with you!
Apart from the formal sessions there are also opportunities for informal sessions where there may be a group of interested people researching an area who get together to talk about successes or problems in that area. This may be a scheduled session with someone well versed in that area or a group of attendees interested in the area.
Research Help Zone questionnaire
If you have questions to put to a cruise expert click here to download a questionnaire that will prompt you with information to bring. You may bring your question with you, but it is recommended that you submit this in advance of the cruise. This will give you a priority session with an expert. It may also help the expert prepare to help you.
Research Help Zone schedule
A schedule will be made available online in advance of each cruise. This will list
- experts available and the minimum sessions they have committed to for the cruise
- areas of expertise they can advise on
I only have one really big brick wall now and don’t know if anyone can knock it down but thought it may be worth mentioning. My problem is in one Ellen Vale who I think is an indigenous ancestor who’s birth was not registered, she didn’t marry and death cert has no mention of parents. All I have to go on is she was born Namoi R region c 1854 and moved up to Chinchilla area of Qld where she had a large family (birth certs all in agreement re her birthplace). Her children were not acknowledged by her partner’s family in London but their solicitor was eventually involved in the father’s estate where he (George Cuthill/Cuthell) calls her his housekeeper and lists her children as his. Another researcher had obtained DNA of her husband and it showed as we suspected that there was aboriginal ancestry. A Charles Vale aged 8 died from a fall from a horse in Wee Waa area in 1856. There was a magisterial inquiry which stated his father was a witness to the accident during mustering but didn’t mention the father’s name and I cannot find a death cert for the child in 1856 so it appears they did not register records. There is also the possiblity that Ellen may be descended from the Cox family of explorers but that name may also have been used if her mother worked on a Cox property. George’s death cert in 1902 says her name was Ellen Cox rather than Ellen Vale but we have no other record of that name being mentioned.
Any advice gratefully accepted although I don’t expect we will find an answer to this next week.
How do I submit my request for help prior to the cruise?
Patti, we don’t take bookings for this until the cruise itself. Most speakers will be available to offer expert advice. By the time of the cruise we will know just who – and what subject areas they can offer advice on. These will also be listed in advance on our Alaska cruise web site. If you want to email us in advance with a BRIEF outline of what matter you want help with we can help link you to the expert most likely to be able to help you. See notes above “So how do you prepare for maximum success?”