Report from Congress: Bridging the Past and Future, March 9-12

Recently the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG) hosted Bridging The Past and Future – the 15th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry, March 9 – 12 in Sydney. This major international event was held under the auspices of AFFHO, the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations. Gayle Nicholas, one of a number of GSV Members who attended, brings us her observations from the Congress. Gayle is a member of the GSV Writers Circle, as well as her local Waverley Historical Society. She blogs at GV Genealogy – a space that reflects her love of history, genealogy and writing. This article is republished with her permission from her blog. You can read more of Gayle’s family history exploration here


I have just returned from Sydney where hard work by the Society for Australian Genealogists (SAG) and 600 participants contributed to making Bridging the Past & Future a congress to remember. As a new participant I was soon under Jill Ball‘s wing along with 300 other ‘first timers’. Bloggers couldn’t hide in the corner as Jill’s ‘blogging beads’ were a beacon to bloggers seeking a conversation. There was lots of chatting and new friendships as people mixed and mingled with ease.

All these participants at #Congress2018 have blogs for you to read!  Photograph by Murray Nicholas.



There were many high quality presentations with Judy G. Russell‘s Plenary Session Just Three Generations standing out as one of the very best for me. If ever a genealogist needed justification for their work this presentation provided it! Judy stated the need to deliberately and accurately pass down our family stories.  She urged participants to look for the truth in family stories, to verify them and pass them on.  I have memories of my grandfather telling stories to a lounge room full of people in Brunswick East.  I now have the Amiens Cathedral made of cards that hung above the fireplace and I can remember Grandad standing there.  I can remember the laughter but I do not remember the stories. I was so very young. No-one has been able to answer my question, ‘What were Grandad’s stories?’  All I know is they were about what the soldiers got up to in France when they were not at the front or about his time as a Scout Master.  Three generations and the stories are lost.

Angela Phippen’s Oops – I wish I’d checked the original! brought home loud and clear the importance of checking references thoroughly.  Using The Letters of Rachel Henning Angela demonstrated the difference that can occur through a published work and an original work.   The results were stunning and we will all be seeking original copies of documents from now on!

Jan Worthington told us to avoid the ‘black holes’ in her Your Story session. I was thinking, “How does she know I am obsessed with ‘just one more bit of research’ i.e. in a black hole?”  The key is to start writing. It’s time to stop Hunting Henrietta; it is time to ‘walk in her footsteps’ and write her story!

Our heads spun as we soaked up research know how and How-to tips, trying hard not to miss even a little piece of wisdom.  English and Irish research sessions were popular and, while people seemed to shake their heads at the complexity of DNA research, you could see no-one was going to give up. We travelled from seventeenth century to the modern day and still had the enthusiasm to learn new techniques and take on new ideas.

The Cockle Bay room was almost full for the last session Create a free Google Earth Map Collection for Your Genealogy Research with Lisa Louise Cooke. While many wondered where the time was coming from it was evident others were ready for this new mapping challenge. People dispersed quickly after the closing ceremony: some for a drink, many for a rest and others, like us, headed straight to the airport. Many times I heard the same farewell, ‘See you at the next Congress!’

Cousins! ‘Not too distant for me’

And yes, I did have a cousin at the conference!

Gayle Nicholas


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