Month: December 2009

The best DVD of all – home movies

Sunshine IMG_1911_300x200It is startling to watch old movies of yourself. I’ve been watching some old movies taken by my uncle that he has recently had transferred to DVD for us.

My uncle has always been an early-adopter – cameras, movie cameras, colour TV, video player, computer, he was always first by a long way. I can remember one of the first videos he bought was Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, and the way I remember it it cost him something like $50, and that must have been many years ago, when I was a teenager.

He took colour photos of us when we were young before anyone else had a colour camera, and he had progressed to taking video in time for my twenty first.

At Christmas my Mum gave me two DVDs to copy of movies my uncle had taken over the years, and today I’ve been watching them. They go back to at least 1950, when my Mum was not yet a teenager and living in a big house on the edge of Blayney. There’s kids playing with dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, and eating lollipops. There’s my uncles working on the farm – on the tractor, ploughing, sowing, and harvesting. People are playing tennis on the court behind the house. There’s a snowball fight. I think snow was rare in that area. It’s a shame the film could only be taken outside – I’d love to see what the house was like inside!

Then there are weddings – of my aunt, and later of my cousins. Twenty-first birthdays, a trip to the zoo, visits to Sydney, and lots of people getting into their cars to drive away. My grandparent’s wedding anniversaries are there – the 50th and the 60th. There’s a family reunion that I remember going to with my boyfriend at the time – I was 16. There was a visit to the Blayney Cemetery afterwards which I could have sworn I didn’t join but there I am, with the boyfriend, walking along the graves. There was also a visit to the old house in Blayney, with Uncle pointing out which sheds were there before and the hill where the snowball fight took place.

There are kids playing in my cousins’ backyard pool, kids playing under the hose at Gran’s, and kids opening Christmas presents on the front verandah at home, watched by parents and grandparents. There are lots of occasions where people are sitting and eating, or lining up at the buffet  table to stock up, or bringing more food out. All that food, all prepared by mothers and aunties and Gran, and later my older cousins. It was normal to ‘bring a plate’ in those days. There are speeches, at 21sts and weddings, with the ubiquitous bottle of tomato sauce on the table in front of the wedding party.

There are awful fashions, in clothes and hair – men in bellbottoms and wide collars and long hair, women who should have known better in short dresses. I am particularly horrified by my first pair of glasses at 10 – they were big black frames and after a very short time I stopped wearing them outside; and a particularly dreadful outfit consisting of a yellow Tommy Tshirt, an orange hand-knitted vest (originally made for my uncle) and jeans, and an awful haircut that can really only be described as a mullet.

There were lots of cars. My uncle was always interested in cars, and his preoccupation shows. Big cars, with bench seats that could fit three adults in the front and three or four kids in the back. No need for a van to move the family in those days!

I don’t remember attending many of these events. I don’t remember being at that cousin’s 21st, but there I am, sitting down eating. I don’t remember visiting the Blayney Cemetery with the family after the Oates Family Reunion. I don’t remember visiting my uncles’s place in Sydney with my family and Mum’s boyfriend. I guess we all have selective memories.

It is interesting to see how people reacted in those days to having a camera pointed at them, and the persistence of my uncle when they wanted him to stop. Kids were unselfconscious and kept going about their business, but adults were a bit freaked out. My uncle visited us from Sydney only every few months, and it was only at such times that we were subjected to the paparazzi treatment. Not like today, when every mobile phone has a video camera and kids put the results on Facebook or YouTube.

Of course, we were all a lot thinner then. And smaller. My little brothers have grown up and gone on with their separate lives. My beautiful sister has had kids and worries of her own. Gran and Pop have passed on, as has one of my uncles. My first boyfriend married someone else, as did I. The cousins I’ve seen married today mostly divorced and remarried.

These DVDs are priceless, and I will watch them again and again, probably changing my memories of those events in the process.

Compare Twitter Account Followers

I manage three Twitter accounts:

@CaroleRiley is my personal account

@NSWGenealogy is my business account

@SocAustGen is the account I manage on behalf of my genealogy society

I often wonder whether I should just post to one account because all the same people follow all three accounts. I found a way to find out if this is true.

FollowerWonk allows you to compare two, or optionally three, accounts, and compares them by followers or followees. I compared all three accounts and the results looks like this:


This screen shows the followers of all three accounts. I can see who is following all three, or combinations of two, or just the one. The Venn diagram graphically illustrates the overlap and the relative size of each following. I can do the same for the accounts that these accounts follow. Brilliant!

What I’ve discovered is how little overlap there is. So I can post to all three without fear, and I can retweet between them without too much risk of repeating myself.

Ideas for Christmas gifts for the genealogist in the family

dreamstimefree_6690720_320x240If you are a genealogist you know that there is never enough money for all the things you need. Here is a list of possible gifts for yourself, or for the genealogist in your family. Print it out and leave it lying around…

  • DVDsWho Do You Think You Are and other such TV programs on family history and general history
  • Furniture – such as:
    • dedicated desk for genealogy
    • bookshelves (you can never have too many!)
    • filing cabinet
  • Computer hardware such as:
    • a new laptop
    • printer
    • digital camera
    • flatbed scanner – worth investing in a new one if your existing one is a few years old
    • slide and negative scanner
    • smart phone. I know a phone just needs to make calls, but what if you could put your whole family tree on it as well!
    • surge-protected power board
    • portable hard drive
    • USB flash drive
  • Software – the possibilities are endless. Here are some ideas:
    • family tree program, such as The Master Genealogist
    • an add-on program for the family tree, to publish to the web, for example Second Site for The Master Genealogist
    • photo-editing
    • library catalogue
    • speech recognition
    • backup or synchronisation software
  • Subscription – many possibilities here too, for example:
    • Ancestry, World Vital Records or similar, for finding records
    • GenesReunited or similar, for finding relatives
    • A membership of a family history society, for their journal or visiting rights
    • Dick Eastman’s blog (US$19.95 per year for the Plus edition), for news, reviews and tips and tricks
    • A commercial family history magazine subscription
    • A lifetime subscription to LibraryThing, the web-based book catalogue
    • Online backup such as Mozy
  • Course or conference in genealogy or history. The Society of Australian Genealogists and other societies have educational opportunities throughout the year, as do historical societies. Even a voucher for accommodation would be helpful.
  • DNA tests for the many branches of your family – Y-DNA for your father, your mother’s father; mitochondrial DNA for your mother, your father’s mother, etc.
  • Document preservation materials – acid-free sleeves and boxes for storing photographs and documents
  • Scrapbooking supplies – if you or your genealogist is that way inclined. Gould Genealogy has a good range.
  • Pre-printed family tree charts. Software is all very well, but nothing beats seeing it all on one large piece of paper, even if you have to fill it in by hand.
  • Research time – if you can’t get to the records, pay someone who can. Many researchers offer gift certificates for a specified number of hours, or for specific records such as probate files.
  • Domain name such as mine – – for when the family tree goes on the web. $29.95 for 2 years at Jumba.
  • Hosting for a personal website. I pay $29.95 per year at Jumba to host this one. Business sites cost more, usually per month, but a private one is cheap. There are cheaper ones, even free ones, around, but I reckon you get what you pay for. Blog software such as WordPress is also free.
  • Set up a blog – if you are more technologically aware than your genealogical relative you could spend half and hour helping them set it up for them. You could also set up FTP software for them.

As I think of more things I will add them to this list. Can you think of anything I’ve left out?