Family history in Australia and the World

Family history in Australia and the World

Event Name Family history in Australia and the World
Start Date 20th Jul 2018 10:15am
End Date 20th Jul 2018 3:45pm
Duration 5 hours and 30 minutes

A workshop for family, local, public historians and others interested in the practice and meanings of family history around the world

Where: Gallery Room, State Library of NSW, Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000
Cost: $20 (includes lunch)

This family history session is presented by the Centre for Applied History with support from and Macquarie University's Faculty of Arts, with in-kind support from the State Library of NSW


10:15amIntroductionTanya Evans and Jerome de Groot
Session 1 10:30am-12:00pm‘Why family history matters?’
One of the trends in family history research over the past few decades is an increasing concern with context: many family historians search for larger meanings by setting individual family stories against a carefully researched historical background. In this talk I'll reflect on various ways family history can enhance our understandings of the past, drawing on my bookA Private Empire(2010), which traces five generations of a Scottish family, extending from the Scottish Highlands to Mughal India, the muddy plantations of Guyana, and colonial Australia's lawless frontier; andZoffany's Daughter: love and treachery on a small island(2017), which explores a child custody case on the island of Guernsey in 1825.
Stephen Foster, ANU

‘Family history research in Australia: Population and research purposes’
Family history research in Australia is a multimillion dollar industry with thousands of participants engaging in this extremely popular pastime. A recent Australian investigation challenges the image of family history researchers and re-draws the picture of these historical investigators. The study found that family history researchers in Australia are a diverse group, and contests some of the perceptions of Australia’s family history researchers. The surveyed respondents (n=1406) are younger than expected, many are well-educated, from a wide variety of occupations and are highly skilled online researchers. Some were found to expertly navigate both the disciplinary practices and theoretical nuances of the history discipline in the compilation of their family histories, and many seek wider audiences through publication of their histories. The study provided a demographic overview of family history researchers in Australia, and identified ‘types’ of family history researchers through an analysis of their research purposes and motivations. It was concluded that family history researchers in the study fell into six overarching categories from “seekers” to “recreation only”. The findings of this research call for a re-evaluation of
this under-researched group of history researchers and writers.

Emma Shaw, University of Newcastle

‘The Impact of Family History’
Using surveys and oral history interviews conducted with family historians in Australia, England and Canada this talk will reveal some of the impact family history has on individuals and their communities. Genealogical work provides us with unprecedented insight into how history is understood, imagined, and discussed outside the tertiary sector and what impact ordinary people’s historical knowledge and practice might have on contemporary societies.
Research and communication about the past has enormous pedagogic and political potential providing family historians with social, emotional and cultural capital transforming their understandings of themselves and the world in which they live.

Tanya Evans, Macquarie University


Session 2 1:00-2.30pmMy story, your story, our story: the intersection of the academic and the personal when researching Australian Lebanese history
Researching the history of Lebanese in Australia from the 1880s to 1947 was an exercise in historical retrieval. Documentary and oral sources, as well as an insider’s knowledge of the community were combined to analyse the experience of this immigrant group. Aggregate data was of little use because Lebanese were included under headings such as ‘Asian’ or ‘other’, and non-European races were not recorded separately until the first Commonwealth Census in 1911. So I used a nominative study whereby information about individuals was collected from a combination of primary and secondary sources including naturalization case files, alien registration records, hawking records, newspapers, Post Office Directories, church records, and family histories, as well as questionnaires and oral history interviews. A sample of 472 Lebanese immigrants was derived from these sources; a number of immigrants and their descendants were interviewed (30), and a significant sample (102) of the second and third generations completed written questionnaires. Access was also granted to another nine interviews recorded by other researchers. An interactive process evolved whereby Lebanese immigrants and their descendants shared family stories and I was able to give them previously unknown information about their parents and grandparents’ lives in Australia. While generally positive, the intersection of the academic with the personal can be challenging and creates significant responsibilities.
Anne Monsur, Professional Historian
1:00-2.30pmConnecting Culture: Tracing Ancestors
Many state and federal governments had policies and unspoken actions that had the effect of separating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from their families, both nuclear and extended. Today there are many thousands of people who have no idea who their family is or where they come from. The State Library of New South Wales has a wealth of material that could be vital for people engaged in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history research. Connecting Culture: Tracing Ancestors, a family history research program run by the State Library’s Indigenous Services Branch, provides an overview of these resources and other strategies that may assist them in their journey of self-discovery. Melissa Jackson will be talking about the programs and policies of SLNSW, including Connecting Culture: Tracing Ancestors, that assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in answering the fundamental question of who am I?
Melissa Jackson, State Library of NSW
1:00-2.30pmListening to unseen landscapes: Meaning and memory in family stories in post-partition India
This presentation looks at the relationship between narratives of place and family identity in order to show how stories about landscapes no longer accessible, are used to create meaning for dispersed families. Taking the Partition of India, biographical writing and life story interviews with members of an affected family as its context, this presentation will show that the nostalgia for a lost landscape fulfills multiple functions for a displaced community, evoking lost time, vanished spaces and extinct traditions. Juxtaposing oral history interviews with family stories, photographs and observations, I argue that families that are displaced seek through such stories to complete what has been broken. Through such stories memories of an unbroken community of kith and kin and a lost way of life are passed on to another generation which has neither seen nor experienced that life or that
landscape. Such memories do not remain inert or frozen and are drawn upon by the next generation to create new stories of identity. We could call these memory heirlooms that defy state imposed political boundaries.
Indira Chowdhury, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru, India
2.30-3:00pmCoffee break 
3-3.30pm‘Double Helix History’
In this paper I discuss the ways in which genetics is impacting upon family history. In particular I look at the case, once a genealogy magazine but now a global information company expanding into biotech and genetics research. I consider the ways in which the case might provide us with a template for thinking about the interaction between genetics and family history in the future.
Jerome de Groot, University of Manchester

Speaker bios

Tanya Evans, Macquarie University

Tanya Evans is Director of the Centre for Applied History and she teaches history at Macquarie University. Her publications include Fractured Families: Life on the Margins in Colonial NSW (2016) as well as many articles and book chapters on family history.

Jerome De Groot, University of Manchester

Jerome De Groot teaches at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Consuming History (2008/2016), Remaking History (2015) and The Historical Novel (2009).

Stephen Foster, Australian National University

Stephen Foster has taught history and museum studies at several Australian universities. His other books include (jointly) The Making of the Australian National University, where he is now an Editorial Fellow with the National Centre for Biography.

Emma Shaw, University of Newcastle

Emma is a self-confessed enthusiast of all things historical, and has recently completed her doctoral thesis on an exploration of the motives and metahistorical understanding of family history researchers. A history teacher ‘by trade’, she currently works at the University of Newcastle lecturing and tutoring pre-service history teachers in their specialist studies courses. Emma is a member of the HERMES research team, and is the book review editor of the Historical Encounters Journal. Her areas of scholarly interest include family history, public pedagogies, historical consciousness, and public history.

Anne Monsur, Professional Historian

Anne Monsur has a PhD in history from the University of Queensland and from 2009 to 2014 was an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics. After teaching at CQUniversity, Bundaberg, 1993-2008, Anne has worked as a professional historian. She has conducted oral history interviews for the National Library of Australia (Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants Oral History project) and the Medical Board of Queensland. For over two decades, Anne has been researching, writing and speaking (in academic and community forums in Australia and overseas) about the history of Lebanese settlement in Australia. She is the author of Not Quite White: Lebanese and the White Australia Policy 1880 to 1947 (Post Pressed, 2010), several journal articles and book chapters, and editor of two books: Raw Kibbeh: Generations of Lebanese Enterprise (2009) and Here to Stay: Lebanese in Toowoomba and South West Queensland (2012). Anne is currently President of the Australian Lebanese Historical Society Inc.

Melissa Jackson, State Library of NSW

Melissa Jackson is of Bundjalung decent with family links to the Baryulgil area near Grafton, New South Wales. Melissa has worked in various NSW government departments, including Department of Housing and Attorney Generals Department before starting work at the State Library of New South Wales in 1991. She has a background in teaching, graduating from University of Western Sydney also obtaining her librarianship qualifications from University of Technology Sydney and a Master in Indigenous Language Education at the University of Sydney.

Indira Chowdhury, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru, India

Indira Chowdhury is Founder-Director of the Centre for Public History at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology, Bengaluru. Formerly professor of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, she is also the founder of Archival Resources for Contemporary History (ARCH), Bengaluru, now known as ARCH@Srishti. She has a PhD in history from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London and her book, The Frail Hero and Virile History (Delhi, OUP, 1998) won the Tagore prize in 2001. She was awarded the New India Fellowship to work on the manuscript of her recently published book titled Growing the Tree of Science: Homi Bhabha and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (OUP: 2016). Indira is a founding member of the Oral History Association of India. She was President of the Oral History Association of India (2013-2016) and President of the International Oral History Association (2014-2016).

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