Over 200 people registered for the inaugural Family History Expo held at Club Sapphire on Saturday, August 9 and Bega Valley Shire's local and family history librarian, Linda Albertson said that people were asking for it to become an annual event.
The expo included displays by local historical and genealogy societies, presentations on how to research family history and theatrical monologues exploring the experiences of two women during wartime.
There were displays and information from both local organisations and those further afield in Canberra and Sydney.
A particularly moving performance by Leith Arundel who played the role of Elise in 'Last Letters' written by Mary Rachel Brown, relived the experience of an Australian nurse during the WWl. There was a hush as the audience listened to her story of adventure and the horrors of war with more than one wiping away a tear at the end.
In another performance, Ms Arundel played Violet, a radio operator with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, in ‘Radio Silence’ by Alana Valentine and shared her fears for the young airman as she waits for them to return home
At a much more personal and local level there was the joy of uncovering a photo of a relative for one of the visitors. Secretary of the Eden Killer Whale Museum, Jenny Drenkhahn was particularly pleased that she was able to pull up a photo from the museum's database of a visitor's father who had been a crew member on a fishing trawler based in Eden.
Ms Drenkhahm said: “It’s been very busy, full on. We’ve had a wonderful lot of enquiries. People are interested not just in names but also how people lived; it’s been fantastic.”
Ms Albertson was delighted with the expo and said that people were excited because it was a forum to share family history and learn more.
For anyone wanting to learn more about their own family and local history there were plenty of opportunities.
Maurice and Norma Wright run the Merimbula Family History Centre. Based at 27, Merimbula Drive, next to the service station, they can assist in getting a search started or extending an existing search with access to the database of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no charge for use of the Family History Centre.
Kate Clery had Towamba Valley history encapsulated in her six publications including a school register. Ms Clery also has a website for which the National Library Archive has guardianship over to ensure the information is not lost if something happens to Ms Clery.
The Pig and Whistle Fleet Club, Tathra also had a display at the expo. Liz Seckold and Claire Lupton were looking after the display which featured nautical history and the history of the Tathra Wharf.
Kaye Vernon, of Teapot Genealogy, has indexed original documents from the state records which are accessible via her website for a $5 fee. Based in Sydney she had heard about the expo at a state conference last year and vowed to attended as she had never visited Merimbula before. “It’s absolutely beautiful,” she said.
At the AIATSIS (The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) display, Alana Harris explained that the organisation’s collection included valuable heritage material such as one of the first moving images taken in Australia and wax cylinders of some of the first recordings made here. There is also an online catalogue where people can search the collection and using names and places can search for family.
Volunteers were busy too at the Merimbula/Imlay Historical Society display. The Old School Museum has a display of local history and family items.
Although Eden Community Access Centre provides a range of community services it was the centre’s work on oral history and timber workers that was being showcased at the expo.
And for those who can’t get enough of family history the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra was promoting a four-day congress on family history in Canberra March 26-30, 2015.
Ms Albertson said that overall the response to the expo had been fantastic and thanked both the Mumbulla Foundation and South East Arts for their support.