Paul Milner Announced as one of First Two Keynote Speakers for Family History Down Under (FHDU) Conference – March 2021

Adelaide, South Australia, 3 December 2019

Unlock the Past is delighted to announce Family History Down Under (FHDU) to be held 22-26 March 2021 in one of Australia’s most exciting holiday destinations. This follows on from the highly successful DNA Down Under (August 2019), which attracted 1400 people in six cities across Australia, including 400 at the final three-day conference in Sydney.
The main conference will be over four days – Tuesday – Friday 23-26 March 2021. There will be three main tracks – DNA, British Isles and General/Methodology, plus a fourth track for sponsors and others. Other optional sessions will be offered, including workshops. There will also be a supporting exhibition. A pre-conference day on Monday 22 March 2021 is planned, including, amongst other things, tours to places of interest in the region.



The Sunshine CoastConvention Centre and Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort Hotel, Twin Waters, Queensland, is our conference venue. This is a superb facility at one of Australia’s premier holiday destinations.

  • A large state-of-the art conference centre (opened May 2019)
  •   at the 361 room, 4 star, Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort Hotel — or other nearby hotels
  • 7 minutes from the Sunshine Coast airport and 75 minutes from Brisbane Airport
  • Close to numerous tourist attractions, including the world famous Australia Zoo and much more.
    Plenty to do before/after or, for your non-genie spouse/partner, during the conference.

We are delighted to announce two of seven FHDU headline speakers. The other five will be announced soon!

Bettinger 2.jpg

Blaine Bettinger — professional genealogist specialising in DNA evidence Blaine, the best known and most sought after genetic genealogy speaker will be a prominent contributor to the DNA track. He is the author of “The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy” and a number of other books. He launched DNA Central in 2018, a major membership resource site helping genealogy DNA test takers understand their DNA test results.


Paul Milner — British Isles expert
Paul is an internationally recognised speaker and author on British Isles research. He is the author of a number of books on English and Scottish genealogy with Unlock the Past and other publishers. Paul has often spoken at events in Australia and on Unlock the Past genealogy cruises. He will be a key contributor to the British Isles track.

Mark the Date    |    22-26 March 2021
Visit and join the mailing list to be first to learn of key developments. 
We invite expressions of interest in speakingexhibiting and sponsoring the event.

Unlock the Past
Unlock the Past is the event and publishing division of Gould Genealogy & History (established 1976). It is a collaborative venture involving an international team of expert speakers, writers, organisations and commercial partners to promote history and genealogy through innovative major events, genealogy cruises and publications.

Further information  
Alan Phillips (Unlock the Past) P: (08) 8263 2055.  . . . . .  .  international+61 8 8263 2055E: W:

Unlock the Past Genealogy Cruise – Inside History article

Cruising into Genealogy
Cruising into Genealogy article from Australia’s Inside History vol. 17 p. 64-67

Inside History – Unlock the Past Genealogy Cruise

Unlock the Past’s 2014 genealogy cruise is being highlighted in Australia’s Inside History magazine. The current issue, number 17, is previewed online at and includes a 4 page article (pages 64-67) about the upcoming 9 day cruise, 4-13  February 2014 from Sydney to Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart and back to Sydney. The article presents interviews with four of the upcoming speakers Noeline Kyle, Neil Smith, Thomas MacEntee, Chris Paton and it looks like a great event.

If you like the preview of the current edition of Inside History you can see a full edition at

Unlock the Past has additional long and short cruises planned for 2014 and 2015. If you want to check out more details have a look at

As the keynote speaker on this year’s cruise I can tell you that this is a great way to travel, see new places, have a genealogy conference with great speakers and make lots of new friends. Because the atmosphere is relaxed you have the opportunity over meals or drinks to sit and talk and discuss genealogy to your heart’s content. The cruise also provides your non-genealogy spouse or family members with lots of alternative activities and shows.

Take a look at Unlock the Past’s offerings as it may open new doors and adventures for you

James Milner: Convict in Van Dieman’s Land – putting him on the ground

Near Copping
Looking south towards the land of George Frederick Brock Esq, on which resided convict James Milner – Carlton Parish, Tasmania. Yes, those are burned trees on the top of the hill from recent fires in the area

James Milner was sent as a convict in March 1831 aboard the transport ship “Argyle” to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania. I learned about this cousin from Roy Milner a fellow Milner researcher in England. I had verified the details about James Milner using the wonderful convict database at the Archives of Tasmania website.  James was also located in the 1842 census as the head of the household, working as a servant on the land of Fred Brock Esq., located 6 miles from Carlton, in Carlton Parish.

While on my lecture tour in Australia, I learned a lot about the life of convicts and their place in society by reading and visiting a number of prisons. Given the census information I had, I wanted to see if I could physically put James Milner on the ground somewhere in Tasmania. The first stop was the map collection at the Tasmania State library in Hobart where I hit pay dirt. With the help of staff, I located a map of Carlton Parish naming land owners. George Frederick Brock received a land grant of 2560 acres. This has to be Fred Brock, Esq. of the census. More research is needed on this person as he must be significant somehow, especially when one realizes that the largest land grant in Tasmania was 3,000 acres given to the governor, near Richmond. The Brock land abuts the small community of Copping on the modern road from Hobart to the penal settlement at Port Arthur.

This property in many respects was in an ideal location as we had planned on visiting Port Arthur. We had seen advertisements for the Copping Colonial and Convict Museum so we drove to Copping. The name of the museum was a big misnomer and the owner had no information on even the major landowners in the area. We retraced our steps a little along the road until we found a farm track taking us up onto the top of the hill that would give us a great overview, looking South onto the Brock land (see picture). There was no one home at the farm, but I did take a bunch of photographs of the surrounding countryside.

Fred Brock Esq.
Looking west along main road from Port Arthur to Hobart, just west of Copping. Near land of George Frederick Brock Esq

The census was taken January 3, 1842 at the height of the summer. I was there March 7, thus a little later in the Australian summer. The grass I saw was probably drier and browner, the creek was drier, but the rolling hills, with patches of woodland would have been just as beautiful. Google Earth shows that there are some vineyards or orchards over the crest of the hills to the south but they are not visible from the house where I stood.  There was only one private road, heavily posted with keep out signs, and with lots of truck traffic that appeared to go a little further south onto the property, which had been identified as the municipal tip.  We did not take the private road.

I have James Milner on the ground in Carlton Parish, Tasmania. Now I need to find out more about George Frederick Brock, Esq. for whom he appears to be working. Ah! The joys of family research, always leading to more questions.

Reflections on an Australian Lecture Tour

I have just returned from four weeks traveling and lecturing in Australia. I was the keynote speaker, giving fifteen lectures and participating in a panel at a genealogy conference on a 9 day cruise out of Sydney. I also gave 4 lectures in each of six cities: Hornsby (Sydney); Brisbane; Perth; Adelaide; Canberra and Melbourne. Everything was wonderfully arranged by Alan Phillips at Unlock the Past.  In total, I presented 39 different lectures on 15 different aspects of British Isles research.

Audience interest met and exceeded our expectations throughout the tour. During the conference, I was gratified to find that people kept coming to my lectures and in fact, began bringing their cruise companions along. During the cities tour, we exceeded attendance expectations, sometimes having double the numbers we expected.

It goes without saying that I had to be well prepared to give 15 different lectures for the cruise, and ensuring that each one was chock full of information.  In point of fact, I had to cut content to meet the 50 minute time limit of the format, since in the U.S. audiences expect a lecture of 60 to 75 minutes. Thank heaven for the power point changer with its built-in timer keeping me on schedule!

Each city venue chose its own four lectures from the fifteen given on the cruise, often with very different subjects to appeal to a wide audience, rather than being chosen to form a cohesive package. Using power point slides meant that I could make adjustments to my presentations while traveling, and thus ensure that the lecture met the specific needs of each audience as we traveled from city to city.

My goal was to make sure that everyone attending learned something new about how to do their own research, and that the beginners did not feel left in the dust. Feedback tells me we succeeded in meeting that goal.

The lectures would not have been so successful without excellent physical arrangements, and for this we thank Unlock the Past.  Venues varied greatly, but were often in clubs (rare to non-existent in the US), such a RSL (Returned Service League), Celtic , Irish, and Broncos (sports team). Major benefits of using the clubs were ample parking and on-site restaurants. Other sites included a town hall and (the best from the presenters’ perspective) the banked auditorium within the State Library of Western Australia.

Events were set up with typical 9-4/5 schedule, but during the week in a 1-9 time slot so that folks could come without missing a whole day of work. Registrants could also choose between a full or half day of presentations, for further flexibility of participation.

Mini lectures on Flip-Pal or Find My Past, given by Rosemary Kopittke, were scheduled in the middle of my four presentations. This was a very smart scheduling move, as it gave me a break. Then, while the audience members had their break, I was 100% focused on answering individual audience questions.

And this brings me to my comments about the audiences I encountered.  Their numbers varied from 80 to 150. Across the board, their base knowledge of general British history, geography and UK genealogical resources was generally far above what I would find in a typical US audience. Many more were themselves or had descended from recent immigrants; therefore, the likelihood that they had traveled extensively in the UK was also much higher than I encounter in the U.S.

I also learned that the standard procedure in Australia is not to provide handouts at the event. I was concerned about this, because it is my practice to provide a content-rich handout so that participants can focus on the examples and do not need to take extensive notes in the lecture. But I found out that it worked well with such a sophisticated audience. I provided the handouts downloadable from this website after the lectures.

Participants were eager for knowledge, case studies, and for resources. They participated actively in the discussions and in the profiling of their needs and interests that I conduct at the beginning of each session. I could readily see that they went away excited and eager to do more research.

It was great fun and a real privilege to lecture to diverse audiences.  My thanks to all! We also made some great new friends along the way.

Migration Museum, Adelaide – Puts part of my own life story in perspective

My recent visit to the Migration Museum in Adelaide helped me put part of my own life story in perspective.

From its founding to 1982 Australia has been encouraging and often subsidizing emigrants from the British Isles, especially those with desirable job skills. In 1974 I was a beneficiary of one of these schemes. The Australian government had a program where British college students could be interviewed and apply for summer jobs in Australia. The government would find jobs for the students and then subsidize the flight to Australia.

I did things a little differently. I found my own job in Australia. I then went for an interview, explained that I had found myself a job in my field, and asked if they would subsidize the flight to Australia. They were more than happy to. I thus became one of approximately 100 students who went to Australia for the English summer. I spent two months working underground on a copper and gold mine, working for Peko Mines in Tennant Creek, in the middle of the Northern Territories. I then spent a month touring around Australia learning about this large country.

Visiting the Migration Museum made me appreciate that my journey to Australia, supported by the government, was one way in which they were still encouraging young adults with needed skills to immigrate to Australia.

Migration Museum, Adelaide – A place worth visiting

Entrance to Adelaide Migration Museum

Adelaide’s free Migration Museum — A great place for family historians to visit.

The museum reflects the diverse cultures of South Australia, displaying objects that have a story to tell. The early galleries present the history of early migration into South Australia, highlighting the differences with the other colonies, especially no convicts.  At the same time the museum puts the movement towards a white Australia into a national context. The white Australia policy became official in 1901 after the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia. Britain was unhappy with the white Australia policy because it was a system that denied equality to people within the Empire. To avoid a blatantly racist policy the Australian government introduced a dictation test, adopted from one in use in Natal, whereby a person could be asked to write down or translate a list of 50 words in any European language. The test was used primarily to keep out Asians, but also many Europeans, because any language could be chosen for the test.  Displays pointed out that no one taking the test after 1909 passed, and it remained in use until 1958. Things are very different in Australia now, but it does help to explain the high preponderance of British Isles connections among Australian families. The museum also has displays on the many different ethnic groups that have come to Australia since the ending of its “white policy” rules.

I also enjoyed an exhibit covering John McDouall Stuart’s journeys into the Australian outback in the 1850s and 1860s, when he attempted to find a route from coast to coast. The hardships experienced in the central desert from lack of water, food and sometimes hostile aborigines created a number of failures. He did succeed in 1862 and upon returning to Adelaide he was welcomed as a hero.

Family historians will enjoy visiting this small Adelaide museum dedicated to migration.

Book Review: Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians

Yesterday I gave 4 lectures at the Western Australia State Library in Perth, WA. I had a number of questions about British families that came to Australia after spending time in India. I thought this book would be of interest to readers.

Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. By Emma Jolly. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK. £14.99. US Distributor: Casemate Publishing, 1016 Warrior Road, Drexel Hill, PA 19026. 2012. xviii, 184 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover. $24.95

Terms and geography need to be defined for best use of this important book. “British Indian” here refers to British citizens and Europeans who worked for the East Indian Company (generally as officers in the army), plus Anglo-Indians of mixed descent from the union of white British or European males and Indian women. Those of mixed descent were often segregated and discriminated against, yet they made an essential contribution to British India and are found in most British India records. Geographically, the area covered by this book, includes modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma (modern Myanmar). Other areas that may be encountered in India-related records are St. Helena, Iraq, Iran (formerly Persia), Aden, Kuwait, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Singapore, Malacca, Penang Prince of Wales Island, Java, Sumatra (Bencoolen / Fort Marlborough) and China (Macao and Whampoa). In reality this means most places east of the Cape of Good Hope that had British connections.

The book covers the time period of 1600, when the East India Company received its Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I, to the present.  It begins with a chapter on how to get started, which is actually a must read, especially for North American researchers, because even though the majority of the records needed will be in England, they are not in the places even most English researchers would expect to look. The largest collection of original material is the India Office Records at the British Library, with other collections at The National Archives, National Army Museum, National Maritime Museum, School of Oriental and African Studies, or the Society of Genealogists, all in London, with a few other collections scattered around the British Isles and India. The most important society is FIBIS, Families in British India Society, which provides lots of indexes, resources and an excellent wiki.

The following three chapters present the increasing role of the East India Company from 1600 through the Indian Mutiny in 1857, its subsequent loss of control to the British government and the period of the British Raj from 1857 through independence in 1947. The focus is on historical context, but the voluminous record collections applicable to the period and their location are highlighted.

The next five chapters focus on five aspects of the Indian life where the British were heavily involved, and which created most of the records of the British Indians. These are: the servicemen and women of the East India Company’s Armies, the Indian Army, the British Army in India and the Royal Indian Air Force; merchants and ships; religion, cemeteries and schools; railways; probate records. Key throughout these chapters is the clear defining of what records and indexes to examine, and where. They identify which resources are available online, which are published and available for purchase, and what will need to be examined in person or onsite. Each of the groups of people and their records is also placed into historical context.  A closing chapter addresses Indian independence and life after 1947. Throughout the book there are a number of short case studies showcasing the biographical information and lives that can be reconstructed from the records of our British Indian ancestors.

India developed from a company outpost into the crown in the British Empire with many individuals over the centuries from the British Isles serving in its government, its military or developing its industry. Many have ancestors who moved there temporarily or permanently.  This well written research guide is a must for anyone seeking to explore their British Indian connections.

Genealogy at a Glance: English Research (or Irish or Scottish) – How to purchase in Australia and New Zealand

Genealogy at a Glance - English Research by Paul Milner
Genealogy at a Glance – English Research by Paul Milner

I have exciting news for Australian and New Zealand researchers. As I lecture in Australia there is strong interest in Genealogy at a Glance series of laminated help sheets published by Genealogical Publishing Company. I wrote the English Research guide and have a few remaining copies but expect to sell out of them at my next venue in Perth on Saturday. Brian Mitchell wrote the guide for Ireland, and David Dobson wrote the guide for Scotland, all copies sold out.
Here is how to purchase them directly from the publisher at a much reduced price from the one listed on the company’s website.   These are 1st class international postage paid prices, especially for my blog readers:
1 Genealogy at a Glance        $20
2 Genealogy at a Glance        $35
3 Genealogy at a Glance        $50
You can order via email to
You can mail an order to:, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Ste 260, Baltimore, MD 21211, USA
You will need to provide either a check in US currency or credit card information.
I apologize to the participants in Brisbane who wanted to purchase additional Genealogy at a Glance laminated folders and I hope you will be happy with this arrangement that I managed to make with the publisher.

Unlock The Past Genealogy Cruise – Buried Treasures: What’s in the English Parish Chest?

We are now into day four of the Unlock the Past Genealogy Cruise. The lecture that has opened the most eyes with excitement so far has been “Buried Treasures: What’s in the English Parish Chest?”  This lecture examines the civil functions of the English parish, highlighting the records it may provide: the names of the fathers of illegitimate children; the place of origin in the settlement records; those receiving indoor or outdoor relief from the parish; the names of parish officials; the names of those paying property taxes, or being excused because they are too poor. English Parish Chests contain lots of records that participants did not know existed. For many, these could be the resources they need to break down their brick walls.
Once home after this 10-day genealogy intensive in the beautiful Pacific, participants will be able to check out parish records as a new and possibly rich resource for their research.

Hornsby RSL – New South Wales – A Different Audience

Yesterday I gave 4 presentations with a Scottish focus to a group of 70-80 genealogists at the Hornsby RSL (Returned Service League) Club in the northern suburbs of Sydney. To get a sense of the audience my opening question was – How many people can identify their Scottish ancestors and put them physically on the ground in Scotland? Everyone put hands up. I knew immediately that I had a different audience than I typically find in the U.S.

In the States, when asking a similar question, I will often only get only a handful of participants who can physically locate their ancestors in Scotland. These folks have come to learn how to jump the Atlantic and locate their ancestors.

The participants in Hornsby knew where their Scottish ancestors came from, and  they  were familiar with a wider variety of research tools. Their questions were thoughtful, and they were well prepared to go deeper to break down the brick walls in their research.  At the end of the day, they seemed a little overwhelmed but they were clearly ready to immediately use the more complex (and sometimes less known) research tools we discussed.

A thoroughly good day for all.