10    Sep 20111 comment

Interview Series: Cynthia Edwards – Cairns and District Family History Society

Cairns is a city in the far northeast of Australia. This week we talk to Cynthia Edwards from the Cairns and District Family History Society.

Tell us a bit about yourself .  How you got into family history research? Why you are so heavily involved with it now?

I started thinking about recording our family history about 11 years ago when our grandchildren started coming along.  As my parents had passed away some years before I realised, it was up to me to tell their stories, as well as mine to this new generation.  My mother became interested back in the seventies when she watched Janet Reakes on the Mike Walsh Show.  Sadly her researach was not recorded, including photo captions.

That was about 12 years ago however, I have only been seriously researching for the past seven or so years.  The information I started finding out about my grandparents and their siblings encouraged me to keep researching as these were the stories I never knew.  To discover so many of the people that myself, my sister and brother thought were friends of our parents, but were actually relations has been a lovely surprise.  I often sidetrack to see if I can answer questions like " How did my great-grandfather receive training when he began his teaching career in 1872?"


What's the background on your surname – Have you any interesting stories in your family tree?

My maiden name is Hall- with that family coming from Ireland as Assisted Immigrants in 1864 to Moreton Bay.  My great-great-grandmother’s family name was Armstrong. Both of these surnames are said to have come from Scotland. One day I hope to be able to trace back and see if the families did, indeed, originate from Scotland. I also have two Danish families, Willadsen and Kirkegaard. I have been told that my great-great-grandfather Clemmensen added Kirkegaard to his name. He was a teacher, church official and had the use of the kirkegaard, which literally means "church farm."

There are many interesting stories, but the most prominent one so far, was my great-grandfather, an Irish born teacher. One of her many schools was Blackstone Primary School near Ipswich in Queensland. This was a coal mining area, with many Welsh people. They requested a Welsh teacher upon the opening of their new school and received a Northern Irishman. The accents would have made for some interesting conversations. While at the school he was the subject of an inquiry held by the Civil Service Board because he "placed obstructions in the way of a member of parliament who had permission to hold a political meeting in the school room and that he was abusive in his language." He was suspended with two weeks’ pay withheld. I found this information on the Trove Newspapers website.


What's your role at Cairns and District Family History Society (CDFHS) ?

My role at Cairns and District Family History is librarian, which is a lovely position. Another member and I are currently cataloguing the library so it is more user-friendly. We recently received a grant from the Queensland Government Gambling Community Benefit Fund for new shelving, so we have been busy packing up and then unpacking books. For the past year I have also been president.


Tell us more about CDFHS.

CDFHS formed in 1983 as the Cairns branch of the Genealogical Society of Queensland. In 1986 the Society became an independent incorporation. We occupy a suite of three rooms within the Raintrees Shopping Centre in the suburb of Manunda. Unfortunately the rooms are on the first floor, up a set of stairs and not visible to the public. One room contains our book library, another contains the research room with the computers and film readers and we have a small office with all of our equipment squeezed in. We have six computers, six old style microfiche readers and the wonderful new ScanPro reader. This machine has been well used especially by those with LDS films to read as they now can have a printout of the pages relevant to them.

CDFHS is the only family history society north of Townsville. We are open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and the second Saturday of the month from 10am to 3pm. On public holidays and for a while over Christmas/New Year we are closed.

We are about to place on our website (www.cdfhs.org), information about a Centenary Certificate we have produced. It is for ancestors who settled or were born in Queensland over 100 years ago. By supplying proof of this along with confirmation that the recipient is a descendant of the settler a coloured certificate may be purchased for $20.  These have been very popular with our members since their release a couple of months ago.

Our membership is usually around 90 – 100.


What are some of CDFHS's key activities?

  • We provide resources and information to help our members, the public and visitors from other societies with their research.
  • We are the North Queensland-designated Family History Search Center for the LDS.
  • Workshops and chat days are held by us for those just starting out and for the experienced genealogist.
  • We have produced publications of local cemetery Monumental Inscriptions and some burial registers.


Do you have an event coming up soon?

CDFHS will be holding a "Fathers Day" afternoon tea at our rooms on Saturday, 3 September from 2pm to honour our male ancestors. We invite people to bring memorabilia, photos and stories. We will also be holding a Remembrance Day event honouring our male and female Military ancestors on Saturday 12 November. Our Mothers Day event was a great success giving many of us other ideas on where and how to record our family history.


You've clearly been doing this for some time now - How do you see the Internet affecting genealogy / family history research?

The Internet is providing some wonderful insights from all over the world without even having to leave your home. The basic hard copy early records are still the most informative. When the State Library and Archives are distant from where you live, the internet provides an important link. One of the problems with the Internet is that the new family historian is led to believe that everything can be found on the Internet. Another is that occasionally, the wrong information is entered on sites that have family trees, taken as true details, and then carried on instead of going through channels to have it verified.

A wonderful website all our members love using is Trove. Some fascinating stories have been found providing some answers to puzzles. We all look forward to seeing the years expand and hopefully some more of the country, mining and perhaps military newspapers added.  Well done, National Library of Australia.


Do you have any tips for someone starting out on the on the genealogical journey?

  • Visit a family history society first so you can talk to experienced people who will offer you some guidelines. Start recording your own history and work your way back one generation at a time. You do not need to know every detail of an ancestor before moving onto the next, just make sure they are the correct relation.
  • Join a family history society.
  • Begin with yourself then work backwards.
  • Remember to always record where you found your information – called sourcing.
  • Prepare a space in your house for your collection


If someone wants to find out more about what you or the CDFHS do, how can they contact you?

You can find more about us on our website www.cdfhs.org or follow us on Facebook.  Contact our secretary on email:  secretarycfhs@gmail.com or by phone 07 4053 1530.

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  1. how to I revert from Greek to English lettering?

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