DNA and family history

For those who love the idea of exploring their family history and unravelling their DNA mystery, there’s an exciting free weekend event in August that will delight all the genealogy enthusiasts amongst us.

It will appeal to the beginner and the most advanced family historian seeking guidance on how to find out information and where to look. And it’s an opportunity to get together with other genealogists.

The We Relate Te Aukaha Family History Weekend School, to be held at the Tauranga City Council Chambers on Saturday and Sunday August 17 and 18 includes a seminar series both days, as well as optional extras including an Oral History Workshop on Sunday and Tours of Historical Interest.

Organiser and Tauranga Library Digital Programmes Specialist Bev Hodges says the weekend is planned over two days in order to fit in all the speakers.

“They’re all experts in their fields,” says Bev. “This is the first time we’ve done it this way. We’ve always celebrated Family History Month in the library but we’ve decided to have a big splash this time and make it a big event.”

“We’re calling it a weekend school with a series of speakers both days, and in another stream, an oral history workshop all day Sunday. We’re also cooperating with the Elms and the Brain Watkin House to have tours on offer.”

Keynote speaker is Richard O’Brien who hosted the popular TV programme The DNA Detectives. DNA Specialist Michelle Patient will follow Richard’s address with the topic ‘What’s all the fuss about?’ and a DNA panel question time.

“A lot of people have done a DNA test but when they get their results they don’t know how to work it out. Michelle’s an expert,” says Bev.

“On Sunday we’ll all be with Sue Berman for the first 45 minutes, and then 12 of those who have booked will go off and spend the rest of the day working on oral history with Sue.

Bev says the Tauranga City Library and some of the other libraries in the district will be sending staff along, especially to the Maori Land Court Minutes Book talk, as some training in this area will help them assist people who make inquiries.

“A lot of the Maori community search through the minute books to source the land they belong to. We have people searching that information almost every day.” Whakapapa specialist and former Senior Librarian for Maori Research Raewyn Paewai from Auckland will be giving a talk on how to use the Maori Land Court Minute Books which contain detailed information about Maori history, Whakapapa and land.

“When an owner of Maori land dies, it is necessary for the person or persons succeeding to that land to prove their entitlement or right of succession,”  says Raewyn.

“To do this they must present their Whakapapa to the Maori Land Court. Whakapapa is found throughout the MLC minute books.”

Emerson Vandy from the National Library in Wellington will be speaking on the topic ‘Papers Past’ and there will also be speakers on Scottish and Irish research, and family search.

“Morag Hughson is an expert on Scottish history but she’s also a techno expert so she’s going to run workshops on blogging too,” says Bev.

“I am researching not just my own family tree, which comes from the island of Unst in Shetland, but in fact the whole island,” says Morag. “I’m doing what is known as a one-place-study. I decided to embark on this when I discovered a wonderful resource, the Highland & Islands Crofting Commission interviews from 1892 which contain transcripts of interviews with ordinary folk, crofters, explaining how they farm and how much rent they pay for the privilege.

“In order to determine whether each interviewee was my own relative or just someone else from the island, I decided at that point to do the whole island.”

Seonaid Lewis, from Auckland City libraries will outline the free online resources available to budding genealogy enthusiasts.

“And I’ll be talking about heritage inventories,” says Ben Pick, Heritage NZ’s Lower Northern Area Manager. “This is about capturing all the heritage information in one place at a certain point in time. I’ve recently done an inventory process with Waitomo Council. We rallied a bunch of volunteers and they went around the Waitomo area taking photographs. “The reason I’m talking at the family history weekend is that genealogists are  very well placed to undertake these kind of  inventory projects.”

The weekend school will run from 9.30am – 4pm on Saturday August 17 and Sunday August 18 at the Tauranga City Council Chambers. The Nga Wahi Rangahau: Library Research Collection will be open on both days with staff to assist, and participants are encouraged to bring a laptop or other device to access the Library databases including Ancestry,  Find My Past, My Heritage and the British Newspaper Archive.

“We’re not expecting everyone to stay for every talk, only the ones they’re interested in, so they can come and go as they please,” says Bev.

To register, go to the Eventbrite website