Our Conference Speakers

Mark Dunn

Mark Dunn is a public historian and has worked for over twenty years in heritage, conservation and archaeology. He is the former chair of the Professional Historians Association of NSW and ACT and the History Council of NSW and CH Currey Fellow at SLNSW in 2016.
He completed a PhD in History through the University of New South Wales looking at the colonial Hunter Valley in 2015.
Mark is descended from convicts who settled in the Hunter, and has spent close to ten years investigating the history, heritage and archaeology of the region. The Convict Valley is his first book and covers the history of the Hunter Valley in NSW between 1790 and 1850, investigating the lives, interactions and interconnectedness of the convict, Aboriginal and settler communities during this frontier colonial period. The book was shortlisted for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (Australian history) in 2021.


Julie Keating

Julie Keating has published a series of books on Newcastle in the 1800s.  The most recent title is Adamstown & Broadmeadow : the early days of settlement. This is the eighth in the series.

Julie worked in local university, TAFE and secondary school libraries for over forty years. Since retirement she has combined two interests – research and local history to provide information on Newcastle’s early history, first as a penal settlement and then as a coal exporter. She is a regular speaker at various groups including Probus Clubs, Newcastle U3A and Newcastle Family History Society.

Newcastle in the 1800s

Lt John Shortland found coal lying on the beach when he landed in Newcastle in 1797. Realising the potential importance coal might have to the NSW economy, he took samples back to Sydney. At the same time, the government was looking for an alternative site to house convicts who had reoffended in Sydney. Thus European development in Newcastle started with the establishment of a penal settlement  with convicts mining the precious coal.

In 1823, convicts were moved to Port Macquarie and free settlers and emancipated convicts were allowed to settle in the town. The town was surveyed by Henry Dangar and government services were established. The first load of coal was sent to Bengal in 1899 and by 1900 Newcastle was the fifth largest port in the world.


Peter Mayberry

At the conclusion of my initial Surveying degree in the early 1970s and subsequent studies at UNSW, I embraced the pursuit of family history following the sudden death of my dear grandmother in 1975. Visiting great aunts & uncles with pen & paper was a joyful pastime. Tracking down my Braidwood bushranging families became an obsession. With the purchase of an IBMPC 640kb computer & the ‘PAF’ genealogy program, the research into family history really took off in the early 1980s. By 1986, the complete BDM registers of the Catholic parishes of Araluen, Braidwood and Bungendore were indexed. Researching every convict on the ship, “Tellicherry” which had arrived in February 1806, set the stage for my preoccupation with convict studies. With fervent encouragement from Dr Ruan O’Donnell during a visit to Ireland, my passion culminated in the indexing of the Irish convicts to NSW (Port Jackson) from 1788 until 1849 using the resources found in the ARK & AJCP microfilms & microfiche held by the NLA. It further developed into an online Convict website containing over 30,000 individuals. The website was subsequently used by the National Museum of Australia in its Canberra exhibition titled, ‘Not Just Ned’ in 2011 and numerous authors. In 2017 & 2020, I revised the Convict chapter on ‘Researching Convict Ancestors’ in the HAGSOC publication titled, ‘Family History for Beginners & Beyond’. I have been a member of Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra (HAGSOC) for nearly 30 years with current participation in its Special Interest Groups namely the Irish, Convict and DNA.
I am married (1973) to my UNSW sweetheart, Tricia who is a Science graduate in Clinical Psychology. Our daughter, Anna is a graduate of ANU here in Canberra.


Diane Blishen

I have been involved in historical and family history for more than three decades. Over the last eight years I have been collecting maps, plans, crown plans, surveyor records, title deeds, primary applications, court records, wills, correspondence and so on, overlaying old maps and plans over Google Earth showing the locations of places than no longer exist or not well known or known at all. Title Deeds help to further confirm the exact locations, along with records showing the buildings design and position that brings the past and present together.
My research has primarily concentrated on Maitland but also have extensive research on other areas. I have spent quite some time at the NSW State Library and NSW State Archives & Records with the intention of gathering as many records as possible, where in the case of Maitland, bringing Maitland’s history to Maitland from the letters and records of the early settlers who were on the scene at the time.
I have mapped out pubs, schools (private and national) churches, hospitals, court houses, gaols, coal mines, wells and water supplies, railways, trams and much more.
Google Earth is a freely available program with the ability of being able to add written research on a place that allows the project to be somewhat interactive.
As a descendant of the First Fleet I have mapped out the gathering of the First Fleet, the journey from Portsmouth to the Colony of New South Wales, the setting up of the settlement and its early days.


Jeffrey Madsen

Jeff Madsen has had a long career in Information Technology using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software to prepare maps for Government, private enterprise and family researchers. His interest in genealogy highlighted that maps and historical geography can be used to enhance a family tree or story to become more than just names and dates.

He has used the Historical Land Records Viewer (HLRV) since 1999 and more recently to research property owned by ancestors which has greatly assisted in writing family stories.

He is involved in the digitisation of manuscript material for the Society of Australian Genealogists.

Further details can be obtained from his website, Digitising, Maps and Genealogy http://dmapsg.blogspot.com/

One Leaf of the Shamrock
Can Searching Land Records Enhance Your Family Research

Bernard Cavanagh arrived in Australia with his brother James and sister Anne in 1841 as Assisted Immigrants from Ireland. They were sent to work for Andrew Lang’s Dunmore Estate, near Maitland. Bernard’s story was put together using TROVE articles but the more important part of the story came from the property that Bernard and his brother purchased in the area. With the absence of British type Census records, land records can assist us to track family movements and status in Australia.

This talk will show how land records accessed from the Historical Land Records Viewer (HLRV) allowed the story of Bernard Cavanagh of Dunmore and Knockfin, near Maitland, to be expanded after initial articles found in Trove provided the basis for their family story.

Land Records can provide a great deal of information to the family researcher, including

  • when transaction took place
  • who was involved in the transaction
  • occupations and location of the parties
  • specific details of the property location
  • cost of the transaction

Hear how information was obtained from the Historical Land Records Viewer (HLRV) and from other sources to create the story of Bernard Cavanagh in New South Wales.

A copy of the completed story of Bernard Cavanagh will be available for download as well as a copy of the presentation.

Lilian Magill

Lilian has been researching her family history for nearly 40 years and has made some interesting discoveries along the way. A member of the Society of Australian Genealogists, and the Association of Professional Genealogists, Australian and New Zealand Chapter. Lilian has a Diploma in Family History and a Professional Certificate in Genealogical Research and was a speaker at THE Genealogy Show, 2022.

A Brief Look at Six Interesting Free Websites

A quick romp through six websites covering copyright, convicts, Australian women, and war service. These sites are free, and Lilian will show you how to navigate them. The links for these and other websites are on her website and blog.

Pat Healion

Pat Healion has been admitted to the Supreme Court of NSW and to the High Court of Australia.
She holds the degree of LLB(hons) and has taught in the legal faculty at Avondale College and the University of Newcastle.
She is also the vice-president of the Newcastle Family History Society.


Gay Hendriksen

As an art and history curator and writer, Gay has researched and interpreted cultural and social histories for 30 years. Content has ranged from Colonial times to the present with an emphasis on women’s stories. Her writing and curatorship has focused on early Colonial Australia. She curated the national award winning Women Transported – Life in Australia’s Convict Female Factories and has toured exhibitions nationally. Her curatorial work has achieved a Museums Australia MAPDA award, Local Government Projects and Partnerships Award, NSW and the NSW Museums and Galleries IMAGINE Award for excellence.
Gay’s curatorship has covered a range of objects including social history, art, archaeology and archives. She has curated in the following museums: Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum, Penrith Regional Gallery, Parramatta Heritage Centre, St George Regional Museum, Tongarra Museum, Elizabeth Farm and Rouse Hill House Estate. Consultancy work has included State Archives of NSW, Bundanon Trust, Wollongong Heritage and Stories Museum Digitisation, Blue Mountains Museums Advisor and Villages of the Heart illustrated and oral histories of Central west NSW.


Joy & Allan Murrin

For more than 40 years Allan and Joy have been researching their Family History. In 1995 Joy was appointed as an Accredited Transcription Agent by the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The family business has grown from the NSW Transcription Service to include Registrations and Certificates for England/Wales, Scotland, Victoria and New Zealand.
Since 1989 they have been volunteer consultants at the Mortdale Family History Centre giving them practical experience in FamilySearch.

Their vast involvement equips them to speak on a wide range of topics. They have also written a number of books. Allan recently completed studies which led to his graduation from the University of Tasmania.
Allan & Joy continue to find joy in their own family, and in assisting others find joy in family history.

Kerry Farmer

Kerry Farmer is a researcher, presenter and teacher in genealogical studies and has been teaching family history classes since 1997. With degrees in both science and humanities, she is on the Board of the Society of Australian Genealogists and convenor of their Education Committee.
She is Director of Australian Studies for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, developing their Australian Records courses. She is a regular speaker at conferences and other events.
Kerry authored DNA for Genealogists (4th edn, 2017), Arrivals in Australia from 1788 (2015) and together with Rosemary Kopittke wrote Which Genealogy Program? (3rd edn, 2012).

Dr Janis Wilton

Dr Janis Wilton OAM is a public and applied historian who, until her retirement in 2017, was based at the University of New England where she coordinated and taught into the university’s courses on local, family and applied history. A former President and Council member of the International Oral History Association, a former member of the editorial board of the Oral History Australia Journal, and awarded the Hazel de Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History in 2009, she has thirty years’ experience as a practiced and published public and oral historian with a passion for sharing skills and possibilities.


Carol Baxter

Carol Baxter, the History Detective, is a Fellow of the Society of Australian Genealogists, an adjunct lecturer at the University of New England, and an inspirational presenter who teaches researching and writing skills to genealogists and writers. Her interest in genealogy and in names began while she was still at school. Later, her university major in linguistics – which helped her understand the sounds of surnames – and her years working for the Biographical Database of Australia as a transcriber – which helped her understand the letters of surnames – and her access to the BDA’s database of linked biographical entries led her to explore, with a view to explaining, the distortions that can make even our most common ancestor’s surnames difficult to find. She communicates the results of her research in talks and in books including Help! Why can’t I find my ancestor’s surname? and The Madness of Mac Surnames.
Carol is also the internationally-acclaimed, award-winning author of six historical true crime thrillers of which one is being turned into a big budget TV series by the producers of Lion, one into a feature film, and one into a computer game. She also tells her true tales of murder, mystery and mayhem on international cruise ships.



John Graham

John has been actively involved in genealogy since starting to research his own family in 1975. His interests subsequently expanded to embrace local history, in particular the area of the South Coast of NSW centred on the town of Gerringong. He has written five books on aspects of local history of the area, and co-authored a sixth with his wife Joanne.
From 1998 until 2005 John was head of the Sydney Dead Persons Society, during which time the DPS founded the Ryerson Index. He is currently President of Ryerson Index Inc.
John is a life member of Gerringong HS, and a member of both Shoalhaven FHS and Richmond-Tweed FHS.


Cathie Sherwood

Passionate about history and addicted to family history, Cathie Sherwood has been researching her Irish, English and Scottish ancestors for over forty years. She is the owner of Family History Academy, an online learning provider offering high-quality, engaging courses and workshops taught by experienced and respected instructors. She is also the principal and founder of Ancestor Discovery, a professional family history research service.

As a university academic, Cathie managed research projects in education and information and communication technology and developed innovative course curricula, retiring as an Associate Professor. She has taken those skills and knowledge and now applies them to her current family history educator and presenter roles, professional researcher and web coordinator.

Cathie has completed the Society of Australian Genealogists’ Certificate in Genealogical Research and the Society’s Diploma in Family Historical Studies. She serves on the Board of the Association of Professional Genealogists; she is a member of the Society of Australian Genealogists’ Education Committee and Co-coordinator of the Society’s Scottish Research Group. She is also a Global Ambassador for the Friends of FindMyPast program.

Hidden Ancestors: Finding Females

An ancestor named John Smith may prove challenging to research, but our female ancestors can also be elusive. Most historical records have been created by, for and about men. Women who married took on their husband’s surname, losing their original identity and, more often than not, were referred to as “the wife of…”. Yet half of our ancestors are women, the bearers of the children and in many cases, they are also the keepers of the family traditions and stories.

So how can family historians locate someone who is ‘invisible’? The problem isn’t that there are no records available, but rather how thoroughly we investigate the sources presented to us. 

This presentation will discuss how tracing women requires going beyond the traditional research strategies and sources. For example, which records need thinking “outside the box” when looking for the women in your family? Record collections with important information could include land records, probates and wills, newspaper articles, school records, trade directories, hospital admission registers etc. How can you be creative when searching these records? What tips and tricks and innovative strategies can you use? Investigating friends, neighbours and associates (the FAN club) can also uncover new insights.

Jill Ball

A former librarian, teacher and IT specialist, Jill (aka GeniAus) Ball, is an amateur genealogist and grandmother of 12 from Lake Macquarie. Family is important to Jill who has been chasing her ancestors for thirty years and, in retirement, devotes every spare moment to genealogy activities. She is particularly interested in harnessing technology for family history.

 Jill has presented at international, national and state education, IT and genealogy conferences and enjoys sharing her knowledge in face to face and online presentations. Since Covid came along Jill has embraced Zoom for genealogy education and enrichment.

 She has represented Australia as an Ambassador at each RootsTech conference. Closer to home Jill serves on the Education Committee of The Society of Australian Genealogists and is President of The Lake Macquarie Family History Group. On three occasions Jill has been voted by fellow genies as Australia’s Gold Genealogy Rockstar.

Jill is active on multiple social media channels. She shares her enthusiasm for social media, technology, and genealogy through her blog GeniAus (geniaus.blogspot.com), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/geniauspage/) , Twitter (@geniaus) and website (www.geniaus.net). 

Digging for Deaduns Downunder

In this session we will examine the records produced for Deaduns after rigor mortis has set in. Although our focus will be on records from New South Wales we will address other States and Territories. Hopefully, the tips and resources shared in this session will assist you in locating details of ancestors’ deaths and final resting place.

Christine Woodlands

Family history was Christine’s “retirement project” but the power of genetic genealogy has become her focus!   A former public servant, she has qualifications in commerce and law.  Using genetic genealogy and traditional research, Christine’s broken down “brick walls” in her own family and enjoys working with others to solve their “DNA dilemmas”. 

Christine’s a members of the Society of Australian Genealogists. She regularly presents “First Look at AncestryDNA” for the Society. In 2020, she developed the four module fifteen session “Analysing your AncestryDNA Results” program which she’ll present for the fourth time in Spring 2022. She shares her approach to participants in Mossie’s Musings (https://mossiesmusings.blogspot.com).

Christine uses social media and blogs to share the stories of her family. She’s the co-presenter of “Introduction to Blogger – Telling your family stories” for the Society.

Your DNA – Another vital record!
(“Collecting Cahill Cousins”)

With the growth in DNA testing over the last five years, Christine demonstrates DNA’s impact on her research into the family of James and Eliza Cahill. She’ll cover the DNA testing strategy used and the methodology she applies when working at AncestryDNA.

Newly wed, James and Eliza settled in the Maitland area in 1855 from County Kilkenny. James worked on the railways. Eliza raised their large family. With so many gaps in records, DNA was the evidence needed to fill in the gaps



Jason Reeve

Jason Reeve joined Ancestry in August 2016 as the Content Manager for Australia and New Zealand. A passionate advocate for all things history, Jason works closely with a range of archives, registries, historical & genealogical societies to uncover new record collections and share them with the Ancestry community.


Louise Gale

Louise is a passionate family history researcher who suffers withdrawal symptoms if she doesn’t get her daily dose of genealogy.
Louise is a member of Maitland and Beyond Family History Inc. and a member of their Research Team, providing volunteer support to members and visitors. Helping others to develop their research skills is a particularly rewarding aspect of volunteer work. In addition to helping members and visitors during regular opening hours, Louise has conducted workshops for small groups using structured case studies to help participants extend their research skills by using a wide variety of resources to track down elusive people. For some years Louise was also Journal Editor for MBFH Inc.


Samantha Ashby

Dr Samantha Ashby comes from Kent, England – the site of many swing riots in the 1830s. She is an academic in Occupational Therapy at the University of Newcastle. In her ‘spare time’ she uses her research skills to assist people to map their family histories and in doing so has developed an in-depth knowledge of the Swing Riots, Cornish Tin Miner migrations, Watchmaking in Clerkenwell, and Musical Instrument makers and publishers in London (1680-1850).