Speaker Topics


Sharn White – “Hell Itself has not tortures more exquisite.” Understanding Second Settlement Norfolk Island through both the Diaries of a Convict and a Chaplain.
This presentation explore the diaries of convict Lawrence Frayne and Chaplain Thomas Sharpe. These diaries, one the perspective of a man long incarcerated and the other, a spiritual minister to prisoners, were penned between 1837 and 1841. These detailed accounts provide first-hand insight into the reality of the common depiction of Norfolk Island as a Paradise that was Hell on Earth for convicts.
Melissa Hulbert – DNA Results, Tips and Ideas: How DNA can help with our family history brick walls
What can your DNA results tell you and are you getting the most out of them? Instead of looking for people, there are other ways to utilise your results and I’ll look at some ideas and different ways to help with your research and break down some of those brick walls as well as taking a look at how to keep track of your matches across multiple testing sites.
James Donohoe – Norfolk Island’s first settlement
Why was the Botany Bay Colony created and why was there the Satellite Colony established at about the same time on Norfolk Island? What were the religions among the Norfolk Islanders and who were their Chaplains? Who were the British Soldiers detached to Norfolk Island? Who were the Administrators? What was the impact of these groups among themselves and how does history reflect their presence 1788-1814. How significant was the Norfolk Island economy to the survival of the Botany Bay Colony. What positive long term contribution did the small community of Norfolk Island 1788-1814 make on the formation of the Australia character and The Australian nation?


Cathy Dunn – Nature and Sources of Birth Deaths and Marriage Records of First Settlement Norfolk Island 1788 to 1814
Public historian Cathy Dunn will provide valuable insight into understanding the diverse collection of records pertaining to Norfolk Island first settlement’s Birth, Deaths and Marriages. This informative session will include the nature and sourcing these primary records for your family history research. Discover how to intercept and understand the context of the records: what purpose and importance in genealogical research and understanding of Norfolk Island’s first Settlement history.
Sue Reid – Australian Newspapers and substitutes after the 1950’s
When the wonderful Trove Digitised Newspapers project began more than a decade ago, the newspapers available via Trove were published up to 1954. This was for copyright reasons. We have come to reply on Trove Digitised Newspapers to enrich our research, but wheat can be done when Trove runs out? Join Sue Reid to learn what Australian newspapers are available beyond this 1954 date and what other free sources we can use to provide rich data.
Pauline Williams – From Machine breakers to Pillars of the Community
Arthur and George Binstead were caught up in the Swing Riots, convicted of machine breaking and transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1831 on board the Eliza. They and their fellow machine breaking convicts were later granted a free pardon as it was felt that the penalties imposed on them were too harsh. Using English and Australian sources, this paper examines the background to their conviction and how they turned their lives around to become successful businessmen in Queensland and Victoria and pillars of the community.


Liz Rushen – Immigration to Australia before 1850
Many schemes, both private and government, operated throughout the nineteenth century to assist people to migrate from Great Britain and Ireland to Australia. This paper will give an overview of nineteenth century migration – from the active discouragement during the first forty or so years of white settlement, to the work of various bounty agents and brokers, and the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission which assisted hundreds of thousands of people to migrate until it ceased early in the 1870s.
Wendy Holz – Norfolk Island at the State Library of New South Wales
The Mitchell Library at the State Library of NSW, holds a rich collection of Norfolk Island original materials: diaries and letters, ships logs, government documents, charts, plans and drawings. All document the history of Norfolk Island from the beginnings of its establishment as a British settlement in 1788. The Library also holds important ‘Bounty’ and later Pitcairn Island records as well as archives of the ‘Third’ settlement period when Pitcairners settled on Norfolk. Together with church registers, administrative records, photographs, personal papers, maps, books and newsletters, the Mitchell Library’s collections are an essential source for those researching this fascinating island.
Jill Ball – Take Charge of your Library with Librarything
Librarything, www.librarything.com, is a free, stable online tool that enables institutions and individuals to catalogue, organise and access their book collections. During this presentation we will investigate Librarything’s functions, visit the accounts of some Australian genealogists and look at the social functions of the site. We will examine the ways that genealogy and historical societies use the tool as a economical means to host their library catalogue and share their holdings online. Additionally we will learn how to use the Librarything database to track down elusive titles on our lists of desiderata.


Jan Richardson – From Norfolk Island and New Zealand to India and Afghanistan: Soldiers’ travels with the British Army in the 1800s
In 1844, Thomas Finch of the 58th Rutlandshire Regiment departed England on the convict ship “William Jardine”, arriving in Hobart in 1844. The regiment was posted to Norfolk Island, where they again guarded convicts, and then to New Zealand to fight in the Flagstaff Wars. Similarly, Finch’s future father-in-law, Thomas Smythe of the 17th Regiment of Foot, sailed to Sydney on the convict ship “Adrian” in 1830 before the regiment was posted to India in 1836. Investigating the military records of your soldier ancestor can bring crucial and unexpected details to light, from convict-era travels to Norfolk Island and Van Diemen’s Land to fighting wars in India, Afghanistan and New Zealand, and from your ancestor’s height and eye colour to the names and addresses of family members in England, Ireland and beyond.
Tamsin O’Connor – ‘The history of “experience in the imagination” or “the most beautiful lies”: Fictive history and the penal stations of New South Wales.’
This paper examines David Malouf’s idea of ‘fictive history’ in its colonial context. The novel and the narrative tradition of criminal biography, from which it emerged, has always been crucial in shaping representations of Convict Australia. I will focus on the significance of middle-class ventriloquism in three very different texts—the recorded defence of the bushranger and Norfolk Island mutineer Black John Gough; Charles Dicken’s ‘useful narrative of [penal station] terror and retribution’ offered in service to the nation and Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs—a novel that in one important respect really is a rival to ‘real history.’ Yet it is the life and death of Black John Gough that resonates and reverberates as a perfect and painful echo of life on the penal frontier.
Kerry Farmer – Norfolk Island and DNA
Strong genetic evidence supports the historical and genealogical accounts that descendants of European mutineers and Polynesian women came to Norfolk Island. By contrast, those looking to confirm connections with the two earlier British penal colonies on the island need to use traditional genealogical research as well as DNA to connect to convicts’ and administrators’ families. This presentation examines the different approaches.


Kate Bagnall – Finding Ancestors in Australian and New Zealand Naturalisation Records
Naturalisation records are a valuable source for researching ancestors who migrated from outside the British Empire – from Continental Europe, china, the United States and beyond. In this talk you will be introduced to the history of naturalisation in Australia and New Zealand and learn about relevant records in state and national archives. The talk will be illustrated with examples from different jurisdictions from the early nineteenth to the mid twentieth centuries.
Janice Wellard – Women on Norfolk Island, 1825-1839
The second settlement of Norfolk Island is well known for its harsh treatment of the male convicts incarcerated there from 1825. It is less well known that a small number of women – assigned convicts, and the wives of officers, civil administrators, and convicts – also lived on Norfolk Island during this time. This talk will explore the female presence on Norfolk Island between 1825 and 1839 – who were they, what roles did they fill, and what life was like for these women?


Lee Butterworth – Not just ordinary people: the Harry Gentle Resource Centre’s ‘Dictionary of Early Queenslanders’
The Harry Gentle Resource Centre (HGRC) was established to honour the generous bequest of Robert Henry Gentle, an alumnus of Griffith University. In honouring this significant gift, the HGRC features online access to rare books and documents, and other eresources including biographies, archival collections and research projects undertaken by visiting fellows that focus on pre-Separation Queensland. Of special interest for family historians and genealogists, the HGRC is currently developing a ‘Dictionary of Early Queenslanders’. This paper examines the possibilities and challenges of implementing the bequest, as well as defining the work undertaken by the HGRC.
Dr Jonathon Richards – Convict Israel Shaw
Israel Shaw was sent to Norfolk from Tasmania in 1847 after being convicted of stealing. He returned in 1851 but was charged with being a ‘runaway convict’ in 1853. How can we learn more about the convicts sentenced in Australia? What happened to them after the penal colony closed?
Rhonda Griffiths – An infamous dynasty; the Norfolk Islander of today
Looking at her own family lineage and ancestry, Rhonda will examine how it has impacted her life and Island community. As a descendant from arguably the most infamous mutiny in history that resulted in a unique people with both Polynesian and English origins living on a small isolated Island, Rhonda will discuss what it’s like to come from such a famous part of history, how it has impacted her life and work in the Pacific and helped her to achieve in many areas. She will also explain how it feels to be a member of such a small close knit (and infamous) community based on 8 founding families and how the community has changed over time.


Wendy Holz – Family History at the State Library of New South Wales
The State Library of NSW has a diverse and extensive collection of genealogical resources ranging from databases through to published local and family histories, journals and maps as well as original material including letters, diaries and artistic works. It can feel daunting to know where to start, or how to dig deeper into these resources. This survey of our collections and how to access them – whether online or onsite – aims to give you some confidence to begin your State Library research – even if that is simply asking a librarian for help!
Geoff Doherty – Round and Round the World we go: Tracing a family that didn’t want to be found
This story developed from the chance finding of a police file in Premier’s Inwards Correspondence, for 1902, stored at Queensland State Archives in Brisbane. The file describes what can only be described as a “Family Historians dream”. There is family desertion, bigamy, embezzlement, police investigations, lies, deceit, theft, bankruptcy, child abandonment, international travel, war, patents, court appearances, madness, asylums, ten children, three men and two women and the tangled trail they left behind them. You won’t believe how all this could happen to so few people.
Cathy Dunn – Shipwrecked or not Shipwrecked? That is the question.
Was Norfolk Island plunged into a life-threatening crisis with the shipwreck of HMS Sirius in March 1790. What were the challenges on Norfolk Island for the convict passengers and stranded crew of HMS Sirius? Public historian Cathy Dunn will also debunk the many myths and misconceptions of HMS Sirius: its final voyage and her people. This informative session will feature the life of some of the people of HMS Sirius on Norfolk Island, a few whose headstones here on Norfolk Island today are a tourist attraction.


Jan Richardson and Janice Wellard – “The ground about the triangles was literally soaked with blood”: The reality of convict lives at Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay.
In 1901, The Queenslander newspaper published an article stating that the “very worst and most atrocious characters” were sent to Norfolk Island, while the “next in evil degree” were sent to Moreton Bay. Reports of both penal settlements were dominated by harsh punishments of up to 300 lashes awarded to individual convict and “flogging days” where thousands of lashes were delivered. But what do the records tell us, not only about the use of punishments and rewards, but also about the type of labour performed, the hours and conditions of work, diet, medical care, and rates of death and disease? This paper will explore the reality faced by convicts sent to Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay.
Jason Reeve – Using Ancestry.com for Family History & An Introduction to AncestryDNA (Including Q&A)
Have you heard of Ancestry.com? Why should you use it? How can you find the help you need to overcome obstacles with your research and where does AncestryDNA fit in to the picture? Join Jason Reeve, Ancestry.com’s Content Acquisition Manager for Australia and New Zealand as he explains using Ancestry, taking an AncestryDNA test and discovering your own family history.
Jan Gow – You need a cake tin!!!
We all need a cake tin!! Are you cooking a cake without a cake tin????? Not anymore!!! Your places need a cake tin!! Just another way of saying you need to be organised!!! Learn to recognise the clues in our places.


Liz Rushen – Female Immigration to Australia in the 1830s
In this talk, Liz Rushen will describe the first scheme for female migration to Australia and the 3000 women who were assisted to migrate from Britain and Ireland in the 1830s by the London Emigration Committee. Liz reveals that many independent women took up this opportunity for independence. Their selection interviews, life-experiences and writings show they were drawn from a wide cross-section of nineteenth century society and made lasting contributions to Australian society.
David White – A History of Norfolk Island’s Built Heritage.
This talk will trace and outline the architectural styles of the built heritage of Norfolk Island’s different settlement periods. It will cover the first and second colonial and convict settlements and the Pitcairn resettlement. The talk will also cover the challenges of building in such a remote location, even in modern times.
Shauna Hicks – Finding Love in Paradise: the Pyers/Johnson story
This presentation tells the story of convicts Samuel Pyers and Susannah Johnson who met and married on Norfolk Island. They were forced to leave their Island paradise and go to Tasmania when the First Settlement closed. They lived out the rest of their lives in Tasmania but was the grant of land worth the loss of their Island home? Was life better in Tasmania? Their descendant Max Spencer and myself visited Norfolk Island in 2007 for a re-enactment celebration of the first departure in 1807 and again in 2014. Exploring the Island and learning about the First Settlement is a wonderful example of how walking in your ancestors footsteps can enrich your family history.


Janice Cooper – Building stories of family lives in early colonial Australia
Early colonial family history continues to benefit from the ongoing addition of searchable sources on online and electronic platforms. This presentation will examine how the linking of information from a range of sources, such as those available through the Australian Joint Copying Project, the New South Wales Land Registry Services, the Old Registers and others can solve problems, resolve contradictions and fill gaps. Examples from the stories of four ancestral families arriving in NSW within the first 25 years of British settlement will be used to illustrate.
Chelsea Evans – Navigating affective heritage experiences on Norfolk Island through a process of being-in-place
Norfolk Island has a layered heritage landscape which includes narratives that are situated on the periphery. Whilst historically the storying of Norfolk Island has been from a Eurocentric position due to the tangible remnants of two British settlements, there has been an effort to emphasise peripheral voices and therefore re-centre the island’s heritage landscape. By foregrounding affective experiences of heritage on Norfolk Island a decolonial process of re-positioning can take place that considers the significance of contemporary Norfolk Island identities. Understanding the distinct cultural identities within the Norfolk Island community offer an opportunity for new perspectives to be mobilised that acknowledge the affective connections to heritage through a process of being-in-place.
Kerry Farmer – Should auld acquaintance be forgot
What do you know about where and how your Scottish ancestors lived? Did
they struggle to make ends meet or end up before the courts? Do you know
what taxes they paid or what education they received? Discover more about
your Scottish ancestors than just the details of their birth, marriage or death.


Scott Fairie – Army Pay books at the National Archives (UK)
Finding and tracking a soldier’s service record adds interest to a family history, and with luck, can be a lead to lost origins in the UK. A description of some of the records found in The National Archives, and links to access them from far distance. What information you can expect to see at different Colonial periods. Looking at the finding aids and some strategies for identifying which regiment a soldier served in.

Emily Hanna – Norfolk Island: Records in the NSW State Archives Collection

From 1788 to 1814 Norfolk Island existed as an extension of the penal settlement in New South Wales. In 1825 the island was reoccupied as a place of banishment for the worst reoffenders. This presentation will look at NSW State Government archives relating to the life and times of the people who lived on the island in these early days until administrative control of the island was transferred to Van Diemans Land in 1844.

Myko Clelland – TBC