May I Introduce To You . . . Sharn White

Sharn White

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Sharn White and her blog, FamilyHistory4u, described as, “. . .  FamilyHistory4u is just one of my genealogy blogs, however it is the blog that I use the most often for my genealogy posts. I have two other family history blogs which are  Sharn’s Genealogy Jottings and  Family Convictions – A Convict Ancestor. The latter is my newest blog where I am recording my research findings and anecdotes regarding my felonious Convict ancestors in Australia.

FamilyHistory4u is the blog where I post most of my genealogy research, family history finds and tips which I hope may be of interest to others who are researching their family history. My blog posts cover a wide range of topics such as, naming patterns, relationship charts, local history, house histories, negative evidence, genealogy resources such as newspapers, valuation rolls, muster rolls, archives, wills, photographs, libraries and numerous other genealogy related subjects. I usually illustrate my information with examples of my own research to demonstrate how various resources can be used successfully in the search for ancestors. One such example was a blog post in which I wrote about using newspapers and newspaper advertisements to learn about ancestors. This post followed the career of my great-great grandfather who was a builder, through advertisements in major and local newspapers and showed how I discovered through tenders advertising for sub-contractors and materials to be delivered with addresses listed, that my great-great grandfather had constructed churches, civic buildings and homes in Sydney, Australia between 1878 and 1900. Newspaper advertisements gave me the addresses of his business and his home address and in addition I discovered that he had a workshop for the construction of tram and rail carriages for government contracts. I have participated in geneablogging challenges and special commemorative posts through my blog FamilyHistory4u and have discussed interesting conferences and talks I have attended, including a recent Unlock the Past family history cruise I attended.

I have been both humbled and thrilled that my blog, FamilyHistory4u has been chosen to receive awards such as the Illuminating Blogger award, One Lovely Blog, Inside History’s Top 50 Genealogy Blogs, Blog of the Year, Ancestor Approved Award, and recently I was named as one of the top 8 Rock Star Genealogists in the Australia Pacific Region for my blog. It is always quite rewarding to find that others appreciate the effort one puts into writing family history blogs.”

A Little About Sharn

I was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. After training to be a teacher, I married and moved to Sydney, New South Wales, where I now live. As my four children grew older, I studied history at a nearby university and I am currently studying a degree in Applied, Local and Family History through the University of New England. I could definitely be described as obsessed by history and family history studies, although finding the time for study is always a challenge.  My interest in the past, heritage and house histories has come in handy occasionally for my Heritage Architect husband David. When I find the time, my other passions in life are collecting books, reading, art and music.”

How Sharn Got Started in Genealogy

“As a child, I loved nothing more than to listen to my grandmother’s stories about Northern Ireland where she was born and lived as a child. I have no doubt that my fascination with my roots originated from this oral history that I was privileged to hear and my grandmother had a way of telling stories that made me want to hear them over and over again. I collected information about my Northern Irish branch of my family tree throughout my life, perhaps because I was very close to my paternal grandmother. I do regret that I did not ask many questions about other lines of ancestry until much later in life, although I knew vaguely that I had Welsh and Swiss forbears somewhere in the distant past.  I knew of my close Scottish roots because my grandfather was born in Glasgow, but somehow the Irish in me seemed more familiar. So without having really researched my family tree, I thought I knew my background until, in 1998, a comment made by an elderly great aunt hinted to me that I had a German line of ancestry. Because I had studied the German language at school and at university, this more than any other family information sparked a desire to investigate my roots more thoroughly.

It was following the information which my great aunt gave me that I began to apply for birth, marriage and death certificates and really became interested in family history. I had grown up knowing that my maternal two time great grandmother was born in Switzerland but I had always assumed she came as a married woman with her family.  The discovery that she arrived as a young child and married a man of German nationality was momentous for me since I had always believed myself to be a third/fourth generation Australian with a family history that did not go far back in Australia. As my family history began to unravel, I discovered that my maternal forebears arrived in Australia as early as 1826.  The tables turned on me entirely when my genealogy journey led to Irish convicts who arrived in Australia in the early days of the colony.  That discovery made for a good blog post, after I misread the word ‘Sawyer’ as “Lawyer’ and not long afterwards, the penny dropped, and my Irish three times great grandfather fell from grace . . . Dublin Lawyer to a sawyer (too early for an Irish free settler) to a convict.”

Sharn’s Thoughts on Blogging

“I began my first genealogy blog Sharn’s Genealogy Jottings in 2009. I have loved to write since I was a child, and I would like to say that I spent ages planning my blog, but in truth its creation was almost by accident. In November 2009, I saw the movie Julie and Julia, based on a true story and starring Meryl Streep as the chef Julia Childs and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a young woman who challenged herself to cook her way through 365 days of Julia Child’s French recipes and whose daily blog attracted millions of followers. I walked out of the theatre determined to start a blog. The very next day, never having even read a blog, I researched ‘how to blog’, and after experimenting with several blogging platforms, I set up my first ever blog on Blogger. Then I sat back and wondered what I could blog about. I had no idea and too many ideas as to what my blog could be about. I enjoyed creative writing, I loved art and music, I’m a collector . . . and then a thought struck me – I would create a genealogy blog as a way of recording my family history and in the hope that my blog might find relatives.  In August 2010, I created my second blog, FamilyHistory4u so that I could keep my original blog as a personal record of family history and the second blog as a way of sharing genealogical research, resources and anecdotes which might be of interest to others.  Then 2012 saw the birth of my newest genealogy blog, Family Convictions – A Convict Ancestor.”

Sharn’s Tips for New Bloggers

“My advice would be to just start blogging. My blog has evolved and changed since I began blogging in 2009. It isn’t crucial to have a clear goal or direction for your blog when you create it. Once you have been writing for a while, you will find the place where you feel comfortable within the blogging community. I think that it is important to read as many blogs written by other people as you can. It is invaluable to give yourself exposure to different writing styles and different types of genealogy blogs. There are genealogy blogs which narrate personal family history, while others are designed to offer advice. Some blogs are focused on applying technology to family history and there are informative blogs from libraries, archives and family history societies. Your blog will become more interesting if you read and learn from others, being very mindful always to acknowledge all information that you acquire from other people. One important piece of advice I would like to add is that copyright applies to blogs so whatever you write must be your own words and ideas.”

Sharn’s Favorite Blog Post

“I’m not sure that I have a single favourite post, although I think that some of my blog posts are better researched than others. One post I enjoyed writing in particular was entitled Oliver Twist and my Third great Uncle Henry- Using 19th Century Novels as Genealogy Resources.

Sharn’s Time with the Ancestors

“Because I am studying history, much of my time is spent researching, however this limits the time I have for family history research. I find however, that the combination of family history and local and world history comes together to give me a wider perspective for my genealogy findings and helps me to understand my ancestors within a realistic historical context. I would love to have more time for my family history though . . . and less late nights . . .”

Sharn’s Favorite Ancestors

“I have a few favourite ancestors. My two time great grandfather Michael Frayne who arrived in Australia aged 14, as a convict and dubbed ‘the Dublin burglar’ and his brother Lawrence Frayne also a convict are both fascinating forebears. I think the more I learn about ancestors the fonder I become of them. I tend to be drawn to the scoundrels on my family tree. Without a doubt my very favourite person on the family tree is my great Uncle Rex Morley Hoyes.  To summarize his fascinating dossier – in 1934 he owned a super yacht named Warrior which was built by millionaire Frederick Vanderbilt in 1901; during World War 2 he built a secret airfield on his Hampshire property Marwell Hall (once owned by King Henry VIII and given by him to the Seymour family); he managed an aircraft company which converted Seafire aircraft to Spitfires and he organized for them to be test flown, mostly by women pilots on his secret airfield, away from the enemy bombing; he was wanted by MI5 who never proved their charges that he colluded with the Germans or supplied them with American Army uniforms; he had addresses all over the world including France, Balearic Islands, Berlin, Tangiers; he supplied aircraft for, and was involved closely with Australian pilot Sidney Cotton in secret gunrunning to Hyderabad via Karachi, in 1948 before Hyderabad lost its independence to India; he changed his name numerous times and died with the puzzling name of Vicompt Fessenden Charles Rex Morley-Morley de Borenden.  Of all my relatives, Rex has undoubtedly been the most intriguing and exciting to research.”

How Genealogy Has Improved Sharn’s Life

“Through researching family history, attending conferences, being involved in genealogy communities through social media opportunities such as Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, and least but not last, through my blogs, I have made many wonderful and lasting friendships, connected with relatives and exchanged information, learned valuable research skills, returned ‘lost’ photographs and diaries to their rightful families and discovered cousins who would have otherwise been unknown to me, but whom I am now privileged to have close relationships with.”

What Sharn Loves Most About Genealogy

“I love the thrill of researching and finding not just names and dates of ancestors, where they lived and what their occupations were, but putting the information I gather into historical context and giving depth to their lives. If an ancestor was, for example, a miller, I would investigate whether he had his own mill and if so, its location, whether it was a windmill or a waterwheel mill, and what grain was milled. I like to build up a picture of the community my ancestors lived in and to understand the part they played within that community. If possible I like to visit the places my ancestors lived. I have seen the buildings an ancestor built, sat in rail carriages constructed by a great-great grandfather and climbed the winding stone steps built by my great great-great grandfather along with four other convicts, up a steep mountain to a lighthouse. I love to walk in my ancestors’ footsteps. I especially enjoy writing blog posts about my genealogy discoveries and discussing the resources I have found and showing how I put them to valuable use in my research. I think the determined and dogged detective qualities one needs to develop in the pursuit of family history appeals to me.”

Sharn’s Time Capsule Message

“We live in an age of technology but not so far from the past that we can’t still feel the thrill of finding an old photograph, diary or letter. I would tell future generations to always be mindful of leaving a trail . . . if not a paper trail then at least leave some USB’s or CD’s or whatever evolving technology is applicable, with saved photos, texts, perhaps some  tweets from your twitter account, or excerpts from your Facebook page  – glimpses of your life – for your descendants to become excited about!”

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Please take a moment to head on over to Sharn’s blog. Leave her a comment letting her know you stopped by. Welcome Sharn, it’s great to have you here!

© 2014, copyright Gini Webb

Gini Webb lives in San Diego, California and manages her own blog, Ginisology, while also researching her own German heritage, retired, enjoying life with wonderful husband Steve and visiting with her grandchildren! Are you a genealogy blogger who would like to be interviewed for the “May I Introduce To You . . .” series? If so, contact Gini Webb via e-mail.

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