Mini seminar

Saturday 28 April, Holland Park Library, 81 Seville Road, Holland Park, 12.30-4.30pm

A family history narrative can take many forms – book, series of blogs or perhaps a scrapbook filled with memorabilia and annotations on each item.  Whichever way you choose to write your family history, there will be decisions you will need to make about how you go about it, what level of detail you provide and what the final product will look like. The presenters in this seminar will help you answer some of those questions, using their own experiences and knowledge gleaned over many years of researching and writing their own family stories.


12.00—12.25pm Registrations

12.30—12.35pm Welcome

12.35—1.20pm Pauleen Cass
Practical tips for writing family history…or things I’ve learned along the way
Do you want to share all those family stories you’ve found in researching your family tree? How do you start? What do you include? What issues need to be considered? Do you feel bewildered by the scale of it? Writing your story can be both simple and complex. This presentation will help with what to consider before you start and map how to proceed. The biggest buzz is sharing those stories with family, knowing how much it’s appreciated and having the story preserved into the future.

1.30—2.15pm Sharyn Merkley
The Writing Process
Where does the story come from? How do I collate my research? Do I need a plan? How do I know when to stop writing? To answer these questions, Sharyn will discuss the processes she used in writing the family histories in her latest book, Brisbane Burns. These processes include gathering and collating research, using timelines, setting story boundaries, filling the information gap, choosing the best topics and writing for your audience.

2.15—2.45pm Afternoon tea

2.45—3.45pm Dr Janet Few (live from Devon, England)
Homes, Housework, Herbs and Hats: setting your family story in its domestic context
All too often, we view our ancestors in terms of vital events. We need to make them three-dimensional characters by investigating the domestic context in which they lived. What did they wear? What were their homes like? What did they eat? How difficult was it to fetch water? What happened when they fell sick? This session is intended to encourage you to investigate the social history that forms a backdrop to your ancestors’ lives and to suggest how you might go about that research.

3.45—4.30 Q & A
Pauleen Cass, Sharyn Merkley, Janet Few, Pauline Williams

About the presenters


Pauleen Cass

Pauleen Cass has been researching her families for over 30 years. She won both state and national prizes for her 2003 family history publication, Grassroots Queenslanders: the Kunkel Family. She also writes a family history blog called Family History Across the Seas which is being preserved through Pandora, the online archive with the National Library of Australia. She has a special interest in emigrants from East County Clare, Ireland and Dorfprozelten, Bavaria. She has searched for family history documents in archives and libraries in Australia and overseas, and “walked the ground” in her families’ homelands.

Sharyn Merkley

Sharyn first became interested in her own family history as a teenager listening to her great grandmother’s stories. Since then she has continued to research her own family and that of her husband. In 2012 while hunting the Merkley ancestors she became fascinated by the story of the Great Fire of Brisbane. This led to five years of research and writing delving into the family history of the survivors resulting in the publication “Brisbane Burns: How the great fires of 1864 shaped a city and its people”.


Dr Janet Few

Janet is an experienced family, social and community historian who lectures regularly on these subjects throughout the UK, overseas and at sea. In 2017, Janet was voted the top family historian in Britain in an international competition to find the ‘Genealogical Rock Stars’ of the English-speaking world.

Janet has written several family histories and has taught others to do the same. She is responsible for several online courses for Pharos Tutoring and Teaching, including one on writing up your family history and another focusing on the ill-health of our ancestors. Working as an historical interpreter, Janet spends time immersing herself in the social history of the seventeenth century as her alter ego, Mistress Agnes. Her book, Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs: the lives of our seventeenth century ancestors, describes the social history of the period. She also encouraged eighty women to write their memories, which became the book Remember Then: women’s memories of 1946-1969 and how to write your own. Her historical novel, Barefoot on the Cobbles is based on a family history story and is due for publication in November 2018.

Further information can be found on her website: