Alt banner image

Unlock the Past’s fourth genealogy cruise in 2014 :: Four presenters tell us their plans

Imagine holidaying in beautiful surrounds, making new friends and learning more about your family history all at the same time. If that’s your ideal, it’s time to turn your attention to Unlock the Past’s 2014 genealogy cruise…

Next year sees the launch of Unlock the Past’s fourth genealogy cruise. On 4 February, the journey embarks from Sydney and takes in Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart over nine days. On the sea days, there’ll be more than 40 seminars across 60 topics presented by genealogy experts from Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK, plus the chance to ask them for help in finding those broken and missing branches that exist in every family tree.


Here, we’ve asked four of the cruise’s speakers to let us in on what topics they’ll be presenting on board, to whet your appetite. And if you’d like more info, visit


Neil Smith :: click for more about Neil

The prospect of sailing the ocean’s waves again brought back a flood of memories of early adventures. Mixed feelings coming home on a cramped troopship from Vietnam. Clinging fearfully to a hand rail on a Navy patrol boat in the South Pacific. Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea during a cruise break from military studies. Perhaps the sea has some mystical power over me. After all, artist Robert Henri wrote, ‘Why do we love the sea? It’s because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.’ Certainly that’s true in my case, although having left a rewarding Army career behind, I’d be inclined these days to think of my more recent passions of tracing our military heritage or finding that elusive digger.

I suspect that many of those who join me on the cruise will share my passions. I believe, too, that the cruise will enable us all to think about the things we like to think, unfettered by the usual domestic doings of our lives. Rather we can concentrate on the subject at hand — making inroads into discovering our ancestry. For my part I’ll be taking my travellers down paths seldom trod to find out more about their military ancestors. Here’s a taste of what’s in store.

Apart from scores of publications, media work, and presentations on researching military history, I have researched in detail tens of thousands of former Australian and other service personnel for family historians and others. All too often I have found that my client simply didn’t understand fully our basic military history much less how the Army, Navy or Air Force function, communicate and record information. This I intend to rectify with my first session. More importantly, the cruise will allow my companions to ask questions like, ‘Why can’t I find my Boer War man at the Australian War Memorial?’, ‘What can we glean from this photo?’, ‘I have his records, but what do they mean?’ These and a host more questions we can resolve, face to face, on board, over a cup of tea.

We won’t stop there though. I’ll lead other sessions addressing the British Redcoats in Australia, the two world wars and the many other conflicts in which Australians and New Zealanders have been involved. Apart from my own unique research material, I plan to access online resources from Canberra to London, plus many lesser known resources. Simply put, there’s never been a better opportunity to explore your family history through your military ancestors.



Noeline Kyle :: click for more about Noeline

I am looking forward to packing my bags for this fantastic opportunity to get to know genealogists, speakers and other passengers on the fourth Unlock the Past cruise. As one of the speakers I also have the privilege of presenting topics I’ve been passionate about for more than 40 years. Over the decades I’ve written widely about convict women, midwives, women teachers and the women in my family. For my first presentation on the cruise, I’m planning a visit to the dark side with “Deadly Women”, a look at the motivation that drives women to become killers. In this talk I draw on examples (as well as providing information on the plethora of resources available) from midwifery and nursing and the story of the child murderer, Constance Emilie Kent.

The family unit has been termed a haven in a heartless world but it is much more than this; it’s the place where women and children live out most of their daily lives. For my second presentation I refer to sources from my latest book, Finding Florence, Maude, Matilda, Rose: Researching and Writing About Women in Family History. I’ll discuss useful tips and strategies on finding and recording the lives of female ancestors, the family and the world of the child. Rhett Butler famously said: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” as he breezed through a movie version of life. If only we could be as carefree with our research! As family historians we need to follow citation standards and ethics. I use my book, Citation and Copyright in a Digital Age, to demystify the conventions surrounding this important part of the research and writing process.

Are you thinking about writing but haven’t started, or are you already writing and would like some help? My workshops on writing family history “Getting Started” and “Creating Lives, Constructing Chapters” aim to help both beginners and experienced writers. Come along and be surprised at how useful it is to listen to how others approach the writing task, how best to organise that mass of documents, take part in writing exercises and begin to write your family history!


Chris Paton :: click for more about Chris

In 2011 I was a speaker on the second Unlock the Past cruise from New Zealand to Australia, which was the first time that I had attended any form of heritage-based holiday event. Although a cruise, I very much approached it as a conference, with my wife and two sons along for a holiday while I worked. In fact, it proved to be an enormously fun experience for all of us, both in terms of work and play!

The genealogy program was packed with all sorts of lecture topics, but it had a comfortably relaxed informality, allowing you to pick and choose which you wished to attend, and to schedule your days accordingly. To give a flavour, a snippet from my last talk on the cruise, about the murder of one of my ancestors, is available online [click to view video]. I was also able to offer advice to many with specific brickwall problems, and there were various research zones scheduled between talks. The facilities on board were superb, the crew could not have been friendlier (particularly to my boys, who both celebrated birthdays while at sea), and a drink listening to “Piano Man” ended each night perfectly.

Having travelled from Scotland, I not only wished to be involved in giving talks on board the ship, I also used the opportunity to meet many genealogy folk in New Zealand and Australia during our stopovers, something I hope to do again on the fourth cruise. On each of our scheduled shore days I visited local family history societies to give talks there also, which allowed me to better understand how things are done within the genealogical world down under. That’s not to say I didn’t get to see any sites with my family!

In Rotorua my boys and I risked life and limb on a Sky Swing, at Picton I visited the Edwin Fox [click to view video], in Burnie we took in an early morning helicopter trip within an hour of reaching port, at Sydney we visited the Opera House, and more. All great fun!

On the fourth cruise, I will be giving a range of talks on Scottish and Irish topics, reflecting the areas within which I research the most, but also on more generic British topics. I’ll be looking at subjects such as the history and splits within the Scottish Kirk, the laws surrounding marriage in Scotland and our weird land inheritance system (both areas being very different to equivalents elsewhere in the UK), and will examine how to trace the ‘down and out’ in Scotland, when times were tough. I’ll look at civil registration and newspapers from the British Isles, and the use of Irish land records — and in the centenary year of WWI, I’ll describe my Ruhleben Story project examining the untold stories of thousands of British- and Empire-based civilians who found themselves in Europe at precisely the wrong time, for which they were interned in Germany throughout the conflict.


Thomas MacEntee :: click for more about Thomas

Geography is no longer our master when it comes to genealogy. I’m a US-based educator and author who assists family historians in mastering technology and social media. Through my work lecturing and writing about how to use Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to expand the genealogy experience, I’ve come to believe that family historians need to get out and see the world, especially as it relates to one’s heritage.

That’s what I keep telling newcomers to genealogy. Those folks who started researching their roots in the past five years seem to think that they can do everything online, which is not true. At least here in the US, only five per cent of all records pertaining to genealogy are digitised and available online. As for travel? Well, when I took my first genealogy cruise, I was amazed at how much it was like one big genealogy society meeting or conference, but with better amenities! I can attend lectures, share a meal with cruise mates who have the same interests, and exchange information and resources with them.

I love to see other genealogists succeed, whether it is with their own research or building their careers in the field. Even if you don’t consider yourself “tech literate,” you’ll find my lectures easy to understand and you just might walk away (or swim away since this is a cruise) with some knowledge to apply to your own research. My lectures will cover: social media and how to use it to improve genealogy research; blogging and writing about your ancestors as a form of ‘cousin bait’; using Facebook to connect with other genealogists and to share resources; tech tips and tricks including metadata for digital images, backing up your genealogy data, and creating a virtual research toolbox.

During the cruise, I’ll also be available for consultations. This will be my third genealogy-focused cruise, and I’m excited about being able to see a new part of the world and to meet with new genealogists.

Where: A southern ports cruise out of Sydney visiting Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart – click for more
When: 4-13 February 2014 (9 nights)
Ship: Voyager of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International)
Cost: from $1409 twin share



Other useful links:
4th Unlock the Past cruise Itinerary and booking – click here
British GENES (British Genealogy News and Events) – click here
Geneabloggers, the ultimate site for genealogy blogging – click here
Gould Genealogy – click here
Mostly Unsung, Australia military history research services – click here
Writing family history – click here

Join our mailing list