On a warm spring day a group of about 30 people gathered amongst the gardens at Franklin House. They were there to celebrate a special occasion.
Forty years of tracing, recording and publishing the family history of Northern Tasmania. One of the people in the crowd was John Dent. He wore a beaming smile as he greeted everyone and anyone at the event.
Dent was around when the Launceston branch of the Tasmanian Family History Society was launched in 1980.
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"It was called the Genealogical Society of Tasmania and of course with the initials GST when that came we had to change," he said with a laugh.
Dent was only in his 20s when he attend the first meeting of the Genealogical Society. A family death and surprise inheritance had sparked his interest in family history and so the society seemed like a logical way to explore that curiosity.
He found out that his family had been in Tasmania for seven generations.
"I got a bit interested because there wasn't a lot known. I managed to talk to mum and dad quite a bit about it and then managed at that time to talk to a lot of the older relatives, who have since passed away," Dent said.
"It was a good opportunity at that time to get people who were second generation from the original people who migrated or forcefully migrated some cases out from England, or Scotland, or Ireland or Wales. I have got the United Nations in my blood lines from all of the different countries."
In the '80s all the research conducted by the society was done through manual labour. Dent recalls visiting churches and graveyards in search of records for the society.
He said when the group first start meeting were a good way of making community contacts to help in the search.
"We went to meetings in the Kings Meadows High school lecture theatre to start with and that sort of kicked off and gave us a lot of contacts in family history," Dent said.
"There wasn't as many resources at that time you had to do a lot of leg work to go to churches and graveyards to get all the information yourself.
"So having a lot of contacts was helpful to track down records. Of course there was no trove then to go through all of the newspapers you had to go through them one by one."
For Dent the society has allowed him to explore his curiosity for his own family history, while also helping uncover the history of Northern Tasmania.
One such discovery linked his family to the first Northern Tasmanian settlement at York Town.
"One of my ancestors was a soldier here in the first settlement here in Northern Tasmanian at York Town. He was in that first settlement and that led me to get involved with York Town," he said.
"I have since found the remains of that original settlement down at York Town. It is where it leads you. It is like a jigsaw puzzle and you follow your own mystery really. It is unique to yourself and a few others, but it is an interesting [thing to do]. It is the thrill of the chase I suppose and finding out new things."
Lots of people in the crowd shared Dent's passion for discovering and recording history. Sandra Duck and Maureen Martin Ferris have both been around nearly as long as Dent has.
The pair have worked together to produce multiple indexes which the society sells from its library in Launceston. Martin Ferris, who is now the curator of the Swansea History Museum, said she was taken to a society meeting after telling a friend about her desire to research her own family history in the 80s.
She said the popularity of family history research had increased thanks to shows like Who Do You Think You Are?
"People are really, really interested now. Of course they all enjoy getting online because there are so many things online with the archives and also the National Library with the newspapers online. It is easier for them then what it was for us," Martin Ferris said.
Duck went on to explain how the society put indexes together. She detailed how they had to visit the library and record the information from old copies of newspapers before it was typed up and subsequently formed the index.
She said it was important for people to fact check information they find online.
"There is so much online but people must always remember that they have to double check and triple check their information because some of what is online is not correct," Duck said.
"So it has to be always checked thoroughly to make sure you are researching the right [thing]."
Not everyone at the function had been with the society since the 1980s. Manning the door, and making sure everyone complied with COVID-19 safe practice, was TFHS Launceston branch vice president Fran Keegan.
Keegan joined the society about 13 years ago after moving back to Tasmania from the mainland. But, it is only in the last four or five years that she has been heavily involved in the operations of the group.
She said being around people who were experienced in researching family history had helped her find things she otherwise wouldn't.
"I have been interested in family history for decades, since the 1980s really, and [I'm] doing my own family history," Keegan said.
"I found that being around people who have also been doing it for a long time and in a society where they've got lots of resources that you can't find anywhere else.
"There is lots of online resources today but there are things in the library that isn't online yet and there is lots of people who know more than I do."
Keegan's family has lived in Tasmania for generations. While going through some self-published books at the library she discovered something interesting about her grandfather.
"My grandfather had property on the outskirts of Launceston that I hadn't been able to find a whole lot about," she said.
"But, I actually found through reading a couple of the books, that people had self published but, we had in the library where there was information about that particular property. That was something that I don't think I would have found out [without the society]."
Keegan said although there were online family history resources available there will always be some local information that doesn't make it online.
She said organisations such as the TFHS were important because they looked after and stored that information.
"It is worthwhile having organisations like this so that people can go through some of those resources and talk to people who may know more of the Launceston area, Northern area, than you'll find online," Keegan said.
Despite being a member for about 13 years Keegan described herself as relatively new to the society. She said it was lovely to see so many people turn up to commemorate the special occasion.
"It is really good to see some of the older folk [here]. You can see some of the people who were instrumental in setting up the organisation 40 years," Keegan said.
"You think 40 years - 'what's 40 years?' But some of these people have been involved for the whole 40 years."
TFSH Launceston branch president Helen Stuart has a similar story to the other members mentioned early. She always had an innate curiosity about her family's history. So after retiring she decided to take a more active role in the society.
Along with her role as president she is the library coordinator and sales officer. Stuart's role at the library often sees her helping members of the public explore their family's past.
"Members and visitors come in and we help them research their family history," she said.
"We also do a lot of indexing for publications [and] we do research for interstate and overseas."
Throughout her time with the society Stuart has been able to track her own history and the history of Northern Tasmania's immigration societies.
"Launceston had quite a few immigration societies, the St Andrews Immigration Society and the Launceston Aid Immigration Society. Some of those are my ancestors," she said.
"I have still got the original ticket of my great grandmother when she came out of the ship and they arrived on the Tamar at the customs office.
"They had to stay overnight in the commissary and then they were recruited [the next day]."
Stuart said there were plenty of moments where she found out something about herself that surprised her.
"I found out that my grandfather's cousin in Scotland went to Canada and he is one of the founders of the Bank of Nova Scotia," she said.
"His wife is the daughter of Anna Leonowens from The King and I ... she was the governess who worked for the King of Siam. I wasn't expecting that."
She said it was special to be able to get everyone together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the society.
"Every 10 years is special," Stuart said. "We have five original members and four of them [came]."
Dent, Duck, Keegan, Martin Ferris and Stuart all encouraged people to try to research their own family histories.
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