Related Histories: Studying the Family

In 2015 Graeme Davison observed that family history had emerged from the world of the ‘private hobby’ and, taking on new understandings of genealogy, memory and history, become a new ‘shared civic endeavour.’ Everywhere we see evidence of a remarkable upsurge of interest in family history as popular culture, as we become more willing to locate our families ‘in the throes of history’, and ‘against the background of their times.’ As faith in the grand narratives of class, civic responsibility and national identity has declined, family history has come to promise a deeper sense of who we are.

Related Histories: Studying the Family is a two-day conference convened by the National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, and the Centre for Applied History, Macquarie University, in partnership with the National Library of Australia. It will consider some of the big questions in family history in keynote addresses, and hear from a wide variety of family history practitioners through research papers and ten minute presentations. The conference will allow space for discussion and debate of the key questions: How can the different sectors – academics, students, genealogists, and amateur historians – work together to support the development of family history?

Graeme Davison, author of the acclaimed Lost Relations: Fortunes of My Family in Australia’s Golden Age (2015), will deliver the conference’s key note lecture in which he will reflect on his research process and the impact of this for his historical thinking.
Location: Theatre, NLA, 28 November 6.30-7.30 pm. The lecture is a free public event.

CONFERENCE COSTS (to cover the cost of tea breaks and lunch)
Both days $165 ($140 concession; $110 students)
Daily rate $85 ($70 concession; $55 students)

* The Full Conference Program is available as a pdf below. It will also be available in hardcopy at the Registration Table on 28 November.

Conference program

Day 1: 28th November 2017

8.30-9.00am: Registration (foyer, NLA)

9.00-9.30am: Welcome to Country and conference introductions.

9.30-11.00am: Session 1
Family History as Genre
This session will address themes relating to the writing of family history including its relationship to creative (non) fiction. It will also consider family history, memory and oral story-telling practices.
Susannah Radstone (University of South Australia). ‘Re-membering the family: Memory-work as approach and method’
Tim Bonyhady (Australian National University). ‘
A way to change your life: Writing family history in the National Library of Australia’
Anna Green (Victoria University of Wellington). ‘The Missing Link: Pākehā/New Zealand European intergenerational family memory’

11.00-11.30am: morning tea

11.30am-1.00pm: Session 2
Family History Across the Disciplines
This session will accommodate papers that consider how family history facilitates inter-disciplinary research across the social/sciences (genetic research for example)
Cathy Day (Australian National University). ‘Family history and biological anthropology’
Simon Easteal (Australian National University). ‘Family history and genomics’
Janet McCalman (University of Melbourne). ‘Family History en masse: demographic prosopography as a tool for social and medical research’

1.00-2.00pm: lunch

2.00-3.30pm: Session 3
Family History and Transformational Learning
This session looks at family history as pedagogy and its implications for democratising history-making and making and interventions into civic consciousness.
Emma Shaw (University of Newcastle). ‘Family history as public pedagogy: Learning to “do” and produce history in public spaces’

Kristyn Harman (University of Tasmania – via video link). ‘The Diploma of Family History in an age of digital literacy’

Anna Clark (University of Technology Sydney). ‘Private Lives, Public History’

3.30-4.30pm: afternoon tea

4.30-6.00pm: Session 4
This session invites scholars to give presentations on works-in-progress and provides opportunities to reflect on the personal experiences of research.
Marian Lorrison (Macquarie University)

Shauna Bostock-Smith (Australian National University)

Helen Morgan (University of Melbourne)

Babette Smith (independent researcher)

Barry McGowan (Australian National University)

6.30-7.30pm: Public Lecture: Graeme Davison, 'My Grandfather's Clock: The History of an Heirloom'

Graeme Davison, author of the acclaimed Lost Relations: Fortunes of My Family in Australia’s Golden Age (2015), reflects on his research process and its impact on his historical thinking.

Theatre, NLA

Conference dinner

Day 2: 29th November 2017

9.00-10.30am: Session 5
The Politics of Family History
This session will cover a range of issues including FH and national identity, gender, race and relationships to public history wars/critical historiography.
Angela Wanhalla (University of Otago). ‘“To finally know that I belong to someone would be beyond my wildest dreams”: Finding family in the wake of the Pacific War’
Jane McCabe (University of Otago). ‘Out of the shadows: transforming family narratives and beyond’
Jenny Hocking (Monash University). ‘From “Grandfather the felon” to secrets of the Dismissal: Transforming history through political biography’

10.30-11.00am: morning tea

11.00am-12.30pm: Session 6
Family History and the Digital Revolution
This session will cover issues such as the impact of multimedia technologies, scientific advances, academic/non-academic collaborations/hinterlands.
Christine Fernon and Scott Yeadon (Australian National University). ‘Family history and the Australian Dictionary of Biography’
Kate Bagnall (University of Wollongong). ‘Communication and collaboration in the digital age’
Lorina Barker (University of New England). ‘Looking Through Windows: Using multimedia to capture Aboriginal people’s memories and stories’

12.30-1.30pm: lunch

1.30-3.00pm: Session 7
Family Histories in the Making Session
This session invites professionals (archivists, librarians, genealogists etc.) to provide brief (15 mins), targeted ‘how to’ papers on some aspect of family history research and to then field questions from the audience.
Cheney Brew (TROVE team, National Library of Australia)

Gail White (Australian Institute of Genealogy)

Martin Playne (Genealogical Society of Victoria)

Gina Grey (National Archives of Australia)

3.00-3.30pm: afternoon tea

3.30-5.00pm: Session 8
Family History, History and Historians
This session will address themes including: the rise, fall, rise again of family history within the profession, family history outside of the profession, the work of historians engaged in some form of family history research. 
Penny Russell (University of Sydney). ‘Extended families: Politics and practice in family history’
Alan Atkinson (University of Sydney). ‘Family life and the creation of conscience: The Macarthurs 1780-1860’

Nick Brodie (independent researcher). ‘How family history (almost) made me famous’

5.00-5.15pm Concluding comments: Tanya Evans

5.30-6.30pm: Book Launch in NLA Foyer
Stephen Foster, Zoffany’s Daughter: Love and Treachery, to be launched by Kim Rubenstein (Professor of Law, ANU).

The event is free but please register if you are attending

Image gallery

Date & time

Tue 28 Nov 2017, 9am – Wed 29 Nov 2017, 6.30pm


National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Barton, ACT


Alan Atkinson
Lorina Barker
Tim Bonyhady
Nick Brodie
Graeme Davison
Anna Green
Jenny Hocking
Janet McCalman
Susannah Radstone
Penny Russell
Angela Wanhalla


National Centre of Biography


Malcolm Allbrook; Sophie Scott-Brown


Updated:  15 December 2017/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications