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Unlock the Past Cruises

People & families

Case study: researching the notorious Mary Ann Bugg

When Carol Baxter began researching Captain Thunderbolt’s lover, Mary Ann Bugg, for her book Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady, historians told her that she wouldn’t have a hope of discovering the full details about Mary Ann’s parents, siblings, partners or children. Mary Ann Bugg – they said – was part-Aboriginal so she had slipped through the cracks. For a professional genealogist, that was a red rag to a bull! With money, persistence and sheer luck, Carol was able to break through these previously impenetrable research barriers.

Mary Ann Bugg: Lieutenant and lover

Beautiful, feisty, intelligent and educated, Mary Ann Bugg was the “right-hand man” of bushranger Captain Thunderbolt. She was also his lover, the mother of his children, and the most notorious Aboriginal woman in nineteenth-century Australia.

– 30/60 minutes – no equipment necessary but Powerpoint slides are available

Family stories: truth, myth or a bit of both?

Most of us have heard stories that have been passed down through our families, sometime for one or two generations, sometimes for many. This seminar takes a look at family stories, and provides strategies for determining whether they are true or not. Attendees at longer seminars are welcome to provide a brief account (under one minute) of their own most outrageous and fallacious family story.

– 30/60 minutes – Powerpoint presentation

Dodgy claims: the Landed Gentry Drews of Ireland and Devonshire

With evidence suggesting that some of Carol Baxter’s Irish ancestors descended from an Irish Landed Gentry family that itself descended from a Landed Gentry family living in Devonshire in the 1500s, she jumped at the opportunity to learn the skills of pre-Reformation research. It took her on a fascinating journey as she questioned what had long been accepted, and pursued sources that led her to break new ground. This seminar uses these Drew families as a case study in undertaking pre-Reformation historical research.

– 30/60 minutes – Powerpoint presentation

Dodgy research: the immortality of bushranger Frederick Ward aka Captain Thunderbolt

Claims have been made that bushranger Frederick Ward did not die in 1870 but escaped to America where he lived out his days. This case study explores how spurious claims can be made about historical figures and how these claims can spread until they become matters of widespread belief. It also provides guidelines that assist in determining the truth or otherwise of such claims.

– 30/60 minutes – Powerpoint presentation

Dodgy research: the Douglass controversy

Have you come across people desperate to have a famous or infamous ancestor, people who will sometimes manipulate information in order to achieve their dream? This case study examines the families of three early colonists with the surname Douglass, one a First Fleeter, and shows how researchers can misinterpret documents with dire consequences. It also reveals that much pre-twenty-first century research needs to be redone because old claims – including those regarding descent from First Fleeters – do not necessarily stand up to careful scrutiny.  


Founded in 2003, MyHeritage has grown to be one of the world's largest social networks and genealogy sites. It focuses primarily on connecting families offering SmartMatches to link families together. It also offers tagging of photos, free genealogy software, web research and more - in 38 different languages.

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