4th cruise - Rob HamiltonContinuing our journey to discover a little bit about each guest speaker on the 4th Unlock the Past Cruise, and here we meet Rob Hamilton. Rob and his wife Lee-Ann have been on past Unlock the Past Cruises as fellow cruisers, but on the upcoming Unlock the Past Cruise, Rob will be one of our guest speakers.

With a passion for genealogy, combined together with an amazing knowledge of all things Freemasonry, Rob will be able to advise how genealogists can access and utilise these records. While Freemason records are not a usual resource for people to check out, don’t dismiss them, as they contain all sorts of genealogical content.


NAME: Rob Hamilton
HOMETOWN/COUNTRY: Kyneton, Central Victoria

Q1. Think back to your childhood … now what is your favourite memory from that time?
Fishing, sailing, boating in my Huon Pine dingy in and around the waters of Beaumaris on Port Phillip Bay, leading to competing in blue water racing on Bass  Straight.

Q2. There’s always ‘something’ that sparks an interest in genealogy/history? What was it that sparked your interest? 
I was a young man of just 23 years when my father passed leaving me with a very scant knowledge of my family roots. Mum knew less than me, she being an only child who lost her father at age 5 and her own mother in 1935 only months after she and dad married and moved to Melbourne.

I knew my grandparents on my father’s side of the family and that was about it, until one fateful evening whilst browsing a few computer programs I discovered something that would change my life forever. There it was this box that promised that I would discover my entire ancestral family tree. What a letdown, there were no names, no family stories, if fact there was nothing except an instruction that I should start by recording my own name in the first box followed by the names of the 4 or 5 direct known relatives. That was easy, there was Mum and Dad, my dad’s parents and that was it.

Unfortunately I had purchased a very virulent virus, one that has contaminated my power of reasoning as well as my computer and every spare nook and cranny of storage space in our home. This virus has also infected Lee-Ann my poor wife, and now we both spend hour upon hour trying to fight off the infection.

Q3. How old were you when you developed an interest in this hobby?
Who said it was a hobby, the infection took hold in my 57th year, about 20 generations ago. 

Q4. What countries across this big wide world did your ancestors come from?
Dad always believed we were or genuine Scottish stock, if he only knew that his great great Grand Mother  was for a time Napoleon’s “the Rose Bud” on the island of St Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean, before marring his G.G. Grand Father

Q5. Is genealogy/history your main job?
It has become my principal infliction, and combined with that of the influences of Freemasonry in the spread of the “British” culture through the habitable globe, and I fear the infection is getting worse.

Q6. Do you have a genealogy mentor or idol? Someone who has deeply influenced you in your research along the way?
Yes ! it would  have to be Paul Milner as a starter, my wife who has a boundless family structural knowledge,  and from there the list is growing exponentially.

Q7. We all know that you family history can reveal some amazing things. Have any of your discoveries resulted in a life-changing experience?
As we unravel the past, and discover the everyday hardships that our forbears endured we must all be humbled , the mass graves in the Melbourne General Cemetery to accommodate the hundreds of infants struck down by contaminated milk in the late1800’s, the families dumped on the Tears of South Australia, and the cruelty of transportation have to change ones perception of humanity in our recent time here in Australia.

Q8. What do you find most challenging about research?
Chasing the burial records of the poor every day man, men like Robert Boyd Martin, buried in a mass grave in public ground in the Melbourne General Cemetery in 1862, or George Rutt lost to the sand dunes of Adelaide or maybe he is amongst the first to be buried in the West Terrace  Cemetery  in 1840.

Q9. If you had a time-machine what relative (past, present or future) would you most like to meet?
I’d have to go back to St Helena, with my lap top, extra battery packs, and a long list of questions, to a time when the British owned and then emancipated slaves, Napoleon, and an encounter with  my G.G.G.Grand Mother,  Miss. ‘Le Bouton de Rose.’ The daughter of a farmer, and much admired by Napoleon and his followers. She married a Mr. Hamilton in 1820, and left the Island.”

Q10. Still using that time machine, you’ve been propelled into the future five years, what do you see yourself doing?
Just maybe getting the filling under control, so that I can put more flesh on the bones of those skeletons in the cupboard.

Q11. What value do you think social media plays in genealogy these days?
Social media in all its guises has been the greatest boon to the Genealogist, bring like minded people together, sharing information,  techniques and resources whilst collectively putting pressure on the major information companies to provide more and more in the way or information and research facilitation.

Q12. What do you do when you aren’t doing genealogy or history?
Work to support the Genealogy addiction, and if there is any spare time I am restoring a Jaguar, Morris minor and my old Cadet dingy that still has its original Egyptian cotton sails.

Q13. What do you hope to get out of a genealogy cruise?

Q14. Share with us a few (up to five) of the genealogy websites that you tend to spend the most time on?
St Helena Genealogy – groups.yahoo.com/group/st-helena-genealogy
Trove – trove.nla.gov.au
Genealogy SA – http://www.genealogysa.org.au/
Gould Genealogy & History – http://www.gould.com.au
British Library, research help guide on the India Office Records – http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpregion/asia/india/indiaofficerecords/indiaofficehub.html

Q15. Do you have any wise words for those just starting out in genealogy?
Just start! Pester anyone in your family, particularly those older than yourself for every piece of information no matter how insignificant and record it, don’t forget that you also have a story to tell, don’t leave your own grand children wondering as to who you were.


For those of you who are going on the 4th cruise, here is a list of topics that Rob is going to be speaking on, based on the current Program:
– What does Freemasonry offer the genealogist?

Pear Tree Cottage – xmastree2.blogspot.com.au