4th cruise - Maria NorthcoteWe are so excited that Maria Northcote is joining us on Unlock the Past’s 4th cruise. Many will have heard of Maria either through meeting her in person, or listening to her podcasts, as she is the person behind Genies Down Under monthly podcasts,  which as her website says is “Genealogy with an Australian twist”.

Maria’s podcasts are packed with lots of tips, tools and tricks for genealogists (genies), with some hints on the traps to avoid. There’s family history stories and ideas on how to get to know your own ancestors – beyond just their names and dates.

I haven’t had the chance to meet Maria as yet, but with years of experience both in researching her own family history, and also producing her podcasts, I’m really looking forward to meeting her on the cruise and learning from her knowledge.


NAME: Maria Northcote
HOMETOWN/COUNTRY: Cooranbong, New South Wales
DAYTIME JOB:  Lecturer

Q1. Think back to your childhood … now what is your favourite memory from that time?
One of my favourite memories from my childhood is the day my siblings and I were all given a bike for Christmas. Some other children in our street were also given a bike that year and we were all dying to ride them in a bigger area than just our suburban street. So, my dear old Dad led us all down to the local oval where we had great fun riding our bikes together on a hot Christmas Day afternoon. Being a bike enthusiast himself (his first job was in a bike shop where he built his own bike from scratch), my father understood how excited we were to receive our first bike. He was king of the bikes and king of the kids that day. I wrote a blogpost about this memory on my Wishful Linking blog: http://wishful-linking-family-history.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/memorable-dragstar-christmas.html

Q2.  There’s always ‘something’ that sparks an interest in genealogy/history? What was it that sparked your interest?
I had moved to Perth from Sydney a few years back and I was missing my family a lot. Also, my first niece had just been born so I became very interested in researching and recording our family’s history for future generations. Some of my older relatives, including my father, were also in the early stages of researching our family’s history – so they really encouraged me and helped me to pursue my interest in family research.

Q3. How old were you when you developed an interest in this hobby?

Q4. What countries across this big wide world did your ancestors come from?
Mainly Ireland but also from England, Scotland and Wales.

Q5. Is genealogy/history your main job?

Q6. Do you have a genealogy mentor or idol? Someone who has deeply influenced you in your research along the way?
Way back in the 1990s, Janet Reakes was my inspiration. In later years, people like Lisa Louise Cooke from the Genealogy Gems podcast and Thomas MacEntee from Geneabloggers have inspire me through their podcasts.

Q7. We all know that you family history can reveal some amazing things. Have any of your discoveries resulted in a life-changing experience?
I’m not sure if you would classify these things as life changing but, as a result of my family history research:
– I just returned from spending six months in Ireland, very close to where my some of my ancestors lived in the 1800s before they came to Australia.
– I understand more about human nature and am fascinated in “why” people do things, rather than “what” and “when” they did things.
– I am wearing my great-grandmother’s wedding ring as my own wedding ring because I love having connections to my past ancestors.
– I am never bored – because there is the never-ending family history jigsaw to solve!

Q8. What do you find most challenging about research?
Getting the time to do it as much as I’d like to do it. One day, when I retire from my dayjob, I just know that I’ll be into family history even more than I am now.

Q9. If you had a time-machine what relative (past, present or future) would you most like to meet?
Without a doubt, I would just love to meet my father’s paternal grandfather – William Walter Stafford NORTHCOTE (this is one of the names he used). He is an absolute mystery to me and many other family members. Since 1990 I’ve been trying to find out about his life before he came to Australia. He changed his first names many times throughout his life but always recorded his surname consistently. Many of the records associated with his life were conflicting and he appeared to be trying to hide some details of his past. He told his wife back in the 1880s that he would reveal a big family secret about his past before he died. However, he died early at the age of 45 and took his secrets to the grave.

Q10. Still using that time machine, you’ve been propelled into the future five years, what do you see yourself doing?
I hope I’ll have a bit more time to be researching the ancestors in my family history. I hope my Genies Down Under podcast is still going strong. I hope I’ll be able to use my teaching experience to motivate and show people how to research their own family histories.

Q11. What value do you think social media plays in genealogy these days?
Social media is marvellous because it can help you to find out about your old, dead ancestors through your current, living relatives. You may not have ever met these living relatives if it wasn’t for family history. Often, it’s a give-and-take situation – you can often make lovely friends of these people and, more than likely, they’ll help you with your research just as much as you can help them. I think social media is also a great way to honour our ancestors and make sure they aren’t forgotten – they can have their own webpage or Facebook page, have an e-book written about them or be featured in a blog.

Q12. What do you do when you aren’t doing genealogy or history?
Teaching, researching, creating my Genies Down Under podcast for people interested in genealogy with an Australian twist, reading, bicycling, travelling, knitting, crocheting, catching up with friends and family.

Q13. What do you hope to get out of a genealogy cruise?
Some of the people who listen to my Genies Down Under podcast encouraged me to come on this cruise so I’m really looking forward to meeting up with them. Also, having 10 whole days to indulge in one of my favourite things to do – who could complain about that? I hope to increase my skills and knowledge in family history research by chatting to people, attending workshops and demonstrations, and by sharing our enthusiasm for genealogy.

Q14. Share with us a few (up to five) of the genealogy websites that you tend to spend the most time on?
Trove newspapers  http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper
Ancestry http://www.ancestry.com.au/
British Newspaper Archive http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/
National Archives of Australia http://www.naa.gov.au/
State Records of NSW http://www.records.nsw.gov.au/

Q15. Do you have any wise words for those just starting out in genealogy?
Record the sources of your information and don’t believe everything you find out. Check your information across many sources. Talk to your older relatives now and record your conversations with them. Search the internet for good questions to ask your relatives to add to the questions you would like to ask them. Don’t forget about the rich offline resources available in libraries and family history centres. Put some of your information on the internet. Enjoy your research and share your findings with others. When researching my own family history, I have created an approach called “Genealogy ROCKS!” This helps me to make sure I spend time on doing these things and I’d be happy to share this advice with others:

  • R for Research your family history
  • O for Organise your files and research findings
  • C for Create family research products
  • K for Keep learning to extend your knowledge and skills
  • S for Share your family history with friends, family and the genealogy community


For those of you who are going on the 4th cruise, here is the topic that Maria is expected to be speaking on, based on the current Program:
– Using free podcasts

Genies Down Under http://geniesdownunder.com.au/

Genies Down Under blog http://geniesdownunder.blogspot.com.au/
Wishful Linking Family History Blog http://wishful-linking-family-history.blogspot.com.au/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/GeniesDownUnder
Twitter @GeniesDownUnder
LinkedIn au.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Maria/Northcote
Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/marianorthcote/
iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/genies-down-under/id467595597