4th cruise - Melissa Hulbert 2If you were told as a child that you were related to Batman, you would be fascinated wouldn’t you? Well, that’s what happened to Melissa. Alas it was not the ‘Caped Crusader’, but rather ‘Batman’ of Melbourne. However, far from being disappointed with this revelation, she became even more intrigued.

Melissa is an astronomer at Sydney Observatory and does astrophotography in her spare time. She especially likes taking images of eclipses and comets. Called the “young computer person” by fellow family researchers, she was sent a number of images to try and improve and this led to her trying some of the astrophotography processing techniques on her family photos … and they worked! She now likes to share these simple but effective techniques with others, and shall do so as a guest presenter on Unlock the Past’s 4th Cruise.


NAME: Melissa Hulbert
HOMETOWN/COUNTRY: Sydney, Australia
DAYTIME JOB: Astronomer

Q1. Think back to your childhood … now what is your favourite memory from that time?
I can’t pick a particular one.

Q2. There’s always ‘something’ that sparks an interest in genealogy/history? What was it that sparked your interest?
A visit to my great uncle when I was young. He traced his wife’s (my Dad’s aunt) genealogy and talked about how we had ‘Batman’ in the family tree. Well as a kid that was cool, the ‘Caped Crusader’ in the family! It was only when I was a bit older I understood he meant ‘Batman’ of Melbourne. I wasn’t disappointed in this revelation, in fact I was even more pleased and intrigued!

Q3. How old were you when you developed an interest in this hobby?
As a kid after talking to my great Uncle but I didn’t start any research until my twenties

Q4. What countries across this big wide world did your ancestors come from?
Australia, England and Ireland. There is also believed to be an American connection that we are unable to trace.

Q5. Is genealogy/history your main job?
No. I’m an astronomer at Sydney Observatory.

Q6. Do you have a genealogy mentor or idol? Someone who has deeply influenced you in your research along the way?
Not particularly though I must say after hearing Colleen Fitzpatrick talk at the Congress in Adelaide (2012) and later chatting with her, she would have to be someone I really admire and I try to think along her lines when looking at photos and researching.

Q7. We all know that you family history can reveal some amazing things. Have any of your discoveries resulted in a life-changing experience?
Nothing comes to mind at the moment.

Q8. What do you find most challenging about research?
I find challenging pre-1837, pre 1538 and Channel Island research. I’ve spent years trying to find one line in pre 1837 but I’ve put that on the backburner until I visit the UK and can look at the parish registers as they are not online for the areas I need at the moment (likewise the Channel Islands research). I’m just starting down the pre 1538 journey with one line and that is proving a challenge too.
I enjoy having to constantly ‘think outside the box’ – I think it’s the scientist in me.

Q9. If you had a time-machine what relative (past, present or future) would you most like to meet?
Only one??? Can I have two? 😉 I’m sure everyone has a long list of who’d they’d like to meet so my top two are:

  1. My 3x great grandfather Thomas. Pre 1837 – need I say more? I could confirm a number of things including his occupation, wife’s name, did they have any other children apart from James, who Thomas’ parents were, and where did they come from. That would really solve Brickwall number 1.
  2. My grandmother Jean. I’d love to know about my grandfather. We know nothing about him, not even his name. That would solve Brickwall number 2.

Q10. Still using that time machine, you’ve been propelled into the future five years, what do you see yourself doing?
More genealogy, more astrophotography, more travelling

Q11. What value do you think social media plays in genealogy these days?
A lot. There are many new ways to connect with family and other researchers.

Q12. What do you do when you aren’t doing genealogy or history?
Eclipse chasing (essentially astrophotography and travelling, sometimes to unusual places)

Q13. What do you hope to get out of a genealogy cruise?
New ideas! Any hints, ideas, something else to try to find the information I’m after. I’m really looking forward to all of the presentations.

Q14. Share with us a few (up to five) of the genealogy websites that you tend to spend the most time on?

Q15. Do you have any wise words for those just starting out in genealogy?
– Start with yourself and work backwards.
– Talk to older relatives sooner rather than later.
– Put your details on sites such as ‘Claim a Convict’ or other genealogy sites – you might be surprised who contacts you!


For those of you who are going on the 4th cruise, here are the topics that Melissa is expected to be speaking on, based on the current program:
– Restoring family photographs
– Getting to know the Southern Sky (*see below)

*Notes if you’re interested in attending Melissa’s Southern Sky talk …
Melissa has agreed to lead anyone interested in a “getting to know the southern sky” group one evening – or more if needed. This will be after our evening program at a time and day(s) to be decided onboard. Any who are interested should bring a small torch with red cellophane covering it (using an elastic band works best) and binoculars if you have them.