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Monday, October 21, 2019

Careers for History Majors

Through clear graphs and informal prose, readers will find hard data, practical advice, and answers to common questions about the study of history and the value it affords to individuals, their workplaces, and their communities. A resource for intellectual exploration and personal inspiration, it includes a statement shaped by cooperating faculty at over 100 colleges and universities describing the abilities and habits of mind that students develop in history programs at diverse institutions. The booklet’s contributors include alumni working in a wide range of fields and occupations as well as professional historians. Together, they suggest ways that today’s college students can prepare themselves to bring historical thinking to bear in solving tomorrow’s problems.
Current and prospective students, and their families, will discover an array of useful materials inside, as will career and academic advisers, faculty, program administrators, and staff. General readers can explore statistics, personal stories, and reflections on the many ways that a disciplined knowledge of the past—as well as the skills it takes to understand and communicate that past—empowers individuals to contribute and thrive in their academic, work, and civic lives.
For more resources from the American Historical Association, please visit 


"Introduction," by Sarah Fenton.
"A history degree doesn't narrow your opportunities after college. Instead, the history major opens a world of possibilities for your future. Federal government data show the variety of exciting career paths that history majors follow."

History Discipline Core

Many Paths, One Degree

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Writing a Childhood Memoir

For Noeline Kyle, the National Library’s oral histories provided a fresh view of her family and childhood

In the 1980s, Rob Willis, National Library folklorist and oral historian, began collecting stories of the dairy-farming families along the Nulla Nulla Creek on the Upper Macleay River, which runs through the hinterland between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie. He completed more than 30 interviews of early settlers and their families. Many of these were with the Kyle family, including my father, Lawrence ‘Lawrie’ Kyle, who was interviewed in 2002 when he was 90 years of age, his sisters ‘Alice’ Grace Partridge and Mary Hudson, his brother Allan Kyle and cousins Vaughan Kyle, Brian Kyle, Geoffrey Kyle, Jack Kyle, Joe Kyle and Coral Ball. My father’s exploits, both the exciting and the problematic, emerged often enough in these interviews to fill a special recording of what Rob and I now refer to as TheLawrie Stories.
Angus McNeil Studio, Lawrence ‘Lawrie’ Kyle, aged mid-20s, c.1936
When Rob was collecting these stories, I was not yet writing a childhood memoir (Ghost Child: A Memoir) nor had I begun my search for the records. It was more than 20 years before my mind turned towards the idea of writing about that past. Rob was, by this time, in the latter stages of his recording for the Nulla Nulla Creek Project and he invited me to take part in some of the interviews he did with my aunts and uncles. It was not until some years later however that I began reading these oral histories more closely and I found a valuable source for my writing. I also found that this new material challenged my ideas of what that past had been.
Every childhood is lived in a family context (whatever form that family takes) and our family was struggling to survive for most of my early years. As well as writing a story of my childhood, I was also charting the beginning and the end of my parent’s marriage. The end came as I turned 15 and walked out the gate of the local school for the last time. Once the divorce was finalised, Mum did not speak Dad’s name again. For her, that past remained hurtful and harsh and she rarely talked about it except in negative terms. My parents spent the rest of their years well apart, in different states, leading very different lives. It was only in Dad’s old age that I was able to talk to him about his own childhood and adolescence.
But it was Rob’s interviews with Dad and other family members that gave me some fresh insights into that past. As I studied the fragments of my personal history, what I knew and how I knew it shifted inexorably towards a more nuanced view, and I began to see something else. It was not that the events that I remembered were now in greater doubt, but that how I knew them, how I interpreted them and how I told their story had become more porous and open.

Grace Partridge interviewed by Rob Willis, 2006, To see full picture captions, view the video in YouTube.
It is a truism to say that we remember the long past more fondly. Ask a family historian to name their favourite character from any part of the family story and invariably it is a grandmother or a great-grandmother or a great-grandfather. Time can place a romantic, sometimes uncritical, layer on memory. But it also makes sense that we remember this way. We know enough about a grandparent or great-grandparent to tell their stories, but these lives are far enough in that distant past to have lost that edgy currency of the present tense; that place where we know too much. We are less able to blur the closer, known, sharper memories we have of our parents and siblings; these are more challenging, sometimes painful, always raw. And so it is with my parents too.
Not surprisingly, most of the stories I heard about Dad, especially from my mother, were apocryphal – his worst faults, irresponsible behaviour, neglect of his family and an inability to earn enough to keep us fed and clothed. My elderly aunts, his sisters, tell me in their soft, gentle voices that ‘he had good points’. He was a good person, they say, he always helped others. Everyone agrees that he was a rogue, a charismatic charmer. And like all charming rogues, what I hear about Dad is both terrible and terrific. He could have been a preacher, a politician or a powerful advocate for change, but instead I hear that Dad was a small-time conman, a storyteller, a jack of all trades, a philanderer, a charlatan, a ne’er-do-well. How could I reconcile all of these versions of my father and also be true to my mother’s stories and my memories of that past?

Lawrie Kyle interviewed by Rob Willis, 2002, To see full picture captions, view the video in YouTube.
I have researched and written enough history, biography and family stories to know that human beings are not one-dimensional. I knew too that it would be wise to find a way to tell the stories of both my parents without malice and with some compassion. There was little doubt that Dad was a charismatic, irresponsible, unfaithful man and a neglectful father. Mum, on the other hand, was strong, resourceful, responsible, caring and always there. I cannot, could not, change any of that. But I can look back with empathy and wonder, with a renewed affection for that past. The Lawrie Stories have seeped into my consciousness too and have tempered my version of it. They do not negate my mother’s memories but add layers of complexity, of human endeavour and human frailty. They tell me of parents who did not always succeed, of a family waking each day to work hard, of parents who had little in the way of material comfort and of hard times that affected all the families who lived in that small dairy farming community along the Nulla Nulla Creek.
Noeline Kyle, Morning Mist, Kyle Farm, Nulla Nulla Creek
And so I have had to write these stories anew, unravel them and re-arrange the layers to write about my childhood. Both of my parents, in their own separate and singular ways, were full of potential, hardy and hopeful, and both lived long enough to enjoy long, healthy and productive lives well apart from each other. My childhood story is the richer for reading their lives more fully through Rob’s oral history. I can listen to their voices, hear them tell their own stories, know there was hope, understand the toughness, recognise the difficulties but also see the rich tapestry of their lives, over and over again. It is a gift. I am grateful for it.
Dr Noeline Kyle publishes women’s history, biography, memoir and she teaches and publishes widely on how to write family stories. She is an Emeritus Professor at Queensland University of Technology and an Honorary Professor within the Nursing History Research Unit at the University of Sydney.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Self Publishing Your Family History

Self Publishing Your Family History
Noeline Kyle

Stay Local
Stay as local as you can for the publishing/printing process.  Using a local printer/publisher provides for easy access to obtain quotes and to talk to the printer.  If you have extra questions or there is a problem it is easy to contact a local person.  The same rule applies to online printer/publishers.  A local website in your county/country/town/locality is a good first option. It is the case that with online/internet access it is also possible to contact overseas printers/publishers and many of these are an excellent choice also. 

Gather Information via 3 Quotes
Obtain printing quotes from at least 3 printers.  Learn from them.  Ask additional questions as you become more familiar with the process. Here is a preliminary list of questions/ideas for the printers:
200 copies (you can ask for a quote for 20, 50, 100 or 200 copies), in most cases the printer will be offering print-on-demand and the unit cost will not differ (you can check this with the printer when you contact them)
(Print-on-demand is a fixed cost per copy of your book regardless of the size of the order.  In the past typesetter printers would charge less per unit if you ordered 200 copies compared to say 100)

·         26,000 words ( let your printer know the number of words as well as page number)

·         Page size:  A4 is an easy size to work with if you are new to formatting and decide to do it yourself.  A4 allows you to arrange images and text easily.  However, if you decide on a different size, say  C5, 230 x 155 mm you may have to pay someone to do it for you, (more of this later in this blog post).

·         Paper:  something like Satin Art paper, 95 gsm.  Each printer will have suggestions for your publication.  Fuji Xerox have Colotech paper which is 100gsm white, and excellent for producing clear and vivid text and images, (can be purchased from Officeworks).

·         Colour:  no colour, all black and white, including all images, and the cover. Or you might have some colour, and you will be required to detail these.

·         Cover:  You will need to do your own cover and supply a PDF file, more on this later in this blog.

·         Binding:  Perfect binding.

·         ISBN:  It is not necessary to have an ISBN, however including it will identify your book and simplify the ordering process for bookshops and libraries, for Australia, see ISBN Australia

The Software
For most self publishers the manuscripts will be completed in WORD.  If you are inserting images as you go it is best to work on each chapter individually as large WORD files can become unstable.   Each chapter can be converted to a PDF (if this is how your chosen printer specifies) and then combined into one PDF file with a program like PDF Combine CutePDF
Your chosen printer can also combine your files for you.  However, be aware that if you ask another party to combine your PDF or WORD  files the result may shift your images/text in ways that you then have to edit again.  A good strategy is to ask your printer to combine your files and then return the final file to you for checking.  You can take the file to Officeworks or some other printing company and have a draft of your book printed (back to back pages) in a simple print edition that can serve as a draft for you to work from.

Be Realistic
If you are not confident to do your own editing and/or formatting then you can employ individuals to do this for you.  For some straightforward advice on editing see my chapter 4, p.42 of my ebook Writing Family History Book 5: Publishing your family history, a practical guide obtainable from Amazon at: for $2.79 AU.
For formatting your text you can ask a family member who is confident and experienced with this task to do it for you.  If you do not have a friend or family member to help and you would like to employ a professional then look at the following and choose several, say 3, and obtain a quote for the work you want them to do, Australian Book Designers Association
You can also use this association to find  a cover designer as well.  You will need to provide some information on what your approach is both for the formatting (book size) and for the cover provide information about the major themes and what images you might like on the cover.
For example when I was publishing a book on Midwives of the Mid North Coast, one of my major sources were the almost daily and/or weekly advertisements these women placed in local newspapers.  The book designer Karen Scott Book Design cleverly used these to design a cover that mimicked a newspaper page.  She also utilized an image of a midwife with a baby and photographs from the main streets of the towns featuring children and/or historical scenes, see following images:

The back cover should have a description of your book content plus a biography of you, the author, see above:

©Noeline Kyle 2019

Tuesday, May 7, 2019


Copyright: the basics

This resource has been compiled using material from the Australian Copyright CouncilArts Law Centre of Australia and the Copyright Agency. These agencies provide excellent factsheets and resources on all aspects of copyright, some of which are attached here as downloadable material.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a set of rights that provide protection for all kinds of artistic products. It protects them from being copied, changed or exploited and acknowledges that the artistic product belongs to someone.
In Australia copyright is free and exists automatically once an artistic product is created.
It is determined by the Copyright Act 1968.
Copyright can be denoted using the © symbol. Failing to display the © symbol does not extinguish copyright.

Who has it?

Copyright is owned by the creator and/or by a collecting institution.
If the creator is commissioned or contracted to make the work, or if it is made under normal employment, the standard copyright rules can change. For example:
  • When a work is created as part of regular employment the copyright is generally owned by the employer.
  • When a work such as a painting or photograph is commissioned or made under contract the commissioning organisation/person usually holds copyright. However this may not apply if the artist is working freelance.
  • With films and sound recordings the producer usually own copyright though in some situations performers can share copyright.
It is critical to have a contract which clearly specifies the terms of copyright.

How long does it last?

In Australia copyright begins when the work is created and generally lasts 70 years after the death of the creator.
Exceptions occur: copyright on sound recordings last 70 years from the date of the first publication and copyright on published written work is 25 years post publication date.
Once copyright lapses the work is considered in the ‘public domain’ which means that anyone can use it.
For example, copyright has expired on photographic images and negatives (although not their digitised copies) taken before 1955. For any photographs taken from 1955 on, copyright is for 70 years after the death of the creator.
Other countries have different copyright rules and timeframes.

Managing copyright

There are two main ways of managing copyright which are used when an organisation or an individual want to reproduce or use a copyrighted work which is not their own.
The copyright owner can either assign or licence a third party which transfers all, or some of the rights associated with copyright to that person/organisation.
Both these transfers must be done in writing and the process is best done with legal advice and a formal contract.
Be aware that it is not necessary to register something for copyright, though there are organisations in Australia who can manage licencing fees resulting in use and publication of work. See Copyright AgencyViscopy, and the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA).

What about Indigenous work?

Copyright and intellectual property rights of Indigenous cultural product may vary from the Copyright Act because ownership is often intergenerational and group-owned.
Appropriation of Aboriginal imagery such as pattern, motifs, spiritual figures, or story by non-Indigenous artists is considered as cultural theft and a breach of cultural protocols.
There are specific protocols and permissions around using and taking photographs of Aboriginal people that should be observed and having signed model release forms is desirable.
Arts Law suggests that Indigenous copyright be clarified through contract. They are specialists in the field with an Aboriginal liaison officer who can provide advice and the dedicated Artists in the Black website. Arts Law offers workshops which provide an in-depth explanation of Indigenous copyright issues and the implications of breaching protocols.

Provisions for collecting institutions

Under Australian copyright law collecting institutions are allowed to copy material in their collections to maintain and conserve the collection as long as the collection is not-for-profit.
Museums and galleries fall under the definition of an ‘archive’ which is considered by law to be “a collection of material of historical significance or public interest, being maintained for the purpose of conserving and preserving the material.” (Australian Copyright Council, Information Sheet G068v07)
Key collection institutions (defined as those holding an archive of material which is of historical or cultural significance to Australia) can make three preservation copies of original material, editions, films and sound recordings. Other collecting institutions can make one copy of the original version for preservation.
These images, usually photographs, also carry copyright which is owned by the collecting institution.

Moral rights

Moral rights are different to copyright and exist as a complementary set of rights or obligations that must be observed when collecting, displaying or exhibiting artworks or objects.
Moral rights include correctly and accurately attributing the creator of the work and caring for, or displaying the work in a way that does not prejudice the creator’s reputation or honour.

What’s the public domain?

When copyright has formally expired the material is considered to be in the public domain. This means that people can use it without seeking permission.
Exceptions exist: all digital copies of old photographs currently attract copyright under Australian law, as digital images are considered to be an artistic product in their own right.
Collecting institutions own copyright on these images and are entitled to charge for reproductions/prints of them.
It’s important not to confuse online availability with something being in the public domain. Online images are often subject to the same copyright rules and have restrictions on their use.

What is a Creative Commons licence?

Providers such as Google Images, Flickr and Wikipedia Commons offer access to digitised material through the Creative Commons licence. A range of licences are available, most of which require attribution to the creator and a declaration if changes have been made to the work. Creators are able to limit the type of use or adaption.
For more information: Creative Commons Australia

What if it’s on social media?

Standard copyright law usually applies: users own and retain copyright of what they post, create, or contribute to a website, social network or other online service.
There are exceptions. Tweets, comments and short phrases of text are usually considered to be outside copyright because they are of general usage and no significant individual contribution to ownership can be demonstrated.
Best practice in using this kind of material is to request permission from the contributor and to document the response. If an organisation is using shared material via social media it is a good idea to ensure the Risk Management Policy outlines responses to copyright breaches.
In signing up to, or opening an account on many social media platforms such as Twitter, Facecbook and YouTube, users agree to give permission for their material to be shared. In most situations privacy settings can be altered to control some of the ways the provider uses and distributes the material.
Social media is a complex copyright area and in many cases the technology means that copyright and breaches of it is difficult to control.

Be aware that …

Copyright does not protect ideas, information, techniques or style. It does not protect names, slogans or titles.
While all care has been taken to ensure information is accurate at the time of publication, all information in this resource is intended as a guide only.  You should obtain professional advice if you have any specific concerns.

You may also like:

Australian Copyright Council: Find an Answer

Friday, April 26, 2019

Thank you to all of my readers

I am delighted to find so many readers worldwide who seek out my books on writing and publishing family history.  Thank you.  I hope to continue to work with and support how family history can be presented, written and published  through my workshops, talks and books.  Please contact me if you have questions, ideas or just want to say helllo!

There is nothing as joyous as the enthusiasm and delight of the young

Citing Sources when writing your family history

I wrote my book Citing Sources: a manual for family historians  in 2013.  It remains one of the more popular topics in my workshops and when I receive queries via email.

It is the case that one of the more difficult tasks we do as family historians is working our way through the plethora of sources available today and then work out  how to reference these in our work.

However,  there are general principles that are useful to keep in mind which, if you keep these in mind, will make your job as a historian so much easier and more professional:

  • Consistency - whatever citation method you choose stay with that choice throughout your book/writing.

  • Sufficient information - okay so that letter/document/story/newspaper report you found seems to be in  a complicated  place which almost defies commonsense referencing.  Keep in mind that your task as a writer and a family historian is to include as much information in your footnote, endnote or other reference so that your reader will be able to find it, do further research  and check for further information about it.  In other words, 'my mother's bible' is not sufficient as a reference.  If your mother's bible is a reference, then you might do something like the following:
      • The Holy Bible, The Stereotype Edition, printed Dublin by Richard Coyne, 1847, a family bible of the Kyle family found in the papers of Kathleen Kirkpatrick, in possession of the author. 

  • Acknowledgement - the inclusion of a footnote/reference is to tell the reader where you have included, text, either verbatim or in a paraphrased form, from another author's work  Citing these sources is your obligation as an author to ensure your writing is professional and free from plagiarised material.  There is much to find online about plagiarism, the following is a beginning:   What is plagiarism?  This website provides the following succinct note:

All of the following are considered plagiarism:
                   ·         turning in someone else's work as your own
·         copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
·         failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
·         giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
·         changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
·         copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not..

Monday, April 15, 2019

Creative Characters and Blazing Sunsets: Writing Family History

Creative Characters and Blazing Sunsets. Writing Family History

These days, with a plethora of information available on the internet, it’s become easy to collect your family history, find names, dates, and the places and anecdotes unique to your family history.
The challenge comes in having the confidence to shape this information, to build a narrative and write a family history that is credible, riveting and professional. Dr. Noeline Kyle will focus on using specific strategies to help you shape your family stories. Looking at ways of weaving memoir, biography and local history to enrich a family tale and ensure it is both an interesting read and a professional family history.
Mosman Library is one of my favourite libraries where local studies is valued, supported and highlighted in the collection. I have presented several workshops here in the past and look forward to catching up with the librarians and participants on 2 May.  
It is always a pleasure to listen to the family and local historians of our communities, to learn from them and share their amazing research and writing journey with them.