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September 2002

Empowerment and freedom of expression

By Roslyn McKearney,
Co-Systems Operator Cooinda BBS Riverland.

I tend to get in first and admit I am a Computer Junkie before others say it for me. However, I have an excuse for this addiction, as I am sure you will see as you read on.

Roslyn at her computer, with her husband Gerard.

My first introduction to a
computer came when my
husband bought an Atari
in 1991.

I used it to belt out Church Newsletters and at one stage prepared weekly Sunday School lessons for the Church we attended. It was a new Church in our area with very little resources and nothing for the kids. Seeing the need for a Sunday School, I started one. I have Cerebral Palsy, which includes a speech impediment, so enlisted the aid of a co-worker to present the lessons I prepared on a weekly basis. Each lesson was accompanied by a picture to colour in, I designed using the Publisher Package which came with the computer. Pictures included a Memory Verse and Thought from the Story. Each child took these home every week.

This was my first experience of the empowerment, freedom of expression and the ability to contribute by using a computer.

Introduced to electronic bulletin board systems

My next Computer experience was to set me on a course that was to prove to be limitless and exciting.

I was introduced to Electronic Bulletin Board Systems, otherwise known as BBS. The BBS I was first introduced to was known as the Common Ground BBS which was set up by South Australian Disability Information Resource Centre (DIRC), for people with a disability/chronic illness.

Since our old Atari did not have a modem DIRC, loaned me one of their loan computers for a time and I logged on every night at 6 pm when the 1800 number was available and my world opened up. Within days I was re-kindling old friendships and making new ones, some of which are now firm friends. I was chatting online and exchanging messages. The messages were anything from private one on one to open discussions on an endless range of subjects.

Knowing the computer I was using was on loan, I soon realized I would be totally lost if I were to lose access to Common Ground so when another user on Common Ground advertised a computer for sale with a modem, I grabbed the chance. Now I owned my very own computer. A Tandy 1000 and 9600 bps modem.

Time went on and I had my first lesson in opening a file and setting up a program. It was an off-line reader, BWAVE, and enabled me to read and write my message off-line and gave me more time to chat online.

Not long after this, the bottom of my world fell out. The funding for the two 1800 lines had been cut and the 120 minutes per day I enjoyed each night as a country user was cut to 70 minutes a week. I was completely devastated and cried for three days straight. At the end of the three days, I stopped the pity party and was determined to start a BBS in my local area in the Riverland, situated in South Australia.

At the time I was truly computer illiterate as far as setting up a BBS was concerned, but two years and a lot of learning later, the Cooinda Dialup BBS was up and running. Next came the Cooinda Computer Club, Cooinda Computer Loan Scheme, followed by Cooinda Online web site. Accomplishing all this is a story in itself, suffice to say my life has not looked back. My commitment to enthuse and enable others to become empowered via computer, has remained the focus throughout.

During this time I have been able to upgrade computers three times and so have been enabled to both extent my personal enjoyment and empowerment and assist others better.

Personal empowerment opens new horizons

From there has come a progression to the Internet and all the endless possibilities that comes from this media. Now not able to get about as I use to, due to the devastation Prednisolone has cause me, I am daily at my computer.

I have taken up Genealogy, something I swore I would never do because I saw people who get into it can rarely talk of much else. However, I was seriously 'egged on' by my eldest step-daughter who wanted to 'know' about her Father's Birth-mother and my dear younger sister, who was very keen to 'know' about our paternal Grandfather.

This 'hobby' started out with my 'telling' or rather 'kidding' myself I, would only do a one name search in both instances. That way it would not get out of hand. Only trouble was, I instantly caught the 'bug' because it is just so interesting. One question answered led to another question, and before I knew it I was 'surfing', um I mean searching the 'net' for answers. I was 'hooked'.

Both the folk I am researching lived in the UK. My husbands Birth-mother was born in Dublin, Ireland and moved to Birmingham in the UK. My Grandfather was born and bred in West Derby Liverpool, Lancaster, also in the UK.

Finding my husbands Birth-mother has proved to be quite a challenge and to be honest I was rather hoping I would have a fantastic story to write, about how I found her by now. However, that has not happened as yet. I have been able to find out so much about her and her family and it has all been made possible via my computer and emails. I knew by my husbands birth certificate, he was born in Birmingham, UK. So started out by placing messages on Irish and UK Adoption Message Boards as well as the Birmingham Message Board. I also subscribed to the Birmingham Email List.

Francis Way.

Photo caption:
This is where my husband was born in the United Kingdom. It took a few months but eventually, I was contacted by two people who where born at the same place. One emailed me a photo of what was the Mothers and Babies Home and is now a private house. The other gave me the web site of the Society who used to own the home. I was then able to immediately email them and within a few weeks my husband was in possession of his complete file.

From that file I have been able to follow her back to Dublin, Ireland. One of the first things I did was find the Church where she was baptized as a baby on the Churches web site. There are some wonderful pictures of the old Church. I then joined the Dublin List and later the Dublin City List and between these and the Birmingham List I have come across some wonderful people who have been so friendly and helpful. I have found a researcher through the Dublin List, who does not charge an exorbitant amount of money and through her, I have been able to obtain a copy of my husband's Birth-mother's birth certificate and a copy of the 1911 Irish census which lists her family. From this I am now in the process of beginning to follow up the siblings in order to try to find their offspring who may be able to help find the dear lady. Or at least tell us about her. I can also follow and chart her ancestry as well.

As for my paternal Grandfather, well he is another story. Quite elusive to me at the moment but the cause of my making acquaintances on the Liverpool and Lancaster List and learning so many interesting facts about Edwardian England. I am at present awaiting the arrival of his marriage certificate and from there I will follow his ancestry. As to whether I will ever find out what happened to him, only time will tell. One thing is for sure, whatever I do find will be because of my 'surfing' the Internet and writing lots of emails, all from the comfort of my home.

My paternal Grandfather's house.

Photo caption:
This photo shows the house where my paternal Grandfather lived with his parents and sibling, prior to his marriage in 1904. It was taken and sent to me by a very kind person on the Liverpool List.

Meanwhile, only this week I received my Father's WW2 A.I.F. Army Record, sent to me in a nice folder. It is wonderful to have and will be treasured and will eventually be passed on to my Niece and Nephew as a part of a record of their Grandfather, who died before they were born, but who would have been a wonderful Grandfather to them.

I found that I could apply for this on the Internet. All I had to do was type in the details which where on his Discharge Paper and they sent me the file from the Army Archives in Canberra.

My Father came to South Australia from the UK in 1922 as a 16 year old youth and worked on the land at Millicent. He came out on a scheme run by the Government of the day. Since I did not know the name of the scheme, I joined the Aust Immigration Ships List and asked. The answer came back the very next day. Someone on the List had a father-in-law, who came out on the same scheme. It was called 'The Barwell Boys', named after the Premier of South Australia Sir Henry Barwell. I had found a bit about this previously by searching the Internet but as I did not know the name was not sure if it was the right Scheme or not. Now I know the correct name I will be able to request and obtain the information they have about my father, regaining his immigration papers and hopefully some details of his first few years in Australia.

My Father used to talk about the little private school he attend from the ages of four to nine, which was run by the Quakers. I had no idea of the name of the school so subscribed to the Quakers List and after several months and three separate requests for information about this school, today I finally received the answer I was looking for. Now I can go ahead and research the school. I am told the school functioned from 1700 to 1969 and that there is a book written about it. Also I will most likely be able to obtain a record of my Father's attendance.

Next I will follow through and find out what I can about the Boarding School he later attended in Wales. This means subscribing to Lists in Wales and asking more questions based on the little my Father told me in my childhood.

What a pity we mostly are not that interested in what our parents lives amounted too, until they are no longer here to tell us. However, what a wonderful asset we have and indeed what 'empowerment' we have in our computer and the Internet. The knowledge we can gain and the friendships we can make are endless.

This story does not have an ending. In fact I doubt there ever will be an official ending. There is so much to explore and the horizon is as I said, endless. For example, next week, my husband and I will be attending a ten day Christian Convention in the USA, from the comfort of home via computer. My husband has the schedule printed out and we are ready to go.

Related web sites

PS: You can read about my search for my husbands Birth-mother on the web site's above. Also, I am in the process of setting up another area for Genealogy. This will be a list of the links I have found in my search as well as a section dedicated to my findings from my search for my paternal Grandfather.

All lists mentioned can be found at:

Google links

End of Google links

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