Welcome to the GSV Blog

At this Blog – Family History Matters – you can find reports about the various activities and groups at the GSV, news about our library and resource collection, book reviews and articles of interest about family history and genealogy. It is a way to keep in touch as a member or to discover what GSV can offer you as a soon-to-be-member.

If you are a present GSV Member (with an email address), you have been given automatic registration to this Blog and will receive email notifications of new posts. If you wish, you can choose to opt out of receiving email notifications to all posts, or any of various categories of posts, by modifying ‘My Blog Notifications’ on the side-menu. To do this you need to have logged in to the Blog with your Blog username / email address and Blog password. You can remain a registered user, or subscriber of the blog and still able to view and post comments. You can of course opt out of the Blog completely, or unsubscribe, at any time.

The GSV Blog also welcomes those who share our interest in Family History matters and who may not (yet) be GSV Members. For ‘less than a cup of coffee a week’ (to use that universal measure) you can join the GSV and ‘discover your own world of family history’. There is so much information available online, that now, more than ever, you can benefit from the help and support GSV can provide in your quest.

We welcome the submission of short articles for possible publication as posts on this Blog. These can be sent to the Editors for consideration. Authors will be credited and consulted about any proposed editing. Publication is at the discretion of the editors to meet timing and other obligations. Material should be the original work of the person submitting and the submitter should have obtained all permissions and copyright approvals. The views expressed in any posts are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the GSV. Generally the GSV’s Style Guide for its journal, Ancestor, will apply (you can see this on our website http://gsv.org.au/ancestor-journal/guidelines-for-authors.html). However, references would rarely be required. Our Blog posts aim to be brief and engaging or informative in a more relaxed style. We invite you to add your comments on the Blog and, especially, to share it with others who may be interested. You can most easily do this via its link to Facebook or Twitter. You can go here: http://gsv.org.au/gsv-home/why-join.html to find out more about GSV member benefits and to join.

We hope you enjoy the Blog and that it stimulates you to find and tell your own family stories.

The Editors

Family History Matters at GSV – The Blog of the Genealogical Society of Victoria

To submit posts: mailto:blog@gsv.org.au

Blog administrator: mailto:blogadmin@gsv.org.au

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Some new family history stories are taking shape at the GSV Writers


Penny Scott – member GSV Writers Circle

14 June 2017

At the June 7 meeting of the Writers Circle we discussed the drafts of two new family history stories submitted by Circle members.

Bernece Schultz has done a lot of research on her South of England and Jersey ancestors who settled in Victoria and later in Tumbarumba, NSW. She said her submitted piece, Mary Ann Simmons, was written as a chapter in the middle of a book that she is writing for her family members about her maternal ancestors.

Her submission concerned the affecting story of Mary Ann Simmons (1848-1880) who in her short life experienced the death of siblings, mother, husband and children before she herself died aged thirty-two. Bernece described the living conditions and influences on Mary Ann, such as problems caused by tuberculosis, which contributed to her sad and difficult life. Bernece appreciated members’ constructive comments on the writing and the subject of the narrative.

The second piece of writing was titled The winds of change – a woman, a watch and a Whig, and the first paragraph provided the force and focus of the writing – a reference to an image of a satirical print by James Gillray. The identity, background and salacious life of the male figure in the print is revealed in the writing, and there is an amusing twist in the final sentence when the writer unwillingly admits the figure is her ancestor. 

Before the meeting the writer had outlined the feedback she would like from the group – comments on structure, tone, the flow of the narrative, its logical sequence, characterisation and references in the text. These areas and more provided the basis of a lively discussion.

The August meeting of the Writers Circle will provide an opportunity for two further members to receive feedback on their writing from the other members of the group.

Post expires at 7:01pm on Friday 14 July 2017

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‘Margaret Flockton’ book wins!

On 25 May, Louise Wilson’s book, Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory (Wakefield Press, 2016), won the 2016 AIGS Don Grant Award for the best submitted biography with an Australian history focus. And another GSV Writer, Margaret Vines, came second in this year’s AIGS Alexander Henderson Award with her book The Baggotts from Herbertstown (2016). That Award was won by The Complete History of Arthur and Rose: the Martin, Jacka, Crougey and Commbe families in Cornwall and South Australia by Tony and Wendy Edwards.

In 2013 Louise also won the AIGS Alexander Henderson Award 2012 for the best submitted Australian Family History, with her book Southwark Luck. Two of Louise’s other books were Highly Commended in other years. You can follow her writing exploits at http://www.louisewilson.com.au.

Louise is also an active member of the GSV Writers Circle (which you can find out about here http://gsv.org.au/activities/groups/gsv-writers-circle.html) and in fact she submitted early parts of her winning Flockton book for review at a GSV Writer’s meeting in 2011.

At GSV Writers monthly sessions, she has led discussions on topics such as reviewing family history, marketing your family history, aspects of structure, and writing a finished piece. If you missed these, you can find her articles on these subjects published in GSV’s Ancestor journal in the regular ‘Getting it Write’ series. Ancestor is available at the GSV Research & Education Centre or members can read PDF versions on the GSV’s website.

Margaret Vines is also a regular contributor at GSV Writers Circle and co-presented a session on ‘the tasks involved in producing a book’. She will be conducting her regular Writing Course at GSV on August 15,22 and 29. (You can book on the website, but be quick.)

If you are facing the challenge of finally turning your never-ending research into readable and informative family history you might like to join the GSV Writers Circle, membership of which is available to all GSV Members as part of their GSV membership. As you can see above, this active self-help discussion group is fortunate to benefit from the award-winning expertise of Louise, Margaret and other published (and awarded) family-history writers.

GSV congratulates Louise Wilson and Margaret Vines!

Post expires at 11:39pm on Sunday 6 August 2017

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Happy 14th birthday, GSV Writers Circle!

3 May 2017 – Our current convenor, Penny Mercer reminded the GSV Writers Circle after its recent meeting that it has reached its 14th birthday!

In 2003 Penny sent out the following message to members of the GSV:

A friend of mine is a member of a writers’ group for fiction writers. They meet regularly to exchange advice and constructively assess each others work. I think this is an interesting idea. It would be great to have someone other than my husband to read my stories and point out where I’ve not explained the ticket-of-leave system or that Belfast is now known as Port Fairy. It would be nice to exchange ideas with other writers. I’m not sure exactly what format I’d prefer but wondered whether anyone else would be interested in the idea in general.

Penny writes: ‘Our first meeting was in the GSV’s first Queen Street location on the first Wednesday in May 2003. By December of that year we had seven on our email list. Those without email were given printed versions of work submitted.’

Happy birthday to us!


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What the GSV family history writers did in April

13 April 2017 –

‘All writers need support and advice about their work. Last week as always, members of this GSV group generously offered thoughtful analysis and encouragement for two of its writers.’

Tina Hocking reports: Last Wednesday (5 April) the GSV Writers Circle met for the first time at GSV’s new Centre at 85 Queen Street. It was also possibly the first time we reviewed a submission from an interstate member unable to attend the meeting.

The ‘row of chairs’ arrangement in the meeting room should suit our structured ‘topic’ meetings, but we hope to recreate our informal ‘circle friendly’ atmosphere in future meetings.

There was spirited discussion of the submissions by two of our members, which focused on immigrant families from quite different backgrounds. Some members had already emailed their responses to our two presenters, with others to follow.

The feedback provided at this session for our Adelaide member should encourage any writers on our email list of over 80 who cannot attend meetings due to distance, to join in either as submitters or email reviewers. And there is also the GSV Writers Closed Facebook site for continuing the discussion. (This is part of a GSV membership).

One of the participants – who is writing the odyssey of the Dedes and Wares families – wrote:

‘Thank you for your most helpful analysis of my work – I appreciate the comments. Along with other observations from the group, I have lots to follow up! 


Post expires at 8:02pm on Wednesday 31 May 2017

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GSV Members’ Day at Immigration Museum 18 & 19 Aug

Now that the GSV has moved closer to the Victoria’s Immigration Museum we are looking forward to being closer!

GSV Members are invited to two days of complimentary admission to the Immigration Museum – 18 and 19 August.

Set in the beautifully restored 19th century Customs House, the Immigration Museum is the perfect place for learning about our ancestor’s journey to Australia, exploring Australia’s migration history, sharing personal stories, researching contemporary issues, and understanding our culturally diverse community.

GSV Members can celebrate Family History Month with free entry into the Museum on Friday 18 August, Saturday 19 August. Simply show your GSV membership card upon entry to the Museum.

Visit the Immigration Museum website for information about current exhibitions and activities. idc@museum.vic.gov.au

Open 10 am – 5 pm, 7 Days. Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day.      400 Flinders Street Melbourne

Post expires at 8:04pm on Sunday 20 August 2017

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A family history takes shape


23 March 2017

At the next GSV Writers Circle meeting (for members) on 5 April at our new Research and Education Centre, the group will discuss and offer suggestions on draft pieces of family history writing submitted by two of the Group. One of this month’s writers can rarely attend the Group as she lives interstate, but she still joins in and benefits from the GSV Writers Circle by way of email. She writes: I circulated this story at the end of last year. I received one small correction and a detailed and very helpful review… I am re-circulating it again for discussion at the April meeting. Much [extra research] has happened in the almost six month since I wrote it… Whilst I had intended to make only small changes now and to wait until after the April meeting to revise the story, I have done a little more than I originally intended and also worked on the majority of [the previous] suggestions… While I was writing the background to [this] life I realised that the two-generation story was more interesting.’ Where else can you receive knowledgeable help with your writing – the GSV Writers Circle includes many published writers – at no additional cost to your GSV membership? The aim of this GSV group is to help its members turn their research into accurate and readable stories. Your research deserves to be told and kept for the future.

Post expires at 8:10pm on Thursday 20 April 2017

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GSV Writers discuss Writing Reviews

Louise Wilson and GSV Writers (Photo. G. Nicholas)

Friday 10 March

Writing Reviews: basics and a touch of the unexpected

Gayle Nicholas.

It was hot in Melbourne on 1 March as members of the GSV Writers Circle gathered for their monthly discussion at Emirates House for the last time. The conversation was initially dominated by the imminent change in location of the Society and some members were recalling previous GSV locations, such as Block Arcade.

The focus of this meeting was on Book Reviews, and under Louise Wilson’s adept leadership books had been selected, reviews planned or pondered on, or already written.

Louise was well prepared and there was much for members of the group to think about. Members’ reasons for choosing books for the session included prior knowledge of the author and personal or research connections to people and places featuring in the selected book. The discussion soon moved to whether our choices were helping us as writers. Discussion emerged on the need to found writing in research and to use citations as members had come across family histories without sources. The cusp between history and creative writing, an area of ongoing interest to writers, was also raised.

The group was challenged by a question regarding the impact on target readers of titles and covers. The newly released Victoria the Queen has a cover appealing to current day readers and is receiving favourable reviews.   Louise placed book reviews in time and place. Mary Durack’s Kings in Grass Castles has received less impressive reviews in recent times while continuing to maintain sales.

‘Should authors review books?’ asked Louise after sharing her own experiences as a reviewer. Louise argued that authors bring something extra to reviewing because of their experience and that reviews should incorporate the intellectual and emotional responses of the reviewer. Discussion extended to whether and how authors should respond directly to reviewers. Examples of responses generally considered appropriate, and others not so appropriate, were weighed up.

Most reviews written for this session were based on Ancestor publishing requirements.   Discussion of Ancestor’s practice of publishing reviews of (recently released?) genealogical resources rather than family histories may well have sown seeds of change.

A newly animated group of writers dispersed into the Library and the hot city with new thoughts and questions to ponder. The next meeting will be in the new GSV premises.



Post expires at 7:54pm on Wednesday 10 May 2017

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Lease signed for GSV’s new home

28 February 2017

We have now signed the formal lease documentation for our new Centre at Level 6, 85 Queen Street, and will gradually move in over the last three weeks of March, opening our doors on TUESDAY 4 APRIL. Orientation meetings have been arranged for our Volunteers to assist them with the delivery of our Member services in our new home. We have commenced the cleanup of our current premises in anticipation of packing our books and other items during the week commencing Monday 13 March. Thank you to those who are currently helping us with our move. Quite a few additional volunteers will be needed to help in various ways. If you are available to assist during the period from Monday 6 March through to Monday 3 April, please email your availability to Allan Aberdeen, who is in charge of the overall management of this process or Claire Johnson via gsv@gsv.org.au.

Post expires at 7:48pm on Thursday 20 April 2017

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