New records added to GSV Cemeteries Database

In this opening article for 2018, Meg Bate, GSV’s Assistant Library Manager, gives an update on the recent additions to the unique GSV Cemeteries Database.

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GSV Cemeteries database

This index contains nearly a million references from cemetery records mostly relating to Victoria. It includes memorial inscriptions or burial registers from our collection. The Society has been transcribing cemetery records since the 1950s and although there are now online websites for cemeteries (with many including photographs), some of those early headstones have disappeared or become illegible or even been destroyed by vandals. Members may use our free Quick look-up to obtain further details in many cases. A fee for a Quick look-up is charged for non-members. 

Added to GSV Cemeteries database:

Branxholme cemetery register & headstones 1852-1982

Bannockburn cemetery register and headstones 1860-1985

Natimuk cemetery headstones 25/9/1874-1986, registers 26/1/1888-8/4/1986

Mt Koroite Coleraine, Vic: private burial ground of the Young family

North Portland cemetery register 1867-1934

Port Fairy (Belfast) cemetery 3 Mar 1904 – 27 Feb 1970

Rheola (Berlin) cemetery register 1/9/1873 to 2/3/1982

Leopold cemetery register 1860-1981

Woolsthorpe cemetery headstones 12.7.1873 – 4.10.1981

Outtrim cemetery register and headstones 3.1897 – 15.4.1946.

Survey of the Hopetoun cemetery carried out in the year 1984 for the Hopetoun Historical Society: headstones 28 Feb 1890 to Aug 1984

Meringur cemetery register and headstones 1930 to 1982

Yackandandah cemetery headstones 1858-1980

Wychitella cemetery transcript 1866-1967

Fawkner cemetery (Vic) monumental inscriptions: Presbyterian sections A-F  Fawkner cemetery (Vic) monumental inscriptions: Church of England sections A-H

Added to GSV Genealogical Index of names

Transportation of female convicts to Sydney aboard the Kains in 1830-1831

The early families of Whroo

Eaglehawk early settlers, Milligan & extended families

Two squatters: the lives of George Playne and Daniel Jennings

Victoria Mercantile Marine Office articles of agreement index 1887-1889

Genealogical Index of Names (GIN), containing about 4 million references to people mentioned in our library and elsewhere, is available for members only. GIN comprises the LINX databases held in our library, some with images. However, not all entries are included in GIN for copyright or commercial reasons. Data is added regularly. Members may use our free Quick look-up to obtain further details in many cases. A fee for a Quick look-up is charged for non-members. 

Post expires at 1:08pm on Friday 22 June 2018

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South West England has grown!

South West England has grown!  Our GSV Members asked: we’ve delivered. Stephen Hawke, GSV Convenor, SWERD, shows why you need to join this group if this is your area of family interest. ***

GSV’s South West England Research & Discussion circle (SWERD) has now been expanded to include Dorset.  If you are researching your ancestry and family history in Dorset, come along and join your friends researching in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset at our monthly SWERD circle meetings. 

To mark the expansion, our new banner highlights the elongated triangle of these wonderful counties in south west England.

Over the last two years we’ve had presentations and discussions on an incredible array of topics, all focused on assisting members with their research in the south west.  We’ve looked at education, diseases and epidemics, non-conformists, the Cornish language, our ancestors’ occupations, wills, parish chest records, members’ research case studies – the list goes on.  Come along and see what 2018 brings.  Check the GSV website or Ancestor for meeting dates and times.

Membership of discussion circles is free for GSV members. As added bonuses, SWERD members receive copies of the presentations and monthly meeting notes (we keep you in the loop even if you can’t make it to meetings) and we maintain a list of SWERD members’ research interests (family names and parishes) so we can share and help each other with our research.  

You can find out more about this group at GSV website https://gsv.org.au/activities/groups/south-west-england-research-discussion-circle.html

 

Post expires at 12:25pm on Sunday 22 April 2018

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Hunting for a cemetery on FindaGrave.com

This is Part 2 of our post on Dec 16 about the revised FindaGrave.com website. Here Ted Bainbridge tells us about finding a cemetery.

Don’t forget that the Genealogical Society Victoria holds a very large collection of headstone transcriptions from almost 800 Victorian cemeteries compiled by our volunteers over many years . With the gradual degradation of some headstones these records may now be the sole source of that information. These records are being scanned and can be checked in the GSV’s online Cemeteries Database. http://www.gsv.org.au

I hope you have enjoyed our re-launched Blog this year and please add your comments and re-post to your friends. *  Bill Barlow. Editor, Family History Matters at GSV.

Hunting A Cemetery

by Ted Bainbridge.

The next most common use of findagrave is hunting cemeteries. There are three ways to find a cemetery: http://www.findagrave.com

  • On the main menu click “cemeteries” and type a name in the box provided. (This is an auto-fill box. Use it as above.) Click “search”. A hit list appears. Click the name of the cemetery you want. That cemetery’s page of information appears.
  • On the main menu click “cemeteries” and type a place in the other box. (This also is auto-fill.) Click “search”. A hit list appears. Click the name of the cemetery you want. That cemetery’s page appears.
  • On the main menu click “cemeteries” and type a place in the appropriate box. (This is an auto-fill box. Use it as above.) Don’t click “search” or press the “return/enter” button. Instead, look at the map. If the map doesn’t show any location markers, click the ‘+’ button near its lower right corner. Zoom in or out and pan in any direction until you see the area you want. Click any marker to see the name of that cemetery, then click the name to see its information page.

Favourite Cemeteries

If you registered as a member, you can create a list of your favorite cemeteries. Go to the information page of the cemetery you want to put on your list. Near the top right corner of that page, click “add favorite” and proceed.

You can create virtual cemeteries by linking interesting individuals to a collection that you create. (For examples, you might link all of your Blankenship relatives’ information pages to a group called “My-Blankenships”, or you could gather all your relatives who served in the Civil War.) Go to the page of a person you want to add to a virtual cemetery. Near the top right corner of that page, click “save to”, click “virtual cemetery”, and then proceed. At this location you can create a new v.c. or add this person to an existing v.c.

Other Features

The main menu at the top of findagrave’s home page includes an item called “famous”, which allows a search for a famous person, as was described above. That menu also has an item called “contribute”, which people use to add information to findagrave’s database.

Between the home page’s background photograph and the button for tutorials is a large white space that offers links for these items:

  • read about a random person
  • famous graves
  • newly added graves
  • most popular graves
  • add a memorial
  • upload photos
  • transcribe photos
  • forums
  • search cemeteries
  • browse cemeteries
  • search grave records
  • browse grave records
  • famous people
  • log in
  • memorials
  • cemeteries
  • contribute
  • famous
  • help
  • about
  • forums
  • store
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • language
  • mobile apps
  • privacy statement
  • terms of service
  • end feedback.

Most people probably can ignore most or all of those items, but feel free to explore and experiment as you like.

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Post expires at 10:42am on Wednesday 20 June 2018

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Happy Christmas from the GSV – the story of our Christmas decoration

The Genealogical Society of Victoria helps people to trace their forebears. In doing so, people can find out who their ancestors were, details of their lives and why they decided to come to Australia. By learning more about our ancestors, we learn more about ourselves.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

THE CHRISTMAS DECORATION

– The decoration is typical of an English Christmas door wreath. Through a metaphorical door one can glimpse into the past.

– The tartan ribbon represents Scotland.

– The shamrock represents Ireland.

Immigrants (especially convicts) from these three countries made up most of Australia’s earliest arrivals.

– The Family Bible and lace represent the small treasures immigrants brought with them to Australia.

– The scroll is of an old British Census Record and instantly recognisable to genealogists.

– The gum leaves and nuts represent the new country, Australia.

– The gold nuggets represent the Victorian Gold Rush of the 1850s.

 

Created by R Thompson, GSV Member, 2017

Post expires at 1:34pm on Saturday 30 December 2017

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Get to know the new FindaGrave.com

This week we have further advice from Ted Bainbridge about finding cemetery records using FindaGrave.com. In Part 1 of this article, Ted deals with searching for a person’s grave – in Part 2, to follow, he explains how to find a cemetery. This site provides free searches but following up suggested records may require paid access to Ancestry.com. Remember access to Ancestry.com is free for GSV members at the GSV’s Research Centre. [Ed.].

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Getting acquainted with the revised version of FindaGrave.com

Ted Bainbridge PhD

FindaGrave – https://www.findagrave.com – is a web site that collects individuals’ cemetery and other information, whether a grave marker is present or not. The site’s database includes over 165 million people’s memorials, and adds about 1 ½ million per month. It contains information from almost half a million cemeteries around the world. This free site can be searched in several ways, and its information is easy to download onto a home computer. The site is menu-driven and intuitively easy to use. Registration, which is optional and free, gives the visitor access to features that are not otherwise available. Everybody should explore the tutorials.

Think of the home page as being organized into four areas:

  • the main menu, near the top of the page and filling its entire width
  • the search panel for individuals’ graves, which dominates the background photograph
  • the link to findagrave tutorials, a blue oval button near the bottom right of the page
  • other less-frequently used items, occupying the rest of the screen below the background image

Hunting A Person

By far, the most common use of findagrave is hunting individuals. The simplest search is done as follows. Enter a first name in the box provided near the center of the background photo. (This is optional, but if you don’t do it you will get an enormous hit list for all but the most unusual surnames.) I recommend leaving the box for middle name blank, because grave markers usually don’t show middle names. Put a surname in the appropriate box. (This is required.) There is no option for “similar spelling” or “similar sound”, so do separate searches for each variant spelling of the first name and surname.) Click the search button. A hit list appears, showing records that match your request and headed with the count of how many records are on the list. Search the hit list for the person you want, then click that person’s name. You will see that person’s information page. (If a picture of the grave stone exists, look at it in detail. Sometimes this will show that the typed information on the page contains an error.) To save the information on that page, you can command a “print” from your computer’s operating system. Alternatively, you can scroll to the top of the page, click “save to”, click “copy to clipboard”, open the program you will use to save the information, paste the clipboard’s content into that program, and save within that program. To save the source citation scroll to the bottom of the person’s page, click “source citation”, copy the text of the cite, paste that text wherever you want it to be, and save that destination’s content within the appropriate program. The person’s page might include links to findagrave pages for relatives. Click those links to see their information.

Typing only the first and last name probably will produce a hit list that is too long to read. If that happens, search for that name again but narrow the search by using the pull-down menus next to the “year born” and “year died” boxes below the name boxes you used. In addition to or instead of those restrictions, you can use the location box next to those date boxes. As you type a place into that box, an auto-fill list appears. When you see the appropriate place, select it from the list. (Typing the name and clicking the “search” button instead won’t give good results.) If you use all three restrictions and the new search doesn’t find the person you want, remove one of those restrictions and search again. If that search fails, replace that restriction and remove another one. If you fail again, repeat. If all those searches fail, use only one restriction at a time and do all three restricted searches. Repeat this process until you are successful. (But remember that not everyone is in findagrave, so all your searches might fail. In that case, try again later, remembering that findagrave adds about 1 ½ million records per month.)

Next to the “search” button you can see “more search options”. Clicking that makes the following available:

“Famous” separates a famous person from others who have the same name. (Asking for Marilyn Monroe creates a hit list of 29 people. Going to the top of the list, clicking “refine search”, pulling down “more search options”, clicking “famous”, and then clicking “search” shows only the movie star we all know.

“Sponsored” shows only pages that have no advertisements because somebody paid to remove them.

“Nickname” must be checked if you ask for somebody by nickname instead of given name.

“Maiden name” must be checked if you ask for somebody by maiden name instead of married name.

“Partial last name search” lets you search by putting only the first letters of a first or last name in the appropriate boxes. (Requesting “wana” shows Wana, Wanamaker, Wanabaker, and other surnames that begin with those four letters; but it doesn’t list Wannamaker.

“No grave photo” gives only people who have no grave photo on their information page.

“Grave photo” gives only people who have a grave photo on their information page.

“Flowers” gives only people who have virtual flowers attached to their page. (Asking for Clarence Bainbridge without this option clicked gets five names, but clicking this option reduces the list to two.)

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(next) Part 2 – Finding a cemetery.

Post expires at 12:43pm on Saturday 16 June 2018

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Odd stories from an amateur family tree enthusiast

The following tale comes from GSV member Maurice Duke who reminds us not to throw away information that seems to be irrelevant to your research.

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In 1983, not long after I had begun researching my family tree, I received a letter from a lady from Kurri Kurri, NSW, inquiring about a possible connection between her family and mine.

She said that her great grandfather had migrated to Australia from England in 1886, and mentioned his parents’ names.  Later, this was to prove definitive: her great grandfather in fact had the same surname as mine, but because of my ignorance at that time, I had no knowledge of the person to whom she was referring.

I therefore rang the number she had provided and informed her that I couldn’t help her. At that point, the matter ended and I didn’t think any more about her enquiry.

Early in 2017 I decided to do work on my family name with particular emphasis on my great grandfather who had come to Australia in 1856 from Ulverston, Lancashire (now Cumbria). With the aid of Bishops Transcripts and the Latter Day Saints, I was able to trace great grandfather’s antecedents to his great great grandfather who died in Dalton In Furness in 1790 after parenting seven children.

His eldest daughter turned out to be a strange lass who had two male children but no spouse; and who gave her children her surname. This of course makes me wonder what my real surname should have been. One of her sons was my great great great grandfather.

Out of curiosity, I decided to explore the descendants of her other son, my great great great granduncle. With access to Bishops’ Transcripts and LDS data, I found that the families were concentrated around Dalton in Furness, not around Ulverston on which I had previously concentrated. The two towns are in close proximity so, even with the travel limitations of the time, interchange between residents was probably not unusual. Together with the Census returns and the other sources, I was able to trace the family throughout the nineteenth century and as result, my database increased by about 250 names.

Then the miracle occurred.

Over time, I had carefully stored every piece of family history that relatives had provided me over the past 40+ years and I decided to do a massive clean-up of papers in my possession.

In the course of the clean-up, I came upon the 1983 letter – the letter I had filed and forgotten.

Names that meant nothing to me in 1983, particularly the names of the letter writer’s great grandparents, were now made familiar as a result of my recent research.

I rang the number on the original letter and the lady, now 34 years older, answered. She was amazed to hear from me but very pleased that she could make a connection with a very distant relative.

Maurie Duke

 

Post expires at 9:03am on Friday 9 March 2018

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Explore the Victorian Births Deaths Marriages Historical Indexes

by Meg Bate

[This is an update of the article published in Ancestor 33:1 (March 2016) after the launch of the new web search service by Birth Deaths and Marriages Victoria. The author may be contacted at gsvlib2@gsv.org.au.]

 

This index covers Victorian births from 1853 to 1916, marriages from 1853 to 1942, deaths from 1853 to 1988, plus Church baptisms, marriages and burials in Victoria from 1836 to 1853. A separate index is available for Events at sea (marine) index with 6,200+ entries relating to births, marriages and deaths 1853-1920 that occurred on board international and coastal ships bound for port in Victoria

A remnant of a Victorian burial at Cemetery Reef Gull Cemetery, Chewton, Vic. (Photo: W Barlow, 2017)

A few hints on searching.

  1. When entering a family name and /or given name you can use the wildcard * to broaden your search.
    1. This can even be used to replace the first letter in a surname as *erryman to pick names Berryman or Merryman or Perryman
    2. Can be used as W* to pick up Wm or William or Will
    3. Can be used in the middle as Berr*man to pick up Berriman or Berryman
  2. In ‘Events’ select the event you require. It is possible to have two or all three boxes ticked.
  3. It is not necessary to fill in all the search boxes. If you are having trouble trying to locate the birth or death of a person you can just search using parents given names, leaving family name blank.
  4. Often given names and places are abbreviated, so if you search for a ‘William’ with no success then try ‘Wm’ as it may be abbreviated. Of course place names can have the strangest abbreviations so be careful here. Of course don’t forger to use the wildcard *
  5. Don’t use the browser back button; click on ‘Refine search’ for your next search or “Back” button.

For additional help the guide to use this index is available at https://assets.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/transactions/family+history+help+guide
This covers getting started, search tips, how to download images and troubleshooting tips.

What else.

  1. Interestingly I have found birth entries for the years 1917 to 1945. It’s not complete for these years, as in 1921 there were 240 entries, 1922 – 188 entries, 1925 – 158 entries, 1930 – 167 entries, 1943 – 16 entries. I randomly checked a couple of these names for deaths and most of these people were there as well. For example, Birth Entry: Eric John BARTLETT, born 1924, no. 23970, father William, mother Rebecca Harper.
    Death Entry: Eric John BARTLETT death 1967 no. 306, father William Edwin, mother Rebecca (Harper). Age 77 yrs. 
  2. The death index entry can sometimes provide more information compared with the Digger index.                                                                                                    – For deaths between 1943 – 1964 plus a few in later years, the place of birth and place of death are mentioned and they are not abbreviated, so this is extra information. An entry from the new website for death registration number: 1964/1548; Family name: HALL ; Given names: Ellen Maude ; Sex: Female; Father’s name: BENNETT Samuel; Mother’s name: Hannah (Spittlehouse); Place of birth: Ballarat; Place of death: Parkville ; Age: 91.                                                        Compared with the entry from the Digger index 1921 – 1985. Hall, Ellen Maude; Father: Bennett Samuel; Mother: Hannah Spittlehouse. Death place: PARK; Age: 91; Yr: 1964; Reg no. 1548.                                                                – A spouse’s name appears in many death records, mostly between 1853 and 1888. 
  3. Sorting results by the headers only works for the current page. 
  4. To see more detail click on the subject’s entry. 
  5. The Events at sea (Marine) index includes the name of the ship and in some cases the exact death date.  For example: Edward BAGSHAW Ship name: Golden Era. Place of birth: UNKNOWN. Place of death: At Sea On Board  “Golden Era”, Age: 22. Date of death: 03/05/1854. Marine births, deaths and marriages Victoria 1853-1920 (CD). 
  6. The online death index has dropped off the additional age information such as “M” Months, “D” Days information from records for example:
    The Digger index records the death as follows:
    TEMPLETON, Louisa. Father: Richard. Mother: Mary Ann KENNAN. Age at Death: 14M (Months). Place of birth: MELBOURNE. Reference: 1853 no. 1758,
    while the online index has: 
    TEMPLETON, Louisa.  Father’s name: Richard. Mother’s name: Mary Ann (Kennan). Place of birth: MELBOURNE Age 14. 
  7. In the Digger index the many marriages in the Pioneer, Federation and Edwardian indexes can include the birthplace information. E.g.
    Marriage: 1891 no. 2482. Hardie, Arch (birth place: HTon) M McKeand Sarah (birth place: Heywood). Compared with online index which has Marriage Event registration number: Family name: HARDIE, Given names: Arch Spouse’s family name: MCKEAND, Spouse’s given names: Sarah.

I am finding new things all the time about this index and I believe that we can expect some further upgrades to this system in the future. Be aware that the GSV has the CDs of the Early church records and Marine births, deaths and marriages Victoria 1853-1920 and these discs include digital copies of the original certificates. So take advantage of your membership and either come into the GSV or email for a quick lookup.

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This article was first published in Ancestor Journal.

Bate, Meg. ‘Exploring the new births deaths marriages Victoria historical indexes’. Ancestor 33(1) 2016, pp. 20-21

 

Post expires at 8:57pm on Sunday 25 March 2018

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Changes to ‘Find-A-Grave’ website

 

This week Ted Bainbridge provides a helpful outline of the changes coming to the Find-A-Grave website, one of the family of Ancestry resources. You can preview the proposed new site, while access to the old is presently being maintained.

Find-a Grave will change

Findagrave.com has announced that the web site soon will change. Some changes are cosmetic, while others are functional. A map feature has been added.

The home page, formerly just a list of over thirty choices, will become a photograph with a few menu selections across the top. That page will be dominated by the search panel, which will function largely as it has in the past and with the same options for every search box except those related to location.

The current search panel specifies location via pull-down lists for country, state, and county. The new search panel offers a single box for location, in which you are supposed to type the name of a place. As you begin to type a city, county, state, or country that box auto-fills with suggested place names which you can select with a mouse click. Use the American English equivalent of a country name; Germany works but Deutschland doesn’t.

The new home page’s menu bar goes across the top of the screen. Clicking CEMETERIES takes you to a page that lets you hunt cemeteries in either of two ways. Near the top left of the page is a search box where you can type a cemetery name. This auto-fill box works as above. When you select a name, you see a hit list of cemeteries with that name. Each entry on the hit list displays some facts about that cemetery, and a link to its information page. That page contains a search box that you can use to hunt for a person’s name.

Instead of using that cemetery-name search box, you can use the cemetery-place search box to its right. Clicking a place name produces a map of cemeteries near that place. You can zoom the map in or out, and can pan it in any direction. (If the map doesn’t display any marker pins, zoom in.) After a name is in that search box, clicking Search leads to a hit list of cemeteries near that place. Use this hit list the same way you use the other cemetery search box.

To see and experiment with all the planned changes, go to https://findagrave.com/and then click preview now near the top center of the screen.

Ted Bainbridge, PhD

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Post expires at 9:05am on Sunday 18 February 2018

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What did they do? Our ancestors’ occupations

By Clive Luckman

It is fun, and very satisfying to compile your family tree, showing names, dates and relationships. I think it is more fun to put some flesh on those bones.

One of the interesting things that can be done is to discover your ancestors’ occupations. In the pre-industrial revolution times (say before the very early 1800s) the vast majority of the population lived in the country. That changed during the century and today something like 5% of the population lives in the country, at least in Australia, Europe and north America. Those very significant demographic changes together with the industrial revolution meant lots of the occupations, some very specialised, died out.

One of the by products of the industrial revolution was a rebellion of sorts. The “Machine Breakers” (as the name implies) damaged new machinery by way of a protest and in fear of losing their income. Some of the Machine Breakers were convicted and transported to Australia.

So occupations such as button makers became extinct as machines began to make buttons. One occupation that persists today, though in relatively tiny numbers, is the shoe maker. The general name for a shoemaker, even up to the early 1900s in Melbourne, was a Cordwainer (the word probably derived from a leather worker in Cordova, Spain). An important occupation. The function of making (rather than repairing) shoes had occupational sub-divisions: a Clicker cut the leather taking care to have minimum waste and selecting the best parts for the stretch and so on; a bracer attached the upper to the sole using waxed thread.

As an aside, until roughly the 1850s the same last was used for left and right hand shoes – in other words the shape of the left and right hand shoes was the same. A horrifying thing today.

One of the sources of occupations in England and the US is the census. In both cases the occupation is recorded. The relatively recent English 1921 census include these occupations: Baubler, Lurer, Bear Breaker and Maiden Maker – I hesitate to search for the definitions of these.

Australian sources include birth, death and marriage certificates which include the occupations. But these details began on 1 July 1853 and before that we rely on Church records of Baptisms, Marriages and Funerals which lack a note of the occupations.

As with any research one needs to be critical of the evidence. One of my wife’s US ancestors was described as being engaged in “Mercantile and railroading” in a book written about the family in 1903. Sounds rather grand to me. In another document he claimed to have been be an engineer with the Brunswick and Albany Railroad. But the most credible evidence is that he was a ticket collector on the trains of that Railroad.

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This article (June 2007) by Clive Luckman of GSV was previously published in Fifty-Plus News .

At the Genealogical Society of Victoria we have expert volunteers to help members find where details of occupations can be found, and help solve the many problems encountered by family historians. See www.gsv.org.au for more information, or email gsv@gsv.org.au, or phone (03) 9662 4455 for information about the Society.

Post expires at 9:11am on Thursday 4 January 2018

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What to do with things

A new exhibition opens at Museum Victoria’s Immigration Museum on 25 November – British Migrants: Instant Australians? Leading up to this, as part of the Seniors Festival this month, the GSV in conjunction with the Museum is presenting Ten Pound Poms on Friday 20 Oct. You can find more about that event here: Ten Pound Poms

The Museum’s exhibition will draw on stories and material that have been donated by a number of British immigrant families. The background to the  collection of material by one of these British immigrant families was told in Ancestor journal 31:6 June 2013 and an abridged version is re-published below. 

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What to do with things

By Bill Barlow

I have never said ‘no’ to the paperwork, photos and bric-a-brac left homeless upon the death of family members. Objects recently inherited include carved figurines, non-working watches, badges, uniforms, lace, grandfather’s chisels, travel chests, and a six-foot, handmade, reflecting telescope! What should I do with this accumulating stuff?

Documents and photos can be reasonably managed. But objects, especially large ones, present more difficulty. Do they go ‘straight to the poolroom’, the op shop, the museum or the bin? What can they tell us and how do we record this? Often there is an undue haste to throw out objects after a family death. This urge should be resisted. Our inherited objects can give us insights into our ancestors as well as much pleasure.

Family objects should be catalogued. Documenting an object gives it meaning and may elicit oral history. The Small Museums Cataloguing Manual (Museums Australia Victoria 2009) is a useful guide. They should be listed, described and labelled much as would be done in a small museum. Their provenance and significance needs to be recorded. This should be done before any decision is made about their disposal. The register of family objects can be a simple spreadsheet (MS Excel) with columns for:

  • Item control number – a unique, sortable number.
  • Title: an identifying phrase. You can use the Australian Pictorial Thesaurus (www.picturethesaurus.gov.au).
  • Description: a physical description, shape, dimensions, materials, colours, inscriptions, damage.
  • Date: the (possible) creation date.
  • Provenance: previous owners and dates.
  • Date of accessioning: the date of recording.
  • Comments: related items, photographs, disposal history.

Having recorded your family objects, are you going to keep them? If so, where, and for how long? Are they valuable? Are they fragile and need protection or are they dangerous (a gun)? Would your children want them? Are the objects beautiful, useful or interesting? Should you sell them? Are they of wider community significance? Would family members be upset if you disposed of them? Have you got the space? Or the time! This calls for consideration of your collecting policy. Other than useful or beautiful items, my objective is to only keep items to record their family-related history, and then to arrange for their disposal, or donation to other suitable archives.


Items being sorted as part of Ward-Barlow collection as they became known. (Photo. W. Barlow)

With the death of my mother-in-law we inherited battered tin trunks, books on nursing, travel diaries, letters, luggage labels, ship menus, and other things from her family’s emigration to Australia under the Bring out a Briton scheme. This material seemed likely to be of interest for Museum Victoria’s immigration collection. Having catalogued and photographed the items, I wrote offering them to the Museum. The Museum was interested and upon delivery I was amused to see them instantly become items of cultural value, lifted carefully with gloves, wrapped in plastic, and put in a freezer to kill bugs. Later I became a volunteer at the Museum helping to catalogue ‘this important collection of 1960s material relating to the Bring Out a Briton campaign’


Delivery of items to the Museum. Marita Dyson, Asst. Collections Manager, Dr Moya McFadzean, Senior Curator Migration, MV and the donor, Jen Barlow (Ward), February 2012 (Photo: W. Barlow)

You might not realise the cultural value of those things your family has kept, so as well as collecting stories about your family you should give attention to the things they have treasured and passed down.

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This abridged article was previously published in Fifty-Plus News, September 2013.

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