New material added to GSV’s databases

Back in January, Meg Bate, our Assistant Librarian provided an update on this blog about the new genealogical material that had been added to the GSV’s digitised databases. This work has continued with the good work done by our volunteers and the latest material to be added is listed below. It may just contain that missing piece of your family history jigsaw.

Records added to 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. 

  • Mildura cemetery headstones 1848 to 1983.
  • Glenlyon cemetery register and index 1867-1983.
  • Geelong Western cemetery:  Roman Catholic headstones 2.12.1848 to March 1982.
  • Wallan cemetery register and headstones 1854-1978
  • Geelong Eastern cemetery: Methodist headstones 1848-1962.

Records added to the Genealogical Index of Names (GIN)

This Index 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. 

  • Maldon Church of England marriages 1864-1946 [index]
  • Maldon State School No. 1254 pupil register pt 2 August 1873 – December 1891.
  • Alexander Archibald and Emily Morgan: Donnelly’s Creek Gold [Index]
  • What Kiddle forgot: a social history of the Mount Elephant district of Western Victoria 1860-1888.

For a list of previously added material you can check back on this Blog under ‘In the Library’ or ‘Archives’ to see if there is something in the GSV’s Collection that may help your research.


Post expires at 5:11pm on Saturday 24 November 2018

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Did you have a soldier ancestor in India?

By Mary Anne Gourley – Convener, GSV British India Discussion Circle and FIBIS representative in Australia.


Did you have a soldier ancestor in India? Which Army? What are the differences? Where are the records?

I often receive questions about ancestors who served in the army in India. My response is usually, which army? There are differences relating to who created the records and where they are held.

East India Company armies

The Queen’s Own Madras Sappers and Miners Regiment. Illus. by Richard Simkin (1840-1926). Chromolithograph in Army & Navy gazette 1896.

The East India Company established armies to protect its interests in India. Composed of European officers and soldiers, these regiments went out to India from 1748 and remained in the Company’s employ until 1861, following the mutiny. The East India Company maintained an army in each presidency – Bengal, Bombay and Madras. Each army had regiments comprising European officers and men but they also established Native Regiments with European officers and native soldiers.

Most of records for this area of research are found in the India Office Collection held by the British Library in London. A large quantity of these records has been filmed by the Latter-Day Saints and they are available through the FamilySearch Catalogue.

A reference guide written by Peter Bailey, Researching Ancestors in the East India Company Armies, will help the researcher. Bailey’s guide features analysis of the records, tables and appendices and more importantly ‘precise film references’. The majority of these films can be accessed at the GSV Research and Education Centre or an LDS family history centre.

Recently I looked for records relating to Francis Green a soldier in the Madras European Regiment. I established that he had arrived in India in 1803 aged 16, was from England and had been part of a contingent arriving on the transport Calcutta at the end of August.[i] Depot Description lists record his place of birth as Wisbech in Cambridgeshire and his occupation as a tailor. Using the Musters Rolls I established he was with the regiment until at least 1820, after which time his name is not recorded, possibly due to promotion or his death.

Findmypast has several collections from the India Office Collection including military records, wills and probate, and ecclesiastical. Amongst the registers is the marriage of Francis Green and Catherine Limb in 1809. From that time several children were born. In 1819 Francis was a Serjeant in the Madras European Regiment.

Following the mutiny in 1857-58 the British Government assumed control of India from the East India Company. The latter’s armies were dissolved with the men given the opportunity to transfer into the British Army or be discharged with a bounty. Of those many chose to return to the UK while others chose to remain in India. Some found new occupations.

The Indian Army under British control

A new Indian Army was established, which was smaller than the previous armies of the East India Company. The artillery regiments were transferred to the British Army. A staff corps was established in each Presidency. Loyal senior native soldiers could become junior officers or NCO’s. Overall control was to remain in India. Reforms and restructuring took 86 years.

The records for the Indian Army under British control are held by the British Library in London however a second guide by Peter Bailey, Researching Ancestors in the Indian Army will be helpful. Again, it is an analysis of the records and provides film references. A copy of this guide is available in the GSV Centre (355.354 BAI)

The British Army serving in India

Many queries relate to soldiers in the British Army serving in India. From the middle of 18th C Britain had sent out regiments to support the East India Company armies in each presidency. Records for the British Army will be found at The National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London. However, Findmypast does have a selection of British Military Records including Regimental and Service Records.

While researching my own family I found my great grand aunt Agnes McKenzie had married William Thomas Marshal, Colour Serjeant of HM 69th Regiment at Saint Andrew’s Church, Madras in 1864. William’s service records are on Findmypast and include details of his place of birth, Ireland; place of enlistment, Rochester, Kent and service with the regiment, including time in India, Canada and Bermuda and finally retirement in Manchester in 1872.

FIBIS – Families in British India Society – has an inclusive section on the Military in FIBIwiki covering all armies, their regiments, garrisons and history.


[i] The Calcutta also transported a contingent of Royal Marines for the Colony of New South Wales under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Collins who was going out as Governor of the Colony. (‘Ship News’, The Times, (London, England) 12 April 1803)


The next meeting of the new British India Discussion Circle is on Tuesday 15 May at the GSV – see website for details.



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Victorian workhouses and the new Poor Law

By Stephen Hawke

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act was squarely aimed at driving down the cost of relief for the poor. New purpose-built workhouses would contain and control the poor throughout the United Kingdom. The conditions for paupers prepared to enter the workhouse were to be worse than those of the poorest free labourer outside the workhouse and only those entering the workhouse would be entitled to succour from the parish purse. The workhouse was to be so repellent that only those who lacked the moral determination to survive outside would be prepared to accept relief in the workhouse.

Families were broken up and segregated. Communication between family members in the separate wards was largely prohibited. Meagre diets, harsh conditions and corruption resulted in national scandals.

In the often highly moralistic tone of the times, one aim of the new Poor Law was to make the workhouse consequences so dire for unmarried mothers that they would be deterred from unwanted pregnacies. This provision proved a step too far and was repealed in 1844.

At our SWERD meeting on Wednesday 9 May 12.30 to 2.00 pm at GSV we will discuss the impacts of the workhouses and the Poor Laws on the lives of our southwest  England ancestors, as well as the resources available at GSV and online to aid your research.  A grim but fascinating subject! 

Our SWERD meetings are free for GSV members and copies of presentations and meeting notes are provided to GSV members who join the discussion circle’s email list. 







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The Keyboard of the President #2

I am very pleased that recent GSV events have received ringing endorsements from members.

DNA: Our recent ‘DNA for Family Historians’ talk followed on from our well-patronised event in December. Further talks are scheduled – an introduction to DNA for family historians entitled ‘DNA Testing – should I do it?’ will be conducted on 13 June and ‘Using Your Ancestry DNA Results’ will be held in July. Check our events pages for details and ensure you book your place. The DNA Discussion Circle continues to be held monthly on every second Wednesday at 10.30 am.

Discussion Circles: The first meeting of the British India Discussion Circle was held 0n 17 April. Attendees resolved to continue to meet and I thank the convenor Mary Anne Gourley for her hard work and enthusiasm in establishing the Circle.

The newly formed London Research Discussion Circle met with great success on Thursday 26 April and will meet thereafter on the fourth Thursday of the month.

A Discussion Circle is a  great opportunity to discuss your research successes or seek assistance from GSV members interested in the topic. The Circles work on the basis that the participants contribute to the meetings. We have seven Circles at present and there are more in development. Check the events calendar for all Circles.

If you would like to see a Circle developed around a particular topic or area please let me know by email to the office. I will do my best to help you to find like-minded members and to assist with the establishment of the Circle.

Volunteers needed: We are looking for members to help us in many areas but two in particular are important at the moment.

We are looking for volunteers to assist Linda Farrow conduct the administrative duties necessary to ensure that the Society operates smoothly. We have step-by-step detailed instructions for all the administrative tasks, which makes the role easier to understand and learn. We have four members who can undertake parts of the role and need additional helpers who will also learn and assist to understudy Linda.

Our IT systems are essential these days for the conduct of the Society. We are looking for members with IT experience and skills to assist Peter Johnston maintain and develop our systems.

If you are interested in either of these areas or any other area of the Society please email Margaret McLaren on

With autumn now here, it is the perfect time to retreat indoors and pick up those family history lines of enquiry that have lapsed over summer.

Happy researching!

David Down – GSV President

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Historic Somerset records donated to GSV

Rev Dr Warren Bartlett OAM with Somerset records, 2018.

The GSV has received a very generous donation from a retired member, Rev Dr Warren Bartlett OAM. 

Warren has donated around 50 volumes of historic records for Somerset (including some for Dorset and Devon), which were produced over many decades by the Somerset Record Society.  The volumes include transcriptions of rare and now lost collections of wills, Tudor tax records, lists of rebels from the southwest and much, much more.  Warren has also donated a large number of Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries journals.  The volumes and journals are a treasure trove of resources for Somerset and southwest England researchers.

Some examples from the collection that Warren is donating are:

Somerset Wills – pre-war transcriptions of some 1,200 Somerset wills that were subsequently destroyed in the bombing of Exeter in 1942;

The Monmouth Rebels, 1685 – details of around 4,000 people from Somerset, Dorset and Devon charged with treason and similar offences after the failed rebellion against James II in 1685.  Many of these people were executed or transported as ‘slave labour’ to the Caribbean; and

Two Tudor Subsidy Assessments for the County of Somerset: 1558 and 1581-82 – which lists the names, villages, details of land values or goods held and tax payable for thousands of Somerset people who were subject to tax by Elizabeth I.

These will be available in the GSV Education and Research Centre as soon as they have been checked and catalogued.  Follow the GSV blog and Ancestor for more news about this.

GSV is very appreciative of this donation to its Collection and expresses its thanks publicly to Warren for his great generosity in sharing this resource.


Stephen Hawke

Convener, GSV South West England Research & Discussion Circle (SWERD)




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‘The Enigmatic Mr Deakin’ – a review

Alfred Deakin was Australia’s second Prime Minister (1903-4) and a founding father of Federation in Australia (with Edmund Barton). He also served as PM for two subsequent terms, 1905-8 and 1909-10. Leonie Loveday reviews the latest biography of Deakin, The Enigmatic Mr Deakin by Judith Brett (Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2017, ISBN 9781925603712 Pbk).


History is the stage on which our ancestors played out their lives however humble or ordinary. An understanding and appreciation of history is the context in which we may view the lives of each generation. For those of us who have ancestors in late 19th century Australia and the post-gold boom of Victoria, Judith Brett has mined for us a deep vein of historical pay dirt in the life of Alfred Deakin (1856–1919).

Brett’s latest work The Enigmatic Mr Deakin has been critically acclaimed particularly by her peer – Professor Mark McKenna in The Monthly (Sept. 2017) described it as ‘the fifth and best biography on Deakin to date’. Brett is a professional historian and author of previous works on Australian politics, notably Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People (1992) and Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class (2003).

This is not a stodgy historical treatise written in inaccessible academic prose. Brett provides the reader with a compelling and engaging book on the life and times of Alfred Deakin. But it is more than that because she skillfully weaves the family story of the Deakin and Browne families into the period of Australian political history that has most influenced the way we live today. She doesn’t miss a trick when she opens her introduction, placing Alfred Deakin’s birth two years after that of Ned Kelly in the ‘colony of Victoria’. But we learn that the comparison stops there because ‘Deakin was the only son of respectable goldrush immigrants’.

And enigmatic, Deakin certainly was: a spiritualist, teacher, journalist and anonymous contributor, lawyer, orator, independent thinker, parliamentarian, prime minister, and a knighthood refuser. He was a man of vision and deep, philosophical and religious ideas, but plagued by self-doubt, a fear of conflict and sometimes an indecisiveness that would affect his health. However this is not a work of hagiography and Brett is always frank in criticism of Deakin when the record clearly shows his shortcomings.

Deakin, like a growing number of his contemporaries in the middle class at the time, became interested in spiritualism in his youth. A local interest in spiritualism was one of popular curiosity that had spilled over from the movement in Britain and a symptom of a progressive move away from conventional religious thinking. Pattie Browne, who later became Deakin’s wife, and her family were actively engaged in the practice and regularly hosted meetings and séances at their home. Deakin later moved away from practice but he regularly recorded his spiritual life in his writing of ‘prayers’ and read widely in philosophy, which guided his decisions and choices.

Deakin entered the Victorian parliament in 1879 at age 23 and was a popular politician. He was an active and sometimes controversial member because he was reluctant to be influenced by the powerful and landed members in the Upper House. However, when it came to issues relating to the local aboriginal peoples, he was ‘not unsympathetic’ but Brett adds succinctly, ‘he was not a fighter, and he had no emotional capacity for lost causes, not matter how just’. Candidly damning indeed.

Later his involvement with the ANA (Australian Natives Association) and the Movement for Federation led him to work together with Edmund Barton in campaigning for the Federation Bill and referendum. He accompanied Barton and others to London to support the bill for federation through the Imperial Parliament in Westminster. Such was the impression he made and the respect won in Britain during this time, that he was offered a knighthood, which he rejected. Deakin was his own man.

From spiritualist to Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin inspired a nation and with persistence and firm beliefs shepherded its people through some of the most controversial issues and events. He was not always successful or right but Brett leaves the reader with a deep respect for Deakin and his legacy – a legacy not wholly or generally appreciated.


Leonie Loveday

Abbotsford, 11 April 2018.

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Note to GSV Members

Automatic Membership Renewal Email
Unfortunately our digital membership system failed to generate the renewal email for those members whose subscription falls due during April. We apologise sincerely and are taking steps to ensure that it does not happen in the future. Those members who have been affected will still be be able to renew online or can contact Linda Farrow in the GSV Office on 9662 4455.
David Down – President

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Researching in British India – where to start?

With the records of the East India Company, the India Office and the British Government now accessible without having to visit the British Library, the GSV has established the British India Discussion Circle. Its first meeting – for GSV members only  – is to be held on Tuesday 17 April at 12 noon – 1.00 pm. The circle will be convened by Mary Anne Gourley, GSV Member and the representative in Australia of Families in British India Society (FIBIS). In this article Mary Anne introduces this area of family history with a brief outline of her own research.


With some 3 million people of British origin having lived and worked in India between 1600 and 1947, many of us may find ancestors having connections to that country.

How do we trace family who worked within the military, merchant navy, administration, commerce and trade in India? Can we unravel family stories of heroic soldiers fighting during the mutiny, of runaways, orphans and of course the inevitable and impossible to prove Indian princess! Where do we go to research these ancestors and what records will we find? 

How and where do we start?

For me, my research began twenty years ago with information recorded on the 1853 Victorian birth certificate of my great grandfather; his parents had been married in Calcutta and his mother had been born in India.

By good fortune I was able to consult the Ecclesiastical indexes for Calcutta available on film from Familysearch. With information for that marriage in Calcutta, I was advised to order a copy of the document from the British Library in London, the repository for all East India Company and India Office records.

Dudley Gourley on an elephant c. 1927. Courtesy of Colin Gourley.

This information has lead me on a forever expanding journey. I am amazed at the number of family members I have found in India; from cadets, soldiers and officers in the East India Company and British Army, merchants, planters, journalist, administrators. Many of them marrying and having families. Their stories reveal determination and hardship, tragedy and loss. Not all who survived remained in India. Many returned to the UK, a few came to Australia some travelled farther afield to Canada and South Africa.

Interest in research in India brought about the founding of the Families in British India Society (FIBIS) twenty years ago in the UK. Technology has changed the way we research. Today it is possible to do our research using not only the resources held by the British Library in London, but those of other libraries and archives in the UK and worldwide with online databases.

Mary Anne Gourley

You can read more about this Circle on the GSV website.



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The old Poor Laws (pre-1834) and Southwest England


Vagrant being punished in the streets, woodcut c. 1536 (Source unknown)

1547 – the new reign of the boy-King Edward VI was marked with a draconian approach to controlling the kingdom’s poor.  Penalties for the purported ‘work-shy’ such as whipping and leg irons were nothing out of the ordinary, but the new law extended this to branding with the letter V (for vagrant) and being made a parish slave for two years.  Recalcitrant vagrants faced lifetime slavery or hanging.  Children could be seized without their parents’ consent or knowledge.  Those charged with enforcing the law faced severe penalties if they failed to mete out these punishments. Hard and dangerous times indeed.

We’ll be discussing the old poor laws (pre-1834) and their impact on our ancestors in south west England at our SWERD meeting this Friday, 13 April, 12:30 to 2:00 pm at GSV (GSV members only).  A vast array of records were created in administering the poor laws and we’ll discuss how you can access these to find fascinating new insights into your ancestors’ lives.  Our May meeting will focus on the impact of the new poor law, 1834 onwards, the era of the notorious Victorian workhouses.
Stephen Hawke
Convener, SWERD – GSV Southwest England Research and Discussion Circle

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Writing a Morkham history: a member’s challenge

I was interested to read an email from John Morkham, sent in response to the first ‘Keyboard of the President’ article. John has been a GSV Member for twenty-eight years. Life is busy for most of us, and our genealogical research proceeds in bursts, when it can be fitted in. In John’s case, the family history compilation has been going on over a number of generations and that work has passed down to him. With so much accumulated research, he now plans to retire from his ‘retirement’ positions, so he can commence writing the history. Many of us can identify with John’s objective, as he described it in his email.


May I, at the outset, wish you, the Board, Staff and the Members, a very happy Easter. I joined GSV in July 1989. How pleased was I today to receive your ‘Keyboard’ number 1 report concerning activities and observations for the GSV’s future. This prompted me to reflect on my family history research and my present situation.  

Morkham family tree, painted by Thomas Frank Morkham, 1902. Courtesy of John Morkham.

My great grandfather, Thomas Frank Morkham, following his retirement as Secretary of Lands (Victoria) travelled to the UK and Ireland in 1902. His father, who brought most of his family to Geelong, told him of the then known history of the Morkham family, which had been based in Dunster, Somerset. This drew him to start family research from the Dunster records. As a result of that trip he wrote notes from those records and then painted a Family Tree, which shows at its base his own great grandfather. His notes also include a reference to the death of his great, great grandfather’s wife Katherine, wife of John.

Since 1902, recordkeeping has evolved immensely, with digital recording of hard copies and the collating of them into family records. It is most unfortunate that Catholic Ireland failed to undertake Parish recordkeeping before 1837. Odd records were maintained by UK legislation and Victorian church systems. My great grandfather, who was born in Denmark, possessed an older family history, which was burnt in 1870. Such a shame; but fortunately the Diocese had many relevant records. From 1973 up to today, I have researched our whole family history with the help of branches of over three times-removed supporters as well as my father, mother, aunts and uncles and others not related to me but carrying the now false name of Morkham.

I have retired from employed positions, but I am presently the treasurer of three organisations, as well as being committed to the Catholic Church weekly and with visits to Prison and a Hospital. I have started to inform those organisations that I wish to retire during 2019 so that I can undertake the writing and recording of our family history back to a date of about 1490. In 2019, I plan to start the recording of my family history in the hope that I can accomplish this in my remaining years.

With my other ‘retirement’ commitments, I find it very hard to attend functions of importance arranged by GSV. Despite this, I support GSV, its relationship with RHSV and the Australian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry. I am also a member of the Somerset Archives and the Australian Heraldry Society. I hope to be able to use the GSV resources more fully as I undertake this next stage of my family’s history. Best wishes to you and the Board.’

John Morkham, 4 April 2018.                                                                                          [This is an edited version of John’s email, reproduced with his approval, Ed.].


Presenting years of research in a readable way can be daunting. GSV can assist its members to get started and can provide ongoing support from other writers in its Writers Discussion Circle. Articles in Ancestor‘s ‘Getting it Write’ series address all aspects of writing family history – for example, ‘Getting Started’ (vol. 28 no.1) and ‘The Writer at Work’ (vol.30 no.7). See the list here Our best wishes to John and thanks for his membership support.


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