Over 200 current family history journals indexed at GSV – and more

Happy 2019 New Year to all family historians and blog followers!

I see we have reached over 100 posts to this blog and I hope you have found them informative and interesting. We would love to hear from you in the ‘Comments’ section of any post – just register and join in. (Remember this is a public site). For our first post for 2019 Michael Rumpff at the GSV highlights the large collection of family history periodicals that are received and indexed at the GSV Research Centre. [Ed.]


From time to time, the GSV receives bulletins and newsletters from associated organisations. Because a lot of work goes into producing these communications, it’s only fair that we share them will all GSV members. You may well be aware of these organisations and their newsletters, but then again, you may not! They all contain information that you may find useful. We recently received one from the Federation of Australian Historical Societies, and it can be read at https://www.history.org.au/ebulletin/  Of note in this issue is a tribute to the late Joan Hunt, a farewell to the former President of the FAHS, Don Garden, and a welcome to the new President, Margaret Anderson. There are a number of other items that may be of interest, for instance on shipwrecks.


GSV holds a large resource of family history periodicals from around the world. To date there are over 200 of these which are acquired by subscription, gratis and by way of exchanging GSV’s own journal Ancestor for those of other groups. These are then indexed by our volunteers and can be searched by members on our Catalogue, so you can follow up the leads they provide. These periodicals come from everywhere and form a resource you would have difficulty finding anywhere else. A casual inspection of the catalog reveals such journals as ‘Rodziny: the journal of the Polish Genealogical Society of America, the Geelong Family History Group’s The Pivot Group, Stawell’s The Reef Rumblings, other from Ormskirk and Saskatchewan, Origins from Buckinghamshire and Die Zeitung from Germany. In the catalog enter ‘Perio*’ as TOPIC and ‘to date’ in the ‘Any Word’ field for all currently received periodicals. If you want to limit the search to a specific country, other than Australia, put in ‘ENG’, for example. 

‘We also have many other periodicals which have either ceased, or our acquisition program has changed’, Linley Hooper, GSV’s Research Library Manager reminds us. ‘The Irish ancestor and The Irish genealogist are just two examples of defunct journals, but we have an index (and electronic copies) to all their issues. The electronic journals are searchable as PDFs, but that can be overwhelming – always best to start with an index created by humans who know what you may be looking for.’

GSV would love to have some more volunteers for this interesting work. Look in our catalog and see what you can find in this extensive resource to help your research.


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Beyond the web – a research story

At the last meeting for the year of the GSV Writers, we considered topics for next year’s writing exercise. Members are invited to try writing about a particular topic such as a family object, a place or a journey. One suggestion, that we write about a particular research experience or archive, reminded some of us of Kath McKay’s story of visiting the archives of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Ballarat. Her memory of researching by an open fire warmed our hearts. Though this is a bit unseasonal, it might encourage your research over the holiday period ahead – if you can fit it in between more immediate family festivities.


Beyond the web

Much as I love my computer and the internet, some of my most precious family history knowledge has come from being able to seek out original documents.

In spite of searching for decades, previous family historians had not been able to find the marriage certificate of our great grandparents: an Irish coach maker and a young maidservant from Wiltshire. We knew they had about ten children in the 1860s and 1870s in Ballarat, but didn’t have a clear record of the children’s names, births or even number. Online indexes didn’t help a lot.

Then I had a little brain-wave. I knew that branch of the family were all Catholic so I contacted St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ballarat to enquire about records. They eventually replied saying they had all their original records but none were digitised or indexed. However, I was most welcome to come and look for myself.

St Patricks Cathedral, Ballarat (Postcard, Ballarat Historical Collections, Gold Museum. Visit www.goldmuseum.com.au

So one freezing July day I took the train from Melbourne to Ballarat. In the cheery Parish office, warmed by a fire in the hearth, I pored over the huge leather bound tomes brought out of the archives by the Parish Secretary. These are daunting books indeed, nearly a metre by half a metre and several inches thick. They record the births, marriages and deaths of the parishioners, documented in careful copperplate with pen and ink on parchment. I had a fair knowledge that the first child was born about 1860 and the last, my long-dead grandmother, in 1877. So I started with 1860 but it revealed nothing, nor 1861, 1862 and on through the whole decade. The Secretary cheerily brought volume after volume and the piles grew around me. She also kindly made me several cups of tea.

By the time I got to the 1870s with nothing, I was beginning to doubt all I had believed about this branch of our extended family.

Then I found them! In the late summer of 1875, two little girls were baptised, one aged two, the other six. At last! I had found something! Then I turned the page and found the death record for the little six-year-old who had just been baptised days before. Most of the rest of the page and many after that, were taken up with deaths of little children – all from measles in an epidemic that must have swept Ballarat in those early days before immunisation.

Another few turns of the giant pages and there were the rest of them! Five children baptised together, boys and girls aged from 1 to 14 in one job lot! Another page turn and there was the death of the first baptised little girl, the two-year-old. This was followed quite quickly by the baptism of a new baby. Our poor great-grandmother was pregnant when she was nursing, then burying, two of her little daughters. Sad times indeed.

But I still had not found the object of my original search, the marriage of my great-grandparents. More volumes, more page turning. And, finally, in January 1877, after they have had ten children and lost three, this pioneer couple marry. We had been looking in the wrong decade!

A few months later, in April 1877, their new, and last, baby was baptised: a daughter, my grandmother.

Kath McKay


This article was first published in ‘Fifty Plus Magazine’.

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DNA Discussion Circle meets in January. GSV closed 22 Dec – 1 Jan

Even though lots of things don’t happen in January after our hectic Christmases, life actually keeps on going!  Just like the DNA DISCUSSION CIRCLE  which will have a meeting in January on Wednesday 9 th. at 10.30 am – 12 pm, as shown in our latest Ancestor journal in ‘Around the Circles’ (but unfortunately missed out in the ‘What’s On in January’ section. Our apologies. 

You can find out more about this interesting discussion circle on our website HERE.


Later in January the Early English (the Discussion Circle, that is)  will meet on Wed 23 and London Research on Thurs 24. 

The following week on THURSDAY 31, Stephen Hawke will talk on New Poor Laws – post 1834.

Plan your January and see the website to book and find out what other Classes and focussed research assistance is available (Scotland and Ireland).



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The past year at the GSV

A big welcome to Jenny Redman, who was endorsed as our incoming President at the Genealogical Society of Victoria AGM in October.

Our thanks and congratulations are extended to David Down for all his work for the Society in his term as President. David was also the inaugural contributor of this blog from the ‘President’s Keyboard’.

Jenny started her career as a pharmacist, but later moved into Psychology. She studied for a PhD at La Trobe University then moved to an academic position at Monash University researching the circadian timing system and its effects on sleep and drug effects.

Later in life she decided to pursue her lifelong interest in history, and became a keen member of the GSV, joining the Council in 2013. 

Jenny has a keen interest in DNA and has played a major role in the planning of the GSV’s series of DNA events. She is the presenter of several of the forthcoming talks and tutorials on that subject.  [Ed.]


From the Keyboard of the President – November 2018

I am looking forward to our coming year at the GSV. In particular I am keen to further develop what the GSV provides digitally, and to reach out to the diverse ethnic communities in our population. There are lots of opportunities for us to help people find and tell their stories.

The GSV’s Annual General Meeting was held in October. For those members who did not happen to read the Report and Financial Statement some extracts are given below. Members can view the full reports on the website.


Under David’s leadership, last financial year was one of consolidation. We concentrated on regular engagement with new members, increasing our education activities with the introduction of new Discussion Circles and a DNA for Family Historians program, and embarking on a program to upgrade our IT infrastructure.


Our long-standing Vice-President, Tony Arthur retired. Tony’s service over many years as both President and Vice-President has been highly valued especially over our move from Collins Street to our current location. Claire Johnson also retired after many years of service and we are very grateful to her as she has continued to stay heavily involved in our Volunteers and IT programs. Leonie Loveday, Margaret McLaren and Michael Rumpff were elected to Council for two-year terms.

Staff and volunteers

The Society has three staff members and now has 182 volunteers, with 12 new volunteers this year. They contribute as library and research assistants, in digitising and scanning family histories, indexing hospital and cemetery records, in administration, producing Ancestor, maintaining the library collection, and in education, IT, digital media and communication and the three special interest groups of International Settlers, Irish and Scottish. The GSV extended its grateful thanks to each one of you for the role you played in this work.

Our library collection

Our core collection of specialised family history assets is held at the Centre. We have continued to add resources such as journals from Family History Societies from around the world and our catalogue now holds over 105,000 indexed entries from these journals.

Cemetery Records: The Society holds a very large collection of transcriptions of headstones of almost 800 cemeteries throughout Victoria. Of these about 75% have been indexed. Our cemeteries database now contains over 840,000 records from 605 cemeteries and 232 of these have the index page attached to the record and are searchable by members from home.

The Genealogical Index of Names (GIN): The database continues to expand and now contains nearly 3.5 million Australian and overseas records.

Approximately 1,300 histories are now available for viewing on the PCs at the Centre.

We completed the indexing and published ‘Occupiers and Owners of Property in Richmond for 1857 to 1902′ with over 360,000 names.

A snapshot of our activities for the past year:

  • We expanded the number of Discussion Circles to seven, adding British India and London. The Northern England Circle now includes Yorkshire.
  • Our ‘DNA for Family Historians’ seminar in November had 100 attendees and many others registered on a waiting list.
  • Our journal Ancestor won the Nick Vine Hall competition for the best family history magazine/newsletter in Category B, societies with over 500 members (having become eligible again after our win in 2015).
  • We are steadily expanding our social media presence to communicate better with our members and the wide public. We updated the website, published 157 posts to our Facebook site (1,890 followers), 50 blogs  (20,183 visitors /50,602 visits in the year), and hosted discussion of family history writing on the Writers Circle’s closed FB site (52 members).

So it was a busy and interesting year at the GSV.

Jenny Redman, President GSV


The GSV Council Members are:

President: Jenny Redman

Vice-Presidents:Penny Wolf and Peter Johnston
Secretary: Vicki Montgomery, CA FGSV
Treasurer: Stephen Hawke


Janne Bonnett
Erna Cameron
Lorna Elms
Robert Gribben
Leonie Loveday
Margaret McLaren
David Down
Michael Rumpff
Simon Foster.

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Old Poor Laws pre 1834 talk tomorrow Thurs 29

There is a great opportunity to get the background to the Old Poor Laws pre 1834 and how they may have impacted your ancestors.

See the details of the talk on our website here https://www.gsv.org.au/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=1014

Presenter: Stephen Hawke.

Before Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1536-9, the monasteries took care of the poor in England and Wales. With the monasteries gone, this responsibilty was shifted to each parish. An entire system of laws and documents grew up around caring for the poor. For the researcher, these documents can be invaluable in tracing migration of families, both poor and not poor, in England and Wales. Poor law documents can also reveal family relationships as well as giving insight into living conditions of ancestors. Poor law records are also known as parish chest records. This is because a chest kept in the church or the priest’s house was used to store parish records.


Post expires at 5:00pm on Thursday 29 November 2018

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Not ‘Sweet Thursday’;

not ‘Friday on my mind’

not ‘Saturday Night Fever’ or ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’…

Not even ‘Stormy Monday Blues’, and unfortunately not ‘Pancake Tuesday’ – which only comes once a year,

BUT it’s FAMILY HISTORY TUESDAY every week at the GSV.

We now have our Research Centre at L.6 / 85 Queen St open later each week on Tuesdays until 7 pm.

So plan ahead and stay longer. Or come in after work if your lunch break  is not enough to get that bit of research done.

Experienced researchers are on hand to help.

(If coming in after 6pm you will need to call the GSV (tel  9662 4455) for the front door to be opened).

So check out our resources on the website here GSV RESOURCES and plan a day to come in on FAMILY HISTORY TUESDAYS.


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‘Vires acquirit eundo’ – we gather strength as we go

Vires acquirit eundo

With another act of aggression lashing out against civility in our city yesterday, I thought of the city’s motto – we gather strength as we go– and I believe we do, as we become a large, truly cosmopolitan city. I would not have known our city’s motto except that the day before I looked in on the current exhibition at the City Gallery in the Melbourne Town Hall – ‘Emblazon’: Melbourne’s coat of arms’ (7 September – 30 January 2019).

Coats of arms and heraldry are a somewhat old-fashioned part of our genealogical wanderings. But this small exhibition telling the story of Melbourne’s coat of arms is worth a visit. The City Gallery is easy to find and too easy to walk past – located on the main Town hall frontage sharing its entrance with HALF-TIX … see CITY GALLERY WEBSITE.

‘Emblazon’ Exhibition. City Gallery window at Melbourne Town Hall, 8 Nov 2018
Sevres vase 1880. City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection (photo: W. Barlow, 2018)


The exhibition includes many examples of the ‘arms’ from street signs, street bollards, documents, a cast iron roundel from the old Eastern Markets, a Sèvres vase (1880) and three quirky takes on that vase commissioned by MCC in 2018. Our official ‘arms’ includes a fleece, a cow, a whale and a ship as 1840s symbols of the city. One of the 2018 vases, Yhonnie Scarce’s memorial urn, contains ‘symbols of lives lost since the British arrived’.

Our family histories are embedded in the social history of our cities and places. City of Melbourne can be congratulated for its City Gallery, and these quarterly exhibitions, which have been showcasing our shared heritage.

You should visit.

Gallery with 2018 vases by Brennan (L) and Wedd (R). (Photo: W. Barlow, 2018)

Bill Barlow


‘Emblazon: Melbourne’s Coat of Arms’, exhibition catalogue, 2018.

Exhibition Curator: Alisa Bunbury / MCC Art and Heritage Collection team.

Sevres vase, Sevres Porcelain Factory, 1880

‘Urn with Nature Pot’, vase, Angela Brennan, 2018

‘She gathers Strength As She Goes’, vase, Gerry Wedd, 2018

‘For the Fallen’, vase, Yhonnie Scarce, 2018. 

Post expires at 3:10pm on Friday 1 March 2019

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New data added to GSV Cemeteries Index


The GSV is regularly adding to its Cemeteries Index with its ongoing project of transcribing records. So you need to check this to see if recent additions can help you.

An almost illegible early 1850s gravestone in Cemetery Reef Gully Cemetery, Chewton, Vic. (Photo: W. Barlow, 2017)

This index contains nearly a million references from cemetery records mostly relating to Victoria. It includes memorial inscriptions or burial registers from our collection.

GSV 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 headstone have disappeared or become illegible or even destroyed by vandals.

So make sure you try this database. You can see a guide to this Index HERE ON OUR WEBSITE.

Recently added to Cemeteries Database:

Trafalgar cemetery transcriptions 1886 -1996. 2nd ed

Trafalgar cemetery headstones 1882-1979

Voters’ roll for the… District of Epping, for the year ending July 1870

Steiglitz old & new cemetery register & headstone transcriptions 1854-1997

Mornington cemetery headstones 4/1/1861 to 18/2/1985

Orbost cemetery headstones 5.4.1882 to 12.8.1982

Winchelsea cemetery register and headstones 1858-1981

Yalca North cemetery headstones 1/10/1895 to 26/5/1977

Goroke cemetery register and headstones 14/3/1890 – 13/9/1982

Gormandale cemetery headstones 8/11/1895 to 13/7/1982

Guildford cemetery records 1871-1st Nov 1998

Ashens cemetery headstones 1890-1908; includes some Ebenzer Mission cemetery headstones

Flinders (Cerberus Naval Base) Boot Hill Naval cemetery records 7 June 1925 to 11 February 1980

Goroke private cemeteries: ‘Pleasant Banks’ station cemetery 1866-1893 & ‘Mortat’ private cemetery 1850-1877

Crib Point cemetery tombstones

Mulwala cemetery NSW: register and headstones 7/4/1853 – 22/5/1991

Bridgewater cemetery headstones 1863-1984

Coburg Pine Ridge cemetery register 1864-1996

Added to Genealogical Name Index & LINX Australia

Baptisms 1869 to 1900 at Bendigo St Paul’s Church of England (part complete)

Voters’ roll for the… Shire of Gisborne for the year ending October 1884: Borough Riding.


This resource at the GSV is another very good reason to become a member to get full value from this work!



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Was your ancestor a criminal? : A World-First Survey on Crime History and the Public

Recently the GSV Writers shared their writing about topics such as ‘a skeleton in the family’. A number of interesting stories emerged, of forgers and even a murderer. How do we deal with those in our family who have become entangled with the law?

Old portable police lockup, Chewton, Victoria, 1860s. (Photo. W. Barlow 2017)

Dr Alana Piper, Research Fellow of the University of Technology Sydney researches criminal justice history and is conducting a survey on the public’s engagement with crime history. The purpose of this online survey is to find out about public interest in and understandings of criminal justice history. The online survey is run through SurveyMonkey and takes 5-10 minutes to complete. The survey is completely anonymous.

The survey can be found via the following link – https://criminalcharacters.com/survey/

In this project Alana is using digital techniques to map the lives and criminal careers of Australian offenders across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her research interests draw together the social and cultural history of crime with criminology, legal history and the digital humanities. Her PhD thesis examined female involvement in Australian criminal subcultures across the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Castlemaine prison, Victoria, built 1857-61 on the Pentonville Model (Photo. W. Barlow 2017)

Dr Piper outlines the project:

A World-First Survey on Crime History and the Public

‘One of the things I love about my job as a criminal justice historian is talking to people about my research. It does not matter who they are – or even if history in general is not a particular passion for them – most people are interested in hearing the stories I’ve uncovered about nineteenth and twentieth-century crimes and criminals.

Some people like to chat about the celebrity criminals whose lives have been immortalised in fiction and film, like bushranger Ned Kelly or Sydney crime queen Tilly Devine. Others like hearing about the quirkier or more unexpected tales I have come across, such as the fact that book theft was made a special offence in Victoria in 1891 after a spate of book stealing from public libraries. Or that until relatively recently fortune-telling was a criminal offence across Australia, with police intermittently cracking down on fortune-tellers throughout the twentieth century, in particular during the World Wars when people were desperate for reassurance about their loved ones.

These are not one-way conversations either. Family historians have often encountered at least one ancestor who had an entanglement with the law. It is fascinating to hear how sometimes those actions or events ended up changing the course of the lives of the entire family. Other people have developed an interest in local cold cases, such as the unsolved murders of three adult siblings that occurred in Gatton, Queensland in 1898, but still generate frequent speculation today.

The sense that I am left with from these encounters is that crime history is a subject in which the public is highly engaged. Anecdotally I know that other crime historians – both in Australia and overseas – have similar experiences. However, to date there has been no empirical research into public attitudes and interest towards crime history.

I am trying to change that by running an anonymous online survey about community perceptions of crime history. The survey only takes 5-10 minutes to complete, but will generate data that provides insights into the sources of information that inform public understandings of crime history, and how public attitudes about crime history vary across different national contexts.

Any participation in or promotion of the survey is much appreciated. It can be found via the following link – https://criminalcharacters.com/survey/– along with more details about my research project.’

Alana Piper, University of Technology Sydney. 

You can follow Alana on Twitter on @alana_piper

Post expires at 8:06pm on Friday 1 February 2019

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This week hear about ‘Bounty and Government emigrants’ at GSV

GSV is privileged to have Elizabeth Rushen presenting ‘Bounty and government emigrants 1836-1840 including Mr Marshall’s migrants‘.

Liz Rushen has written a number of books in this area and you can see more about them at her website HERE.

Her talk is on this coming Thursday 18 October 12.00pm – 1.00 pm. Bookings are essential but you can still get a place if you are quick.  Bookings can be made in person at GSV, via the website HERE.  Or you can book by email to gsv@gsv.org.au or by phone 9662 4455.

GSV Members $5.00, RHSV/CAV/FHC $15.00 and Non-members $20.00.

There were many emigration schemes and agents operating in the early to mid-nineteenth century and this talk by historian and author Elizabeth Rushen will give a broad overview of emigration in the 1820s and 1830s. Various emigration schemes were available until the formation of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission in 1840 and John Marshall was the most active entrepreneur under the bounty scheme of assisted migration to Australia.

This is an area of our history with which many of us have links and this is a great opportunity to get a knowledgeable overview.


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