September issue of ‘Ancestor’ journal now out


The latest issue of Ancestor – the GSV’s award-winning quarterly journal (vol 33 issue 7, September 2017) is now available. 

In this issue we have six substantial articles contributed by members. Jean Dart’s story is steeped in Irish history. Her feisty great grandmother managed to free herself from an abusive relationship and support herself as the matron of a protestant children’s home. Thelma Ragas investigates her great uncle who was a detective in New Zealand, fell foul of the police hierarchy and ended up opening his own private detective agency. Can you imagine sending a sixteen-year-old to a faraway country, all alone, to live in a strict environment on an Experiment Farm? That’s what happened to Prue Mercer’s ancestor, Harold Berrow.

The First World War casts a long shadow. We are still remembering those who paid the ultimate price. The difficulty for the family in establishing exactly what happened to their loved ones was compounded when inaccurate record keeping cast doubt on their fate, as happened in Margaret Cooper’s family.

Digging that little bit deeper often pays – you find information in unexpected places. For Sue Blackwood it was a Queensland ‘Old Insanity File’ that unearthed information, not about subject of the file, but about her husband, Sue’s great great grandfather. Darryl Grant reminds us that our ancestors did not always record the whole truth; a little extra digging may uncover some surprising facts about our ancestors that they may have deliberately covered up, or may even not have known themselves. Michael Woods found that references in Australian newspapers to his great uncle as a wrestler helped to trace him backward in time as well as forward.

‘Digging deeper’ reminds us of the great importance on not only relying on the international databases, such as Ancestry™and Find My Past™ for ancestral information. Nothing can beat a widespread search for information using the help of the GSV and diverse sources as illustrated above. There is no way the full story can be unravelled if you just stick to a computer at home or in a library. Make your family story interesting and complete!

As always Research Corner has some interesting tips – did you know that you might be able to find your ancestor’s name on a UK census prior to 1841?

Martin Playne – Editorial Team

GSV Members will already have received their copy as part of their membership. Others can get this issue, and much more, by joining now, or copies can be purchased via the GSV website


Post expires at 6:45am on Wednesday 15 November 2017

Like this article? Please share:

Over 170 family-history talks available from GSV

Have you listened to any of the GSV webcasts?

Membership of the GSV brings with it several benefits, many of which can be accessed in the comfort of your own home. The GSV webcasts, for example, can be downloaded and listened to at your convenience. In addition, many of these are accompanied by a downloadable PDF document outlining the content of the webcast.

At present there are over 170 webcasts available, covering topics ranging from the subject-specific (e.g. The history of Maldon and its gold discoveries; Women at work in Victoria: in public service and during war times) to research advice, covering Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Poland, India, Sweden, France, South Africa, China, the Netherlands and more; to general genealogical advice (Methodology, research techniques and citations; Preservation of books, photographs and paper based items).

Have a look at the range of talks available in the GSV CATALOGUE : search by putting “webcast” (without quote marks) in the Call No box.

Listen to a sample webcast: Research in Tasmania, presented by Meg Bate from the Catalogue – CLICK HERE

Apart from these webcast talks, there’s lots more help for you at home as a GSV Member, on your family history journey.


Post expires at 12:52pm on Saturday 2 December 2017

Like this article? Please share:

Give a dad in your family a GSV Membership for Father’s Day 3 Sept


How often do we hear someone say that they wished they had asked their father to tell them more about his early life!

Prompt and help the dads in your family to discover and record their stories and those of their fathers by giving him a Membership of the GSV on Fathers Day. For the year ahead he can receive help to discover his family history with access to databases at GSV and more importantly, to friendly knowledgeable volunteers who can help him find his way and suggest other sources. He will receive four issues of the Ancestor magazine, have access to free and discounted talks and can join special interest groups to share their insights. He can also participate in the GSV Writers Group where he will get assistance and guidance to write up his story in a lasting form for the family.

You can find out more and join online or just call the office on 03 9662 4455.


Post expires at 9:39am on Monday 4 September 2017

Like this article? Please share:

Tales of research from beyond the web

Kath McKay

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.

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.

Just another family story that was not handed down.


At the Genealogical Society of Victoria we help members plan their family history search. This post’s author Kath McKay is a member of the GSV Writer’s Discussion Circle. See for more information, or email or phone (03) 9662 4455 for information about the Society.



Post expires at 6:04pm on Wednesday 11 October 2017

Like this article? Please share:

GSV now offers DNA-specific research consultations

As a further service, the GSV is now taking bookings for DNA-specific consultations.

The focus will be on Autosomal  DNA (Ancestry DNA & Family Tree DNA,
Family Finder). 

Bookings can be made via
Bring your access to your results (if you have them) and an ancestor or
pedigree chart (if you have one).

Cost GSV Members $30 Non-members $50
Friday bookings only

You might also be interested in the DNA Discussion Circle. The DNA Discussion Circle is for GSV members who would like to find out how DNA may assist them in furthering their family history. Your DNA can be used to confirm or establish links in your family tree as well as identifying your particular genetic origins. For more details, see

Post expires at 10:32am on Wednesday 20 September 2017

Like this article? Please share:

‘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.

Post expires at 4:00am on Monday 23 April 2018

Like this article? Please share:

GSV publishes database of 87,000 historical hospital patient records from 1855

Since 2000 a team of GSV volunteers has been compiling a searchable database of the names and details of patients who were in the Melbourne Hospital (now The Royal Melbourne Hospital) from 1855 to 1909.

These patient ‘case histories’ were recorded in Ward Books, which have been held in the archives of the hospital. There are estimated to be over 2,000 Ward Books held in the archives but, sadly, many more have disappeared.

The Ward Books are leather-bound books measuring 32 cm by 15 cm, with the name of the doctor for that ward, the ward number and the gender of the patients embossed in gold on the cover. Each book contains about 100 numbered pages, interleaved with pages of pink blotting paper. By arrangement with the Royal Melbourne hospital, the GSV team has so far indexed 824 Ward Books from the period 1855–1909 and extracted the faded, water-stained and often badly written details of 87,298 patients. These books have then been transferred to Public Record Office Victoria (PROV). Not all the books from this period have been indexed yet, but the GSV intends to continue indexing the remainder of those 2,000 books.

The results of this work have now been published by the GSV in a database searchable by name, as Patients in Melbourne Hospital 18551909 (GSV, 2016). This edition includes books indexed in the earlier edition.

Every indexed name is hyperlinked to a set of details extracted from that patient’s medical record in the Ward Book. These details contain the patient’s name, age, and admission date together with some or all of the following: the patient’s biography; birth place; the ship on which the person travelled to Australia and its arrival date; whether married, widowed or single; occupation; religion; residence and the result of treatment. The patient’s disease or complaint has been omitted by agreement with The Royal Melbourne Hospital but this can be ascertained by personally viewing the Ward Book at PROV, or by using a Search Agent—See PROV Guide 15 at Each set of details includes the full reference to the relevant Ward Book’s location at PROV.

The patient discharge date is given with often interesting descriptors, which, apart from ‘Cured’ or sadly, ‘Died’, may include ‘Went out on a Pass and did not return’ or ‘Absconded’ or ‘Bolted’. Some returned late from a Pass but were ‘Refused Admission” and left to their own devices – judged too well to get back in!

This extensive searchable database is now available, only from GSV, on a memory stick that can be ordered online on the GSV bookshop website or by going to the GSV at 6/85 Queen Street, Melbourne.


Post expires at 11:24am on Thursday 16 November 2017

Like this article? Please share:

Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

Louise Wilson continues her musing on the journey of discovering family history. ***

The true essence of family history research is the journey – your own journey of self-discovery.

Let’s start with the genes you inherited. Most of us know less about our own genes than your average grazier knows about the genes of his cattle. You only have to watch one episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ for that fact to be obvious. How many of us know the backgrounds of our two sets of grandparents – just four people? By the time we get to our parents’ grandparents, we are lucky to know anything at all. We might know only one story about our family background, and that story then tends to dominate our thinking, as if it formed our entire identity. We forget all the other forebears who’ve contributed to who we are.

The ‘ah hah’ moments are therefore quite thrilling if we set out to discover the full mix of ingredients in our personal cake. It’s no surprise to find the usual collection of general labourers, agricultural labourers, Cornish miners and female servants lurking in your background. In my case, some were convicts on the First, Second and Third Fleets. But I was very surprised that my genes also came from gentlemen farmers, innkeepers, artists, musicians, teachers, doctors, soldiers, clergymen, merchants, slave-owning sugar planters, bankers, mail coach entrepreneurs and turpentine factory owners, plus a solitary butcher, printer, chemist, engineer and circus proprietor. No wonder I found it difficult to choose a career. I wish I’d known this, when young. Such knowledge is powerful, perhaps giving permission to break away from family expectations. That eclectic mix of genes might explain why I eventually turned into the first writer in my line of the family.

Each generation that we step back permits us to make broader-brush discoveries. I was amazed to realise just how Anglo-Celtic I am. Three hundred years of an almost fully-completed pedigree chart, detailing eight generations of my ancestors, revealed only one forbear who did not originate in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland. He came from close by – northern France. As I flinch from the skin specialist’s spray can of liquid nitrogen, I readily understand and accept that my fair skin was never meant for Australia, although my forbears here date back to 1788.

What other health record do we inherit? My grandmother, an unlikely feminist, loved to tell her granddaughters that we descend from a long line of strong, independent women. Fanciful? No, my research proved her right. In her father’s family, from 1790, successive fathers and sons died of illness aged 52, 45, 62, 37 and 43. Their widows, left to raise the children, all lived into their eighties.

Health issues of a different kind were the focus of the powerfully-told and very moving episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ where Susie Porter discovered recurring patterns of serious mental illness in her hitherto-unknown female forebears. Susie gained sudden insight into her own black moods and was never going to be the same person again.

Your family history research can change you and add great meaning to your life.  

At the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV) we help members explore and write about their family history. This month’s author, Louise Wilson (, belongs to the GSV Writers’ Discussion Circle. For more information about the GSV, see, or email, or phone (03) 9662 4455.

Post expires at 11:00am on Monday 4 September 2017

Like this article? Please share:

Last day coming to order ‘Familysearch’ microfilms

In case you missed it …

On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services.  (The last day to order microfilm will be on August 31, 2017.)

The change is the result of significant progress made in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology.

  • Over 1.5 million microfilms (ca. 1.5 billion images) have been digitized by FamilySearch, including the most requested collections based on microfilm loan records worldwide.
  • The remaining microfilms should be digitized by the end of 2020, and all new records from its ongoing global efforts are already using digital camera equipment.

Digital images of historical records can be accessed today in 3 places on under Search.

  • Records include historical records indexed by name or organized with an image browse.
  • Books include digital copies of books from the Family History Library and other libraries.
  • Catalog includes a description of genealogical materials (including books, online materials, microfilm, microfiche, etc.) in the FamilySearch collection.


Post expires at 11:37am on Saturday 30 September 2017

Like this article? Please share:

More family history material scanned at GSV

16 June 2017


The GSV scanning and indexing project is progressing thanks to all the hard work of our volunteers. Below is an updated summary of what we have achieved so far. But each week more is added so check back.

Family Histories

498  documents have been scanned, checked and the catalogue has been updated.  These digitized records are available to GSV members within the GSV Research and Education Centre.

Genealogical index of names (GIN) – 2017

Bostocks Creek State School register no. 2893 1890-1909 index

Royal Victorian Trained Nurses Association. Register of members [nurses] February 1922

Cemeteries Database

We have now indexed 564 cemeteries making a total 788856 records in the GSV Cemeteries database.

Note: if the library catalogue location states

CEMETERIES DATABASE. The  images are attached to records in the Cemeteries database and may be viewed online.

 INDEXED IN CEMETERIES DATABASE  : The cemetery had been indexed and our scanned document is only available at the GSV. Check the instructions on the catalogue

Cemetery indexes with images (mostly transcripts) added 2017

Beeac cemetery : previously Ondit and Cundare public cemetery : headstones 20 June 1870 – 27 November 1981

Black Heath (Sailors Home) cemetery headstones and receipts 11 May 1879 – 31 March 1930

Cemetery tombstone transcription series pt 8: Woods point, Victoria [14.9.1866 – 12.2.1966]

Coburg: brief history of cemetery and plan

Deaths and burials at Casterton

Deep Lead cemetery register & headstones 19/4/1859 to 19/1/1992

Edi Upper private cemetery

Eurambeen & Eurambeen East private cemeteries: headstones 2/3/1866 – 12/7/1977

Freshwater Creek: St David’s Lutheran church cemetery headstones 16/7/1867 to 1/7/1973

Jericho cemetery transcriptions 1868

Jindabyne (NSW) Soldiers Memorial Cemetery headstones 1919-1985

Kialla West cemetery register 1886-1985

Maddingley cemetery register 23/4/1863 – 14/11/1958

Maldon early burials (church burials) 1854-1856

Mornington cemetery headstones to 1951

Moroco Station, Mathoura NSW headstones 21/12/1853-28/8/1900

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

Noradjuha cemetery register and headstones 1891-1979

Omeo cemetery memorial inscriptions 13 July 1872 to 21 April 1980

Pine Creek Cemetery NT headstones -/9/1894 – 4/9/1970

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

Rupanyup cemetery register 1914-1980 & headstones 1875-1990

Walkerville cemetery headstones 1899-1924

Warringal (Heidelberg) cemetery headstones: Roman Catholic (section M), General (Section N) 1853-1912

Yarra Glen cemetery headstones May 1864 to 16 Jan 1983.







Post expires at 8:38am on Tuesday 29 August 2017

Like this article? Please share: