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.

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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

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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.

THE GSV CENTRE WILL BE CLOSED FOR THE CHRISTMAS -NEW YEAR PERIOD ON SATURDAY 22 DECEMBER TO TUESDAY 1 JANUARY INCLUSIVE.

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.]

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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.

Overview

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.

Council

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

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The GSV Council Members are:

President: Jenny Redman

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

Councillors:

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.

 

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FAMILY HISTORY TUESDAYS

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

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‘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. 

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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.

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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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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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Back to Bonegilla Migrant Camp Gathering – 2-3 November 2018

Watching Jimmy Barnes’ personal story of his dire early days as a child migrant in Elizabeth, South Australia, (Working Class Boy) reminded me that many family histories in Australia commence with relatively recent arrivals – in the middle of last century after WW2 – rather than with early pioneers of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Bonegilla Migrant Camp in NE Victoria was where over 300,000 migrants started their Australian lives.

Next month the annual Back to Bonegilla Migrant Camp Gathering is on again :

Friday 2 November and Saturday 3 November 2018 from 10.00 AM to 4.00 PM each day. Entry is free. Daily activities include:

  • Tours;
  • Film screenings; 
  • Author and genealogy talks;
  • Dinner; 
  • Displays and exhibitions; and,
  • Food and music.

You can find out more about this and make bookings to events BOOKINGS HERE

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The Bonegilla Migrant Camp story

‘At the end of WW2 the Australian Government introduced a program of migration to assist millions of displaced people in Europe and, at the same time, combat a shortage of labour in Australian industry. As housing was not immediately available for the growing population, the Australian Government provided migrants with temporary accommodation like that at Bonegilla [in Victoria] until they found jobs and their own places to live.’

The Bonegilla Migrant Camp was established at a former army camp near Wodonga, Victoria. It was the first home in Australia for more than 300,000 migrants from more than 50 countries from 1947 to 1971. They had diverse arrival and settlement experiences.

Bonegilla August 1949 (Photo. Nandor Jenes / SLV Pictures H2002.16)

‘Many migrants recall arriving lonely and confused, unsure of where they were going and what they would be doing. Others saw Bonegilla as a place of hope, symbolic of a new start. In December 2007, Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre – Block 19 was recognised as a place with powerful connections for many people in Australia and a symbol of post-war migration which transformed Australia’s economy, society and culture under the National Heritage List.Today, Block 19 is a public memory place. The site and its associated oral, written and pictorial records in the Bonegilla Collection at the Albury Library/Museum bring to light post-war immigration policies and procedures that changed the composition and size of the Australian population.’ [Bonegilla Migrant Experience website, access. 6 Oct 2018.]

How do I say it?

“Depending on your cultural connection with Bonegilla, there are a number of ways to pronounce it. To many locals, it’s strictly ‘Bone – Gilla’ but to immigrants arriving from Europe after World War II, the word was often read as ‘Bonny-Gilla’ or ‘Bon-Eg-Illa’.” Passport  for Bonegilla, Bonegilla Migrant Experience website.

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The GSV hosts a group which helps its members with an interest in non-British research: International Settlers Group. On 17 November their presentation is ‘Andiamo – a Celebration of my Italian Family History‘ presented by Angelo Indovina. You can find out more about this group on the GSV website http://www.gsv.org.au/activities/groups/isg

 

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‘Australian Family History’ – short course Oct 17, 24 and 31

Now that we are emerging from our winter retreats, it is a great time to pick up those challenges we set ourselves this year for our family histories. Even for those who have started, it is always good to have a refresher about what we can find and how to proceed. The GSV has scheduled a short course of three sessions in October which will give you all you need to really get going.

‘Australian Family History’  – Wednesday 17, 24 and 31 October, 10.00am – 12.00pm.

This will be presented by John Bugg.

The topics to be covered include:

  • Where do I start? How to gather and store information.
  • Getting here – immigration, convicts, naturalisation and wills.
  • State records – Private lives and public records.
  • National Records – Finding families.

For BOOKING and details about this course go to the GSV website HERE. You can also book  in person at GSV, by email to gsv@gsv.org.au or by phone (03) 9662 4455.

The presenter:  John Bugg has a background in Education and is a Fellow of the Australian College of Education. He has been chasing  eight family lines who arrived before 1870 and has published a small family Bugg history, before attending the family reunion in the UK. John enjoys the chase and detective work of family history and finding links to its wider historical context.

John tells us more about these planned sessions:

‘Most of us have explored the commercial data sources and probably checked the odd family tree and been subjected to the afternoon tea-party about the family. What this course aims to do is to go beyond that and build up an originaldatabase of our family and to set it in the social context of the time. How do we find Will Smith; especially if this name is Wilfred Smyth, to say nothing of the transcription error of the clerks in a foreign port who may have little knowledge of German or Spanish?

Emphasis will be placed on original documents and where to find them from little used databases that will lead often to further searching and the unlocking of additional and sometimes surprising information. What is the value of the GSV database and how we may best use it. In the last course we discovered, among other matters, why a great-grandmother had a sister six months later from her same father and mother. Often our search is limited by the commercial databases. I am following eight Australian families and only one is on the official documents of immigration in the nineteenth century and that was further complicated by their arrival in Melbourne but their registration in Freemantle. We will aim to find some other sources of data through the sharing of ideas.

Finally the sessions are designed to be fun. By allowing a broad canvas of inputs, and by adding additional information from the group, you will develop a much better understanding of your family and an accurate family tree for all to share.’

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