Have I got my new Ancestor?

The GSV’s Journal ‘Ancestor’ is now out for this quarter (March 2018, Vol.34:1). If you are a Member you have already got this Issue and you will be well into the interesting articles. Here is a brief look at what is in this new Ancestor. I would love to receive your comments to this blog, about this journal and its features  (see ‘Comments’ button at end).  You may even want to send me a follow-up article for possible future publication on this Blog.*** Bill Barlow, GSV Blog Editor. e: blog@gsv.org.au

‘Use of Autosomal DNA to find Relatives of Charles William Sharman’. DNA testing helped Robyn Sharman Hawking to solve the long-standing problem of who were the parents of her great grandfather Charles William Sharman. It set her on a course that she would never have been able to follow without the test results.

If you would like to know more about DNA and its usefulness in genealogy, the GSV has introduced a new series of ‘modules’ – you might like to attend one or more of the modules that are being planned for this year. These will help you personally interpret the data that DNA testing companies send you after a swab test.

‘Dr John Fishbourne: A Victorian Medical Pioneer’. Kaye Cole has researched her nineteenth century relative Dr John Fishbourne, a medical pioneer in improving the treatment and education of people with a range of conditions including intellectual disability and epilepsy.

‘How I found my Namesake’. While searching for her namesake of three generations back, Elizabeth Kelly traced the McCallion family to Sydney and uncovered their mostly sad story.

‘Who’s Been Living in My House’. Louise Wilson takes us on a rather different journey, that of the history of her house in South Melbourne. This article provides an insight into the large amount of material available on residences.

Martin Playne’s ‘A Guide to Researching Northern Territory Records’ will give you some good ideas on where to look if you have Northern Territory ancestors. Few people realise that the Northern Territory came under so many jurisdictions at different periods.

In ‘Research Corner’, Michael Sturmfels has generously shared the results of his research into pastoral workers in the Western District Victoria between 1860 and 1880, for which he checked through a great variety of records. He shares some of the interesting stories, and has made his results available online at the GSV.

But there is more! Family history researchers are assisted each month with the writing of their story in ‘Getting it Write’; about oral history in this issue. There are sections about blogging (with Meg Bate), book reviews, notes on additions to the GSV Library, as well as regular pages from the Public Record Office, and the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

Remember that this is your magazine, the place where you can share your family history. As well as our usual longer articles, we would like to invite you to submit a short article (around 250 words) and an image or two, focussing on a particular place of significance in your family history for our new back page space. In this issue in ‘Tower Bridge’ Barbara Beaumont recalls a family link to this famous London landmark.


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Were your ancestors from London, the North of England or British India? New Discussion Circles added this year.

There is a growing interest in joining others who share and discuss common areas of genealogical research. It’s informative and more fun!

This year the GSV is launching new Discussion Circles to cater for those researching ancestors who lived in and around London and another for those who lived in British India. A third new Discussion Circle formed recently is focussed on the North of England (Durham, Northumberland, Yorkshire & Cumberland).

These common-interest groups are open to GSV Members for no additional cost (as part of GSV membership). They meet regularly and provide great value for your research by the free exchange of their participants’ knowledge and experience. They also may invite specialist experts to their meetings. 

For example the South West England discussion circle (SWERD) this coming Wednesday, 14 March at 12:30 to 2:00 pm is looking pretty special with a very interesting guest speaker who will generate plenty of discussion.  Dr Joe Flood is the Administrator of the DNA projects for Cornish ancestry on the myFamilyTreeDNA website and he administers these global DNA projects from Melbourne.  Dr Flood will discuss the projects and the findings to date. The projects have a Cornish focus, but there should be something in the presentation for everyone who is interested in the use of DNA in family history research.   SWERD has been expanded – GSV members with research interests in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and now Dorset are very welcome at the meetings.

The newest GSV Discussion Circles will meet as follows:

The North of England : Tuesday 13 March – 12.30 – 1.30 pm.

London Research – Thursday 22 March – 12.00- 1.00 pm. With a view to starting a Discussion Circle. Bookings essential – ring 9662 4455 or the website http://www.gsv.org.au

British India – Tuesday 17 April – 12.00 – 1.00 pm.

Join the GSV quick (or on the day) to benefit from these groups if this is your area of special interest. You can also read more about these groups in the latest issue of Ancestor journal 34:1 (March 2018)





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

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



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

– The tartan ribbon represents Scotland.

– The shamrock represents Ireland.

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

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

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

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

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


Created by R Thompson, GSV Member, 2017

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Branching out (and what to do if you get stuck out on a branch)

Perhaps you live in the country, and can’t physically access the GSV.  If so, a new FREE online course to be run by the State Library Victoria from October 16 for four weeks might be of interest to you.

“Branching out is a new online course that introduces the basic principles of family history research, and looks at the key resources available for researching Victorian family history.

During this four-week course, the State Library’s Family history team will equip you with the tools you need to discover more about your own family tree. Recommended for beginners.” You can register for this at this link:


Then, once you get into your ‘tree’, you can get ONGOING help from the knowledgable volunteers and staff at GSV. Join up for less than a coffee a week and get support in all kinds of ways as you branch out. 


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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 http://www.gsv.org.au


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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 http://gsv.org.au/consultations.html
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

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Some new family history stories are taking shape at the GSV Writers


Penny Scott – member GSV Writers Circle

14 June 2017

At the June 7 meeting of the Writers Circle we discussed the drafts of two new family history stories submitted by Circle members.

Bernece Schultz has done a lot of research on her South of England and Jersey ancestors who settled in Victoria and later in Tumbarumba, NSW. She said her submitted piece, Mary Ann Simmons, was written as a chapter in the middle of a book that she is writing for her family members about her maternal ancestors.

Her submission concerned the affecting story of Mary Ann Simmons (1848-1880) who in her short life experienced the death of siblings, mother, husband and children before she herself died aged thirty-two. Bernece described the living conditions and influences on Mary Ann, such as problems caused by tuberculosis, which contributed to her sad and difficult life. Bernece appreciated members’ constructive comments on the writing and the subject of the narrative.

The second piece of writing was titled The winds of change – a woman, a watch and a Whig, and the first paragraph provided the force and focus of the writing – a reference to an image of a satirical print by James Gillray. The identity, background and salacious life of the male figure in the print is revealed in the writing, and there is an amusing twist in the final sentence when the writer unwillingly admits the figure is her ancestor. 

Before the meeting the writer had outlined the feedback she would like from the group – comments on structure, tone, the flow of the narrative, its logical sequence, characterisation and references in the text. These areas and more provided the basis of a lively discussion.

The August meeting of the Writers Circle will provide an opportunity for two further members to receive feedback on their writing from the other members of the group.

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‘Margaret Flockton’ book wins!

On 25 May, Louise Wilson’s book, Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory (Wakefield Press, 2016), won the 2016 AIGS Don Grant Award for the best submitted biography with an Australian history focus. And another GSV Writer, Margaret Vines, came second in this year’s AIGS Alexander Henderson Award with her book The Baggotts from Herbertstown (2016). That Award was won by The Complete History of Arthur and Rose: the Martin, Jacka, Crougey and Commbe families in Cornwall and South Australia by Tony and Wendy Edwards.

In 2013 Louise also won the AIGS Alexander Henderson Award 2012 for the best submitted Australian Family History, with her book Southwark Luck. Two of Louise’s other books were Highly Commended in other years. You can follow her writing exploits at http://www.louisewilson.com.au.

Louise is also an active member of the GSV Writers Circle (which you can find out about here http://gsv.org.au/activities/groups/gsv-writers-circle.html) and in fact she submitted early parts of her winning Flockton book for review at a GSV Writer’s meeting in 2011.

At GSV Writers monthly sessions, she has led discussions on topics such as reviewing family history, marketing your family history, aspects of structure, and writing a finished piece. If you missed these, you can find her articles on these subjects published in GSV’s Ancestor journal in the regular ‘Getting it Write’ series. Ancestor is available at the GSV Research & Education Centre or members can read PDF versions on the GSV’s website.

Margaret Vines is also a regular contributor at GSV Writers Circle and co-presented a session on ‘the tasks involved in producing a book’. She will be conducting her regular Writing Course at GSV on August 15,22 and 29. (You can book on the website, but be quick.)

If you are facing the challenge of finally turning your never-ending research into readable and informative family history you might like to join the GSV Writers Circle, membership of which is available to all GSV Members as part of their GSV membership. As you can see above, this active self-help discussion group is fortunate to benefit from the award-winning expertise of Louise, Margaret and other published (and awarded) family-history writers.

GSV congratulates Louise Wilson and Margaret Vines!

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Happy 14th birthday, GSV Writers Circle!

3 May 2017 – Our current convenor, Penny Mercer reminded the GSV Writers Circle after its recent meeting that it has reached its 14th birthday!

In 2003 Penny sent out the following message to members of the GSV:

A friend of mine is a member of a writers’ group for fiction writers. They meet regularly to exchange advice and constructively assess each others work. I think this is an interesting idea. It would be great to have someone other than my husband to read my stories and point out where I’ve not explained the ticket-of-leave system or that Belfast is now known as Port Fairy. It would be nice to exchange ideas with other writers. I’m not sure exactly what format I’d prefer but wondered whether anyone else would be interested in the idea in general.

Penny writes: ‘Our first meeting was in the GSV’s first Queen Street location on the first Wednesday in May 2003. By December of that year we had seven on our email list. Those without email were given printed versions of work submitted.’

Happy birthday to us!


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What the GSV family history writers did in April

13 April 2017 –

‘All writers need support and advice about their work. Last week as always, members of this GSV group generously offered thoughtful analysis and encouragement for two of its writers.’

Tina Hocking reports: Last Wednesday (5 April) the GSV Writers Circle met for the first time at GSV’s new Centre at 85 Queen Street. It was also possibly the first time we reviewed a submission from an interstate member unable to attend the meeting.

The ‘row of chairs’ arrangement in the meeting room should suit our structured ‘topic’ meetings, but we hope to recreate our informal ‘circle friendly’ atmosphere in future meetings.

There was spirited discussion of the submissions by two of our members, which focused on immigrant families from quite different backgrounds. Some members had already emailed their responses to our two presenters, with others to follow.

The feedback provided at this session for our Adelaide member should encourage any writers on our email list of over 80 who cannot attend meetings due to distance, to join in either as submitters or email reviewers. And there is also the GSV Writers Closed Facebook site for continuing the discussion. (This is part of a GSV membership).

One of the participants – who is writing the odyssey of the Dedes and Wares families – wrote:

‘Thank you for your most helpful analysis of my work – I appreciate the comments. Along with other observations from the group, I have lots to follow up! 


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