What to do with things

A new exhibition opens at Museum Victoria’s Immigration Museum on 25 November – British Migrants: Instant Australians? Leading up to this, as part of the Seniors Festival this month, the GSV in conjunction with the Museum is presenting Ten Pound Poms on Friday 20 Oct. You can find more about that event here: Ten Pound Poms

The Museum’s exhibition will draw on stories and material that have been donated by a number of British immigrant families. The background to the  collection of material by one of these British immigrant families was told in Ancestor journal 31:6 June 2013 and an abridged version is re-published below. 

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What to do with things

By Bill Barlow

I have never said ‘no’ to the paperwork, photos and bric-a-brac left homeless upon the death of family members. Objects recently inherited include carved figurines, non-working watches, badges, uniforms, lace, grandfather’s chisels, travel chests, and a six-foot, handmade, reflecting telescope! What should I do with this accumulating stuff?

Documents and photos can be reasonably managed. But objects, especially large ones, present more difficulty. Do they go ‘straight to the poolroom’, the op shop, the museum or the bin? What can they tell us and how do we record this? Often there is an undue haste to throw out objects after a family death. This urge should be resisted. Our inherited objects can give us insights into our ancestors as well as much pleasure.

Family objects should be catalogued. Documenting an object gives it meaning and may elicit oral history. The Small Museums Cataloguing Manual (Museums Australia Victoria 2009) is a useful guide. They should be listed, described and labelled much as would be done in a small museum. Their provenance and significance needs to be recorded. This should be done before any decision is made about their disposal. The register of family objects can be a simple spreadsheet (MS Excel) with columns for:

  • Item control number – a unique, sortable number.
  • Title: an identifying phrase. You can use the Australian Pictorial Thesaurus (www.picturethesaurus.gov.au).
  • Description: a physical description, shape, dimensions, materials, colours, inscriptions, damage.
  • Date: the (possible) creation date.
  • Provenance: previous owners and dates.
  • Date of accessioning: the date of recording.
  • Comments: related items, photographs, disposal history.

Having recorded your family objects, are you going to keep them? If so, where, and for how long? Are they valuable? Are they fragile and need protection or are they dangerous (a gun)? Would your children want them? Are the objects beautiful, useful or interesting? Should you sell them? Are they of wider community significance? Would family members be upset if you disposed of them? Have you got the space? Or the time! This calls for consideration of your collecting policy. Other than useful or beautiful items, my objective is to only keep items to record their family-related history, and then to arrange for their disposal, or donation to other suitable archives.


Items being sorted as part of Ward-Barlow collection as they became known. (Photo. W. Barlow)

With the death of my mother-in-law we inherited battered tin trunks, books on nursing, travel diaries, letters, luggage labels, ship menus, and other things from her family’s emigration to Australia under the Bring out a Briton scheme. This material seemed likely to be of interest for Museum Victoria’s immigration collection. Having catalogued and photographed the items, I wrote offering them to the Museum. The Museum was interested and upon delivery I was amused to see them instantly become items of cultural value, lifted carefully with gloves, wrapped in plastic, and put in a freezer to kill bugs. Later I became a volunteer at the Museum helping to catalogue ‘this important collection of 1960s material relating to the Bring Out a Briton campaign’


Delivery of items to the Museum. Marita Dyson, Asst. Collections Manager, Dr Moya McFadzean, Senior Curator Migration, MV and the donor, Jen Barlow (Ward), February 2012 (Photo: W. Barlow)

You might not realise the cultural value of those things your family has kept, so as well as collecting stories about your family you should give attention to the things they have treasured and passed down.

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This abridged article was previously published in Fifty-Plus News, September 2013.

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How to access the Digital Records replacing Microfilm at ‘FamilySearch’

We posted notice on this blog on 30 June about the coming change from microfilm to digital records at FamilySearch. This has now happened. In this post John Blackwood from the GSV explains what this means and how to access the digital data.

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FamilySearch, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), is a source of genealogical information, being familiar to most of us long before the rise of the many commercial web sites.

With its commitment to make billions of the world’s historic records readily accessible digitally online, FamilySearch has discontinued its microfilm circulation service and replaced it with digital online access.

Some relevant points are as follows:

  • All of the long-term microfilms rented in the past 5 years have now been digitized
  • All of the long-term rented microfilms at the GSV will remain at the GSV, at least for the immediate future
  • The remaining microfilms at FamilySearch are being digitized at a rate of 1,000 films per day, and are projected to be complete by 2020
  • If researchers need access to a particular film yet to be digitized, they can express an interest to have it added to the priority digitization list by contacting FamilySearchSupport at https://integration.familysearch.org/ask/help
  • Affiliate libraries (including the GSV) now have access to nearly all of the restricted image collections

The digital image collections can be accessed in 3 places on www.familysearch.org all under “Search”

  • Catalog. Includes a description of all of the microfilms and digital images in the FamilySearch collection. This is where all of FamilySearch’s digitized microfilm and new digital images from its global camera operations are being published. A camera icon appears in the Catalog adjacent to a microfilm listing when it is available digitally
  • Records. Includes collections that have been indexed by name or published with additional waypoints to help browse the unindexed images
  • Books. Includes digital copies of books from the Family History Library and other libraries, including many books that were previously copied to microfilm

Before searching the digital image collection from home, it is strongly advised that you register with FamilySearch to establish a username and password. Simply click on “Free Account” at the top of the page at www.familysearch.org and follow the prompts.

This enables you to view some additional records and access “My Source Box” to sort and mark records for later use.

The following is an example from the parish of Findon, Sussex.

From the FamilySearch main page, first of all, sign in with your username and password.

Click on “Search”, then on “Catalog”. In the “Place” box, enter “Findon Sussex’ and click on “Search’. From the search results, click on “Church Records (6)”. Click on the title “Parish registers for Findon, 1557-1901”.

The magnifying class icon allows you to search the indexes. However, the camera icon may bring up three options for you to look at the images, viz

  • Sign in as an individual with your user name and password (if you have not already done so). If you are already signed in, the images come up immediately
  • Access the site at a family history centre
  • Access the site at a FamilySearch affiliate library (such as the GSV)

If an image appears, just as with a microfilm, you will need to scroll through the images to get to where you think you might want to be.

However, sadly for Scottish researchers, it would appear that digitized Scottish films can only be viewed at either a family history centre or an affiliate library.

*With acknowledgment to the FamilySearch News email dated 31 August 2017.

John Blackwood

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Example from FamilySearch catalog:

 

Post expires at 8:35am on Saturday 23 December 2017

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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

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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.

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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 www.gsv.org.au for more information, or email gsv@gsv.org.au or phone (03) 9662 4455 for information about the Society.

 

 

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

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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 https://www.prov.vic.gov.au/private-search-agents. 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 http://www.familyhistorybookshop.org.au/ or by going to the GSV at 6/85 Queen Street, Melbourne.

 

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

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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 (www.louisewilson.com.au), belongs to the GSV Writers’ Discussion Circle. For more information about the GSV, see www.gsv.org.au, or email gsv@gsv.org.au, or phone (03) 9662 4455.

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

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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 FamilySearch.org 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.

From: https://www.lds.org/callings/temple-and-family-history/familysearch-microfilm-discontinuation?lang=eng&_r=1

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

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Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

Louise Wilson

One of my favourite Dr Seuss books, Oh! The Places You’ll Go!, captures that exciting moment when you embark upon your family history journey:

Congratulations! Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself any direction you choose …
And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew.
Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

Let’s start with the first two lines. That day you go online, looking for a forebear’s name, or walk into a library to ask for help in finding someone, is the day that will change your life.

Once you’ve experienced the exhilaration of finding something, someone, you’ll want more. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to control the urge to keep looking for the next clue. Counsellors take note, people being treated for gambling addictions should be introduced to family history research – that way, they’d have more to show for their money and their time.

You have brains in your head.
Family history research is a fantastic way of exercising your brain cells. You have to think, morph into a detective. Additional thinking is stimulated, a different kind of thinking, if you try to integrate your information into a coherent ‘whole’ and write it up as a story.

You have feet in your shoes

You might appear to be sedentary, as you huddle for hours over computer screens at home and peer at microfiche and microfilm readers in libraries. But eventually you’ll want to go places and see for yourself, walk in the shoes of your ancestors. Suddenly you’re picking your way around cemeteries you never knew existed, trying to align old maps with modern streetscapes to work out where your gr-gr-grandparents lived, and knocking on a stranger’s door asking permission to take photos.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose …
Woo hoo! You’re the boss. At last. No-one tells you what to do next. You can decide whether to do any more research. You can decide which branch of the family to research. You can drop one line of enquiry when you tire of it or reach a dead end, and head off down another enticing avenue.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew.
(I’ve just skipped a few lines of Dr Seuss.) It’s important to accept what you find. We’ve all discovered an unpalatable truth. A researcher sitting near me in the library one day slammed her microfiche reader slide shut and shouted – ‘Ugh, another lie exposed. If he was alive, I’d kill him.’ In my case, it was my convict ancestors. It distressed my mother – if she’d been the researcher, she might have tried to hide it. Luckily I felt proud that my forebear Robert Forrester stood on the shores of Sydney Cove back in January 1788 as one of the founders of modern Australia, so I wrote a book about it.

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

It’s true. Family history research can be a great personal development tool. You gain insights into yourself as you discover hitherto unknown aspects of your background. More on that next time.

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Author, Louise Wilson (www.louisewilson.com.au), belongs to the GSV Writers Circle. Her latest book Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory (Wakefield Press, 2016) is the biography of Australia’s first and most celebrated professional botanical artist. This article was first published in Fifty-Plus News. [Ed.]

Post expires at 10:12am on Saturday 26 August 2017

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Are you chasing DNA?

Those who are chasing DNA and exploring genetic inheritances might be interested in the latest blog entry by renowned Irish genealogist, John Grenham. John’s unique style, great curiosity and fascinating insights always make for interesting reading, whether or not your heritage is Irish. This blog is no exception.

https://www.johngrenham.com/blog/2017/04/03/dormant-abeyant-forfeited-and-extinct/

REMEMBER to check out the GSV’s DNA Discussion Circle – for Members. See the website here http://gsv.org.au/activities/groups/dna-discussion-circle.html

Post expires at 10:14am on Saturday 30 December 2017

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