Thursday, 19 September 2013

Unlocking family stories - Historical Societies

Throughout Australia you will find historical societies and small museums collecting and recording the history of their local area. There are a number of ways of locating historical societies.

The website of the Royal Victorian Historical Society (RHSV) contains a database of societies affiliated with the RHSV -
CoraWeb lists family history and historical societies in Australia -
The website of the Federation of Australian Historical Societies is another place to check -
Australian Heritage website lists historical societies on its links & resources page -

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Unlocking family history - military records

A number of Australian organisations provide information and digital resources about service people and their experiences.

The State Library of Victoria has a project to digitise World War I unit histories -

National Archives of Australia has an extensive collection of military related material. -
With the approach of the centenary of World War I there is an increasing interest in the history of that war.
A major NAA project was Mapping our Anzacs. This has now been absorbed into Discovering Anzacs -

Discovering Anzacs is a database of service people who enlisted in Australia and New Zealand and provides digital copies of their service records. Information about those who served in the Boer War will also be added. Registered users of Discovering Anzacs can transcribe records, add key data from the military records to the summary for a serviceman and upload images and stories. There is also a detailed timeline of events during the Boer War and World War I.

The Australian War Memorial is another essential site for information about Australian military history. -
The website includes a section for those doing family history research.
The Australian War Memorial website has digitised copies of the official histories for World War I and World War II.
First World War diaries have also been digitised
It is also possible to search for information about service people in the Australian War Memorial files.

Many sites exist for recording military information. One site is Forces War Records - 
This British site is a subscription website containing information about British service people serving in many wars including Crimean War, Napoleonic wars, Boer War, World War I and World War II. There is no cost involved in searching the index but you need to subscribe to view the information.
I did take out a one month subscription to view the information for some family members who served in the Crimean War. The information provided was limited, mainly where they served and any medals awarded to them. The site has a section on military medals which may be useful. -

A recent feature is the provision of war diaries that have been digitised and may be downloaded for no charge -

Unlocking family stories - maps

Maps can also be useful when researching a family story.The State Library of Victoria has digitised many of its maps which can be viewed online. -
One of the collections that has been digitised is the collection of MMBW plans.
The collection includes maps from the Whitehorse and Manningham area.
According to the State Library website 25,000 maps and plans have been digitised and made available online. There is also information available in the map section of the website on the value of using maps for family history in the Maps for local history guide -

In the catalogue select the Maps tab and then type in a location and perhaps a date and see what items appear.

Maps can also be accessed via Trove - In the maps section I typed the name Mackillop and located a copy of the sketch of the route taken by George Mackillop and his party when they explored part of north east Victoria in 1835.
A copy of the map is available online

Street directories over the years provide a picture of the development of an area over a period of time. For example the first Melway was published in 1966. An interesting exercise is to compare maps in the first edition with the same maps in later editions, especially in the outer suburbs, to see how an area has changed. A digital copy of the first edition of Melway can be found at - The second to fifth editions can also be viewed online by clicking a link on the bottom of the first edition initial map.

Google Maps is an extremely useful tool for exploring where family members used, especially when street view is available for an area. When I have a full address for a home owned by an ancestor, particularly in England, I have successfully used this resource to locate where they lived and sometimes have been able to view the actual house.

When George Mackillop and his family returned to the UK in the 1840s they moved to Bath where they lived in a town house at 26 Grosvenor Place.
Using the navigation bar on the left and dragging the person image to the place indicated on the map an image of the house, now a medical surgery appears.
The online street view allows you to view other houses in the street - almost as if you were in the actual street itself.

Actual photos of the Grosvenor Place property taken on a recent visit to Bath can be viewed in another post in this blog -

If it is not possible to visit a location, online mapping services such as Google Maps are the next best thing.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Unlocking family stories - Old Bailey Online

Three of the convicts in my family were tried at the Old Bailey in London -
Fifteen year old Mary Bateman was tried for theft of a silver watch in May 1788
Eighteen year old Uriah Moses was also tried for theft lace, handkerchiefs and other fabric in 1798
Twenty-three year old Richard Holland was tried in July 1806 for stealing a parcel from a cart.
The existing copies of the Proceedings of the Old Bailey have now been available online for ten years and often provide detailed information about those tried in the court -
A search for the record of the trial of Uriah Moses
provides detailed information about Uriah, his reason for being in court and his sentence.
The proceedings can be viewed as a transcription of the trial or as an image of pages from the original proceedings.
The Old Bailey Online website also contains additional information detailing the social history of London, especially in relation to crime.

Unlocking family stories - shipping and immigration

Information about shipping and immigration can be found on a number of sites.

The Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) - - has shipping records for those coming and leaving Victoria until 1923.
The PROV provides useful guides to assist researchers using their records.
Searching the Unassisted Inward Passenger Lists for Hutton and then scrolling through the pages for records relating to William Hutton.
In the records the name William has been recorded in many forms.

National Archives of Australia - - holds records relating to migration after 1923.

To locate additional sites about shipping lists online a good place to start is CoraWeb - 
Many resources are available recording the arrival of the convicts in Australia.
Books include Charles Bateson, The convict ships 1787-1868.
Books have also been written about specific journeys - Sian Rees, The floating brothel (The Lady Juliana).

Websites about convict ships include:
Convict ships to Australia -
Irish convicts to New South Wales -
Free settler or felon? -

Monday, 16 September 2013

Unlocking family stories - newspapers and magazines

In Australia we have a wonderful tool for locating newspaper articles - Trove

Trove allows you to search for items, including digitised documents and images, held in major collections in Australia.

When searching for newspaper articles I usually use the Advanced Search screen to begin the search.
A search for information about a property named Rosemount near Neurum in Queensland produced the following item published in Queensland Country Life in November 1949.
As well as providing a copy of the article in the newspaper, Trove provides an electronically translated copy. Members of the public can register as Trove users and make any corrections to the text.

As well as articles, birth death and marriage records in newspapers can be useful.
A search for information relating to the death of my great grandmother led to a death notice in a Queensland newspaper which provided information about a daughter who had not appeared in other family records. This led to looking in Trove to uncover information about the life of the daughter.

Trove also includes access to images held in Australian collections.
A search for Simeon Lord provided records for a number of images.
The search also produced images of objects - an ear trumpet and a bottle opener - once owned by Simeon's family, now held at the Powerhouse Museum.

Copies of the Australian Women's Weekly from 1933 to 1982 have recently been digitised and made available online on Trove. As well as doing a normal search in Trove for articles it is possible to browse issues of the magazine providing an insite into life in Australia at different times -

Many library websites also provide their members access to databases of British newspapers. Check library websites for details.
A search for articles on the Indian mutiny in 1857 produced a wide selection of articles. Remember that this was not the time of instant news so it may be necessary to search months after an event for newspaper articles.

The State Library of Victoria has also been digitising a number of publications including the proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, the Victorian Historical Journal and the Football Record -

Check other library websites for digitisation projects.

Unlocking family stories - location based encyclopaedias and dictionaries

Recently a number of location based encyclopaedias and dictionaries have been made available online. They can provide useful information to assist your family history search.

The Dictionary of Sydney is one such project.
A search for Simeon Lord produced 36 results where his name was mentioned in records.
You can subscribe to their newsletter to keep up to date with new records added to the site. A recent newsletter provided a link to an article on the history of Botany where Simeon had his woollen mills.
An image of the woollen mills was provided.
e-Melbourne is the online version of the Encyclopedia of Melbourne published in 2005 -
Another useful online resource for information about locations in Queensland is Queensland Places -
This site also has a link to the Queensland Historical Atlas -

Unlocking family stories - Wills & probate

Each state has a state archive and in Victoria it is the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV)-
In Victoria and Tasmania some wills and probate records have been digitised and can be downloaded from the respective state archive site.
A search for the will of Eleonora Hutton showed that the PROV has three documents relating to the will and probate for Eleonora.
Clicking on the links in the record allows you to download the documents including a copy of the actual will.
The National Archives (UK) has started digitising wills in their collection which can also be downloaded from Discovery - Only a small part of the National Archives collection has been digitised but this will be a valuable resource for those searching for family history information in the UK.