Archive for December, 2009

New Year Genie Aspirations – In 2010 I Will

December 28th, 2009

  • Maintain my health and fitness program so that I will have the energy and strength to do the next 9 items.

It is too easy to get mesmerised by the computer or the fascination of the library, book or whatever. Without regular breaks my back starts to ache, my joints stiffen up and my brain overloads and I start to dither. If I don’t make the effort to leave the house or telephone someone, I find myself telling the budgie my success stories. To keep focussed everyone needs to be aware of regular exercise, nutritious food, lots of water and time out. Socialising (with real people – email doesn’t count) is also part of family history so attending genealogical or family history meetings and learning what’s new and sharing information is just as important. It’s not all online.

  • Start using my new digital recorder and get Mum’s memories of her grandmother before it is too late.

Spending time with my mother during her recent illness has made me all too aware of what she knows, but won’t necessarily tell me unless I ask the right questions. The digital recorder is small and unobtrusive, and by showing Mum some old photos I can get her to start telling me her memories and childhood stories. With luck, and the right positioning of the recorder, she forgets it is there after a while and talks on freely about people I will only ever know through her memories.

  • Scan my old photos, identify them and share with the family.

I have been collecting family photos for over 30 years and while I have made some attempts to identify, arrange and make more accessible some photos to other family members, I am very aware that there is a lot more I can do here. There is so much that is in my head that no one else will ever be able to work out, unless I seriously start to make this huge amount of material more organised with better descriptions, scanned images and proper storage conditions.

  • Conserve and preserve family heirlooms discovered during my recent stay at Mum’s including both my parents’ 21st birthday keys and cards, Dad’s first love letter to Mum (both aged 12 at the time), her wedding dress, my first pair of shoes, photos and other documents.

As well as the photographs, I have various bits and pieces of memorabilia which  have not been stored in ideal conditions and are now old and fragile. By purchasing some acid free archival storage boxes and paper I can make these valuable items more safe and secure for future generations. All it takes is a bit of time, money and effort. It’s a pity that there aren’t more rainy weekends in Melbourne these days, but on those cold weekends and boring nights of television, I am sure that I will find the time to tackle this goal, as long as I stop procrastinating!

  • Work with my other Johnston family members to finally sort out the Johnston Clan from Knockbride, County Cavan.

The Johnston clan is huge with lots of siblings in each generation and almost every line has one or more people researching it but it is also confused with missing or unknown information. A few of us have started to get together to pool all our information and systematically work our way through the known and the unknown.  2010 will be the year we sort out all the Knockbride Johnstons!

  • Finalise my draft of the Price family history in time for my mother’s 76th birthday.

I first started this draft for the 100th anniversary of the family’s arrival in 1878 but in 1978 I had only been researching for two years and had not done a lot of overseas research. Every few years I have updated it with new information but never finished it. There was always something else to do or find out. In 2008 I was definitely going to finish it for the 130th anniversary but personal illness got in the way and for my mother’s 75th in 2009, my partner’s illness sidetracked me. It is so easy for other things to come along and take higher priority (as they must sometimes) but there comes a time when everyone must simply say enough and finish. Publish and/or distribute copies – I can always say another edition is in the pipeline. At least there is a finished product, not a collection of certificates, photos, bits and pieces of information etc which is meaningless without the context that only I can give it.

  • Start a website for my family history research.

Having seen so many interesting and surprisingly simple family history websites, it really is time that I start to put my own family history online. It is such an easy way to share information and photographs with people and invite them to share their stories as well. Just doing my own blogs has been an interesting experience with people contacting me with ideas, suggestions and on one occasion, even related to me.

  • Continue to inspire and assist others with their family history research.

Most of my working life in government (35 years) was spent assisting people with genealogical and family history research and I hope to continue doing that in my new venture Unlock the Past with Gould Genealogy & History. I have always been conscious of the tyranny of distance in Australia and that not everyone has easy access to major archives, libraries and societies. Regional areas also need access to good resources and speakers and hopefully Unlock the Past  will help us achieve that.

Keeping up with blogs is a bit like writing a diary – if you set a specific time to do it, you will probably do it. If you leave it random, it will probably be forgotten or haphazard. So for things that I really want to do I am now going to set specific times in my calendar and treat it as something that I must do. Plus as I really enjoy reading the comments that people post on my blogs, I am going to make the effort to make comments myself to let other people know that I appreciate the opportunity of being able to read their blogs and learn from their experiences.

  • Stay focussed, organised and enthused  and open to all new possibilities in my family research travels!

Rereading the above aspirations I wonder if I have been too ambitious but without goals and specific targets we have nothing to aim for. Having this blog printed and in a visible place in my study will keep me focussed, not so sure about organised (depends on what else is happening) and enthused ( being enthusiastic about family history is never a problem). I am always excited about new developments and 2010 is going to have all sorts of new and exciting resources, technology and breakthroughs in my research. I can’t wait!

50 Australian Websites For Family History

December 23rd, 2009

Christmas Greetings! There are numerous ‘best of’ lists but rarely do they include Australian websites. This list reflects my own interests but I would welcome suggestions and would love to make it a Top 100 list.

Some websites fitted more than one category, especially the State archives and libraries as some of them have very active access and digitisation programs. However I have only included them in one category so be sure to explore the whole site and not just the section I chose to feature.

Lists are in alphabetical order as it was too hard to prioritise! Have a safe and happy festive season with family and friends and check out this list if and when you need time out for you. Enjoy!

Archives & Libraries

City of Sydney Archives

Some really interesting material here if you have an interest in early Sydney especially the Old Sydney Burial Ground.

National Archives of Australia

Great site for World War One dossiers (digitised and free access) and immigration post 1900 plus other records that might surprise people. Their Fact Sheets help to suggest further ideas for research.

National Library of Australia (TROVE)

TROVE is the new way to search the NLA’s collections all at the same time – changing the way we research. Bring it on!

State Library of Queensland  (John Oxley Library)

A sentimental favourite (I worked there on two occasions in the early 80s and again in the early 90s) – great photographs, oral history and manuscripts. Check out the State Library of Queensland while there too.

University of Melbourne Archives

A wealth of information here on a wide range of subject areas but I particularly like the Trade Unions and Women links. I just have to slip in some URLs here Australian Trade Union Association and Australian Womens Archive Project. There’s another two categories of websites – perhaps I need a bigger list?

Births Deaths & Marriages

New South Wales

Official BDMs free to search, and you can purchase online for $28 instead of the standard fee of $37


Searching of official BDMs is online and free but you can’t order online, you need to print and mail the form, cost $34

South Australia

Official BDM indexes are not online but the South Australian Genealogy & Heraldry Society have some very useful death and burial indexes and a new transcription service for BDMs.

Tasmania (Colonial Tasmanian Family Links Database)

Again another State where the official BDM indexes are not online. This  database can be quite useful but do read the introduction carefully as the Archives do not guarantee their accuracy.

Western Australia

Official BDMs are online, free to search but can’t be ordered online. Cost $31


Brisbane City Council Grave Location Search

This allows a search for all those buried in Brisbane cemeteries and it’s free and easy to use. Includes Bald Hills, Balmoral, Brookfield, Cedar Creek, Hemmant, Lutwyche, Moggill, Mount Gravatt, Nundah, Pinnarook, South Brisbane and Toowong.

Melbourne Necropolis

Includes Springvale Botanical Cemetery and St Kilda Cemetery. Free and easy to use.

Perth Metropolitan Cemeteries Board

Includes Guildford, Karrakatta, Midland, Pinnaroo and Fremantle. Free and easy to use.

South-East Queensland Cemeteries Headstones Photo Collection

This collection of headstone and memorial photos relates to cemeteries where there are no online lists of names. Compilers are based in Brisbane which explains the area covered. They try to photograph all memorials at a site and transcriptions are generally limited to genealogical information.

Tasmania Millington’s Southern Cemeteries

Includes Cambridge, Cornelian Bay, Derwent Valley, Eastern Shore, Huonville, Kingston, Moonah, Mornington and Southern Midlands. Simple to search and free.


Archives Office of Tasmania

Tasmanian convict records have been digitised and are online free of charge. Not the easiest to use but you can still see the images without travelling to Hobart.

Dead Persons Society (Perth)

Convicts to Australia: A Guide to Researching Your Convict Ancestors – a really useful place to start with convict research.

State Library of New South Wales (First Fleet archive)

An interesting illustrated look at the convict system, mostly on the First Fleet.

State Records New South Wales

Useful indexes and finding aids for anyone with convict ancestors in NSW and Norfolk Island.

State Records of Western Australia

Useful introduction to indexes and finding aids for WA convicts.

Digitised Records & Online Indexes

Australian War Memorial

Simply the best  for anything military in Australia. Also think we could have a Top Ten Australian military sites category without too much thinking. Maybe that category next time?

National Library of Australia eResources

Did you know that you can register with the NLA for subscription based eResources and have free access to a range of databases eg London Times 1785-1985, one of my favourites. 157 resources under Genealogy alone so check it out!

Public Record Office Victoria

Another sentimental favourite as I was part of the move into digitisation of records. PROVguide 23 lists online indexes, databases and digitised records. Don’t miss the free digitised wills and probates from 1841-1925. Also check out PROV’s online catalogue Access the Collection (ATC).

Queensland State Archives

Yes another old workplace and sentimental favourite but has wide range of indexes online and a copy service if you can’t visit.

State Library of Western Australia

Western Australia post office directories 1893-1949 are digitised and free. Great for anyone in WA. POD’s for some of the other States can be found in the Pay To View sites below.

Gateway Sites

Australian Cemeteries

A useful listing of cemeteries in Australia and whether online or not.

Australian Libraries Gateway

Another NLA resource but useful to find a library within Australia and also useful to find which libraries hold a particular book.  Pathways to Australian Information are really good for discovering what collections are out there. Serendipity plus!

Australian Society of Archivists – Directory of Archives

A useful list of archives in Australia including government, school, religious, business, sport and university archives. The Society is in the process of updating the Directory.

Cora Num – Websites for Genealogists

An Australian gateway site for tracing family history.

Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet – Australia

A USA based gateway site with an extensive category list which highlights  a wide range of resources and links for Australia.

Genealogy and Family History Societies

(This was a tough category so I have opted for the places I have lived and been a member plus where I did the Diploma of Family Historical Studies. It also has six entries not five as I have a rule that I join the major societies where ever I live and if there are two in that State, I join both. Plus I usually have friends in both.)

Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies

Based in Melbourne, has a range of members services and resources for website visitors.

Genealogy Society of Queensland

The usual members services plus a useful Directory of Links to Australia, UK, NZ and USA.

Genealogy Society of Victoria

Has an online bookshop, a range of interesting resources and services and a members only section including GIN (Genealogical Index of Names) with nearly 4 million entries. Some of the latter can also be accessed via Find My Past (see below in Pay to View).

Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra

As well as the usual members services, the Society has a useful and interesting database relating to the Boer War.

Queensland Family History Society

Has an online bookshop, the usual members services and is a commercial partner with World Vital Records Australasia (see below in Pay to View).

Society of Australian Genealogists

A range of interesting resources and services to members and the casual website visitor including an online bookshop. SAG is a commercial partner with Find My Past (see below in Pay to View).

Immigration & Shipping

Australian National Maritime Museum

Has some very useful research guides including the Vaughan Evans Digital Library and online copies of Evan’s indexes to the Illustrated Sydney News 1853-1889; Illustrated London News 1842-1891; and Australasian Sketcher 1873-1889.

Lenore Frost’s Home Page

Another one of my personal favourites as Lenore has similar interests to me – shipping, women, military etc. Browse the whole site but don’t miss Ships Logs and Journals Aust & NZ.

Passenger Lists Arriving in Australian Ports

This is another Perth DPS project and worth a look.

Shipping and Passenger Records

This site is compiled by the Ballarat & District Genealogy Society and has some interesting and out of the ordinary links. Well worth a look.

State Records of South Australia

Passenger lists have been indexed directly into their online catalogue . Not the easiest to find on their website so I have given a direct link to it as well as the home page.

Newspapers and Photographs

Argus Online (Index)

This is an index online to the Argus (Melbourne) for 1870-1879.

Australian Newspapers

Absolutely magic site for digitised copies of Historic Australian Newspapers 1803-1854, a work in progress – I have found so much just by using keywords already.

Australian Newspapers Online

This is a useful listing of newspapers online, including contemporary newspapers. Very good if you want to find a newspaper or advertise or place an article in an existing newspaper. Not to be confused with the Historic Australian Newspapers site above.

Picture Australia

Search a wide range of cultural institutions for illustrations and photographs. So easy and free. Find that elusive photograph of your ancestor’s ship.

Ryerson Index

This is an index to contemporary death notices and obituaries in Australian newspapers. Over 2 million entries and 168 newspapers.

Pay to View Sites

Australian collection includes convicts, electoral rolls, immigration, directories etc. Subscription based with a range of payment options.

BDMs Victoria

The only pay to view the  indexes online  site in Australia. You can also order certificates online and receive digital copies.

Find My Past (FMP)

Not easy to find Aussie content but any Australian society who had contributed data to the Federation of Family History Societies  Family History Online , which was taken over by Find My Past in 2007 has content in FMP I believe. If anyone can enlighten me on how this works for Aussie content, it would be appreciated.

World Vital Records Australasia

Relatively easy to identify content State by State and very good for Queensland as QFHS is a commercial partner.


I should have a 5th Pay To View here but I have covered the main ones I use and I did slip 6 into the Genealogy & Family History Societies category so to keep it at 5o websites I am leaving this blank. At least that’s my story.


The above list is my frequently used  Top 50 Australian websites but I could easily add another 50. I would be interested to find out what others think and use. In fact there could be quite active debate on this topic.

Perhaps the next list will be a Top 100 Australian websites!

No Time For Family History

December 17th, 2009

Many years ago I bought a slim Federation of Family History Societies publication by Eve McLaughlin entitled No Time For Family History? and this was largely in the pre personal computer days. Back then we were busy people and we squeezed the family history in by not doing the housework or forgetting to feed the pets or worse still, the family.

Now in these computer driven days, I am finding I have even less time because when I log on, usually daily, I do a series of actions so that I don’t forget anything.

Order of tasks:

Download primary Bigpond email account – respond as required

Download other email accounts (includes website, gmail, secondary Bigpond account)

Check Twitter accounts (I maintain two Shauna Hicks and Ausarchivists) – look at any interesting tweets – retweet or do my own tweeting

Check Facebook account – respond or add as required

Check GenealogyWise – ditto

Check Looking4Kin – ditto

Check PROV ning community – ditto

Check Linked In - ditto

Check RSS feeds – read/skim and retweet as necessary

Check Skype (although this activates while online)

Look/read any online newsletters received (there are several I subscribe too)

Ditto with blogs and I am following more and more (Geneabloggers list of Aussie blogs is a useful summary of what has been published on a daily basis). I also write two blogs, this one and a Brick Walls series on Unlock the Past.

I also subscribe to Genes Reunited, World Vital Records and Lost Cousins so I get updates from them every so often.

And I have probably forgotten something but you get the picture by now.

With a bit of luck the telephone won’t ring. With even more luck, I won’t hear it.

So depending on how active everyone else has been, this can take me quite a while especially if there is new info or sites to check out or I have to look up info to respond and so on. These are all things that I generally didn’t do six months ago except for primary email.

However , I have learnt so much by actively participating in all of these social networking applications. Lots of clues and ideas and support to get back in there and find those tricky ancestors who don’t want to be found or just more information on their lives and the times in which they lived.

In some ways I am now welcoming the absolute lack of stimulating television (and yes there wasn’t that much before) but the silly summer season is now giving me nights (and daylight saving time tricks me into thinking it is still day time and not bed time). I find I am rising with the sun ca 5am (my habit since time began) and now going to bed closer to midnight if not later – hours I haven’t kept since my wilder days.

There is so much out there still to be discovered – all I need now is someone to write the book on how to find time to do your family history without falling asleep in your Cornflakes!

Living Relatives – Don’t Waste Opportunity

December 11th, 2009

This week’s blog sees me back in Brisbane at my mother’s. Over the last few months I seem to have spent more time in Brisbane than I have in years. Mum’s illness also means that I have spent more time with her than I have in decades and at a time when she is not able to do things herself. This has meant that I have had to get involved with her finances, what is kept where in the house and we have had time to simply talk.

Like other elderly people she hoards some things (mostly rubbish) and her cupboards are full of a mix of  ‘let’s chuck’ to I can’t believe you have kept this. On my last visit she presented me with an album of birthday and Christmas cards she had maintained from the time of my conception 50 plus years ago. There were cards from my grandmother who died in 1964, all my aunts and uncles and other family members I can’t even remember. It is strange reading these birthday and Christmas wishes so many years later.

This visit, on the first night, as we are eating dinner, Mum casually mentions would I have been interested in the first love letter that my father had given her when they were both aged 12, back in 1946. I would kill to see it was my first response and was shocked when she said I might have to because she had thrown it out. As I tried to stay calm and continue the dinnertime conversation, she said that it was still in the rubbish as that wasn’t collected until Monday.

You see people, usually police, going through rubbish on the television all the time and you think, how can they do that? It’s easy when you are looking for something that you really want to find, believe me. Fortunately Mum doesn’t have a lot of rubbish but it was at the bottom. I fished out the two scraps of paper, she had torn it in two, and pieced it together. There was very old sticky tape all round it, as at some time in the past, the page had cracked and torn and she had tried to put it back together.

As I read the words my father had written back in 1946, 50 years before his death in 1996, images of him came flooding back and I could easily see him writing those words. My parents spent 50 years of their life together and it all started with that note. And of course, Mum agreeing to be his girlfriend!

To show Mum how significant something like that letter is, I brought out my December issue of Australian Family Tree Connections in which an article of mine had been published and I had used a photo of her grandparents. She took one look at the photo of her grandmother and started telling me all about my great grandmother who had lived with Mum and her mother for years before her death.

She remembered how she spoke, what she wore, that she always had lollies in her pockets for Mum when she got home from school and so on. My great grandmother was blind and so Mum had been very close to her, helping to care for her. She recalled the day of her funeral and the service at the Baptist Church and that she was the only one crying (at 10 years of age she would have been the youngest one there as Mum had been born ten years after her other nine siblings).

As I madly took notes, I said that Mum should try writing down some of these memories but she wasn’t interested. I remembered the last time I had seen my tape recorder was years ago when I gave it to my son for his university studies. It’s probably time to buy a new one anyway!

The surprising thing here is that I have been tracing the family history since 1977 and along the way I have told my mother of my various findings and she has shown some interest but not overly so. She could have easily told me about the various bits and pieces I am now discovering years ago but she didn’t because the time was not right. Now she does want to talk and remember.

Mum asked me about her grandmother’s life in England and  I had to say that despite years of looking I had a big blank from the time of Elizabeth Judge’s birth in Brackley, Northamptonshire 1857 (illegitimate) to her marriage to Thomas Price in Moxley, Staffordshire in 1878. Over the last few years I have been looking at digitised copies of census records on Ancestry, Find My Past, Genes Reunited etc as they became available and without any luck. She has to be there somewhere and Mum has now asked me to find her so that she knows that part of her beloved grandmother’s life.

All the details of my previous searches in the 1861 and 1871 census are back in Melbourne but I might start fresh next week. Maybe this time I will find Elizabeth Judge. Stay tuned.

To come back to the original purpose of this blog, don’t waste opportunity when close family members or even distant aunts, uncles and cousins are still living. Sometimes you need to make several attempts at finding out details on the family. The first approach might be the wrong time, they need to know you better, or something changes in their life. In this instance, it was my mother’s illness and as we approach the end of our own lives, we tend to think of those who have gone before us. If you can, get them to share their stories before it is all too late.

Serendipity or Advertising Your Ancestors

December 4th, 2009

I finished last week’s blog  by saying that Serendipity would guide this week’s  entry. Fortunately Serendipity was kind to me and I can report that it does pay to advertise your ancestors in publications, on websites and on social networking sites like Facebook.

In the December issue of Australian Family Tree Connections I had an article on finding your ancestors in church publications. As always I use examples from my own family history. The magazine has only been out a week or so and already I have received two contacts and I now have more information on collateral lines of my Johnston family.

On my website a little while ago I put up my SAG thesis From Iron Chains to Gold Bars which is a mini history of a number of families including the Potter family. This was picked up by a descendant of the Potters who chose to contact me not via the email address on my website, but via my Facebook page. She sent me an invitation to view her Facebook pages but none of the names meant much to me,  so I queried the invitation and after an exchange of emails, we are now swapping information on the Potters.

Had it been me, I would have simply sent an email to the website. I don’t think I would have looked to see if I had a Facebook page. But then I don’t use Facebook to keep in touch with relatives, although I am beginning to see some of the advantages.

On my Twitter page I announced I had found a photograph and small biography of my ggg grandmother’s half brother on a Canadian website – they had settled in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan along with my gggg grandfather. That too was Serendipity because I simply entered the surname into the site (which I had noticed in another tweet) and up came the reference.

It is a relatively uncommon surname so I decided to look it up on Facebook  and I was surprised to turn up a number of references to it from people still living in Saskatoon. Obviously there must be some family connection but I couldn’t see that anyone was actually tracing the family history. I sat there a while looking and thinking but couldn’t bring myself to send a friend request. Yet others do it all the time.

In the old days I had no hesitation sending letters to unknown people I found in genealogical research directories or even in telephone books. Yet I hesitated, and still do, to send a friend request on Facebook. Why is it so (as Professor Julius Sumner Miller used to say)?

This week is proof if you advertise your family interests, someone somewhere will read it and contact you (if you are lucky). Perhaps it is nothing ventured, nothing gained. I would encourage everyone to write about your ancestors, advertise your interests on Facebook, Twitter, websites and not forgetting good old print publications.

You just never know when Serendipity will smile upon you.