Archive for February, 2010

52 weeks to better genealogy – my challenge

February 28th, 2010

Amazing how quick the weeks go by when you are enrolled in the 52 weeks to better genealogy challenge. I love doing the challenges, but I am not so good on writing up the results. Challenge 4 was exploring a library’s inter library loan (ILL) policy and how you can use ILL’s for genealogy research. As a librarian I was aware of this and have used it on many occasions in the past. However I looked through some new references on one of my convicts and there is a book I haven’t read so I will be getting my local library to get it in for me.

Challenge 5 was to explore which I was aware of but don’t use nearly enough. As the challenge said, WorldCat is a massive network of library content that anyone can search for free. Not every library participates but it is still useful for locating which libraries may have a particular book you are after. Then you may be able to request the item on inter library loan depending on where you live and who holds the item. The challenge was to explore WorldCat and see how relevant it is to your own research.

I am researching a Trevaskis family from St Hilary, Cornwall who migrated to Australia in the 1860s so I simply entered the surname Trevaskis into WorldCat. There were 202 results in 42 seconds which is pretty quick. Obviously it picks up any books written by authors with the surname Trevaskis but I was surprised to see Item No 7 by Bessie Trevaskis – A Bush Girl: The Story about Life in the Otway Ranges Between 1897 and 1912 published by the Apollo Bay & District Historical Society in 2001. I know some of the Trevaskis family settled in the Ballarat area of Victoria and I don’t think this is a connection but it is worth checking out further.

Item 12 was Trevaskis – Directory of a Surname by published by AE Trevaskis and RJ Trevaskis in 1973 and I purchased a copy of this book in 1977 when I first started researching my family history. When I entered Australia into WorldCat it told me that there are 4 libraries in Australia that hold it – the National Library in Canberra and the State Libraries of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. So if I didn’t have my own copy, I could go along to the SLV and see it. Interestingly I used to work at the State Library of Queensland and I know they had a copy of it but they may not contribute to WorldCat or they have lost their copy. I made a note to explore this further but found the answer at item 16 – SLQ has a copy that was published only in the USA.

I didn’t want to go through all 202 entries so in the Refine Your Search option it said there were 4 in the Biography category so I selected that option, one of which was the Bessie Trevaskis story mentioned above. Other ways to refine the search include Topics, Language, Year, Audience, Content, Format and Author. The family histories were under the topic History and Auxiliary Sciences.

Another surname I am currently interested in is Cree so I tried that and had 27,739 hits which was too many so I added Devon (where the family are from). This returned 9 hits and a reference to the Cree Family History Society which I then Googled. This turned up not only the Cree FHS but a one name study and various other Cree links so lots to explore online now without even having to go to a library.

Because three times proves it, I then searched for Rosewarne, another one of my Cornish families from St Hilary (it helps if the surnames are unusual). There were only 558 results and Item 10 was Romance of the Rosewarnes: An Ancient and Modern History of the Rosewarne Family of  Kadina, South Australia. I purchased this book in 1979 when it was first published. It is held in six Australian libraries – the National Library of Australia, the National Museum library in Canberra, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide University, State Library of NSW and University of Melbourne. So you can see the diversity of libraries that are linked to WorldCat.

There were 17 entries for Rosewarne after refining the search to History topic and most of these were family history related with reference to Canada, Cornwall and Australia. Another short list of books to follow up when I have time!

These three examples show the value of using WorldCat to help identify published books on families that you might be researching. It can also be used to find places and other topics. I searched for Brackley Northamptonshire and turned up 123 hits but all the books were held in the UK. There were 31 Internet references which were mostly photos. When searching for a place you also get references to maps which can be useful.

In short WorldCat is a wonderful place to lose a few hours but the chances are that you will also find some interesting items to assist with your family history research. If you haven’t tried WorldCat you are missing out!

Finding My Long Lost Jeffers Cousins Online

February 21st, 2010

I have written before about why it pays to advertise your family research interests online and this is another example with my Jeffers family from Portadown, County Armagh Ireland. I placed a query about the family on an message board in November 1998 and my first direct reply was in October 2001, almost three years later. Unfortunately that person never wrote back after establishing we were interested in the same family.

Now in February 2010 over eight years later I have yet another contact. So the first important  lesson is be patient and don’t expect instant success.

My gg grandmother was Maria Jeffers born ca 1844 in Portadown, County Armagh. She migrated to Queensland, Australia in 1864. She left behind her parents Isaac Jeffers and Harriet Ballantyne and siblings Isaac, Jacob, William, James and Mary Anne. From some surviving letters we know that Maria continued to write home to her family and in particular her brother James. We have a letter from his wife advising of his death in 1910.

One of Maria’s granddaughters told me that Maria also wrote to family in the USA but there were no surviving letters and a quick look at the Jeffers name in the US revealed that without a State and some idea of family names it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Coming back to my most recent contact, it is from descendants of Maria’s brother Isaac who went to the US in 1894 without his family and then returned for them in 1895. They settled in Pennsylvannia and moved to New Jersey in the 1900s where members of the family still live today.

It is interesting to speculate why didn’t he come out to Australia with his family to be closer to his sister and her family. Or did he come out here and decide that he didn’t like the Queensland climate, too hot and tropical? Certainly the trip to the US was quicker than to Australia, or perhaps there was a more attractive immigration scheme and so on.

My new contact is only starting out on family history so I can assist with what I know of the family in Ireland and it has spurred me to relook at the Jeffers family as there are more resources available now than when I last looked.

It is also interesting to add the American cousins to the Australian cousins and should I now also try to find again the descendants of the brother James who stayed in Portadown. He only had daughters which makes it a little more difficult as they probably married. What about the other brothers and sister – what happened to them?

One unexpected email to a message board posting nearly 11 years ago has triggered a whole range of questions and a renewed desire to look at my Jeffers family again. It will be interesting to see what I turn up. Stay tuned for the answer!

Why You Should Still Use Family History Bibliographies

February 13th, 2010

In the age of Google we sometimes think that everything is online but we really know that it isn’t. Some of the family history resources and tools of the past tend to be forgotten because it takes a little extra effort to use them and most times we can’t use them at home.

One example is the published bibliography of family histories and in Australia we have an excellent series published by Ralph Reid, with individual volumes for each state. I am currently looking at  the 2008 edition for Queensland.

Not surprisingly there are no references to published family histories on my families for two reasons. One, I think I am the only one doing those families plus all my family histories are in draft, unpublished format because I haven’t got around to publishing yet. But that’s a story for another blog.

As I have been researching in Queensland for over 30 years I can look through the Queensland Bibliography and recognise family histories I have read, helped people research or have been written by people I know. For example, just this morning I received an email from an old friend Kay Gassan from my Queensland days when I used to go to Maryborough and give family history talks. Kay is researching Behrendorff and in 1982 published a history of the family (40 pages). In 1991 she published a much larger history of the family A Patchwork of Memories: a History of the Behrendorff family in Australia (409 pages) and both these works are in Reid’s Bibliography for Queensland.

I have also used the Bibliography to find books written about areas where my ancestors lived. For example, the Sinnamon family is written up in The Gentleman Farmer’s Paradise: a Story of Pioneering Last Century by Hercules Sinnamon and it gave me lots of background information on the settlement of the  Brisbane suburbs of Jindalee, Oxley, Sherwood etc. Another similar example is The Carseldine Family of Bald Hills: a Survey of William Carseldine and his Family by Thom Blake. My ancestors were also in the Bald Hills, Strathpine area so background information in Blake’s history is also of interest for mine.

Family histories are also useful for anyone doing a local history as the Bibliography is an easy way to identify families that have already been well researched for any given area.

One of the things that strikes me flicking through the 2008 edition for Queensland is all the German names (I should say I assume German because I am guessing and also because the German borders changed so much over time). So if we accept that generalisation, there are names like Albinus, Berghofer, Diefenbach, Frohloff, Haberecht, Koehler, Raddatz and I could go on and on.

Again anyone doing a social history of a place would find the Bibliography of family histories useful by pinpointing specific nationalities in a given area. There are also a few Chinese family histories that have caught my eye flicking through Queensland.

I have also noted a few new books or ones that I haven’t seen before that I need to follow up through interlibrary loan I suspect. The local Wyndham library has an excellent family history collection but more Victorian focussed, not surprisingly. These new references are mostly books from the same areas as my families but also names that married into my families. Sometimes there can be useful family information included in family histories related by marriage so it is worthwhile to have a look just in case. I have picked up some group family photos that way.

If a family history covers more than one State then it is included in each relevant State in Reid’s Bibliography series which is good for mining families like mine because I have one family that started in NSW, moved to VIC, then QLD and ended up in WA – yes following the gold.

Reid’s bibliographies include the primary families in a family history and some entries from earlier issues include descendant generations.

There is a new edition coming out for 2010 (hopefully in the next few months) and it will be cumulative so you only need to check the latest edition which is most useful. Other changes will be that ACT is an addendum to NSW and NT to SA as there are too few listings for stand alone issues for ACT and NT.

In the meantime if you can have a look at the following:

New South Wales Family Histories ISSN 1835-5722

Queensland Family Histories ISSN 1835-5730

South Australian Family Histories ISSN 1835-5749

Tasmanian Family Histories ISSN 1835-5757

Victorian Family Histories ISSN 1835-5765

Western Australian Family Histories ISSN 1835-5773

There is also an earlier collaborative publication (2004) between Reid and Gould Genealogy and History entitled Australian Family Histories published in a variety of formats (hardcover, softcover, CD). It is still in print and listed in the 2009-2010 Family and Local History Catalogue for Gould. The online catalogue entry has more details.

If you have any success don’t forget to let me know. I love feedback and success stories – keeps me inspired.

Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory – why you should use a local society!

February 5th, 2010

This week’s blog is coming from Darwin in the Northern Territory where I have spent a fascinating week. I was also privileged to visit the Library of the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory (GSNT) where June Tomlinson gave me the tour.

Just because a Society is located in one particular place, does not mean that it only has records for that place. GSNT have a very impressive Library with an extensive collection of resources for just about everywhere and anyone living in the NT and doing family history would be advised to at least pay them a visit and see for themselves. Not everything is on the Internet (which we sometimes forget) and the Library volunteers have a wide range of individual knowledge and experience which they willingly share.

The Society has BDM indexes for all states of Australia and New Zealand. There are many other records on CD, microfiche/microfilm such as cemetery, shipping, post office directories, divorce, convict, school, probates, public servant records, funeral director’s, government gazettes, land, naturalizations etc, which complements the large range of books on all states of Australia and overseas.

If I had brought my own family history research with me, I could quite easily have continued researching here in Darwin. Must remember that next time although sometimes it is a tough choice when so many interesting tourist sites beckon. Over the next few weeks I will be doing a couple of heritage tourism blogs on Unlock the Past based on my travels here in Darwin.

GSNT is conveniently located on the 1st floor at 25 Cavenagh Street in Darwin which is the floor below the Northern Territory Archives Service (NTAS) so you can easily visit both places in a single visit. As NTAS closes for an hour at lunchtime, you can pop downstairs and continue researching on a Tuesday when the Society is open. It is also open on a Saturday afternoon, but NTAS does not open on weekends.

The Society is currently in the process of doing a website upgrade but for the moment, the website gives basic information on the Society, its resources and services. The photographs of the Library give you an idea of the layout and resources available to members and visitors.

For anyone with research in the NT, the Society has acquired or produced a wide range of NT resources. GSNT has been very active in recording information from National Archives of Australia records which were deteriorating and  very difficult to read, and in some cases, the records were closed after the Society indexed them. Few burial records were kept of early NT cemeteries, which were usually established as a result of mining activities.  Many of these cemeteries have now been indexed by the Society using BDM Indexes, newspaper reports, Coroner’s Inquest, Police Journals etc. There is a very comprehensive and useful listing of cemeteries in the Northern Territory on the website.

The GSNT has been working on a number of projects which will be very useful to anyone with NT research.

  • A Pioneer Register which hopes to records all those pioneers who were in the Territory from 1824 to 1939.  A lot of  previously unrecorded information has been collated through this project and the Society welcomes any further information. Criteria and application form are on the website.
  • Northern Territory Police is another project recording  biographical information on early police and including where possible a history of the police officer’s career in the NT with a photograph.
  • Probates for the Northern Territory have been indexed from 1911 to 1993.

The Society has also published a range of its indexes on microfiche which are available for purchase (see website for details – under Catalogue heading).

  • Indexes to the Territory’s first newspaper, the Northern Territory Times and Gazette from 1870 to 1920
  • Census records for the Northern Territory for 1881, 1891, 1901
  • Shipping information from 1887 to 1921
  • Pastoral Lease Applications, Pastoral Permits, Land Transactions
  • Men of the Northern Territory
  • Police from 1870 to 1914
  • Probates from 1911 to 1993
  • Index to the Star newspaper from 1976 to 1978
  • Cemetery books which cover many NT cemeteries.

The above lists indicate the range and wealth of information on the Northern Territory that is not easily found elsewhere and it is one of the primary reasons you should check out your local genealogy/family history society or the one closest to where your ancestors lived or came from. They will have local resources, usually compiled by volunteers which just might have that missing bit of information you are looking for!

Your Family History – Recording Here and Now

February 1st, 2010

Last week’s blog was Recording Your Own Life, this week’s blog is on that same theme and it is a few days late because we are in Darwin playing grandma and grandpa. We haven’t seen the 3 youngest grandkids of our eldest son since the family all moved from Adelaide a few years ago. Time was spent admiring how much they have grown and although we have seen photos, it is not quite the same as seeing them in person, talking and playing with them. Time goes so fast and it was partly with that in mind that I bought my partner a HD video camera for Christmas.

It has been in his hands or in the case attached to his belt since they picked us up at the airport. Yesterday we spent the day at Crocodylus Park looking at more crocodiles than you can imagine ( the ranger said only 8000 but seemed more). Afterwards we went back to their place and plugged the camera into their huge television.

It was an absolute joy to watch the three kids watch themselves on the TV – they were rapt and their father who couldn’t join us due to work commitments, got to see his kids having fun at the Park. We went on to watch dinner from the night before and the arrival at the motel. All events that had taken place within the last 24 hours but still of interest because it was about them.

I was secretly pleased that all the adults said they were amazed at the quality and clarity of the picture, even underwater. My partner had filmed some turtles swimming and it was just so clear. In one shot he had put his hand in front of the camera and it actually looked like he was stroking the turtles in the water. This impressed the kids and even though they had watched him doing it, the effect was only visible on the film.

Another example was where a wombat was sleeping in a log and we could all just barely see him in there which was a bit disappointing. When we saw it on film, it was like we were in the log with the wombat. My partner had zoomed into the log and the wombat was so clear and visible. Truly wonderful.

The sound was equally amazing – it captured the rangers talk on the crocs and also the kids talking at the various exhibits and my partner’s running commentary and a few of our ‘off camera’ comments when we forgot he was filming. For a first outing with the camera it was a good effort and we did learn a few things – don’t forget to turn it off, who wants to see everyone’s feet as we walk along? Also don’t film continuously the boring or not so exciting bits, be careful with the zoom, slow and steady wins that race and so on.

By the time we leave Darwin we will be camera experts and the kids will have a record of our visit and also of themselves here and now.

Photographs are good in that they capture the person at that point of time. But you don’t have the sound of their voice, their thoughts and opinions and you can’t see their mannerisms. Video cameras have certainly come down in price and are smaller than ever – my partner’s fits into his shirt pocket. I am also glad that I let the salesman talk me into the HD model because the colour and naturalness of the film is so much better. I watched the demo in the store and thought there wasn’t that much difference but there is in real life instances. The extra cost won’t matter in a few years time when we look back on this trip.

So how are you recording your family’s history here and now? If you have never thought about using a video camera, visit your local electronics store and see what is available. Family history is not just about our past ancestors, it is also today’s families and leaving a record for generations yet to come.