Archive for April, 2010

Australian Genealogy Sources

April 30th, 2010

The title of this blog is actually the title of a publication by Ralph Reid in association with Gould Genealogy and published in 2006. Despite the broad ranging title, it only looks at three genealogy resources which formed a sub-title to Reid’s original publication. These three sources are:

  • Pioneer registers
  • Biographical dictionaries
  • Bibliographies

Given our tendency these days to Google everything, check library catalogues online, look at Wikipedia, it is not often that I find myself sitting down and searching a paper publication. It even takes me a little while to remember how a keyword index works on paper. But I find myself sitting here turning the pages and seeing things that I would not think to search for online. How much are we missing out on if we don’t still use resources that are not online?

When was the last time you looked for a published pioneer register for the area in which your ancestors lived? When did you last use a biographical dictionary and I don’t mean the Australian Dictionary of Biography Online. What about a bibliography?

I have been helping my mother’s neighbour research her family in Armidale, NSW but I haven’t advised her to look at the Pioneer Register of New England from First Settlement to Federation by the Armidale Family History Group in 2003. The neighbour has very early Armidale roots and chances are her family is in this publication but how does she know to look for it in the first place. This is where collective publications like Reid’s are so useful, because they group similar publications together and make them easier to find.

Seeing it in Reid’s book, I put “Armidale Pioneer Register” into Google and it turned up references to it including a wonderful selection of photographs from the Register. There is a link back to an order form to buy the publication which has over 1200 entries.

Using this methodology I tried “Shoalhaven Pioneer Register” in Google and it brings up a number of returns for the catalogue entry in the National Library of Australia and other libraries as well as references to the Shoalhaven Family History Society and their publications  for sale. Going through the Society’s list of publications, I find that they have published a Shoalhaven Pre 1900 Pioneer Register and it is still in print.

Coming back to Reid’s publication, I can quickly scan the keyword index of places and see if any are places of interest to me whereas with Google, I have to stop and think what places I am interested in and then search them individually.

Another option is to simply enter ‘pioneer register’ as a term. In this instance I received 14,300 hits which I could then scroll through or try and narrow down by adding a state or place.

The second section on biographical dictionaries was even more interesting as these are not usually bound by a geographic place and can cover a whole range of specialities. For example, skimming the pages I can see cricketers, Aboriginal artists, scientists, writers, Jesuits, convicts, Civil War veterans in Australia, politicians, Western Australians and so on. The diversity is simply amazing. Again the keyword index groups like publications together. A search on Google for ‘biographical dictionaries” only brought up 1,370 entries  and again this could be narrowed down.

Or perhaps the search term should be “biographical dictionary” and of course, this time the results were 33,700 hits. The first one is the excellent Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition. One could spend hours trawling through the various entries here.

The final section of Reid’s publication is Bibliographies which used to be a popular form of publication in pre-computer days as it used to bring together a range of publications on a topic. Now we can, more or less, do the same ourselves with our local library catalogue if it is online or the State Library catalogue or even the National Library of Australia (NLA) catalogue. Their new online catalogue TROVE does it all instantly for you, even searching newspapers, manuscripts and photographs.

Is this spoiling us too much? Are we losing the ability to look for our own resources and if we couldn’t find it online would we look for it elsewhere? Don’t get me wrong, I love TROVE but not everything is in the NLA (perhaps it should be) and not everything is findable by Google. Not all local and family history societies are on the Web but they still create finding aids and publish.

See also my blog on 13 February 2010 Why You Should Still Use Bibliographies which looks specifically at Ralph Reid’s state based series of family history bibliographies.

This post is simply a reminder to seek out research compilations, usually published by individuals, genealogy/family history or local history societies that provide biographical entries on our ancestors. They may only be print published, only online or a combination of both. But if you haven’t looked for a biographical dictionary, bibliography or a pioneer register before, now is the time to start. Let me know how you go – success stories are always good to read.

Tasman Jarvis – An Original ANZAC

April 24th, 2010

As tomorrow is ANZAC Day, my thoughts this week have been around those family members who have fought in various wars. While there are many individuals I could focus on, the one that comes most prominently to mind on ANZAC Day is Tasman Jarvis.

Tasman Jarvis, parents headstoneI can still remember the day we found his parents grave in Richmond Cemetery, Tasmania. I was noting all the details on the headstone and right at the bottom was an entry for their son Tasman Jarvis. It simply noted that he had been killed in action in Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 aged 34 years. One of the many killed on that day.

Tasman Jarvis was born in Brighton, Tasmania in 1881, the 10th and youngest child of Alfred Jarvis and Eliza nee Gunyon. He married Violet Thorne in 1906 and had three children before he enlisted in the army. He served as a Private in the 12th Battalion and there are many records recording his military service.

At the Australian War Memorial he is listed on the Roll of Honour Database and it gives basic information on his life and military service.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission also has him on a Casualty List giving similar information. You can even generate a certificate.

There is also an entry for him in the AIF Project (Australian ANZACS in the Great War 1914-1918) which gives more information including his height and weight. It also mentions his previous military service with the Derwent Regiment for 5 years. It also lists his brother Richard George Jarvis, also killed in action in May 1915, and his cousins Henry Thomas Jarvis killed in action in September 1916, Roy William Jarvis returned to Australia 1919 and Alfred Edward Jarvis returned to Australia in 1917.

Tasman’s military dossier has been digitised by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) and is freely available online. It gives more details on his time in the army. Another digitised file available online is an Application for a Gratuity lodged by his widow Violet on behalf of herself and her three young children.

Finally there is a third digitised file on the NAA site and it relates to a Summary of Particulars of Application for Assistance. This was submitted by Tasman’s widow Violet. It is dated 1921 and she is asking for a loan of £35 to buy furniture. The application makes sad reading and reveals that the family have been living with her parents since Tasman’s death. Violet took possession of her War Service Home in June 1921 hence her need for furniture. It was seen as a special case and she was granted the loan with the proviso that she repay it at the rate of 10/- a month.

All three NAA digitised files come up under a keyword search for Tasman Jarvis.

Tasman Jarvis was awarded posthumously the following medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

So tomorrow my thoughts will be with all those other families who lost loved ones at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Lest We Forget.

Finding Ancestors in Church Publications

April 16th, 2010

Since December 2009 I have been writing a monthly article on Finding Ancestors in Church Publications for Australian Family Tree Connections (AFTC). Parts 1-3 are now available online on Unlock the Past to make the articles more accessible.

Church publications include regular newsletters, newspapers, journals, histories, directories, biographies and so on. They don’t include original records such as parish registers as these are not usually published. Although I mostly talk about published material, I do sometimes refer to original records if they are of interest.

Thomas and Elizabeth Price_0001

Briefly in Part 1 ( AFTC December 2009) I discussed some of the ways my own family history research has been enriched by information found in various church publications over the years. I give examples from my Price family in Charters Towers, my Johnston family from Sherwood in Brisbane,  and the Burstow family from Toowoomba, Queensland. The photograph at right is Thomas and Elizabeth Price (my great grandparents) who were members of the Charters Towers Ryan Street Baptist Church in Queensland.

In Part 2 (AFTC January 2010) I gave an overview of how researchers could find church publications in archives and libraries and what kind of records to search such as directories and almanacs. I also gave an example of how to search on the National Library of Australia’s online catalogue TROVE for church publications.

Part 3 (AFTC February 2010) focuses on using brief guides and finding aids and highlights resources in Queensland. I also highlight some of the digitised resources available on CD ROM through Gould Genealogy & History using the Centenary History of the Presbyterian Church in NSW as an example.

Subsequent parts of the series will be put online with a two month delay between publishing in AFTC and going online at Unlock the Past. Parts 4-5 are currently available in Australian Family Tree Connections March and April 2010 respectively.

If you have also had success using Church publications please let me know as I love success stories.

Using Cyndi’s List for Australian Genealogy

April 13th, 2010

This is another instalment of the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy challenge.

Challenge 13 was to explore Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet and discover some new websites of use to my research. I have used Cyndi’s List for years and always go there when I am not sure what might be available for a place. I will confess that I rarely use it for Australia instead relying on my own existing knowledge or going to Cora Num’s Websites for Genealogists: An Australian gateway site for tracing your family history. So I was especially interested to see what I would learn in this challenge.


There are 1203 links for Australia with 21 categories. I will report my findings under each category as follows:

General Resource Sites

A wide ranging list of sites including the Australian Family History Compendium for each of the States and Directories with genealogy addresses and links, and some useful starting out sites. Definitely a category to spend some hours looking into what is available.


Links to telephone directories, trade directories in and the Western Australian Post Office Directories which are freely available online.

Government & Cities

Only five links listed including the Australian Government website and a useful Court Web Sites.

History & Culture

This is an interesting category and has a wide ranging list of sites which includes sites relating to convicts, ANZACs, mining and of course Ned Kelly.

How To

A small category with four links to a diverse group of resources which is illustrated by The FamilySearch Research Outline for Australia which is very detailed to the very specific guide to Research Tips for Queensland by Judy Webster.

Libraries, Archives & Museums

Far too large to give details on but includes state and national libraries and archives, university archives, churches, historical societies, museums etc.

Locality Specific

Not a lot of links in this category but interesting if you do have ancestors from some of these localities.

Mailing Lists, Newsgroups & Chat

This category is simply huge and I am only going to recommend that everyone browse the list and select their own mailing list etc to join.

Maps, Gazetteers & Geographical Information

Researchers could spend a bit of time exploring some of the links in this category. I particularly like the Australian Towns Index, the History of Places in Australia and the Place Names Search within Geoscience Australia. Those three sites alone could occupy me for hours!


There are lots of interesting and surprising links in this category and definitely worth a look. The sub-section on the Boer War was of particular interest to me but note that not all of the Boer War links were listed in the one area. You do need to browse the whole list in this category. I was also interested in all the links on the ANZACs.

While not a direct interest, I found the link to the Victorian Nurses in the Boer War site had some interesting photographs and was informative on a topic that is not often covered.


This category includes a range of links to various sites with transcripts, indexes or digitised copies of newspapers. Worth a browse but  I usually just go straight to the National Library of Australia’s wonderful Historic Newspapers 1803-1954 site.


Only two links here with the first to Occupations in Australia which is Cora Num’s excellent site for all types of occupations in Australia.

The second link is to the Australian Society of Genealogists guide to The Basics on Occupations in Australia and Britain and includes a useful Bibliography.

People & Families

Only twelve links in this category but quite a wide variety from Aussie Schoolmates to Australia’s Red Coat Settlers to the History of Australian Theatre online to Women’s History. Also links to Cora Num’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the Welsh in Patagonia/Australia and Australia & Jewish Genealogy.

Professional Researchers, Volunteers & Other Research Services

Long list of individuals and business/companies offering research and other services as well as volunteers and look up exchanges.

Publications, Software & Supplies

This is mostly a list of links to genealogy publishers, online genealogy bookshops or individual publications.

Queries, Message Boards & Surname Lists

This section has links to various message boards, forums and surname lists. One that I was not aware of is the Australian Family Tree Connections (AFTC) Surnames index which dates back to 1998 and includes over 40,000 names.

Records: Census, Cemeteries, Land, Obituaries, Personal, Taxes and Vital

There are lots of links here under Cemeteries, Census, Miscellaneous, Obituaries and Vital Records (BDMs). One example of useful links is What You Can Expect to See on an Australian Historical BDM Certificate which is on Graham Jaunay’s Adelaide Proformat website. Another useful example is the List of Institutions/Homes in Australia by Jenny Fawcett’s Genseek Genealogy.

Religion & Churches

Only two links in this category which was surprising. The first is Australasia Church Albums which aims to provide images of churches in Australia and New Zealand, past and present, and with a description or history of each. It was interesting browsing the individual states and seeing what places were already captured. Definitely worth a look.

The second is the Presbyterian Church of Australia which links to their national website with further links to state websites and other resources.

Ships: Convict Lists, Passenger Lists, Etc.

This is another long list of links that will be of interest to most researchers. It really is surprising how much is available on websites that you might not necessarily be aware of or find with a Google or other search. There are numerous links to individual ships and voyages and online indexes such as those at State Records NSW are also included.

Societies & Groups

This listed in alphabetical order a wide range of historical societies, family history and genealogy societies, and other specialist groups for the whole of Australia. An example of a group that researchers might not look for is The Australian Light Horse Association whose aim is to preserve the history and tradition of the Australian Light Horse and its predecessors. There is lots of information on this site for anyone with ancestors who were in the Australian Light Horse.

While I was aware of the Cornish Association of Victoria and the Cornish Association of Bendigo and District, I was not aware that there is also a  Cornish Association in New South Wales. I was a bit surprised that there wasn’t a South Australian one listed. There is lots of information on these sites for anyone with Cornish ancestors.

There are dozens and dozens of societies & groups listed so I encourage everyone to scroll through the list and I think you will find at least one, if not many more, that will be of interest.

World GenWeb

This took me to the World GenWeb Project, then Pacific GenWeb, then all the Australian States and Territories including Norfolk Island, and the Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia GenWebs.  As anyone who has used GenWebs before, they take you to lots of other links.

Clicking on the Victorian GenWeb I was interested to see a Victorian Marriage Witness Index which could be quite useful. Details include bride, groom, witness, date, place and name, and link to, the person submitting the information. I should also add my Victorian marriage certificate details to it. The VicGen Lookup Exchange was a list of volunteers and the resources they are willing to look up for other researchers.

Lots of other links for Victoria and as I have research in every state I could spend a lot of time exploring this one category.


As all of the examples under the 21 categories show, there are lots of resources that I was previously not aware of and wouldn’t necessarily try and find via Google or other search engines. There were a few broken links in the sites I selected to explore, but I managed to find some sites by simply searching for them, while others may not exist now.  Trying to maintain the links must be an enormous task for Cyndi, made harder by people not keeping her informed of changes to their sites.

Exploring Cyndi’s list for all Australian links, while time consuming, could also be a very worthwhile exercise. Let me know if you have any success!