Archive for August, 2010

Discovering Maritime Museums for Genealogy

August 30th, 2010

In my last blog I wrote about Discovering Immigration Museums for Genealogy. Closely related are Maritime Museums and Australia has quite a few and some with excellent online resources.

The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) is one that I frequently refer to in my talks on immigration because it has Vaughan Evans’ indexes searchable online for free. These can be found under Collections and Research, then Pictures of Ships in the Australian Trade and are for the following newspapers:

  • Illustrated Sydney News 1853-1889
  • Illustrated London News 1842-1891
  • Australasian Sketcher 1873-1889

There are also other links to sites to help you find an image or photograph of an ancestor’s ship. Links on the left hand side of the webpage lead to all kinds of useful information on Coastal Shipping, Convict Ships, First Fleet, Sailing Ships, Steamships and Passenger Liners and so on. This is definitely a must browse site for Australian immigration and shipping.

State based maritime museums can be useful and include the Queensland Maritime Museum which outlines its holdings and resources but there is little online. Similarly, the Melbourne Maritime Museum features the Polly Woodside, an 1885 tall ship now berthed permanently at the Museum but there is little in the way of online resources.

The Western Australian Museum – Maritime is located in Fremantle  as is the Shipwreck Galleries, another part of the Western Australian Museum. While both websites are worth looking at there is little in the way of online resources for research. The primary area for accessing information is via the Western Australian Museum website under Collections where there are sections on Maritime Archaeology and Maritime History.

The South Australian Maritime Museum has an interesting range of links to other sites including National Motor Museums if you are more interested in cars than ships. Under Collections the various areas of the Museum are outlined but there is no online searching available.

The Maritime Museum of Tasmania has a number of Themed Resources including Lighthouses, Shipwrecks, Whaling, Sailing Ship Adventures and so on. These link to a wide range of additional resources and are quite interesting to follow.

There are also regional maritime museums and recently on an Unlock The Past regional roadshow I had the opportunity to visit the Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum in New South Wales. Perhaps the easiest way to find these is to simply Google for the area you are interested in and use a term such as maritime.  Some of the maritime museums offer to do research on a paid research basis if you can’t personally visit.

If you are looking to learn more about your ancestors’ immigration to Australia and the ships they arrived on, then seek out maritime museums for additional information beyond the passenger list. Happy researching!


Discovering Immigration Museums For Genealogy

August 17th, 2010

When we want to find out about our ancestors immigration details we usually go to archives and libraries to research. An often overlooked resource are immigration museums or migration centres and we have some excellent examples in Australia.

The Immigration Museum in Melbourne always has both permanent and temporary exhibitions on display and currently there is Station Pier: Gateway to a New Life and Australia’s Muslim Cameleers to mention just two. These exhibitions highlight various aspects of Victoria’s immigration history. The Museum hosts related workshops, talks and other activities especially during school holidays.

The Museum also has a Discovery Centre with a section on Immigration including Family History Research which includes a very useful set of InfoSheets on post World War II migrant ships, Dutch migration to Australia and Researching Your Family History. There is a very useful Immigration to Victoria Timeline which examines each decade and has some very interesting bits and pieces of information including statistics. The Centre’s non lending library collection is also online so that you can plan a research visit.

The Migration Heritage Centre New South Wales (located at the Powerhouse Museum) has lots of interesting information on all aspects of migration from 1788 onwards. It has a timeline of Australian migration history which is very useful and broader than the Victorian timeline. I particularly liked the pages on A Place for the Friendless Female: Sydney’s Immigration Depot 1848-1886 (Hyde Park Barracks).

A wide range of cultures have individual online exhibitions including British child migrants, Italians, Estonians and other post WWII displaced persons, Sudanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and even German prisoners of war at Berrima. You could easily spend hours just reading the various stories. I was particularly interested in My Own Boss: Migrant Miners at Lightning Ridge as my own gg grandmother was there at one point in her life. There are some wonderful photos and background information that help me understand what it would have been like for my ancestor living at Lightning Ridge back then.

The Migration Museum in Adelaide is similar and has exhibitions, education programs and other activities. Its website is also worth browsing but it does not have as much resource material online as the others.

These are just three examples briefly outlining the type of background information that can be found to help you understand your ancestors migration to Australia. If you have not previously looked for immigration/migration museums, then I strongly encourage you to seek them out for where ever your ancestors migrated to. A UNESCO site called Migration Institutions is useful for locating some migration centres around the world but not all are listed here so you may still need to do  a Google search. If you do find some great migration sites please post a comment and share your discoveries.


Turbo Charging My Irish Genealogy

August 9th, 2010

To celebrate the end of another great National Family History Week, I attended the Irish seminar organised by the Genealogy Society of Victoria’s Irish Special Interest Group.

Key speaker was Gregory O’Connor the higher archivist at the National Archives of Ireland and he gave two talks. The first was on An Overview of Genealogical Sources at the National Archives of Ireland and a very useful handout summarised these while Gregory showed illustrations highlighting the usefulness of the sources. His second talk was on Research in Ireland prior to 1800 and again a list of possible sources was contained in the handout while his illustrations showed what type of information might be found.

Kevin Molloy, manuscripts librarian at State Library of Victoria, spoke on Irish Treasures in the State Library of Victoria Collection and how some of these treasures came to be there, mainly from noted Irish families in Victoria.

The final speaker was Linley Hooper, resources manager at the Genealogical Society of Victoria, who spoke about Irish Resources at the Genealogical Society of Victoria. I really must get into the GSV Library more often to do research, rather than just attend meetings like I usually do. I am constantly amazed at what is in the Library and how easy the library catalogue is to search and find things. There was a Q&A session at the end with all speakers participating and Linley pulling up relevant items in the GSV library catalogue.

It was a full day session so there was lots of conversation over morning and afternoon teas as well as lunch. It was held in Melbourne’s Celtic Club so it was good to have a look at the old building which provided a nice, historic and suitable setting for the seminar.

I have Irish families from Armagh, Cavan and Wicklow and they are not that further back than when I first started tracing them in 1977. My tendency to let them continue to sit in the too hard basket is no longer valid – there are lots of new resources and tools for Irish genealogy. I am going to find my Irish families, so with all fingers crossed, wish me luck!


Genealogy Booming in Australasia

August 3rd, 2010

Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Family History Fair in New Zealand, the inaugural Adelaide History and Genealogy Expo in South Australia and the annual Family History Feast in Melbourne, Victoria.

All three events were extremely well attended and the majority of talk sessions were booked out. I now have three ’showbags’ bulging with information and I have lots of new leads to follow up. I also made new friends and contacts and advanced my research on a number of families.

So why were they successful? The NZ Fair was an inaugural event organised by the New Zealand Society of  Genealogists, so there may have been a novelty factor but I don’t think that was a primary reason. Hamilton is south of Auckland, the former capital and north of Wellington, the current capital of New Zealand so it is ideally placed to attract people from across the North Island. Anyone from the South Island has to fly in and there were some from the South.

I believe that it was the program of excellent speakers that attracted the crowds of over 400 people. There were four streams of talks over the two days which were well organised and handouts were available for all talks. There were dozens of exhibitors, including regional societies and expert tables and free use of computers and some pay to view sites. If you didn’t attend the talks, there was still plenty to see and do. Comments and photos are available on the Fair’s Facebook site.

The Adelaide History and Genealogy Expo, organised by Unlock the Past, was similar to the NZ Fair with over 50 exhibitors and 38 talks from 25 different presenters. There were three main speaking areas where talks were presented throughout the day and at lunch time each day an episode of the Australian series of Who Do You Think You Are was shown. Again this was an inaugural event and attracted between 400 and 450 people with the majority attending both days. All the exhibitors were kept busy, expert sessions were well attended and speakers well received. Most people I spoke to would like to see it held every year.

Family History Feast is an annual event organised by State Library Victoria, Public Record Office Victoria, National Archives of Australia and the Registry of BDM’s Victoria. In recent years it has included the Don Grant lecture, an annual event organised by the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO). This year the speakers were all new presenters from the respective agencies and a guest speaker from the Discovery Centre,Immigration Museum, Victoria. Professor Geoffrey Blainey gave the Don Grant lecture on Victoria in the 19th Century: Everyday Life and Family History. All the talks were recorded and will be made available on the SLV’s website shortly. This year they are also going to put online the Powerpoint presentations as well which is good news.

This free event was booked out (over 100 people) but some people still turned up on the day hoping to get in. Not everyone who books turns up so everyone was eventually able to get seats in the State Library Theatrette. While I knew quite a few people in the audience, there were many people that I had not seen before. The attraction of Geoffrey Blainey may have been a factor and I did see some people ask him to sign copies of their books. Some attendees had come down from Ballarat and even as far away as Yarrawonga on the 6.30am train which shows true dedication.

Summing up, over the last few weeks I have seen over 1,000 people across two countries actively and enthusiastically pursuing their family history. They all left wanting more and vowing to go home and spend more time on their research and tracking down those elusive ancestors. I can’t see any of them running out of steam any time soon. I started my own family history in the boom years of the late 1970s and it is really exciting to be part of another boom time in genealogy.


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