Finding Families in Cemeteries

June 2nd, 2010

I am still participating in the 52 Weeks To Better Genealogy program and Challenge 22 was to spend time at Find-a-Grave. This doesn’t have a lot of relevance for Australian researchers, although there are 164 people listed in the Australian section, so I am looking at my favourite cemetery sites for Australia.

A quick and easy site is Australian Cemeteries which covers all States and Territories and it includes links to online data for either tombstones or burial records, home pages without online data, undertakers records, lookups, maps and photographs.

The story of my gg grandparents John and Helen Carnegie can be found here and this blog will look at information that is now available online about their grave.

They were buried in Toorbul cemetery so I selected the State section for Queensland, selected T and scrolled down to Toorbul. This revealed that it is now known as Toorbul Historic Cemetery and that there is online data and photos of the headstones. Several people have submitted transcriptions and photographs so I selected all links, compared data, other information and viewed all the photos. The Toorbul information has also been placed on, another cemetery site for Australia.

A new feature on Australian Cemeteries allows you to do a Google search over the site for an individual surname, on a State by State basis. Assuming that the cemetery you want has searchable pages this can be a quick way to find people but be aware that not all information is online or in a format searchable by Google.

In my example I went to the State section for Queensland and put in Carnegie as a keyword. This search brought up a Google search page with eight references to Carnegie (and remember not all information is online) and of the eight, four referred to the Toorbul Historic Cemetery. There are links to the site and also a link to Kerry Raymond’s South East Queensland cemeteries headstone photo collection with still more photos of the Toorbul Historic Cemetery.

Interestingly I first went to the Toorbul cemetery back in 1978 with the local historian for the area. At that time the cemetery was very overgrown and I would never have found it by myself. While the Carnegie grave was the only cement grave, there were other graves with wooden surrounds and markers. The headstone on the Carnegie grave was still intact and upright.

Since then it looks like a fire has been through and destroyed all the wooden evidence marking the graves and shattered the Carnegie headstone. The area has been cleared and a fence built and signs marking the location have been erected. There is even a memorial board listing all those buried there. I am pleased that the area is now preserved and recognised as an historic cemetery but it is a shame that all the remnants of the earlier cemetery have gone.

As I mentioned above, is another site listing Australian cemeteries and is useful as a double check as not everything is listed in both.

Another useful gateway site is Cora Num’s Websites for Genealogists: an Australian gateway site for tracing your family history. Under Cemeteries there is a range of information divided up under National and State by State.

While it is easier than ever to find cemetery information online, there is still a lot of information recorded in genealogy, family history and local historical societies so don’t neglect to look there too. Good luck.

Mapping Your Ancestors

March 29th, 2010

Weeks 7 and 8 of the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy were all about online map collections with the first exercise looking at Google Maps. Although I have briefly looked at Google Maps online, I have not really taken the time to explore it from a family history perspective.

I started by putting in my own address here in Melbourne and up came a street directory map but by switching to a satellite image I was able to zoom in and see all the houses on my street. When you click on Street View you can then actually see a photo of the house. I then repeated the exercise with a search for my brother’s house in Brisbane and found it just as easily.

My next search was to simply put in a place name Wednesbury, Staffordshire and up came a modern map with the options to look at some modern photos. One of these was the church of St Bartholomew’s Wednesbury where all my Price ancestors were baptised. Clicking on the photo took me to the photographer and other photos of the church and before I knew it I was searching photos not maps! So easy to get sidetracked when searching online.

Dragging myself back to Google Maps, I then clicked on the Places link for Wednesbury and it brought up a brief description of the town and its location. There was a further link to a full article in Wikipedia and yes, you guessed it, I was immediately sidetracked again with all the wonderful links in the article. There is a lovely photo of the Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery and links to take you to their website.

As this was a maps exercise, I returned yet again to Google Maps and put in an address for my Price family from the 1881 census which was 20 Potters Lane, West Bromwich and up popped a street directory map showing that Potters Lane is still there near the Wednesbury Railway Station. Switching to satellite I was able to zoom in on No 20 but it is no longer a residential area and there seems to be a big factory on the site now which was a bit disappointing.

I then tried an address from a 1915 letter to my great grandfather Herbert White from his older brother Robert advising him of the death of his mother. Robert was living at 10 Polden Road, Salisbury in Wiltshire. The street map shows me where it is in Salisbury but it is the satellite image that is fascinating. Zooming in I can see that the terrace house is still there (and it looks like it could be the same building that might have been there in 1915). I can even move the image so that I can see up and down the street and across the road. It is almost as good as being there in person.

My great great grandmother had been buried in All Saints Church Farley so I then looked for the Church and Farley, West Dean and East Grimstead and found myself being able to tour around these villages and to see what they still look like today. Makes me want to visit in person more than ever.

I am now slowly making my way through all the various street addresses I have for my families and looking them up. Armchair travel with a real purpose!

Google Maps is not the only online mapping resource and in Australia I like using State Library of Victoria’s Melbourne Metropolitan Board  of Waterworks (MMBW) some of which have been digitised and are available online free. The Library has done a step by step guide for users. They show details of every building, including garden layouts and ownership boundaries; and environmental features such as fences, drainage, bridges, parks, municipal boundaries and other prominent landmarks as they existed at the time each plan was produced. A wonderful resource for anyone with Melbourne ancestors.

The Melbourne sewerage plans from the 1890s to the 1950s cover the following areas:

  • Melbourne CBD
  • Kensington
  • Richmond
  • Collingwood
  • Fitzroy
  • Port Melbourne
  • South Melbourne
  • St Kilda
  • Williamstown
  • Footscray

The National Library of Australia has an ongoing program to digitise maps in its collection and there is a listing of map collections digitised to date.  Some of my favourites include the Rail and Road Maps of Australia.

Quite a few of the local councils in Australia have been putting cemetery databases online and the Brisbane City Council’s Grave Location Search goes even further showing you exactly where in the cemetery a grave can be found. You can print out the map and go to that section of the cemetery and find the grave you are after.

These are just a few examples that I use in my own research. There are lots more so check out what is available in your area.  Now back to my Google Map trawling!

52 weeks to Better Genealogy – Challenge 6 Online databases

March 16th, 2010

Challenge 6 in the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy challenge is about using online databases at your local library. I never seem to get time to go to the library much less spend time there doing research. The best time of the day for me to research is between 4-6am and libraries aren’t open then. At that time of day, the family is still asleep, the house is quiet, I can simply please myself, so it is the perfect opportunity for a little research.

That is why I like the ability to search library online databases at home whenever I want. I have both a State Library Victoria (SLV) and a National Library of Australia (NLA) membership card which allows me to access most of their subscription online databases at home. There are some that I can’t access but overall this is a fantastic free service.

Some of my favourite databases from State Library Victoria are:

19th Century British Library Newspapers – contains 48 British metropolitan and regional newspapers published between 1800 and 1900.

Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 – complete content of the London Times, fully searchable and viewable as images.

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers 1801-2003/4 – contains fully searchable, full-text British Parliamentary Papers from 1801 to 2003/04 sessions.

Informit Complete – indexes Australian magazines, journals and newspapers on a wide range of topics.

EBSCO Historical Abstracts – annotated bibliography of the history of the world, excluding the United States and Canada from 1450 to the present.

Oxford Reference Online Premium – History – extensive collection of online encyclopaedias and dictionaries covering various periods of history.

American National Biography Online – profiles of more than 18,000 men and women from all walks of American life, from the well-known to the infamous to the obscure.

Biography Resource Centre – information on famous figures from around the world and throughout history.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – an illustrated collection of more than 55,000 biographies of people from around the world who shaped the history of the United Kingdom, from earliest times to the year 2002.

The above are just some of the available titles from the Newspapers, Genealogy and History sections but there are a lot more available in other categories so have a look and see what interests you. To be able to access them at home you have to be a resident of Victoria, Australia.

The National Library of Australia has a similar E-Resources section and the criteria for access is that you live within Australia. I have only recently applied for my NLA access card because I was content with the SLV card and there are only so many hours in a day. While recently up in Darwin giving my Online Trends in Family History talk, I realised I should have one too and it arrived in the mail this week.

There are 150 online genealogy E-Resources listed in the NLA collection and some of these are free to view on the web, some only available with the access card and some only available onsite, similar to SLV. When browsing the list I was surprised to see some free sites that I wasn’t even aware of so that in itself was a plus. The genealogy list is subdivided into Australian states, New Zealand and overseas.

There are a range of other categories and sub-categories and I plan to explore in the first instance the 23 titles listed under Biography, 50 under History, 10 under Military History, 14 under Geography and Mapping, and this is just a sample of my interests.

Visiting a local library and using online databases is very worthwhile but if, like me, you find it hard to get there during normal opening hours, apply for a free online library card from your State Library and/or the National Library of Australia. My research has benefited significantly just by using the Times at home and having the ability to search it thoroughly without worrying that someone else wants to use the computer or finding that critical bit of information just as the library is closing!  The only downside is that not everything is online (and we should always remember that) and not having enough time in the day to look at all these fantastic resources online.

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!

Recording Your Own Life

January 23rd, 2010

I have spent this week thinking about my own life. Why? I am enrolled in the 52 weeks to Better Genealogy program and week 3 is reflecting on our own lives and how we have recorded them. We document our ancestors and living family members but do we take the time to record our own lives.

My answer is both yes and no. As an archivist I have always been aware of the need for recordkeeping and one of my almost life long habits has been to keep a record of things I have done. I have kept newspaper cuttings that I have appeared in or have been about me, certificates of courses I have done, thank you letters, invitations and flyers to events that I have spoken at, conference programs and so on.

I started this habit with my first ever photo in a newspaper – the South Burnett Times 7 July 1982. Anyone looking at the photo today would not recognise me as a very skinny size 10 with a Mia Farrow haircut. I  had given a talk to the South Burnett Genealogical Club and the event had been of interest to the local newspaper. Flicking through to 1986 there is yet another hairstyle and now I am into my ‘big glasses’ phase speaking in Maryborough. Still with the glasses and a hairstyle very close to what I have now is a photo of me in the Courier Mail in 1989 with an array of blood stained murder weapons. That year was the 30th anniversary of the Queensland State Archives and I organised the exhibition hence the weaponry which the journalist was fascinated with.

In 1993 I gave a talk on the sinking of the hospital ship Centaur at the 50th anniversary seminar at the State Library of Queensland. For those who may have missed it, the wreck of the Centaur was recently found and I followed the search with great interest as I had met so many people connected with  it in 1993.

I seem to have kept the same ‘look’ until about 2001 when I ditched the big glasses for the contact lens and a photo of me at a labour conference in Canberra has me very young and very blonde. I forgot to mention that my hair colour varies from red to blonde and all shades in between!

I have eleven of these binders. I don’t want to bore you with the minutiae of my life so I will fast forward to 2009 and my farewell photo in PROV’s e-newsletter rEsearch which has me looking very much as I do today (which is a bit different from my web photo – now back to blonde).

It is hard to believe that these eleven binders represent my life in the public eye, someone who has been advocating family history in libraries and archives since 1981. It is now 29 years since I left my boring government job of  7 years to work in the John Oxley Library in Brisbane. Every talk, seminar, conference and so on is in those binders.

I wonder what will happen to them when I am gone?

At the beginning of this blog I said both yes and no. The above indicates that I have documented at least one aspect of my life. Also this week and for other reasons, I have been going through my photographs and here I am definitely not well documented as I am usually behind the camera. How true is this for others?

I have been putting together an album of photos for my partner to document our participation in the 200th anniversary celebrations in 2007 of the closing of the First Settlement of Norfolk Island. His ancestors Samuel Pyers and Sarah Johnson were both convicts who married on Norfolk and started to raise their family there before the decision was made to close the penal settlement down and move everyone to Tasmania.

I have been using Family Photo Book to give my compilation of photos more of a professional look. I have selected photos with Max in them and told the story of the re-enactment so that the album will become a family record for future generations. When our grandkids are older, I can imagine him sitting down and saying ‘I remember when …..’ and showing them the photos of our trip to Norfolk Island. There are a few photos of me taken by others or group photos but not many and I struggled to find suitable ones to include in the album.

If I think about the photos we took at Christmas I again have to admit I am missing in action. You would not even know I was there! Same with my mother’s 75th birthday party last year. Did I even attend? Obviously this is one area of my family history I can improve but, and there is always a but, I don’t like my photo being taken which is why I always have a camera in my hand. This may even be why I started keeping the newspaper clippings and other memorabilia as a way of documenting what I have looked like over the years!

In all seriousness, family historians should also document their own life stories to hand down to future generations. Although it may sound a bit gruesome, perhaps we should even think about writing our own obituary. What would we want people to say about us after we are gone?

As I said in the beginning, this week has been spent reflecting on how I record my own life and what records I will leave behind about me. I have lots about my public life but very little about me on a personal level – I have thrown out my teenage diaries, my old love letters and old photos. I now suspect that I will have to spend a bit of time ‘salvaging’ my personal life and capturing my own memories in the absence of records.

Challenge No 3 was indeed challenging – I only hope that future weeks don’t require such soul searching.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – My Progress So Far!

January 15th, 2010

I have accepted a challenge from Genea-Bloggers to participate in a 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy workshop. We are at the end of Week 2 and I honestly don’t know where the last two weeks went. I have done both challenges and as they are related I thought I would combine them into a single blog report.

One of the nice things about the workshop is that it is supposed to be fun and you don’t have to do it every week. I am going to try and keep up the weekly pace as I am sure that I will learn new things along the way. It will also provide me with blog ideas if I have nothing else to ramble about.

The first challenge was to visit my local library and to check out the genealogy section and see what is there. Week 2 was another visit this time looking at the local history collection or archives/special collections if relevant.

Visiting my local library (Heaths Road branch of the Wyndham City Council Library) is not a hardship as it is a pleasant walk of 20 minutes across parkland to Werribee Plaza. The Library has a website with an online catalogue so I can do some searching before visiting if I want. I can also extend my loans online if I can’t get them back by the due date which is also handy.

The Heaths Road Library has a dedicated Family History and Local Studies Room and a Genealogy Librarian and they also provide training courses from time to time. The Genealogy Collection has over 280 genealogy books, plus 7 genealogy magazines, microfiche and microfilm and not just for Victoria. There is also interstate and overseas material.

They even hire out Victorian and New South Wales BDMs, Victorian Directories pre 1900, Victorian Electoral Rolls and if you don’t have a microfiche reader, you can borrow one of them too! I wonder how many local libraries offer that type of assistance? Bookings are necessary and the loans are charged on a 24 hour basis with varying costs depending on what you want to borrow. For example if I want the Victorian BDMs and the microfiche reader then it costs $8.75 for a 24 hour period and this is cheaper than a train ticket to Melbourne CBD to visit the State Library of Victoria or the Genealogical Society of Victoria. Also saves me 2 hours of travelling time. How good is that?

They also have a range of CD ROMs, newspapers on microfilm, shipping records, cemetery records and a whole range of miscellaneous records for Victoria. More details can be found in the Genealogy Collection section of the website and also what is held for interstate and overseas. Pity that someone can’t spell ‘genealogy’ and the mistake has been cut and pasted many times over!

Also handy is A Guide to Family History Sources at the Wyndham Library Service and on the day I visited there were copies available to take home. It is a 24 page guide listing microform records and giving basic information on the Library’s genealogy services.

The Family History and Local Studies Room has a wide range of books, some of which cannot be borrowed and must be used there. Others can be borrowed for the usual 4 week loan. There are a number of tables, chairs and a computer for using CD ROMs and the microform reader. The Room could accommodate perhaps 8-10 people researching at any one time although I have never seen more than 4 people there at the times I have visited. Still better than travelling into Melbourne.

The Library is also home to the district’s local history collection. The actual museum is in the Werribee CBD (about 15 minutes by car down the road). The library catalogue allows a separate search of just the local history collection and putting in a key word ‘photographs’ brings up 12 titles. Clicking on The Boer War Volunteers title brings up 11 digitised images of men from the area who enlisted.

Not all the digitised photographs are listed under the category ‘photographs’ which is a bit misleading. I found more when looking for my suburb name of Hoppers Crossing and more when I looked for Werribee South. So always think laterally when using online databases and come at your topic from a number of different angles.

The Library is also a member of Picture Victoria and Picture Australia so photographs can be found there too.

The Local History Database also has information on agriculture, businesses and shops, pioneer families, sports, schools,churches, transport, historic buildings and sites. It is an ongoing project and more information is added from time to time and at present it has maps, posters and photographs included.

I don’t have any family interests in Wyndham so I mainly use the Genealogy section of the Family History and Local Studies Room. I also make use of the Library’s wider collection including Australian history, biographies, reference works and what ever other area of interest pops up in my family history.

Your local library is definitely worth visiting and if you haven’t been there recently, then it’s time to have another look and make use of those handy resources. Good luck!