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.


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