Using the State Library of Victoria From Afar!

October 2nd, 2013

Back in September I was asked to do a guest blog for Family Matters, the genealogy blog of the State Library of Victoria. I’m including it on my website for those who might not have seen the Library’s blog.

When I left Victoria last year for sunny Queensland, one of the places I was going to miss was the State Library of Victoria which has a great genealogy collection. While I can’t personally visit these days, I can still do so online and it’s surprising how much genealogy information the Library has online. Plus there are digitised images, maps and books. This blog will explore some of these great resources.

On the home page under Explore there is a link to Family History Resources which is a great starting place with links to specific genealogy resources. If you can’t attend an event in person, the Library often records the talk and these are available under the watch and listen link. Of particular genealogy interest are the annual Family History Feast sessions which include the Don Grant lectures – remember to check under both the audio and video tabs. One of my favourites is Geoffrey Blainey talking about family history which was a Don Grant lecture in 2010, it doesn’t seem that long ago!

Like other libraries and archives, State Library of Victoria has a range of research guides providing easy access into the collections. Topics include Aboriginal people and family history; Adoption and Forgotten Australians; Australian Colonial Forces and family history; Early Australian census records; Gold miners and mining; Key Victorian family history resources; Maps for family history; Performance in Victoria; Picture research; Publish your family history; Researching your overseas ancestors; ships and shipping; Tracing a person in Australia; Victorian immigration and emigration; What happened when and World War One: Researching soldiers. As you can see, lots of topics on all aspects of family history to follow up.

From the Family History Resources page there is a link to the very useful Caring for family history documents section with information on copying originals, storing documents and when to seek advice from a conservator.

On the Home Page under the Collections tab, there is a link to the Library’s digitised collections and as at 2012, they have digitised 43% of the Library’s unique Victorian material comprising 49,741 heritage items and 233,098 Victorian items all online and free. There are a range of interesting resources collectively grouped together as the Port Phillip papers and the other extremely useful resource is the Victorian historical publications digitisation project. Under this project you can find the digitised journal of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria from 1911 onwards amongst other publications.

Searching in the Library’s online catalogue will also reveal all kinds of information available online but I will mention just two. First is the Victorian Government Gazette 1851-1986 which is a vast treasure trove of information and the second is the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) detail plans which are fantastic for locating individual places in Melbourne.

As the previous paragraphs show, the State Library of Victoria has an incredible amount of material available online for free. Anyone with Victorian ancestors should take the time to explore the website, online catalogue and research guides to see what information they can locate on their Victorian families and the communities in which they lived.





Ongoing Value of Genealogy Conference Papers

October 5th, 2011

In my ‘spare’ time, I have been compiling a list of all the conference papers presented at VAFHO (Victorian Association of Family History Organisations) conferences between 1995 and 2010. Conferences are usually held every two years but there are exceptions especially if the AFFHO (Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations) Congress is being held the same year.

I’m happy to say that I have finally completed the listing. Over the last few years I have managed to pick up copies of all of the proceedings except for two conferences. I had to borrow copies of those so that I could look at the papers as it is not always easy to work out what a paper is about simply from the title.

I finally settled on the following headings: name of paper, presenter, subject, place of conference, year of conference and the conference theme. I then put it all in subject order but I must say the subjects are very broad and I tried not to have too many. Where necessary I did list some papers under two subjects.

Why did I do this? Well I find that conference papers often have information and resources listed in them that are not readily found elsewhere. Of course, some papers do date very quickly but others are still as relevant today as there were when first written. After a conference everyone goes away totally motivated and excited but after a while, the proceedings end up on a bookshelf and may never be looked at again.

I would like to see more use made of these resources hence my listing and placing it online here for everyone to look at. Of course once you see a paper you want to read, you need to then find a copy of the proceedings or arrange for a copy via inter library loan. Ideally it would be good to see the proceedings all digitised and available in a single volume for sale. Or perhaps even online so that the papers can be directly linked to the digital copy.

At the next VAFHO committee meeting I will be reporting on the completion of my listing and raising the issue of how others can also access the articles easily. Either way I’m glad to tick a major item off my to do list! As always, I am happy to receive any feedback.


Family History Feast 2011 review

August 2nd, 2011

This year’s Family History Feast was better than ever for a number of reasons. The day is organised by State Library Victoria (SLV), Public Record Office Victoria (PROV), National Archives of Australia (NAA), Victoria Office and BDMs Victoria and is a free event each year in National Family History Week.

Catching an early train meant that I could have a coffee at Mr Tulk’s (the cafe at SLV) before heading for the registration desk at 9.30am. As usual there is a seminar satchel (a useful NAA cloth bag) with leaflets, flyers, notebooks, pencil, rulers and so on. This year a very handy addition was a PROV USB with most of the presentations included to make note taking easier.

Sue Hamilton, Acting CEO and State Librarian, SLV welcomed everyone and gave a brief update on the Library. The first speaker was Hazel Edwards on Writing a Non Boring Family History and she is an excellent speaker but her session was only 30 minutes, way too short in my opinion. I took the opportunity to buy the revised copy of her book on the same subject during the lunch break.

The next session was Margaret May from BDMs Victoria who gave an update on the Early Church Records project. I always wonder why people do live demonstrations but don’t work out first what they will search on so that it all goes smoothly. Unfortunately some of the searches Margaret did revealed no results which didn’t demonstrate the product to its best advantage. I was also surprised to hear that it still won’t be released until later this year or even early next year, seems like it has been in progress for years.

Sebastian Gurciullo and Ed Story from PROV and NAA then gave a presentation on Koorie Records in Victoria which was very good for anyone tracing Aboriginal families. I have a fairly good background in this area having worked with both PROV and NAA and their Koorie record projects and databases.

During the lunch break the Who Do You Think You Are program with Shane Bourne was shown but I had seen that episode so I took the opportunity to have lunch and catch up with friends. I even found time to do a quick visit to the SLV’s Genealogy Centre to look up some information on New Zealand records.

Mark Brennan from NAA then gave an interesting talk on Conscription and records held by NAA on this topic. It’s amazing what is held and Mark pointed out a number of NAA Fact Sheets which helped identify relevant material.

SLV’s Katie Flack then gave a wide ranging talk on the resources available in the La Trobe collection and it was a good reminder that not everything is online and that there are still useful indexes either in card format or microfiche located near the Information Desk.

The next section was a tribute to Don Grant who died last month. Don had been very influential in Victorian and Australian genealogy circles as well as having been employed at both PROV and SLV. While Shane Carmody from SLV and Pat Eade from the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies (AIGS) read tributes to Don, a succession of family photographs played in the background as we learnt about Don’s life and his passion for genealogy.

The final session of the day was the Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO) annual Don Grant Family History Lecture with Andrew Lemon talking about Storming the Barricades: The Family History Revolution. This was an interesting talk with Andrew bringing together his knowledge of Victorian horse racing and family history in a story about the jockey who rode Briseis to fame as the winner of the Melbourne Cup in 1876. It was an excellent example of how BDM certificates can conflict with each other and how ‘facts’ can be misrepresented and then repeated by others so that the ‘truth’ becomes blurred. I look forward to hearing it again when the podcast is available.

The other talks will also be available as podcasts and the best way to follow what is happening is to check the Genealogy Centre’s blog Family Matters which is also giving updates on each of the presentations. All up it was a great day and I look forward to next year’s Family History Feast. Thanks to all who were involved in organising the event.


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