Family matters

Researching your multicultural ancestors – new research guide

To coincide with the theme of this year’s Family History Feast, we have released a new Family History research guide called Researching your multicultural ancestors.

Read the rest of this entry »

Researching ancestors in the performing arts

Whether your ancestor was an actor, circus performer, magician or opera singer, the State Library holds a number of resources that can help you research your performing ancestors in Australia.

To get started, try searching for the name (or stage name) of your performing ancestor in our online catalogue. You may discover pictures, photographs, posters, biographies, theatre programmes or other interesting items.

We also hold many books that may assist you with your research. The Dictionary of the Australian theatre 1788-1914  and The dictionary of performing arts in Australia are two such examples. For those with opera singers in the family, Bravo! two hundred years of opera in Australia may also be worth a look. If your ancestors were circus performers, you may wish to try the Genealogical database of Australia’s travelling showpeople CDROM, which is available to search in our Family History & Newspaper Room.  Read the rest of this entry »

How many games did you play again?

I’m very pleased to welcome our September guest blogger and fellow librarian, David Flegg. David is an ex AFL umpire and one of the Library’s resident sporting gurus. Welcome David!

Achieving success at the elite level of sport has been an important part of Australian life for much of its modern history. In Victoria one of the highest achievements is to have played senior football in the Victorian Football League (VFL) or its direct descendent the Australian Football League (AFL). The rabid, parochial support the games engenders makes it a media
favourite. Read the rest of this entry »

Records of non-British migrants in the Archives

Picking up where I left off last week, the next two Family History Feast speakers were Liz Denny from the Public Record Office Victoria and Andrew Griffin from the National Archives of Australia.

Liz’s presentation ‘Records of Chinese on the Ballarat goldfields’ was a fascinating look at records of Chinese individuals on the Victorian goldfields. Her talk focused mainly on records from the Ballarat Archives Centre, who hold some truly unique and sometimes unusual records (such as an underpants bill for a former Mayoress of Ballarat).

The three types of records she highlighted were Government documents in Chinese, Government documents about Chinese people and documents and material written by members of the Chinese community in the goldfields (in both Chinese and English).

One interesting set of records mentioned were the Mining Surveyors’s Survey Field Books, Ballarat Mining Division (Series VPRS 3688). These records show a snapshot of what was happening in Ballarat in that particular time. Liz showed a group of Chinese owned buildings, well documented on the survey.

She also mentioned other collections held at the Public Record Office Victoria. For example will and probate and immigration records (pre 1924).

Newspapers also show an interesting record of Chinese life in Ballarat. Liz showed an example of The English Chinese Advertiser, of which four issues are held at the Ballarat Library.  Two issues are also held at the State Library.

View in Chinese Camp, Ballarat

View in Chinese Camp, Ballarat / Creator: John Henry Harvey
Date: ca. 1875-ca. 1938
Accession no: H92.150/413

Following on after the lunch break was Andrew Griffin’s presentation ‘From monoculture to multiculture: locating information about non-British people in the records of the National Archives of Australia’.

Andrew started his talk by looking at the history of non-British migrants in Australia. He highlighted some of the lesser known groups such as the first Muslims who arrived in the 19th Century to tend the Camel trains, as well as Albanian and Malay migrants. He then moved on to specific records held at the National Archives. At the Macro level you will find records about Government policy towards non -British migrants. At a personal level you will find records relating to individuals. The types of records held include:

  • passenger lists
  • documents about travelling to Australia
  • alien registration information
  • Australian citizenship paperwork
  • information about government policy

Andrew also introduced us to the Archives’ photographic website Destination Australia. The Destination Australia website includes more than 25,000 images of migrants during Australia’s post-war immigration boom. You can tag photographs with people you know, add stories or comments.

And that sums up the two talks from the Archives. Stay tuned for my remaining two Family History Feast blog posts. Coming soon.

Lost in translation: anecdotes of family history research in Africa, Turkey and Sicily

The second presenter of Family History Feast was Diana Hookham, with her talk
‘Lost in translation: anecdotes of family history research in Africa, Turkey and Sicily’.

Diana’s husband comes from a truly multicultural family. He was born in Sudan, his parents were born in Cairo and the family is of Armenian descent. She has spent many years researching his family tree and her talk focused on her and her husband’s family history journey. Their quest has so far taken them to Cairo, Italy and Turkey. They have experienced good and bad luck and have found an incredible amount on some lines and very little on others. Despite the varied results, the quest for information was an incredible experience in itself and well worth pursuing.

The journey was not always easy. Roadblocks included issues with security and trust. They were treated with suspicion by many priests and officials and in a lot of cases needed an introduction to obtain records. This they didn’t always have. Language was also a problem and they were required to organise translators.

There were also incredible moments. One small village in Italy, who rarely receive tourists, were incredibly accommodating. The local police officer, the mayor and the town’s librarian all got involved with their quest to find information.

Diana’s husband also visited the Cairo house that his grandparents had lived in. With a little hesitation, he knocked on the door and found a distant relative living there! He received a tour of the house, met a new relative and was able to hear stories about his grandparents.

Street in Cairo

[Street in Cairo]
Creator: T. P. Bennett photographer
Date: 1915
Accession no: H83.103/


With her vast experience Diana also has some great tips for those researching overseas ancestors.

First of all, talk to relatives! Diana acquired a great deal of information from documents held by her in-laws. This included copies of certificates which gave vital clues like the place and date of birth of her husband’s grandparents.

Her next tip was to obtain Australian records before pursuing overseas collections. One of the tricky things about overseas research is often you need to know more than just the country or region that a person was born in. In a lot cases you will need to know what village they came from. Documents in Australia may give you this information (for example, immigration and citizenship records from the National Archives of Australia). These records are often full of rich information which can help you trace the person back to their country of origin.

Another great piece of advice was to write up your research before you forget! Diana used the plane trip on her journey home to get a start on this.

As with all family history research, the quest is ongoing. Who knows what Diana and her husband will find in the future.

More than suitcases: collecting migrant stories at Museum Victoria

Kicking the ball off rolling in this year’s Family History Feast was Dr Moya McFadzean’s (Museum Victoria) presentation ‘More than suitcases: collecting migrant stories at Museum Victoria’ and what a great presentation to start with.

In 1990 the Museum’s migration collection began. Following on from this the Immigration Museum was established in 1998. The collection covers the early years of migration to the contemporary day. One constant, says Moya are our family narratives. And while archives can help you trace documents, the Museum can show us objects and the personal stories surrounding them.

Museum Victoria has a fantastic collection of objects, such as suitcases/luggage, photographs, passports, shipping ephemera, baggage labels, diaries and much more.
However, objects can only speak through the people who owned them. It is the personal stories surrounding these objects which are important. An example of this can be seen in a red vinyl suitcase in their collection. This suitcase belonged to Cuc Lam, a Vietnamese refugee who sold her wedding ring in order to buy the case. She brought it with her to Australia, carrying within it the few possessions she had. She was determined not to enter Australia empty handed.

The Museum have many other objects like this and where possible have collected the personal stories behind them. Many digitised items from their Migration and Cultural Diversity Collection are available to search on their website.

Once again, a great start to this year’s Family History Feast! Stay tuned over the next week, as I blog about the other excellent presentations.

Dy Moya FHF

Family History Feast 2014 is here

Good morning all!

Today is Family History Feast day and we have a great program lined up for you. This year’s event includes presentations by the State Library, Public Record Office Victoria (PROV), National Archives of Australia (NAA), Museum Victoria  as well as special guest speakers Diana Hookham and Jenny Harkness.

This year’s theme is multicultural family history and focuses on non British research. With talks on German research, Chinese on the goldfields, migrant stories and many more, this year’s Feast promises to be a fun filled day of family history excitement.

Stay tuned as I blog about the sessions in the coming days.

For those of you not able to attend, don’t despair! The event will be podcast and made available on our website at a later stage.

Hope to see you there!

[Stage coach laden with luggage and many Chinese people en rout to the gold fields] [picture] [ca. 1900-ca. 1920]

[Stage coach laden with luggage and many Chinese people en rout to the gold fields]
[ca. 1900-ca. 1920]/ Accession no: H35244


National Family History Month 2014

Family matters is pleased to welcome our special guest blogger for August, Shauna Hicks, national coordinator of National Family History Month.

August is National Family History Month in Australia which is an initiative
of AFFHO, the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations. It
started as a week in 2006 and from 2013 it has been the whole of August.
This year the major sponsors are, FamilySearch, MyHeritage,
AFFHO and the National Archives of Australia is again hosting the launch,
something they have done since 2006. This year the launch is in Canberra.

There are hundreds of events across Australia. The NFHM web calendar is
divided up into the individual States and Territories then events are listed
in postcode order then date order within postcodes. So remember to check
surrounding postcodes as it might be an easy drive to an event in a
neighbouring suburb. Some events may even be worth travelling some distance
to attend.

For the first time there is an Online Events category for those people who
do not have events in their area or cannot get to them due to work hours,
lack of transport and so on. There are webinars, google hangouts and other
activities to do at home.

It is good to see that State Library of Victoria is continuing the tradition of Family History Feast and the 2014 program with its multicultural theme looks really exciting. Although I do not live in Melbourne anymore I will still be able to hear the sessions when the Library puts the podcasts online. I also like the fact that I can go back and listen to earlier years too.

As well as the major NFHM sponsors mentioned above, there are prize sponsors with
a giveaway prize draw for genealogy and family history societies and
individuals. Instructions on how to enter the prize giveaway and terms and
conditions can be found on the NFHM home page and a list of prize sponsors
and the prizes are on the NFHM sponsors page.

The NFHM Facebook page will be used to keep people informed of any new
events or changes and I will also be doing updates in my Diary
of an Australian Genealogist blog. Others will also be tweeting (hash tag
#NFHM2014), using Facebook, Google +, blog posts and other social media to
highlight events across Australia.

So please join me in celebrating genealogy and family history throughout August.

Shauna Hicks, national coordinator on behalf of AFFHO

Family History Feast 2014 bookings open Monday 14 July!!

Bookings for the annual Family History Feast event hosted by the State Library of Victoria open on Monday 14 July 2014.

The eleventh Family History Feast  will be held at the Library on Monday 25 August 2014 during National Family History Month. The theme for this year is “multicultural genealogy”.

The Feast is a  day of free information sessions for family history researchers including the annual Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO) Don Grant Memorial Lecture.  This year the Lecture will be given by Jenny Harkness on ‘FamilySearch : a world of family history possibilities”.

A copy of the full program and booking details can be found on the Library website.    Bookings are essential.  If you are unable to attend you can always enjoy podcasts and videocasts of the Feast later through the Audio & video section of the Library website.


Savill Index of The Advertiser Funeral Notices 1971 – 1990 and 1997 – 2013

The State Library of South Australia has recently published on their website the Savill Index of The Advertiser Funeral Notices covering 1971 -1990 and then from 1997 to 2013.

From January 2001 Mr Gerald Savill began extracting and indexing funeral notices that were published in Adelaide’s major daily newspaper The Advertiser. In total he spent more than 300 days at the State Library of South Australia searching newspaper microfilms. The results of his work are now available online on the Library website as the Savill Index of The Advertiser Funeral Notices.  The Index is arranged alphabetically by surname, given name and on occasion given maiden name or nicknames.

I searched the Index for the funeral notice of my Uncle Donald (Don) Burrows and very quickly located the information below saving me much time searching The Advertiser films.

                          Burrows Donald Michael 2003-07-05

The Savill Index is a welcome addition to South Australian family history resources!