Family matters

Relocation of the Genealogy & Newspaper Room on Monday 14 and Tuesday 15 April

Please note that the temporary Genealogy and Newspaper Room will close at 6pm on Sunday 13 April. The combined Family History (Genealogy) and Newspaper services will reopen at 10am on Wednesday 16 April in the refurbished room adjacent to the Copy Centre on Level 2.

During the relocation, on Monday 14 and Tuesday 15 April, a limited supply of daily newspapers will be available in the Information Centre, and some newspapers and family history databases will be available on computers throughout the Library. The remainder of the collections currently in the Genealogy and Newspaper Room will be unavailable. Librarians at the Information Desk will be available to assist with newspapers and family history information requests.

We apologise for any inconvenience.

Children take on family history

Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of children in our Genealogy Centre. During school holidays in particular, the centre is buzzing with enthusiastic kids, helping their parents and grandparents research the lives of their ancestors. Family history gives them the opportunity to be a detective for the day, discovering interesting elements of their family’s past as well as having a lot of fun in the process. Read the rest of this entry »

Family History Feast 2014 : a date for your diary!

The 2014 Family History Feast is going to be held on Monday 25 August at the State Library of Victoria  from 10am to 4pm (exact times to be confirmed) during National Family History Month.

The theme of the 2014 event is ‘multicultural’ genealogy. More details about the program will follow. If you would like to get an idea of what you can experience at the Feast if you haven’t attended in the past or you would like to relive one or more of the presentations you can listen to podcasts of the event for the past two years or watch videocasts of some of the Don Grant  Memorial Lectures which have formed part of the event since 2007.  Lecturers include Professor Geoffrey Blainey, Professor Graeme Davison and military historian Lieutenant Colonel Neil Smith AM .

I look forward to meeting you on 25 August!

Using maps for family history research

Family Matters is pleased to welcome our February guest blogger, Blair Gatehouse, Digital Resources Graduate.


While maps may not be the first resource that spring to mind when investigating your family history, the State Library of Victoria holds a wealth of map resources which may be very useful for your research. Late last year we published a  research guide to using maps for family history, which will take you through some of these key resources. Many of the maps in our collection have been digitised, making it easy to conduct your research from home.

Maps can be useful for family history research in a variety of ways. They can provide specific information, such as the location of a town, a block of land your ancestor purchased, or street numbering from a different time period. Additionally, they can add context to your research. By looking at a map of a place your ancestor lived you can form a picture of the life they may have lived. For example, a town plan showing features such as houses, businesses, churches and schools can help you to understand the kinds of jobs and educational opportunities that were available.

The most popular collection of maps among family historians is our collection of township, parish and county plans. These maps recorded information about the transfer of land from the Crown (the Government) to private ownership or lease-hold. They show the boundaries of lands which were occupied, reserved or sold, along with the date of purchase, the acreage and, post 1862, the relevant file number for that selection or sale. Because they feature the names of those who purchased land, they are an invaluable resource for family historians.


Township of Balnarring, “Shoreham”, Parish of Flinders

A great resource for researching your ancestors who lived in Melbourne are the maps produced by the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW). Originally drawn up to aid in the design and development of Melbourne’s sewerage system, they provide a historical record of Melbourne streetscapes and environmental features. These maps can help to identify where people lived, in areas where street names and features may have since changed. They can be especially useful for locating house numbers in streets where the numbering has since changed. Some even include house names.

Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works Detail Plan

Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works detail plan, 1887, Town of Brunswick

In addition to these resources, we have many other Victorian maps that can be of use, including auction plans, street directories and maps of pastoral holdings all of which can assist with your family history research. We also have a strong collection of gazetteers, reference books which provide basic information about locations, such as the coordinates and population size. These can be helpful when searching for towns which have changed name or no longer exist.

Although the Library’s strength is in maps of Victoria, our research guide also suggests resources which may be useful when tracing your overseas ancestors. If your ancestors are from the British Isles, there are a number of excellent map resources freely available online, including the highly detailed ordnance survey maps for England, Scotland and Ireland.

We encourage anyone interested in using maps for family history to have a look at our research guide and explore some of the many resources available.

Blair Gatehouse

Did your ancestor work for the Government?

Many of us have forebears who worked for the Victorian Government in some capacity. This may not always be obvious though, as records like electoral rolls, directories and birth, death and marriage certificates often list an occupation but don’t always include the employer. Have a think about the type of work your ancestor did – do you think they could have been attached to a Government department? Read the rest of this entry »

Newspaper and Family History room changes January to April 2014


The former State Library of Victoria Newspaper Reading Room is currently being refurbished and will reopen in April as the combined home of the Family History and Newspaper services.


Until April both services will continue to operate from the current location on Level 2 (ground floor) near the main entrance to the Information Centre.


We will aim to minimise any service disruptions.


Digitised Australian military records

A number of ongoing digitisation projects and website developments by Australian and New Zealand archive agencies means that family historians will now have greater access to the military records of their ancestors. Here are just a few of the latest developments.

Read the rest of this entry »

SA postal directories going online

For those of you like me researching South Australian family history you will be pleased to know that the State Library of South Australia is gradually making most of  the South Australian postal directories available online from 1864 to 1973 when publication ceased.

Directories were commercial publications and accuracy of the information contained in them does vary however they can be a great way of tracing an individual’s movements. Usually only the head of the household is included and initials rather than full first names.

Knowing that my grandmother Ann Marie Burrows was living at the Dover Castle Hotel in the 1930s period I searched the digitised directory online for 1933 and located three references to her at the Dover Castle 47-49 Archer Street, North Adelaide. Each directory has to be searched individually. Once located I was able to enlarge the pages as in the link below.

 The  State Library of South Australia has so far completed to 1959 (1915, 1916, 1919, 1922,1925, 1932, 1934, 1937, 1938 and 1960-1973 are currently unavailable).

Victorian will and probate index updated

Good news from the Public Record Office Victoria – they’ve updated their online will and probate index!

You can now search for will and probate records from 1841 – 2007. Most records up to 1925 have been digitised and can be accessed immediately. Later records will need to be viewed in their North Melbourne Reading Room (pre-order required).

The will and probate records are fantastic family history documents. They can tell you the names of beneficiaries (often next of kin), addresses, occupations, dates of death, property owned and more. Want an example? Check out the will and probate records for Caroline Pohl (also known as Madame Brussels). To access her records click on the files listed under ‘View_order_record’.

Happy searching all!

Occupational sources for Family Historians

Researching the occupations of your ancestors can be a great way to flesh out their lives, to demonstrate their social status and possibly to explain why they migrated around the country or overseas. Read the rest of this entry »