Monday, August 05, 2019

POWs in post war Australia

The next meeting of the Heidelberg Historical Society presents Christina Twomey (Professor of History and Head of the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University) who will present her talk:

The Battle Within- POWs in post war Australia.

During World War Two over 30,000 Australians were captured by enemy forces and became prisoners of war.
Almost 22,000 returned home at the end of the war.  Most studies of POWs end at the point of liberation, but in this talk Christina will focus on what happened to former POWs after the camp gates were thrown open.
The talk will outline why the Government and the community found it difficult to respond to former POWs with empathy and understanding.
This talk is free and will be held at the Uniting Church Community Centre, Seddon Street, Ivanhoe Tuesday 13 August at 8pm.
To read more about Prisoners of War and the Second World War check out this reading list:
Prisoners of War

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Family History Month 2019

Have you uncovered a secret in your family? A convict, a wartime hero or perhaps the immigration of pioneer ancestor who left their birthplace behind for a new life in Australia?

Winter is the perfect time to discover your own unique family story. August is National Family History Month and Yarra Plenty Regional Library is delivering a program of speakers and workshops to help you connect with your past.  From tips for researching, preserving and sharing your family stories to inspiring stories of the past.

The library is a great place to start your research journey with free access to subscription websites such as Ancestry and Find My past and the opportunity to join a genealogy group or get advice from other researchers.

It is important to gather stories from family members, especially from Grandparents, gather family records and identify heritage photos. You will soon be on a path to discover more and with increased digitised and indexed records online, online trees and the DNA revolution there has never been a better time to start your family history journey.

Look for these upcoming events  (note, some events require bookings) and more via National Family History Month

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Preserving Letters

Caring for Family Archives often become the responsibility of the family historian. Personal letters, especially written by hand with first-hand accounts of a life and experiences can invoke a time and place and connect the family history researcher very much to their personal past.
Robert recently inquired at the library about binding his Uncle’s letters which he had recently inherited. We asked him if the letters were in good condition. Potential damage to look out for include: biological infestations, structural damage and adhesive damage and surface damage. Read more about this in this article on Paper Restoration from  If this is the case a professional conservators services may be needed.
I suggested to Robert that in fact binding his letters may not be a good idea. Professional Conservators talk about any treatment to materials should be done so that it can also be undone.
He should digitise his collection and transcribe the letters. Perhaps there is information that would help him understand any heritage photographs that his Uncle may have also left behind.
Each page should be stored in a protective sleeve. These sleeves can then be placed in order in an archive folder with slip case. Use the digital copies as access copies and these can also be freely shared with other family members.
Finally I suggested that Robert attend one of our upcoming events upcoming events at YPRL next month as part of our Family History Month Program.
Preserving your Family  History

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Are you a descendant of an immigrant on the David Clark?

Ship David Clark Caming [sic] into the Harbour of Malta 1820" courtesy of Lance Pymple

The David Clark was the first ship to bring assisted immigrants direct to Port Phillip in October 1839.  All were Scots and many settled in the Kangaroo Ground and Heidelberg districts including the Bell family.
To mark the 180th anniversary, descendants of those passengers are invited to attend a reunion on Sunday 27 October 2019 at Gulf Station, Yarra Glen.
Gulf Station is an historic farm, now managed by the National Trust, once owned by William Bell, who was one of the passengers.
To receive information as plans are confirmed, email Irene at :

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Visiting Public Record Office Victoria

Public Libraries Victoria Local Studies staff recently met at Public Record Office Victoria and were given an update on what’s new at Victoria’s State Archives by Access Service Officers Sarah and Heather.  Their role is to assist researchers in the reading room, the online help desk, answering emails, retrieving records (picking and returning) and monitoring the physical collection, alerting if necessary the conservation team to related issues such as mould in the paper records. They also assist with digital projects.
The permanent records collection is housed at the Victorian Archives Centre, North Melbourne, a building which they share with National Archives of Australia. Open and Closed records are held according to the Public Records Act. Various Places of Deposit (PODs) repositories are also scattered throughout the state including Bendigo, Beechworth, Geelong Library and Heritage Centre and Ballarat. PROV works with government agencies and provides recordkeeping advice, transfer of permanent records and more.
With over 160 volunteers, projects undertaken include indexing, describing records, digitizing and re-housing records. PROV works with the large genealogy giants and FamilySearch which promotes PROV collections on their platforms. FamilySearch have digitized wills and probates up to 1950.  The Koorie Records Unit provides research assistance to Aboriginal people wishing to access records relevant to their personal and community histories.
PROV publish an interesting newsletter, blog posts to their website and also maintain Facebook Twitter, Instagram and Linked In accounts on social media. Users of the collection are encouraged to write up their research to contribute to the Provenance Journal. The website is often the first port of call for visitors and researchers. Topic guides are arranged by subject, replacing the old “Finding guides”. Each topic page includes a search form imbeded on that page for direct access to what is in the collection.
PROV are redesigning their catalogue and have been testing new functionality for searching the PROV collection via a Beta version. Users are encouraged to use this and offer feedback.
The aim is to have less clicks and for a search to be simpler and to integrate series / agencies / functions. More topic pages are also to be developed. A user once signed in will be able to curate their own collections as well as leave comments. Terminology is being updated and there will be permalinks created so that users can bookmark finds and also share on social media.
Some content is digitized and available immediately on the site via an image viewer. There is a plan to be able to download documents as a PDF.
A separate image viewer is being built for users to access born digital material.  Information from the now retired PROV wiki will be linked to relevant information on item pages (such as material relating to the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games).

Thursday, March 07, 2019

An Argument for Audio; The Human Voice in Family History

by Guest blogger Alan Martin. 
Photos, videos, and DNA kits live large in the 2019 family history toolkit. But audio, in all of its 96 to 160 bitrate glory, is making a comeback, and there are three reasons why.
1. Audio Creates a Stronger Personal Connection Than Video or Writing
As I looked back on videos of my family, one thing became crystal clear: their voice was the most meaningful part. I didn’t care so much how they looked or where they were. I didn’t care what they were doing. I cared about what was on their mind. I cared about what they said and how they said it. It occurred to me that the clearest window into their mind and personality was their voice, not their dress, location, or pose.
Hearing someone’s voice makes it feel as if they are right there with you, even when they are gone. The human voice creates a timeless connection that becomes more meaningful than any other medium, once they are gone. Writing misses nuance. Videos land somewhere left or right of the authentic self. I became convinced that the truest picture of a person emerges through audio, and I began capturing my young family’s voice, in audio. I knew that in 40 years, my kids would cherish hearing the most authentic version of themselves. And I believed that when I was gone, they would likewise find meaning in hearing from me, in my voice. In just a few years we have already found meaning in our early audio efforts.
2. Audio is Easier than Writing or Video
Writing is hard. Aside from the physical requirement of typing or handwriting, both of which require precious dexterity that is lost with age, developing proper language structure along the way is a mental barrier. In reality, writing captures only a fraction of what is really on the author’s mind. And it misses, by its format, significant nuance along the way.
Videos have become more accessible and easier to capture, but they remain mentally heavy and awkward. They create an “on-stage” moment that is uncomfortable for most, making it harder to become engaged in personal topics, or to ignore the camera’s watchful eye.
Unlike writing or video, audio plays a quiet but powerful role as it extracts the most authentic version of ourselves with a single touch of a button. Audio has the magical quality of disappearance. While recording, it fades into nothingness in the the background; a feat not possible with camera or pen.
3. Audio is a Lightweight and Preservable Technology
A question that requires constant revisiting when it comes to storing and preserving family history, is format. Audio can be fifty times smaller than video, making it less expensive to store, transport, playback, and back up, forever. When you consider this benefit, which doesn’t demand a trade off in quality, audio deserves to be a leading player in human history preservation.
Thankfully, tools are available to capture family history in audio if we make it a point to use them. Smartphones put an audio recorder in nearly everyone’s hands, which delivers a file that can be shared or uploaded in any number of ways. But wherever you begin, just begin. Once a voice is gone, it can’t be replicated or replaced. Capturing it now will allow a purer form of history to live on for generations.
Alan Martin is one of the creators of Audiobiography, an audio workbook to capture voice and memory.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Inspiring a Genealogy Home Office

New Year holidays often inspire new goals and a sense of starting over. This year, Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying– now also on Netflix has caught second hand and charity stores off guard as a major trend in de-cluttering and tidying consumes many families home for the school holidays.

Having researched my family history for over twenty years (!), I also had occasion to clean out a filing cabinet recently, considered surplus to needs and reviewed documents I have not laid eyes on in nearly two decades. I had already put a lot of information in my database but it was nice to re-read letters and cards from relatives (some since passed away) who had helped me get started when we were all on the cusp of the internet becoming a major part of our communication and research.  My goal will be to digitise a lot of these files but it got me thinking, how my ideal family history office space would look like.
I would need:
A large desk with a PC with a large double screen, a printer and scanner all at the same level.
Good lighting including natural light and window
Plenty of electrical outlets and recharge points for my phone and ipad
External hard drives for backups
A notice board / cork board which can be re-arranged as needed with reminders of upcoming events, my to-do list, inspirational quotes, family group sheets and favourite family photos and library card numbers for remote access to e-resources
Nice stationery and pens for brainstorming ideas and note taking
A tall and wide bookcase for my binders and extensive library
A closed cupboard to store stationery supplies, USB sticks etc., magazine subscriptions and family newsletters
An, "in tray" for currrent data entry into my database or follow up
Favourite photographs of my own family and ancestors framed for the wall
A comfortable chair for the desk and another to sit and read in
A signal booster for my wifi
A fireproof lockable filing cabinet for precious items such as original books written by my relatives over 100 years ago
A large worktable or a folding one with room to put up when needed.
My World Globe on a stand
A "Do Not Disturb" sign for the door.
Now all I need is a spare room.
What would you have in your personal research space?