Monday, December 24, 2018

Managing your Personal Digital Archive

Summer holidays are often a time for people to delve into their family history and of course it is a great opportunity to catch up with family, share memories and family stories. Gathering oral history and records around the home are among the first steps to inform your research journey.  For others who have been on this road for some time it is a time to devote to organising much of your research and this may mean acquiring a software program to create a master file of your information.
Increasingly our information is digital, in fact we are even encouraged to scan our paper records, especially photographs and important certificates and documents in order to preserve the original and for easy sharing with others.   It is also important to actively manage our digital files, and more so for formats such as VHS videos which are increasingly becoming fragile and inaccessible due to deterioration and lack of access to suitable players etc.
NSLA (National and State Libraries Australia) have produced a Personal Digital Archive Toolkit which provides information on how to understand your digital treasures and steps to identify what you want to save and what is important to you, organising the content and saving copies in different locations. Visit the Personal Digital Archive Toolkit for more information.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Newspapers and Family History @SLV

Recently I met with Public Libraries Victoria Local Studies colleagues to tour the new Newspapers and Family History Reading Rooms space at the State Library Victoria.  The 2020 Redevelopment project will result in revitalised spaces including a new gallery space. Entering via the new Russell Street entrance our guide informed us that only one third of the library is currently open. Since that tour the La Trobe Reading Room and dome galleries have been opened after being closed for construction works.
The Newspapers and Family History Reading Rooms are easily located in the ground floor and staff note it is a quieter space than previously.  Library visitors can easily access Australia’s major daily newspapers and some international papers where they are kept on open access for three months. Older newspapers are available either on microfilm or in hardcopy.  Researchers are still encouraged to join the library but cards are no longer issued. Researchers need to keep track of their unique barcode number instead.
A genealogy collection invites people to browse as it is arranged by location, and even more specifically in some cases, such as counties for the United Kingdom. Staff are keen to collect British and Non-British items often published by family history Societies to boost the collection. A recent effort has been made to focus on resources for genealogy and children. The Australian collection focuses on resources for each state as well as theme based such as occupations. Researchers need to be aware of course that they have the whole State Library collection at their disposal and subject needs may be reflected in other parts of the collection. Staff are on hand to direct researchers. Newspapers on microfilm fill a number of white cabinets which are arranged in alphabetical order by place name. (Check first that the newspaper and time period that you are after may be accessible via Trove).
A card index to local newspaper is available (some references here have also been added to the Australiana Index . The two most comprehensive card indexes in the room are Herald, (Melbourne), Jan. 1926 - 12 Nov. 1970 and Sun, (Melbourne), Jan. 1929 - 12 Nov. 1970.
A page about the indexes is included on the How to find things in newspapers research guide . The SLV’s Online index to published sources of information about people, places, organisations and events in Victoria.
Staff are finding a big part of their jobs is to assist patrons find living people. Popular resources include passenger lists, UK census, IGI (International Genealogical Index), cemetery records, probate records, convict records and phone and post office directories. Electoral Rolls for Victoria and some other states are available to 2008. A microfiche collection also fills in gaps from information available online.
Selected issues for Sands and McDougall directories of Victoria have been digitised and are accessible via the SLV website
The space includes a number of computers which retain older operating systems so that some CD Rom resources such as the Digger format indexes can still be accessed.
There is much to explore via the SLV website and even more so if you are onsite. From the home page hover over the tab “Search and discover” – then specifically “for family historians”. Links include recommended resources and family history research guides. Some resources can be accessed at home with the SLV library card (or barcode). Guides provide introduction to topics and often include links to other agencies, archives and libraries that have collections. Feedback is welcome.
If you would like to check out the space yourself and be inspired to start (or continue) your family history research book yourself into an introductory tour.  Details here

Monday, October 29, 2018

Book Review: Famous Family Trees

Famous Family Trees : explore 25 family trees from history written by Jari Mouge and illustrated by Vivien Mildenburger has recently been added to the junior collection at Yarra Plenty Regional Library.

"Family History is also world history. It tells of connections and beginnings" states the introduction to this lavishly and finely illustrated book in watercolours.  Famous names are highlighted with a brief history on the left hand side of the page with an abbreviated family tree with portraits on the facing side.
Although published as a children's book this would also be of interest to any budding historian or adult. The book however is marred by the fancy font and very small and detailed captions associated with the actual family trees.  The brief biographies given would probably satisfy the junior reader more so than the complexity of the family tree and I doubt would really hold their attention.
Most Australian children, I suspect will not have heard of some of the "famous" names.  (I had not heard of Desiree Clary or Maria Tallchief before).  That said a good spread of men and women from a variety of multicultural backgrounds and periods in history are represented including Ned Kelly.
This book could be shared between generations and used to start conversations about a child's own family history and to explore "connections and beginnings".

Monday, September 10, 2018


The following is a guest blog post from Tammy Eledge
Heraldry is the science, art and system by which coats of arms and other armorial bearings and symbols are employed to distinguish individuals, armies, institutions and corporations. Coats of Arms and Armorial bearings carry symbols which originated as identification devices on flags and shields.
Forms of heraldic display appeared in England during the reign of Henry I (1068-1135) which was right after the Norman Conquest of 1066. During this time there were many feuds and wars that made it necessary to be able to identify a person or group on the battlefields. Illustrations of early heraldry started to appear to represent these new powers. A manuscript from this period shows a shield with upraised swords with a bear surrounded by geometric and angular patterns demonstrating a powerful stand against authority.
Shortly after this time male members of nobility of European countries started putting symbols on their shields that were known as “charges" which identified their families. They also put these symbols on their amour, seals and banners. Images and paintings began to show Knights with their symbols and so these became a familiar sight. This was now the beginning of a new language and becoming a way to identify families and individuals. These beginnings shaped the way we now know as the art and form of heraldry.
Heralds became the experts at identifying knights by their arms since that was part of the heralds job as a tournament official. Every knight in the tournament had a different coat of arms. The herald then began recording the arms they developed as an armorial reference. Since the heralds were familiar with all the arms the knights carried the heralds were consulted by new knights assuming arms. The heralds could tell the knights if the arms they designed conflicted with arms that had already been established.
Heralds were a loud and boisterous bunch. They came from the same group of people that were minstrels who specialized in telling epic narrative poems about deeds and actions that were accomplished. These men were hired to go along on the military campaigns to keep the troops spirits up. 
By the 13th century heralds were beginning to make their move away from minstrels and into a rank of their own. The heralds were not only announcers for the tournaments, keepers of the coat of arms, messengers and ambassadors, they had a kind of diplomatic immunity since the herald served the general cause of chivalry, as to a specific person. They were were making a name for themselves in developing the rolls that held the coat of arms, blazons, and the jargon that was associated with them. There were basically two types of rolls, the first being the occasional roll that record the knights presence at a battle or tournament and the second the recording of knights ordinaries and armorials. They were blazoned in a way that we would recognize today.
By the 14th century the heralds were now members of the chivalrous society and were highly respected. Kings and families of nobility were hiring heralds on a permanent basis. This century was where the heralds official titles were being formed. If they worked for the King the were referred to as a kings of arms. If they were kings of arms they were considered experts on the coats of arms in use within that specific region that was called a march (which later became a Lyon in Scotland and an Ulster in Ireland). The custom of hiring a herald spanned all the way from Kings to common mercenary captains because of their usefulness. He was given diplomatic immunity and he learned martial law and could identify troops by number and nature. The herald had made themselves indispensable to all ranks of society.
The royal heralds duties had expanded into assigning coats of arms to persons that were new to nobility. They tracked the nobles ancestries and descendants of the old families. They sometimes acted as witnesses in courts handling heraldic or probate cases. The Tudors and Stuarts of the British Isles established a system called heraldic visitation. It restricted the population of armigers by sending the king of arms or someone from their group to each shire to record the name of the person that held the coat of arms and their right to hold that coat of arms. 
The current repositories that manage the designs and recordings of coat of arms today are the College of Arms in England, the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, in Scotland and The General Armory of England, Scotland Ireland and Wales. Heraldry today can be seen in the formal dress of nobles and clans and in decor around the world.
More information on your surname and their coat of arms can be found at where they can locate the coat of arms that can be identified for a surname. Other resources that they use to help identify coats of arms for surnames and you can use too are the heraldry books: Burkes General Armory, “Rietstap’s Armorial General” and Burkes Peerage and Knights.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Why you should do a DNA test for your family history

It is Family History Month.  Join Dr. David Andreassen at Eltham Library on Thursday 9 August for DNA for Family Historians
The following is a guest blog post from library member and family history researcher Jean:
When I found a second cousin through DNA, I asked myself why I took so long to do a test.
I had looked at DNA testing and thought about it for quite a while before I finally took the plunge and ordered an Autosomal test. When I look back now I wonder why it took me so long, but hindsight is a wonderful thing!
My family history is from the United Kingdom and Ireland, specifically Cornwall, Dorset, Northumberland, Yorkshire, Essex, southern Scotland and Dublin.
When I ordered my test and waited for the results I told myself that I didn’t have many expectations, but of course, I would like to find a close relative and find some way through walls in my family history research. I know quite a bit about where my ancestors lived and worked, but where did they actually come from? Did my ancestors move as industrialisation took over, or for better opportunities for work and family? I now believe DNA can help with that.
My test results from late 2016 told me I am 68% English with an emphasis on Southern England, particularly Cornwall, so my Cornish ancestors through my maternal grandmother back to the 1600’s appear to be right. My Irish and Scottish heritage through both my mother and father are confirmed with 30% for Ireland and Scotland. The remaining 2% is Sweden! Where did that come from?
I have always been quite confident with my family history research, perhaps that’s why I took so long to decide on doing a DNA test. I have one main line of ancestors from Dublin through my g-g-g grandparents, so how do I have so much Irish ancestry? The percentage I have indicates I must have more and has put me on the right track with another line of ancestors through my mother.
It was my Scottish DNA on my mother’s side that eventually found me a second cousin living in New Zealand. I say eventually because one thing you learn as you check ‘matches’ from your DNA test is that not everyone does a test for their family history, they may only have an interest in their ethnicity. You will also have lots of 4th plus cousins. Finding a third cousin or two is great, but when I found a second cousin I was overjoyed.
I had been trying to find out more about my Scottish grandmother’s family. She had quite a few brothers and I wanted to know if there were cousins still living in or near Musselburgh (near Edinburgh). In October last year an email landed from Margaret who lives in New Zealand and wanted to know more about her mother’s family as contact had been lost when her mother was five. We quickly established that her grandfather was my grandmother’s brother and have been sharing information, photos and stories regularly since. So, another family story begins and continues.
For me a DNA test has been wonderful a success and if I only find this one second cousin I will be happy. Meeting Margaret, so far only by email and photos, has filled a huge gap in my mother’s Scottish story. I think a flight across the Tasman is in order in the near future too!
My last word is yes, do a DNA test, you never know what or who you might find.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

History of the Handkerchief

Elizabeth Banham member of the Heidelberg Historical Society and Embroiderers Guild Victoria will be the speaker at the August meeting of Heidelberg Historical Society.
With a love of textiles and history, Elizabeth decided to research the history of handkerchiefs which she will outline in this public talk.  Handkerchiefs have been around for centuries and their functions and appearances have altered in response to changes in fashion and social etiquette overtime. From very early days when beautifully embroidered and lace handkerchiefs were important to show ones position in society, to the present day where they are more plain, handkerchiefs have always been part of our everyday use.
Tuesday 14 August, 8.00pm at Uniting Church Community Centre, Seddon Street, Ivanhoe
In the meantime be inspired by this title in our collection Hankie Couture

Monday, July 30, 2018

Education Records

Panton Hill School (1924) Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection Yarra Plenty Regional Library in partnership with Eltham District Historical Society
It is Family History month.  Retired teacher and genealogist Beryl O'Gorman will take us back to our School Days at Lalor Library Thursday 2 August to kick off our month long program.  She will also provide tips on how to access education records for your family history research. Researching students or teachers, records can be found in the schools themselves, government and private, including church schools. Older government schools will have records archived with State Archives.  Look for published school histories, newspaper reports, photos and family records.
Facebook groups, Flickr , local history group collections and of course public library local history collections.  Online exhibitions can provide good context to the times in which your ancestors went to school including Victorian times
Yarra Plenty's E-Resources also provide some collections to search:
Find My Past have an education and work category.  Some specific collections include:
On Ancestry
and more.  Reading memoirs and biographies can also provide an insight to the school days of our family members, such as Great Australian Outback Teaching Stories
What records have you found useful to research the school days of your ancestors?