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?

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".