Monday, May 03, 2021

Researching Aboriginal Family History

Tracing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family histories poses a unique set of challenges. 

YPRL is proud to be a partner in the presentation of a  half-day webinar to assist people wanting to research their Aboriginal Family History. Join Jenny Bates (Koorie Heritage Trust), Maxine Briggs (Koorie Heritage Unit at State Library Victoria) and Tsari Anderson (Koorie Records Unit at Public Records Office Victoria and National Archives of Australia) to discover their tips and tricks.

Topics will include: how to get started, staying organised, an overview of useful records available, ideas for researching names and places, and how to access conditions of records.

The session will be hosted by Peter Webster from Kirrip  Aboriginal Corporation, Melton. 

The online session will be held Monday 17 May 2021, 9.30am - 12.30pm

Bookings are essential.  A meeting link will be emailed to you prior to the session.

Co-presented by Darebin Library Service, Eastern Regional Libraries, Goldfields Libraries Corporation, Melton City Libraries, Mildura Library Service, Moonee Valley Libraries, Wyndham City Library Service, Yarra Libraries and Yarra Plenty Regional Library.

Recommended Resources

Koorie Heritage Trust Koorie Family History Service

SLV Aboriginal people and family history research guide

PROV Aboriginal Victorian Family History

AIATSIS Family History

Recommended Reading

Black, white and exempt: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives under exemption
, 2021

New publication of emotional personal stories of people who used their resourcefulness to seek exemption to obtain freedom from hardship and oppressive regulation of their lives as Aboriginal Australians.

Lowitja: the authorised biography of Lowitja O'Donoghue
by Stuart Rintoul, 2020

The moving biography of a great Australian who, against the greatest of odds, became one of Australia's most respected and recognisable Indigenous leaders.

Our mob served: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories of war and defending Australia
, 2019

Presents a moving and little-known history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander war time and defence service, told through the vivid oral histories and treasured family images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal people and Australian football in the nineteenth century: they did not come from nowhere
by Roy Hay, 2019

Aboriginal men learned the game and brought their own unique skills to it, winning local leagues and earning the respect of their contemporaries. But they were, for a long time prevented from reaching the higher levels of the game until late in the twentieth century.

Join us on Monday 17 May 2021, 9.30am - 12.30pm to learn more about Researching Aboriginal Family History.

Bookings are essential. A meeting link will be emailed to you prior to the session.

    Thursday, March 18, 2021

    International Women's Day: Tracing Female Lines


    YPRL is celebrating International Women’s Day all week. This year’s theme is Choose to Challenge

    Today’s spotlight is to encourage the family historians among us to uncover the stories of our female ancestors.

    As always follow or review the beginners’ steps

    summarize known names, dates and relationships and family traditions. 

    Gather records and memorabilia from around the house. Are their family heirlooms such as jewellery, crockery, a vase that has been kept through the generations?  Is there an old quilt or sampler? Needlework was customarily taught to girls at schools.

    Pull out your photos, identify them, analyse them, what story can they tell you, examine the setting and background information.  Is there a Family Bible? Are there letters and diaries?

    Gather oral history, ask open ended questions. Verify family stories through civil registration records and find married names.  Consider that your ancestor may have married more than once.

    The opposite challenge may be to determine a married name.  Look for death notices, obituaries and wills for the father.  The married daughter may be mentioned.

    Consider the use of naming patterns. 

    Names can be anglicised, shortened, and spelt in numerous ways. Early day clerks made many errors with foreign names and they had problems with different accents. Not all our ancestors could read and write. Not all of them could write their own name.  Christian names were often interchangeable, like Anna and Hannah.

    Research the immediate family – brothers and sisters and issues of your female ancestor.  Find your relative in school records 

    Check the witnesses for baptisms and weddings – your female relative may have been one.

    Search for your first record in the country (a death certificate will indicate how long in the colony).  Perhaps your ancestor came out on a woman only emigration scheme.

    Orphan girls who were part of the Earl Grey emigration scheme to Australia between 1848 and 1850.

    There are a couple of projects devoted to female convicts including the Parramatta FemaleFactory

    Hunt forheadstones. Epitaphs may reveal a wide range of details about an ancestor’s life.

    Search Tips

    Search everywhere! Both online and offline.  Search broadly, then narrow down, search in non-traditional resources such as the local history catalogue for the public library where your ancestor lived, hospital records or even prison records.

    If you can, do not include the surname in your search, instead use other identifying information such as birth or death date or relationships.  This trick works well if you have an uncommon first name.

    Be mindful of your spelling. Some names may have been abbreviated e g. Marg’t for Margaret.

    Historical newspapers via Trove, Gale Primary Sources and British Newspapers Archive are worth looking at.  Employ your different search strategies including e.g.  “Mrs T. Ryan” combined with a place name to narrow down your search. Your ancestor may appear in featured news articles, social news, obituaries, birth, marriage, death, funeral and probate notices.

    Find your Australian ancestor in the electoral rolls via Ancestry and Census Records in other countries.

    Consider creating a time line for your ancestor. This can include birth and marriage and births of children for a start

    Explore these Resources

    Petition, from 'Ladies Resident on Plenty River' requesting protection from bushrangers

    Index to Royal Women's Hospital (formerly Melbourne Lying-In Hospital) 1856-1879

    Midwives ofEssendon and Flemington Index compiled from birth certificates

    1891women’s suffrage petition

    TheAustralian Women’s Register 

    Women’sMuseum of Australia

    Bal Maidens Cornwall & Devon (searchable database of women miners)

    Photo: Ivanhoe Croquet Club, 1913.  Yarra Plenty Regional Library in partnership with Heidelberg Historical Society

    This blog post was first published at Yarra Plenty Regional Library 9 March 2021 

    Wednesday, October 28, 2020

    Simple Tips to Research your family history


    1. Start with yourself. Identify what you know. Work backwards from you.
    2. Choose the line to research with the good story, uncommon name or oldest living relatives you can talk to.
    3. Gather records in the family possession such as photos, certificates, letters and diaries
    4. Gather oral history. Ask questions “who, what, when, where, why and how”. Identify all heritage photographs.
    5. Check if others are also researching your family and collaborate.
    6. Purchase civil registration certificates – births, deaths and marriages.
    7. Search online. Use various search strategies across multiple sources.  Search broadly then narrow down.
    8. Search offline. Some online sources such as cemetery indexes will assist in your offline research. 
    9. Understand the country of origin of your ancestors and the times in which they lived.
    10. Get and stay organised. Note sources for your information.
    11. Store your research safely. Keep a master copy of your research on your computer and back up regularly.
    12. Publish or share your research and family stories.
    13. Never stop learning!

    Tuesday, September 15, 2020

    Common mistakes in your family history

     Hit a brick wall in your family history? One of the first strategies to thinking about how to strike through that brick wall is to review the information that you already have.

    Have a think about the following common mistakes and whether these have impacted your own research journey.

    • Not talking to other family members and gathering oral history.
    • Not confirming family stories by purchasing historical birth, marriage and death certificates. (Sometimes family stories are not or only partially true).
    • Accepting other people's research without reviewing.
    • Using the same spelling when searching indexes and websites. Remember use spelling variations and where possible wildcard searching, particularly for family names, but also first names.
    • Having a narrow research view, especially by geographic area, in a similar vein, another common mistake is presuming that our ancestors did not travel widely or move about.
    • Not being organised. If you have a software program, be sure to keep it updated.
    • Becoming unfamiliar with your research.  If it has been a while since you researched a particular line, re-visit your information to date. Have you transcribed all relevant documents?
    • Presuming if it is not online, the information does not exist.
    • If it is in the newspaper, it must be true.

    Genealogy Tip of the day , opens a new windowalso are good reminders and insights into our search strategies.

    What is a common mistake you have found in your family history research journey?

    This post was first publlished on 22 June, 2019 at Yarra Plenty Regional Library

    Searching for John Smith

     Professional genealogist Joy Roy recently presented at Diamond Valley Library as part of our Family History Month program 2019.  In Searching for John Smith, Joy discussed her research journey to find her man in Scotland. Her challenge?  SMITH is the most common name in Scotland.

    General tips from her discussion included:

    Names. Look for a middle name. Perhaps your ancestor’s middle name was a family name (in the case of Joy and many with Scottish ancestry, Scottish naming patterns may be in place) 

    Place. Know the specific place your ancestor was associated with. Look at maps and be familiar with surrounding place names at the time your ancestor lived. Explore local history and seek out local publications for mention of your ancestor (and websites).

    Online searching. Always include a location in your online searching to help filter your search results.

    Occupation. Ascertain occupation via census records, city directories or obituary.

    Cemeteries. Explore cemeteries in person and/or online and/or published index to find final resting place. A gravestone inscription or burial record can lead to researching other family members (or even people buried in the same location but who may or may not be related) an obituary or more.

    Newspapers. Newspaper Research for your family history via British Newspapers ArchiveFind My Past and Trove add life to your ancestors story. Obituaries are especially valuable and look at all versions when copied to other papers. Some may be longer than others.

    Get distracted. Going on tangents can be fruitful. Joy’s ancestor was in charge of a prison. She researched the prison including its correspondence files to understand more of John’s life.

    Family. Widen your search to include other family members. John can be found as a witness to a marriage or an informant for a death for example.

    Criminal activity. Follow up on suspected criminal activity as a “bad” John Smith can be easier to locate in these types of records.

    You can find your John Smith with patience and a lot of effort.  Your search can be successful.

    This blog post was first published on 29 August, 2019 at Yarra Plenty Regional Library

    Inspiration and advice to write that family history

     Are you interested in writing your family history? After researching for years and investing money, time and energy, many family history researchers start to direct that energy in the telling and sharing of their unique story. 

    The Alexander Henderson Award (best Australian family history)  and the Don Grant Award (best Australian historical biography with a family history focus) are presented annually by Family History Connections (formerly Australian Institue of Genealogial Studies).  Former award winners can serve as inspiration for your writing project including the joint 2018 winner:

    Särka to Westgarthtown The history of a Wendish German family who migrated to Victoria just before the gold rush and settled in Westgarthtown, near Thomastown.  It contans numerous individual detailed biographies of family members and their descendants.

    Suggested guidelines for entries are outlined under three categories: Objectives and Research, Content and Presentation.  Including evidence of scope and planning, organisation and research, a ressearched pre-Australian component, a comprehensive index (essential), layout and format.

    Entries with application form need to be submitted to the Awards Co-ordinator by the 30th November.

    This blog post was first published February 20, 2020 at Yarra Plenty Regional Library

    Spending time at home with your family history research

     Family history researchers already know the benefits of online research, spending time in isolation engrossed on digitised records online.  With unexpected time at home, this could be a good time for some to focus on what you need or want to do with your genealogical research. Here are ideas, some inspired by Cyndi Ingle from Cyndi's List of Genealogical Websites on the Internet which is also worth exploring.

    Organise your research 

    Draft a research plan

    Transcribe records

    Label your digitised records and photos

    Scan photos and documents

    Volunteer indexing via FamilySearch

    Volunteer for other online projects such as correcting text via Trove

    Clean your work space

    Watch some webinars or videos on Youtube

    Browse or search the catalogue and place a hold or mark "for later" on your next visit to the library

    Read a genealogy book or magazine

    Interview senior family members

    Write your family history

    Write your life story

    Back up your computer records

    Explore a new online resource.  YPRL Members can access Gale Historical Archives remotely with your library card

    This blog post was first published on March 12, 2020 at Yarra Plenty Regional Library

    Tuesday, August 18, 2020

    Family History Festival: Kids Corner

    This weekend we celebrate our Family History Festival through a series of blog posts with information and activities.

    Read: Family History Festival: Family History Month

    Read: Family History Festival: WW2 Tribute

    Read: Family History Festival: Digital Mags

    Kids can have fun learning about their family history and where they have come from.  We have pulled together a list of activites and ideas that families can enjoy together.

    Age Guide: Primary School

    Scavenger Hunt Game (pre-schoolers can join in this one)

    Family History is everywhere. Have a scavenger hunt in your house to see how many things you can find that are about your family history. You can look for a family bible, old papers and photos and scrapbooks, medals and jewellery or anything that reminds you of the past. If the items are moveable you can make a display, and if not, you can take and print photos or share online with other other family members. Create a name for your "family history museum," and ask mum and dad to tell you stories about the items and the relatives associated with them. Write these down or video or audio record them.

    Gather Stories

    Talk to parents and grandparents and ask them them about what they know about your family history. Write these down in a special keepsake book or journal, where you can add other information as you find it. Or video or audio record the stories.

    The City of Whittlesea “Googling Grandparents” project aims to collect and share stories inviting children, grandchildren, carers, interested friends or community members to “interview” an elder, record the story and send it to Council for sharing in the future. Scroll down on the Council's Cultural Heritage page for more information.

    Learn genealogy words and their meanings

    Find Your last name.  Where does your comes from and what does it mean?

    Try this Relationships word scamble (printable pdf)

    Who’s Who Game. Have fun finding out "who's who" in a family tree.

    Scrapbook copies of heritage photos.

    Create a family tree

    After talking to your relatives, fill in your names on a paper tree or chart. Printable PDFs  include Fill Your Family Tree, or My Family Tree includes space for photos or drawings. Check out this colour-in version. This decorative My Family Tree includes information to record dates and places of birth.  If you would like to record family information, download the My Family Group Record chart from FamilySearch.

    How are you related? Check out this cousin chart to see how your cousins are connected to you.

    Older kids may like to choose a free chart to download and fillout and print on your computer.  If you are 13 years or older, you can create a free online tree on FamilySearch


    Family, Friends and Furry Creatures