Beyond the Internet: Week 44 Offline Newspapers

This is Week 44 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week’s topic is Offline Newspapers. Being in something of a newspaper mindset lately, I’ve moved this topic up on my planned schedule.

Australian family historians are quite rightly enamoured with the astonishing resource we have in Trove. TThe New Zealanders have Papers Past, Americans Chronicling America, and the British the British Newspaper Archive or 19th Century British Newspapers (available here via NLA membership).

Old and new technology: image from wikipedia commons.

It’s easy with so many options at our fingertips (quite literally), to forget that there are still many newspapers which have not yet been digitised and may never be so.  If your family lived in a major city, it can be a case of swings and roundabouts –the paper will probably have a complete run and be digitised but against, that the average person is much less likely to hit the pages except in the public notices like births, marriages, deaths, funerals or probate.

However if your family lived in a smaller rural area it’s well worth finding out what papers were published there over the decades –often changing names or starting and folding over a short period. Once upon a time there was a small monograph called “Australian Newspapers” which included all the known papers published in different areas. I imagine there are copies languishing in a reference library near you and that would be one way of finding what papers might have been published. point.

 I’ll give you a few examples of offline newspapers and leave the rest to your own discoveries.

Official welcome to the Queen to Bundaberg 1954. SLQ image from the Australian Womens Copyright expired.

I was excited way back when the Australian Women’s Weekly came online with Trove. BUT there is a hidden trap which I wrote about early last year.

The Post Courier is the most commonly read newspaper in Papua New Guinea. There would be a wealth of references to Australian, and other expats, living there especially in the pre-Independence era (before 1975). While there is an index of Australians in PNG available through QFHS, it cannot include all these entries. How do I know? Because our family makes zero appearances even though I know there should be at least half a dozen in the public notices alone. Sadly the National Library can’t afford to digitise this newspaper without significant sponsorship, so if you know an organisation that could provide the funding, why not bring it to their attention.

The Toowoomba Chronicle, a wonderfully gossipy newspaper, is not on Trove although the  contemporaneous Darling Downs Gazette is. If you find a reference in one it might be worthwhile looking in the other for a slightly different spin.

After my posts on German newspapers over the past weeks, Prue discovered that the newspaper of interest to her research has not been digitised for the timeframe she needed.

How about your ancestors’ religious affiliations? Might there be stories about them in newspapers published by that religion, eg The Catholic Leader? Advice I need to follow myself when I’m next near the relevant research opportunities.


Of course the biggest trick with searching newspapers offline is actually finding the stories. We’ve become so spoiled by Trove that we’ve lost the art, and the patience, for steadily trawling a microfilmed copy.

The limitation is that you will be searching for likely known events such as obituaries, weddings and the like. The unexpected finds that turn up in Trove become even more serendipitous if you happen across them scanning a microfilm. Luckily if the event was news-worthy enough it may be mentioned in a paper from further afield, tipping you off on the date when you need to search locally.


Here are a few places to search:

  1. Check your National Library, searching by place and limiting your search to newspapers
  2. Ditto with your state reference library
  3. Check the catalogue of the major university libraries and their reference sub-libraries (you’ll be surprised by what you’ll find there). For example there are 55 reels of the Queensland Times for Ipswich at The University of Queensland.
  4. Ask the local historical society who may know whether there are copies held anywhere –including in their own libraries.
  5. Like Prue, ask an expert in the local area especially if it’s overseas.

So there you have it, even more opportunities to build up your family stories through offline newspapers. Offline searching is much more laborious and time intensive but may well repay your efforts. Why not experience what genealogy life was like in the pre-Trove era? Trust me, you’ll appreciate those digitised papers all the more <grin>.

I’ve remarked in family history courses that it’s interesting how we have such a generally low regard for journalists in the modern era, yet take almost every word they say as gospel for times past. (Bias warning: we have a few journos in our families).

Beyond the Internet: Week 43 – Griffith’s Valuations

Search Beyond the Internet

This is Week 43 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week we’re off to Ireland’s green fields with the Griffith’s Valuations.

I could make my life easier, and this post very brief, by exhorting you to beg, borrow or buy a copy of James Reilly’s book  Richard Griffith and his Valuations of Ireland. If you have Irish ancestry, do yourself a favour and check its availability at your favourite bookstore or library. Hint: an preview of this book is now available to read through Google Books  – enough for you to see how much value this seemingly slight book contains. In the meantime have a read of this short article by Reilly called Is there more in Griffith’s Valuations than just names?

Reilly’s book will astonish you with just how much lies behind those tables of information that we Irish researchers treat as a substitute for the census. I think the temptation for us is to simply look at the superficial facts of the size of our ancestor’s land, its value and who the immediate lessor was. Reilly makes it clear just how much more there is to even the summary information and in particular the significance of the number and alpha reference at the start of the line.

An extract of the Valuation for Ballykelly townland in the parish of Kilseily, Clare.

The new online access at AskAboutIreland makes it easy to link the search with the map reference indicated by that originating number, but again, do we go beyond that? How about the field books, perambulation books and house books that lie behind the valuation? Yes, they don’t exist for all parishes but wouldn’t you want to check? Unfortunately they’re mostly only available in Ireland but if you’re sufficiently keen you may choose to employ a researcher to follow it up, especially if you can determine they exist.

As a teaser: If your ancestors were either Michael Meaney or James Carmody of Mountrice townland in Kilseily parish, Clare, you would no doubt be interested to know that the landlord intended “to build houses for them and then throw down the houses on which they presently live”. Notes from the Perambulation book for the Parishes of Kilseily and Killuran by surveyor Michael O’Malley (The National Archives of Ireland). Or you may wish to know who ran huxteries in the area or…

The complication throughout is to know which one is really is your man (or woman)! From my point of view you need some other way, eg parish registers, to be assured of which one you need to be following.

The Irish Valuation Office now has current valuation information available to search online (try typing in your county and townland). While there are no maps available, I see this is “coming soon”. I was surprised just how familiar were the names of people still holding land in Ballykelly – echoes of the 1911 census and also Griffith’s. Also surprised to find one missing that I expected. Not really of great specific use but interesting none the less!


These are one of the unsung heroes of Irish research. Have you found your ancestors in the Griffith’s tables? If so, they will enable you to trace who took over the family’s property generation after generation. Not only that, you’ll have a good chance that they’ll tip you off on when various family members died.

How does that work? Well, the original valuations were reassessed on a regular basis for change of tenancy or ownership, improvements or deterioration of the property. On the original books held by the Valuation Office, these amendments are messy but able to be followed because they are in different coloured inks and different hands. Your 2 x great grandfather’s death might result in a new entry with his wife’s name, then subsequently various children until it perhaps passes to a distant relative or out of the family.

An extract from the Ballykelly, Co Clare valuation revisions. It notes that in 1950, my ancestor’s family home was in ruins.

The good news is that these are available wherever you live because you can order them through the Family Search catalogue and have them delivered to your local family history centre or approved library. The easiest ways to find the correct film is to search the catalogue by keyword (not anything else). For example if I enter “valuation revision Ballykelly Clare” I promptly obtain film number 819471.

The other benefit is that it lets you search beyond the timeframe of the initial valuations to perhaps find your ancestor. For example, I wanted to see where my James Sherry and his family were living in the townland of Knockina outside Gorey, Wexford in the 1870s before they emigrated (I had Knockina from the Gorey parish registers). The valuation revisions suggested to me that they must have been living in a property owned by the Southern and Eastern Railway as that was the only property not attached to a specific family and I knew he was a railway worker. If my deduction is correct, it suggests he may have held a position of some responsibility although it’s likely he was still a grassroots worker.

I really can’t emphasise enough the value of following your family from the original valuations through the revision lists to see what happened to them and their property.

And as a finale, here’s a new occupation for you: the meresman was the hired local resident who assisted in identifying boundaries (Reilly, op cit page 4)

You may also want to have a look at my post, Finding Irish Ancestors Part 2-The Old Country, if you haven’t seen it already.

Advance Apologies: Week 44 may be a few days late as I have some upcoming commitments and I doubt I’ll get it scheduled in advance.

Beyond the Internet: Week 42 Naturalisation Records

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 42 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. The topic this week is Naturalisation Records.

I was reflecting the other day that these are perhaps the most poignant of our ancestral family’s records. It was the point at which they committed to their new country, put their psychological and emotional roots deeper into its soil, and in a sense rejected the land of their birth. It must have been a very difficult choice for some of them to make, simply because in essence they were leaving everything behind a second time.

A switch of allegiance to the new colony of Queensland.

British settlers were not confronted with this choice for a very long time. Settling in a British colony they remained British without any other fanfare. I’ve often wondered whether this affected their sense of loyalty and affiliation to their new country, perhaps why for such a long time many Australians thought of Britain as “home”. Settlers from other nationalities had ultimately to make a choice and so at this point they took on naturalisation or citizenship in their new country. If, like me, your ancestors come from places other than Britain you will need to see if you can find what choices they made.

 WORDS OF WARNING: No Naturalisation = no vote + no land?

No longer to be part of the Kingdom of Bavaria must have been a wrench.

In the early days of my family history I was told that no non-British person could vote or own land until they were naturalised.

I was puzzled because I couldn’t find George Kunkel’s naturalisation anywhere, yet there he was on the electoral roll and also owning land. Not only that but he was happily signing all sorts of petitions to Parliament. It wasn’t until after Australia became a nation in its own right in 1901 that George took the step separating him from his beloved Bavaria forever[i]. Perhaps the unification of Bavaria within the German Empire also made it easier to let go.

From 1904 when the function of naturalisation was taken on as a federal matter, new citizens were to be required to provide far more information on their background including arrival etc. Was this why George finally signed the Oath of Allegiance in 1902? Luckily he did, or there’d have been even more consequences for him when World War I broke out. Despite having citizenship he was still legally required to register where he lived and his movements. By then he was in his eighties and no security risk, either in reality or perception, but he must surely have felt betrayed by his new country.

Researcher David Denholm[ii] also discovered that in repeated instances land purchase came before naturalisation. In the case of some of my Dorfprozelten Germans, their applications for naturalisation explicitly states that they are desirous of remaining in Queensland and wished to buy land.


Of course the super-lucky of us may find these documents within the family’s collection. I would imagine these are records which the individual would have carefully preserved, unfortunately disasters or indifferent family members may have destroyed them over the decades.

For the rest of us, Cora Web’s wonderful site provides a gateway into the online indexes for Australia and New Zealand. Whether you use this step first or go directly to the archives in the state where your ancestor lived, a visit to the archives will be needed to find the original documents. If you live too far away you will need to request a copy from the archives for a fee.

The Australian National Archives offers a variety of resources especially for later immigrants.

As you know Queensland is my own focus, and I’ve just learned that their naturalisation kit is available in many places, including the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory. (You learn something new every day in this hobby).

Another search which is interesting although perhaps not specific to your family (unless you’re lucky) is to do a Google image search for naturalisation/citizenship certificate. Just looking at the images is intriguing.


Queensland State Archives PRV11623-1-32 SCT/CF32 folio 1257

This seems to be fairly variable but of the ones I’ve looked at, tend to tell us little new information. For example George Kunkel simply says he’s a farmer from Murphy’s Creek and originated from Bavaria.  I wish he’d waited until 1904 and provided me with more detail but I suspect it was his intention to avoid doing precisely that perhaps because of the family story that he’d jumped ship.

“Thanks” to Australia’s policies and attitudes to non-white immigration, citizenship was not available to Asian immigrants after 1904. However if you are lucky you may find them in state records before then and having seen some of these being researched by others you may find far more information about them there. (Also look at their arrival/departure records). A friend who researches her son’s Chinese ancestry has found a huge range of detail: to see an example click here.


I don’t intend to delve into the complexity of this here but the conditions placed on German residents whether naturalised or not, were both insulting and onerous. The National Archives of Australia does have boxes of information on German-born Australians from this era. Many years ago I trawled through the “K” boxes looking for George Kunkel to no avail (on the plus side it meant he kept a low profile and wasn’t in trouble). I was quite shocked by the animosity and envy manifested by some of their neighbours eg bought a piano so must be selling guns!


Whether you learn a great deal or only a little from your ancestor’s naturalisation records, if they were non-British (Aliens) then obtaining copies of whatever is available should form part of your research repertoire.

What experiences have you had with these records either in Australia or elsewhere? Please post on your own blog or leave comments here so we can see what other insights may have been discovered.

[i] Naturalisation at Queensland State Archives PRV11623-1-32 SCT/CF32 folio 1257 reference 215/2, microfilm reel Z2212.

[ii] Denholm, D. The coming of the Germans to the Darling Downs 1852-1860, unpublished BA Hons thesis 1967 The University of Queensland, p24.

Beyond the Internet: Week 41 Emigration Records

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 41 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. The topic this week is Emigration records: those documents created as our ancestors left their homeland en route to a new life.

Emigration and immigration records are like the double-faced Janus, superficially much the same, but revealing different aspects of our ancestors’ migration experience.

In my experience the emigration data is easier to locate once you’ve identified your ancestor in the immigration records. This makes it possible to then focus on the ship and its voyage as it departs the home country, or country of departure. More than most other topics I fear this one will involve cross-over to the online world, in no small part because most of us are limited in our opportunities to search in overseas archives.

The Janus statue in the Vatican Museum, Wikipedia Commons.

BOARD OF TRADE: BT27 Departure Lists from UK 1890 to 1960

From my own research one of the most valuable search tools was these records indexed on Findmypast UK and now available through their other subscriptions. Yes they are online, and yes they are indexes, but when you find a pertinent record what you’ll see is an actual image of the original document.  The benefits of having a subscription rather than pay-to-view pages, is that you can flip through the lists for that ship to see if there any other passengers who may be connected to your family.

Of course hindsight’s a wonderful thing, but wouldn’t it be amazing to have these records available prior to 1890?


Within the Australian records systems, I’m very partial to the Public Records Office of Victoria’s Index to Outward Passengers to Interstate, UK, NZ and Foreign Ports 1852-1915. I’ve found this amazingly helpful for both the immigration voyages (where Port Philip was the first Australian landing point) but also for those moving back to the UK, on to New Zealand, or simply taking a business trip overseas. I routinely compare information from these to what I find via other sources.



These were mentioned last week in terms of who was sponsoring chain migration of friends or family. However there’s another aspect to their usefulness. You can search the IDJs (manually), to see who else left the same village at the time, who was their referee and perhaps some additional or different information on their personal details, which might enlighten (or confuse!) you. This was certainly the case with my study of the East Clare emigrants.



The SS Adolph brought German emigrants from Hamburg to South Australia. Copyright expired State Library of South Australia Image B 63263.

As you know German migration is an area of keen interest to me, notwithstanding the fact that my George Kunkel’s departure and arrival remains elusive after all these years. At the time of our mid-19th ancestor’s migrations Germany was comprised of independent states or kingdoms so you are often focused on the independent state or kingdom eg Bavaria.

An absolutely fantastic resource for Australians with German ancestry is the indexes prepared from the Hamburg shipping lists by Rosemary and Eric Kopittke for the Queensland Family History Society. These indexes cover the period 1850 to 1879 and their primary benefits are twofold:  (1) you may obtain slightly different information on your ancestors but especially (2) the fact that the emigration records include all passengers and not just those assisted by the government of the day. The latter is particularly important for Germans who came as single people as the government sponsorship was directed at families while the single people often came on private contracts set up via emigration agents in Germany.  The other advantage is that the Kopittkes are experienced readers of the German script and so are able to pick up information that you and I might struggle with.

Some microfilms by can be ordered through Family Search and are listed here. Be aware, though, that they are written in German.

Whenever you are reading a particular microfilm, try not to focus only on your specific name of interest: have a look at the others on the ship’s manifest. For example, how did John and Frederika Eichorn feel as they left their sick child behind in Liverpool when they sailed on the Commodore Perry. Did the child come later? Did he/she live or die?

In theory the “German” emigrants were supposed to have a pass to leave the country/state and their departure advertised in the local newspapers.  How often this happened I don’t know, but with limited access to those newspapers from overseas it is a challenge to advance this line of research. If anyone knows of an online resource please do let me know.

Another superb resource for German migration information is the articles by Jenny Paterson published in the Burwood and District Family History Society magazine, Ances-Tree. If you have mid-19th century German ancestry in Australia, don’t omit to follow up these articles.

A helpful online link to migration from the various German states is here.

Oh, and if you find George Kunkel from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria, will you please let me know?


The Morning Post (London, England), Saturday, November 20, 1852; pg. 8; Issue 24622. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.

If you know the name of the ship on which your family arrived I would definitely search the overseas newspapers eg The Times Digital Archive or other newspapers via your National Library of Australia card, or the British Newspaper Archive. Either of these will provide additional information on the voyage at its starting point: delays, weather, minor accidents etc.

Similarly the newspapers at the receiving end may also tell you about the departure. Of course you need to search in the timeframe when the ship was leaving and you’ll most likely find this information in the Shipping News section of the paper. Trove is always a goldmine.

I always find it intriguing to learn what cargo the ship brought to the new land as it provides interesting insights into the goods in demand.  I also love those newspaper advertisements where a business advertises their new stock that arrived on a particular ship. Passengers weren’t the only focus of a ship’s arrival.

In my immigration post I omitted to mention that newspapers sometimes advertised which passengers had arrived on a particular ship so that their family and friends could come and meet them. This seemed to be more prevalent once immigration reached the chain-migration, sponsorship stage.


You can see from the contents how useful this book by Robin Haines would be to your research.

At least some of the books I mentioned in my Immigration post will be helpful in terms of understanding the process behind your ancestor’s migration.  The Australian migration process was much more structured than that to north America, so that the often-bewildered emigrants were not as prone to the abuse or manipulation by crafty touts on the waterfront in England. Their luggage requirements were specified so they were not as vulnerable to weather changes, and every stage of an assisted passenger’s migration, including prior to commencement, was supervised.


A learning tool on migration is the Family Search research wiki on migration and citizenship, well worth a look.


There are many online links which you can find on this topic by doing a Google search, but hopefully this has provided some opportunities for off-line research.

You may not find as much about your ancestor’s emigration specifics as you do about them on arrival, especially if they came under a sponsorship scheme. However, learning more about the general aspects of their particular voyage, or the broader circumstances governing the voyages will add a broader historical context to your family story.

Beyond the Internet: Week 40 is a long voyage of immigration

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 40 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. The topic this week is Immigration records.

This post has become almost as long as the sailing voyage to Australia, but it’s such an important part of our research that I hope you’ll persevere to the end.

Imagine you’ve bought your suit of clothes, your sea trunk is packed, you’ve waved goodbye amid the tears. All that remains is the long weeks on board that sailing ship. Courage, determination and perseverance are required.

The United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America all fit the bill for being migrant-attracting places: somewhere which offers, or is perceived to offer, better or different life opportunities.  Ireland shouldn’t be ignored either, as people came and went “across the pond” to north America in particular.

It’s easy to see that at some point you’re likely to come across an ancestor who is not native to the place where they lived for many years. Many of us Down Under could be called ethnic Heinz 57s as a mix of all sorts of nationalities have formed our gene pool and family tree. I’m quite proud of being a genuine Aussie mongrel with Irish, Scottish, English, German, and maybe some Welsh, ancestry.


The Renfrewshire, State Library of Queensland, copyright expired.

Once our path leads us back to our “original” ancestor in this country (whichever one that is), it’s safe to assume that most of us will try to pin down how they arrived here, whether they were sponsored by government or friends. The increasing digitisation and indexing of records is certainly making it easier to search for our ancestors’ immigration records.  But the risk is that it stops with the name of the ship. So what next?

What you’ll find will very much depend on the country of immigration and the time-frame of the migration. There’s not a lot you can do about this, you have to work within the parameters you’ve got.  I’m going to focus on Australia simply because that’s what I know most about, and in particular the eastern states.

Most of the records you’ll be looking at will be those for assisted passengers, those who arrived thanks to government sponsored schemes to boost our population.  Some schemes required the immigrant to work under contract for a fixed period. Unassisted passengers are much less likely to appear though there are some records. At some periods immigrants were entitled to a land grant in exchange for completing various conditions, so you should also follow that up.

In summary, once you’ve discovered your ancestor’s immigration, you need to do the background reading to learn more about the conditions of their migration.

The letter of thanks from the passengers of the Fortune to Captain Sanford. Interestingly the Gavins are not on this list, though my other ancestor, William Partridge is.


For early Australia immigrants many of us will start with the State Records of NSW (SRNSW) immigration indexes as in the early days of Victoria and Queensland they were part of New South Wales. SRNSW has a good summary here. They have also digitised the indexes to the Assisted Immigrants Passenger Lists  together with images of the registers. This is a great innovation and definitely to be appreciated BUT if you stop there you are missing out on the chance to learn more about your ancestors.

Board’s Immigrant Lists

Not all of these wonderful documents survive but the clue will appear in old hard-copy references where two microfilm numbers are listed. This page gives you some indication but be aware that not every ship is listed: you will need to refer to the microfilm for that timeframe.  If your ancestor’s ship appears in the list, this should be a priority for your research. Why? Let me show you an example for one of my ancestral voyages, the Fortune arriving Moreton Bay in December 1855:

Assisted Immigant Lists (Reel 2137, [4/4792])

GAVIN, Denis 23, ag lab, born Kildare, RC, neither reads nor writes.

GAVIN Eleanor, 24, wife, born Wicklow, RC, can read

GAVIN Mary, 2, daughter, born Dublin, RC, neither. (It would be easy to miss Mary as she is over the page from her parents)

 Board Immigrant’s Lists (reel 2469 ARK)

GAVIN, Denis, 23, farm labourer, Kildare, Parents Denis and Mary, mother living in Kildare (ie father dead), RC, neither reads nor writes. Complains that the captain accused him being the doctor’s spy, substantiated..

GAVIN, Eleanor, 24, Wicklow, James and Annie Murphy, mother living in Wicklow, RC, reads

GAVIN, Mary, 2, born Dublin, neither.

Now I ask you which of these would you like to have for your family research? If you haven’t already done so, head out to look at the old-fashioned microfilm in a reference library or archive near you.

Languishing in the doldrums and making little headway.

The Germans on Bounty Ships

The sailing ship Peru on which some of the Dorfprozelten emigrants arrived. Image from the National Maritime Museum, no known copyright issues.

References to the Germans on the Bounty Lists are, if anything, more helpful as they were poorly treated in terms of food and cleanliness in comparison with the British ships which had learned from the years of convict transportation, so there are often complaints about the voyage, as well as a higher mortality rate.

Another trap lies with the German immigrants’ references to parents’s names where the parents are reported in the German manner where the father’s name is often not stated because the woman is referred to by her maiden name. This leads to potential confusion in the migration records. For example Juliana Diflo’s parents are reported as “John and Cath Kirchgessner, both dead”. In fact her maiden name was Löhr and her parents were Johann Löhr and Catherine Kirchgessner. A researcher trying to find her baptism would be looking for Kirchgessner when they should be searching for Löhr, which was only discovered by a careful analysis of the Dorfprozelten local history. Similarly, the wife of John Hock was called Rosina on arrival but later Clara. The immigration lists record her parents as ” Nicholas and Margaretha Kuhn”. In fact her parents were Nicholas Günzer and Maria Anna Kuhn.

This problem is by no means universal in the Australian records but it is worth bearing in mind,

After weeks at sea, you’re wondering if this migration lark really was a good idea.

Related names

When looking for your ancestor don’t just give up when you’ve found them in that shipping list. Do check for others with the same name and see whether the parents’ names reveal a relationship. As young men and women were listed separately from their families, because they were assisted passengers in their own right, you may find the family in quite different parts of the shipping list. For example, my Kent family are split into four on the one manifest: parents Richard and Mary, and their son Richard, his wife and infant daughters, are among the family groupings, while daughter Hannah and sons Thomas and John appear under the “Single Females/Single Males” categories.

With Irish migration it’s quite common to find single women seemingly travelling alone, but look closely and you’ll find others from the same village or townland or perhaps even cousins.

Employment and dispersal on arrival

Emigrants landing at Queens Wharf Melbourne. Image IAN25/08/63/1, State Library of Victoria, copyright expired.

Are you aware that these records might exist for your ancestor’s ship? I certainly wasn’t for a long time until I was clued up by one of Richard Reid’s articles[i]  (see the Visible Immigrants series on the reading list below). If they exist, you really want to pursue the Surgeon’s Disposal Lists which document where passengers went on leaving the ship, either to an employer or relative; the Memorandum of Agreement they may have signed with their employer; or Matron’s Diaries, which can be invaluable for learning more about the voyage and your ancestor’s experience on board ship.  For example, did they take the opportunity to attend school classes. Or were they occupied in some form of needlework: just think of those women on the Rajah stitching up the quilt.  I found all of these particularly helpful in my broader East Clare Irish research, especially for the 1860s.

Emigrant prior to and after departure. State Library of Victoria Image H40398, out of copyright.

You may wish to look at this SRNSW link to see if any of these documents exist as they are by no means universally available. The documents are only available at Kingswood and if you have difficulty I suggest you talk to an archivist while you’re there.

Interstate Comparisons

As many ships came via Port Philip in the early days I’ll often cross-refer to the Victorian PROV indexes for shipping. If you do this you need to remember that a person who is an assisted immigrant to NSW will be unassisted to Victoria, as the colony of Victoria is not paying for their voyage costs.  I’ve found the comparison on information to be invaluable on many occasions as it turns up additional (sometimes contradictory) information.

You’ve just about reached the trade winds so your voyage is speeding up.


 As is more common these days, the population reached a point where it became possible to devolve responsibility to family and friends to encourage chain migration.  This opens up further points for exploration.

My McCorkindale great-grandmother and her son appear in the Queensland indexes but to this day, her adult daughters do not.  I came across their record cards entirely felicitously one day back when the archives were at Boggo Rd: the card drawer was just sitting on the bench and I decided to have a snoop, and there they were! Perhaps the cards had been used by Judy Webster or Shauna Hicks, both long-time Queensland researchers.

New from Australia, George Baxter. Image from State Library of Victoria Image H97.42/2, out of copyright.

 Immigration Deposit Journals

One of the goldmine resources for NSW is the Immigration Deposit Journals which list deposits paid for family members or friends to emigrate.  These have been indexed by Pastkeys (check out their other indexes) and are now available via Ancestry.

Sure this makes for easy searching, so why bother to look at the original microfilms?  In my own case, without winding my way through the film I would never have noticed just how many deposits mentioned the parish priest of Broadford, Co Clare or how many times the one depositor is mentioned, which led me down another research path. This revealed what was likely a scam to ensure as many willing emigrants could emigrate as wished to and was particularly prevalent during the years of the American Civil War.  If I had simply been able to find my Mary O’Brien without trawling all the O’Briens it’s likely I’d never have found this out. Mind you, as I later learned from his thesis, Richard Reid had trodden this path before me, but even so it was a fascinating discovery.

You can see land for the first time in weeks, you have butterflies in your tummy as you get ready for the voyage to end.


Here are some quick final suggestions.

For the wide variety of immigration research possibilities, you might find this page of links on Cora Web’s site to be invaluable.

Migration Museums such as those in Melbourne or Adelaide can provide wonderful insights to the migration experience (for example on a recent trip we saw a photograph of the immigration depot where my husband’s ancestor died.

Newspapers: for stories on the voyage, which ships they “spoke”[ii] and the weather conditions. Have a look at what cargo they carried, and see whether the captain or surgeon was sent a letter of commendation by the passengers.

Diaries: check whether there any diaries from the voyage in your local reference library.

Commemoration Walls such as the Welcome Wall on Sydney Harbour.

Books: see my “best of” list at the very end of this post (cheeky to add my own articles I know).


 You really do have to squeeze every bit of juice you can out of all these records to build up a rounded story of your ancestor’s migration.  In-depth migration research can be hard work but it will richly repay you with stories for your family history.

In case you’re feeling frustrated in your migration search, you’re not alone. Don’t forget that it’s not impossible that they came in lieu of someone else and travelled under a different name.

After 26 years I still haven’t been able to find the migration records, of any sort, for my George Kunkel and his future wife Mary O’Brien or her sister Bridget and husband John Widdup. But I believe that it’s been the pursuit of their story that’s taken me well beyond my own ancestral migration stories, so ultimately it’s been a great learning opportunity.

The voyage is over, now your new life begins.

Reading List

Farewell my children: Irish Assisted Emigration to Australia 1848-1870. Reid, R.  Anchor Books, NSW 2011. (My all-time favourite and yet I omitted it…thanks Kerryn for the reminder)

Ances-Tree: the journal of the Burwood and District Family History society. Articles by Jenny Paterson on the German emigrant ships: excellently researched, informative, fantastic! You must read these if you have mid-19th century German immigrants to Australia.

Emigration and the Labouring Poor: Australian Recruitment in Britain and Ireland 1831-1860. Haines, R, St Martins Press, Basingstoke, 1997.

From East Clare to Eastern Australia: the Parish Priest, the Middle Men and the Emigrants. Cass, P. Published in the Proceedings of the 11th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry, Darwin, 2006.

Farewell My Children: Irish Assisted Emigration to Australia 1848-1870, Reid, R. Anchor Books, Sydney 2011.

 Life and Death in the Age of Sail: the passage to Australia. Haines, R, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2003.

Oceans of Consolation. Fitzpatrick, D. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne 1995.

They weren’t all Lutherans – A case study of a small group of German Catholics who emigrated to Australia from Dorfprozelten, Bavaria. Cass, P. Published in the Proceedings of the 11th Australasian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry, Darwin, 2006

Visible Immigrants: Neglected Sources for the History of Australian Immigration. Richards  E, Reid R, Fitzpatrick D. ANU, Canberra 1989.

Visible Immigrants 2: Poor Australian Immigrants in the 19th Century.  Richards, E (ed). ANU, Canberra, 1991.

Visible Immigrants 4: Visible Women, Female Immigrants in Colonial Australia. Richards E (ed), ANU, Canberra,  1995.

[i] Visible Immigrants: Neglected Sources for the History of Australian Immigration. Richards  E, Reid R, Fitzpatrick D. ANU, Canberra 1989, pages 36-38.

[ii]  Speak: to communicate with a vessel in sight.; to communicate with (a passingvessel) at sea, as by voice or signal:

Beyond the Internet: Week 39 Funeral directors’ registers

This is Week 39 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and the topic is Funeral Directors’ Registers.

While it’s fairly automatic for us as genealogists to look for monumental inscriptions, or even just gravestones, funeral directors’ records are a less used resource. My suspicion is that this is because they’re less readily found online.

Why bother with funeral directors’ registers?

There are a few very good reasons:

  1. They are often available well beyond the timeframe of registered death indices. This means you can find out when someone died in the more recent past. You also don’t have to be a next-of-kin to be able to access the information.
  2. You can obtain information on the person’s death without the expense of buying the certificate if it’s not an immediate family member. It may also tell you additional details that are not recorded on the death certificate eg time of death (Scottish records always include this).
  3. They can, and often do, include cause of death as well as some biographical details for the deceased. They can also include surprising details for family members. For example I’ve found complete lists of adult children (including married daughters), their residence, ages and sometimes occupation. It may also provide clues of marriages beyond those available via indexes.
  4. You can get some sense of your family’s wealth, or lack of it, from the type of funeral they had, the cost of the coffin, hearses etc.
  5. You may learn of religious matters eg the recording of “rosary beads and crucifix in hands” or a Requiem Mass.
  6. They may mention lodge affiliations or whether a flag was on the coffin for an ex-serviceman.
  7. In rare cases it may be the only record available of the death or burial.

Where can I find these records?

Much will depend on how long the business has been in operation, whether it still exists, and how flexible they are about their records.

If you’re not sure, you could try post office directories and phone books to see if you can locate current contact information you might want to phone or email the company to see where they archive their records. Of course despite our obsessive need to know what happened to our distant relative, the funeral directors are more likely to have pressing current-day issues to deal with, so patience is a virtue to be practiced.

The funeral notices for Peter McCorkindale reveals the name of the funeral director, but also Peter’s personal affiliations. Image from The Brisbane Courier Mail 18 July 1945, via Trove.

I’d also try approaching the local family history centre or reference library in the town where the business operated/operates. I know that the Genealogical Society of Queensland has several of the big-name Brisbane undertakers’ records  on microfilm and indexed on microfiche.  I wonder how often they’re used these days or if they languish unattended on the shelf.  Your own society may have the indexes, at least, so you would know whether the original will hold what you’re looking for. I’ve found heaps of information from these and can heartily recommend them.

If the undertaker is from your home town, then you may have the added advantage of knowing that certain funeral directors were more likely to be chosen by particular religions eg KM Smith was the dominant funeral business for Catholic Brisbaneites. But don’t get wedded to which company they may have used, as they’re likely to upset the apple cart (as you’ll see from the funeral notice here, for my Presbyterian relations).

A register of archives for your state or county may also reveal archival holdings for funeral businesses.

How do you know which funeral directors’ registers to search?

I tend to the policy of checking them all –the scattergun approach – in the absence of strong information.

If you already have the death or funeral notice from the newspaper it will be very clear which funeral director buried your relative. Alternatively it may appear on other documentation or on the death notice (in Australia though not elsewhere in my experience).

The burial registers we looked at last week may also reveal this information. It does all tend to become a bit chicken-and-egg as to which records to search first, but it’s a case of turning over every possible stone in your quest.

Where to from here?

There are many times I’ve wished for funeral directors’ registers and they’ve been unavailable but on other occasions they’ve been a gold mine of information. It now occurs to me that there’s one stone I’ve left unturned so I need to take my own advice and follow it up.

You might wish to read this story via Genealogy’s Star, which highlights how pivotal these records were for one family, and revealed untold depths of sadness.

Have you had any grand successes using funeral directors’ registers?

NEXT WEEK:  we take a turn through migration records.

Beyond the Internet: Week 38 Burial Registers

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 38 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and the topic is Burial Registers. This forms part of the cheerily named “Death” theme in the series and next week’s post on funeral directors’ registers will be the finale of this section.

Cemeteries offer more opportunities for research than just their gravestones and monumental inscriptions. Each cemetery should have (or would once have had!) some form of burial register documenting who has been interred in the cemetery. Of course the further back in time we go the greater the risk that the registers may not have survived. It’s always worth checking when the extant records commence.

Burial registers MAY provide you with information on cause of death, place of birth and death and next of kin – much depends on the particular cemetery. However it’s vitally important to cross-check sources and weigh up their relative accuracy.


Registers can also reveal unexpected events such as the reinterment of someone who died elsewhere and was initially buried closer to that place before being transported back to a “home” cemetery.

One instance in my Gavin family was the death of Mary Gavin in a car accident near Cooktown in August 1930. Initially interred in North Queensland, her body was repatriated to Toowoomba nine months later. Her MI records Mary’s death in 1930 (correct) while the burial register lists her death in 1931 just days before her reinterment (incorrect). The MI also lists her husband as well as son James who was killed at Fromelles: one buried with her, the other lying at rest in the Rue Petillon cemetery near Fleurbaix.

Another even more improbable anomaly came to light through a story told to me by an elderly relative. She remembered attending a “cousin’s” funeral when it was unseasonally hot. It took some sleuthing but eventually I figured out that the funeral was for Jack Bishop. So what’s odd about that you might well say? Only the fact that Jack died in England, and was actually buried in the Toowoomba cemetery in rural Queensland! Jack Bishop was a pioneer dirt-bike racer and had fallen ill while racing overseas. His mates in Australia had collected the money to pay for his ashes to be brought back to Australia. Who would expect something like that in the 1930s? There’s quite a story in this to which I’ll return another day.


Online (yes sometimes we do hark back to the internet)

Increasingly some cemeteries are putting their registers online to search: an absolute blessing for all of us far-away genies. I’ve been very lucky that the Drayton and Toowoomba cemetery were at the forefront of this trend and living so far away this has been amazingly helpful. They’ve now taken it one step further and included images of the gravestone as well as a map of the grave location. You can see an example here with Jack (Frederick John) Bishop’s entry here. Well done Toowoomba!

Visiting/Contacting the cemetery

If your cemetery-of-interest isn’t online then it will be worth your while to get in touch to see what additional information they may have on the burial and death. It’s always worth checking who is buried in the same plot as it may turn up unexpected relationships. The other possibility is that what you’ve come across is essentially a pauper’s grave, often indicated by a strange assortment of burials in the one plot: the sexton is likely to know so ask him if the names mean nothing at all to you.

If the cemetery is one which doesn’t have a sexton, you can try the local council office, the local heritage library or the local family history society to find out if they are the repository of the burial records. (I’ve found registers in all these places). These may be the originals (always best), microfilms of the originals, or indexed copies. All are worth exploring even though indexes will obviously need following up. Of course in the pre-internet era when death indexes were restricted and there were no other options the services provided by family history indexes were invaluable.

A critical point to remember is that while the official death registrations may be limited beyond a certain date, the burial record may open the door for further investigation of death notices and relatives, especially women whose names have changed with marriage.

Thrifty tip: the death information obtained from the burial registers may mean you don’t need to obtain certificates for peripheral relations (some of whose certificates you may not be able to purchase for privacy reasons, or the fact that the death wasn’t all that long ago).

FamilySearch Microfilms

Old and new technology: image from wikipedia commons.

Over the decades I’ve used the LDS microfilms of burials to great advantage in my family history searches. They’ve enabled me to confirm otherwise tentative links, unravel which person is which, and generally learn more about my ancestors.

Tip: Not all registers have been added to the family search site or the old IGI. You should compare what’s been indexed online with what’s available on the film. Either way, you’ll get far more information from the films. They let you place your ancestors within the events and context of their parish as well as providing you with clarifying details.

Tip: search the catalogue by place and parish to find the record you’re looking for.  If you haven’t used these microfilms before I encourage you to see if they’re available for your parish of interest and order one in for the thrifty amount of $AU7.75. This is the link you need to order in your film to the nearest LDS or approved family history library.

Request: it would be so nice if FamilySearch made the link to the microfilm ordering just a tad more obvious (or am I the only one who has to google to find it?)

Other blogs

James Tanner from the Genealogy’s Star blog has written several posts about cemeteries in the US over the past months. If you haven’t seen why not visit James’s site and have a look.  There are a couple of examples here and here.

What’s your experience been with burial registers? Have you made any exciting or unusual discoveries through using them?

Next week: Funeral directors’ records

Monumental inscription examples

Using a slideshow of photos to illustrate my latest post in the Beyond the internet series didn’t work all that well. I thought I’d post the images here so you can get a better look at what they offer – you never know there might just be a rellie among them.

Remember you can click on each photo to enlarge it.

Patzwald family at Cabarlah cemetery, Qld

The Patzwald family buried in Cabarlah cemetery, Queensland.

Clare Catholic Cemetery, SA

Suffer little come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven….

John Monzel at Dutton Park cemetery, Brisbane.

John Monzel born Trier buried in Dutton Park cemetery, Brisbane, Queensland.

Adelaide Ah Kinn in Urana NSW

Adelaide Ah Kinn, born Scotland married to William Ah Kinn, either Chinese or of Chinese descent. I’m fascinated by her and would love to hear from her descendants. She lived in Urana when my 2 x great aunt also lived there. Did they know each other? Was Adelaide socially isolated?

Johannah Wall at Roma, Qld

Johannah Wall is buried in the Roma Cemetery, Queensland.

Paulina Graf at Meringandan, Qld.

Paulina Graf’s memorial is in German. She is remembered in the Meringandan cemetery on the Darling Downs, Queensland.

Michael Moylan at Dungog NSW

Michael Moylan is buried in the Dungog cemetery, NSW.

Margaret Mary Byron at Dungog, NSW

Margaret Mary Byron at Dungog cemetery, NSW

The Meagher Brothers at Dungog.

The Meagher brothers are buried together which is interesting, as in my experience the clergy are often in a separate area of the cemetery.

Thomas Dillon at Dungog.

The gravestone of Thomas Dillon at Dungog, NSW

Bridget Shanahan at Branxton RC Cemetery NSW

Bridget Shanahan was of interest to me as an immigrant of the same name came from East Co Clare.

Robert Smallshaw of Greta

Robert Smallshaw.

Beyond the Internet: Week 37 Monumental Inscriptions and Gravestones

This is Week 37 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and the topic is Cemeteries: Monumental Inscriptions and Gravestones. This forms part of the cheerily named “Death” theme in the series. In the coming weeks we’ll talk about burial registers and funeral undertakers.

The grave of Thomas and Ellen O’Brien in the Broadford Catholic churchyard.

This topic seems almost unnecessary as most of us are aware of the importance of trying to see our ancestors’ graves.  Once upon a time this could only be done by visiting the cemetery however near or far it was. These days technology has made massive steps towards our ability to virtually see these graves even if visiting is impossible for us.

On the flip side, over the past 10 or 20 years while technology and the internet has been helping us solve this problem, those old gravestones have deteriorated to varying degrees – some to the point of illegibility.  So it’s still worth sussing out whether there are older photos around the place which may have captured the gravestone you’re looking for.

On my various travels I’ve taken photos of graves in cemeteries where I’ve visited. I don’t focus just on relatives but I also photograph stones where the monumental inscriptions are fading into oblivion or where the stones themselves are in imminent danger of falling and breaking as well as looking out for people who are buried a long way from home. My plan was to one day add these to my Flickr site, but it’s also one of the tasks I’ve barely touched. I should be following Crissouli’s lead with Irish Graves: those who lie in foreign lands.

CHIIIRPPD! OR What you can, and can’t, you find out from a gravestone. 

CAUTION:  In many cemeteries, in Australia at least, burials occurred according to religious affiliation with areas of the cemetery dedicated to the Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists etc etc. However caution is required when finding an ancestor in the “wrong” burial area. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’d changed their religious affiliations – the rationale may be burial with a relative, financial reasons etc.  For example the Gavins mentioned below are buried in the Anglican section of Toowoomba cemetery even though they were definitely Catholic and buried by the RC clergyman.

HIDDEN PEOPLE: You may find a clue about the existence of someone who hasn’t made it into the records elsewhere. For example the gravestone of Mark and Anna Gavin mentioned a Peter Conroy. Searching for his death and burial records turned up no results. However the story of his death is mentioned in the newspapers and had been indexed by the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society enabling me to identify it in the pre-Trove era.[i]

The MI for Thomas and Ellen O’Brien photographed in 2003.

ILLEGIBILITY: If you find the grave and can’t read the MI, don’t despair. Check out old indexes of MIs or photographs (where available) to see if you can learn more from them: you’ll find many of these in your local family history centre or perhaps the nearest one to the town you’re searching. For example, the generous donation of photos and indexes for the Broadford cemetery in Co Clare omits my 2x great uncle, Thomas O’Brien. This is in no way due to any error of the donor, rather that the MI is now illegible. Luckily I have an earlier photograph from 1992 which I need to provide to the site.  If you can’t locate an old photos why not put a post up on one of the chat groups to see if anyone can help.

IMAGERY: It may not add to your ancestor’s biographical information, but the imagery and any wording/poetry/prayers will add insight into your family’s belief systems. There are also people who study the varying imagery used so it may be worth your while to see what you can track down.

INDEXES: Don’t forget that family history societies may have indexed the MIs in your cemetery of interest many years ago. It’s worth checking their indexes to MIs to see if they reveal more than current photos.

RELATIONSHIPS:  If you’re lucky the gravestone MI may include details of relationships between the “inhabitants” of the grave. Alternative proximate graves and MIs might reveal these relationships.

In the churchyard at Moorgate in Nottinghamshire we unexpectedly found my husband’s great grandmother buried with her sisters and mother in two adjoining graves, with coffin-shaped gravestones including comprehensive family details. Happy dances in the falling snow!

My relative James Gavin is similarly remembered on his parents’ MI.

PLACES: It’s not unusual to find an MI mentioning the person’s current place or where they died, and it’s also not uncommon to find reference to a county where they were born overseas. Those of us who are really lucky may find it mentions the village, parish or townland where they came from. This can be gold as it may be the only place where you find this information depending on who completed the death certificate.

The gravestones of Sarah Cass, her mother and three sisters in Moorgate.

PROXIMITY: It has surprised me how often family members are buried near each other in the cemetery. We tend to expect husbands and wives to be buried together but that’s not always the case: they may have been buried with a second spouse or a child, or even a different cemetery. Initially I didn’t know much about my grandfather’s eldest sister. When I found her grave, it was smack bang behind that of other family members.

DON’T ASSUME: You can’t assume that all those named on the stone are actually buried there: it may simply be a memorial to one or more of them (perhaps because they couldn’t afford a stone at the time). There are other ways of checking this: death certificates or burial registers for example, or look in newspapers for any stories about the person’s death.

So there you have it: my assessment of the benefits of monumental inscriptions, and some of the hazards. I hope you find some of it useful but if you’d like to add your discoveries or additions please do so as it will benefit us all.

I’m going to include a slideshow here to illustrate just how lucky you can be with MIs. (Actually I don’t think the slideshow was the best option here so if you’re interested in knowing more about any of these people -see captions- leave a comment request and I’ll get back to you.)

Also see further below for a list of online sources of gravestones.

Next week: Burial registers. These really complement the MI/Cemetery topic but merit a post on their own.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some online sources for images of gravestones (there are many others)

Australian Cemeteries (this is one of my favourite grave-search sites)

Co Clare Gravestones – donated material

South East Queensland Headstone Collection: (another of my favourites).

Australian Cemeteries

Carol’s Headstone Photos: Victorian cemeteries predominantly.

Billion Graves

Memento Mori

[i] I told the story of this gravestone in the TDDFHS publication Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery, Our Backyard, 2009, page 85.

Beyond the Internet: Week 36 Photographic archives

This is Week 36 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and the topic is Photographs and Postcards.

Strangely perhaps this topic ties into the archives and libraries branch of the series. This is something of a case of “teaching your grandmother to suck eggs” since most of us are forever on the hunt for photographs which show our ancestral families.  With our focus on the personal perhaps we’re a little less likely to think out images of places. So where might we find these hidden treasures?

FFANS: Family, Friends, Associates and Neighbours

A Kunkel wedding at the Fifteen Mile.

You will almost certainly harass every close relative you’re aware of to see if they have any old photos. But what about the family’s friends? Do you remember your family receiving photos of a distant cousin’s First Communion, school photo or 21st? Well it’s quite likely that this happened back as long as there were photos, so isn’t it worth trying to track down who might have what you’re looking for.  

For example one of my treasured family photos of my grandfather’s sister’s wedding includes the extended family group, excluding him (they’d had a falling out over religion). This photo came to me from two 2nd cousins but had been taken by the Kunkel’s neighbour who was the local photographer. I did try to see what happened to this photographer’s images, but sadly without success.  

A page from a 4th cousin’s photograph album.

One photograph of my Mary O’Brien (2x great grandmother) came to me from her granddaughter who had lived with them. However the photo of Mary’s husband, George Kunkel, came from a 3rd cousin in Sydney who has whole suitcases full of photos from her aunts and cousins! Sadly not all of them are labelled or known.

This highlights the importance of shaking the family tree (hard) to see what photos emerge.

Not only are the hoarders among us absolute gold-mines with documents and photos, but there are also friends who are photo-fiends while others take no photos. When a close friend of ours died tragically in his early 30s, the family had very few photos of him but we had lots of photos and even home movies.  

Bric-a-Brac stalls or markets  

A Queensland railway camp, possibly Fountain’s Camp at Murphy’s Creek.

It’s less common to see photos or postcards at market stalls in Australia than it is in the UK (not sure about other countries) but it’s certainly worth snooping among the piles if you come across them.  Don’t forget old postcards which illustrate the places where your families lived, and add richness to your story. I got a great old photograph of a railway camp family through hunting through boxes of photos.  

Local history libraries/museums

I talked in detail about this topic a couple of weeks ago so won’t elaborate much here. However, these places are great opportunities to perhaps find old photos of your family if they lived in that town for a while. For example the Winton Local History Museum has photos of my Mellick relations’ shop. Alternatively there may be photos of their businesses or the local area. My post linked to these types of discoveries by Joan, Sharn and Tanya. 


Again this has been the subject of an earlier post in this series. Old local history books or books about your ancestor’s occupation or industry may well provide you with either indirect or direct images to add to your own story. (Don’t forget to get copyright approval to use them though you can take a photocopy for your personal, unpublished, use).  From a local history book I was able to contact an elderly lady and obtain a copy of the photo of a railway work gang, very relevant to my family history.

Reference Libraries and Archives

This also ties in with books as this is your best chance to find a relevant book. You can also borrow from your national library on an inter-library loan to your local reference library.

The photo of Hannah Partridge from the Queenslander newspaper 7 August 1909 page 62.

These reference libraries may well have archival sections where they store a wide range of photos of people and places (more often catalogued under places or topics). While Picture Australia, now via Trove, has many digitised photos, they’re not all there so it’s still worth working your way through the catalogue to see what they have. For example I’ve looked at old photos of places where my families lived, and the hobbies and activities they were involved with. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t, but at least you’ll know you’ve given it your best effort.

I first found a photograph of my maternal 2xgreat- grandmother, Hannah Partridge courtesy of an index at the John Oxley Library in Queensland. Her photo had been published in The Queenslander as part of a series for Queensland’s Separation in 1909.

Similarly they have an index of many of the Queensland men who joined up in World War I. Both sets of images were published in The Queenslandernewspaper. This has now been digitised but if you search Trove you may not necessarily find their names pop up, or at least that’s been my experience. I know they’re there, have the date and page references from years ago, so I could find them. If you know your ancestor went off to World War I it’s worth while checking to see if there’s a passport-sized photo of him. Try using the search term “Reinforcements” for best success but be aware there may be time delays. If you’re near Brisbane it’s probably best to just check the card index in John Oxley library.

Reinforcements: The Queenslander 24 November 1917, page 27.

The Australian War Memorial is also a good option for finding photos of people or places. For example I was able to obtain a photo of the crossing the line ceremony held on my grandfather’s voyage en route to France in 1917.


Yes this is one of those cross-over moments, and I guess we’ve all searched e-bay and the internet for images of people and places we’re hunting.

I wanted to share another site with you though, perhaps a little more obscure. Have you ever looked at the George Washington Wilson Photographic Archives at the University of Aberdeen? You might be astonished to find, as I was some time ago, that this archive holds photos not only of places around the UK, but also early Australian photos.

There is a photograph of my old school which is labelled only as a convent school – I was able to give them the additional details, and also let the school know of this early image. There are all sorts of other intriguing photos too, so do have a browse and see if it’s helpful. Don’t be too specific in your search parameters to ensure you pick up as many as possible. For example there are 629 images under a search for “Victoria” and 242 for Queensland.

I’ve also found great photos in the Francis Frith collection including one which shows the house where Mr Cassmob’s family lived in Bath before emigrating to Australia. In all cases, don’t forget to check out the copyright and reproduction conditions. Catherine, my fellow blogger and friend, tracked down a photo of her ancestor’s band and her post on Mysterious Musicians and Mariners very clearly illustrates how broadening your search can turn up great relevant images, whether your person is in the image or not.

These diverse sources show just how many strategies you can use to find images which will bring your family story to life.

Have you had any successes in tracking down family images or places in any of these ways? Or have you got your own innovative way of finding them? Why not share them in the comments or on your own blog.