Grass Dukes and Shepherd Kings at SLQ

SLQ004If you live within striking distance of Brisbane you might be interested in a visit to see the Queensland State Library’s display entitled Grass Dukes and Shepherd Kings, especially if you have ancestry from the Darling Downs.

I saw this exhibition when I was in Brisbane a few weeks ago and was very impressed with the items on display. It reinforces the points I made during the Beyond the Internet series last year about the vast array of resources which remain undigitised, awaiting the determined family historian’s sleuthing.

There were excellent maps on the walls as well as beautiful paintings – I particularly like Conrad Martens’ paintings of early Darling Downs scenes. Then there are the treasured items of daily life displayed in the cabinets.

But what is really tempting for the family historians are the glimpses of books which would be invaluable to anyone whose family were involved with particular stations eg Talgai Station’s ration book (1866-1868) or Glengallan’s pay register or labour book.  Just imagine those early shepherds on Talgai being issued with their rations.

If you haven’t already dropped by SLQ to have a look why not plan a visit this weekend before the exhibition finishes on 21st April: it’s on the fourth floor near John Oxley Library.

If I get to Queensland again in the next couple of months I’ll be equally interested in their upcoming exhibition Live! Queensland Band Culture. Not only might it provide me clues on various family musicians, but there’s bound to be some happy memories of my own tied up in it.

Abundant Genealogy: Week 8: Fanfare and tribute for my genealogy libraries

Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog, in conjunction with Geneabloggers, has a new series of weekly blogging prompts for 2012 and the theme is 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy . The topic for Week 8 is Genealogy Libraries: Genealogy libraries (and dedicated departments in regular libraries) are true treasures in the family history community.  Tell us about your favorite genealogy library. What or who makes it special? 

The more I reflected, the more unfair it seemed to single out just one library, so here’s my tribute, with fanfare, to the family history libraries in my life.  Like choosing between your children, picking your favourites seems unjust but I’d like to give my trio of Genie Awards  to the following: GSQ, LDS Family History Centre(s), and County Clare Library, for their contribution to my family history. Read all about my credits below.

Genealogical Society of Queensland (GSQ)

My family history would probably have languished in the “I wonder where my name originated” basket, had I not happened upon a Colonial Street Fair in William St, Brisbane in 1986. GSQ had a “get ’em interested stall” and over 25 years later, the rest, as they say, is history. Not only did GSQ launch my family history search, but it fed and fuelled it for a very long time until I moved to Darwin. In those pre-digitisation days, I used to visit the library to search their hard copy documents but also their rolls of microfilm and especially their wonderful and vast set of indexes prepared by family history centres around the country. They also had special interest groups and when possible I attended their sessions. The GSQ seminars were goldmines of information to new genies like me, and I made sure I mined them to the full. GSQ also established a Pioneer muster register to celebrate the Bicentenary in 1988 and I submitted my own family trees, such as it was after 12-18 months of research (info was much slower to find in those days). The register was updated for Q150 in 2009. So GSQ Library is my first and biggest trumpet fanfare of thanks!

Darwin’s LDS family history centre 

Darwin's Family History Centre and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.


If I was pinned down to one library I really couldn’t do without right now in 2012, it would be the Darwin LDS family history centre. Not at all like the flash Salt Lake City facilities, it nevertheless provides me with access to all the diverse records microfilmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). The films may take their time venturing across the seas but when those films arrive they provide the gateway into so much of my family story, especially when it takes my stories back across the seas to England, Scotland and Ireland (sadly my German village records are not filmed).  I continue to harp on about how wonderful they are, so I’ll let you read someone else’s story about why they’re genealogical gold. It bemuses me that researchers just don’t seem to “get” how much they can learn through the Mormon library: it’s just not instantaneous and perhaps that’s the problem in our impatient world.

Clare County Library

You could search my blog and find many references to this wonderful library. An innovator over many years I can’t sing their praises highly enough. If you have Irish ancestry, you want them to come from Clare so you, too, can benefit from the riches on their website: this is a virtual library you want to visit, trust me. Even if your Irish family comes from elsewhere have a look on the site to see just what may lie hidden in your family’s county of origin. And if you’re lucky enough to visit Ennis, as I have been, calculate the time you think you’ll need then multiply it: they have riches galore.

My other drum-rolls are for these libraries that have served me so well over the years. Each has wonderful research opportunities that have contributed to my own family histories and can do the same for yours. To each I say “Thank You!”.

State Library of Queensland (SLQ)

In my early research days, SLQ was then housed in William Street (and if my memory serves, staffed with Shauna Hicks among others) and became another home-away-from-home. Here I again used BDM microfiche, microfilmed newspapers, and that wonderfully old-fashioned thing, reference books. In those early days I don’t believe I had ventured into John Oxley Library but when time permits on Brisbane visits there are always things to follow up.

Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society (TDDFHS)

With family in the Darling Downs, as I soon discovered, TDDFHS had an impact on my research long before I joined the society or visited their library. GSQ held their index to BDM events in the Darling Downs Gazette and this was the key to learning more about the lives of my ancestors. TDDFHS have continued to hold a place in my genie heart with their local indexes especially their published books of newspaper extracts (especially great for “my” Germans). Because I live so far away I rarely get into the physical library but through membership emails etc I’m kept up to speed with what they’re doing.

Queensland Family History Society (QFHS)

I must mention QFHS even though I visited them infrequently because they were on the other side of town when I lived in Brisbane. These days my Brisbane visits are so time-constrained that I rarely make it to the actual library but I’ve gained so much from the resources they produce. Their Hamburg shipping indexes, school admission lists, electoral rolls, and so many other indexes and services are fantastic resources. Some of the information you’re finding on Findmypast, for example, comes from their indexing work. Hidden heroes! They also awarded me a prize in 2004 for my family history – a huge buzz for me! QFHS had a great Q150 project, Queensland Founding Families, for 2009 and if you have Qld family it’s a must-read.

Northern Territory Library (NTL)

With the encroachment of Trove and online subscriptions, NTL hasn’t seen me as much as they used to.  Their wide range of newspapers has often been a godsend to me in following up leads and where they don’t have them in house, NTL is efficient in ordering them in on inter-library loans from The National Library of Australia and similarly books that I need or want to suss out, are dispatched from Canberra to far-away Darwin for researchers like me.  Thanks Ken for your wonderful service with these loans! Always very much appreciated. NTL also hosts or co-hosts family history seminars throughout the year and includes family history, and history, journals and magazines for reference. They also have a great facility for people to tell their Territory Stories via online submission so if you have a family member who lived in the Territory in the past, you might want to put your entry there.

Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory (GSNT)

I’ve spent many hours at GSNT scrolling through Board Immigrant Lists searching for east County Clare immigrants. There were some wags who thought I was going to grow cobwebs! Tucked among the bookshelves are a wide variety of reference books to assist with family history and the microfiche and CDs provide further opportunities to round out what’s known about our ancestors. GSNT also holds an extensive pioneer register which hasn’t been of interest to me previously but I’ve now learnt that one of my family connections was in the Territory so I’ll need to see what they may have on them.

Thank you to each and every one of these libraries, without which my family stories would be just a litany of names and dates!

25 years of Family History: reflection and celebration: Part 2

As I mentioned in Part 1, research in the “bad old/good old” days was very different. We’d probably all riot now if we were deprived of internet access to digitised records, Scotlandspeople, Findmypast, Ancestry, World Vital Records etc etc. We’ve all got used to the ready access to such a wide array of resources, many of which we would “never” have had a chance to look at: imagine, for example, trying to find someone in the Passenger Lists leaving the UK: 1890-1960 without actually knowing when they travelled.

Despite this, much was possible by visiting four different repositories of wonderful family history information. They were invaluable then but are equally relevant now: the “virtual world” of the internet means we can accomplish part of our research lists online and use these “real world” resources for documents etc which may never be digitised.

So my top four research venues then (and now) were:

  1.             Churches and church archives

I have to put this first because the information I obtained directly from the church or denominational archives, was pivotal to taking my families back through time. The marriage record for St Mary’s Catholic Church, Ipswich was the only place where my German ancestor’s place of birth was correctly documented – numerous birth certificates for his children had been unproductive. Similarly the Anglican Archives in Brisbane provided equivalent information on another early marriage. In both cases the information provided was significantly more comprehensive than that on the official marriage certificate. Church archives can be challenging places but I’ve had wonderful support from some. Read the story of how pivotal they were to my family here.

2.                 State Library of Queensland (SLQ)

SLQ was based in William Street in an old building and if my memory serves me, Shauna Hicks was one of the librarians on duty in those days. Historic newspapers were held on microfilm and so you would search for specific known events for your family eg obituaries, weddings, births, deaths, funerals and perhaps war service. No such joys as Trove with the ability to turn up completely random information about your family.

SLQ also had/has books of general historical relevance, especially for Qld families, as well as the indexes for births, deaths and marriages in Queensland. However, and this is a big one, the indexes had a very restricted time range making it a challenge to take your family back, or indeed forward. You had to become adept at using all possible resources to suss out further information – funeral directors’ records were especially helpful. At this stage you thanked heavens you were searching for uncommon names or had some clues about family background. I’d been lucky that my family is somewhat obsessive about keeping documentation and there were birth certificates held for both my paternal grandparents –invaluable clues

3.                 Queensland State Archives (QSA)

QSA was still housed in an old building next to Boggo Road Gaol when I first visited and signed up. There was limited support for researchers, certainly nothing like exists today, and there were no research guides. It took me quite a while to figure out how to find what I wanted and as I was working full-time my visits had to be limited to occasional flexitime days, but slowly the information built up.

The first time I visited QSA after they’d moved venues to Runcorn, around 1992, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. We had just returned from an overseas trip where I’d done quite a lot of family research in various British archives and repositories. QSA’s facility was cutting edge and far more user-friendly and modern. It continues to be a wonderful resource which well merits learning the ropes: this is where you can add more flesh to your family stories. Like most archives it now has an increasing array of digitised indexes making it so much easier to navigate than previously. But like anything worth having, some of its secrets require “mining” and persistence and repay your efforts, or at least eliminate possibilities.

4.                 Family History Centres of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints (LDS/Mormons)

I think I was a bit uncertain about my early visits to the family history centres, quite unnecessarily. I used the IGI here and also at GSQ but I mainly used the centres to order in and read parish registers, cemetery records, and census films (the only way they came in those days). I still regard these microfilms as a cornerstone of my research and will often order all available films for a particular parish overseas. But don’t forget to see what’s available for Australia as well.

If you haven’t visited them, or their local equivalent wherever you live, do give them a try: they will reward your efforts with new jigsaw pieces for your family history puzzle, and I”m convinced we all  love a good trail to follow!