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Congratulations for 'Sentenced to Debt'

Don Grant Award Winner 2020
Don Grant Award Winner 2020
Bill Barlow
15 October 2021
Book Reviews
GSV News

Researching family history is a good start, but writing about it makes it history.

Congratulations to Louise Wilson for receiving the Don Grant Award 2020 for her book Sentenced to Debt - the story of Robert Forrester, First Fleeter.

This award was announced by Family History Connections at a zoom presentation on 19 September 2021.

Bettina Bradbury was announced as the winner of the Alexander Henderson Award 2020 for Caroline's Dilemma: a Colonial Inheritance Saga, the lives of the Bax and Kearney families, early squatters on the Victoria-South Australia border.

Congratulations to both winners and for the support given to family history writing by Family History Connections with these ongoing awards.

Louise Wilson is a member of the GSV's Writers Discussion Circle. She regularly convenes one of its annual topics - this year about writing First Nations people in our histories, something that Louise faced in writing Sentenced to Debt. See the blog post July 23. You will find many of her contributions in Ancestor journal both as feature articles and in the 'Getting it Write' section. And members of the GSV Writer's Group benefit from her helpful critiques and suggestions. So it is great to see her input being recognised once again.

You can read the judge's comments on both books https://www.familyhistoryconnections.org.au/index.php/awards/131-2020-awards-3

And about Louise and her books at Louise Wilson "nerdy...but nice!" HERE


GSV Writing Prize 2021 announced

Susan Wight - winner
Bill Barlow
6 October 2021
GSV News


A mysterious ancestor living the good life in Sydney in the early 20th C as a socialite and breeder of racehorses—this was the subject matter of the winning entry in the GSV Writing Prize 2021.

The winner was Susan Wight with her story ‘The mystery of the extra Booth Hodgetts’, a well-written account of her original knowledge of the four Booth Hodgetts and subsequent research to solve the mystery of an apparently additional member of her family tree. 

Last Saturday 2 October, President Jenny Redman announced the winner and runner-up of the 9th GSV Writing Prize at a virtual gathering of eager entrants and interested writers who joined Council members, staff and the Ancestor team online. 

The runner-up was Bernard Metcalfe with his intriguing tale of ‘The Secret Life of Mr Crisp’ about a ‘model’ family man who stole his brother-in-law’s identity—a tale that uncovered much that was hidden from his family. 

Susan wins a one-year subscription to Ancestry’s Worldwide membership and a DNA test. Bernard wins a six-month subscription to Ancestry’s Worldwide membership. The GSV extends its warm thanks to Ancestry for their continued support of this annual Prize.

This year fourteen entries were received from which five were shortlisted. The three remaining shortlisted entrants were Louise Wilson with ‘Hapless Fate’, in which she recounts the misadventures of a distant family member, Russ Gloster with ‘Ghost ships of Gloster’, his account of the ships belonging to one of his ancestors and Yvonne Tunney with ‘From Godly mechanics to farmers’, the story of German missionaries in the Moreton Bay settlement.

We were glad to see two entries from members of GSV Member Societies - Gisborne Genealogical Group Inc, and Philip Island & District Genealogical Society Inc - to whom eligibility has been extended.

Well-known GSV members Cheryl Griffin (guest judge) and Joy Roy (President’s nominee) joined three Ancestorteam members, Barbara Beaumont, Sue Blackwood and Tina Hocking on the judging panel. The judges were appreciative of the work that went into the entries, and congratulated all the entrants on their achievement. The President thanked all the judges for their deliberations and Leonie Ellis for her administration of the competition. 

The winning story will be published in the coming December issue of GSV's Ancestor journal and the full Judges' Report will be available on the GSV website.

Congratulations all! 


Living within 5 km

suvarov Atoll, Cook Islands
suvarov Atoll, Cook Islands
Bill Barlow
3 October 2021
GSV News
Treasure Chest
Writers Circle

You don't have to go far - living within 5 km

In previous times families didn't move far from their villages for generations. Many or even most people never moved beyond our recent 5 km lockdown over their whole lives.

This has been a useful factor in tracking early family names in a specific geographical location. Tracing my Barnes family, it has been shown that by 1860 a third of all UK 'Barnes' were in Lancashire and in 1861 it was particularly prevalent in Haslington and Accrington, north of Manchester - in the Valley of Rossendale. 'Golding', a recurring name in my family, is also most prevalent in Lancashire in its north England cluster. Both these name locations probably reflect the settlement there of Hiberno-Norse people from about 900 after their expulsion from Dublin in 902.

A great grandfather of mine set foot on Suvarov (or Suwarrow) Island, a very small Pacific atoll, in 1889. Years later the largest islet of this coral reef would be the voluntary home of Tom Neale where he lived for six years. He was inspired by an earlier occupant, Robert Dean Frisbie, who exiled himself and his four children there for a year in 1942. The islet they lived on is only 800 metres long and 200 metres wide - so a perambulation is well below our present 5 km confinement.

Robert Frisbie had lived on Pukapuka, another small Pacific atoll and wrote: 'Think of it! A woman living on this island for some seventy years and never visited Frigate Bird Islet, four miles across the lagoon! It reminds me of a pair of darling old maids who lived near our ranch in the foothills of California. They were in their forties, alone on a farm only a few miles from Fresno, the lights of which place they could see, on a clear night, from a hill beyond their house—yet they had never been to Fresno nor to any city! Once I tried to take them, and I remember that one old dear couldn’t go because she had a hen setting and her sister was “no hand at poultries”; the other one couldn’t go because she was afraid to leave her sister alone—“something might happen.” So it is with lots of Puka-Pukans. We have only three islets on this reef, yet many of the neighbors have set foot on only one.' 

And to help us live within our own resources, that classic of Thoreau's two years in a cabin on Walden Pond is worth a re-read. 

Our ancestors didn't move far, until they did - when wars, economic emigration and forced relocation, transportation took them to another county or across the globe.



Tom Neale. An Island to Oneself, Collins, 1966

Robert Dean Frisbie. The Island of Desire: the story of a South Sea trader, Doubleday, 1944 / Benediction Books 2019 / ebook available online.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden or Life in the Woods (1854), JM Dent Everyman's Library 1910. 

[Ed] I thought I would treat you to a picture of this tropical island in memory of all those beach holidays we Melbournians had to cancel this year.



Thinking about becoming a GSV Member? Try our Visitor E-Pass

Bill Barlow
10 September 2021
GSV News

Thinking about becoming a GSV Member?

Try our Visitor E-Pass with the special introductory price of just $10

The Visitor E-pass gives you 6 hours online at home access to the members section of the GSV website. This will allow you to:

  • Access two unique databases - a names index of over 3.1 million records and the 'Milestones' index of 1.5 million records, 
  • Access our award-winning journal –Ancestor
  • View our webcasts about family research, DNA, and information sources
  • Search our catalogue and indexes

Further details and purchase your Visitor E-Pass HERE



Bill Barlow
25 August 2021
GSV News


To celebrate National Family History Month August 2021, there are prizes in a draw for lucky winners - if you enter by next Monday 30 August.


Subscriptions, gift vouchers and other items, which are desired by family historians, are on offer.

To enter the prize draw you only need to send an email to info@familyhistorymonth.org.au including your name, postcode and email address. 

List of prizes on offer below or the link: https://familyhistorymonth.org.au/competitions-in-august/


A further CLOSING CEREMONY PRIZES DRAW is available for those who register and attend the Closing Ceremony at which Fiona Brooker will talk via Zoom on Tuesday, 31st August 2021 at 6.00 AEST.


Fiona will give a presentation on:


The 1939 Register for Family Historians


Following on from the declaration of War, on September 29th 1939, the details of the population of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were recorded and identity cards were issued. This talk will look at searching the 1939 Register and what to do with the information you find.


About Fiona Brooker

Fiona is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). With a background in adult education, Fiona loves to teach family history and digital scrapbooking. There is nothing better than getting someone else addicted to the hunt for their ancestors. Beyond her own research she has served as both President and Treasurer of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG) and worked with local branches

Details about accessing the Zoom talk will be available here or on our Facebook page 1 week before the event. It will also be available from our website for 1 month afterwards).



The Life and Influence of a Squatter on the Campaspe 1837 to 1851 - Thurs 26 Aug Talk

Station on the Campaspe, Charles Lyell c1854 (SLV H87.63/17)
Bill Barlow
20 August 2021
GSV News


Next Thursday 26 August at 7pm,

author Martin Playne will present this talk to the GSV's Victoria and Tasmania Discussion Circle.

This talk is free for all GSV Members to attend via Zoom. You will need to register via 'Events' on the website and you will receive a Zoom link. It is not too late to join GSV. If you are not a member JOIN HERE.


The period spanning the years 1839 to 1854 was a fascinating one in the Port Phillip District. Melbourne had only been founded in 1835, and the Colony of Victoria was established in 1851. 

White settlers took possession of the lands of northern Victoria and elsewhere without either Aboriginal or government permission. This ad hoc settlement gave rise to disputed property boundaries and massacres of Aboriginal people. Lack of land ownership meant that squatters lived on properties with little security of tenure. By 1848 new government surveys came into effect, which led to better definition of boundaries. Improved longer-term lease arrangements and the concept of pre-emptive rights for purchase of land led to the end of the squatting era and the start of the settler movement. By about 1852 the Campaspe was mostly owned by settlers.

Martin Playne has spent eight years researching the social history of the Port Phillip District and his book Two Squatters: the lives of Dr George Playne and Daniel Jennings details the lives of two early pioneers and their influence on the formation of Victoria.

George Playne was born in Gloucester, England to a poor family. After some 22 years as a surgeon at Gloucester Infirmary, he emigrated with Daniel Jennings, a wealthy but eccentric investor and land agent, to Australia in 1839. Together they took up occupancy of Campaspe Plains Station - 200,000 acres, with 10,000 sheep. 

Join Martin as he explores the different roles that these two men had on the development of Victoria, and their achievements, which hitherto had not been explored. They epitomize many early settlers who made such contributions, but who have been barely recognised by historians. 

Martin will also examine squatting on the Mornington Peninsula for comparison and discuss the main difficulties faced by squatters at that time.


Bibliography and sources on squatting and the Port Phillip District

List of squatters and their properties in the Campaspe district



Our Presenter

Martin Playne is a retired research scientist who has written many scientific works and has extensive experience as an editor and in genealogical research. He is a member of the Editorial Team for Ancestor - the quarterly magazine of the Genealogical Society of Victoria. 

Martin was awarded second place for his book Two Squatters in the Don Grant Award for the Best Australian Historical Biography with a family history focus. His book is available in print form via the website of BookPOD http://www.bookstore.bookpod.com.au

Martin’s blog site is at http://www.mplayne.wordpress.com.


Thanks to Jean McConnachie, GSV Volunteer, for this post.

'Ancestor' journal wins Nick Vine Hall Award 2021

Ancestor Edit Team imagining celebratory bubbles!
Bill Barlow
4 August 2021
GSV News
Writers Circle

It has just been announced by AFFHO that the GSV's Ancestor journal has won the 2021 Nick Vine Hall Award for the best family history journal/newsletter in Australia and New Zealand, in category B for societies over 500 members.

The announcement was made at the beginning of the 2021 AAFHO National Family History Month opening session (by Zoom of course). This makes the fifth time the journal has received this award since 2009 - a real endorsement of the continuing value of the GSV's journal to genealogy and family history. 

Jenny Redman, President GSV, congratulated the Ancestor Edit team at its Zoom proofreading meeting this week: 'Once again your excellent work in producing journal has been recognised'.



This Award honours Nick Vine Hall AM. With the Census due next week it is timely to recall that Nick represented AFFHO at a National level in a Save the Census Campaign in the mid-1980s. Nick was a strong voice in the campaign, which resulted in the Federal Government accepting the Saving our Census and Preserving Our History report. This permits citizens across Australia to 'opt in' and allow retention of their Census information, under closed access for 99 years, by the National Archives of Australia, and in so doing, make a valuable contribution to preserving Australia’s history for future generations. Read more about this here Census Time Capsule Consider selecting this option in your census return. 



You have a few weeks to get your entry in for this year's Ancestor Prize - closing 4 pm Friday 27 August. See details here 2021 Ancestor Writing Prize

Celtic Day - 28 August at Gisborne

Family History Room, Gisborne
Bill Barlow
3 August 2021
GSV News
Member Societies



Member Societies Showcase


 Gisborne Genealogical Group Inc


Dreaming of things to do once lockdown is over? How about participating in the Gisborne Genealogical Group’s Celtic Day on Saturday 28 August? 


Or visit their Family History Room? You could even support regional tourism by making a weekend of it and doing both!


Make the most of your trip to Gisborne and also call in The Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society centre, just on the other side of the library from GGG. This is open Wednesdays.




Saturday 28 August 2021


9.30am – Start 

9.45am - Cornish harp music, followed by – Lyn Hall, ‘The Celts, Cornwall, and the Cornish in Australia’

11.00am – Break

11.15am – Scottish harp music, followed by – Joy Roy, ‘Scottish Kirk Session Records’

12.30pm – Lunch Break

1.15pm – Irish harp music, followed by - Susie Zada, ‘You can’t research Irish ancestors - All the records were lost – WRONG!’

2.40pm – Question time

3.00pm – Afternoon tea

4.00pm – Finish


Bookings are essential.Contact Lorna Jackson (lorna_jackson@bigpond.com).

Tickets are limited and subject to COVID-19 restrictions. 

GGG members: $20 | non-members: $25




The Family History Room is located next to the Gisborne Library. It is open to the public between 2.00pm and 5.00pm on Thursdays, except in January. Generally Bookings are essential. Phone 5428 3925. Gold coin donation would be appreciated.


In the week leading up to 28 Aug 2021, the GGG room will be open daily, 1pm to 4pm. 


The Family History Library contains:

  • over 1200 reference books
  • thousands of fiche
  • data CDs and DVDs
  • journals
  • maps

You can view the catalogue here [https://www.ggg.org.au/catalogue]


Additional family history resources (e.g. Ancestry.com, findmypast, Trove and over 300 years of UK newspapers) are available on the Gisborne Library computer system. For more information visit theGisborne Library’s Family History page [https://www.ncgrl.vic.gov.au/e-resources/familyhistory]


For further information about the Gisborne Genealogical Group, please see their webpage: https://www.ggg.org.au




Top: Family History Room of the Gisborne Genealogical Group, part of the old Council Chambers and Mechanics Institute complex. (Photo courtesy of GGG). 

Centre and bottom: Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society in the restored old Gisborne Court House (1858). (Photos courtesy of G&MMDHC).

Acknowledgments: Julie Dworak, GGG;  Kristy Love, GSV volunteer.

[Other GSV Member Societies might like to showcase their activities in this new section of our blog. Ed]


The Victorian Certificates Exempting from Dictation Test dataset - GSV talk 20 July

Bill Barlow
16 July 2021
GSV News

The significant underfunding of the National Archives of Australia (NAA) affecting their capacity to digitise their unique holdings, has received a large amount of press recently. While a recent funding boost is welcome news, it is important to highlight the value of the NAA’s collection and ensure its future.

One record set of vital importance is that of the Victorian Certificate Exempting from Dictation Test (CEDT). 

Last month the Chinese Australian Family Historians of Victoria (CAFHOV), with the support of the NAA, made these records available as a searchable dataset at https://www.cafhov.com/vic-cedt-index/

You can learn about these records next week in a free online presentation at GSV. 


The Victorian Certificates Exempting from Dictation Test dataset

Free online talk 20 July at 7-8 pm


Dr Sophie Couchman and Terry Young, a CAFHOV member whose ancestors appear in the Index, will present a free online talk about the database and the stories that have emerged from it, at 7 - 8 pm, Tuesday 20 July 2021.

Register here: https://www.gsv.org.au/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=1842


Between 1904 and 1959 customs officials recorded the names, ages, nationalities, occupations, residences and travel details of Chinese (and some Indian and Lebanese) Victorians who travelled overseas under a certificate that exempted them from sitting the notorious dictation test on their return – otherwise known as a CEDT. These registers contain a wealth of information for genealogists.

Sophie and Terry will describe the Victorian CEDT Index website as well as the registers, who applied for them, and what information can be found there. 


The CAFHOV project is a great example of the ways that a communityof family historians and genealogists can work with archives to increase the accessibility of significant record sets. The forthcoming talk will also be of interest to members who want to learn about ways to open up access to genealogical data.

The presenters

Dr Sophie Couchman is a curator and professional historian based in Melbourne with a particular interest in migration history and the role photographs play in how we tell history. Sophie recently assisted Jeff Fatt (aka the Purple Wiggle) on SBS’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’. She is a founding member of the Chinese Australian Family Historians of Victoria (CAFHOV).  


Terry Young is an enthusiastic family historian who got the bug a few years ago. His grandfather and father were both market gardeners. Their story is typical of last century Chinese Australian migration and Terry enjoys researching and sharing that story with other historians. He is Vice President, CAFHOV.



Image: Register of Certificates Exempting from the Dictation Test, Melbourne. NAA: B6003, 3.

June 'Ancestor' is now out

Bill Barlow
2 June 2021
GSV News

The June 2021 edition of the GSV's award-winning quarterly journal Ancestor is now out.


Digital editions in flipbook and a PDF are now on our website for Members.


Members will receive it in hard copy by mail soon, unless they have opted for digital-only, thus saving paper and running costs for the GSV.


The Ancestor Editors describe what this issue brings. Happy reading!

and what else would you be doing this week in Victoria) Stay safe.




'Winter means more time indoors, so more time for writing up your family history, an excellent opportunity to complete your article for the GSV Writing Prize. Entries are due by the end of August – see the back inside cover for details. It’s also a great time for curling up in a chair and reading, so you will enjoy the great variety of articles in this issue.


Alex de Fircks has delved into German military records to describe her father’s time as a reluctant recruit in the German army in the Second World War.


Judy Woodlock follows the life and career of J.C. Williamson’s protégé, dancer Tilly Woodlock, in Australia, New Zealand, England and back to Australia.


Andreas Vlassopoulos and his brothers came from Ithaca, Greece, early in the twentieth century. His daughter, Rosa McCall, weaves memories of her father around stories of life on the island of Ithaca, those left behind, and the family’s fruit stall at the Queen Victoria Market.


Two authors have used family documents as the starting point for research into their forebears. Natalie Lonsdale draws on letters sent to family back home, and her own extensive research, to trace the journey of a young convict from his native Bedfordshire to Tasmania, and later to the Victorian goldfields. Jim Coghlan has used a document written by his great grandfather outlining the main events of his life, backed up with his own research, to tell of the Coghlan family who travelled from Ireland in 1838 expecting to settle in Sydney, but found themselves instead in Port Fairy.


Our series on female publicans continues with Gayle Nicholas’s article about Henrietta, who was briefly the licensee of The Park Hotel near Ballarat. Her time as such was short lived as marital discord saw her leave both the hotel and Ballarat.


We regret that we have not been able to include our usual ‘How to’ guide to researching a particular area in this issue, but this feature will definitely be back in the next issue.


Kristy Love has written a clear and concise article on tracing her grandfather’s half-brothers using a combination of DNA techniques and traditional methods of tracing her ancestors. This contribution will be very useful to anyone starting to use DNA analysis to assist their family history research.


Meg Bate’s Research Corner is an informative guide to education records in Victoria.'



Don't forget to get your entry in for the Writing Prize!