Family History Matters 
 The blog of the GSV 

GSV News

GSV News

Our future will help you discover your past.

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The GSV is a place where members volunteer to assist other members to research their family histories, aided by a small but highly experienced team of professionals. It is fair to say we are a respected and well-loved organisation.

Whether you are currently seeking information about your ancestors, have yet to start, or think you may have finished, the GSV is here to assist you at every stage of your journey.

Our highly regarded quarterly Ancestor journal is probably the most visible of the GSV’s offerings, but there is so much more. Behind the scenes is a sophisticated, technologically advanced organisation with teams of dedicated volunteers continually updating the means by which you can carry out your research.

Then we have a number of discussion circles where members share their special interests, seek help, learn more and enjoy the company of other members.

Our volunteers are in at GSV five days a week, working for the benefit of our members and ready and prepared to help you with your research – or to point you to the multitude of GSV resources and other sources of information.

It is costly to maintain and to add to what we have to offer, to keep up-to-date with changes so as to be prepared to help you when you are ready.

For the GSV to continue to “be there” for you when you need us, we rely on donations.

We hope the approach of the end of the tax year, June 30, is a time when you might think about supporting “your” organisations and interests.

We ask - “Would you please consider a donation to the GSV to ensure a strong and healthy future?”

We hope your answer will be “yes”.

Donations to GSV are tax-deductible. They can be made online through the Donate Now link on the GSV website homepage, or by calling the GSV (on 03 9662 4455) with your credit card details, or by a cheque in the mail (to Level 1, 10 Queen Street, Melbourne Victoria, 3000).

An Evening Event: Educating our Ancestors in the 19th Century

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England and Wales Discussion Circle
Tuesday, 28 May 7:30 – 9:00pm via Zoom

Caning, flicks to the ear, a dunce’s cap: I’d heard of those punishments being used in schools in the past. Being flung in a basket and hauled up to hang from the ceiling? That was a new one for me.

Stephen Hawke’s presentation ‘Educating our Ancestors in the 19th Century’ contains many descriptive nuggets to help us imagine what our English and Welsh ancestors may have experienced in school. While the focus is on education in the United Kingdom, relatives who attended Australian schools in the 19th century would have faced many of the same circumstances.

Stephen’s presentation examines the very fractured education system that operated in the first half of the 19th century and then the radical changes mid-century that led to compulsory education in England and Wales from 1870. He also explores a case study of an elementary school in Northampton in 1888 as an example of what children experienced at school.

This evening Zoom session is free for all GSV members. Register here to receive the meeting link by email. (You will need to log in first).

I hope to see you there!
Rebecca Landy

Note: this is a repeat of the session from Friday 10th May.

What was life like in India in the final years of the Raj?

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Are you up for something quite different on a quiet almost-winter evening?

Then grab a nice cup of Darjeeling tea and settle in to the next British in India Discussion circle zoom meeting on Tue 21 May at 7.30pm.

You don’t need a personal connection to colonial India to join this discussion circle. All GSV members are invited to enjoy a fascinating interview with someone who experienced the final years of the Raj in Bengal.

Our special guest will be Heather Spicer, born in Chandpur, Bengal, in 1936. She spent her first eleven years in India, with home at Comilla and school a four-day adventurous journey away at Darjeeling.

Heather will be in conversation with Janine Marshall Wood to tell us about her parents and why and what they were doing there at the time.  Just like India then and now, there are engrossing stories, surprises and stunning things to learn in store for us as we hear about her childhood. In 1966 Heather returned to Bangladesh for four and a half years with her husband and two children, with two more babies born there.

This meeting is open to GSV members only - what a great reason to join the GSV!

Please log in to the website and book. See you there.

The Databases You Can Access from Home

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GSV members can access the GSV library subscriptions to the databases My Heritage and The Genealogist from home.

MyHeritage provides access to over 20 billion historical records. It also includes a DNA testing service, online family trees, access in 42 languages, image editing tools (including Deep Nostalgia—a photo animator), and a website and apps. Recent additions to MyHeritage include their AI Record Finder, AI Biographer and MyHeritage Wiki features.

TheGenealogist specialises in records from the UK between 1127 and 2005. Many of the records are not available on the other major commercial databases. It includes their family tree builder TreeView, and  Map Explorer which overlays maps to help users search and compare modern and historic places and boundaries.

On Wednesday 24th April at 10:30am David Down and Rebecca Landy will present 30 minute reviews of these websites to help you identify how they can be of use in your research.

The presentations will include a review of the sites and include information like:

  • how to access the site from home,
  • the focus and strengths of the collection,
  • an outline of recent changes,
  • tips on how to navigate the site successfully.

The presentations will be followed by time for questions. If you have a question you would like addressed please submit it to in advance of the session.

Members can register for the event here. You will need to log in to register.

Don’t we all love something for free: join a GSV discussion circle.

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Meet like-minded people who share your passion for family history, research and writing. Within the circles, members share their knowledge, successes and brickwalls. I’m a member of many of them, and have found a friendly environment where no question is too simple (or too dumb).
It’s a wonderful format: some members will present well-researched history with plenty of time for questions and discussion. Some members contribute short tips and stories. Sometimes there are guest speakers. You can learn a lot just by listening to the energetic Q&A following the talks. The convenors and other members help you with preparing your presentation if you choose to do one.
If you are a country or interstate member it’s a great way to get more from your membership The discussion circles are run via zoom.

There is no obligation to go to all meetings, and no obligation to do a presentation. We all learn from each other and have a good chat along the way.

Best of all, they’re free as part of your GSV membership.
I’m hooked, why don’t you give one or two of them a try this month?
You can find the links to them here:

DNA and Family History

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GSV’s very popular Zoom course ‘DNA for Family Historians’ is starting again on Monday 25 March 2024.  Sessions are presented by Alan Rhodes, a long-time GSV member and experienced genetic genealogist.

Whether you are looking to break down a brick wall, find an unknown close family member, extend your family tree, confirm your research, or find new cousins, DNA can help with your family history.  

The sessions start with the basics and progress through to more intermediate topics.  The aim is to help you understand your DNA results and use them to progress your family history research.  They are relevant to which ever testing company you have used but focus on Ancestry and My Heritage.

The early sessions assume people are just starting to use DNA for family history.  You can either follow the whole series of sessions or join for topics of interest.  Look at the GSV Events Calendar for the details of each session.

Detailed handouts are provided for each session which explain the main ideas and provide suggestions for further reading and follow up activities.  GSV also offers a DNA email where you can ask questions about the session or get advice on using your DNA test.

You need to register for each session you want to attend.  There is a $10 registration fee for each session.  Live Zoom sessions are at 11:00 - 12:30 on Mondays, with time for questions and discussion.  This year, a recording of each session will be available on Monday evenings at 7:30pm the week after the live session.  Register for the session and you can either attend the live session, the recording or both!  Just use the same link and no extra cost.

If you have not yet done a DNA test and wondering whether you should, why not look at the GSV’s three webcasts, listed in the GSV catalogue.  They cover the basics of:

  • Should I do a DNA test?
  • DNA Ethnicity results
  • DNA and family history

If you have any questions about the sessions or how they might help you, email us at

Quick Look Up Service

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A quick blog to tell you about one of my favourite GSV services.
And it’s all free (to members).

We have a happy team of skilled and willing research assistants who love to help you.

Do you get frustrated when you can see a record on Findmypast, Ancestry or The Genealogist but don’t have the subscription or subscription level to access that record? Remember you can search these without a subscription, just create a log in.

Send a Quick Look Up request with all the available details (perhaps a screenshot) of the record you want and the research assistant will email you the record.

Did you hear about a new book or journal obtained by GSV and not know if your ancestor is mentioned in it?
Send a Quick Look Up request detailing which book/journal and ask the research assistant to look in the index. If successful they will even scan the page and email it to you.

Can’t access that Family Search or Early Church record you want?
Found something in the British Newspaper Archive and can’t access it?
Send a Quick Look up request with as many details as possible and the research assistant will:

  • as an affiliate library get the family search record for you
  • send you a copy of the original early church record from the CD at GSV
  • email you a copy of the news article.

Remember this service is designed for queries that will only take about 20 minutes to look up, but if the research assistants are having a quiet day, you might get lucky and get a little more.
It’s not an instant service, you might have to wait if they are busy.

You can only send one Quick Look Up request at a time but you can send another as soon as you get your answer.

To access this service:

  • log in to the GSV website
  • hover over the Research Menu and select Research Services (
  • scroll down to the Research Services for GSV Members section
  • and click on the Members - Quick Look-up Service - Free on the left hand side

Jackie van Bergen

News about our Saturday openings

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We have new dates and opening hours on Saturdays.  Our open Saturdays in 2024 will generally be the 2nd Saturday of the month except for March and June when it will be the 3rd Saturday to avoid clashes with long weekends. The open Saturdays are all listed on the Events part of our website. The upcoming open Saturday dates are 10th February, 16th March and 13th April.

We will be open from 10am to 3pm on these dates but you do need to book by noon the day before. Bookings can be made via phone at +61 3 9662 4455 (Monday to Friday, 9:30 am to 4:00 pm) or via email at

Saturdays are a good time to visit the GSV Library. Why you might be thinking? Well, on our open Saturdays we usually have 2 or 3 experienced Library Assistants to help you and others who have booked to come in. So it provides a quieter environment for your research than on weekdays.

If you want to drive into the city there is cheap parking at the covered car park in Bond Street directly opposite the GSV. Or if you want to come in by train it is much easier to get car parking near your local station or at an intermediate station.

Our dedicated Saturday Library Research Assistants look forward to meeting and helping you soon.

DNA Testing Can Help You Discover Your Family History

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Have you been thinking about testing your DNA to help find that elusive ancestor, but still have questions about whether DNA testing could help?

Testing can confirm your current research findings and help break down your brick walls. You will find living relatives to share information with and learn about your ethnicity by identifying your distant ancestral origins. We will explain how we, at the GSV, can help you explore and understand your results.

You may have questions about which company to test with, what are the costs, how to interpret your results and importantly, what about privacy and security issues. These and other questions you have will be answered by a panel of experienced DNA researchers using examples from their own research, at a talk and discussion session to be held via Zoom on Wednesday, 21st February, from 10.30am to 12 noon.

This session is open to both GSV members and non-members, at a charge of $10.

Book via the GSV website htps:// Click on Events (under Activities) and follow the link. Any issues with registering, please contact the GSV during office hours on +61 3 9662 4455.

Alan Rhodes
Maureen Trotter
Jenny Redman

Researching Your Irish Family History Seminars Open to Public

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Bookings now open for the General Public

Click here to register

The Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV) and Family History Connections (FHC) are proud to present two full-day seminars delivered by Fintan Mullan and Gillian Hunt, two internationally renowned experts in Irish research from the Ulster Historical Foundation.

The seminars will be conducted on Sunday 18 February 2024 at the Docklands Library and Monday 19 February 2024 at the Blackburn RSL. Both seminar days are for in-person attendance only.

Sunday 18 February 2024 - 9.00 am

Monday 19 February 2024 - 9.30 am

Irish resources at the GSV & FHC

Irish archives & their websites

Understanding Irish townlands

Records for churches in Ireland

Sources for famine research

Using landed estate records

Importance of gravestone inscriptions

Census substitutes and other sources

Newspapers for Irish research

Using wills & testamentary records

Plantation & 17th century records

Using the Registry of Deeds

Examples of successful searches

Q&A and solving brick walls

Q&A and solving brick walls


Pricing for members of the public:

  • $110 for a single day or $180 to attend both days.
  • Tea, coffee and water will be provided. Bring your own lunch


  • Library at the Dock, 107 Victoria Harbour Promenade, Docklands
  • Blackburn RSL, 2 Diggers Way, Blackburn

It is possible to catch public transport to both venues. Please consult the Public Transport Victoria website.

More information about the Ulster Historical Foundation may be found on their website:

Click here to register or call the GSV on +61 3 9662 4455.