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What have family historians been doing in 2020?

Bill Barlow
14 January 2021
Book Reviews
GSV News

Did the circumstances of 2020 focus you on your family history research?

Or maybe, instead you turned to cooking and walking just to get out. 


Certainly this pandemic and the recent storming of the US Capitol building makes this family historian think more about the pandemics of the past and the volatile political uprisings that our family members may have lived through in their day. The 1918-20 Spanish flu killed about 20-50 M of the then 1.8 billion world population. So far COVID is approaching about 2 m deaths of 7.8 billion world population. 


Whether learning about the past will be enough to save us from a repetition (Churchill, Santayana, etc.) remains to be seen. But 'knowing more' about such past events helps us cope better - and hopefully helps our survival. [Ed.]



Why do we study family history? This question was asked on this blog on 3 Sept 2018: 'What makes a family historian tick?' A new book sets out some answers.


Many GSV members responded to this question by participating in a survey of the motives and characteristics of family historians that was conducted by social researchers at the University of Melbourne and Swinburne University. 


The outcomes of that study have been incorporated in a new book, now available: The Psychology of Family History: Exploring our Genealogyby Susan Moore, Doreen Rosenthal and Rebecca Robinson (Routledge, 2020).


The book presents their findings regarding:

  • Family history: Passion and popularity 
  • Spiritual and religious underpinnings of genealogy 
  • Identity: Who do I think I am? 
  • Biological realities: Who am I genetically? 
  • Beyond the self: Altruistic and intergenerational motives 
  • Family history as therapy   
  • The genealogical detective: Cognitive motives for family history research 
  • Health: What are my inherited health risks? 
  • Ethical dilemmas:  What should I do now? 

It concludes with consideration of the future challenges for family historians.


You can find out more about the book at: https://www.routledge.com/The-Psychology-of-Family-History-Exploring-Our-Genealogy/Moore-Rosenthal-Robinson/p/book/9781003011576



Maybe we can bring you a review in a future post. 


Best Wishes to all of us for this New Year of 2021

- and check out our GSV Events in January-March (see the last post and the website).



Bill Barlow
22 December 2020
GSV News



The arrival of "La Grippe" - the 1889 'Russian influenza' of Europe and America - was reported in Australia and New Zealand in 1890 (Australian Town & Country Journal, 5 Apr 1890, p10.) In Europe it 'began to kill off a great number of old people, and a 'number of Civil Servants [were] reported suffering from the epidemic...In Victoria it is chiefly Civil servants who have been attacked. Randwick races are coming on, and it is to be hoped that our own poor overworked Government clerks will not suffer from the malady', the Journal opined. Dr Thompson, the NSW Chief Medical Inspector advised that 'quarantine against influenza would be profitless against the disease and would certainly cause very serious monetary loss'. By April 1890 it was raging in Melbourne. The first notice of its arrival in Sydney was on April 2 when HMS Rapid returned from Hobart with Alexander Stevens, my great grandfather in its crew and 21 cases under treatment. Another RN ship brought 35 active cases from Melbourne. The harbour master did not quarantine the vessels but kept afflicted crew on board. At least the captain and officers were able to attend the Sydney Lord Mayors' Ball a few days later, so that was good.

All sounds very familiar 130 years later. In fact the 'Russian' flu may have been caused by the COVID 19-like 'common cold' coronavirus, which split or jumped from a cattle virus about then. The events of this year have given us a firsthand lesson in the part played by disease throughout our family histories.


But that's enough reflection on 2020. 

Australia's 'luckiness of distance' - and good management - means that we can plan events for 2021. [Ed.]




Thanks to all at the GSV, the 2021 Events program has lots to offer.

Our existing program of Classes, Discussion Circles and Talks will continue in the new year by Zoom. And there are new events and talks coming up.


15 January - The Good Oil will recommence when Cheryl Griffin will lead a discussion on various techniques and tips for undertaking good family history research.

20 January - The GSV Writers are planning the first of a series of ‘Shut Up And Write’ sessions. This was successfully introduced to their program this year, to focus members on starting and completing a piece of writing. Without this, all that research doesn't become history. Numbers at this event are limited so book early for this exciting event. The group's full program for the year will be on the website soon. All GSV members are welcome.

Writing course - 1, 8 and 15 February

For help in the skills needed to write your history, Margaret Vines will conduct her Writing Course by Zoomon consecutive Mondays 1, 8 and 15 February 2021, starting at 10.30 am. The course fee will be $75 and like her past courses will include the writing process - getting started, drafting and editing, basic writing skills and documenting your writing. Participants would be expected to write in class and between classes. The course is limited to 10 participants.


Book now to attend the following:

21 January– Ann Copeland from the State Library of Victoria will discuss the records available to assist you to research a house or property

4 February– Carl Villis from the National Gallery of Victoria will talk about dating paintings

11 February– A talk entitled ‘Researching NSW records prior to 1850’ will be presented by Louise Wilson 

18 February– Stephen Haby from the Prahran Mechanics Institute will talk about the development of the Melbourne railway system and its impact on the lives of your ancestors

4 March– Jillian Hiscock, the Collections Manager at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, will speak about their extensive resources including their manuscript and image collections.

18 March– Liz Rushen will present her talk about ‘Immigration to Victoria prior to the Goldrush’. This talk had to be cancelled in December. There are spaces still available for this event.


Register early for these events so that you do not miss out


The GSV Education Team wishes all members a happy and safe holiday period and looks forward to seeing you at events in 2021.


A study of family history and DNA testing - you can be a part

Bill Barlow
14 December 2020
DNA and family history
GSV News



DNA testing and the re-framing of histories and identities in contemporary society.


A research project at the University of Newcastle, Australia.


A research team at the University of Newcastle in Australia (Drs Shaw, Donnelly, Burke and Parkes from the School of Education) are conducting research into family history and DNA testing and its impacts on people’s understanding of themselves and their place in history. They are conducting an online survey, which is expected to take about 20 - 30 minutes and would welcome your participation if you have utilised DNA-testing in your research.


The Research Team is hoping that GSV members and others will take up this invitation, using the link below to take part in this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2DDTC2L


The purpose of the research is to investigate the use, role and impact of DNA testing in exploring and understanding individual national and global histories and identities. This study is an Australian-first and will provide an exciting opportunity to be involved in a new worldwide project about exploring the past.


Dr Debra Donnelly, Senior Lecturer at the University's School of Education, and principal, researcher for this study said that 'My colleagues and I have become interested in DNA testing and its impact on ideas of history and family heritage. The project is just beginning and we plan to collect data survey data for a few months. We will then analyse the data and likely there will be phase two interviews and case studies.'  


Participants will be asked to reflect on their experience with DNA testing and to provide some general demographic information. The survey will be online for 4-6 months. Links to a plain English report of the findings will be emailed to participating family history societies, so we hope to provide some feedback possibly in this blog.



December issue of GSV journal now out

Bill Barlow
7 December 2020
GSV News

The latest edition of our quarterly journal 'Ancestor' has now been published.

Members who have elected to receive a print edition should have received their copy in the mail and be perusing its many interesting articles, including 'Tom were the naughty lad' by Brian Reid - this year's winner of the GSV Writing Prize

But this edition is also available to members to read as a PDF file and as a flipbook that can be accessed in the Members Area of the GSV website.

This move to give you digital-media options for reading our journal is part of developing more ways to provide services to our members. Our COVID year has certainly prompted us in this. Our Zoom meetings and webinars are proving very popular especially as our centre has restricted access and as people only cautiously return to public transport.

Have a look at our digital editions - and you may even elect to access future editions in this way - thus saving postage and printing costs for the GSV, improving our environmental footprint and helping you downsize your home shelf space! You can access back copies as a Member via our website and search past articles via our catalogue.

You can change your delivery preferences under your Membership Details on the website.



Good news! A limited opening of our research centre from Nov 17.

Bill Barlow
15 November 2020
GSV News

It has been great to see people back in the city this past week, all being cautious and wearing masks, as we emerge from a time when we showed that we have a strong community. And we have developed new ways to connect to our far-flung members online, welcoming many from regional Victoria and  interstate to our Zoom sessions. Well done Melburnians!


And the GOOD NEWS is that we will open the GSV Library from Tuesday 17 November to a limited number of members for a limited number of hours.

Of course our new online options for you will continue as well, while we work our way forward in a different world.


Days open:  Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday

Open times:  approx. 11am – 2pm

Access: GSV’s library collection including item listed as “Digital @ GSV” & some databases. 

Booking essential as it’s limited to 2 -3 members per day.

Email to Book:research@gsv.org.au  and please specify which day and time and what records you would like to research, e.g. browse FamilySearch“affiliate library” documents.

Once at the GSV please follow instructions so that we can ensure that our staff and members are safe.


Thank you for all your support during this second Covid closure.

Where has the year gone? More Events at GSV

Bill Barlow
26 October 2020
GSV News


Where has the year gone?

Footy done! And not going to the Races this year! But luckily summer is coming.

In Melbourne we have had to find the old picnic gear and resurrect such outdoor pastimes to see our friends and family. But the GSV keeps cooking up online events to compete with the picnics and obligatory walking. (Have the dogs ever been walked so much!)

For the closing months of the year, you can book online for these four interesting presentations. We have increased the numbers who can attend, so you should be able get in if you check your busy calendars and book NOW.

Go to our website to book https://www.gsv.org.au


5 November at 11 am

The Diary of Isabelle Quin of Nenagh, Tipperary, Ireland

Carmel McEvey will present details of a diary, written by an Irishwoman during the 1860s, which provides an insight into the role of women during this period.

Her diary offers a significant insight into the role of women during the mid-Victorian era and it illustrates the importance and context of place for family historians when undertaking research. The diary offers a snapshot of society of the era and its connections to landed gentry, the military and those of standing in the community.

Carmel McEvey is a GSV member who has recently completed a Master of Arts (History of Family) (Hons), and a Certificate of History of Family and Genealogical Methods (Hons) at the University of Limerick in Ireland.


19 November at 1 pm

Grave Concerns of the Queen Victoria Market

The Old Melbourne Cemetery, which opened in 1837, was doomed as it was surrounded by the growing settlement of Melbourne. Dr Celestina Sagazio will discuss this cemetery, which now lies beneath The Queen Victoria Market.

This illustrated presentation will provide fascinating information about the Old Melbourne Cemetery, which opened in 1837, as well as revealing details about the development of the market itself. This was Melbourne’s first official cemetery but over time it became surrounded by settlement and over government authorities and businesspeople planned to replace it with the Queen Victoria Market. It is estimated that the remains of 7000 people are still buried beneath the market. This very interesting and much-loved historic site is steeped in history and will reveal many astonishing stories.


Dr Sagazio is a recognised authority on the history and conservation of cemeteries in Victoria and Melbourne’s heritage. In addition to her publications, Dr Sagazio shares her passion and enjoyment of heritage, by bringing history to life in an engaging and informative way through story-telling, presentations and specialty tours. Dr Sagazio is the organiser/tour guide of the very popular and professionally-choreographed Halloween cemetery tours and other well-received night and day tours of Melbourne General Cemetery which raise funds for the restoration of significant cemetery monuments.


24 November at 10.30 am

Frontier Encounters between Europeans and Aboriginals

Dr Richard Broome will discuss the impact of Europeans on the networks of kinship, trade and culture that various Aboriginal peoples of Victoria had developed over millennia.

From first settlement to the present, he shows how Aboriginal families have coped with ongoing disruption and displacement, and how individuals and groups have challenged the system. With painful stories of personal loss as well as many successes, Dr Broome outlines how Aboriginal Victorians survived near decimation to become a vibrant community today.

RICHARD BROOME is a Professor of History and Associate at La Trobe University. One of Australia's most respected scholars of Aboriginal history, he has written many articles and books including Aboriginal Australians and Sideshow Alley.



3 December at 10.30 am

John Marshall: Immigration to Victoria before the Goldrush

John Marshall, shipowner and Lloyd’s agent, was influential in the bounty emigration schemes introduced in the Port Phillip District in 1839. Dr Liz Rushen will discuss Marshall’s lifeand the schemes. 

When the Port Phillip District was opened up to bounty emigration in 1839, a flood of emigrants poured into the new colony, most encouraged by John Marshall. He had immigrants on three of the first five bounty ships and when the trade was at its peak, he sent a ship to Australia every month. In this talk, Liz Rushen will discuss the work and influence of John Marshall.

Dr Liz Rushen is a Melbourne-based historian who has written extensively on nineteenth Century migration to Australia. She is an adjunct research associate in the School of Historical Studies at Monash University.



Register for the events by logging into the Member’s section of the GSV website.

Further talks are being planned for 2021


If you want to comment on any of our posts you can do so in the COMMENTS section at the bottom or add your comments to the post republished on the GSV facebook page. [Ed.]

Tale of a naughty lad wins 2020 GSV Writing Prize

Bill Barlow
7 October 2020
GSV News

I was very pleased to announce the Winner and Runner-up of this year's GSV Writing Prize at a Zoom ceremony on Saturday 3 October.

The Winning Entry was 'Tom were the naughty ladby Brian Reid. The Runner-up prize was awarded to Susan Wight for her piece 'Webster Soda Water'.

Ancestry provided the prize for the winner of a 12-month subscription to Ancestry Worldwide plus an Ancestry DNA Kit, as well as a 6-month subscription for the Runner-up. The GSV thanks Ancestry.com for their continued support. 

Things were a bit different this year, as our award announcement could not be made at the AGM, which has been postponed. Instead 22 members assembled at a Zoom event to hear the announcement and congratulate the winners.


On behalf of the judging panel Margaret Vines observed that all 12 entries were of a good standard and that they covered a wide range of subjects and some unusual themes, which the judges had found interesting. Our guest judge, Dr Gary Presland, archeologist, historian and award-winning writer, commented that he had enjoyed reading writing which took him to places he had not been before.We thank Gary very much for his time as our guest judge this year.

Last year the Prize was opened to any members of GSV Member Societies and we are pleased that our runner-up heard of the Prize through her local group, the Queenscliffe Historical Museum. We hope to publicise this Prize more widely amongst our regional societies in future.

The wining entry 'Tom were the naughty lad' will be published in the coming December issue of Ancestor. The Judge's Report will also be published then and on the GSV's website.

On behalf of Council I extend our thanks to the judges, Gary Presland, Joy Roy, Margaret Vines, Tina Hocking and Bill Barlow; to Leonie Elliss, the coordinator of the competition process, and to the AncestorEditorial Team for its custodianship of this important event in our year.

One of our objectives is to encourage family history writing and these entrants demonstrated how important it is that we all tackle the writing as well as the researching of our family stories.


Our Zoom screens did not have a button to raise virtual glasses in a toast to this year's winner and runner-up, but there was distant clapping at separate computer terminals across the land. 

Congratulations to Brian and Susan and all the entrants.


Jenny Redman

President GSV

'The Good Oil' : a new Topic is added to our October Events

Is this your family?
Is this your family?
Bill Barlow
3 October 2020
GSV News

Our program of Zoom events continues to expand in October. We have extended the number of participants we can accommodate in our classes and discussions as we gain experience conducting these sessions.


'The Good Oil' - Oct 20

We are introducing a new series of events commencing this month. ‘The Good Oil’ will be sessions designed to enable members to share their tips and tricks about a wide range of subjects. The topics will be initially discussed by a panel of GSV Research Assistants and other volunteers before being open to questions and answers and general discussion. The topic for the first session on 20 October will be: useful, mainly free, tools to assist with digital image manipulation, and ideas, systems and techniques for filing your digital images and documents. The tips and tricks discussed will be pertinent to both the Windows and Mac OS operating systems. 

Suggested topics for future sessions have included the pros and cons of some family history software programs, methods of citing sources and tips and tricks for using Trove.We would be interested in receiving suggested topics from you. You could email those to education@gsv.org.au


There are spaces available in our Discussion Circles and our classes including Linley Hooper’s class about GSV’s new library catalogue and our databases. 


Oct 8 - Catch up with our Catalogue and Databases - Linley Hooper

With our new look catalogue and databases now is a good time to catch up with their attributes. These small-group classes are designed to enable you to get the most out of the computer-based resources available in the GSV library and at home. This class will be held online via Zoom. 11 am - 12 noon. Maximum of 15 participants.

Free for GSV members -  $20 non-members. Please Register HERE.


Oct 13 - DNA Ancestry's ThruLines - Alan Rhodes

ThruLines is a feature on Ancestrythat provides you with another way to view your matches and potentially identify new ancestors.  The presentation demonstrates how to use ThruLines, verify the suggestions and extend your family tree. This talk will be presented online via Zoom

Please Register HERE.


There is something of interest for everyone. If you did not have an opportunity to attend an event at the Centre now is your opportunity to join online.

Make sure you book! Log in to the GSV website as a member to book your place, and the session details with a clickable link will be emailed back as part of your booking confirmation. Information about using Zoom may be found on our website and in the September issue of Ancestor.


We are still here to help you on your family history journey. JOIN US



Photo credit: 'Is this your family?'  A typical suburban family spied on a Covid walk - within 5 k of course! Courtesy of one of our members, Louise Wilson (author 'Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter', 2020).

Women on the goldfields

Goldfields dress (photo: G. Nicholas 2020)
Goldfields dress (photo: G. Nicholas 2020)
Bill Barlow
11 September 2020
GSV News

REMINDER - The September Ancestor journal is now out - and available as a Flipbook for members on the website. Log in as a Member. You will still receive a hard copy by post unless you have opted not to have it delivered. But you can read it online at any time as a PDF or flipbook. You can change your delivery directions at any time under your Member Details. 


Women on the Goldfields


At their August meeting, members of the GSV's VicTas Discussion Circle tackled a difficult research task. Gayle Nicholas - a member of this group - gives us a few insights that were shared in the discussion.



There was no doubt the women were strong and resourceful – but how do you find resources? One member told of a mother and 14-year-old daughter who travelled from Kent in England to Victoria, and through the notorious Black Forest to Castlemaine. Another tale was of a woman who left her English husband to partner with a goldminer and stayed with him until his death 20 years later. Accounts of travel to the goldfields, written at the time, help us to imagine these women’s travels as they bumped along the road, got bogged and stopped at Inns, or in the open, for supper and sleep (ref. 1).

The women on the goldfields liked to dress up. The watercolour Digger’s wife in full dressby George Lacy portrayed as laughable the contrast between women in finery against the men and landscape of the goldfields (ref.2). The crinoline (dress) pictured was on display at the Old Treasury in Melbourne for Gold Rush: 20 Objects, 20 Stories in 2018 (ref. 3). The dress is hand stitched with a high level of skill. It is noted as suitable for shopping or visiting – even on the goldfield. The Old Treasury web site is well worth a visit to explore the story of this dress or other artefacts from the goldfields’ era.

Many Women on the goldfields were in childbearing years and were giving birth with the assistance of neighbours or midwives. Doctors were too expensive. Those parents who registered the birth of their children provided a much-needed source of information for today’s family historian. 


The high number of deaths of children from accidents or illness was endured.


'Deaths, particularly the deaths of children, were mourned with the force of a lightning bolt to the heart. A child was considered born under a lucky star if she reached her first birthday on the goldfields' (ref.4).


Women also suffered violence, fueled by alcohol, on the goldfields. Author, Claire Wright writes of the acceptance of wife bashing and noise of violence perpetrating the campsite at night (ref. 5).

Death certificates, cemetery records and inquests provide more research material.  Group members referred to dropping into local history centres and museums while visiting former goldmining towns e.g. Beechworth, Chiltern, Talbot, and Chewton, to find resources not otherwise available. 


All current GSV members are welcome to attend the monthly meetings of the VicTas Discussion Circle. Of course, if you are not a GSV Member you can join easily and benefit from this Circle as well as many others, all of which are part of your membership. (Register at https://www.gsv.org.au), join the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/320532581948801or our email mailing list. Email victas@gsv.org.au for more information or for copies of the resource lists from the 'Women on the Goldfields' meeting.


Gayle Nicholas



1. For example: Duyker, E. A. Woman on the Goldfields: Recollections of Emily Skinner 1854-1878,MUP Melbourne 1995

2. Lacy, G. Digger’s wife in full dress, National Library of Australiahttps://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-134736742/view

3. Old Treasury Building. Gold Rush: 20 objects, 20 stories Old Treasury Building in conjunction with Public Record Office of Victoria, 2018-2019 https://www.oldtreasurybuilding.org.au/past-exhibitions/gold-rush/

4. Wright, C. The Forgotten Rebels of EurekaThe Text Publishing Company, Melbourne reprint 2014 p. 174

5. Wright, C. p. 178



Join our Events online in September

Bill Barlow
31 August 2020
GSV News

Our GSV Events come to you in September

Yes, all our genealogical resources are still at the GSV's research centre in the city (shown above in case you have forgotten what it looks like). It is just that we can't be there with them!

It is amazing, but the situation has produced some good things. You may have had difficulty getting to our Centre for classes or talks in pre-Covid times, but now we have developed ways to bring a lot of our events to you.


During the lockdown the Genealogical Society Victoria has developed a suite of events that are being delivered through our Zoom licence.


Our many September events are advertised on our website. They include:

  • classes conducted by our librarians and other volunteers
  • Discussion Circles where you can chat about researching specific topics or geographical areas
  • DNA talks which will be presented by Alan Rhodes
  • sessions to assist you with your Scottish research 


There is something of interest for everyone. In pre-Covid times you may have found it difficult to attend an event at the Centre, but now we can bring the events to you with the opportunity to join online.


Make sure you book! Log in to the GSV website as a member to book your place, and the session details with a clickable link will be emailed back as part of your booking confirmation. Information about using Zoommay be found on our website and in the September issue of Ancestor.


Participate and enjoy our events.