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Unsettling family history - new research

Bill Barlow
8 February 2020
GSV News
Writers Circle

Genealogical study is a hot topic. Witness the lengths to which some 'historians' and genealogists are presently going to deny Bruce Pascoe's aboriginal antecedence, possibly to undermine his views about pre-Colonial aboriginal society. This particular instance of genealogical research should remind us of the traps that can result from a simple reading and over-reliance on early records; even for so-called historians, who should know better about the inherent limits of documents in tracing biological ancestry (note 1). Anyone researching their early Australian forebears will have to think about where they were and what they were doing during The Frontier Wars, a period from 1788 to 1928 (note 2). 


The intersection of written records with family memory and oral history can be unsettling and sometimes divisive. If your family stories take you into this period you may like to contribute to a current university research project.


Ashley Barnwell, a Lecturer in Sociology from the University of Melbourne (note 3), is currently undertaking a national study that investigates how inherited family secrets, stories, and memories inform Australian’s understandings of colonial history. Ashley is looking to interview family historians who have found interactions between settlers and Indigenous Australians in their ancestry and who are doing some research into that aspect of the family tree.


Ashley outlines the context of the project 'Family Secrets':


'There has been a lot of research about how museums and schools deal with colonial history but not much acknowledgment that family historians are doing a lot of interesting historical research in this area and often writing up the findings for their families too, Ashley says. In his famous 1968 Boyer lectures After the Dreaming, WH Stanner spoke about 'the great Australian silence' around the treatment of Aboriginal peoples and the impacts of colonisation. Family stories sometimes mirror this silence, but families can also be places where past interactions between settlers and Aboriginal peoples are recorded and discussed, at least by some generations if not others. 


Popular texts based on family history, such as Kate Grenville’s The Secret Riverand Sally Morgan’s My Place, show that unpacking family stories and secrets can stimulate public discussion of Australia’s colonial history. Ashley is very interested in how family relationships add an important layer to how historical research is done. When we read and write about our own families there are often extra layers of emotion that can inform what we choose to write and publish. Family historians sometimes also have to navigate tricky conversations with other relatives who may not be happy with the revelation of family stories or who insist on a different version of events.' 


For this Australian Research Council-funded project, Ashley will do a study of self-published family history books, interviews with family historians, and some research into her own settler ancestors in mid-north coast NSW. 


If you are interested in participating,

please contact Ashley via:

phone: 03 83444559  

email: abarnwell@unimelb.edu.au; or 

mail: Dr Ashley Barnwell, School of Social and Political Sciences, John Medley Building, Level 4, University of Melbourne, VIC, 3010.





1. Dark Emu(2014), Bruce Pascoe. See Keith Windschuttle citing Jan Campbell [Holland?] in QuadrantDecember 2019.

2. The Forgotten War, Henry Reynolds (2013).

3. Ashley Bardwell see https://findanexpert.unimelb.edu.au/profile/708324-ashley-barnwell

Do you have to write your family history?

GIW heading Ancestor Dec 2019
GIW article heading in December 2019 'Ancestor'
Bill Barlow
1 February 2020
GSV News
Writers Circle



Once you have all the certificates - the names, dates and places - and have these imbedded in proprietary databases, and maybe you have graphically presented these as trees of various designs, is there any need to do more?

Do you need to put all those 'facts' in a written story?

And, a sensitive historian may ask, should you presume to put them in a story? When you look at the 'factoids' it does seem necessary to link them somehow, but once you start there can be a tendency to over-link them in ways not fully supported by the facts.

In her book 'Genealogical Proof Standard' Christine Rose puts forward five steps for genealogical proof: (CR Publications 3rd ed. 2009. GSV 929.1 ROS):

1) Reasonably exhaustive search for information

2) Complete citation of the source,

3) Analyse and correlate to assess the quality of the information

4) Resolve any conflicts AND

5) Arrive at a soundly reasonedwritten conclusion(my emphasis).


So your investigation is not finished until you do step 5. It is not the after-thought following the discovery of facts; it is an essential part of the process. 'Soundly-reasoned' requires writing up (or if you prefer, 'writing down' - strange language English).

This is the focus of the GSV Writers Discussion Circle. Its members help each other as they attempt to turn their carefully assembled facts into a 'soundly reasoned written conclusion'. More than that, the group suggests ways to make the written conclusion attractive to its intended audience.

The GSV Writers group is open to all GSV members as part of membership. It meets monthly on the first Wednesday at which about 20-30 of its over 90 members provide comments and suggestions on submitted draft histories or discuss some aspect of the craft. It also has a closed Facebook group for online discussion. You can see more about the group on the website HEREand their program for 2020 is now available - GSV WRITERS PROGRAM 2020

The group provides the ongoing articles for 'Getting it Write' in Ancestor journal. A list of past articles is available on the GSV website. There are a number of award-winning published authors in the group and many who are just starting to write. All are friendly. Where else could you get twenty editing reviews of your writing free?


Joining this group is a good way to tackle your genealogical objectives for the year.


The GSV also offers a course on Writing Family History presented by Margaret Vines, commencing 7 February - BOOKINGS ESSENTIAL. See HERE.


So no excuses for 2020! This is the year to 'get it down'.


How did Melbourne grow? - seminar 1 Feb

Two Suburban Street - Chapel Street Prahran, 1889, A.C.Cooke, SLV PCINF AS 03/10/89 157a.
Two Suburban Street - Chapel Street Prahran, 1889, A.C.Cooke, SLV PCINF AS 03/10/89 157a.
Bill Barlow
18 January 2020
GSV News

For many of us, our ancestors arrived ,one way or another, in Melbourne. This was a big city by 1890. 

How had it grown by then to be the second largest city in the British Empire?


I found a newspaper reference in 1889 to 'Ordinary' passengers - a married woman (my great grandmother) and family of six - boarding the train at Albury at 2.10 pm on New Year's Eve bringing her family from country NSW to 'Marvellous Melbourne', to make a new start. I followed them in the records as they moved around rented accommodation in Cremorne, Richmond and Little Brighton. They had arrived in the less 'marvellous' aftermath of the rampant property speculation and in time for the crash of the banks and the opening of soup kitchens. We know so much more about our ancestors when we understand the times and places in which they lived.


This coming seminar could help you put your family in context.


An overview of the growth of

some early Melbourne suburbs



The Royal Historical Society of Victoria and the Genealogical Society of Victoria are delighted to co-present this full-day seminar, which will give participants a deep understanding of the forces and influences that have shaped Melbourne’s early growth.


This full-day seminar will be held at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, 239 A'Beckett Street, Melbourne, on Saturday 1 February - 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.

The speakers will be:
- Footscray - Carmel Taig
- Prahran - Steven Haby & Judith Buckrich
- Heidelberg - Graham Thorley
- Brunswick and Coburg - Cheryl Griffin.


With an introduction by Gary Presland on how Melbourne's geography shaped its development.


This seminar is designed for those who are researching their family or community history and want to understand the why, who, when, what and how of Melbourne’s growth. Were the influencing factors economic, geographic, climatic, demographic, religious, commercial, opportunistic, geological, corrupt, or dictated by government? What drew our ancestors to settle where they did?

It will also be of interest to those who merely want to deepen their understanding of Melbourne’s development without having a history project to hand.


This event is open to members and non-members. Cost $60, GSV and RHSV members $45. Light lunch and refreshments provided.


Bookings are required and can be made online, by email, in person or by telephone (03 9662 4455 Mon-Fri 9.00am-4.00pm). Joint members please book in separately if both attending. RHSV members should book directly through the RHSV.



There will be a waiting list if the event is fully booked.


This is a good chance to kick-start your research in 2020!

Support our communities in the bushfires

Gippsland, Sunday night, Feb 20th 1898, John Longstaff, NGV.
Gippsland, Sunday night, Feb 20th 1898, John Longstaff, NGV.
Bill Barlow
7 January 2020
GSV News
Member Societies

Bushfires have shaped this country for millennia. And our human activities have shaped bushfires.

I am reminded of reading the history of the white settlement of South Gippsland - The Land of the Lyre Bird : a Story of Early Settlement in the Great Forest of South Gippsland(Korumburra and District Historical Society Inc. 2001 ed.). The firsthand recollections describe the huge efforts in the 1870s and '80s to clear the ancient bush to establish farms. There was plenty of rain; slogging through the mud was the norm. And then came the devastating bushfire of 1897/98 where the early community battled the fires that engulfed this regularly rain-soaked Korumburra district, W.H.C. Holmes recalled vividly that 'there was not an inch that was free from showers of sparks driven by the wind from the blazing trees alight from root to topmast branch. ...it was almost dark at 4 o'clock; through the black pall of smoke the fire appeared a livid blue, giving everything a weird and unearthly appearance: the sun looked like a big copper ball through a red-black smoke haze. All night 18 of us battled ...and most of the workers were at last unable to see; some were totally blind.'

This is again the picture we are seeing all over Australia this summer. Very sadly our communities are in great danger, at the moment especially those of our Member Societies of Benalla, East Gippsland, Jamieson, Lakes Entrance, Mansfield, Mid-Gippsland, Sale & District, Wangaratta and Yarrawonga. 

Our thoughts and support go out to all our regional Member Societies and their communities.

Please support the Victorian Bushfire Disaster Appeal. Money is needed for daily living items for displaced people, for feeding and sheltering volunteers and animals. 



Picture: Gippsland, Sunday night, Feb 20th, 1898, John Longstaff, NGV. 

Would you like to flip through our Journal (in future)?

'Ancestors' in your digital bookshelf.
Bill Barlow
20 December 2019
GSV News



We have received many awards for our quarterly print journal Ancestor; it is highly valued by our members and others. 


Of course, being print hardcopy it is mailed out in the time-honoured way and that, as you may have noticed, is becoming very expensive. Obviously we are always looking for ways to drive our membership funds further - and one way is to save on postage. 


Many organisations are moving to digital-only versions of their publications. I even get Christmas cards by email these days. However we know members value receiving our print journal and you can be assured that the GSV has no intention of changing this. 


Ancestor has been available as a PDF version for members on our website for some time now. Some may find this not so easy to read, so we have been exploring 'flip-books' as an alternative. 


Apart from saving on postage, some members may appreciate the option of being able to read Ancestor in a digital version to improve our environmental footprint. I am building up quite a collection of back copies of Ancestor. Recently I had to find a way to 'downsize' nearly 2 metres of my collected glossy, architecture magazines. It hurts, but so does losing trees! 


We have set up an example of what a digital flipbook version of our journal could look like - and we would like you to try it out and think about if you would be happy to read your Ancestor in this way. We would love to get your comments, so we can better assess this option.


GSV Members can read more about this in a recent post - 'A new way to read Ancestor' - on our Forum 'GSV Website'. Please add your comments on that forum thread, or as a comment to this blog post - or if you like, by email to socialmedia@gsv.org.au


Have a look at it HERE and let us know what you think.


Please note that we are using a trial version of the Flipbook software so you will see advertisements when you are viewing one of the books. However, if the GSV decides to adopt this new delivery method at some time in the future, we would be using a paid version of the software so the advertisements will not appear.


GSV launches a new Members Forum

Bill Barlow
30 November 2019
GSV News



Do you have a thorny problem with your family history research?


Do you often feel someone else will have solved this or know a way to find that vital record?


You may just want to bounce an idea off others and get their suggestions.


This month the GSV is excited to be launching a new online forum for members to help each other or simply share tips and experiences.


It's easy and secure to use - just jump on the FORUM on our website and give it a go. It's free as part of your membership!


... is an online forum hosted on the GSV's website only for members of the GSV to help other members with their genealogy queries or simply to share their family history tips, tricks and



If you have joined any of our Special Interest Groups or Discussion Circles you will know how others can help with your research journey. We hope this online forum will enable you to tap into the wide range of family history experience that our members have. Because it is for GSV members only, you can be amongst like-minded searchers on this Forum, complying with our policies regarding ethics, privacy and harassment. Forum Posts are monitored and unsuitable material will be removed.


The Forum gives regional Members and others who cannot easily get to our Melbourne Research Centre another way to communicate and share their knowledge.


This service is not a substitute for the research services available from the Society’s

experienced volunteers via the GSV Research Services. The Society does not accept any responsibility for the information posted, and like all sources of information you need to independently check and verify. But often a breakthrough comes from a good tip!


How do you get started?


Login to our website as a Member. Click on 'FORUM' in the top Menu bar. Then select membershelpmembers. You can post your own new query (Topic) or respond to an existing post. Check back to see any responses or, if you wish to get an email notification of any new posts, you can subscribe (or unsubscribe) from this service.

Remember not to share private information of a sensitive nature about persons who may be living (see our Ethics and Privacy policies) and to respect the feelings of others who may be hurt by insensitive disclosure or comments.

Read the guide notes about using forums and you can have a play in the Test section before you add any posts of your own.


Much of the enjoyment and wonder of family history is through discovery and sharing. Now this Forum membershelpmembers gives you a way to do that.




How to find your ancestors' early Victorian land records

Bill Barlow
18 November 2019
GSV News


If you are quick you can book in to hear from Ken Smith and learn how to go about finding early Victorian land records.


This coming Thursday 21 November 12.00 - 1.00 pm. at GSV Research Centre.

Go HERE for details and to book. Places still available if you are quick.


$5 GSV members. $20 non-members. FHC, RHSV and CAV members should contact the GSV for a 25% discount.

Bookings are required and can be made online, by email, in person or by telephone (Mon-Fri 9.00am-4.00pm). Joint members please book in separately if both attending.


Our guest speaker Ken Smith is a long-time member of the Port Phillip Pioneers Group (PPPG). Ken has researched early records of the Port Phillip District. He has scrutinised all the land transactions in the Port Phillip District from the time of the first land sales on 1 June 1837 until 1851 with the aim of finding where people lived.


You can read more about the Port Phillip Pioneers Group https://portphillippioneersgroup.org.au




Our original post for this talk apparenty mixed up two Ken Smiths  both associated with Port Phillip Pioneers Group. We extend our apologies to both. But this Ken Smith's talk at GSV was well-attended and much appreciated by all.

GSV Blog Editor

Updated: 14 Dec 2019.

Correction to 'E partimmo!' talk and Vic/Tas Discussion Circle notice

Bill Barlow
13 November 2019
GSV News

CORRECTION to earlier post on 'E partimmo'

The coming talk on Saturday 15 November - 'E partimmo. We left' - at GSV International Settlers Group is, of course, open to all ISG members, even if not GSV members. Non-ISG, GSV members and others are also invited. See details about the ISG on the website.



Friday 22 November - 10.30 am-12 noon

One of the very active, new GSV groups is the Victorian Tasmanian Discussion Circle.

At their final meeting for the year the topic will be:


 'Where to find all the records you need for your research'

 with a small presentation by group participant Michael Considine.



Afterwards they will be having an End of Year Lunch.

Where: RACV Club 501 Burke Street Melbourne

All members of the Vic Tas Discussion Circle are invited to an end of year lunch in the bistro of the RACV Club in Queen St Melbourne. (Walking distance from the GSV). 

Membership of this Circle is limited to GSV members. (So join up quick).


The Circle Convener advises:

RSVP essential! Please email the convener at victas@gsv.org.au or ruthie.wirtz@gmail.com if you’re able to attend the lunch. A booking for 20 people has been made and all non-members of the RACV Club will need to be signed in. So we will meet at the rear entrance off Little Collins Street). 
All diets catered for and at reasonable cost. Please bring cash on the day to make for ease of paying the bill. 


I hope to see many of you there to celebrate the end of year.


Ruthie Wirtz




Writing about our entwined lives? Hear acclaimed author Richard Broome Nov 15

Bill Barlow
2 November 2019
GSV News


An exciting event has been added to the GSV’s calendar. On 15 November Dr Richard Broome, the President of the Royal Historical Society, will talk about his recent book Entwined Lives, (David Donnan with Richard Broome) a family history story.


This presentation will discuss the post research challenge: how do we write to be read? What strategies do we adopt, what voice do we assume, what book do we imagine we might write?


Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Richard talk about translating family history research into a book that will be treasured by your descendants. Be quick to book!


Check the GSV website for details. Bookings are required and will need to be made in person at GSV, L6 / 85 Queen St Melbourne or by telephone (03) 9662 4455 (Mon-Fri 9.00am-4.00pm). Joint members please book in separately if both attending. Maximum 35 attendees.


Nov 15 - 12.30 - 1.30 pm

At: GSV - L6 / 85 Queen St Melbourne



Our presenter


Richard Broome, Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, Emeritus Professor in History at La Trobe University, is President of the RHSV, Chair of its Publications Committee, and Patron of the History Teacher’s Association of Victoria. He has authored fourteen books; two of them prize winners. He was the lead editor of the RHSV’s successful Remembering Melbourne 1850-1960(2016, 2017) and is leading another book project by the RHSV to be launched in November 2019 called Melbourne’s Twenty Decades. Richard’s last book published in Australia and India, Naga Odyssey: Visier’s Long Way Home (2017) was co-written with Visier Meyasetsu Sanyü. He has also just published Mallee Country: Land, People, History (2019) with co-authors Charles Fahey, Andrea Gaynor and Katie Holmes, and his fifth edition of Aboriginal Australians: A History Since 1788, is due in November 2019.


180 years on descendants of immigrants on the ship 'David Clark' are gathering next Sunday

Ship 'David Clark' coming into the harbour at Malta, 1820 by Nicolas Cammillieri (courtesy: Lance Pymble)
Bill Barlow
20 October 2019
GSV News
Scottish Ancestry



Many families arrange get-togethers of their descendants, but next Sunday there is a gathering with a difference. 


180 years later descendants of immigrants from the ship David Clark are gathering next Sunday October 27 to celebrate this anniversary.


Descendants of those passengers are invited to attend a reunion on Sunday, 27 October 2019 at Gulf Station, Yarra Glen, Victoria.


The David Clark was the first ship to bring assisted immigrants direct to Port Phillip in October 1839. All were Scots and many settled in the Upper Yarra valley including William Bell, who once owned Gulf Station, an historic National Trust farm.


As part of the welcome, a poem will be read that was written by Christine Mawdesley (a McEwin descendant) for the 1939 celebrations of the 100th anniversary, and a bagpiper will play “Lochaber No More” the lament that was played by John Arthur as the ship sailed from Greenock 13 June 1839, then a tree will be planted.


You can book by email now to davidclark1839@gmail.com or HERE https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=542336


We wish all descendants a great day.




Want to know more about the history?


This article was prepared from information provided by Irene Kearsey. Irene is a GSV Member, and a volunteer at PROV and Gulf Station. For more information you can read her article: 

'La Trobe's first Immigrants: Passengers from the David Clark 1839' by Irene Kearsey in Journal of the C J La Trobe Society. vol 17 no. 2 July 2018, pp 16-21 (accessed 20/10/2019 at https://www.latrobesociety.org.au/LaTrobeana/LaTrobeanaV17n2Kearsey.pdf


Were your ancestors aboard the David Clark?

You can search the list of passengers on the Public Record Office Victoria(PROV) VPRS 14 Assisted Passenger Lists 1839-1871 at website https://prov.vic.gov.au/explore-collection/explore-topic/passenger-records-and-immigration/assisted-passenger-lists. You may need to do more research to establish your descendancy, and the GSV can help you with that, but maybe not before next Sunday.