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GSV Writers: Shut up and write

Bill Barlow
18 July 2020
GSV News
Writers Circle


A number of the GSV Discussion Circles have now run their first get-togethers on Zoom. This month the GSV Writers conducted a writing exercise - 'Shut up and Write'- that culminated in a Zoom session to discuss their experiences. 

Penny Mercer, the convener describes the session and this technique, aimed to get us writing and actually producing something.


To ensure we were organised to write, we all had to choose a topic that would, achievable, similar to the short pieces we normally share for review.

First we were asked to prepare by organising our relevant research notes and information and creating a bibliography of our sources. The goal was to have everything we might want to consult ready to hand when writing. 

We read about the Pomodoro technique: https://thesiswhisperer.com/2011/06/02/another-way-to-write-1000-words-a-day/then applied this to break up our topics into smaller chunks.

We were counselled to remove distractions; turning off our phones, closing all other windows on our computers, clearing our desk, advising anyone else in the house that we needed some concentrating time. 

On the day, everyone had to follow these instructions:

  1. Remove the distractions identified previously.
  2. Set timers for 25 minutes and write, trying not to stop until 25 minutes have passed. Then do a word count at the end of the 25 minutes.
  3. After 25 minutes, have a break for 5-10 minutes - coffee, chocolate biscuits, stretch, pat the cat, do whatever creates a mental break and a reward for your hard work.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3.

5. Optional repeat again. And again, if it’s going well.

   We had some ground rules:

  • Don't listen to your inner critic. Just keep writing.
  • You are not aiming for perfect words and sentences. Editing can be done later.
  • Focus on getting a first draft done of an achievable chunk.


All those who too part wrote something that we might not have written without this exercise. Having a deadline helped. It also helped to have committed to write something.

We all also agreed that assembling all your information beforehand makes it much easier. We agreed that a timer going off in the middle of a paragraph was annoying, and that it was better to finish that section rather than interrupt the flow.

Some of us found it helped with finding our ‘voice’ and with writer’s block. It was easy to just move on to another section to keep the writing flowing. Missing information was just noted for adding afterwards. 

One of us discovered freedom in removing the need to write perfect grammar, punctuation and spelling: “… the words rolled out in the second allocated time. Sitting there saying “I’m here now, tidy me up later, thanks very much!”

Everyone knew that whatever they wrote was just for their benefit. No-one else would see it unless they choose to share it. Since then, most of us have polished up our stories and shared them. 

Most of us were very satisfied with what we had achieved and are keen to repeat the exercise. 

Of course it’s important to remember that it’s not really finished until it is published or disseminated!


More events are scheduled to be available by Zoom and the GSV is working at offering other talks and presentations online. Check the Events list on the GSV website home page and also look at a previous blog 4 July about using Zoom HERE.

It is not hard - even writers can do it - and it is fun to see people again.


Events online at the GSV in JULY

Bill Barlow
4 July 2020
GSV News

History goes on at the GSV

Our centre is not yet open but we have moved many of our events online so members can continue to get assistance with their family history endeavours.

This month we have a number of discussion circles, classes and assistance days that will be delivered online by Zoom.  Many of our members are already using this online facility. More information about how this will work is given below. 


Online events for JULY 

These events are only open to Members and are free as part of your membership. They must be booked through the events pages on our website. The numbers that may attend any of these events are limited so book early. 


Discussion Circles

Counties of Northern England– Tuesday 14 July at 1 pm.

This event is limited to 25 participants. We will discuss the textile and allied industries on the lives of our ancestor  since the 18thcentury. We will look at the impact of the burgeoning cotton industry across the north of England especially in Lancashire.


London Research– Thursday 23 July at 10 am. This event is limited to 25 participants. The lives of our London ancestors will be discussed.



These sessions will be conducted by the GSV Librarians Linley Hooper and Meg Bate or John Blackwood.

National & State Archives in Australia– Thursday 9 July at 1.30 pm. Limited to 10 participants

The National Archives of the UK online– Tuesday 21 July at 1.30 pm. Limited to 10 participants

FamilySearch™online– Thursday 23 July at 1.30 pm. Limited to 10 participants

ScotlandsPeopleonline– Thursday 30 July at 11 am. Limited to 15 participants.


Library Assistance online

Scottish Assistance in the Library– Thursday 16 July – You can book a 30 minute timeslot between 10.30 am and 4 pm to talk to John Blackwood and obtain help with your Scottish research. 

Irish Assistance in the Library– Wednesday 22 July at 2 pm. Limited to 6 participants. A team will focus on the topics submitted by the participants.


How to take part in these online events


Go to our website COMING EVENTS where you can register. 

When you register you will receive an email with instructions including the Zoom event code and password. 

To attend, you will need a computer/tablet/phone with internet access, a speaker or headphones, and a microphone. 

A camera is desirable so we can see you, and a keyboard if you need to send in questions during a presentation. 

You may need to download the free Zoom app at https://zoom.us/signupand will be invited to test your video and sound when you log in to the session. If you are unsure, the advice is to log into the session 15 minutes early so our IT volunteers can assist you.

The Zoom website has good introduction videos for first time users: 

Joining a Zoom meeting - 


Basic Zoom controls - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygZ96J_z4AY&feature=youtu.be

There is also a very good introductory guide at the following link:



Our Writers Discussion Circle finished up their July work session on Zoom last Wednesday. A report from the 'Zooming Writers' will be in a coming post to this blog. 

So jump in and join these events!


More assistance with your Scottish ancestry this Thursday 18 June - online

Royal Scots Greys, Edinburgh
Royal Scots Greys, Edinburgh
Bill Barlow
16 June 2020
GSV News
Scottish Ancestry

The first online delivery of Scottish Assistance day last month was booked within the day, as was its overflow session.


So be quick for this one on Thursday!


With the GSV education centre being closed during June, the Scottish Assistance in the Library service, which was scheduled for Thursday 18 June, will now be available to members online, free of charge. To register an interest and book a 30-minute time slot for 18 June, please email the GSV at gsv@gsv.org.au providing a contact phone number and your GSV membership number.

Registrations will close at 3.00 pm on Wednesday 17 June.
The one-on-one consultations will take place on FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom, and you will be contacted in advance to finalise the arrangements. Bookings are available from 10.30 am to 3.30 pm.


Using the ScotlandsPeople website

Tuesday 30 June, 11.00 am

With the current restrictions due to the corona virus, this class will be held online for GSV members only, using ZOOM as the medium. This initial online class will be limited to 10 participants, but a follow up class will be arranged if required for additional numbers. To register your interest please email the GSV atgsv@gsv.org.au quoting your membership number and a contact phone number. 
Registration will close at 3.00 pm on Monday 29 June.

Presenter: John Blackwood

The ScotlandsPeople website, https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/  "is the official Scottish Government site for searching government records and archives. In this site you have access to the statutory registers of births, marriages and deaths; census returns; church records; evaluation rolls; and legal records from Scotland's courts of law".
These include indexes and images.
This one hour class on the ScotlandsPeople website will explore what's on the website, how to register as a user, buy credits, obtain certificates, as well as advice on researching the site.


Memorial to the Royal Scots Greys (1905) sculpted by William Birnie Rhind (1853-1933) in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Sergeant Major Anthony James Hinnigan from Jedburgh and his horse 'Polly' were models for the statue. Photo courtesy of © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons Sept 2010.

Among William Rhind's notable commissions are the statue of Burns at Aberfeldy and statues of King Robert The Bruce and Wallace for the Scottish National Portrait Galleries in 1895, and the Boer War Memorials in Edinburgh, such as the Royal Scots Greys (1905), the Black Watch (1908) and the Kings Own Scottish Borderers (1919). 


Big thank you to our donors - The Keyboard of the President

Bill Barlow
6 June 2020
GSV News
In the Library
President's Keyboard

To the GSV Fundraiser Campaign donors and all our wonderful members


Thank you so much for your wonderful support, your generosity has been quite overwhelming. We have already reached the target we set to help us cover our operating costs during this Covid lockdown period.


Although government restrictions are being gradually relaxed, we do not envisage opening the Centre to members for a while yet. We can limit numbers and can social distance and sanitise at the Centre, but public transport into the CBD (which is steadily returning to pre-Covid passenger levels), is a major issue of concern for many of us. We are monitoring the situation and planning for a staged reopening of the Centre as soon as it is safe and practicable.


On the upside, we have used the closure period to work from home developing our digital skills. Using Zoom we can now resume some of our monthly Discussion Circles and members who are unable to get into the CBD can now participate. New members can access talks via the website introducing them to the society and our resources. We can now offer our Ancestorjournal in two digital formats as well as hardcopy.


In addition to having access from home (for the duration) to many of the major databases (find my past, TheGenealogist, MyHeritageand Ancestry), staff and volunteers have been working hard producing more digital resources for members to access from home. More than 128,000 new records have been added to our catalogue.  Members can now access a beta version (pre-release software) of the GSV Presto catalogue by going to the bottom left of the Members’ page and clicking Presto.


These Victorian databases are unique to the GSV and we encourage you to explore them. There are now more than 3 million records in the GSV Genealogical Index of Names(GIN) database of people mentioned in our library holdings and elsewhere. These include names from hospital, criminal and school records, directories and newspapers as well as pioneer registers and published books. A new separate database called Milestonesnow contains nearly 1.4 million entries including births, baptisms, deaths and burials plus obituaries, cemetery and church registers. There are even more new records in the updated catalogue that can only be viewed at the GSV due to copyright requirements.


Once again, I thank you all for your ongoing support of the GSV. With your help, we are working to ensure that the GSV continues to educate family historians and provide research assistance for many years to come.


Jenny Redman



If you are not a member, you can see from the activity above that this is a good time to join - you have the time and we have the resources. Go to our website www.gsv.org.au and follow the links. 


GSV Writers Circle zoomed-in June

Bill Barlow
5 June 2020
GSV News


Our GSV Writers Circle met this week by Zoom.

In theory all this isolation has been useful for writers - no distractions, except grandchildren, concerns for overseas friends and family, home-schooling,and a worrying news cycle.

Tina Hocking reports below on the Writers' successful Zoom and Penny Mercer reflects on what the GSV has given her over the years.


With a members' submissions session scheduled, two pieces of writing were emailed to the group in advance to allow time for pre-reading and review before the main discussion.

Although attendance at GSV based meetings is usually around 20, we have 88 email members, so some organisation was needed. Twenty participants, including the host and the two submitters, seemed a manageable number, allowing time for everyone to have a turn speaking and for each submitter to respond to questions arising. 

Meeting etiquette - phones off and other distractions minimised - had already been covered, and participants were asked to enter the waiting area 10 minutes beforehand so the meeting could start on time. Places were allocated, via email response, a couple of days earlier on a 'first in first served' basis.  Members unable to attend the virtual meeting still had the option of participating by email.

Most present had attended a Zoom meeting before and knew what to expect, but some encountered problems entering the meeting, or with audio/visual access, so we were a  little late starting. Most of these issues were later ironed out by GSV's technical help, Rod. One participant later reported that although we could not see or hear her, she had missed none of the proceedings. 

The meeting progressed in an orderly fashion with Rod switching between speaker and gallery view as required. Host, Louise, ensured that every attendee had an opportunity to speak and that both submitters had time to answer questions. There were minor delays moving between speakers, and the repetition of comments ate into the allocated time, but a tighter schedule and more succinct responses in future meetings should minimise this. 

Having attendees email their reviews after the meeting enabled everyone to focus on the discussion rather than trying to take notes.

All present declared the afternoon a success and voted to continue getting together via Zoom for as long as the GSV remains closed. Our thanks go to Louise Wilson and Rod Van Cooten for getting us up and running.

Tina Hocking- GSV Writers Circle


Penny reflects on the GSV


'I think it was about 1984 when I first joined the GSV. I was instantly hooked. Back then microfiche was high tech and I was amazed at the interesting resources they had in their library. I devoured Ancestor magazine as soon as it arrived.


A few years later I volunteered to help out in the library and made lots of friends. I learned heaps of stuff at the regular talks held at the GSV, taking a tram in my lunch hour from my work to attend these events.


Some of you might remember me working on the front desk at the GSV for a while, back when it was at Curtin House in Swanston Street. In those days the hot new resource was the IGI database. GSV handled bookings to access it at SLV.


Then in March 2004 the GSV supported me in the creation of what might be the longest running family history writing group in Australia. Today our group will have its first test run using Zoom, provided to us by the GSV with support from other volunteers. 


The coronavirus is hurting the GSV just as it's hurting other parts of our economy. Like the rest of us, the GSV is adapting, but new ways of doing things need resources.


I don't know how to measure the value that I've got out of the GSV over all this time, but I've had a go and made a donation. I hope lots of people support the GSV during this difficult time.


If you want to help, there's a link here to donate: DONATE HERE'




Bill Barlow
2 June 2020
GSV News


GSV opens its Fundraiser Campaign

'Help us Keep Making History'


This month we launch a call for donations, to help us cover our operating costs in this tough time.


We have had to cancel our events and classes and close our Library, but at the same time have moved many services online for our members.


To keep you up-to-date and bring you interesting things from the world of genealogy we have:

  • podcasts,
  • databases access from home,
  • an online forum for members to help each other,
  • this blog and Facebook site, as well as our
  • Quick Lookup service for members 


We launched a digital flipbook edition of our journal this month, and now we are also doing Zoom sessions with our groups and circles.


You can read more about our situation in the June issue of Ancestor that has just come out (members can access this on our website).


But we need your help.


You can assist us to reach a target of $10,000 by the end October by donating via our website or click on DONATE HERE.


The last four months have shown us how much we need to support each other and how our arts and community organisations make our society richer and more resilient.


Help us to help you.

GSV avoids the "INHALATORIUM" and zooms online

Workers at Kodak ready for the INHALATORIUM, 1919
Workers at Kodak ready for the INHALATORIUM, 1919
Bill Barlow
31 May 2020
GSV News

Just as so much of our family history resource material is now online, so the GSV has been using these 'distancing' times to develop its online delivery of services.


We can be thankful that our new ways of working will spare us from "THE INHALATORIUM" - which was used to give 'Kodak' employees protection against the influenza epidemic in 1919, as this newspaper article described (Australasian, 15 February 1919):    



The Kodak Company has opened an inhalatorium as a means of protection of its employees against the influenza epidemic. The chamber at present in use will accommodate 20 persons at a time. It consists of a raised structure 16ft. long, 2ft. wide at the bottom, and 2ft. from the apex of the gable to the base, which is left open. In each sloping side of the roof there are 10 oval holes, about 6in. by 4in., under 30lb. pressure, carrying sulphate of zinc in solution, is then released into the box from sprays in a pipe running along the base, and the people receiving treatment breathe it in. It disinfects their throats and air passages. This treatment is administered twice a day for about four minutes at a time.

"A MODEL INHALATORIUM IN MELBOURNE." The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946) 15 February 1919: 50. Web. 31 May 2020 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140218675>.


Though our library remains closed for the time being, we are bringing our services to you. Access to databases, podcasts and webinars are available for members from home. Our journal for June has been delivered for the first time as a flipbook via our website. Members are starting to use the membershelpmembers forum to ask others for advice about their research and now various groups are meeting using Zoom. 


Scottish Assistance Day 'in the library' was very successfully delivered at a distance by John Blackwood. John reported that:

The whole thing went extremely well. Normally, I would have up to about three people come into the library for Scottish Assistance day, but there has been the odd time when no-one came in. I reckoned I could do it online, so we advertised it for 30-minute time slots for the day. It was booked out within a day. So, I opened a second day, and that too was booked out straight away. In total, I assisted 12 people variously using Zoom, Facetime, and Skype. Everybody said they got something out of it. Most of them rarely, if ever, come into the library; one lady lives in Canberra. Most of them wanted it to happen more often, including a request that we do it for Discussion Circles. 


The London Discussion Circle last week 'met' on Zoom and the Writers Circle is plunging online this coming week to discuss recent writing by two of its members. Writers can be big talkers too (but there is a mute button!)


This way of working could help reduce our office rental costs in future! Though I am sure small groups of us may still meet for a coffee without mute buttons!


Tomorrow we launch our APPEAL FOR DONATIONS.

We need your help.




Image: Museum Victoria Courtesy of Kodak Australasia (unknown photopgraper) . MM 140271

Thank you to our VOLUNTEERS at the GSV

Bill Barlow
21 May 2020
GSV News

This week is National Volunteer Week and we would like to recognise, applaud and celebrate the great work our volunteers do at GSV.


There would be no GSV without our Volunteers.


Nearly 180 of our over 3000 members give their time and expertise to run our organisation. When you walk in the door with your first request for assistance - our rostered Volunteer Research Assistants are on hand to help you get started. As you progress and need in-depth help there is someone who knows. Behind the scenes they work on projects to augment and update our Collection and our databases. 


Many work from home (long before they were requested to isolate). And through these last months they have continued. Another team put together our journal Ancestor: writing, editing, commissioning articles, proofreading and even the creative layout is the work of a Volunteer (not naming anyone, but thanks Jay). Others manage our social media and all our Discussion Circles and Groups. Our specialist IT volunteers do a wonderful job maintaining our computers and our digital media, Facebook, Twitter and keep this blog going. How important this is can be seen in these lockdown times, as we can provide many services from home thanks to their efforts. The launch of our online Forum membershelpmembers is another testament to our Vols. But they also work in administration, library maintenance and planning and running all our Events, talks and classes. Even our two paid part-time Library staff generously volunteer in their own time.


And certainly not least, our President and Councillors volunteer to keep our Society flourishing. On behalf of all our members and everyone in the wider world of genealogy we take this time particularly to recognise your work and thank you


Vols, we miss you at the moment. THANK YOU for your contribution!


And here is some cake to celebrate your work!










Photo and cake:

Jennifer Pallion jennifer@foodess.com



COVID and family-history making

Smallpox in Melbourne, 'Illustrated Australian News' 3 Sept 1884 (SLV Access IAN03/09/84/133)
Bill Barlow
18 May 2020
GSV News


I see that in 1897 in the Bendigo City Court my great grandfather was one of six men charged by Mounted Constable Lysaght with having neglected to vaccinate their children against smallpox virus. At the close of the 18th C this contagious disease killed 400,000 people in Europe each year and 80% of children who caught it died. After 1853 all Australian colonies, except NSW and Queensland, introduced compulsory vaccination for smallpox, and it wasn't until 1980 that WHO declared it eradicated.

My ancestor was fined 10 shillings and 2/6 costs for failing to provide a vaccination certificate, whether through preoccupation, laziness, or misguided principle we can't know.




The Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV) could help your COVID-affected small business during this difficult time.


Do you, or does someone you know, have a small business in Victoria offering services to the family-history community? If your business is having a tough time in this locked-down world tell us what you do and the GSV may tell others on this popular blog Family History Matters, which goes out to over 3000 people.


Maybe you provide genealogical or record-searching services, research and write about people or old houses, offer publishing or print services for family historians, provide photographic and digitisation services, photo-restoration, or provide archive material or skills. COVID-19 has reminded us of the importance of our connections to others, to the past and to our family's future. The value of whatever you do to help us capture our family stories is all the more apparent as we live through the pandemic of our own times.


You could also consider helping the GSV by: 

- donating HERE

- advertising in Ancestor, our quarterly journal. See PLACING AN AD for rates and details (copy for Sept closing end June)

- becoming a member or giving a membership - JOIN HERE

- engage us for paid research. Find out how HERE.


Contact us with your story at blog@gsv.org.au

Book an ad in Ancestor at ancestor@gsv.org.au




'Small Pox in Melbourne'; Illustrated Australian News, David Syme & Co, 3 Sept 1884 (SLV Accession IAN03/09/84/133).


Breaking bad

Castlemaine Gaol, Vic (Photo. W. Barlow)
Castlemaine Gaol, Vic (Photo. W. Barlow)
Bill Barlow
23 April 2020
GSV News

In the present COVID-19 emergency it has been interesting to see how we have reacted to new regulations and the evolution of social constraints. Very quickly we saw individuals prepared to fight over toilet rolls and to raid supermarkets in small towns.

Our responses have ranged from wealthy skiers who believed the laws didn't apply to them, to 'innocent' young women who had their brush with the law just by walking on the sand. And of course, politicians who demanded to see the 'science' so they could decide whether a rule about not playing golf should be followed.

Many of us in Australia are here because of our forebears' conviction under the onerous property laws of 19thC England. And poverty and economic depression often meant continued lawbreaking here. If our ancestors fell foul of the law we can often find out more about them in the extensive and detailed newspaper reports of their capture and trials than BDM records will tell us. Before the era of WW1 studio photos, the only photograph of an ancestor might be the one in the Criminal Registers, where from the 1870s photographs were included for those with sentences of 6 months or more. Presumably not their most flattering look! 

Their transgressions and bad luck are our good luck as social historians. Clive Luckman describes the rich source that the Police Gazettes offer. The GSV can help you find Police Gazettes and the many other sources of encounters with the legal system. [Ed.]



Police Gazettes in the 1800s

We may not want to recognise it, but many of us with 19thcentury Australian ancestors may well had one whose name appeared in a Police Gazette. Before you get upset let me hasten to add that these Gazetteshad names of many people who were not criminals or “of interest” to the Police.

There were, of course, names of criminals in the Gazettes. The main purpose of the Gazetteswas to promulgate news about crimes and criminals. Descriptions about the crimes themselves (from murder through to illegal sale of alcohol) were often included, as were reports about wife desertion, bigamy, drunkenness and abandoned children. Also there were notices about missing persons – not only people reported as missing but also people seeking lost friends.

There were notices about licences granted for the sale of alcoholic beverages, tobacco and other regulated products, and licences for the conduct of regulated activities such as auctions. All police and magistrate promotions, dismissals, appointments and retirements were published.

During the gold rushes skippers of visiting ships often had some of their crew desert, which must have left those ships sometimes in a perilous position for their return journey. Ship’s deserters were certainly amongst those sought by the Police. Sometimes a deserter changed his name to evade detection, thereby presenting an interesting challenge to genealogists.

Details about those being sought by the Police were often published in several States as well as in New Zealand. There was a great deal of traffic across "the pond" between Australia and New Zealand in the 1800s.

On a personal note, a convict allocated to one of my Tasmanian ancestors absconded and a notice reporting that appeared in the Victorian Police Gazette.

Later in the century photographs were sometimes published, as were details such as eye and hair colour, height and characteristics such as tattoos or scars that might aid the Police. 

These documents are a good source of family history as well as other facets of history. Genealogists can use them to see if they will reveal details of their ancestors’ life (at risk of repeating myself, whether your ancestor was a criminal or not). The Gazettesmay allow you to get your ancestors in perspective – details about how they lived, indications of their wealth, of their occupation, and where they resided. And details that help you understand how society in that century behaved.

Family history is much more than discovering the names, dates of births, marriages and deaths, and the names of wives and husbands. These things are critically important because they obviously must precede the thrills of the chase for the social, financial, demographic and other details of your ancestors. I find that these thrills are the best.


This article was originally published in Fifty-Plus News in June 2007.  Clive Luckman contributed many articles Fifty-Plus News.


Further reading

PROV Registers of Male and Female Prisoners (1855-1947)


Using the Victorian Police Gazettes to research your ancestors, SLV Blog Jan 19 2015