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A member of the Queen's navy!

Cerberus crew 1878
Cerberus crew 1878
Bill Barlow
21 November 2020
Treasure Chest


As one outcome of my recent family history research I have now enlisted in the Navy - the Victorian Navy.


I am an Engine Room Artificer!


I have discovered that a great grandfather was in the Royal Navy and then finished his sailing career on HMVS Cerberus based at Williamstown at the start of the 1900s. For years I have looked out at that ungainly-looking breakwater just off shore at Black Rock in Port Phillip Bay, without knowing its connection.


Now with the assistance of all the material available on the website created by the Friends of the Cerberus Inc I know a lot more about this ship. 


The website has the uploaded Certificates of Service of the 346 members of the Permanent Victorian Navy Force 1884-1905 as well as Enrolment Sheets (courtesy of the National Archives Australia) and they are searchable. The site has every possible document about Cerberus, photos, articles, newspaper reports and lots. It is a great testament to the labours of its volunteers and received a 2011 Victorian Community History Awards Commendation.


This unassuming piece of our heritage sitting offshore is unique. Cerberus was commissioned by the Colony of Victoria to form its navy prior to Federation along with the sailing ship Nelson, which does not survive. Cerberuswas scuttled in its present location in 1926. After some parts of it a collapsed in 1993 it is now to be filled with concrete to 'preserve it'. In heritage work the Burra Charter requires that priority be given to options that do not destroy original material and which allow future recovery. 


It is hard to understand this treatment of such a rare piece of our Colonial heritage - especially by a Council which otherwise sets a high bar for preserving its built heritage.


Concrete-filling is still intended by Bayside Council though an alternative is available which would not destroy its value for future research. After many technical reports it appears that this decision may have been partly based on some errors and misunderstandings that remain to be checked. It is hoped that the Cerberus is not finally sunk by filling it with concrete - more than doubling its weight. 


Cerberus was the genesis of all battleship designs pre 1905. It was the first British warship to dispense completely with sail power. Launched in 1868 Cerberus is the only remaining warship of its class left in the world. Not only its hull but also its gun turrets and its guns have survived.

Cerberus is the only substantially intact surviving warship of any of Australia's pre-Federation colonial navies as well as the only surviving inaugural warship of the Royal Australian Navy.


This relic does not look as interesting and dynamic as Nelson's ship Victory at Portsmouth, but our HMVS Cerberus deserves better treatment. Even its interpretive signboard facing the other way is deteriorating and the safety markers dotted around it look temporary and betray its significance. 


Hopefully we can afford to preserve parts our physical heritage like Cerberus as reminders of our past rather than reduce everything to digitally-preserved entries on the internet. It is still much more engaging to take our grandchildren there to visit than to just show them a digital image on their phones.


If you are interested to know more about Cerberus and maybe even find your family members in the Victorian Navy visit the website http://www.cerberus.com.au


You can even join up - as I did!


Bill Barlow ERA (Victorian Navy)




Images: Cerberus crew 1878, engraving from The Graphic, April 13, 1878, p.372. Courtesy of Friends of Cerberus Inc. Photo: Cerberus at Black Rock, Vic, 2020 (W. Barlow)

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the GSV.


The ex-Convict Marriage Celebrant

Wedding couple c.1860s
Bill Barlow
19 October 2020
Treasure Chest

Churches do not feature so widely in our families today. We tend to forget the powerful part religious institutions and beliefs commonly played in the lives of our ancestors. 

And the recent history in our families is often lost. I recall a few years ago tracking down the resting place of a common grandfather with some English cousins, who exclaimed that this could not possibly be him as it showed he was cremated and his ashes spread in the Anglican section and 'we are Catholic'. We had to break the news that they were only a recent break with a long Protestant line. So I keep an eye out for religious affiliations when researching past family members - after all wars, let alone family disharmonies have turned on this. 

Having written in my book Guilty and Lucky of a marriage in my family in 1870 by the Rev William Bailey, who it was said 'appeared to run a marriage shop' from his house at 41 Burton Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney, I was very interested to come across him again in the following article by one of our GSV Writers, Gayle Nicholas.


The Ex-convict Marriage Celebrant



Marriage certificates are crucial documents in genealogy research.  Every detail on a certificate is scrutinised hoping to find new information or to verify previously discovered details. Names, ages, occupations, locations and celebrants may be confirmed or become doubtful. But I had not expected the study of my great grandparents’ marriage certificate would uncover a nineteenth century Minister of Religion of some notoriety.

    According to their marriage certificate, my great grandparents Richard James Price and Mary Boyce of Surry Hills NSW were married in 1868 'According to the rites of the Free Church of England'. Having never seen the adjective 'Free' on a Church of England certificate my curiosity was aroused. 'Free', Googlequickly revealed, did not refer to ideology but to cost. This Church did not charge fees for marriage services. My focus quickly moved from the Church itself to its intriguing celebrant, the Rev William Bailey. His story reveals a determined and clever man, wronged by authority, or a rogue, or a combination of both.

    Bailey, a well-educated Irish ex-convict, was described by Alan Grocott in Convicts, Clergymen and Churchesas a 'bizarre clergyman'. Born in Ireland in 1806, he became a Church of England minister. In 1838, six years after marrying, he moved with his wife to Westminster in London where he held a position as Rector. In 1841 he was found guilty of forging a promissory note. He was transported from England to Van Diemen’s Land in 1843. Four years after his arrival in the colony he was granted a ticket of leave.

    His wife had followed him from England and they ran schools in Hobart. After he received a Conditional Pardon, Bailey settled in Sydney. There, Bailey and his wife earned income through teaching and writing. In 1864 he established the Free Church of England, in Surry Hills, in inner Sydney. In 1868, Bailey performed 350 marriages. He married many tradespeople like Richard and Mary as well as some ‘less respectable citizens’. He criticised pew rents and charging fees for marriage. His supporters claimed more de facto couples married because of his services. However, he received a poor press in the Sydney Morning Heraldand had several fractious encounters with authorities and courts. These encounters increased after he styled himself as a Bishop in late 1868. In 1871 he was charged with celebrating the marriage of a minor and imprisoned for six months. He was never able to successfully re-establish his church. He died in 1879.

    I ponder my great grandparents’ relationship with this church and with Bailey. Why marry in the Free Church of England?  My first thought, a humorous one, stemmed from memories of family members teasing my grandfather Alfred, Richard and Mary’s youngest son, about the Welsh in him making him tight with money.  More important, Richard, Mary and her extended family were all part of the developing Surry Hills community where Bailey had established his Church. Mary’s parents were Irish Assisted Immigrants, and may well have connected with Bailey through the Irish community.

    After the Price family moved to Melbourne between 1877 and 1881 they attended St Saviours in Collingwood and the Welsh Church in Melbourne. St Saviours, when established in 1875, was also described as a ‘free’ Church. 

    In genealogy research choices need to be made.  So do I pursue research on Rev William Bailey and the Free Church movement, or do I return to my family tree – and see where the next marriage, birth or death certificate leads me?

Gayle Nicholas


We might be left wondering about the legitimacy of such marriages and the attraction of our forebears to the more obscure churches and sects.[Ed.]



Guilty and Lucky, William Barlow, 2020 - in which I of course declare an interest.

'Bailey, William (1806-1879)' by TB McCall, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol.1. (MUP), 1966 and ANU online.

Convicts, clergymen and churches: attitudes of convicts and ex-convicts towards the churches and clergy in New South Wales from 1788-1851, by Allan Grocott, Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1980.

'William Bailey and the Free Church of England in NSW' by E D Daw, in JRAHS Vol. 58, pt. 4, December 1972.

Image: Wedding couple: Juliane and Christian Schilling c.1860. Fruhling Studios, Moculta Collection, State Library of South Australia Item B41306 (cropped) accessed at https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+41306.

This month's author belongs to the GSV Writers Discussion Circle and this article was originally published for the GSV in Fifty-Plus News, 2014.

Map it! Using maps for your research

Shakespeare's 'hood', London c.1600 . The Agas Map.
Shakespeare's 'hood', London c.1600 . The Agas Map.
Bill Barlow
25 September 2020
Treasure Chest

Webcasts to help you use maps

for your family history research


Maps are lovely things! I have been reading The Lodger Shakespeare by Charles Nicholl in which he recreates the neighbourhood of Silver Street within the walls of London, where the Bard lived in about 1600. He walks us around the streets on the famous  'Agas ' woodcut map of London c.1561.


I did a similar exercise for my great great grandfather's town lots in Molong NSW in 1861, describing buildings of the time on an imagined walk from his house into the town. 

Understanding where your ancestors lived, worked and travelled is an important part of family history research. 

There is such a wealth of map images and tools available, so we have sought guidance from some of our experts and have assembed a collection of recorded talks that will help you in this task. 

Six of these talks are now available as webcasts for streaming through a dedicated link on the Member’s section of our website. Sign on as a Member and go to the Members Area. There you will see a link to 'Maps - a Source for family history'. (If you are not yet a Member, this is another reminder about what you can find at GSV).

The webcasts examine topics such as the journeys that our ancestors took from Europe, the landscapes they encountered when they arrived in Melbourne and the development of Melbourne and Geelong through the lens of the sewerage plans developed by the Government. 

· Joy Roy’s talk uses examples from the ScotlandsPeoplewebsite to examine the importance of locating your ancestor in a place and time. 

· Librarian Judy Scurfield tells us about the extensive online collection of maps of Victoria, Australia and elsewhere held at the State Library of Victoria. 

· Meg Bate introduces Historypinand shows us how to use this online mapping tool to share photos, stories and your family history.

These webcasts are informative and interesting and valuable resources to assist your family history research. Enjoy them and the many others in our extensive collection.


References to illustrations

Civitas Londinium.the 'Agas' map of London, c.1561, Maps of Old London, Adam and Charles Black, Lond., 1908 / scanned and corrected Mike Calder 2009, accessed 25/9/2020. Detail showing Shakespeare's neighbourhood (Wikimedia Commons CC-PD-Mark).

Map of East and West Molong and Suburban Lands, 4th ed. (courtesy of the Registrar General, NSW Dept of Customer Service /Annotated W. Barlow 2019) in 'Guilty and Lucky', William Barlow, 2020, fig. 5.4

Descendants of those who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War

Australians in the Spanish Civil War Memorial, Canberra
Australians in the Spanish Civil War Memorial, Canberra
Bill Barlow
18 September 2020
Treasure Chest

Do you know descendants of Internationals who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War?


This week I have been reading a memoir 'Eric and Us' about George Orwell's childhood (as Eric Blair). So I had cause to reach down 'Homage to Catalonia' (1938). Then to my surprise a message came in from one of our members, journalist at 'The Age', Carolyn Webb, seeking descendants of the International Brigade who fought in Spanish Civil War. 


Carolyn writes:


'I have a call-out for a newspaper story I am writing. Do you know anyone who is descended from someone who fought in the Spanish Civil War? I'm a journalist at The Age newspaper. I'm looking for descendants in Australia of members of the International Brigades who fought against fascism in Spain. The Spanish government has just announced these descendants will be eligible for Spanish nationality. So in other words, I'm not looking for Spanish people, but rather descendants of those who fought in international brigades for the anti-fascist cause - descendants who now live in Australia. Please email me, carolynwebb@theage.com.au

Thank you.

Carolyn Webb, The Age, Melbourne.'



If you can contribute please contact Carolyn directly.


The Australian War Museum gives an outline of the involvement of Australians in this war, 


'66 Australians are thought to have served in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), not counting those of Spanish descent that returned home to fight. All except one of the 66 fought for the republicans, as opposed to Franco's fascists, and around a quarter were killed. The Australian's, as part of the International Brigade, were assigned to various 'national' battalions as there were not enough numbers to constitute a distinctive Australian battalion. Franco's eventual victory was utilised as propaganda for the fascist regimes of Germany and Italy, and is often seen as a precursor to the Second World War.'





Australians-Spanish Civil War Memorial, Flynn Drive, Yarralumla, Canberra ACT.

Designer Ross Bastiaan, 1993. Photo: Peter Ellis at English Wikipedia, 2008 (CC BY-SA).


Eric & Us: A Remembrance of George Orwell, by Jacintha Buddicom, 1974


Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell, 1938 (Penguin 1962). 



Describing and transcribing - My Dad's diaries

Dad's farm diaries (W.Pfeifer 2015)
Dad's farm diaries (W.Pfeifer 2015)
Bill Barlow
13 July 2020
Treasure Chest
Writers Circle



If only we had time to record the stories behind all those family objects collecting dust on our shelves! Oh, I guess we have now! I re-found a silver 5 franc 1840s coin that had been re-purposed by my great uncle in WW1 as an identity disc. Many men improvised extra identity discs and it was two years into the War, before two discs were ordered to be worn to help with identifying mutilated bodies. So this week I photographed it and wrote a short summary of its origin. If I cannot pass it to a direct descendant, the Australian War Memorial confirmed they would be pleased to accept it. Week 1 of stage 2 lockdown and one object recorded. Many to go!


A few years ago, Wendy Pfeifer, GSV member, wrote a lovely description about transcribing her father's farm diaries.* This is a great inspiration.


My Dad's Diaries

I am slowly transcribing my Dad’s diaries, which he had kept from 1931 until his death in late 2009. He had his first diary given to him for Christmas 1930 by his Aunt Emily when he was nearly fourteen years old. This was the year he finished attending his local primary school. While working on the family farm at Telford, he continued further education by correspondence.


Those early diaries are like reading a history book, as he mentions flights of Kingsford Smith’s planes Southern Cross and Southern Cloud along with the many political affrays. He also paints me a word picture of what life was like then, especially within the family. All the horse farm work is there, in detail, along with his sport and shooting adventures. Dad loved riding his bike and all his times are recorded when he raced at local meets. His poor sisters are only mentioned when they got taken to school or collected the mail. Dad always said that his Dad spoiled the girls because he was made to walk the three miles to school. He forgot to add, he got his first bike when he was six and could ride that to school. His sister gave me this information many years later.


I now know what the weather was like from 1931 to 1981, with a few misses. Each night when he had finished work, out on the farm, the last thing for the day was to sit with his feet in or on the stove and write his diary. I can pick the days when he must have been exhausted because after the weather entry it just states ‘shearing’ Other days there is a long involved series of events, including which paddock he was working in. The information was copied from his ‘Cooper’ books.

Over the war years his diaries do not exist, so I do not know if they were ever written. I have only one for 1943 when he left the RAAF base at Townsville and returned to Melbourne by train. He was a patient at the Repatriation Hospital based at the Ascot Vale Show grounds for many months. Then we are missing some which I know were in my parent’s home, but my mum did not like his frequent comments ‘I will look that up in the diaries’ so I think she moved some to the rubbish bin.

I do have all the ones from 1946 on to the 1980s, when he sold the Soldier Settlement farm in Western Victoria and moved back to the Shepparton area. They have made me smile as I have been transcribing them, because I know how hard life was at times, but he could be so dry and factual. The weather is the first entry, then farm work and at the end of the day’s entry we might find ‘baby born’. 

As a small child I remember being fascinated by how the men in my father’s family seemed to know what had happened 20 years ago, as if it was happening today. I was often allowed to draw in their Cooper’s books. These were small books produced by Cooper’s Dips, which were given to farmers each year. They were small enough for farmers to keep in their top pocket. They would also have this small pencil in the same pocket. These books were used to keep the running numbers, tallies or wages while they were out on the farm. If we, as small children, were good in church we were allowed to draw in my Grandpa’s Cooper’s book.

My Dad kept all his ‘Coopers’ books. Each year’s books contain treasures of animal and fodder prices for me to still research. I doubt that he ever realized the treasure he left for us; his children and grandchildren, to understand what life could be like.


* This article was originally published in FiftyPLUS News, January 2015.

Scottish assistance online 21 May

Bill Barlow
5 May 2020
Scottish Ancestry
Treasure Chest

No need to stop your family history research. We have moved our Scottish Assistance service online for 21 May.

With the GSV education centre being closed during May, the Scottish Assistance in the Library service, which was scheduled for Thursday 21 May, will now be available to members online, free of charge.

To register an interest and book a 30 minute time slot for 21 May, please email the GSV on gsv@gsv.org.au providing a contact phone number and your GSV membership number. The one-on-one consultation will take place on either FaceTime or Skype, and you will be contacted in advance to finalise the arrangements. Bookings are available from 10.00 am to 3.30 pm.



A case of 'breaking bad'


Just after my last post and Clive Luckman's article about the usefulness of Police Gazettes, I had a note yesterday that a cousin had found a long-lost great aunt of ours in a Police Gazettes notice. She had disappeared and had neither married or died in any Australian State (as far as we had found)!

My great grandfather had reported her or had her charged as a vagrant - perhaps hoping to find her.


An instance of her 'breaking bad' giving us a good break in our sleuthing.


And what is an 'ulster' Off to the internet!









Breaking bad

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

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




Feely me bony belly!

Bill Barlow
4 April 2020
Treasure Chest

STOP PRESS (can I have that with a blog?)


Discounted certificates for the months of April and May

Due to the success of our March offer for family historians, BDM Vic is continuing to offer downloadable uncertified historical certificates for $20 each until the end of May 2020. This is a saving of $4.50 per certificateThis offer is to say 'thank you' to our valued family historians.




Feely me bony belly!


Phonology for family history


Looking through early 17th C registers of births, deaths and marriages in Lancashire this week I regularly came across the use of Latin - Alis Barnes fil Robert Barnes; John filius Willmi Barnes and Marie filia Thom Barnes. Apart from my school French, this brought back a memory of my father telling of his schoolday Latin classes when the boys would break with gusto in to the chant 'Feely me bony belly' while the teacher tried to restore the phrase fili mi boni belli- for 'sons of the good war' - back into the lesson. This tale of deliberately misconstrued pronunciation is a good reminder for our FH research.


There are many websites explaining the use of Latin in BDM records (see Alison's Ring's article in GENUKI 'Latin in Parish Records' https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/LatinNotes


In looking at documents it sometimes pays to look at how the words may have been pronounced at that time and place. Most documents, especially registers and lists of passengers and so on in the first place involved someone saying their name or details and someone else writing them down. Others then transcribed that from the initial written version. The hearers tried to capture what they thought was being said.


A baptism entry in June 1700  from St James church in Haslingden caught my eye:

'Ssussanna Barnes ffill John Barnes of Oakenheadwood', and a month later Ssussanna Barnes was again entered this time as a burial. Ssussanna is not unknown as Szuszanna in Hungarian and derives from Hebrew Shoshanna (lily). It probably came into Lancashire with the Danish invaders. The double ss perhaps tells us how her name was pronounced with a hissing soft sound of sz.


We don't get much evidence of how our past family members spoke except perhaps by faint echoes in the transference to written word.


A place called 'Oberlee' I could never find, except for one reference to the Oberlee Mountains in central west NSW. Then on a road trip I mentioned this, and a local pronounced as 'Obe-erlee' the small place of 'Obley', that I had read as 'Obblee', and things clicked. He had introduced a trilling or rolling 'r' into it, extra-rhotic in a way. Similarly a document recorded my gg-grandfather as assigned to 'Mrs Niland'. I couldn't find anyone of that surname. But I eventually realised it was written from the pronunciation of 'Mrs Ireland', about whom I could find out much.


As a writer it helps to read your own writing aloud, but as a researcher it can also help to read your own reading aloud.




A REMINDER that in these isolated times, GSV Members can access various databases from home (or wherever you are isolated). Go to the website and access as a MEMBER.


Keep well and be part of the 8o% and flatten the curve. [Ed.]



More Nellie and also the 'Sands & McDougall'

Photo courtesy J. Watson, 2020
Bill Barlow
28 March 2020
Treasure Chest


Our recent Melba story triggered a family memory from one reader and another related how 'Sands & McDougall' is still giving support to their online activity. 


This family memory of Melba told below reminds me that often we are so focussed on trawling databases to find very distant antecedents and geographically remote cousins that we forget the family history in our own backyard. My son once quipped that he would be more interested to read stories from my own early life than about our forebears from previous centuries. 

Judy Macdonald contributes this family story about Melba.


'I was interested to read your article yesterday on Dame Nellie Melba and Geoffrey Serle as my husband John has connections to both people. Geoff Serle was his brother-in-law being married to his late sister Jessie (Macdonald). My husband’s father Ken Macdonald had a first cousin Donald Macdonald who married Zoe Beatrice Mitchell, who was a cousin of Nellie Melba. The family story was that the bride’s wedding gown was given to her by Melba. John’s father Ken attended the wedding under strict instructions from his father to mind his manners and to be on his best behaviour as the Mitchells were ‘upper class’. However, by the end of the night, with some liquid refreshment no doubt, the party turned rowdy and the Mitchells resorted to throwing plates at each other!'


There is a large article on the wedding on ‘Trove’ from Punch 1903 that includes a fascinating list of all the presents given, with accurate descriptions such as 'electro-plated pickle cruet'. But the equally interesting observation that plate-throwing occurred has possibly not (until now I believe) been captured in the historical record. And well authenticated too.


"WEDDINGS." Punch (Melbourne, Vic: 1900 - 1918; 1925) 3 December 1903 p.24. Web accessed 28 Mar 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article175403842.Punch 3 Dec 1903


Support provided by 'Sands & McDougall'


Our 'Presidents Update' logo prompted another reader's response:


'I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the 'President Updates' logo. Whoever designed it has totally captured my husband’s laptop, except it’s just the monitor he has sitting on top of my parents’ 1953 Sands & McDougall directory. I totally understand the sentiment. Nice to have a laugh in these gloomy times!' (Jill Watson)


I well remember the shelves of them in the old SLV Latrobe Reading Room. As noted, those directories are more useful than we ever realised.



Dame Nellie Melba and Do You Know All Your Grandparents?

'Madame Melba', Rupert Bunny c.1902 (NGV A70-1980)
'Madame Melba', Rupert Bunny c.1902 (NGV A70-1980)
Bill Barlow
23 March 2020
Treasure Chest


This is a good time to do some family archiving and sorting. I am isolated in my workshop sorting through tools and jars of nails and screws inherited from both my father and father-in-law, along with my own magpie collection. I have also been going through books with family connotations and adding a note to explain their significance. One, a small book inscribed 'To A.H. ... Xmas 1919', is from Nellie Melba to my mother's uncle Adrian Holland who was her piano accompanist in London.

The article below by Clive Luckman FGSV and past President of GSV, previously published in 'Fifty-Plus News' April (2007), reminds us that capturing those memories from our grandparents and older family members is always important to do.



Dame Nellie Melba & Do You Know All Your Grandparents?


A snippet I came across that I thought was interesting is in a book by John Thompson, The Patrician and the Bloke, about Geoffrey Serle (19221998), a very respected Melbourne historian. At the time Serle was an editor of the Australian Dictionary of Biography when a submission for entry into the dictionary about Dame Nellie Melba arrived on his desk.

Dame Nellie died of septicaemia after a face-lift done in Europe. The media at the time, with great respect for Dame Nellie, modified 'face-lift' to 'facial surgery'. Serle agonised over whether the true reason for her death should be in the Dictionary. After much thought and consultation he decided that as 55 years had then passed since her death, and he wanted the Dictionary to be accurate, he would include it.

This was, I think, an interesting example of how writers used to modify the truth because they did not want to publicly reveal matters that might degrade the reputation of 'great people'. How often does this attitude colour family histories and, especially, family stories handed down over the generationswhether public figures or ordinary people?

The most dramatic example of this may be that the British press did not print news about the relationship, for the first several years, between Mrs Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII; however it was widely reported by the US media. I am sure you know of other examples. I am also sure that these days no such suppression by the media would occur.

The age-old advice given to those starting their family history is to first talk to relatives in order to collect the family lore. It is also very good practice to make a list of those things that need investigation as part  of the modus operandiof genealogy.  A basic record of those things includes compiling an ancestry chart of what you can remember about your grandparents. Few can remember all their near relatives going back to their great-grandparents era. Fewer still can remember the occupations of their grandfather, let alone great-grandfather. Any family lore known by your living relatives will probably have been derived from your grandparentsif you are lucky from earlier generations also.

Having researched your recent generations proceed backwards in time, and enjoy the 'thrill of the chase'.

In case you haven't done this, download the Ancestry chart from the GSV website ANCESTRY CHART and fill in the names, occupations and residences of your great-grandparents and their direct descendants. I wonder how many of you can fill it all in. 


This article is a slightly-edited version of that first published in Fifty-Plus News April 2007.


Madame Melba, Rupert Bunny, c. 1902, NGV Acc. no. A70-1980