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Congratulations for 'Sentenced to Debt'

Don Grant Award Winner 2020
Don Grant Award Winner 2020
Bill Barlow
15 October 2021
Book Reviews
GSV News

Researching family history is a good start, but writing about it makes it history.

Congratulations to Louise Wilson for receiving the Don Grant Award 2020 for her book Sentenced to Debt - the story of Robert Forrester, First Fleeter.

This award was announced by Family History Connections at a zoom presentation on 19 September 2021.

Bettina Bradbury was announced as the winner of the Alexander Henderson Award 2020 for Caroline's Dilemma: a Colonial Inheritance Saga, the lives of the Bax and Kearney families, early squatters on the Victoria-South Australia border.

Congratulations to both winners and for the support given to family history writing by Family History Connections with these ongoing awards.

Louise Wilson is a member of the GSV's Writers Discussion Circle. She regularly convenes one of its annual topics - this year about writing First Nations people in our histories, something that Louise faced in writing Sentenced to Debt. See the blog post July 23. You will find many of her contributions in Ancestor journal both as feature articles and in the 'Getting it Write' section. And members of the GSV Writer's Group benefit from her helpful critiques and suggestions. So it is great to see her input being recognised once again.

You can read the judge's comments on both books https://www.familyhistoryconnections.org.au/index.php/awards/131-2020-awards-3

And about Louise and her books at Louise Wilson "nerdy...but nice!" HERE


GSV Writing Prize 2021 announced

Susan Wight - winner
Bill Barlow
6 October 2021
GSV News


A mysterious ancestor living the good life in Sydney in the early 20th C as a socialite and breeder of racehorses—this was the subject matter of the winning entry in the GSV Writing Prize 2021.

The winner was Susan Wight with her story ‘The mystery of the extra Booth Hodgetts’, a well-written account of her original knowledge of the four Booth Hodgetts and subsequent research to solve the mystery of an apparently additional member of her family tree. 

Last Saturday 2 October, President Jenny Redman announced the winner and runner-up of the 9th GSV Writing Prize at a virtual gathering of eager entrants and interested writers who joined Council members, staff and the Ancestor team online. 

The runner-up was Bernard Metcalfe with his intriguing tale of ‘The Secret Life of Mr Crisp’ about a ‘model’ family man who stole his brother-in-law’s identity—a tale that uncovered much that was hidden from his family. 

Susan wins a one-year subscription to Ancestry’s Worldwide membership and a DNA test. Bernard wins a six-month subscription to Ancestry’s Worldwide membership. The GSV extends its warm thanks to Ancestry for their continued support of this annual Prize.

This year fourteen entries were received from which five were shortlisted. The three remaining shortlisted entrants were Louise Wilson with ‘Hapless Fate’, in which she recounts the misadventures of a distant family member, Russ Gloster with ‘Ghost ships of Gloster’, his account of the ships belonging to one of his ancestors and Yvonne Tunney with ‘From Godly mechanics to farmers’, the story of German missionaries in the Moreton Bay settlement.

We were glad to see two entries from members of GSV Member Societies - Gisborne Genealogical Group Inc, and Philip Island & District Genealogical Society Inc - to whom eligibility has been extended.

Well-known GSV members Cheryl Griffin (guest judge) and Joy Roy (President’s nominee) joined three Ancestorteam members, Barbara Beaumont, Sue Blackwood and Tina Hocking on the judging panel. The judges were appreciative of the work that went into the entries, and congratulated all the entrants on their achievement. The President thanked all the judges for their deliberations and Leonie Ellis for her administration of the competition. 

The winning story will be published in the coming December issue of GSV's Ancestor journal and the full Judges' Report will be available on the GSV website.

Congratulations all! 


Living within 5 km

suvarov Atoll, Cook Islands
suvarov Atoll, Cook Islands
Bill Barlow
3 October 2021
GSV News
Treasure Chest
Writers Circle

You don't have to go far - living within 5 km

In previous times families didn't move far from their villages for generations. Many or even most people never moved beyond our recent 5 km lockdown over their whole lives.

This has been a useful factor in tracking early family names in a specific geographical location. Tracing my Barnes family, it has been shown that by 1860 a third of all UK 'Barnes' were in Lancashire and in 1861 it was particularly prevalent in Haslington and Accrington, north of Manchester - in the Valley of Rossendale. 'Golding', a recurring name in my family, is also most prevalent in Lancashire in its north England cluster. Both these name locations probably reflect the settlement there of Hiberno-Norse people from about 900 after their expulsion from Dublin in 902.

A great grandfather of mine set foot on Suvarov (or Suwarrow) Island, a very small Pacific atoll, in 1889. Years later the largest islet of this coral reef would be the voluntary home of Tom Neale where he lived for six years. He was inspired by an earlier occupant, Robert Dean Frisbie, who exiled himself and his four children there for a year in 1942. The islet they lived on is only 800 metres long and 200 metres wide - so a perambulation is well below our present 5 km confinement.

Robert Frisbie had lived on Pukapuka, another small Pacific atoll and wrote: 'Think of it! A woman living on this island for some seventy years and never visited Frigate Bird Islet, four miles across the lagoon! It reminds me of a pair of darling old maids who lived near our ranch in the foothills of California. They were in their forties, alone on a farm only a few miles from Fresno, the lights of which place they could see, on a clear night, from a hill beyond their house—yet they had never been to Fresno nor to any city! Once I tried to take them, and I remember that one old dear couldn’t go because she had a hen setting and her sister was “no hand at poultries”; the other one couldn’t go because she was afraid to leave her sister alone—“something might happen.” So it is with lots of Puka-Pukans. We have only three islets on this reef, yet many of the neighbors have set foot on only one.' 

And to help us live within our own resources, that classic of Thoreau's two years in a cabin on Walden Pond is worth a re-read. 

Our ancestors didn't move far, until they did - when wars, economic emigration and forced relocation, transportation took them to another county or across the globe.



Tom Neale. An Island to Oneself, Collins, 1966

Robert Dean Frisbie. The Island of Desire: the story of a South Sea trader, Doubleday, 1944 / Benediction Books 2019 / ebook available online.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden or Life in the Woods (1854), JM Dent Everyman's Library 1910. 

[Ed] I thought I would treat you to a picture of this tropical island in memory of all those beach holidays we Melbournians had to cancel this year.



New webcasts to help you

Bill Barlow
24 September 2021
In the Library

Have a look at these!

I know you are still working hard from the comfort of your home office, so the nearly 200 webcasts created by the GSV are a great way to learn about family history from experts.  

No booking in, watch them anytime at your convenience. You can even scroll back over parts you miss or want to check.

These are available to GSV members when they login or non-members can view them by obtaining a GSV Visitor E-Pass. More details on https://www.gsv.org.au/webcasts

No matter how experienced you are there are always tips and tricks that other researchers can tell us about. 

Delve into the catalogue or browse the 26 categories to help you - including one on 'pandemics' (in case you haven't read enough about that topic yet!)

See these latest 10 webcasts added to our catalogue at Genealogical Society of Victoria.


A glimpse at Chartism and reform in south-west England - Cathy Carman

Explores the rise of Chartism and reform in England during the 19th century with special reference to the south west counties.


Looking for my convict ancestors - Michael Considine

Mentions: Samuel Morgan - Charles Richards - Sarah Gibbs - Mary Manning/s - Richard Daniels


Researching Tasmanian Convicts -  Cheryl Griffin

Includes resources available to assist with the research of Beckett, Storey, Hunter and MacCleod families and Tasmanian convicts generally.


The Victorian registers of "Certificates exempting from the dictation test" - Sophie Couchman and Terry Young.


Finding families in the National Archives [of Australia]: pt 1 - an overview of records of interest to family historians; pt 2 - searching the NAA website and catalogue - Patrick Ferry.


Researching single people - Cheryl Griffin

The stories of many single people have disappeared from history, often because there are no direct descendants to carry the stories to the next generation, or perhaps because the person in question did not have a public profile of any significance. Dr Cheryl Griffin explores the principles and methodology used to identify individuals that do not appear frequently in surviving records.


Introducing the Port Phillip Pioneers Group - Stuart Hamilton

Stuart Hamilton, the Vice-President of the Port Phillip Pioneers Group, provides a history of the development of the Port Phillip District until 1851 and outlines the assistance that the Group provides to their members who are researching family who settled in the district in the early days.


Exploring the collections of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria - Jillian Hiscock

The RHSV has an extensive collection and Jillian describes how the RHSV may be able to assist family historians. For example theVictorian Pioneer Registerthat contains information of early colonists who arrived in Victoria before 21 November 1856.


Introducing the Wodonga Family History Society - Pat Hopkins & Wendy Cooksey

Members of the Wodonga FHS describe how they can assist individuals trace their family history in the area. They have an extensive holding of records relating to north-eastern Victoria.


Using oral history for family historians - Judy Hughes

The recorded interview can be used as a primary source of information about a time, an event or a life. Oral histories can also challenge existing collective beliefs. In this presentation, Judy Hughes discusses the techniques used in oral history and how they can add to your family stories.




Thinking about becoming a GSV Member? Try our Visitor E-Pass

Bill Barlow
10 September 2021
GSV News

Thinking about becoming a GSV Member?

Try our Visitor E-Pass with the special introductory price of just $10

The Visitor E-pass gives you 6 hours online at home access to the members section of the GSV website. This will allow you to:

  • Access two unique databases - a names index of over 3.1 million records and the 'Milestones' index of 1.5 million records, 
  • Access our award-winning journal –Ancestor
  • View our webcasts about family research, DNA, and information sources
  • Search our catalogue and indexes

Further details and purchase your Visitor E-Pass HERE



Bill Barlow
25 August 2021
GSV News


To celebrate National Family History Month August 2021, there are prizes in a draw for lucky winners - if you enter by next Monday 30 August.


Subscriptions, gift vouchers and other items, which are desired by family historians, are on offer.

To enter the prize draw you only need to send an email to info@familyhistorymonth.org.au including your name, postcode and email address. 

List of prizes on offer below or the link: https://familyhistorymonth.org.au/competitions-in-august/


A further CLOSING CEREMONY PRIZES DRAW is available for those who register and attend the Closing Ceremony at which Fiona Brooker will talk via Zoom on Tuesday, 31st August 2021 at 6.00 AEST.


Fiona will give a presentation on:


The 1939 Register for Family Historians


Following on from the declaration of War, on September 29th 1939, the details of the population of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were recorded and identity cards were issued. This talk will look at searching the 1939 Register and what to do with the information you find.


About Fiona Brooker

Fiona is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). With a background in adult education, Fiona loves to teach family history and digital scrapbooking. There is nothing better than getting someone else addicted to the hunt for their ancestors. Beyond her own research she has served as both President and Treasurer of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG) and worked with local branches

Details about accessing the Zoom talk will be available here or on our Facebook page 1 week before the event. It will also be available from our website for 1 month afterwards).



The Life and Influence of a Squatter on the Campaspe 1837 to 1851 - Thurs 26 Aug Talk

Station on the Campaspe, Charles Lyell c1854 (SLV H87.63/17)
Bill Barlow
20 August 2021
GSV News


Next Thursday 26 August at 7pm,

author Martin Playne will present this talk to the GSV's Victoria and Tasmania Discussion Circle.

This talk is free for all GSV Members to attend via Zoom. You will need to register via 'Events' on the website and you will receive a Zoom link. It is not too late to join GSV. If you are not a member JOIN HERE.


The period spanning the years 1839 to 1854 was a fascinating one in the Port Phillip District. Melbourne had only been founded in 1835, and the Colony of Victoria was established in 1851. 

White settlers took possession of the lands of northern Victoria and elsewhere without either Aboriginal or government permission. This ad hoc settlement gave rise to disputed property boundaries and massacres of Aboriginal people. Lack of land ownership meant that squatters lived on properties with little security of tenure. By 1848 new government surveys came into effect, which led to better definition of boundaries. Improved longer-term lease arrangements and the concept of pre-emptive rights for purchase of land led to the end of the squatting era and the start of the settler movement. By about 1852 the Campaspe was mostly owned by settlers.

Martin Playne has spent eight years researching the social history of the Port Phillip District and his book Two Squatters: the lives of Dr George Playne and Daniel Jennings details the lives of two early pioneers and their influence on the formation of Victoria.

George Playne was born in Gloucester, England to a poor family. After some 22 years as a surgeon at Gloucester Infirmary, he emigrated with Daniel Jennings, a wealthy but eccentric investor and land agent, to Australia in 1839. Together they took up occupancy of Campaspe Plains Station - 200,000 acres, with 10,000 sheep. 

Join Martin as he explores the different roles that these two men had on the development of Victoria, and their achievements, which hitherto had not been explored. They epitomize many early settlers who made such contributions, but who have been barely recognised by historians. 

Martin will also examine squatting on the Mornington Peninsula for comparison and discuss the main difficulties faced by squatters at that time.


Bibliography and sources on squatting and the Port Phillip District

List of squatters and their properties in the Campaspe district



Our Presenter

Martin Playne is a retired research scientist who has written many scientific works and has extensive experience as an editor and in genealogical research. He is a member of the Editorial Team for Ancestor - the quarterly magazine of the Genealogical Society of Victoria. 

Martin was awarded second place for his book Two Squatters in the Don Grant Award for the Best Australian Historical Biography with a family history focus. His book is available in print form via the website of BookPOD http://www.bookstore.bookpod.com.au

Martin’s blog site is at http://www.mplayne.wordpress.com.


Thanks to Jean McConnachie, GSV Volunteer, for this post.

Sex and gender in family history

People. Manly Beach 2014
People, Manly Beach 2014
Bill Barlow
17 August 2021

In the past week we completed the Census. Since 2001—after lobbying by family historians—we can choose to have our own responses kept by the National Archive (NAA) and available to future family historians after 99 years. More than half of the population have agreed to this at each Census since.


One apparently simple question—about our sex—has attracted increasing attention and debate (refs 1 and 2). This piece of our identity goes to the core of our family history researching. But, apart from begetting, there is very little about sex in most family histories. And even less about gender. This is not surprising as the idea that a person may have a gender distinct from a sex was not introduced until 1955 and not popularised until the 1970s.

Sex could only be recorded as 'male' or 'female' in our ancestors' birth records. This was still the case until about 2013. But this has changed.

Since 2016 the Registrar of births in Victoria will accept almost any descriptor of sex. And anyone can change the record of their sex, annually if they wish. This option has been taken up by about 30 people a year in Victoria to date. This is not the same as correcting the sex recorded at birth; which can also be done. Vic BDM allows most sex descriptors used by gender-diverse people, subject to a few practical conditions such as not being more than 100 characters or unpronounceable, and since 2016 realignment surgery is not a pre-condition.

The Government recommended in 2013 that in all records an individual's sex could be identified as 'indeterminate/intersex/unspecified' (ref.3). This phrasing has been debated and presently the term 'non-binary' has been adopted as a better option. Without considering the biological and psychological factors behind this widening of identity definition, this is what our future family history documents may now capture. As the world changes it is possible, and perhaps preferable that, like race and religion, identification documents will not classify individuals by their sex or gender. 

In future, though rarely, researchers may find other descriptions of the sex of a family member in their birth record (ref.4). And other official documents created during the lives of a small minority will have non-binary descriptions of their sex (see ref.5).

Our recent Census reminds us that people can now opt to describe their sex irrespective of that recorded on birth certificates. 

On Census night Australians can describe their sex as 'male', 'female' and/or 'non-binary' and, if the latter, can add any further description of themselves. ABS has promised to untangle all this and report on responses next year. 

However the future official records of sex or gender, if kept, will tell us nothing about the sexual orientationof those who came before. Analysing documents to faithfully consider and write about sex and gender in our family histories would require more work from us. Christine Sleeter, an American author and educationalist, has described various areas that family historians might analyse by gender (ref. 6). Susan Faludi's monumental investigation of her father's sexual identity is challenging (ref.7). Mary McKee's findmypast blog 'How to trace LGBT ancestors' (ref. 8) is also instructive.

The complexity behind the sex identified in documents reminds us that our family history research needs to encompass the reality of lived lives rather than being limited by the sex box ticked on government records - even, or especially, a birth certificate.

Isn't family history interesting!



1. For example,'Census makes LGBTIQ+ community invisible', Anna Brown, The Age, 6 August 2021, p20.

See ABS Statement on Sex and Gender Questions and the 2021 Census, 15 May 2021. Also ABS Media Statement on sexual orientation and gender identity questions and the 2021 census, 4 Dec 2019, accessed at https://www.abs.gov.au/media-centre/media-statements/abs-media-statement-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-questions-and-2021-census

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Standard for Sex, Gender, Variations of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation Variables, released 14 Jan 2021. Accessed 10/8/2021 at https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/standards/standard-sex-gender-variations-sex-characteristics-and-sexual-orientation-variables/2020 - glossary

3. Australian Government. Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, July 2013 (updated Nov 2015) accessed at https://www.ag.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020-03/AustralianGovernmentGuidelinesontheRecognitionofSexandGender.pdf

4. 'though rarely, small minority' - The 2016 Australian Census counted 1,260 sex or gender-diverse people of 23.4 million people (1 per 18,570) but a pilot survey indicated potentially 50 times higher (i.e. 1 per 370 people). In the US, estimates of gender-diverse range up to 1 per 170 (0.6% in 2016). For useful summary of population see Prof Dianna Kenny, 'Transgender hysteria' (2019), Professor Dianna T. Kenny[website] accessed 10/8/2021 at https://www.diannakenny.com.au/k-blog/itemlist/tag/Transgender hysteria.html. Sex or gender is not the same as 'sexual orientation'. Estimates of Australian non-heterosexual adult population are about 3.2% (1 per 32). See Wilson, T., & Shalley, F. (2018). Estimates of Australia’s non-heterosexual population. Australian Population Studies, 2(1), 26-38. 

5. Australian Human Rights Commission. Sex files: the legal recognition of sex in documents and government records, 2009.

6. Christine Sleeter, 'Family History and Gender', 15 Dec 2013 accessed at website 15/8/21    https://www.christinesleeter.org/family-history-and-gender

7. Susan Faludi. In the Darkroom, William Collins, 2016.

8. Mary McKee. 'How to trace LGBT ancestors', Findmypast Blog, 28 Nov 2019, accessed 17/8/21 at https://www.findmypast.com.au/blog/help/lgbt-ancestors

Image: Summer at Manly Beach 2014 (credit: Sidneiensis CC-BY-2.0 Wikipedia Commons)


'Ancestor' journal wins Nick Vine Hall Award 2021

Ancestor Edit Team imagining celebratory bubbles!
Bill Barlow
4 August 2021
GSV News
Writers Circle

It has just been announced by AFFHO that the GSV's Ancestor journal has won the 2021 Nick Vine Hall Award for the best family history journal/newsletter in Australia and New Zealand, in category B for societies over 500 members.

The announcement was made at the beginning of the 2021 AAFHO National Family History Month opening session (by Zoom of course). This makes the fifth time the journal has received this award since 2009 - a real endorsement of the continuing value of the GSV's journal to genealogy and family history. 

Jenny Redman, President GSV, congratulated the Ancestor Edit team at its Zoom proofreading meeting this week: 'Once again your excellent work in producing journal has been recognised'.



This Award honours Nick Vine Hall AM. With the Census due next week it is timely to recall that Nick represented AFFHO at a National level in a Save the Census Campaign in the mid-1980s. Nick was a strong voice in the campaign, which resulted in the Federal Government accepting the Saving our Census and Preserving Our History report. This permits citizens across Australia to 'opt in' and allow retention of their Census information, under closed access for 99 years, by the National Archives of Australia, and in so doing, make a valuable contribution to preserving Australia’s history for future generations. Read more about this here Census Time Capsule Consider selecting this option in your census return. 



You have a few weeks to get your entry in for this year's Ancestor Prize - closing 4 pm Friday 27 August. See details here 2021 Ancestor Writing Prize

Celtic Day - 28 August at Gisborne

Family History Room, Gisborne
Bill Barlow
3 August 2021
GSV News
Member Societies



Member Societies Showcase


 Gisborne Genealogical Group Inc


Dreaming of things to do once lockdown is over? How about participating in the Gisborne Genealogical Group’s Celtic Day on Saturday 28 August? 


Or visit their Family History Room? You could even support regional tourism by making a weekend of it and doing both!


Make the most of your trip to Gisborne and also call in The Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society centre, just on the other side of the library from GGG. This is open Wednesdays.




Saturday 28 August 2021


9.30am – Start 

9.45am - Cornish harp music, followed by – Lyn Hall, ‘The Celts, Cornwall, and the Cornish in Australia’

11.00am – Break

11.15am – Scottish harp music, followed by – Joy Roy, ‘Scottish Kirk Session Records’

12.30pm – Lunch Break

1.15pm – Irish harp music, followed by - Susie Zada, ‘You can’t research Irish ancestors - All the records were lost – WRONG!’

2.40pm – Question time

3.00pm – Afternoon tea

4.00pm – Finish


Bookings are essential.Contact Lorna Jackson (lorna_jackson@bigpond.com).

Tickets are limited and subject to COVID-19 restrictions. 

GGG members: $20 | non-members: $25




The Family History Room is located next to the Gisborne Library. It is open to the public between 2.00pm and 5.00pm on Thursdays, except in January. Generally Bookings are essential. Phone 5428 3925. Gold coin donation would be appreciated.


In the week leading up to 28 Aug 2021, the GGG room will be open daily, 1pm to 4pm. 


The Family History Library contains:

  • over 1200 reference books
  • thousands of fiche
  • data CDs and DVDs
  • journals
  • maps

You can view the catalogue here [https://www.ggg.org.au/catalogue]


Additional family history resources (e.g. Ancestry.com, findmypast, Trove and over 300 years of UK newspapers) are available on the Gisborne Library computer system. For more information visit theGisborne Library’s Family History page [https://www.ncgrl.vic.gov.au/e-resources/familyhistory]


For further information about the Gisborne Genealogical Group, please see their webpage: https://www.ggg.org.au




Top: Family History Room of the Gisborne Genealogical Group, part of the old Council Chambers and Mechanics Institute complex. (Photo courtesy of GGG). 

Centre and bottom: Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society in the restored old Gisborne Court House (1858). (Photos courtesy of G&MMDHC).

Acknowledgments: Julie Dworak, GGG;  Kristy Love, GSV volunteer.

[Other GSV Member Societies might like to showcase their activities in this new section of our blog. Ed]