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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]


Our Forebears and the Indigenous Population

Wall map, Museum of Australia (photo: L. Wilson)
Wall map Australian Museum, (photo: L. Wilson)
Bill Barlow
23 July 2021
Writers Circle

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which the Genealogical Society of Victoria currently stands, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, their Elders past and present, and those young people destined to become leaders.


In NAIDOC week this year the GSV Writers were challenged to think more about how we include Aboriginal People in writing our stories. This will involve thinking deeply about the nature of the encounters with our European ancestors and also the possibility of our descent from Aboriginal People. 

There were very few European women among the first free settlers and assigned convicts in the early years of inland NSW. But on his trip in the Wellington District in 1845 Thomas Mitchell was assured by one lonely shepherd 'that there were shepherdesses in the bush'. Mitchell reflected that: 'This startling fact should not be startling, but for the disproportion of sexes, and the squatting system which checks the spread of families...Indeed if it were an object to uncivilise the human race, I know of no method more likely to effect it than to isolate a man from the gentler sex...' Mitchell of course was only seeing European women as 'the gentler sex' - and for that matter, was only seeing women as the gentler of the sexes. 

Investigating our early ancestry in Australia is difficult. In NSW there was no requirement to register marriages and births before 1856 (earlier in some other States) and baptisms were voluntary and difficult in outer regions. In 1839 there was only one clergyman in the seven counties west of the Blue Mountains to conduct baptisms.

So records may not help us and science is also limited. 'Mitochondrial DNA is a reliable source of genetic information about Aboriginal ancestry, but it can’t help at all if your Aboriginal ancestors sit anywhere else in your family tree. It is only useful to track direct from mother to grandmother to great grandmother and so on.' (The Conversation).

From the earliest days of settlement there are many examples of Aboriginal people taking on or being given European names. Neddie Barlow, an aboriginal man on the Bogan River, reputedly received that name from his having saved the life of a stockman. Clendinnen (Dancing with Strangers) tells how Baneelon aka Bennelong bestowed upon Gov. Arthur Phillip his own tribal name and adopted his. 

And the names of most individuals involved in the frontier wars have not been recorded.

Author, Louise Wilson set out this challenge to the GSV Writers and all family historians, 'Our Forebears and the Indigenous Population' 7 July 2021:


'We grew up in an era which largely ignored our First Nations peoples. My photo of the map on display at the Museum of Australia in Canberra, an artistic depiction of our country’s First Nations, contains a clear message to us all.

Almost everyone researching their Australian ancestors will find points of interaction with our indigenous population. I’d like you to think about where and when these interactions might have happened in your own family. A member of our GSV Writers group has told me of his astonishment ten years ago when he first viewed the von Guérard painting from 1854, Aborigines met on the road to the diggings,'...since I'd never given a moment's thought to what sort of encounters my 1840s-1850s lot must have had in the Port Phillip District'.

Many of us have now given much thought to this topic. At the very least we should know the names both of the Aboriginal land where these encounters occurred and the language spoken.

You might also like to view Dr Richard Broome’s talk to GSV members last year entitled ‘Frontier encounters: Aboriginal victims and voyagers in Victoria’, now a webcast accessible for members via the GSV catalogue.

How to write about this topic is another matter – or do we ignore it, because we don’t quite know how to approach it? Historical societies often publish lengthy articles about a house or a settler family without any mention of the original owners of the relevant land.  My book Sentenced to Debt: Robert Forrester, First Fleeter devotes about 12% of the story to my forebear’s interactions with the local Aborigines. But were they Dharug or Darkinung? There is often no accepted terminology. 

In Guilty and Lucky Bill Barlow describes the Wiradjuri people of his forebear’s district in western NSW, and again in his essay dated Oct 2016 What did my great-great-grandfather do in the war?

Are our ‘Welcome to Country’ messages meaningful? There are many different approaches  - for example the RHSV says ‘We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which the Royal Historical Society of Victoria currently stands, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, their Elders past and present, and those young people destined to become leaders.’ The acknowledgments offered by your local Council, the Melbourne City Council, the ABC, SBS, Gardening Australia and the GSV all vary greatly.  

But ownership is a lot more complex than that, as I discovered recently when I attended ‘Pre-European Aboriginal culture in the Camberwell area’, a Zoom presentation by Dr Gary Presland to the Camberwell Historical Society on 25 May. 

How can we present the truth in our own family history stories?'


Louise Wilson is a member of the GSV Writers Circle and the author of nine books of biography and family history. https://www.louisewilson.com.au [Ed.]


NAIDOC - National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. In 1991 'Islanders' was added and the 'Day' became a week. See history https://www.naidoc.org.au/about/history

Thomas Mitchell, Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia, Longmans, Brown and Green, Lond. 1848

Bishop of Sydney in 'Religious wants of the Colonies - New South Wales', Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Oct 1840.

'A DNA test says you've got Indigenous Australian ancestry. Now what?' by E. Watt, E. Kowal, and S. Lehmann, The Conversation[online], 3 May 2018, assessed 18/7/2021 https://theconversation.com/a-dna-test-says-youve-got-indigenous-australian-ancestry-now-what-95785

Inga Clendinnen, Dancing with Strangers (new ed), Text, 2005. 

For a detailed map see AIATSIS 'Map of Indigenous Australia' [website accessed 18/7/2021] https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/map-indigenous-australia

For the words we use to write about what we find, see also AGPS Style Manual https://www.stylemanual.gov.au/accessible-and-inclusive-content/inclusive-language/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples


The Victorian Certificates Exempting from Dictation Test dataset - GSV talk 20 July

Bill Barlow
16 July 2021
GSV News

The significant underfunding of the National Archives of Australia (NAA) affecting their capacity to digitise their unique holdings, has received a large amount of press recently. While a recent funding boost is welcome news, it is important to highlight the value of the NAA’s collection and ensure its future.

One record set of vital importance is that of the Victorian Certificate Exempting from Dictation Test (CEDT). 

Last month the Chinese Australian Family Historians of Victoria (CAFHOV), with the support of the NAA, made these records available as a searchable dataset at https://www.cafhov.com/vic-cedt-index/

You can learn about these records next week in a free online presentation at GSV. 


The Victorian Certificates Exempting from Dictation Test dataset

Free online talk 20 July at 7-8 pm


Dr Sophie Couchman and Terry Young, a CAFHOV member whose ancestors appear in the Index, will present a free online talk about the database and the stories that have emerged from it, at 7 - 8 pm, Tuesday 20 July 2021.

Register here: https://www.gsv.org.au/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=1842


Between 1904 and 1959 customs officials recorded the names, ages, nationalities, occupations, residences and travel details of Chinese (and some Indian and Lebanese) Victorians who travelled overseas under a certificate that exempted them from sitting the notorious dictation test on their return – otherwise known as a CEDT. These registers contain a wealth of information for genealogists.

Sophie and Terry will describe the Victorian CEDT Index website as well as the registers, who applied for them, and what information can be found there. 


The CAFHOV project is a great example of the ways that a communityof family historians and genealogists can work with archives to increase the accessibility of significant record sets. The forthcoming talk will also be of interest to members who want to learn about ways to open up access to genealogical data.

The presenters

Dr Sophie Couchman is a curator and professional historian based in Melbourne with a particular interest in migration history and the role photographs play in how we tell history. Sophie recently assisted Jeff Fatt (aka the Purple Wiggle) on SBS’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’. She is a founding member of the Chinese Australian Family Historians of Victoria (CAFHOV).  


Terry Young is an enthusiastic family historian who got the bug a few years ago. His grandfather and father were both market gardeners. Their story is typical of last century Chinese Australian migration and Terry enjoys researching and sharing that story with other historians. He is Vice President, CAFHOV.



Image: Register of Certificates Exempting from the Dictation Test, Melbourne. NAA: B6003, 3.

From the keyboard of the President - June 2021

Bill Barlow
24 June 2021
President's Keyboard

Dear GSV Members

There has been a lot happening in the world of genealogy.

Our online connectness continues to expand and

it was interesting to see our Prime Minister tracking his early family through local Cornish archives while in the UK recently.

Hopefully our own archives can return the favour for UK visitors in future.


Our National Archives of Australia needs more Government investment

Genealogists like all historians are very concerned about the funding crisis at the National Archives of Australia and the imminent loss of fragile and irreplaceable records. I urge GSV members to write to their local member and the Prime Minister or the responsible Minister, the Attorney-General Michaelia Cash expressing our concerns and pointing out the need for additional government funding to preserve Australia’s history.


We will soon launch a new Digital Communications Hub at GSV

Many thanks to our members who have generously donated to our fundraising appeal to meet the costs of our Digital Communications Hub. Our IT team is busy assessing and purchasing the hardware and other requirements to enable meetings, talks, education etc. to take place simultaneously by Zoomand in the GSV meeting room. 

This is an exciting development. It will give all our members, no matter where they live, the opportunity to participate in and enjoy the society's range of events.


GSV is adding two Saturdays each month to our opening times  - starting from 26 June. 


Now that the latest Covid constrictions have been eased, the GSV is fully open for business again, 10 am until 4 pm, Tuesdays to Fridays. And we are adding two Saturdays a month, from 10 am- 4 pm, starting 26 June and thereafter on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month. 


There will be research assistants in the library to help you with your research and it is a great opportunity to make use of our databases. Unlike weekdays visits, booking is required to come into the GSV on Saturdays. Bookings must be made by noonon the Friday immediately preceding the Saturday opening. Please phone the GSV on 03 9662 4455 or email gsv@gsv.org.au to book your Saturday visit. 


A further incentive for members to come in on a Saturday is that parking in the Bond St carpark is only $12 per day on Saturday. We look forward to seeing you at 10 Queen Street soon,


Your ongoing support is still needed and is very much appreciated

Maintaining our GSV Education and Research centre and continuing all our genealogical and family history activities does rely on the ongoing support and generosity of our members. Although the Communication Hub appeal has been met, donations are still very welcome. 


Jenny Redman




Can I publish a family letter?

Bill Barlow
20 June 2021
Writers Circle


The GSV Ancestor Edit Team was recently asked about the ownership of letters in a deceased person's estate: 'Does anyone know who these belong to?' 


Simple question but it depends how you would like to use the letters.


The letters themselves will have been distributed as part of the personal effects of a deceased estate, perhaps evenly between children. And owning the letters means you can sell them, exhibit them or donate them, but can you publish them?


I have a much-treasured letter that my grandfather, who died in 1953, wrote when he heard about my birth beautiful clear handwriting and a testament to those forgotten skills! Can I scan it and publish it? 


The first point to realise is that owning the physical letter and owning the copyrights in the letter are two different things. Personal letters are 'literary works'. So copyright is protected for a period of 70 years from the death of the writer (the creator). If the writer has died, these copyrights, unless otherwise directed, are normally inherited and shared by next of kin.  


So to publish my grandfather's letter before 2023 - seventy years after his death - it looks like I would need permission from each of his children - my father and his two sisters - and as they and their spouses have also died, from their 5 children apart from me.


I own the manuscript itself. But my siblings, cousins and I jointly own the copyright to reproduce it, to communicate it to the public and to publish it for the first time. These rights include putting any 'substantial part' on my website, photocopying it, copying by hand, or scanning it. I can copy it for my own research or for criticism ('fair dealing'), but I don't have a right to publish it without my co-copyright owners' licence. 


Maybe I could wait for a couple of years and the letter will be in the public domain. But we are a friendly family and most people like personal acknowledgment for their part in preserving our history.



Read more:


The Australian Copyright Council (www.copyright.org.au) has many useful information sheets available online, such as Family Histories & Copyright, Australian Copyright Council Information Sheet G042v13, Oct 2019.


Judy G. Russell 'Copyright and the lost letters', The Legal Genealogist [website], 3 Dec 2012, accessed 20 June 2021 at https://www.legalgenealogist.com/2012/12/03/copyright-and-the-lost-letters/


Image: A family letter (photo courtesy of W. Barlow, 2021)


Family history without words

Bill Barlow
9 June 2021
Writers Circle

How can you write your family history with the least amount of writing?

Recently the GSV Writers discussed forms of 'text-light' media for telling our stories.


By 'text-light' we meant media in which our family history is mainly told through images, or at least with few words. Remember that oft-quoted aphorism 'a picture is worth a thousand words'.

Such media may include:

  • charts (e.g. descendency record)
  • photo albums or photobooks
  • PowerPoint files
  • videos, podcasts
  • websites
  • blogs
  • posters (for example, an illustrated family tree)
  • Facebook sites
  • annotated timelines, and so on.

or even poetry... (One writer read a poem she has composed to tell a family story).

There is some feeling that with the take-up of social media many people (not only younger) just haven't the time or capacity to read anything longer than a 'tweet'. And watching a film of a book will have more appeal. But how to tell, and capture, history in 'text-light' forms?  

Who has not inherited a drawer full, or even an album, of unlabelled family photos? Who has not watched a historical film and wondered how much of it is 'true'. How can we know? Lincoln, the film or Gore Vidal's Lincoln, a 'novel'. 

We may build a collection (a shoe-box?) of primary source material - originals or reproductions (an archive). Why not just tell, or show, our family history by distributing images of these to the family? There are many software programs enabling us to produce photobooks, PowerPoint presentations and videos. And little or no writing is required. ,

After all, a picture tells the truth? In April, a female dance crew, '101 Doll Squadron', was shown on ABC footage of the launch of HMAS Supply, twerking* in front of RAN brass,including the Governor-General, who it later transpired was not there at that time. Words had to be written later to explain and apologise for the incorrect assembling of the images.

Kenneth Clark's TV documentary Civilisation(BBC 1969), Bronowski's 13-part TV series TheAscent of Man(1973) and Simon Schama's A History of Britain(2000)brilliant though they are as televisionwere all followed by books that provided the sources of illustrations and provided bibliographies. Bronowski wrote in his Foreword that the printed book has the advantage that:

'it is not remorselessly bound to the forward direction of time, as any spoken discourse is. The reader can... pause and reflect, turn the pages back and the argument over, compare one fact with another and ... appreciate the detail of evidence without being distracted by it.'

This almost sounds quaint today. 

In today's world an audiovisual medium has many great advantages in telling a story. 

The key question for us as historians is what qualifies these different media as historical records - ones that have historical value (as opposed to fiction or myth) 

What is the minimum text that must be included to turn our collection of imagesmoving or otherwiseinto a historical document? 


If an unknown viewer in the future finds your photobook, blog site or PowerPoint file, does it include the necessary information to make it history - or will it just become history? 

What or who is shown, who created it and when, what time and place is depicted.


*twerking(OED 2015). First used in 1820.


Top: An inherited family photo album with captions like 'Father among the roses at no.6' (author's possession); an archive data sheet about a family object; cover of a celebratory family photobook.

Lower: A family-history online blog 'J Scammell Making Ancestors Interesting, viewed 2021.



June 'Ancestor' is now out

Bill Barlow
2 June 2021
GSV News

The June 2021 edition of the GSV's award-winning quarterly journal Ancestor is now out.


Digital editions in flipbook and a PDF are now on our website for Members.


Members will receive it in hard copy by mail soon, unless they have opted for digital-only, thus saving paper and running costs for the GSV.


The Ancestor Editors describe what this issue brings. Happy reading!

and what else would you be doing this week in Victoria) Stay safe.




'Winter means more time indoors, so more time for writing up your family history, an excellent opportunity to complete your article for the GSV Writing Prize. Entries are due by the end of August – see the back inside cover for details. It’s also a great time for curling up in a chair and reading, so you will enjoy the great variety of articles in this issue.


Alex de Fircks has delved into German military records to describe her father’s time as a reluctant recruit in the German army in the Second World War.


Judy Woodlock follows the life and career of J.C. Williamson’s protégé, dancer Tilly Woodlock, in Australia, New Zealand, England and back to Australia.


Andreas Vlassopoulos and his brothers came from Ithaca, Greece, early in the twentieth century. His daughter, Rosa McCall, weaves memories of her father around stories of life on the island of Ithaca, those left behind, and the family’s fruit stall at the Queen Victoria Market.


Two authors have used family documents as the starting point for research into their forebears. Natalie Lonsdale draws on letters sent to family back home, and her own extensive research, to trace the journey of a young convict from his native Bedfordshire to Tasmania, and later to the Victorian goldfields. Jim Coghlan has used a document written by his great grandfather outlining the main events of his life, backed up with his own research, to tell of the Coghlan family who travelled from Ireland in 1838 expecting to settle in Sydney, but found themselves instead in Port Fairy.


Our series on female publicans continues with Gayle Nicholas’s article about Henrietta, who was briefly the licensee of The Park Hotel near Ballarat. Her time as such was short lived as marital discord saw her leave both the hotel and Ballarat.


We regret that we have not been able to include our usual ‘How to’ guide to researching a particular area in this issue, but this feature will definitely be back in the next issue.


Kristy Love has written a clear and concise article on tracing her grandfather’s half-brothers using a combination of DNA techniques and traditional methods of tracing her ancestors. This contribution will be very useful to anyone starting to use DNA analysis to assist their family history research.


Meg Bate’s Research Corner is an informative guide to education records in Victoria.'



Don't forget to get your entry in for the Writing Prize!