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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

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). 



Women on the goldfields

Goldfields dress (photo: G. Nicholas 2020)
Goldfields dress (photo: G. Nicholas 2020)
Bill Barlow
11 September 2020
GSV News

REMINDER - The September Ancestor journal is now out - and available as a Flipbook for members on the website. Log in as a Member. You will still receive a hard copy by post unless you have opted not to have it delivered. But you can read it online at any time as a PDF or flipbook. You can change your delivery directions at any time under your Member Details. 


Women on the Goldfields


At their August meeting, members of the GSV's VicTas Discussion Circle tackled a difficult research task. Gayle Nicholas - a member of this group - gives us a few insights that were shared in the discussion.



There was no doubt the women were strong and resourceful – but how do you find resources? One member told of a mother and 14-year-old daughter who travelled from Kent in England to Victoria, and through the notorious Black Forest to Castlemaine. Another tale was of a woman who left her English husband to partner with a goldminer and stayed with him until his death 20 years later. Accounts of travel to the goldfields, written at the time, help us to imagine these women’s travels as they bumped along the road, got bogged and stopped at Inns, or in the open, for supper and sleep (ref. 1).

The women on the goldfields liked to dress up. The watercolour Digger’s wife in full dressby George Lacy portrayed as laughable the contrast between women in finery against the men and landscape of the goldfields (ref.2). The crinoline (dress) pictured was on display at the Old Treasury in Melbourne for Gold Rush: 20 Objects, 20 Stories in 2018 (ref. 3). The dress is hand stitched with a high level of skill. It is noted as suitable for shopping or visiting – even on the goldfield. The Old Treasury web site is well worth a visit to explore the story of this dress or other artefacts from the goldfields’ era.

Many Women on the goldfields were in childbearing years and were giving birth with the assistance of neighbours or midwives. Doctors were too expensive. Those parents who registered the birth of their children provided a much-needed source of information for today’s family historian. 


The high number of deaths of children from accidents or illness was endured.


'Deaths, particularly the deaths of children, were mourned with the force of a lightning bolt to the heart. A child was considered born under a lucky star if she reached her first birthday on the goldfields' (ref.4).


Women also suffered violence, fueled by alcohol, on the goldfields. Author, Claire Wright writes of the acceptance of wife bashing and noise of violence perpetrating the campsite at night (ref. 5).

Death certificates, cemetery records and inquests provide more research material.  Group members referred to dropping into local history centres and museums while visiting former goldmining towns e.g. Beechworth, Chiltern, Talbot, and Chewton, to find resources not otherwise available. 


All current GSV members are welcome to attend the monthly meetings of the VicTas Discussion Circle. Of course, if you are not a GSV Member you can join easily and benefit from this Circle as well as many others, all of which are part of your membership. (Register at https://www.gsv.org.au), join the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/320532581948801or our email mailing list. Email victas@gsv.org.au for more information or for copies of the resource lists from the 'Women on the Goldfields' meeting.


Gayle Nicholas



1. For example: Duyker, E. A. Woman on the Goldfields: Recollections of Emily Skinner 1854-1878,MUP Melbourne 1995

2. Lacy, G. Digger’s wife in full dress, National Library of Australiahttps://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-134736742/view

3. Old Treasury Building. Gold Rush: 20 objects, 20 stories Old Treasury Building in conjunction with Public Record Office of Victoria, 2018-2019 https://www.oldtreasurybuilding.org.au/past-exhibitions/gold-rush/

4. Wright, C. The Forgotten Rebels of EurekaThe Text Publishing Company, Melbourne reprint 2014 p. 174

5. Wright, C. p. 178



Join our Events online in September

Bill Barlow
31 August 2020
GSV News

Our GSV Events come to you in September

Yes, all our genealogical resources are still at the GSV's research centre in the city (shown above in case you have forgotten what it looks like). It is just that we can't be there with them!

It is amazing, but the situation has produced some good things. You may have had difficulty getting to our Centre for classes or talks in pre-Covid times, but now we have developed ways to bring a lot of our events to you.


During the lockdown the Genealogical Society Victoria has developed a suite of events that are being delivered through our Zoom licence.


Our many September events are advertised on our website. They include:

  • classes conducted by our librarians and other volunteers
  • Discussion Circles where you can chat about researching specific topics or geographical areas
  • DNA talks which will be presented by Alan Rhodes
  • sessions to assist you with your Scottish research 


There is something of interest for everyone. In pre-Covid times you may have found it difficult to attend an event at the Centre, but now we can bring the events to you with the opportunity to join online.


Make sure you book! Log in to the GSV website as a member to book your place, and the session details with a clickable link will be emailed back as part of your booking confirmation. Information about using Zoommay be found on our website and in the September issue of Ancestor.


Participate and enjoy our events.

Not too late to enter GSV Writing Prize 2020 - closes 28 August

The Last of the Mail Coaches at Newcastle upon Tyne (1848) by James Pollard (1792-1867)
The Last of the Mail Coaches at Newcastle upon Tyne (1848) by James Pollard (1792-1867)
Bill Barlow
17 August 2020
GSV News
Writers Circle



You have just under two weeks - a week from Friday to enter the GSV Writing Prize 2020.


Last year's winner Louise Wilson painted a vivid picture of the development of the Royal Mail coaches in England unravelling the story of her coachmaster Boulton and Willson families in her article 'Masters of the Road' (Ancestor 34:8 December 2019).


In 2018 Helen Pearce won this prize for 'Daniel Elphingstone: his son's secret exposed' (Ancestor43:4 Dec 2018). Both these winning entries can be read by GSV Members on the website. Go to 'Ancestor Journal / View Ancestor as a PDF' where past issues from 2012 on are available.


But this year it's your turn. I suggest you lock yourself in (oh! done that) and polish up that family history story you have been promising to finish.


Members of the GSV as well as members of GSV Member Societies are eligible to enter. You can read the Judges' Report on 2019 winners on the website and 'Tips for Writing an Article' in the last issue of Ancestor 35:2 June 2020 is a very useful guide on how to 'make it easy for the judge's to say yes' 


Full details of the competition are on the website www.gsv.org.au/gsv-writing-prize


Entries close at

4 pm on 28 August 2020.

Now lock yourself away!



Webcasts on Irish Research

Bill Barlow
12 August 2020
GSV News
Irish Ancestry
An update on accessing the GSV Collection Unfortunately our catalogue and databases are not available currently. Due to CoVID level 4 restrictions we may not be able to fix this, as it requires a permit to visit the GSV where the server is hosted. Please use our new catalogue and databases, though links to files in the databases are not available at this point. Our September issue of Ancestor will have a full description of our coming new system. If you do wish to obtain a file please use Quick Lookup request. GSV Members can access this from the Members area and the link to New Look Databases & Catalogue (Beta version) ... and GOOD NEWS about access to our webcasts GSV Webcasts – Researching Irish Ancestors The Society holds an extensive collection of webcasts on a wide range of topics. A webcast is a video of a talk that is available to stream from our website. To promote our collection, we have selected six webcasts that relate to researching Irish ancestors. The talks range from examining the social conditions in Ireland in past centuries to emigration, especially to Australia, and to the lives built by Irish workers in Victoria. In all cases the presenters refer to resources you can find that will assist with your own research. To find these webcasts you should go to the GSV Website, login as a Member, select the 'Members Area' and then look for 'Researching Irish Ancestors' under the Webcasts heading. Here you will find a link to the page that displays six selected webcasts. Click on an icon and the webcast will stream to your computer or portable device. Each file has controls that will enable you to adjust the volume and to pause and restart the webcast. Over the next few months we will be highlighting other webcasts that fall into particular themes. In the interim you can find all our webcasts by searching our catalogue using the term ‘webcast’ in the format field and combining that with a subject in the topic field. We hope that you enjoy listening to these talks and that they inspire you to further your research. ***

Events in August - National Family History Month

Bill Barlow
2 August 2020
GSV News

As it's cold in August, we have arranged for you to stay home! 

OK it's the not the only reason, but always look on the bright side...! It is National Family History Month and at the GSV we also have plenty of regular talks and sessions that you can access at home.

We have developed a suite of events that are being delivered through our Zoom license.

Our GSV August events are advertised on our website. They include:

  • classes conducted by our librarians Linley Hooper and Meg Bate 
  • Discussion Circles where you can chat about researching specific topics or geographical areas
  • meetings of the Irish Ancestry Group and the International Settlers Group
  • DNA talks which will be presented by Alan Rhodes
  • sessions to assist you with your Scottish research. 


There is something of interest for everyone. If you did not have an opportunity to attend an event at the Centre now is your opportunity to join online.

Make sure you book! Log in to the GSV website as a member to book your place, and the session details with a clickable link will be emailed back as part of your booking confirmation.

Participate and enjoy our events.



National Family History Month is August throughout Australasia!


Family History events are being held during August 2020 by family history groups, libraries, museums, archives, companies and individuals, all celebrating family history related topics.

Events are posted on the National Family History Month website. Check out some of the events already listed at NFHM EVENTS. There are prizes up for grabs for participating in National Family History month events including subscriptions to Ancestryand MyHeritage.See the website for more details: NFHM COMPETITIONS.

Many events are free.

Get involved in National Family History Month this August!


Accessing GSV services - update

Bill Barlow
1 August 2020
GSV News

Greetings all GSV Members


We really value your continued involvement with GSV and we are working hard to bring you lots of ways of getting your genealogical fix.


As you are aware, the GSV premises are closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 situation, with all staff and volunteers working from home.  This means that we are operating under restricted conditions, including in relation to processing of payments.


Because the office is unattended, any incoming phone calls are redirected to a message advising that our office is closed and to contact the GSV via email at gsv@gsv.org.au, so we are currently unable to process credit card payments over the phone.  


The preferred payment methods at the moment are either online via PayPal or credit card, or via direct deposit to our bank account (details below).  GSV membership renewals can be paid online through ‘Renew Membership’ on our website when logged in.  Payments to our service groups – Scottish Ancestry, Irish Ancestry or International Settlers – can be made by selecting ‘Activities’, ‘Special Interest Groups’, then the applicable group, and clicking on the ‘Renew Online’ button. 


GSV’s Westpac bank account for direct payments is:


Account: Genealogical Society of Victoria

BSB: 033-009

Account No: 38-7919


Please include your membership number/surname as a reference.  If your payment relates to a service group, please also include the service group initials, e.g. SAG 12345.  This ensures that the payment is allocated correctly.


It is still possible to post a cheque to the GSV office, but processing may be delayed.  Mail is only being collected about once a week by one of our volunteers, then the cheques need to be banked and the information emailed to our office administrator for processing into our system.


Thank you for your understanding during these difficult and challenging times.


Best wishes from Linda and the GSV Team


Go to 'About Us' on our website to read about our wonderful staff. They get a big THANKS for carrying on! [ed.]

Making sense of DNA - new events coming up

Bill Barlow
28 July 2020
DNA and family history

Today I was sent two enormous lists of names and details resulting from a distant cousin's Y-DNA investigation. He has not much idea what it all means and I certainly don't, not having ventured into this field yet. 


So maybe I better jump on to the DNA-events that the GSV is offering to help me make sense of this. Go to our website here to see details https://www.gsv.org.au/article/dna-and-family-history-gsv


All these events are able to be accessed from your own home - so plan some family history time online at the GSV.


DNA webcasts

For an interactive offering the GSV has the following Webcasts for members. (Of course non-members can quickly on the website HERE.)


  • 'Should I Test?'

A DNA test can help you extend your family tree, finds cousins and perhaps break through a brick wall in your research.  What is involved in taking a test? Which test should you take? What company? Is it safe?  This webcast will provide guidance on all these questions.


  • DNA Ethnicity Results
  • DNA and family history


Live presentations on Zoom


Over the coming months we will also present a series of live presentations on ZOOM covering a range of topics on genetic genealogy.  These will be from beginner to more advanced topics, about 30-minute presentations followed by time for online questions and discussion.  We hope this will make GSV’s presentations more available to members unable to travel and to regional members.


DNA Genetic Genealogy Study Group


Convener: Maureen Trotter. This new group has been started for intermediate to advanced genetic genealogy users. It is a self help group for people who are familiar with DNA terminology and available software tools, and who would like to work in a small study group where participants meet to continue to hone their skills in genetic genealogy. Participants will have completed the GSV DNA for beginners classes or have a similar knowledge base. The study group will meet on the first Tuesday of the month, 10.00 am to 12.00 pm. Maximum attendees of 14 per meeting.


DNA Discussion Circle


This circle DETAILS HERE is for GSV members who would like to find out how DNA may assist them in furthering their family history. DNA can be used to confirm or establish links in your family tree as well as identifying your particular genetic origins.



And there is leisurely background reading to help you get up to speed. The past nine issues of our Ancestor journal has featured a series of articles - 'DNA News and Notes' - beginning with 'How did the DNA craze start?' by David Andreassen in June 2018.  Members can still read these past issues online.


So it might be refreshing to take our focus from viruses (30-200 nm) -that may be 1,000 to 10,000 time smaller than a grain of salt - to DNA molecules with a diameter of 2 nm or 2 billionth of a metre. Though if you could stretch the spiralled DNA out in a straight line it is about a metre long! Plenty on offer to keep you occupied.


GSV's 'Ancestor' journal in print and online in September

Bill Barlow
24 July 2020
GSV News

From the Keyboard of the President

I am very pleased to let you know that providing the June edition of Ancestor in digital form for most members has saved almost $5,000 in costs (mostly postage). This is a huge contribution to both getting us through this extended lockdown period and the ongoing financial sustainability of the GSV.

As previously advised, for the September edition of Ancestor we are reverting back to a mailed copy for all members.


However, many members have commented that they preferred the digital form for many reasons, including the cost-savings for the GSV and the environmental benefits of reduced production and distribution of the paper copies.

If you would prefer to continue to access the September and future editions of Ancestor in digital form, please email membership@gsv.org.au to let us know and we’ll update your Ancestor delivery preference in our membership system.  As with the June edition, the September and future editions of Ancestorwill be available on-line to all members in our extensive digital Ancestor library, through the Flipbook and PDF links in the Members Area of GSV’s website.

Having members switch to the digital Ancestor will help us continue the important cost-savings and environmental benefits, all of which are very much appreciated. However, we fully understand that many members still prefer to receive the mailed copy.

You only need to email us at membership@gsv.org.auif you would like to change to the digital format. 

We look forward to hearing from you. Take care.


Jenny Redman

President GSV

GSV Writers: Shut up and write

Bill Barlow
18 July 2020
GSV News
Writers Circle


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

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


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

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

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

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

On the day, everyone had to follow these instructions:

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

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

   We had some ground rules:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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