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Scottish assistance online 21 May

Bill Barlow
5 May 2020
Scottish Ancestry

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

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




Excited to be getting out and about

St James, Haslingden, Lancs UK. Courtesy Google Street View 2009.
St James, Haslingden, Lancs UK. Courtesy Google Street View 2009.
Bill Barlow
11 April 2020
GSV News

This week I decided to go for a trip and visit the church of St James* in Haslingden Lancashire. I had been finding lots of records of Barnes family in the 1800s from there courtesy of the MyHeritage database access for GSV Members. (see below).


'Exciting to be getting out' I thought, so I drove up from Manchester and got off the motorway on to the A680. Shortly I entered the valley village of Haslingden nestled between the high moors and the Forest of Rossendale to the east. After some to-and fro-ing I could see the way up a side street to the church gates on the hill. It was great to see it and also great to get out after a few weeks of 'iso'. From the air I had seen the little cleft in the moors to the west that had enfolded the old village of Grane and Blackhill Farm where my ancestors had probably been for centuries. So I thought I would turn up Heap Clough, a small side road and have a look on the ground. I could see up the old track, so I stopped, got out to walk - and fell into a black void of undocumented nothingness. Google Street View© hadn't been there.




Good news for GSV members. More databases can be accessed from home, Jenny Redman, GSV President announced this week.


'I hope this finds you virus-free and well, with plenty of time to continue your family history research. We are pleased to be able to tell you that we now have access to two more databases for you to use from home. This is in addition to the access we already have to MyHeritage.


The library versions of findmypastand TheGenealogistare now available for GSV members only. Instructions for accessing these databases can be obtained by logging into the members area of the GSV website. Allow time for these instructions to be received as emails are replied to between 10am-4pm on Monday to Friday.Please note that members cannot use any personal subscription to findmypastat the same time as using this library version. Also note the 20-minute time limit and the need to logout when using TheGenealogist.

For those less familiar with the content of the major databases there is a very good introduction at https://www.rootstech.org/video/comparing-the-genealogy-giants

This is a video link to Sunny Morton’s talk 'Comparing the Genealogy Giants: Ancestry, FamilySearch, findmypast and MyHeritage'at the London 2019 RootsTech conference.Sonny’s basic message about finding which records are on which site is to look at the Catalogues at each site (subscriptions not necessary).

findmypast has good Irish record collections, 1939 census, maps and extensive UK parish records (many quite early and not available elsewhere).

Unfortunately the video does not include TheGenealogist, a good UK-based site for census and parish (especially non-conformist) records, tithe maps, war and many other records.


I should also remind you that the free “Quick Lookup” service for members is still available despite the GSV Centre being closed.

Enjoy your researching and stay safe,

Best wishes,

Jenny Redman, GSV President




Where will you go next week?

Me? I've got to write up this week's trip and the story of the Barnes of the Rossendale Valley first.

* No doubt eagle-eyed readers picked up that St Chads was incorrect, that is in Rochdale and also Poulton-le-Fylde. Of course.


Feely me bony belly!

Bill Barlow
4 April 2020

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


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.



COVID-19 virus and the GSV: update

Bill Barlow
25 March 2020
GSV News
Writers Circle



Update from Jenny Redman, GSV President


On Monday March 23 it was decided that the GSV Centre, both the library and the office, would close from today Wed March 25 until further notice.


All member queries to the GSV are to be directed to the email: gsv@gsv.org.au 

Staff will continue to work from home.

Subscriptions can be paid by usual methods excepting via telephone


Research Requests including quick lookups will be processed where possible.


We will endeavour to maintain regular contact with our members and provide them with updates and information to help with doing their family history research at home. We are currently working on supplying more online content for members, so keep an eye on the website for updates.


Please keep safe and enjoy the time at home doing your family history


Jenny Redman




Family Historian told to stay home indefinitely and work on family history!


There are such a lot of family history projects that I have on my to-do list that this current edict sounds like an unbelievable opportunity - if it wasn't also tinged with great concern for our community. Many of us did not directly experience life during  WW2 but, from our parents, we knew about the family deaths, hardships, rationing cards and the long recovery that followed. Helping each other was then, and will be now, the only way forward. 


It is amazing how much we have moved online. Today the Ancestor Edit Team has been working collectively on the articles for the next Ancestor journal. This means our copy has to be finalised by the end of March. The members of the GSV Writers Circle have received one of the writing pieces scheduled for review at the now-cancelled April meeting. Our online forum membershelpmembers is available for any queries and members can check our catalogue and databases from home. I am spending too long on my computer with the MyHeritage Library edition, now also made available for GSV Members to use from home. 


So lots to do - STAY HOME!


The logo for the President Updates shows a laptop computer balanced on a Sands & McDougall Directory. For many years this amalgam of old and new-world technology was a feature of the meeting room back in our Collins Street offices.

If you would like to publish a family history story on this blog just email me at blog@gsv.org.au. [Ed.]




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


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


GSV events cancelled from Tuesday 17 March

Bill Barlow
16 March 2020
GSV News
President's Keyboard

On behalf of the GSV Council and staff, I hope this email finds you in good health as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts all aspects of community life. 


Given the increased risks to our members from the virus, over the weekend it was decided that all events at the GSV will be cancelled from tomorrow, Tuesday March 17, until the end of April. 


The situation will be reviewed as the crisis continues and in all likelihood the cancellation time period will need to be extended.


For now the centre will be open to members as normal for independent research but we will no longer be opening late on Tuesdays.

No library volunteers will be rostered although volunteers may of course choose to come in.


We are in the final testing stage of our capacity to offer members video conferencing and video presentations of some of our classes. Members will require a computer, web browser, speaker and microphone to access this facility. Follow the GSV Website and Events page for further information over the next week or so.


You will be able to contact the GSV office on 9662 4455 during normal office hours if you have any queries.


Feel free to contact me at president@gsv.org.auif you have any questions. Please stay safe. 

With best wishes


Jenny Redman


Family historians self-isolate

Bill Barlow
14 March 2020
GSV News
In the Library


My mother often wished her brother would self-isolate. Later in life she would often complain that her brother had rung again, but all he ever talked about was yet another distant cousin he had discovered in the family history. We all know the feeling. Our research is often not interesting to other family members.


Self-isolation is what family history writers - and all writers - are good at. It is a necessary and sought-after precondition for our research and our writing. 


In a new development, if GSV members are stuck at home they can now access the GSV's Library edition of MyHeritage database from home. Simply sign on to our website as a Member, go to the Members Area and select MyHeritage.


GSV Members can also use the new online forum membershelpmembersto link with others who may be able to answer questions or give advice, and they can use our online catalogue and unique databases. 


You can see our Presidents notice to members on Covid 19 on our website here https://www.gsv.org.au/article/gsv-responding-covid-19


Many of us, or even most of us will have documented sad stories from our own families of Spanish Influenza epidemic of the 1918/19. In Australia 40% of the population fell ill and 15,000 died. In 1921 there was a peak in diphtheria cases and over the following decade 4,000 died. In the 19th C this infectious disease occurred often and many children died. In 1872 the Victorian Government held a Royal Commission into its nature and treatment. In my family young John died in Molong in 1886 aged 11, only two years after its cause had been identified in Germany. By the mid 1890s an anti-toxin was available. Too late though for him. Later vaccination programs have almost eliminated this death from our family histories.


We sincerely hope you are all well and treating yourself and others with kindness and reason. 


What's on in March?

Bill Barlow
29 February 2020
GSV News

Discounted certificates for the month of March


Vic BDM has announced that they are offering downloadable uncertified historical certificates for $20 each for the entire month of March to say 'thank you' to valued family historians. This is a saving of $4.50 per certificate. Click below:





Are you stuck in England in a time warp?


Alan Fincher - our expert in early English records is giving a talk on 19 March that could help you.


English Research, Eighteenth Century


This talk is intended for those who are stuck in their English research in the 1700s. Most English researchers can get back to the early 1800s or late 1700s, but the 1700s can be really challenging, as there are fewer records available than in the 1800s or 1600s. In fact there is a real incentive to get back to the late 1600s as many more records then become available; records that either cease to exist in the 1700s or are quite uncommon then.

Note this talk has been previously advertised as '19&20c to 18th c English Research'


March 19 - 10.30 am-12.30 pm


$10 GSV members. $40 non-members. FHC, RHSV and CAV members should contact the GSV for a 25% discount. GO HERE  https://www.gsv.org.au/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=1439



Update on producing a flipbook version of our 'Ancestor' journal


In December 2019 we posted news about our investigation of flipbook options for this journal. We included a demonstration flipbook and invited members to try it out and send comments. We were amazed at the response we have had.  By mid January we had over 70 responses - with roughly 2/3 in favour of this option and many giving constructive feedback. 


If you are a GSV member you can already read PDF editions of our current journal and past issues on our website in the Members Area. And its articles are indexed in our catalogue. So if you have recycled your past paper copy, you can check back-issues from the comfort of your hard-worn home research chair.

CHECK out this service if you haven't tried it.


We will continue to look into a digital form of Ancestor, taking into account all comments. We thank all who took the time to respond.


... And GSV Writers meet next week... And March could be a good month to volunteer! AND did you remember to book for Richard Broome's talk coming in May? See last post for details.