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More family secrets

Bill Barlow
23 February 2020
GSV News

A coming talk at the RHSV dovetails neatly with my last post about 'Family Secrets' - the new research project looking at interactions between settlers and indigenous Australians (see note 1).


On March 17 at the Royal Historical Society Victoria, Prof Lynette Russell will talk about family secrets and her journey to discover her aboriginal history.



What the little bird didn't tell me

17 MARCH - 5:15 - 7:00 PM


The RHSV has opened their March talk to GSV members at the RHSV member’s price of $10. GSV members who wish to attend should book through the RHSV website, as if they are RHSV members.


Prof Russell:


Twenty years ago I wrote a book that documented a journey I had been on for over a decade. The book was A Little Bird Told Me: Family Secrets, Necessary Lives. This book represented a journey of discovery where I located my Aboriginal ancestors and answered a number of questions that had dogged my family for generations. Along the way, I discovered a story of secrets and lies, of madness, and refuge.  In this talk, I will reflect on this book nearly 20 years later with a focus on the importance of women as the keepers and tellers of family stories. In so doing I will consider the reasons why I wrote the book, what impact it had at the time and its ongoing influence. I hope that these reflections might have something to say to other family historians. I want to question whether there are there some family secrets and necessary lies that should never be told?


Professor Lynette Russell AM is an award-winning historian and indigenous studies scholar. In 2020 she is taking up an Australian Research Council’s Laureate Fellowship to examine Global Encounters and First Nations People: 1000 Years of Australian History.

This personal story will be interesting to those who would like to better understand the complex issues of aboriginal identification and the inter-relationship between genealogical records, biological descent, family stories, self-identification and community recognition. Though it has been about 40 years since a three-part 'working definition' of aboriginality evolved and has been adopted in Australia (see note 2), there are still popular commentators and some historians who can't get their heads around this.





Note 1.Family Secrets Research Project. Contact Dr Ashley Barnwell

See the previous blog for details of how to participate in this research project:



Note 2. For a full history of this topic see Defining Aboriginality in Australia, Dr John Gardiner-Garden, Parliament of Australia Current Issue Brief no. 10 2002-03







On May 7 at GSV, Dr Richard Broome will talk on Frontier Encounters. 

Richard is a Professor of History and Associate at La Trobe University. One of Australia's most respected scholars of Aboriginal history, He has written many articles and books including  Aboriginal Australians and Sideshow Alley.

His last talk at GSV was sold out, so it would be worth getting in early to hear firsthand from a prominent historian, author and wonderful speaker.  


This talk will fill up quickly so go HERE to book early.



Unsettling family history - new research

Bill Barlow
8 February 2020
GSV News
Writers Circle

Genealogical study is a hot topic. Witness the lengths to which some 'historians' and genealogists are presently going to deny Bruce Pascoe's aboriginal antecedence, possibly to undermine his views about pre-Colonial aboriginal society. This particular instance of genealogical research should remind us of the traps that can result from a simple reading and over-reliance on early records; even for so-called historians, who should know better about the inherent limits of documents in tracing biological ancestry (note 1). Anyone researching their early Australian forebears will have to think about where they were and what they were doing during The Frontier Wars, a period from 1788 to 1928 (note 2). 


The intersection of written records with family memory and oral history can be unsettling and sometimes divisive. If your family stories take you into this period you may like to contribute to a current university research project.


Ashley Barnwell, a Lecturer in Sociology from the University of Melbourne (note 3), is currently undertaking a national study that investigates how inherited family secrets, stories, and memories inform Australian’s understandings of colonial history. Ashley is looking to interview family historians who have found interactions between settlers and Indigenous Australians in their ancestry and who are doing some research into that aspect of the family tree.


Ashley outlines the context of the project 'Family Secrets':


'There has been a lot of research about how museums and schools deal with colonial history but not much acknowledgment that family historians are doing a lot of interesting historical research in this area and often writing up the findings for their families too, Ashley says. In his famous 1968 Boyer lectures After the Dreaming, WH Stanner spoke about 'the great Australian silence' around the treatment of Aboriginal peoples and the impacts of colonisation. Family stories sometimes mirror this silence, but families can also be places where past interactions between settlers and Aboriginal peoples are recorded and discussed, at least by some generations if not others. 


Popular texts based on family history, such as Kate Grenville’s The Secret Riverand Sally Morgan’s My Place, show that unpacking family stories and secrets can stimulate public discussion of Australia’s colonial history. Ashley is very interested in how family relationships add an important layer to how historical research is done. When we read and write about our own families there are often extra layers of emotion that can inform what we choose to write and publish. Family historians sometimes also have to navigate tricky conversations with other relatives who may not be happy with the revelation of family stories or who insist on a different version of events.' 


For this Australian Research Council-funded project, Ashley will do a study of self-published family history books, interviews with family historians, and some research into her own settler ancestors in mid-north coast NSW. 


If you are interested in participating,

please contact Ashley via:

phone: 03 83444559  

email: abarnwell@unimelb.edu.au; or 

mail: Dr Ashley Barnwell, School of Social and Political Sciences, John Medley Building, Level 4, University of Melbourne, VIC, 3010.





1. Dark Emu(2014), Bruce Pascoe. See Keith Windschuttle citing Jan Campbell [Holland?] in QuadrantDecember 2019.

2. The Forgotten War, Henry Reynolds (2013).

3. Ashley Bardwell see https://findanexpert.unimelb.edu.au/profile/708324-ashley-barnwell

Do you have to write your family history?

GIW heading Ancestor Dec 2019
GIW article heading in December 2019 'Ancestor'
Bill Barlow
1 February 2020
GSV News
Writers Circle



Once you have all the certificates - the names, dates and places - and have these imbedded in proprietary databases, and maybe you have graphically presented these as trees of various designs, is there any need to do more?

Do you need to put all those 'facts' in a written story?

And, a sensitive historian may ask, should you presume to put them in a story? When you look at the 'factoids' it does seem necessary to link them somehow, but once you start there can be a tendency to over-link them in ways not fully supported by the facts.

In her book 'Genealogical Proof Standard' Christine Rose puts forward five steps for genealogical proof: (CR Publications 3rd ed. 2009. GSV 929.1 ROS):

1) Reasonably exhaustive search for information

2) Complete citation of the source,

3) Analyse and correlate to assess the quality of the information

4) Resolve any conflicts AND

5) Arrive at a soundly reasonedwritten conclusion(my emphasis).


So your investigation is not finished until you do step 5. It is not the after-thought following the discovery of facts; it is an essential part of the process. 'Soundly-reasoned' requires writing up (or if you prefer, 'writing down' - strange language English).

This is the focus of the GSV Writers Discussion Circle. Its members help each other as they attempt to turn their carefully assembled facts into a 'soundly reasoned written conclusion'. More than that, the group suggests ways to make the written conclusion attractive to its intended audience.

The GSV Writers group is open to all GSV members as part of membership. It meets monthly on the first Wednesday at which about 20-30 of its over 90 members provide comments and suggestions on submitted draft histories or discuss some aspect of the craft. It also has a closed Facebook group for online discussion. You can see more about the group on the website HERE and their program for 2020 is now available - GSV WRITERS PROGRAM 2020

The group provides the ongoing articles for 'Getting it Write' in Ancestor journal. A list of past articles is available on the GSV website. There are a number of award-winning published authors in the group and many who are just starting to write. All are friendly. Where else could you get twenty editing reviews of your writing free?


Joining this group is a good way to tackle your genealogical objectives for the year.


The GSV also offers a course on Writing Family History presented by Margaret Vines, commencing 7 February - BOOKINGS ESSENTIAL. See HERE.


So no excuses for 2020! This is the year to 'get it down'.


How did Melbourne grow? - seminar 1 Feb

Two Suburban Street - Chapel Street Prahran, 1889, A.C.Cooke, SLV PCINF AS 03/10/89 157a.
Two Suburban Street - Chapel Street Prahran, 1889, A.C.Cooke, SLV PCINF AS 03/10/89 157a.
Bill Barlow
18 January 2020
GSV News

For many of us, our ancestors arrived ,one way or another, in Melbourne. This was a big city by 1890. 

How had it grown by then to be the second largest city in the British Empire?


I found a newspaper reference in 1889 to 'Ordinary' passengers - a married woman (my great grandmother) and family of six - boarding the train at Albury at 2.10 pm on New Year's Eve bringing her family from country NSW to 'Marvellous Melbourne', to make a new start. I followed them in the records as they moved around rented accommodation in Cremorne, Richmond and Little Brighton. They had arrived in the less 'marvellous' aftermath of the rampant property speculation and in time for the crash of the banks and the opening of soup kitchens. We know so much more about our ancestors when we understand the times and places in which they lived.


This coming seminar could help you put your family in context.


An overview of the growth of

some early Melbourne suburbs



The Royal Historical Society of Victoria and the Genealogical Society of Victoria are delighted to co-present this full-day seminar, which will give participants a deep understanding of the forces and influences that have shaped Melbourne’s early growth.


This full-day seminar will be held at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, 239 A'Beckett Street, Melbourne, on Saturday 1 February - 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.

The speakers will be:
- Footscray - Carmel Taig
- Prahran - Steven Haby & Judith Buckrich
- Heidelberg - Graham Thorley
- Brunswick and Coburg - Cheryl Griffin.


With an introduction by Gary Presland on how Melbourne's geography shaped its development.


This seminar is designed for those who are researching their family or community history and want to understand the why, who, when, what and how of Melbourne’s growth. Were the influencing factors economic, geographic, climatic, demographic, religious, commercial, opportunistic, geological, corrupt, or dictated by government? What drew our ancestors to settle where they did?

It will also be of interest to those who merely want to deepen their understanding of Melbourne’s development without having a history project to hand.


This event is open to members and non-members. Cost $60, GSV and RHSV members $45. Light lunch and refreshments provided.


Bookings are required and can be made online, by email, in person or by telephone (03 9662 4455 Mon-Fri 9.00am-4.00pm). Joint members please book in separately if both attending. RHSV members should book directly through the RHSV.



There will be a waiting list if the event is fully booked.


This is a good chance to kick-start your research in 2020!

The bushfires

Bill Barlow
7 January 2020
President's Keyboard

Like us at the GSV you've undoubtedly been dismayed and saddened by Australia's ongoing bushfire crisis. 


We are particularly concerned about the welfare of our country members, some of whom will have been directly affected as they protected their homes and communities.

For those whose families have been directly impacted by the fires you have our deepest sympathies. 

We also join with others in thanking our volunteer firefighters whose incredible efforts and courage are an inspiration to the whole country. They, together with emergency services, defence force personnel and the many other volunteers are still out there dealing with ongoing threats as I write this.

In some areas vital local heritage, buildings and historical records may have been lost. When the immediate danger is passed and losses to historical assets and collections are assessed, the GSV may be able to help with the rebuilding process. If your Family History Group has been affected by the fires please contact us directly.


Jenny Redman

President GSV


Support our communities in the bushfires

Gippsland, Sunday night, Feb 20th 1898, John Longstaff, NGV.
Gippsland, Sunday night, Feb 20th 1898, John Longstaff, NGV.
Bill Barlow
7 January 2020
GSV News
Member Societies

Bushfires have shaped this country for millennia. And our human activities have shaped bushfires.

I am reminded of reading the history of the white settlement of South Gippsland - The Land of the Lyre Bird : a Story of Early Settlement in the Great Forest of South Gippsland(Korumburra and District Historical Society Inc. 2001 ed.). The firsthand recollections describe the huge efforts in the 1870s and '80s to clear the ancient bush to establish farms. There was plenty of rain; slogging through the mud was the norm. And then came the devastating bushfire of 1897/98 where the early community battled the fires that engulfed this regularly rain-soaked Korumburra district, W.H.C. Holmes recalled vividly that 'there was not an inch that was free from showers of sparks driven by the wind from the blazing trees alight from root to topmast branch. ...it was almost dark at 4 o'clock; through the black pall of smoke the fire appeared a livid blue, giving everything a weird and unearthly appearance: the sun looked like a big copper ball through a red-black smoke haze. All night 18 of us battled ...and most of the workers were at last unable to see; some were totally blind.'

This is again the picture we are seeing all over Australia this summer. Very sadly our communities are in great danger, at the moment especially those of our Member Societies of Benalla, East Gippsland, Jamieson, Lakes Entrance, Mansfield, Mid-Gippsland, Sale & District, Wangaratta and Yarrawonga. 

Our thoughts and support go out to all our regional Member Societies and their communities.

Please support the Victorian Bushfire Disaster Appeal. Money is needed for daily living items for displaced people, for feeding and sheltering volunteers and animals. 



Picture: Gippsland, Sunday night, Feb 20th, 1898, John Longstaff, NGV. 

Would you like to flip through our Journal (in future)?

'Ancestors' in your digital bookshelf.
Bill Barlow
20 December 2019
GSV News



We have received many awards for our quarterly print journal Ancestor; it is highly valued by our members and others. 


Of course, being print hardcopy it is mailed out in the time-honoured way and that, as you may have noticed, is becoming very expensive. Obviously we are always looking for ways to drive our membership funds further - and one way is to save on postage. 


Many organisations are moving to digital-only versions of their publications. I even get Christmas cards by email these days. However we know members value receiving our print journal and you can be assured that the GSV has no intention of changing this. 


Ancestor has been available as a PDF version for members on our website for some time now. Some may find this not so easy to read, so we have been exploring 'flip-books' as an alternative. 


Apart from saving on postage, some members may appreciate the option of being able to read Ancestor in a digital version to improve our environmental footprint. I am building up quite a collection of back copies of Ancestor. Recently I had to find a way to 'downsize' nearly 2 metres of my collected glossy, architecture magazines. It hurts, but so does losing trees! 


We have set up an example of what a digital flipbook version of our journal could look like - and we would like you to try it out and think about if you would be happy to read your Ancestor in this way. We would love to get your comments, so we can better assess this option.


GSV Members can read more about this in a recent post - 'A new way to read Ancestor' - on our Forum 'GSV Website'. Please add your comments on that forum thread, or as a comment to this blog post - or if you like, by email to socialmedia@gsv.org.au


Have a look at it HERE and let us know what you think.


Please note that we are using a trial version of the Flipbook software so you will see advertisements when you are viewing one of the books. However, if the GSV decides to adopt this new delivery method at some time in the future, we would be using a paid version of the software so the advertisements will not appear.


GSV launches a new Members Forum

Bill Barlow
30 November 2019
GSV News



Do you have a thorny problem with your family history research?


Do you often feel someone else will have solved this or know a way to find that vital record?


You may just want to bounce an idea off others and get their suggestions.


This month the GSV is excited to be launching a new online forum for members to help each other or simply share tips and experiences.


It's easy and secure to use - just jump on the FORUM on our website and give it a go. It's free as part of your membership!


... is an online forum hosted on the GSV's website only for members of the GSV to help other members with their genealogy queries or simply to share their family history tips, tricks and



If you have joined any of our Special Interest Groups or Discussion Circles you will know how others can help with your research journey. We hope this online forum will enable you to tap into the wide range of family history experience that our members have. Because it is for GSV members only, you can be amongst like-minded searchers on this Forum, complying with our policies regarding ethics, privacy and harassment. Forum Posts are monitored and unsuitable material will be removed.


The Forum gives regional Members and others who cannot easily get to our Melbourne Research Centre another way to communicate and share their knowledge.


This service is not a substitute for the research services available from the Society’s

experienced volunteers via the GSV Research Services. The Society does not accept any responsibility for the information posted, and like all sources of information you need to independently check and verify. But often a breakthrough comes from a good tip!


How do you get started?


Login to our website as a Member. Click on 'FORUM' in the top Menu bar. Then select membershelpmembers. You can post your own new query (Topic) or respond to an existing post. Check back to see any responses or, if you wish to get an email notification of any new posts, you can subscribe (or unsubscribe) from this service.

Remember not to share private information of a sensitive nature about persons who may be living (see our Ethics and Privacy policies) and to respect the feelings of others who may be hurt by insensitive disclosure or comments.

Read the guide notes about using forums and you can have a play in the Test section before you add any posts of your own.


Much of the enjoyment and wonder of family history is through discovery and sharing. Now this Forum membershelpmembers gives you a way to do that.




The perfect Christmas gift!

Bill Barlow
23 November 2019

How often do we hear that someone wishes they had asked their older relatives more questions about the family?


Many of your relatives have memories and knowledge of the family that would be highly valued if recorded. Unmarked photographs could be identied and saved with some prompting.


You could help unlock these memories and give someone in your family hours of fun and interest. 


This Christmas consider giving a Gift Membership of the Genealogical Society of Victoria.


With the gift of a GSV Membership someone in your family could benefit from volunteers and research assistants to help them track down family facts. They may like to join any of the Special interest groups and discussion circles - making new friends sharing problems and discoveries. 


Do they need another set of bathroom products or a bottle of wine? Well, maybe, but this Gift may be a gift for the whole family.


Just ring the GSV office on (03) 9662 4455 and speak to Linda or one of our friendly volunteers to arrange this.


See our website for more details about Membership BENEFITS HERE.


Gift sorted!



How to find your ancestors' early Victorian land records

Bill Barlow
18 November 2019
GSV News


If you are quick you can book in to hear from Ken Smith and learn how to go about finding early Victorian land records.


This coming Thursday 21 November 12.00 - 1.00 pm. at GSV Research Centre.

Go HERE for details and to book. Places still available if you are quick.


$5 GSV members. $20 non-members. FHC, RHSV and CAV members should contact the GSV for a 25% discount.

Bookings are required and can be made online, by email, in person or by telephone (Mon-Fri 9.00am-4.00pm). Joint members please book in separately if both attending.


Our guest speaker Ken Smith is a long-time member of the Port Phillip Pioneers Group (PPPG). Ken has researched early records of the Port Phillip District. He has scrutinised all the land transactions in the Port Phillip District from the time of the first land sales on 1 June 1837 until 1851 with the aim of finding where people lived.


You can read more about the Port Phillip Pioneers Group https://portphillippioneersgroup.org.au




Our original post for this talk apparenty mixed up two Ken Smiths  both associated with Port Phillip Pioneers Group. We extend our apologies to both. But this Ken Smith's talk at GSV was well-attended and much appreciated by all.

GSV Blog Editor

Updated: 14 Dec 2019.