Family History for Beginners Learning Webinar November 2020
*Speaker: Lisa Fox (L)
L: Hello and welcome to the Family History for Beginners talk. My name’s Lisa Fox and I’m one of the research and reference team members who work in the Reader Services team.
So I’ve been lucky enough to work at the Library for over 15 years and in this time I’ve heard many wonderful family history stories. So today’s session aims to provide you with all the necessary tools and information to start your research and uncover your own unique family history story. I’ll show you a range of resources held in our collection in a variety of formats and how to access these records.
Okay so let’s switch off the camera and let’s get started with the session. Okay so today’s talk will cover getting started so I’ll talk about what questions that you might like to ask yourself in preparing your family history research. I’ll also talk about research and tools and resources so in this section I’ll talk about finding aids and research guides that we have available. So in the catalogue I’ll suggest different records or different resources that you might like to search within the catalogue and also provide you with some research tips.
In our e-resources section I’ll talk about family history and newspaper databases that we have available and then I’ll discuss with more information about popular family history resources such as births, deaths and marriage records, electoral rolls, shipping and passenger records and I’ll conclude at the end with some research tips. So if you’ve hit that research brick wall these are some tips that may help you find the information that you’re after.
So getting started. You might like to write down as much information as you can about your ancestors so you might like to start with full names, nicknames, stage names, all this information will help with finding a bit more information about your ancestors. You might like to think about births, deaths and marriage dates. Even if you know the approximate years this will all help. If you know what religion that your ancestors belonged to. Were they indigenous? Were they immigrants? Where did they emigrate from? Were they convicts or criminals? Do you know what places they lived in Australia? Do you know what occupation that they had or did they own their own business? Did they serve in any world wars? This is great information to get you started.
Another question that you’d like to ask yourself, what do you want to find out? So is there an ancestor that you really want to focus on or a family or do you simply just want to find out more information about your heritage? Also ask yourself, what do other family members know? So leading up to Christmas it is a good time to start thinking about asking this question next time you see your family members. You may be surprised that there might be other family members who have already started your family tree or have photographs or documents in their own collections. Also some of the older family members may have stories about growing up or about other family members. So it is quite useful.
So how do I start my family tree? So this is a great way to present your information in a family tree so when you’re writing, documenting information in a family tree always start with yourself and then work backwards. It can be tempting to research that ancestor going back multi-generations but this is when errors occur, it’s best to always start with yourself then your parents and your grandparents and great-grandparents and this will ensure accurate information.
Printing or downloading family trees can be freely available from websites like Ancestry or Findmypast. You also can access family tree templates from the State Library of South Australia, they have an excellent form that you can download so I would recommend visiting their website. You also might like to think about are you planning to share your research? So at the end of your family history research are you planning to publish a family history book or are you simply just going to email that information to relatives or just doing it for personal research?
Also you might like to consider uploading family history trees through using databases. A lot of databases like Ancestry or Findmypast or FamilySearch provide that area where you can upload that information. You also might consider joining a historic society. This can be a great way to have a chat to more experienced family historians and also if you hit that record or that knowledge can be really useful in working out what to do next. Also a lot of historic societies, they may have specialty subject groups or workshops or courses that they run on a regular basis.
I would also recommend if you're searching for a family from a particular area then contact the local historic society. You may find that they have their own collections relating to that area or indexes available relating to that particular town so it can be quite useful.
So now that you’ve asked yourself some questions about getting started with your own family history this is a getting started with using resources at the National Library so I’ve just provided the URL so that’s our homepage. Now we do have a number of Getting Started videos that you might like to watch. They’re short videos but they will explain how to use a lot of our collection or how to use access of our services so you might like to have a look at that a bit later on.
There’s also a link to getting a Library card. So if you don’t have a Library card or if you’ve lost your library card I would recommend you registering for a card. All you have to do is fill in some details and then you can elect to have your card posted out to you or the other option is if you’re local you can pick up your library card in the Reading Room, if you just bring along a form of identification and a staff member can complete that process for you. So the big advantage with having a Library card is that you can access our licensed resources from home with your card and I’ll talk about that a bit later on in the talk in our e-resources section but yes, I would really recommend registering for a card.
Now lastly we do have an Ask a Librarian reference service so if you require any reference help at any stage throughout your family history research then you can submit an online enquiry and we will respond within seven days. We can spend up to one hour researching and this is a free service. Now we do not undertake extensive family history research, compile your family history tree or provide ongoing family history assistance. If this is what you’re after then it’s best to contact your local family history society or hire a private researcher.
So I’ll just talk about now our research tools and resources. So finding out what we hold in our collection can be difficult so these are some of the guides and finding aids that will help you locate those resources. So I’ve just provided the URL to our family history research guide which is where I would recommend starting with so let’s just go to the website and I’ll show you how to access that guide.
So you’ll see this is the National Library homepage. Now if I go up to the top you’ll see a Using the Library option. If I scroll down, under the Research Tools and Resources you’ll see a Family History Research Guide and also just our general research guide. So let’s go to the Family History Research Guide. So it is really a useful guide to refer to and if I scroll down it will give you lots of tips and suggestions about researching your family history. It will also include other family history-related research guides so if there’s a particular area that you’d like to investigate more you may like to have a look at those research guides.
So things like we’ve got the Australian Indigenous family history, we’ve got Australian cemeteries, births, deaths and marriage records, we’ve also got convict records so I would really recommend you having a look at those guides. It’s clearly set out so it’s just an easier way to locate where records are held and in what form that they’re held.
Also on the left-hand side you will notice that we do have other links so we do have a family history Getting Started video that you might like to watch as well, also hold links to other libraries so we’ve got links to state libraries and state archives so you might like to have a look at that relevant library or state archives, have a look at that. We’ve also got some links to research services so if you require a private professional researcher there’s some links to access those researchers. Also we’ve got family history-related blogs and webinars that you might like to have a look at.
Now the other thing too while we’re on this page to talk about, now if I click on Guide to Family History Resources you’ll notice on the right-hand side there will be a PDF form of all our onsite Reading Room family history resources. Now although this is records which are onsite, if you find anything listed in this guide you can submit a - Ask a Librarian request and we can do a lookup for you. So I’ll just click on it now just to show you what it looks like. If I scroll down you will see it will list records that we hold by state and territory, if I scroll down at the bottom we’ve also got overseas records so you may like to have a look to see what we’ve got.
If I scroll down just to show you what some of the records look like so it may give you some websites that you can click on and it will take you directly to that website or you’ll see it will be a microfilm or microfiche number. If you do come across any microfilm or microfiche records that you would like us to search, as I said before just submit a - Ask a Librarian enquiry form.
So let’s go back. So if I go back to the research guide so this will list all the National Library’s guides that we hold. You can see you can filter by topic. If I click on this down arrow button it will give you the option that you can select for family history in genealogy, you also can select just indigenous Australia. If I scroll down you’ve got military history, got maps that might be of interest, also newspapers. So you may like to have a look at that a little bit later on.
Now if I go back so I’ll also just talk about our webinars that you can access too. So we have recorded a number of different webinars relating to family history topics. You can access these webinars through our learning program page on our homepage and I’ve also got the URL up there and you also can access these webinars through our National Library YouTube channel. But if I just click on them and we’ll just have a look. So you’ll see on the left-hand side you’ve got the options like Past Webinar Recordings and you’ll see it will list all our recordings, will be located and only available in our Reading Room.
So I’ll just click on the top one just to show you. Now you can see it’s got an online version which will take you straight to the digitised image. Now the next item, if I click on that that tells me it’s in a book format and if you notice that Request This button this will mean that it will only be available in the Reading Room so you won’t be able to access that item from home online, you will have to be in the Reading Room to access that with a National Library card.
The good news is that we do offer an interlibrary loan service so if you do find that there is something that you would like to view you can contact your local library and then your local library can contact us and we can arrange an interlibrary loan. Now there is a cost to do that and you can access a price list from our homepage and that will be available through the Copies Direct link on our homepage. If you scroll down also you can order a copy as well. So if it’s out of copyright you can request to order a copy and that will take you straight to the Copies Direct order form. You’ll also notice a host video on how that service works so that’s something else that you might like to have a look at later.
So let’s go back. Now the other thing that you may like to consider when searching a catalogue for an ancestor’s name is that they may have been known by a nickname, especially with a name like Ed, he could have been known as Ted or Ned so just consider that you may have to search for a different name or different nickname.
So you might have a look to see whether there’s any family histories published so what I would do would type in the surname so we go Smith followed by the term family history. Now you can either select subject or you can keep it broad. I wouldn’t select just books, I would just leave it open just in case there was anything digitised or a different type of format. So if you select find you can see a number of family histories have appeared and once again you can refine your results by selecting options on the right-hand side. So the other thing that you may like to do is to search the surname followed by the term genealogy. It just depends on how the item’s been catalogued so I would search both terms to find out what results appear.
So speaking of family histories we do have an excellent family history bibliography in our collection and it is also available from a lot of libraries across Australia so just go Ralph Reid ‘cause I know that’s the author’s name and it’s the author. So we’ve got here you can see Australian family histories and this is a bibliography of all published family histories in Australia. So I would really recommend you having a look at this book. It will list family histories in two sections under primary names and secondary names so the primary name sections will focus on family histories focusing on that one family. The secondary names index will list published family histories that mention another surname so this could be a marriage that they’ve included in that particular family history so it is worth checking and having a look.
So in the bibliography in our collection and it’s also available from a lot of libraries across Australia. So just go Ralph Reid ‘cause I know that’s the author’s name and just go author. So here you can see Australian family histories and this is a bibliography of all published family histories in Australia so I would really recommend you have a look at this book. It will list family histories in two sections under primary names and secondary names. So the primary names sections will focus on family histories and focusing on that one family. The secondary names index will list published family histories that mention another surname so this could be a marriage that they’ve included in that particular family history so it is worth checking and having. So in the bibliography it will provide you with a title and author, an ISBN number so all that information that we can search the Trove catalogue to find out which library Australia holds the particular book.
Now the other fantastic resource is that we do have this particular index available online through our e-resources portal. I will cover that in our e-resources section but that particular e-resource will only list the primary name, published family histories so it won’t list any secondary names in that particular online index.
Now the other thing I will mention while you’re here is that we do have bibliographies for other countries like England, Scotland and Ireland, also the United States so they are quite early editions but if you’re searching for your ancestors going back a few generations this can be quite helpful. So I’ll show you how to access that. So you can just type in for example so if we go Scotland genealogy and we go bibliography and if we go subjects and go find. So you can see it will list published bibliographies there so the family histories in this book we possibly could hold in our collection. If we don’t hold it then you may like to contact the relevant national library and it’s likely that they’ve got it in their collection but just to let you know that’s available.
Now the other thing that you may like to search, you may like to search for a particular family history topic so there may be a family history topic that you may be interested in like military or for example we’ll go ship deserters and you can see what records that we have available on that particular topic. So you just have a think about if there’s a particular topic that really interested you, that might be something that you might like to find, what records that we do hold in our collection.
So the other thing I would suggest too is to have a look at records that we hold relating to that town or area in Australia. For example if I was searching for any records held – let’s try Dubbo so I would type in Dubbo followed by the term family history again and we’ll go find and we’ll see what records are held. Now if I scroll down you can see there’s a couple of interesting things, we’ve got cemetery and burial records, we’ve got Dubbo Public School index, two students so have a look to see what we’ve got in the collection relating to that particular town. We may have some records relating to that area.
So the other term that you might like to search would be the Dubbo and then typing once again that genealogy and the same type of thing, it just brings up some of the results. So searching for newspapers so I’ll just show you some search techniques. Now newspapers can be a fantastic way to discover more information about your ancestor. You can search for a births, deaths and marriage notice, employment or business details, discover residential addresses or find out if someone served in any wars or even if they emigrate to Australia or what land that they purchased.
So newspapers can provide a great social history about the time and area that they lived. Now our newspaper collection includes digitised historic and modern newspapers accessible online as well as your microfilm and paper form so we not only hold Australian newspapers but we also hold overseas newspapers. So I’ll just show you some techniques but when I show you the search techniques think about you can search for overseas newspapers as well.
So let’s just search for for example we’ll go with Melbourne newspapers so I’ll just type in Melbourne newspapers but as I said before if you’re searching for for example Scottish newspapers and type in Scotland newspapers or Ireland newspapers and where it’s got outer limits we’ll select newspapers and go find. So you can see we’ve got a number of Melbourne published newspapers. Now once again if I scroll down you might like to narrow the search so if you’re after a particular newspaper from a particular decade you can go okay, I’m just after 1950 newspapers so we’ll select the decade.
Now looking at those newspapers you’ll see that we’ve got some which are available online and you’ll see these are available online only. We’ve also got newspaper titles which will have an online link and a newspaper link. So for example if I click on that title now you will notice where it’s got the online version, if I click on that online version as you can see that will take me straight to the Trove record. I won’t talk about Trove too much but you can watch the newspapers book and history webinar which will go into detail about searching newspapers in Trove.
Now let’s have a look. If I select in Library you will see we do have the original newspaper. Now one thing I would also mention too, we do have live dates up here so live dates may be different to the items and the issues held so it’s always good to check at the bottom of the page to see what we hold because we may not hold a compete run of newspapers and it may be a case that we may have to check multiple catalogue records to find the date that you’re after. This is because the newspaper titles may have changed so there may be a different catalogue record to reflect that. So if you see it’s got the Request This button and this indicates that it’s available only on site in the Reading Room.
Now with our original newspapers we don’t offer any interlibrary loan services so we do only offer interlibrary loans service for microfilms but if you’d like a copy of a front page of a newspaper you can just simply click on Order a Copy and then just follow the prompts with the order form.
Now I’ll go back. So now that we’ve had a search of the catalogue let’s have a look at how to search for e-resources. So e-resources or electronic resources will be a list of all the databases that we hold at the National Library. Each of those databases will have different access levels and they will be identified with a different icon. So you’ll see in this image here we’ve got a world icon, will be freely available resources so websites available, licensed resources will be identified with a key symbol and onsite resources will be identified with a National Library building symbol.
Now the licensed resources you’ll be able to access from home if you’ve got a registered National Library card. Onsite resources you will have to be in the building to access but don’t worry, you can submit an Ask a Librarian enquiry if you would like us to search any website access. So let’s go to the e-resources page so you can see what it actually looks like. So we’re on the homepage now so all we have to do is scroll down and you’ll see the e-resources page. Now let’s just click on it. So you’ll just have to accept their terms and conditions and just go into the browse e-resources.
Now you’ll see you’ll have different options up the top where you can search for a name of a database or you can search alphabetically. I think if you’re searching for family history resources it’s best to browse by category and you’ll see on the left-hand side you’ve got a genealogy and we’ve also got newspapers and [unclear] 31:05 so those are the two databases I would recommend. We’ve also got Indigenous Australian link. So I could click on the plus button, that will list all the different databases that we hold relating to that stage, also overseas and you’ll also notice that we’ve also got a special list for New Zealand.
So for example if you’re searching for an ancestor who lives in Victoria then you’d search the Victorian databases that we hold and now we’ll list all the databases that we hold and you’ll see they’ll be identified with the National Library building symbol to say they can only be accessed onsite. But with some of these databases you might like to check with your local library or your state library to see whether they hold those databases as well if you live closer to a capital city or live close to a state library.
Now as I mentioned before with the Ralph Reid book with the Australian bibliography index I’ll just show you how to access that one so that one will be under the Australia option so you either can type in Ralph Reid up the top here or just scroll down, there’s going to be Australian family histories bibliography index. It will just be a matter of typing in the surname so they’ll go something like Smith, state the state, we’ll go New South Wales and click on search. Nothing comes up. So then you’ll see there’ll be a list of different published family histories that you might have a look at. You’ll see it gives you a direct link to the Trove catalogue which will allow you to search across a lot of other Australian library catalogues.
So let’s just go back to the e-resources page. Now the other one I will mention too, one of our popular freely available resources, it’s called the Ryerson Index. It’s an index to funeral or obituaries or death notices in Australian contemporary newspapers. So if you’re searching for a recent death notice post-Trove this could be a source that you can search. Then once you find what newspaper it was published in then you can search our collection to see whether we hold that newspaper.
What I’ll mention too is that with the family history databases one of our more popular family history databases would be Ancestry. Now Ancestry at the moment is accessible from home with a registered National Library card so this is only available until the end of this year and you can see it clearly says that in the description of this database.
So the other newspaper databases that we hold include newspapers which are post-Trove so after 1954 so this can be quite useful if you’re searching for more recent newspapers. We do hold databases like The Sydney Morning Herald from 1955 to 1995 and from 2006 up until current issue. You can access that, it’s a full coverage newspaper that you can access from home once again with a registered National Library card.
Also if you’re searching for any UK ancestors we’ve got the British Library newspaper database and this is a fantastic resource. It goes back from the 1700s to the 1950s. We’ve also got the Irish newspaper archive database that you can access from home, I’ll just bring that up. So that’s from 1763 up until the current issue which is great so have a look to see what newspapers that we do hold.
Now let’s talk about births, deaths and marriages. Let’s go back. So births, deaths and marriages are arranged by their state or territory the event was registered in. There is no uniform index in Australia that searches across all state and territories. Now you can access indexes online by the relevant births, deaths and marriage registry office except for the Northern Territory. Each state will have different privacy laws so access condition to information will vary. Generally births within 100 years are not searchable online and this will you require you to contact the registry office directly if you want to obtain information.
Now our Births, Deaths and Marriages will provide you with a list of indexes that we hold. Now let’s just take a look at this guide. So as I mentioned earlier you can access the Australian Births, Deaths and Marriage Record Research Guide from our homepage and you’ll notice if I scroll down it’ll give you a bit of an overview about the births and marriage records and it’ll also give you a link to the different state and territory registries so if I go to that link it will give you a direct website address. Now let’s go back.
Now the other page that you may be interested in having a look at a bit later on is we’ve got what you might expect, is the historical births, deaths and marriage certificate so have a look a bit later on. It’s really good to have a look at working out whether it’s worth getting a births, deaths and marriage certificate. I think it is generally most of the time, you’ll get a bit more information than what you find on the index.
Now the other thing too that you may like to have a look at so we’ve got all our records listed by again state and territory so this will give you an overview of what we hold. Now as I mentioned earlier the Northern Territory births, deaths and marriage index is not available online but the good news is that we hold indexes available in CD-rom, microfilm and also accessible by the Findmypast database and you can see it will list what years that we hold. So have a look at that a bit later on.
Now the other thing too I will mention is you may find that comparing the index that’s available online through the registry offices. The databases that we hold, and also a lot of state libraries hold these databases as well, you may find that you may have slightly more information. So for example the New South Wales parties’ index, 1788 to 1918. We’ve also got the Victorian parties index from 1837 to 1888. So because this will include records prior to civil registration the databases that we hold will also list the congregation that your ancestor belonged to. This will not be available online so it can be quite useful if you want to find out what church that they belonged to. It may help you locate more parish records. But this will be as I said only post-civil registration. Now if you're not sure about the civil registration dates they will all be listed on this research guide for each state and territory so have a look at it otherwise you can search the relevant births, deaths and marriage registry office website.
Now the other thing I will also talk about with the New South Wales civil registration is with most of the civil registration any records prior to that date, it was not compulsory to record life events. So if your ancestor was not religious or was not associated with any government institutions there may be no record of their births, deaths or marriage because it just wasn’t compulsory. Also from civil registration, it was when the governments first issued certificates. So prior to that it was all recorded by the church.
Now one of the fantastic resources that we hold, and once again the State Library of New South Wales holds this and also the New South Wales Archives and Records Office will hold this, we’ve got the pre-1856 New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriage Register. So with these registers they will be in microfilm format so with these registers what happened was that before civil registration started the births, deaths and marriages were recorded in the church and then collected by the authorities. All this information was then sent to New South Wales Government.
So it will be a slightly different record from what you would get with a parish record. Most of the time I find that most of the information’s the same but what had happened was that those authorities went to those churches and collected that information and then the church also holds another record.
So some other records which we hold, a fantastic resource that we hold, we hold all the pre-1856 New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriage Registers. So this was before certificates were first issued by the government so when civil registration first started in 1856. So prior to that births, deaths and marriage records were recorded by the church and then later on that information was collected by the New South Wales authorities. So you may find if an ancestor was not religious there may not be a record of their births, deaths and marriage record because it was not compulsory to record your births, deaths and marriage before that date.
So the good news is that the National Library holds these registers and they’re in the newspapers and family history zone in the main Reading Room, they’re freely available so you can go in and have a look at the microfilm reels. Now these microfilm reels are also available from the State Library of New South Wales and also the New South Wales Archives and Records Office. You might also like to check, especially if you’re from New South Wales, you might check if a regional library or historical society also holds this rare collection.
So how it works, so you can access an index to this collection from the New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriage website so if I go to their website and let’s just go first. So let’s just do a general search, we’ll go Edward Smith and so we want to search something before 1856 so we’ll go 1850 to 1855. I’m hoping that there’s something that comes up. So you will notice it’ll come up with a registration number so anything with a V number will be volume number. So you'll see this number here, this number will correspond to the microfilm reel number and you’ve got the volume followed by the year and then followed by the entry number. But your library that holds that will be able to give you a bit more information once you find that record. So let’s go back. So once again as I said that with any of the databases listed in our research guide that are restricted to onsite use, just submit a - Ask a Librarian enquiry and we can do a lookup for you.
So electoral rolls can be a great way to find out more about your ancestors. Family historians can find out the residential address of the person and help locate other family members living at that address for a certain year. Now finding out the profession of an ancestor can be really helpful for information. It also can be a significant reason to why a person was living where they were living.
Now with electoral rolls they will include as I said the full name of the person, residential address and occupation. Now the National Library and state libraries will hold electoral rolls for each state and territory up until 2008 so if you live closer to a capital city then you can access the electoral rolls up until 2008 for any state or territory from a state library.
Now with electoral rolls post-2008 now due to changes in legislation the Australian Electoral Commission is no longer depositing copies of the electoral rolls to the Library. Now the latest roll that we have is 2009 so this will be in hard copy format. So a common question we get asked about is how to access the current electoral roll. Now the current electoral roll will be available from any Australian Electoral Commission office in Australia so you can find out where the offices are located from the Australian Electoral Commission website.
Now going back to the historical electoral rolls the microfiche that we hold as I said are arranged by state and territory and before 1990 this collection is listed by division and electoral division so you really need to know where that person lived before you can access that electoral roll. From 1990 it’s alphabetically by state or territory. So the disadvantage with searching for records after 1990 and if you want to find out who lived at that address it’s only listed by surname.
But the good news is that some of the records have been digitised on databases like Ancestry and Findmypast. Now it’s best to actually just do a Google search to see what rolls that they do hold to find out whether it’s the roll that you’re after. So for example if I just go into Ancestry and just scroll down it will give you a list of electoral rolls that we hold.
So let’s talk about shipping and passenger records. Some of the frequently asked questions that we do get asked is what was the name of the ship my ancestor arrived on? When did my ancestor arrive? How can I access my ancestor’s UK departure record? Now shipping and passenger records are arranged by the state or colony the person arrived in. Generally in each of those state or colony collections they will be arranged by passenger type so your ancestor may have arrived as a convict, in the military, assisted so they may have arrived under a migrant scheme or they might have arrived unassisted so they paid their own fare or they could have arrived as a crew member or they might have jumped ship and be listed as a ship deserter. So there are different record collections that you can search regarding these passenger types.
Now a good place to start with again what we hold is from our Shipping and Passenger Record Research Guide. Once again it’s all listed by state. If I click on the record type it will provide you with what resources that we hold. So there are microfilms, this one got a database so just have a look to see what we’ve listed.
Now in Australia shipping and immigration records were a state responsibility up until 1923. This means all records prior to 1924 are housed by the relevant State Archives office. For example if I’m searching for an 1855 New South Wales arrival record then I can assume that that will be held at the New South Wales Archives and Records office. I would strongly encourage you to visit relevant state archives website, get familiar with what indexes that they hold and also some of the websites have digitised records so you may be able to actually download the passenger record that you’re after.
Now as I said before if you do come across any onsite databases we can do a lookup. Now with the National Archives of Australia they will hold anything from 1924 so you can search via their records search catalogue or email it with a – Ask a Question online form from their homepage.
So if you just know the name of the ship and you're trying to access the passenger list there are some options that you can use. You can search our catalogue by typing in the name of the ship or you can search Trove to see what other records are held in other library collections.
Now the other book – it’s three volumes – that I would recommend you having a look at which is - some volumes are held at a number of libraries across Australia – it’s called Logs of Logs. It will provide you with a list of ships that arrived to Australia and different voyages but it will provide you with any journals or diaries or any records related to that ship held in Australia and also overseas collections. So I would recommend if you’re not able to find anything in Trove have a look at these Logs of Logs. They’re in three volumes, each volume may contain slightly more information so I would recommend you look in all three volumes.
So now I’ll just conclude with some research tips. Now have you tried searching with less information? The old saying less is more can be true with research. You may find searching with too much information may bring up no results. Searching using a surname only may provide you with more results rather than adding your ancestor’s full name. Now not all records were listed by full name, sometimes it was just initials or by title. For example you may find in a passenger or other record, they may be listed as Mr Smith instead of Mr John Smith or the name could have been shortened so John could be listed as J-o-n so just think about the different types of information that will be presented in historical records.
So you may also like to think about did your ancestor have any name variations? So if you’re having problems trying to find information about an ancestor you may like to consider if they had a nickname. So especially with newspaper articles they may have been better known with that nickname, for example someone who had an ancestor called Margaret, might be better known as Peggy, or your ancestor may have had a stage name or an alias so just have a think about taking a different approach to your research.
Now the other thing is that historical records, this could be transcribed incorrectly especially with a lot of the earlier arrivals to Australia, their names might have been anglicised. You may come across different spellings, for example T-h-o-m-s-e-n or T-h-o-m-s-o-n or p-s-o-n at the end so just stop and think about different ways to search.
You also may like to think about if your ancestor’s surname was transcribed or handwritten phonetically especially with a lot of the earlier historic records. They may have handwritten what they heard, not the correct spelling so that’s something else to think about. Also a lot of – may come across ancestors who are better known by their middle name rather than their first name.
Also think about the social history, about the time and place you’re researching. So if you can’t find any records relating to your ancestor you may also think about were they serving in any wars at the time or was there any floods or any natural disasters that may have affected the information that you're able to find on that person? Also one last tip I’ll talk about is always document your resources so you may like to provide a research log. Listing all the records and references that you have searched or the records that you have located, it can be really helpful and you will thank yourself and also your family will thank you for providing that information because the amount of times that we’ve had people trying to locate a particular record, whether they’ve found it, because they did not know where that item was located. So especially if this is your Eureka moment I would really recommend you noting where you’ve actually located that reference.
Now this concludes our talk today and as I said up there if you feel bogged down with your research just submit an Ask a Librarian enquiry. Thanks for listening and happy to answer your questions.
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Family history tells the story of you and your ancestors, and places it within a larger historical picture. It's a long journey, at times potted with surprising and moving discoveries from the past.
To help get you started on your family history journey, join family history library staff and watch one of our learning webinars from 2020 introducing eResources, published family histories, newspaper collections and frequently used material such as electoral rolls, shipping records and birth, death and marriage indexes.
The Library's collections offer a wealth of resources to the Australian family historian. Whether you're just starting out, or a long-time researcher, we can help you to trace your family story!
- Refer to our Family History Research Guide
- Watch our past webinar recordings
- Explore eResources