Trove: hidden treasures

Preparing for a class this week I had another look at Trove. Trove is an initiative of the National Library of Australia, designed to “provide a single point of access to the resources of the deep web”, focused on Australia and Australians. Trove’s byline is “one search … a wealth of information”.

Trove itself was first released in May 2009 however some parts of the collections have been available for years, perhaps under other titles. Now they are brought together under a single search. Some are the results of digitisation projects undertaken by the National Library of Australia (perhaps in conjunction with others), but others are links into other collections (such as Open Library or Google Books).

You can log in to the site, in order to personalise the way you search and results found. You can create and save your own lists of useful items, list libraries you are affiliated with, tag or comment (on books, photographs,etc), correct electronically generated newspaper text – and more.

A recent survey showed that about half the users of Trove are family historians (equal to all the other categories combined). There is good reason for that – Trove provides access to information invaluable to family historians who want more than just names and dates.

The Australian newspaper digitisation project has been underway since 2007, making available newspapers published in Australia from 1803  to 1954, covering a range of titles from every state and territory. Now this collection is accessed via Trove. Family historians can search for articles about a family name of interest, or the first reports of a new settlement, ships’ passengers named on their arrival – or anything else you can think of. Searches can be narrowed by location, date, publication, article category – or even whether or not the article is illustrated.

Newspapers often reported on distant events, if those stories were deemed likely to be of interest to readers. In “The Canberra Times” of 1946 I found an article reporting on a fire at the home of my grandparents in the northern suburbs of Sydney. (A reminder not to be too hasty to narrow the location of  the search.)

The “Pictures and photos” collection within Trove includes even more than the Picture Australia collection. Family historians might search for an ancestor by name or a historic photograph of the town where they lived, or even photos of an event witnessed by a family member.

The “Books, journals, magazines, articles” collection provides access to the full text of some books (those held in collections like Project Gutenberg and Open Library). In addition users can search by subject or title for a book, and then find out which libraries in Australia hold that book. Such books can then be ordered by inter-library loan to the user’s local library – often even when the holding library is not itself a lending library.

“Archived websites” provides access to the Pandora collection, in which the National Library has been archiving Australian websites since 1996 – thus perhaps providing access even to pages no longer on the web. (I found a 2001 obituary of an ancestor published in an architecture magazine.) (If you don’t find the page you want in Pandora, also have a look at The Wayback machine.)

Other headings on the Trove gateway provide access to “Diaries, letters, Archives”, Maps, “Music, sound and video” and “About people and organisations”.

This is indeed a treasure trove of information, easily and freely available to anyone prepared to look.

10 October, 2010 at 12:33 pm 1 comment

Family funeral

I attended a family funeral today and such occasions prompt thoughts about others “no longer with us”.

In the eulogy we heard about the life of the deceased as well as how they touched the lives of those present. The wake afterwards prompted lots of “do you remember” stories. We looked at old photos and shared recent family photos. We promised to get together before the occasion is another funeral.

Somehow a funeral or wake doesn’t seem the occasion to be taking notes. (I will however be recording tonight what I remember that I learned today.)

The occasion set me thinking about records associated with deaths. Not only death certificates or inquests, but also newspaper announcements of deaths and funerals, as well as obituaries and memorials, monumental inscriptions and cemetery records.

Undertakers / Funeral Directors records can be a source of information not often tapped by family historians. Newspaper death and funeral notices often name the undertaker, and large libraries and genealogy societies often hold Undertakers Records amongst their collections.

Last year I was able to spend some time in the Family Records Centre of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. That society has a wonderful collection of Undertakers Records (which can be borrowed by members).  This was one entry I recorded in my notebook from the records of C.H. Barker Ltd, Funeral Directors, Onehunga, Auckland, funeral records 1943-1979.

WARD, James Louis d 9-Apr-1947. Residence Milford. Age 79. Mangere Cemetery. Father: James WARD, Mother: Louisa TOOP, Spouse: Harriett RICHES

Another entry I recorded that day was from a 1999 funeral – too recent for me to be allowed to obtain a death certificate.

Registering a death in New Zealand (and in many other places, including Australia) involves filling out forms including about the parents and birth of the deceased. Undertakers books are a source of such information that is often overlooked by genealogists.

So tonight I am sitting thinking about family members “no longer with us”.

RIP Stuart

6 October, 2010 at 5:31 pm Leave a comment

British Army Service Records

I was searching today through the “Chelsea Pensioners” records on the website FindMyPast.co.uk These are the records of men pensioned out of the British Army, and the records will cover 1760-1913. (Corresponding to The National Archives documents in WO97).

Those of us familiar with searching Australian WW1 service records have been spoilt by free and easy access to digitised records, not only information about where and when our military ancestors served, but including physical description, next-of-kin, previous occupations, date and place of birth and more. Such digitised Australian records can be found by searching the National Archives of Australia website.

Gradually now more digitised British service records are becoming available for those of us unable to visit the reading rooms in London. Amongst these, the subscription site FindMyPast (UK) has a number of military collections including the Royal Marine Medal Roll 1914-1920, Military Births, Marriages and Deaths – and now these British Army “Chelsea Pensioner Records”. The subscription site Ancestry.co.uk has WW1 service records and pension records. The National Archives (UK) website itself has an online database of Trafalgar Ancestors as well as Campaign Medals issued to WW1 merchant seamen on DocumentsOnline.

Many more military service records are available that are not yet online, but the above are some of the sources I’ve found useful. If we take the trouble to look, such digitised records make it much easier to find information about our military ancestors, even for those of us who live a long way from London.

1814 Service Record, "52nd Regiment, Light Infantry"

1814 Light Infantry Regiment, Service Record

4 October, 2010 at 4:47 pm Leave a comment

Historic photos

More on pictures today. I’ve just been looking at PictureAustralia, an initiative of the National Library of Australia and others. PictureAustralia has been in existence for more than 10 years and is still growing as a source of images of “all aspects of Australiana”.

When possible I like to add photos to my family history – photos of people when possible, but also photos of buildings, graves, schools – whatever is relevant and will add interest. Relatives often have acccess to photos that I do not, but I like to look at archives and website collections of old photographs as well.

In the past, one of my favourite sources of such photos has been ArchivePix, the City of Sydney Archives digital photograph bank. This can be found under the “Image Galleries” link (under “History & Archives”) on the City of Sydney council website.

Today I searched PictureAustralia for “21 Buckingham Street” – where ancestors lived 130 years ago. What I found was a photo of terrace houses at 21-25 Great Buckingham Street, Redfern. The “Rights” published on the website advise that the photo can be saved or printed for private research, but permission must be sought if you wish to use it for other purposes. What is interesting is that the photo comes from the City of Sydney Archives, implying that PictureAustralia might be the gateway now for photos from that collection too.

Even individuals may now contribute photos via Flickr to PictureAustralia, allowing individuals to share &/or sell copies of their photos, or perhaps have theose photos “preserved for perpetuity” by picture curators.

An Advanced Search allows users “exact phrase” searching or to select the year or place of interest, or even to select a particular contributor. Looking at the list of Contributors suggests other possibilities to search – including photos from New Zealand.

Not only places but images of people can be found too: A photo entitled ‘BATTLER FROM DOWN UNDER MEETS “THE CHAMP” ‘ is described “Shows Sergeant Graeme Etherington, amateur middleweight boxer from Sydney, squaring off with Jack Dempsey” – interesting!

3 October, 2010 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

Film Archives

If a picture tells 1000 words, then what about moving pictures?

I’ve mentioned my ancestor (Leslie) Hay SIMPSON, who played the role of Ned Kelly in the 1934 film of When the Kellys Rode and then was lost at sea in 1937, soon after making the film Mystery Island on Lord Howe Island. The National Film & Sound Archive has many audiovisuals at http://aso.gov.au, including clips from Mystery Island. Hay Simpson can be seen in http://aso.gov.au/titles/features/mystery-island/clip2/ (he’s the drunk with the bottle).

However you don’t need an actor ancestor to find something interesting on film. World War 1 troops heading to the docks in Sydney can be seen in the 1915 footage at http://aso.gov.au/titles/historical/ww1-troops-embarkation/clip1/

Crowds at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 can be seen at http://aso.gov.au/titles/home-movies/farey-sydney-harbour-bridge/clip2/

Even educational resources are available. Excerpts from a documentary retelling the story of the Victorian gold rush can be seen at http://aso.gov.au/titles/tv/peachs-gold-eureka/clip1/

Have a look at the offerings on the Australian Screen website. Try entering a town or suburb name of interest, and see if there is historic film footage available. Think about the significant events in which ancestors might have been involved, and even if you can’t identify an ancestor, such historic footage gives you an opportunity to see things through their eyes – and isn’t that one of our goals of  family history research?

"Mystery Island" (1937)

Hay Simpson

1 October, 2010 at 10:22 am 6 comments

Expand your search

My great great grandfather, Samuel ETHERINGTON, was a “brickwall” for many years. For only 1 of his children could I find a baptism (in 1859) and that document referred to “Samuel Etherington, engineer”. Every other reference was to “Samuel Etherington, builder”.

Except one – when his daughter Emily married in 1883, her father was named as “Samuel Etherington, baker”. I could not find Samuel born, married or died, nor immigrating – he just seemed to be there, fathering children. I tried all sorts of spelling variations, hunted him through directories, electoral rolls and every other source I could find. I followed the family’s rates payments to local councils. I learned a lot about his life – but not where he was born or died.

Eventually I expanded the search and started researching everyone surnamed ETHERINGTON in 19th century Australia, placing them in families and looking for a Samuel. (Fortunately the name was not too common.) When that didn’t solve the mystery, I expanded the search further, looking for those families’ origins back in England. I found one possibility – Thomas ETHERINGTON (who migrated from England to Sydney) had had a brother Samuel born in England, whose death I could not find.

By this time Internet bulletin boards and email lists were available. Wherever I could, I posted queries – did anybody know anything about this English ETHERINGTON family of Thomas and Samuel? Eventually somebody saw my message who knew someone who knew something – and he put me in touch with a lady in England who held family documents which explained the puzzle.

This lady’s ancestor had received a letter from Australia in 1903, from a Henry HOLMES, who wrote – “you don’t know me but I am the son of your brother Samuel ETHERINGTON, who has been living here in Australia under the name of Samuel HOLMES”. Henry HOLMES was the oldest son of Samuel and Hester HOLMES. With that clue, things started falling into place.

Samuel HOLMES, baker, had 6 children surnamed HOLMES with Hester HOLMES. Samuel ETHERINGTON, builder, had 8 children surnamed ETHERINGTON with Sarah EVERETT. I’m guessing that the dual lives must have been revealed at some point, hence the ETHERINGTON daughter’s marriage certificate, naming Samuel ETHERINGTON as a baker, just before Samuel ETHERINGTON disappeared from the records.

It appears that Samuel eventually abandoned the ETHERINGTON family and moved away with his son Henry HOLMES, until his death (as Samuel HOLMES) in 1903 in Bombala (southern NSW). In 2003 I visited England and saw where Samuel was born in Bermondsey – later that same year I visited Bombala and saw his grave.

Because I had hunted so hard for Samuel, for more than 10 years, I eventually knew a lot about him. When I found that bankruptcy file (mentioned in an earlier blog post) for Samuel HOLMES, it included the signature of Samuel HOLMES, baker. The English ETHERINGTON family had a prayer book inscribed by Samuel ETHERINGTON – what do you think of the 2 signatures?

Signature of Samuel HOLMES

Samuel Holmes

Samuel ETHERINGTON

Samuel Etherington

30 September, 2010 at 5:01 pm 1 comment

Debtors Prison

According to the Research Guide “Bankrupts and Insolvent Debtors:1710-1869″ on the website of The National Archives (UK):

Until 1841, the legal status of being a bankrupt was confined to traders owing more than 100 pounds (reduced to 50 pounds in 1842). Debtors who were not traders did not qualify to become bankrupt, but stayed as insolvent debtors. Responsible for their debts but unable to pay them, they remained subject to common law proceedings and indefinite imprisonment, if their creditors so wished. … Insolvent debtors were held in local prisons, and often spent the rest of their lives there: imprisonment for debt did not stop until 1869.

Another ancestor of mine, Abraham WOOLF was imprisoned in the Debtors Prison, as this entry from the London Gazette of 1841 shows:

London Gazette 12 March 1841

London Gazette, 12 March 1841, p692

Shortly afterwards he came to trial, and fortunately his petition for release was granted. The following entry in the London Gazette gives more background about him – that he was currently a “General Dealer and Cigar Maker” and formerly a “Cigar Dealer and Ladies’ Shoe Maker”, as well as recent addresses:

London Gazette 30 April 1841

London Gazette, 30 April 1841, p1135

In the documents at the National Archives in Kew, London, I could follow the progress of his imprisonment, petitions and release, however even the information available online on websites like The National Archives (UK) and The London Gazette tell me more about the life of this ancestor.

29 September, 2010 at 10:40 am 1 comment

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