Getting Started with Australian Genealogy: Tips from Legacy Tree Genealogist

Ready to start your Australian genealogy research? A Legacy Tree Genealogist walks you through essential Australian history, geography, genealogical record types and online resources to trace your family tree “down under.”

Thank you to Legacy Tree Genealogists for providing this guest post. 

Australian genealogy can be straightforward, but you do need to know a time period and a place, as well as the family name you are researching. Australia has only been a single country since 1901; before that there were colonies and territories beginning with the first European settlement in 1788. Even today the individual states and territories have their own governments and record systems with no single combined place to research. Therefore, knowing the time period and place where your ancestors lived is essential.

Australian history and geography

European settlement began with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, which included both male and female convicts and military and naval personnel. The colony became known as New South Wales, and occupied the eastern half of the continent of Australia including Tasmania (previously known as Van Diemen’s Land). The western half of the continent was never part of New South Wales and was originally known as the Swan River Colony, and later Western Australia.

With the exception of Western Australia, the other states and colonies were originally part of New South Wales. Victoria was known as the Port Phillip settlement before it became self-governing in 1851, and Queensland was the Moreton Bay settlement until 1859. Early records for both of those colonies will be in New South Wales, so it is important to know when the individual colonies and territories were established.

Australia in 1856 – image courtesy Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territorial_evolution_of_Australia)

Similarly, a knowledge of geography is essential, as Australia is a huge continent with most of the population along the coastline. Another complicating factor is that there may be places with the same name in one or more colonies/states. For instance, if researching ancestors from Maryborough, it would be necessary to identify whether you should be researching Maryborough in Queensland or Maryborough in Victoria.

To make matters even more confusing, some places changed their name! For instance, until 1911 Innisfail in Queensland was called Geraldton, not to be confused with Geraldton in Western Australia on the other side of the continent. Bendigo was originally known as Sandhurst, and many of the goldfield towns in central Victoria were known under the broader name of the Mount Alexander goldfield. Knowing the history and geography will help you immensely as you embark on your Australian genealogy research.

Getting started with Australian genealogy research

If you have Australian genealogy there are many wonderful free online Australian resources that will give you a head start in researching your ancestors and learning more about their heritage. Wikipedia – Australia is a good starting place for an overview if you are unfamiliar with Australian history and geography. Depending on where your ancestors were, read the appropriate sections of history and geography. For example, convicts were sent to New South Wales and Tasmania until 1842 when the colony was opened up for free settlement, but Western Australia only received convicts from 1850 to 1868. The gold rushes in Victoria in the 1850s attracted thousands of people, as did later rushes in Queensland in the 1860s and Western Australia in the 1890s.

Many immigrants were looking for their own land and a better life for their families. Each of the colonies had their own immigration schemes in a bid to attract as many people as they could. Most colonial passenger lists are now indexed and can be searched online at the various state archives. Some states have even digitized the passenger lists, which may be viewed freely online. State archives are a wonderful free online resource, and include offices such as the Queensland State Archives, Public Record Office Victoria, or the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.

A free useful portal site is CoraWeb – helping you trace your family history in Australia and elsewhere. It is divided up into categories such as archives, cemeteries, convicts, maps, probate and will records, shipping, migration, and other genealogy-related topics.

Australian birth, marriage, and death records

Like everything else, you need to know an approximate date and place before you begin to research birth, marriage, and death records. Prior to civil registration there are some church records which consist of mostly baptisms and marriages, with a few burials. Civil registration started at various times, and different colonies collected different information at different times, with South Australia having the least information on the certificates.

Van Diemen’s Land (later Tasmania) was the first to introduce civil registration in 1838, with Western Australia following in 1842, South Australia in 1842, Victoria in 1851, and New South Wales (including Queensland at that time) in 1856. Most states have online indexes available for searching, but only Queensland and Victoria provide digital copies of certificates for download after purchase. Western Australia still requires researchers to mail their applications with no online ordering.

Tasmania is perhaps the most helpful – with their early church records and births, marriage, and death certificates indexed, and digital copies online for free through the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office. The Tasmanian Name Index includes free indexed and digitized copies of various genealogical resources.

Federation in 1901 and the National Archives

The individual colonies voted to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, and since then there has also been a Commonwealth (later Federal) government. This took over some government functions such as the military, immigration, citizenship, and naturalization, although some states continued to have their own immigration schemes. This means that post-1901, researchers need to use the National Archives of Australia, as well as the various state archives.

In 1911 the final changes to the map of Australia took place, with the separation of the Northern Territory from South Australia, and the establishment of the Australian Capital Territory within southern New South Wales.

With the centenary of World War One, the National Archives of Australia has digitized all army dossiers and made them freely available online. RecordSearch is the main database, and it can be searched in a number of ways including a “Name Search” and “Passenger Arrivals.” While not every record series is indexed by name, it can be useful to search for an individual’s name, especially if they arrived post-1901 or served in the military during either World War.

Australian Newspapers and Photographs

In Australia, digitized newspapers are freely available online through Trove, which is maintained by the National Library of Australia. Along with newspapers, Trove also includes government gazettes, books, articles, maps, manuscripts, photographs, archived websites, and other resources. If you are interested in what a place looked like at the time your ancestors lived there, then try an image search in Trove. Remember that it is continually being added to, so it is essential that you revisit your searches from time to time. (Click here to read another Genealogy Gems article about Trove.)

Christoe Street, Copperfield Queensland in 1876 when my ancestors lived there. Image courtesy State Library of Queensland via Trove.

Individual state libraries also have genealogy sections with online guides to various family history topics. These can be a good place to start, and most participate in the ‘Ask a Librarian’ where you can get advice and information. However, they cannot do individual research – just answer questions.

About Legacy Tree Genealogists

EXCLUSIVE OFFER for Genealogy Gems readers! Receive $100 off a 20-hour+ research project from Legacy Tree Genealogists with code GGP100.

Legacy Tree Genealogists is the world’s highest client-rated genealogy research firm. Founded in 2004, the company provides full-service genealogical research for clients worldwide, helping them discover their roots and personal history through records, narratives, and DNA. To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit the Legacy Tree website.

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British Isles Genealogy: New Records Online for England, Scotland, Ireland

Trace your British Isles genealogy! This week we report on new genealogy records online for England, Scotland, and Ireland. Read about WWI weekly casualty lists, free census records at FreeCen, English and Scottish burials, Scottish poorhouse–and a free British Newspaper Archive webinar on learning about migration and travel in old newspapers.

British isles genealogical records

British Isles Genealogy: Free and Fee Records Now Online

NEW! Free UK census records website

The same team of volunteers who bring us FreeBMD and FreeREG have now launched FreeCEN, a free website offering free-to-search 19th-century UK censuses. “Transcribed entirely by volunteers, we have more than 32 million individuals available on our website that anyone can search without having to create an account,” states a press release. “FreeCEN2 also brings with it a host of improvements for existing and future volunteers, such as a members sign-in area and brand new messaging system.” NOTE: This site may not be comprehensive for every kind of record you’re looking for. But it’s free, and definitely worth exploring, whether you want to search its collections or volunteer to help add to them.

England burial records: Staffordshire, Lincolnshire

Findmypast.com subscribers can now access over 127,000 entries in its Staffordshire Monumental Inscriptions, providing information on burials in “168 churchyards, burial grounds, and cemeteries throughout the county. This record sets can help you discover an ancestor’s birth date, death date, and residence, as well as the name of other family members such as parents, spouse, or children.”

About 90,000 new records have been added to Findmypast’s Lincolnshire Burials 1754-1812, which now totals over 1.5 million records covering over 300 locations across the county. For each person, you might find age at death, birth year, burial date, and location.

Scotland, West Lothian

Findmypast.com has published new records relating to West Lothian, located in the south of Scotland. According to the site, the area was “known as Linlithgowshire until 1921. The county was home to the Scottish monarchs of the 15th and 16th centuries.”

  • Linlithgowshire Poorhouse records, with details on more than 15,000 people admitted between 1859 and 1912. “The collection contains a variety of different record types including admissions, deaths, discharges, and sick rolls that will reveal your ancestor’s admission date, behavior during their stay, previous residence, and more.”
  • Burials, 1860-1975. Over 87,000 transcripts of burial records spanning 115 years. “Each transcript that will reveal the date of your ancestor’s burial, the location of their grave, their occupation, residence, death date, and in some cases the names of additional family members.”

WWI Weekly Casualty List at The British Newspaper Archive

The historically significant Weekly Casualty List (1917-1918, published by the War Office & Air Ministry) lists names of soldiers who were killed, wounded, or declared missing during the First World War. The War Office and Air Ministry updated and published the lists weekly and our current holdings cover the latter years of the conflict. Over 2,400 digitized pages are published in this collection.

More new collections at the British Newspaper Archive

  • England:
    • Derbyshire: This brand new collection for the Ripley and Heanor News and Ilkeston Division Free Press for the town of Ripley already includes over 17,000 digitized pages for 1890-1897 and 1899-1957.
    • East Sussex: For Brighton Gazette, additions include 1871-1910, for total coverage for this scenic seaside town now spanning 1825-1910.
    • Hertfordshire: New issues have been added for Herts & Cambs Reporter & Royston Crow, covering the town of Royston. Available years now include 1878-1882, 1884-1888, 1890-1898, and 1900-1910.
    • Lancashire: The Nelson Leader coverage now spans 1920-1957; it was published in Nelson.
    • Norfolk: Another new collection is Eastern Daily Press from Norwich. It’s already got nearly 40,000 pages of coverage for 1870-1876, 1878-1890, 1896, 1899, and 1901-1909.
    • Tynemouth, Tyne, and Wear: Now you can read Shields Daily News from 1870-1957, with the recent addition of pages for 1938-1957.
    • Warwickshire: New on the site is Alcester Chronicle, with over 17,000 digitized pages covering 1869-1888 and 1890-1910.
    • West Yorkshire: The years 1880-1888 have been added for The Knaresborough Post, for total coverage now spanning 1878-1912 (with a few little gaps).
  • Ireland, Tyrone: The Limerick Chronicle (1832-1868) gives historical news from the western seaboard of Ireland and their holdings cover both the pre- and post-Famine periods. The Mid-Ulster Mail was published in County Tyrone, with current coverage offering insight into the period before the Great War.
  • Scotland, Angus, and Kincardineshire: The Brechin Herald and Angus and Mearns News (1890-1892). This paper covers both of the historic eastern counties of Angus and Kincardineshire.

Free webinar from The British Newspaper Archive: News coverage of immigration and travel

“The topic of emigration is well covered by the newspapers. For instance, you can easily find advertisements that might have enticed your ancestor to leave Britain or Ireland to seek a new life in Australia or America. In the 1840s, The Limerick Chronicle carried advertisements for ‘fast ships’ and information booklets designed to assist immigrants travelling to the United States.” -The British Newspaper Archive

(For the ultimate guide in newspapers research, read How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers by Lisa Louise Cooke. Got Canadian roots? Catch a conversation about Canadian newspapers between Lisa Louise Cooke and Dave Obee in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode #204.)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links. Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Navigating the End of FamilySearch Microfilm Lending

Just announced: The FamilySearch microfilm lending service will end on August 30, 2017. Let’s cover what we know so far, how it may impact you, and strategies for getting the information you need. 

WHAT: FamilySearch Microfilm Lending Ends

Most of the Family History Library’s microfilm vault has already been digitized and is online–or will be within a short time. According to the website:

“Over 1.5 million microfilms (ca. 1.5 billion images) have been digitized by FamilySearch, including the most requested collections based on microfilm loan records worldwide.”

However, the world’s largest lender of microfilmed genealogical records will be discontinuing the distribution of microfilms to Family History Centers in the near future.

“On September 1, 2017, FamilySearch will discontinue its microfilm distribution services,” announced the site yesterday. “The change is the result of significant progress in FamilySearch’s microfilm digitization efforts and the obsolescence of microfilm technology. Digital imaging has made it easier to find ancestors through the internet, mobile, and other technologies.”

This means the clock is now counting down your ability to borrow microfilmed genealogical records from the Family History Library. The last day you can place an order for delivery to your local Family History Center is August 31, 2017.

It’s a change I’ve seen coming, but it’s still a little disconcerting now that it’s here. But change is the norm in today’s busy world, so let’s break down the details we know so far together.

WHY: Why are they discontinuing microfilm lending before they’re done digitizing?

It’s just too expensive. “The cost of duplicating microfilm for circulation has risen dramatically, while demand has decreased significantly,” says a FamilySearch Q&A. “At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult and costly to maintain the equipment, systems, and processes required for film duplication, distribution, and access.” FamilySearch wants to redirect its microfilm lending resources to providing more and better electronic record access.

I have personally visited the microfilm distribution facility, and the best analogy I can give you is that it looks a bit like the inside of an Amazon warehouse. It’s a mammoth and expensive undertaking, certainly not something you open or close lightly. I’m thankful that in the decades before the Internet, FamilySearch devoted so many resources to helping all of us gain access to hard-to-find records from around the world.

Photo Credit: Lisa Louise Cooke

WHEN: What will be available online and when

According to FamilySearch, they hope to finish digitizing the records that they have permission to digitize, in 2020. Unfortunately, some films we will not be digitized because of contractual limitations, data privacy, or other restrictions. Look to the Catalog for access details for the records you want.

Microfilm lending familysearch

By Lhsunshine (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

HOW: How to order FamilySearch microfilms between now and August 31, 2017

I encourage you to use the microfilm lending service while it is still available. While most microfilmed records will be eventually digitized, the fate of a small percentage may remain unknown for some time. Follow these steps to view them now:

1. Go to FamilySearch.org and log in, or create a free login. (You’ll need the login to order records.)

2. Under the Search menu, select Catalog.

3. Search by location, listing first the largest jurisdiction (such as the country) and proceeding to the smallest, such as “United States, Illinois, Cook, Chicago.”

4. Review search results by clicking on the record categories and then each entry. Within the entries, watch for interesting items that only list microfilm or microfiche formats.

5. Within record entries, order items you want by clicking the microfilm reel icon on the far right, under Format. Select the lending period and the correct currency. It currently costs $7.50 USD to borrow a microfilm reel for 90 days.

During the order process, you’ll select a family history center near you to receive the item(s). When your order arrives, you’ll be notified. Check the center’s schedule before visiting; most have limited hours. Centers are free to use. When you get there, identify yourself and request your film. Then put it in the microfilm reader and scroll through it until you find the item number and pages you need. (Here’s a helpful article: How to Use a Microfilm Reader.)

What about accessing microfilmed records after August 31, 2017?

You’ll still have several options. Sunny Morton, author of the quick reference guide Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websitessays the FamilySearch catalog will still be a go-to resource:

“At this point, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah still plans to keep on hand microfilmed copies of records that are not yet online. So your options include going to view them in person (since to the best of our knowledge the library won’t be lending them), arrange for someone else to view them (such as through the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook group), or use the FamilySearch Catalog to identify the records and then attempt to locate them through other repositories and websites.

To find records you may borrow from other sources, click where it says ‘View this catalog record in WorldCat for other possible copy locations’ [see screenshot below]. This will take you directly to this item’s listings in WorldCat, which is the enormous, free multi-library online catalog. Look either for a copy at a library near you, or a copy at a facility that participates in inter-library loan. (This is the same process you already have to use to find copies of books you can borrow, since the Family History Library doesn’t lend these, either.)”

What about accessing the digitized records?

After August 31, 2017 many genealogists will be turning to the online FamilySearch catalog and Family History Center Portal. (Learn more about the Portal at the FamilySearch Wiki.) As you attempt to view records through the portal, you may be prompted to go to a Family History Center to view the record, and the site will link you to a map of all locations.  It’s important to understand the difference between an official Family History Center and an Affiliate Center. We’ve learned that Affiliate Centers do not have access to what is called the Family History Portal. That portal is only accessible from an officially designated Family History Center.

So how do you know which location on the map is official, and which is an affiliate? I turned to genealogy blogger and friend of Genealogy Gems Amie Tennant for clarification:

The (online) FamilySearch map of Family History Centers is not accurate. With the new changes to microfilm loans, this is going to be a big problem. In other words…if a person assumes all FHCenters are the same and travels to the nearest one, they will be sorely disappointed to realize that this one will NOT have access to all the digitized microfilm. (Researchers) should call ahead to confirm whether the center they see on this map is an affiliate or a full FHC with access to the portal.

I’ve reached out to FamilySearch for additional official information on this and several other important questions that have arisen with the discontinuation of microfilm lending. I’ll report to you here on the Genealogy Gems blog and the podcast as more information becomes available.  Check out Amie’s article for more information on the various levels of access.

What do you think?

The end of the FamilySearch microfilm lending service is a major milestone. It signals exciting future online access, but provides obstacles for the next few years. What suggestions do you have for researchers to gain additional access to essential microfilm? Please share with the Genealogy Gems community in the Comments below.

 

Top Tips for Finding Marriage Records in New and Updated Genealogical Collections

Finding marriage records doesn’t have to be difficult. Let us share with you some top tips for locating those hard-to-find marriage records using the FamilySearch marriage record collections this week. Other new and updated record collections include Leicestershire county family history records and Jersey Church of England parish records.

dig these new record collections

United States – Marriage Records

Harvey Hall and Edna Selby, 1886, Cameden County, Missouri. Photo courtesy of Sunny Morton.

The following states have had their marriage records updated at FamilySearch.org:

Top Tips for Finding Marriage Records

We know you know are familiar with how to use these marriage records, but maybe you have had trouble finding the marriage records you need. Here are 3 top tips you could try when searching for marriage records on FamilySearch.org:

1. Search first by the groom’s full name and then the bride’s full name, separately. In this way, if one of them is indexed incorrectly, you may be able to find their marriage record after all.

2. Search only by last name’s and location (county and/or state).

3. Search the states around your targeted state. Sometimes, it was easier to marry in a different state due to marriage laws. Like in the case of Ohio, it was common to go to Kentucky to marry because there was no time requirement between the time of the marriage license and the wedding.

Here is a quick video tutorial showing you exactly how to use these tips!

England – Jersey Church of England Marriage Records

Ancestry.com has also added records to their collection titled Jersey, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1940. The pre-civil registrations typically include the name of the bride and groom, the date of the marriage, and the parish of origin or residence of both parties. Sometimes the occupation of the groom is included or the parentage of the couple. After 1842, the registers of the parishes are all written in a standard format and record further details including the age, status, place of residence, place of birth, occupation, name of father, and father’s occupation.

United Kingdom – Leicestershire  & Rutland County – Family History Records

Findmypast has just launched the first phase of a new landmark collection for five centuries of historic records for Leicestershire and Rutland counties. Over 3.5 million records dating back to the reign of Henry VII are now available online.

This new archive spans the years 1490 to 1991 and includes beautifully scanned images of original handwritten documents. When complete, the collection will be the largest online repository of Leicestershire family history records in the world.

There is a variety of documents, including parish records of baptisms, marriages, burials, wills, and probate records dating back to 1490. Also, millions of electoral registers spanning the years 1710 to 1974.

These records cover the ancient counties of Leicestershire and Rutland. However, as some of the collections are drawn from different jurisdictions or were subject to boundary changes, some areas now beyond today’s boundaries, such as Little Bowden and Over and Netherseal, are also included.

Some famous individuals appear in the records like:

The parents of the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick which can be found in an 1861 marriage register from the parish of Thurmaston.

More on Finding Marriage Records

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastTo learn even more about researching marriage records for family history, listen to Lisa’s free podcast episode titled Using Marriage Records in Family History. This episode is part of a series called Family History: Genealogy Made Easy. This specific podcast is all about marriage records and how to find and utilize them for your research.

If you have not yet taken the opportunity to engage with Genealogy Gems through our free podcast, please join us. You can find the free episodes listed here.

For further in-depth tips and techniques, subscribe as a Premium Member and enjoy the Premium Podcasts just for members! There is always something more to learn in the world of genealogy and we want to share it with you.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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