Society of Australian Genealogists …. the Beginnings...

Most Aussies who’ve been doing genealogy for a little while will be familiar with the major genealogical societies in each state: QFHS, GSQ, AIGS, GSV, WAGS, GSNT, GST, SAGHS, HAGSOC and SAG. Today’s story focusses on the Society of Australian Genealogists in Sydney, which we commonly refer to as SAG. While recently browsing on Trove (as you do on cold, almost-winter evenings), I came across the following article which tells of the beginnings of the Society … So as you can see the Society of Australian Genealogists was formed way back in 1932. This made me go looking to see when the other state societies were formed, and here’s what I found: 1941 – Genealogical Society of Victoria 1964 – Heraldry & Genealogical Society of Canberra (also now known as Family History ACT) 1973 – South Australian Genealogy & Heraldry Society (also now known as GenealogySA) 1973 – Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies 1978 – Genealogical Society of Queensland 1979 – Queensland Family History Society 1979 – Western Australian Genealogical Society 1980 – Genealogical Society of Tasmania (now known as Tasmanian FHS) 1981 – Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory A snippet from the above 1932 article states… “Mr. H. J. Rumsey, said he was convinced that no country had more complete records from the time of its occupation by civilised people than Australia. Mr. Rumsey indicated the various sources of information available for research work, both in Australia and Great Britain … To help one another in genealogical study, Mr. Rumsey advocated the use of a card index system, so that members could be supplied with standard cards to record their investigation. Ultimately, he said, it was to be hoped that a genealogical reference library of their own...

15 April 1912 – The Day the “Titanic” Sank...

It was a disaster like no other at that time. The world’s biggest (and self-proclaimed ‘unsinkable’) ship set off from Southampton on 10 April 1912, bound for New York. It was her maiden voyage, and the crowd seeing it off was huge. Little did they know that just 5 days later all onboard would be fighting for their life, with the vast majority not making it. 2.20am, 15 April 1912, just a mere 2 hours and 40 minutes after hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean, the unthinkable happened to the unsinkable. The Titanic sank. total capacity: 3547 passengers and crew total onboard: 2206 passengers and crew total survived: 703 passengers and crew  That was 105 years ago, and it still has an impact. The movie below is from British Pathè’s collection, and is just one of the 85,000 old movies they have made freely available. Showing actual footage of the ship, the rescue ships, together with interviews of some survivors, it is chilling. There’s no doubt that the Titanic has become the stuff of legend. I remember asking my grandma about it though she wasn’t born at the time, but her older sisters were, and they remembered it, being aged 11 and 12. So I decided to see what the local South Australian newspapers wrote about it. The following was the first report of it in South Australia’s “The Advertiser”, was was dated 18 April 1912. Not too bad considering that communication back then wasn’t as instant as we have today. It didn’t make front page like it did in the US or England, but it did make a big article on page 9. The article blow is just a small portion of it. And as you would expect, every...

Hoon, and You’ll be Fined … Even in the 1840s...

Same thing. Different century. And still boys will be boys! These days it’s reckless driving, back then it was reckless riding … Furious riding and driving are daily witnessed in Sydney to the extreme annoyance and danger of all persons who may happen to be in the street. People, whether drunk or sober, seem equally careless of the consequence to be apprehended from such wanton conduct, and we often wonder that children and others are not more frequently rendered the objects of accidents; For the middle of the streets are seldom empty, and indeed the contempt of danger of those on foot seems quite equal to the absence of caution on the part of riders and drivers. On Monday a youth on horse-back rode at a quick rate, nearly at full speed, through the street, and knocked down a young girl, the mother of a child, with the child in her arms, and occasioned in her very serious injury. A complaint was made at the Police Office, and the offender was committed to the Sessions for the assault. – The Australian Sydney, NSW, 14 February 1827, pg2 Back in the 1840s a law was passed in South Australia to fine those who were “furious riding or driving”. In otherwords, speeding or ‘hooning’ on your horse, as opposed to speeding or ‘hooning’ in a car as it is these days. Furious Riding or Driving By the provisions of the New Police Act, furious riding or driving is punishable by a fine of from Two to Ten pounds. It will be seen by our police report that a penalty of the lowest amount was enforced yesterday against a person for galloping in Hindley street. He pleaded ignorance of the Act (an excuse not likely long to be available), which was apparently the occasion...

Emigration from England to South Australia in the 1800s...

The “Mayflower” is ‘the ship’ in US history. The first ship to transport passengers from England to the United States in 1620. 102 people, all hoping to start a new life on the other side of the Atlantic. Well, in South Australian history the “Buffalo” is the equivalent. It was one of a fleet of ships to arrive in the colony at the end of 1836. Once it arrived at Glenelg, Governor John Hindmarsh who was on board, proclaimed the establishment of government in South Australia as a British province. From then on, there was a big push to get skilled labourers from England to emigrate to the new colony, and as an enticement they were offered free passage (assisted passage). Of course there was still the option for anyone who wished to emigrate to pay their own way (known as unassisted passage), but many took up the offer of the emigration scheme, and as a result these pioneers helped make South Australia what it is today. But as with anything that’s free, there were some rules and regulations. I came across this list of rules for those wanting assisted passage in the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser, dated 27 February 1839, and it’s truly fascinating. RULES FOR EMIGRATION The Act of Parliament declares that the whole of the funds arising from the sale of lands, and the rent of pasture, shall form an Emigration Fund, to be employed in affording a free passage to the Colony from Great Britain and Ireland for poorer persons; “provided that they shall, as far as possible, be adult persons of both sexes in equal proportions, and not exceeding the age of 30 years.” With a view to carrying this provision into effect, the Commissioners...

“Dear Friends” … Letter From an Emigrant in 1864...

So what was life like for those who emigrated to South Australia back in the 1800s? Generally you’re only likely to find this information from letters written to family or friends in the ‘old country’, or otherwise from diaries. So it was a surprise to find an article on Trove about an emigrant who not only came to South Australia, but actually settled in the tiny town of Gumeraka (note the alternate spelling of Gumeracha). Written in 1864 to some friends in England (or maybe Wales), it was produced as an article the Scotts Circular (Newport, Wales), and then in The Adelaide Express, 22 April 1865 (as reproduced below). The writer details what it was like for him and his family with housing food, work and wages, neighbours and other businesses all getting a mention. What we don’t know is who the author of the letter is. Still, it makes for an interesting read. In 1864 the town of Gumeracha was not very old, having only been laid out in the 1850s  (for more on that click here). The article starts off with “The following interesting letter has arrived from an emigrant who received a passage under Government, to South Australia.” —————————— The text below is a full transcript of the article. Note the paragraphs have been added in by me to make it easier to read. AN EMIGRANT’S LETTER. Gumeraka, Australia, September 18th, 1864. My Dear Friends, I am glad to tell you that I have got plenty of work the first day that I went on after landing, and the first master that I spoke to I  engaged to go with to go into the Bush a dray-making and waggon-making at the wheelwrighting trade, at the rate of wages I will give you, and...

The Top Hat, the Riot, and the £500 Fine...

On this day 220 years ago, 15 January 1797, something lifechanging happened. The world of fashion changed on that day. Top hats were created. Yes, that right. The fashion icon of the upperclass and gentry in the Edwardian and Victorian eras, and a must have accessory for anyone who’s into Steampunk style, was created. But not all went smoothly for the creator John Hetherington, as his newly designed head attire caused a riot. The condensed version of story is as follows … The first Top Hat was worn by haberdasher John Hetherington on 15 January 1797, in London, England. When Heatherington stepped from his shop at 11am wearing his unusual headgear, a crowd quickly gathered to stare. The gathering soon turned into a crowd crush as people pushed and shoved against each other, resulting in a broken arm for one person there. As a result, Hetherington was summoned to appear in court before the Lord Mayor and fined £500 for breaching the peace. He was also charged with appearing “on the public highway wearing a tall structure of shining lustre and calculated to terrify people, frighten horses and disturb the balance of society”. However, within a month, he was overwhelmed with orders for the new headwear. Trove has many articles detailing the “origin of the Top Hat”. Here’s a few of the longer versions of the story if you wish to check them out. – How the First Silk Hat Startled London, Launceston Examiner, 17 February 1899 – The First Silk Hat, Evening News Sydney, 25 February 1899 – The First Top Hat, Canberra Times, 10 June 1927 Personally I’m totally thankful to John Hetherington, as I’m a lover of the Victorian era style, and really LOVE top hats,...

180, and Still So Young!...

Happy Birthday South Australia! 28th of December. The day that my beautiful homestate celebrates its birthday, and today it turns 180. And while 180 is ancient in human terms, for the age of place it’s really only a baby. But even so, in those 180 years, the colony (and now State) has seen so many remarkable achievements throughout the years. But first South Australia’s birthday is officially called “Proclamation Day“, and Wikipedia says … “Proclamation Day in South Australia celebrates the establishment of government in South Australia as a British province. The proclamation was made by Captain John Hindmarsh beside The Old Gum Tree at the present-day suburb of Glenelg North on 28 December 1836.“ John Hindmarsh, who became the first governor of South Australia arrived in South Australia on the “Buffalo”, on 28th December 1836, and when he stepped ashore at Holdfast Bay (near the Old Gum Tree), he read the proclamation. Each year re-enactments of the events of South Australia’s founding are still held on the same day, by the remains of the same Old Gum Tree. The proclamation calls upon the colonists to “conduct themselves with order and quietness,” to be law-abiding citizens, to follow after industry, sobriety, and morality, and to observe the Christian religion. By so doing, they would prove to be worthy founders of a “great free colony.” You can read the full proclamation on the Adelaidia site. The People … As with any place, South Australia has many men and women of ‘note’. Those who’ve made an impact on the State  in various ways, and you’ll find many of these mentioned in the 150 Great South Australians post (see links below), but obviously the list is confined to 150, with others who...

Discovering Links: 15 FREE Links for Australian Genealogy and History...

Here’s another of my “Discovering Links” post. These posts consist of a collection of links that I have discovered, or found useful, and want to share with others. But rather than simply giving you a whole batch of random links each time, I am grouping them by Australian state, country or topic. You can see my previous Discovering Links posts here. For this one I’ve decided to share my Australian (meaning Australia-wide) links. It is not intended to be an exhaustive collection (not by a long shot), but they are simply ones that many will find useful, and it may include some that you may not have known about. And while many people think that genealogy costs a lot of money, let me tell you that all of the links below are free. Personally I find that it’s often a matter of knowing where to look beyond the big-name websites, and hopefully this will help with that. ======= MONUMENT AUSTRALIA Containing almost 30,000 monuments so far, the Monument Australia website is a site which records the “public monuments and memorials in all Australian States and Territories under various themes”.  Divided into conflict, culture, disaster, government, landscape, people and technology, you can search this site, and find transcriptions and photographs of most of the monuments listed. The work of volunteers, they are to be commended for their efforts. AUSTRALASIAN BDM EXCHANGE The Aus BDM Exhange site is a “free resource for genealogists to share information from Australian and New Zealand vital records”. If you have BDM records you can enter their details in so others can find them. And you can search to see if anyone has already entered details for those you are researching. Their stats show that currently the...

Geneatrippin’ in 2017...

2016 has been a quiet travel year for me, and that’s partly because of a busy work year, but also partly as I’m already planning two big trips in 2017. UNITED STATES First up in February I’ll be packing my cases with all my winter woollies and heading to Salt Lake City, Utah, USA for RootsTech again. I went to RootsTech in 2013 and 2015 and totally LOVED it each time. For those who are unfamiliar with what RootsTech is, it is the world’s largest genealogy conference, with about 25,000 people attending. Held over 4 days, it really is non-stop genealogy the entire time. With so many talks to go to, an exhibition hall the size of several football fields – with hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of exhibitors, and then there’s the after-hours socialising – catching up with geniemates for dinner or drinks etc. (or even breakfast if you’re at the same hotel). It’s exhausting, but totally exhilarating, and I can’t wait! Any family historian will know that Salt Lake City is the Mecca of genealogy as it’s where the Family History Library is, so I’ve timed my visit to arrive a few days early, to get some research time in as well. I mean why would you travel nearly 15,000 kilometers (9000 miles) and NOT go there, right?   FINLAND My second big trip in 2017 is one that I’ve been wanting to do for so many years I still can’t believe that I’ve actually booked. For this one I’ll pack my bags, spend about 40 hours flying (that’s the not-fun bit), and end up at Helsinki, Finland for two weeks in their Summer time. Regular readers of my blog will know that I have Finnish connections...

Postman’s Park: Every Name Has a Story...

As a family historian I believe that every name truly has a story. But it is true that some have more story than others. Today I would like to introduce you to “Postman’s Park” which is in London, England. This is a place that I visited while I was in England back in 2014. And I admit that it wasn’t a place I knew of the prior to my visit, but to say it’s sobering is an understatement. It gave me the same feeling that you get when you visit a war memorial. Yes, you know that feeling. Anyway Wikipedia describes the park as … “Postman’s Park is a park in central London, a short distance north of St Paul’s Cathedral. Bordered by Little Britain, Aldersgate Street, St. Martin’s Le Grand, King Edward Street, and the site of the site of the former headquarters of the General Post Office (GPO)” But what makes this park special? “Postman’s Park apart from being a beautiful park which contains headstones, also contains 54 memorial tablets (or plaques) that commemorate 62 individuals (men, women and children), each of whom lost their life while attempting to save another. It is a park that has memorials for heroic self-sacrifice.” The park idea started back in 1887 when Victorian artist George Frederic Watts wrote a letter to The Times newspaper entitled ‘Another Jubilee Suggestion’. In this letter, he put forward a plan to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee by erecting a monument to commemorate ‘heroism in every-day life’. It took until 1900, but this idea was eventually realised and his Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice came to be. The memorials are printed on tiles, and mounted on a wall. And each one of those plaques most certainly...