EXPLORE YOUR PAST, ENRICH YOUR FUTURE
The secrets to dating old photographs Friendly Societies: What can they reveal about your family? Tips for tracing Chinese ancestors
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eb i t h w p w ch 46 hel sear to re ur o y
Living in Tilly devine’s neighbourhood
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Articles AUSTRALIA • Biographical Database of Australia • The Salvation Army Heritage Centre • Taking a Lead from Government & Police Gazettes • Using Newspapers in Family History Research • Using Religious Archives and Church Publications for Family History • Just Teachers? • Our Irish Vanguard • Births, Deaths & Marriages Index: Australia & NZ • The Huguenots • A Whiff of Scandal • Government and Police Gazettes: Unlocking a Major Untapped Resource • Buried Downunder and other Australian Projects • The Story of Circus in Australia • The Crinoline the Cloak and the Aboriginal Belle • Just Keep Digging: …Examining Sources in Local History AUSTRALIAN STATES • Researching Hawkesbury Families • Windsor’s Warring Medical Men • Road Parties and Iron Gangs and the Great North Road • Heritage Tourism in the North • The “Distressed Cotton Operatives” Immigration Scheme • Queensland Pioneer Families—1859-1901 • Grain Mills and Millers in South Australia • South Australian Research
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• Records of Mental Hospitals in South Australia • Wills and Probate Records Victoria • Finding Laurence Ryland … or not! • In Search of Fred and Alfred: Convict Jewellers in Western Australia • Finding your Western Australian Ancestors: Online Records NEW ZEALAND • New Zealand Family History Network • Immigration to New Zealand • Let’s Make a Start: NZ Websites to Get You Up and Running! • Births, Deaths & Marriages Online: New Zealand • Auckland Research Centre OTHER COUNTRIES • Chelsea Pensioners British Army Service Records 1760-1913 • National Wills Index • UK Census Returns • Getting Started with Scottish Ancestry • Researching Scottish Death Records • Census Records from Colonial India GENERAL SUBJECTS • Writing Your Family History • Tips for the Time Poor! • A Three Generation Family Passion for Oral History and Why we Have to Digitise Our Audio Tapes A.S.A.P. • Maps for the Genealogists • How to Achieve a Unique Family Interview • Your Family Treasure Chest: Saving important Family Documents
• One Name and One Place Studies: What Help are They to Me? • Printing Your Family History MILITARY • Searching Out That Kiwi Military History • A Trooper’s War • The Medical War During the Third Battle of Ypres • Who Were the Enrolled Pensioner Guards? • The Military Historical Society of Australia • The Bombing of Broome • Reﬂections on Our ANZAC Heritage • Tracing Your British First World War Soldier COMPUTERS and INTERNET • Choosing the Right Software • Ten Websites you Can’t Live Without • The Story of MyHeritage’s Rise • Using Online Subscription and Pay to View Websites • Internet Resources for German Research • Findmypast Australasia • Findmypast.co.uk - What’s Available and What’s Coming Soon? • Family Historian: Taking Genealogy to New Places • Social Media for Family Historians: Don’t Be Afraid! • TheGenealogist.co.uk • National Institute for Genealogical Studies
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EXPLORE YOUR PAST, ENRICH YOUR FUTURE
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DESIGNERS Rohana Archer Coral Chum EDITORIAL CONTRIBUTORS Kate Bagnall Else Churchill Christine Clement Megan Gibson Barbara Hall Jenny Higgins Ben James Alice Johnson Pieter Koster Neil Hall Helen Smith Jayne Shrimpton Mark St Leon Kirsten Wade
SUBMISSIONS Inside History welcomes feature submissions. For guidelines, contact the editor SUBSCRIPTIONS See page 71 or subscribe online at www.insidehistory.com.au DISTRIBUTED BY Gordon and Gotch Australia
Census collector on her rounds, 1976. Image courtesy National Archives of Australia: A6180, 26/7/76/13. Turn to page 26 to read more about Australia’s census and how you can help family historians in the future.
Inside History (ISSN 1838-5044) is published six times a year by Cassie Mercer (ABN 13 353 848 961) PO Box 406 Erskineville NSW 2043 Australia. Views expressed by the authors are not necessarily those of the publisher. Copyright 2011 by Cassie Mercer and Inside History. All rights reserved.
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on the cover
ISSUE 5, JULY-AUGUST 2011
It’s census time! How you can help genealogists of the future — and it’s simple!
The art of photodating Jayne Shrimpton shows you what clues to look for in timelining your family images
In sickness and in health Helen Smith reports on what Friendly Societies can reveal about your ancestors
Celestials & barbarian girls A fascinating insight into Chinese-Australian families in the 1800s
There’s no place like home What stories could your house tell? We show you how to find out; plus Tilly Devine’s street
Postcard from Wangaratta A collector of ephemera sets out to discover the story behind a letter from 1878
A new start… In the first of a new series, we look at records you may not have considered searching
Australia’s circus children What life was like as part of “the greatest show on earth”
19 your history 50
The decorated footpath We take them for granted, but pavements reveal information about our past, too!
your heritage 63
The eyes of a generation Take a look at the iconic photographers who helped shape the look of modern Melbourne
Baby, it’s cold outside! Megan Gibson on how to further your research without leaving the house
Thoughts from abroad Else Churchill reports from London on the latest from the Society of Genealogists
What’s on Events you won’t want to miss
Which website? Our new section profiles sites worth bookmarking The book shelf The latest and greatest to hit the shops One picture…1000 memories The story behind the image
Postie’s here! Your thoughts, your say
Bob’s your uncle Network with other descendants
13 Platform News from the history and genealogy world 16
Ask our experts Tracing an elusive New Zealand ancestor; plus searching Irish newspapers online
A little piece of history Win three fun games everyone will love!
A prize draw Books worth $190 up for grabs
Subscribe to Inside History And get 25% off books at Blurb!
Discover your family history with findmypast.com.au AUNTIE ALICE
? UNCLE WILLIAM
Over 50 million records for Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea that you won’t find anywhere else RECORDS INCLUDE: • Death Records • Directories & Almanacs • Electoral Rolls • Family History & Biography • Government Records • Immigration Records • Military Records • Probate, Land & Court Records • Religious Records • Social, Regional & General History
R U O E K A T L A I R T E E R FAND SEE FOR YOURSELF ister s and how to reg m.au for detail findmypast.co See . ply ap s dition Terms and con
I’m sure while researching your family tree, you’ve spent many hours pouring over census data. From the first complete census in 1828 in Australia, to the first national collection of data in 1911 and the collections since then, censuses form the backbone of every genealogist’s research. In August, Australia’s 16th national census takes place. Turn to page 26 to read how you can help the historians of the future with their research, too. We have a wonderful feature by Jayne Shrimpton on page 31 on the secrets to dating family photos — terrific advice that is sure to help you with your own timeline of images. And if you are still stumped on how to read the clues in each image, send us your photos and we’ll pass them along to Jayne for her expert feedback. Kate Bagnall’s piece on Chinese-Australian families in the 1800s is fascinating, and includes a very rare portrait of a Chinese-Anglo couple and their baby. Such precious momentos did not often survive — read why on page 42. And if you’re just starting out researching your own Chinese ancestors, don’t miss Kate’s handy tips. Our second article in the series by Helen Smith looks at Friendly Societies and what they can reveal about your ancestor (page 34). With many employees joining societies in the 1800s and early 1900s, it might be more relevant to your research than you first think! And we have a new series starting this issue by UK-based family historian Neil Hall. Neil will be focusing on underutilised records that are well worth a look — and that can be accessed no matter where you live. This issue, Neil looks at postal records in the UK, and how they helped solve a family mystery . Turn to page 47 to read more. Plus we hear from a collector of Victorian postcards (page 38) who decided to trace the sender and addressee. What he discovered will surprise you! Our starting out guide for this issue looks at how to research the history of your home . It’s a topic of great interest to many right now, so turn to page 56 to find out more. We’ve got lots of great websites to access in this issue, in fact, 46! Plus, two fantastic events across two countries are also taking place in August: National Family History Week (in Australia) and Family History Month (in New Zealand). Wherever you are and whatever events you are attending, happy researching!
This issue we asked our contributors… Which historical event would you have liked to witness?
Postcard from Wangaratta, page 38 Having just visited Lake Eyre and the Flinders Ranges, I can’t help but think how exciting it would have been to witness Edward Eyre setting out on one of his explorations in this wild and desolate landscape. What great hopes such men must have nurtured, and what enormous preparations were necessary for their realisation. Into The Great Unknown!
Celestials & barbarian girls, page 42 The High Court case, Potter v. Minahan, heard in Melbourne in 1908. I’ve been researching the story of James Minahan in both Australia and China for over five years, but have found no clues as to what happened to him at the end of the court hearings!
As modern as tomorrow, page 63 In 1830, Sydney was treated to a visit from the esteemed Edward, Lord Viscount Lascelles, who conducted a thorough enquiry into the city’s treatment of convicts. Desperate to comply, the authorities accorded the supposed Viscount every hospitality, even after he eloped with young Lilius Dickson to a Parramatta pub. I’d love to have witnessed Sydney officials realising, by way of warning in the Government Gazette, Lascelles was in fact a former Van Diemen’s Land convict, turned serial fraudster!
For the record… Two terrific ventures in oral history are launching at the moment. The first, run by historians at Monash and La Trobe Universities in partnership with ABC Radio National and the National Library of Australia, looks at how different generations have reacted to social and technical changes over the past century. How has life in Australia changed — or stayed the same — in your lifetime? If you’d like to be interviewed for the project, register your interest now. MORE www.arts.monash.edu.au/ australian-generations
UK newspapers online The British Newspaper Archive is a collaboration between the British Library and online publisher brightsolid, whereby millions of pages of historical newspapers will be available online for the first time. The 10-year project aims to digitise up to 40 million pages from the UK National Newspaper Collection, which will be a wonderful tool for genealogists. The launch, intended for September this year, will see fully searchable online content by date, title and keywords, family notices, local and regional press and contemporary reporting of events. Register for email updates about the project on the website below. MORE www.britishnewspaper archive.co.uk
Image Illustrated War Special, Courtesy British Library, London
And the Oral History Association of Australia is calling for nominations for the Hazel de Berg Award for Excellence in Oral History. If you, or someone you know, has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion or preservation of oral history, make sure you lodge a nomination by 5pm, July 22. MORE www. ohaansw.org.au
Tell your tales History under threat Australia’s precious and unrivalled rock art heritage needs your help. There are more than 100,000 Indigenous rock art sites around the nation and they are disappearing at an alarming rate due to environmental damage, graffiti and industrial development. Some sites are estimated to be at least 15,000 years old, but within 50 years they could be damaged, or disappear forever. Paul Taçon, from Griffith University in Queensland, is Australia’s first Chair in rock art and has launched the Protect Australia’s Spirit campaign to help document and conserve an important part of our country’s history. Visit Professor Taçon’s website to see how you can be part of the project. MORE www.protectaustralias spirit.com.au
The Malarrak Macropod is located in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, at one of the most important sites in danger due to feral pigs and uncontrolled visitation
Do you have an inspiring story about New Zealand farming women from the past to the present? Then you need to enter the Women on the Land writing competition. South Canterbury members of Rural Women New Zealand are organising the initiative, and want to hear about the pioneering women who shaped the country’s farming traditions. Entries close on August 21. First prize is $500, and 50 entries will be published in a book due out in 2012. MORE www.ruralwomen.org.nz
The write stuff Now in it’s 15th year, the Byron Bay Writers Festival, on the New South Wales north coast, is set to shine once again with a stellar program. Being held over three days from August 5 to 7, the line-up includes Phillip Adams, David Williamson and Gillian Armstrong to name just a few. History will be centre-stage in a number of sessions including “Fiction and faction of history” with Bob Carr (pictured above) and Stephen Daisley, and “Using history as a springboard for fiction” with Jesse Blackadder, Leslie Cannold and Sulari Gentill. MORE www.byronbaywriters festival.com
29th July – 8th August 2011
National Family History Week
It’s all about you! Join in the fun of National Family History Week. For lots of great ideas, go to www.familyhistoryweek.org.au
Be part of History Say yes to question 60 Census night 9th August 2011
Past • Present • Future NATIONAL FAMILY HISTORY WEEK IS SPONSORED BY:
Image Expedition of Charles Sturt and Governor Gawler in 1839. Watercolour by J M Skipper: Part of the Women Explorers seminar (see page 22 for details). Julia Gawler and Charlotte Sturt can just be seen behind the boat. Image courtesy State Library of South Australia
History now Events around the nation u
National Family History Week July 30 to August 8 This week-long celebration of all things family history is presented by The Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations and has received plenty of support from all of the big names in the industry, including Ancestry.com.au, Find My Past, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and FamilySearch. Events located nationwide include a variety of family reunions, seminars, talks, open days, history walks, book launches, film evening and expos. Visit www.familyhistoryweek.org.au for events in your area
Death certificates and archaic medical terms August 20 They’re one of the most informative sources available to the family historian, but without the right knowledge a death certificate can present even more of a mystery. Helen Smith, author of Death Certificates and Archaic Medical Terms, will be giving a workshop at the Coffs Harbour Community Village. Her talk will cover death certificates, what is on them, how accurate they are likely to be, causes of death in the past and what some of the terms actually mean. You can also read Smith’s article in issue 4 of Inside History. Call 02 6658 1972
High tea at Wolston House August 14 Be transported back to an age of etiquette and decorum with an old-fashioned high tea at the historic Wolston House (pictured opposite), in Brisbane’s southwest. Enjoy the ambience of the Grindle Room or relax on the verandah, followed by a tour of this 1852 farmhouse. Book early as these special Sundays fill up quickly. Tours of the house commence at 1pm and high tea is served at 2pm. Visit www.nationaltrustqld.org The Next Chapter History Group July 28 and August 25 Come along to a series of talks on local Sydney history hosted by Randwick City Library and Inside History. Each seminar is presented by a passionate researcher or writer in an area of importance to family historians. On July 28 join Irish expert Perry McIntyre to hear about researching 19th-century immigrants, while on August 25, Sydney historian Judith Godden will talk about the history of Crown Street Women’s Hospital. Call 02 9314 4888 From Canton With Courage July 23 to March 11, 2012 The Parramatta Heritage Centre and author Jack Brook have joined forces to present an exhibition of Chinese history in western Sydney. Building on Brook’s book of the same name, which looks at Chinese arrivals to Parramatta during the 19th century, From Canton With Courage will showcase, through wonderful images and family memorabilia, the contributions these arrivals made to the area. Visit www.parracity.nsw.gov.au
Annual Workers Reunion & Ipswich Family Open Day August 21 Queensland rail workers, both past and present, are invited to join the families of Ipswich in celebrating the birthplace of Queensland rail. Visit this award-winning museum and rediscover Queensland’s amazing rail history through tours, exhibitions and morning tea listening to the RAAF Amberley Brass Band performances. Visit www.theworkshops.qm.qld.gov.au Ernie Lane: The making of a Queensland Rebel July 20 Labor heavyweight Ernest Henry Lane was a pioneer of the party, but his rise to power had unlikely beginnings. This lecture, with historian Jeff Rickertt at the State Library of Queensland, will explore his growth from model immigrant raised with a loyalty to Queen and empire, to a leader in the turbulent world of colonial labour politics. Visit www.slq.qld.gov.au
Michael McKernan: Jugiong: an exclusive village? August 2 Academic, museum administrator and historian Michael McKernan has delved into a very localised history of the small rural town Jugiong, in his book The Valley: A Story From The Heart Of The Land. McKernan will discuss the once-prominent stopover on the Hume Highway, and to what extent we can use the town to understand broader rural Australian life. Call 02 6251 7004
Local history in the north of England August 11 They say it’s grim up north — but here’s your chance to find out for yourself! The North of England Special Interest Group of The Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra covers the regions of Cheshire, Cumberland, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Durham, Northumberland, and Westmoreland. The group, which meets on the second Thursday of February, May, August and November at 7:30pm, will in August be addressing the special topic, “Remedy your lack of local history knowledge in the north of England”. Call 02 6251 7004
Spotlight on the national census July 29 to August 8 To celebrate the Australian census on August 9, the Family History Society of Rockingham and Districts is hosting a pictorial display and talks on census history. Hear about the censuses of 19th-century England and Wales, the 1832/1837 Western Australian census, plus learn where some celebrities of the 1800s were on census night! Visit www.familyhistoryweek.org.au/eventswa
A Tour of Markree August 5 Markree is a 1920s residence bequeathed to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery by railway engineer Henry Baldwin. After two years of research and planning Markree opened as a house museum in May. Join project manager Anthony Curtis on a tour of the house and gardens to hear about Baldwin’s extraordinary life and bequest, and how he has approached establishing the museum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book
Wolston House in Brisbane
The White Wedding Dress: 200 Years of Wedding Fashions August 1 to November 6 It’s exciting to hear that Bendigo Art Gallery is hosting the world premiere of this stunning exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Explore the history of the wedding dress from the 1800s to the present day, from modest gowns to those designed by couturiers including Vivienne Westwood, Christian Lacroix and Lanvin. Plus Bendigo Art Gallery has curated an additional section bringing together more than 22 colonial and contemporary gowns from collections around Australia. Visit www.bendigotourism.com
Unlock the Past South Australia & Victorian Border Expo (Mt Gambier) July 22 and 23 These two action-packed days cover topics from old photographs to asylums, tips and tricks for Googling your family tree, through to the men of the Light Horse Brigade — just to mention a few. With hundreds of dollars worth of Expo special offers and prizes on offer, visitors are also invited to join speakers, exhibitors and the Unlock the Past team for the Expo dinner and networking session on the Friday evening. Be sure to book in advance. Visit www.unlockthepast.com.au/events
Women Explorers July 21 The State Library of South Australia will challenge your views of 19th century life with this fascinating lecture from retired SLSA librarian, Valmai Hankel, AM and current SLSA content services librarian, Valerie Sitters. While few thought women could even be an explorer, many proved them wrong by venturing into the unknown or seldom trodden places of the globe and making very real contributions to geographical knowledge. Come along to see for yourself why these women were far more than simply, “travellers in skirts”. Visit www.slsa.sa.gov.au
Eugene von Guerard: Nature revealed Until August 7 The Ian Potter Gallery will be showcasing more than 150 works of renowned Australian colonial landscape painter, Eugene von Guérard (1811–1901). Through the detailed brushstrokes visitors can glimpse many of the breathtaking early Australian, New Zealand and European landscapes witnessed on his expeditions around the world. Some of the works on offer include several beautifully illustrated sketch books, and never-before-seen paintings. Visit www.ngv.vic.gov.au
2011 State History Conference August 5 to 7 The themes to be brought into focus for this annual conference will be, “In perspective: Rethinking South Australia’s History” and will be held in conjunction with the inaugural national conference of the Australian Council of Professional Historians Associations. The conference will explore the enduring themes of South Australia’s past, and the role of history in popular myth-making. Call 08 8203 9888
FamilySearch with Judy Jones August 21 Judy Jones is a Senior British Research Consultant and will be visiting from FamilySearch in Salt Lake City. As part of Family History Month celebrations, Jones will provide an update on the FamilySearch databases, including the historical records, Wiki and forums, with a particular emphasis on how to get the most out of subsite, http://maps. familysearch.org. Bookings are essential. See www.aucklandcitylibraries.com
Planning a genealogy, history or heritage event that you would like to share with Inside History readers? We’d love to hear from you. Contact us at the details on page 4.
. n organdie wedding dress, 1953 Image opposite John French cotto d. © V&A Images Boar n Cotto the for s Amie y Designed by Hard
The story of your home with Lisa Truttman August 10 Ever wondered who roamed the hallways of your home before you? One of the events scheduled for Family History Month at Auckland City Library is a research session showing how to discover the story of your home. Resources covered include the use of archives, documents, land records and photographs. Bookings are essential so don’t miss this opportunity to discover the secrets of your household. Plus, see our feature on page 56. Visit www.aucklandcitylibraries.com
Family History Fair August 26 and 27 “Growing and Conserving your Family Tree” is the focus for these two exhibition days at the Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton. Every big name in genealogy and heritage will be present, from international companies like FamilySearch through to regional groups such as the Central Auckland Research Centre. With everything covered from tours and accommodation through to catering, this massive expo is one not to be missed for New Zealand history enthusiasts. Inside History will be there so drop by and say hello! Visit www.nzfamilyhistoryfair.org.nz
Celestials & barbarian girls Australia’s early Chinese residents lived lonely, isolated lives, away from home and family. Or did they? A growing body of research into their lives is revealing how close the ties between Chinese and white Australians were. Historian Kate Bagnall explains, by looking at two different families
It is true, there are a few Celestials who have complied so far with the prejudices of the barbarians as to marry barbarian girls; and, strange to say, they don’t make bad husbands. Illustrated Australian News, 15 August 1868
URING THE late autumn of 1861, Eliza Davis gave birth to her second child. Premature and stillborn, the baby’s tiny body was placed in a cigar box and buried in the bush by her father, Joseph, a woodcutter. Eliza, with her parents and five sisters, lived at the Bark Huts, outside of Sydney, in what is today South Strathfield. To Sydneysiders then, the Bark Huts was best known as a Chinese village, home to men who eked out a meagre existence as charcoal burners. One of these men, Dick, was the father of Eliza’s children. As a white man, Joseph Davis warned his daughter against “going with Chinamen”, but headstrong Eliza and at least two of her sisters chose to do just that. The findings of a coronial inquiry into the death of Eliza’s baby were published in the colonial press. Steeped in the language of the day, the newspapers described the Bark Huts as a scene of vice, filth and social degradation, where white women freely cohabited with Chinese men outside of marriage, and the births, and deaths, of their unbaptised children passed without official record. Eliza Davis, described by the Empire newspaper as good-looking and
intelligent, was, however, not unhappy with her lot. A local clergyman told the Empire that he planned to marry Dick and Eliza and baptise their daughter, but as six further children Eliza bore were registered as “illegitimate”, it seems he never did. PORTRAIT OF A FAMILY Five years later, in April 1866, the Sydney press printed notice of the stillbirth of another baby to a white mother and Chinese father. This time there was no moralising, no anti-Chinese diatribe, just a simple note in the Births column that read: CHI—April 15th, at her residence, Scone, Upper Hunter, Mrs. William Edward Oram Chi, of a son, stillborn. An early portrait of them survives today. It’s a rare heirloom, as many families have no such photographic record of their Chinese ancestor; any trace of non-European heritage was destroyed or hidden from subsequent generations. Amoy-born William Chi, a storekeeper, and his Tasmanian bride Hannah Maria Mason had been married at the Wesleyan parsonage at Newtown, Sydney, the previous year, four years after William was instructed in the Christian religion and baptised. Notice of their marriage had been placed in the
Hannah Maria (nĂŠe Mason), William Chi and their baby, thought to be their son, Albert. Scone, NSW, c1867. Courtesy Elaine Herrington.
There’s no place like home House history: it’s a hot topic at the moment, and one of the most popular searches in local library collections. What stories can your home reveal? Ben James shows you how to find out
HETHER YOU’VE lived in your home for five or 50 years it is unlikely you are the first person to call the four walls you feel most comfortable in, home. Ever wondered who used to sleep in the bedroom you feel so safe in? Thought about who used to eat in your dining room? Wash in your bathroom and who walked out your front door to face the world each day? These are questions many people are asking, as interest in the history of where we live is growing. It can be a time-consuming investigation but fear not, says Georgina Keep, local studies librarian at Bowen Library, Sydney. “A lot of information is out there, it’s just knowing where to look.” As ever, your local library will have many of the answers. But before stepping foot inside, go for a walk around your neighbourhood. Then take a look at the style of your house, the materials used and its proximity to transport and shops. The National Trust Research
Manual urges us not to think of it “as an isolated building, but as an element in its environment.” Is it similar to the neighbours? Does it look like it has been built as part of a group of houses? All this information could be useful in tying together details.
THE BUILDING BLOCKS There are two historical documents that should form the backbone of any house investigation: rates books and directories. Valuation and rate books are perhaps the most accurate source for dating buildings. They were used by local authorities to determine the value of a property and thus the rates to be levied. Generally kept in large ledgers or receipt-style books, the rates records detail land ownership, date of build, size of land, details of the property such as number of floors and whether it has amenities, such as stables and sheds. Sometimes house names are also listed.
Left A house typical of those built in Sydney’s eastern suburbs in the early 1900s. This photo was taken in 1914 Right Bowen Library’s Building Application Registers from the 1920s — they contain a wealth of information on houses in the local area
At Bowen Library, with the help of Georgina Keep, Inside History looked into the history of a house on Torrington Road, Maroubra, a suburb in Sydney’s east. From an auction subdivision poster in the library’s archives, we know that the lot of land where the house is situated, was auctioned off in September 1916. A strange time to be selling land, Keep suggests, with many of the would-be builders away fighting in distant lands. We start by opening the rate books at 1916 to find a Mr William Barnfield had bought the plot of land the house is to be built on, as well as the surrounding plots. Under the column heading “Name of house or lot or section of land” in flowing handwriting is “land” — showing us that Mr Barnfield is yet to build on the plot. The multiple plots under his name suggest that he is more of a property developer rather than someone looking to build himself a home. It takes a few different rate books (they are often in two- to three-year periods) before we come across any evidence of activity. But in 1927 the unimproved and improved value of the property jumps from £150 to £312. It appears we have our first house and under a new name, Lillian Frost, listed as a school teacher. With this information, our next line of enquiry is the fabulous, if not widely available, building application registers. Although not many of these are
preserved, Bowen Library is lucky in having such a series of archives. By looking for applications in the period leading up to 1927, we come across one for our plot under the name of a Mr Vogs, who was one of the owners between Mr Barnfield and Lillian Frost. The register gives us the size of the land (45ft by 165ft), the cost of building (£800), the materials used (bricks for the building and tiles for the roof), the storeys (1), number of rooms (4) and whether the bathroom or laundry was detached from the dwelling (no). Sometimes the architect will also be listed if they were involved in the design. All of a sudden we have some building application flesh on our rate book bones. The second of the essential sources to assist your investigation should be the local directory. These were a sort of city-wide address book of the day. In Victoria the main directories were either the McDougall or Sands directory, whereas in NSW it was just the latter. In Queensland the Post Office provided the directory and in Tasmania the Wise Post Office directories are the place to look. They are useful in listing the residents of your building, although they may not necessarily be the owners of the property. They also help confirm the date of the house — which you should have an idea of from the rate books. The easiest way to do
Welcome to Tilly Devine’s neighbourhood As good a source as any for getting a bit more meat on the bones are local history societies, local history publications and newspaper archives — as we found when researching our Maroubra home. Upon further inspection of later rate books, our teacher, Lillian Frost, appears to sell up in 1936, with a James and Elizabeth Pedan, a commercial artist and housewife, moving in. Why did our teacher move? Perhaps a change of job? Or maybe she got married? But local historian Pauline Curby’s book, Randwick, suggests otherwise. Curby writes that criminal activity in the interwar years in Sydney took on a “new and sinister hue,” with the media predicting that Sydney would become another Chicago. And at the heart of these new ganglands was Torrington Road. Among the most powerful figures in Sydney’s murky underworld were Matilda (Tilly) and Jim Devine, who just happened to be close neighbours of Lillian. Newspaper accounts at the time tell of shoot-outs and knifings on the road, as well as getaway drivers and lavish gangster parties. Larry Writer’s book Razor (the subject of the Nine Network’s next Underbelly TV series) describes one such incident on the road where Jim Devine stood on his doorstep furiously firing his Lee Enfield Rifle in the direction of an oncoming rival gang — killing one and wounding another. On being found not guilty of murder later in the year, Tilly and Jim are said to have partied with 100 others at their Torrington Road home until dawn, drinking French champagne and beer. Not quite the suburban haven that the 1916 auction promised. Further reading suggests the Devines were not the only notable neighbours. John Norton, founder of a media empire headed by his flagship publication, the now defunct The Truth, lived in his grand mansion at the end of the same road. Norton, who offered the mansion to the government for injured soldiers during World War I, was said to be obsessed with Napoleon Bonaparte, and filled his home with statues and busts of the pint-sized French emperor. Although Norton died in 1916, the house remained functional for a number of years. If you think your house was once graced by someone significant then a good starting point for more information is the Australian Dictionary of Biography (see http://adbonline.anu.edu.au). Alternatively, newspaper obituaries and other cuttings are often rewarding; search on Trove (see www.trove.nla.gov.au) to see what you can find.
There are a number of terrific guides to help you with your research. Here are two of the best: ● The National Trust Research Manual: Trace The History of Your House Or Other Places by Celestina Sagazio (ed.); $29.95. Order from www.nattrust.com.au/advocacy/publications ● Research The History Of Your House by Brisbane City Council. Download a free copy at http://tiny.cc/x7yy8
this research is to simply take a later volume of whichever directory and go back until your house no longer appears. You may come across a reference to the property being “vacant” or “house under construction”. If so, it’s likely your house will appear the following year. However, directories are not without their problems. Information was often a year behind and inclusion in them was not compulsory — the fee for being listed putting many off. This appears to be the case with our investigation with Lillian Frost not appearing in multiple Sands editions.
EXPLORING OTHER AVENUES By now you should be starting to get a picture of who lived in your house, when they lived there and certain key events. By following these steps you should now have an idea of the early owners and occupants of your house as well as some key dates. But if you want to delve a little deeper and find out more about their lives and their neighbours, then there are plenty of options. There is an array of public documents that can assist, from local government to state records, that may refer to your house. Complaints may have been made, letters may have been written by the former tenants and building applications may have been lodged. If there was correspondence between the occupants of your house and the local council or state, it is likely there is still a record of it somewhere. The staple sources for most family history research should also not be overlooked in house history research. And while census returns, electoral roles and birth, death and marriage certificates may repeat a lot of the information you’ll find in the rate books and registers/directories, they may just add that detail which brings your house to life. Good hunting. •
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My uncle, Norman Alexander Wickes (Alex) was born July 30, 1924, in Greymouth, New Zealand, and lived nearby at Kumara Junction. He enlisted in the RNZAF in 1942 and, after training, left for England in 1943. He completed a tour of operations in Bomber Command flying Lancasters. For meritorious service he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC; 12 Squadron RAF) and later the Air Force Cross. The citation for his DFC (December 7, 1945) states: Flying Officer Wickes has completed numerous sorties on his first tour of duty as a captain of aircraft. Throughout, he has displayed a magnificent example of devotion to duty and fine fighting spirit… On two occasions his aircraft has been attacked by enemy fighters but each time
he has foiled the attackers and completed his allotted task. At all times this officer’s outstanding courage has been an inspiring example. After he left the RAF, Alex flew cargo planes and I was lucky enough to have him fly me part of the way to England from New Zealand in a cargo DC8. Alex passed away in England on September 6, 2008. This photo shows him and some of his fellow enlistees and could have been taken at the Initial Training Wing at Rotorua, No 2 Elementary Flying Training School at Ashburton or at the No 2 Service Flying Training School at Woodbourne in 1942–1943. It’s a wonderful record of the men with their names written on the photo as they did at the time. Does anyone know anything about the other men or my uncle? — Pauline Weeks, Sydney, NSW Contact Pauline at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Published on Jul 10, 2011
Inside History is for people passionate about Australian and New Zealand genealogy, history and heritage. In our July-August edition (issue...