I would have skipped World Vital Records' recent offer of a few days of free access, had it not been for the Victorian Government and Police Gazettes. I've been meaning to have a look at them some time. They were tempting... so very tempting... I signed up.
After some playing around to get a feel for the site I decided to focus on a few individuals from my COUPER branch. This family came from Scotland and settled in Oakleigh, Victoria in the mid 1850s. I've got good basic information on them, and a bit more.
I found Robert COUPER in several directories as a cooper, which fits with what I know. Only... one year there was a Robert COUPER in Oakleigh with the word "beerhouse" instead. How odd, I thought, and wondered if it was the same person. It took me a few days before the (now obvious) thought came to me that beer would have been stored in barrels. Coopers make barrels. "Beerhouse" might not be so inconsistent after all. That little revelation was enough to make me think that my time was not totally wasted.
There was another possible lead for the family. I found a reference to a Robert COUPER in the Victorian Goverment Gazette (1858). He had been awarded a government contract for the supply of timber for the maintenance of the plank road from Geelong to Ballarat. Could this be my Robert COUPER? A cooper must have a source of timber, mustn't he? I will have to see if the Public Record Office of Victoria has the tender documents and contract in their archives. Some day. I've put it on my to-do list.
I came away feeling glad I'd taken up the offer. I was able to focus on the families I was interested in and now have some leads to follow when I am ready to do some real work on them.
As for the site itself, I probably will take a paid subscription with them some day, when I'm ready. I found the search interface so-so but the databases on offer had potential. I was going to write a post about the search interface but I think it would be more constructive to send my remarks to the website's feedback form. Unless I run short of blog topics, or there is overwhelming reader interest (=any) on the subject, that is!