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Friday, February 19, 2010

Searching Government Gazettes

I've recently been playing with Government Gazettes on the State Library of Victoria (SLV) website, here. The gazettes included are the New South Wales Government Gazette (1836-1851), Port Phillip Government Gazette (1843-1851) and the Victoria Government Gazette (1851-1997).

The State Library website provides and search facility for an index to the gazettes, and the relevant gazette pages can be viewed and downloaded in pdf format. It's all free of charge. However, people's names are not necessarily indexed. The help pages say:
You can find many details about individuals in the Gazette. Sometimes people’s names are listed in the index, but very often they are not. So if you are looking for information about a person it is useful to know something about them first. For example, that they won a government tender, or were appointed to a government position. With this information you can search using keywords related to the tender or position.
It is possible to search these gazettes by name (or any other term you want). To do so, just add the search term to a Google search. It appears that Google have not only picked up the pdf files, they've also run OCR over them which seems to have worked very well, so they are searchable.

For example:
  • A search on the name "Couper" through the site index came up with eleven results. None of these looked like my family.
  • A Google search over the gazettes on the name "Couper" came up with 277 results. Some may have been my family, but I wasn't in the mood for looking through that many results. A further search on the street name my Couper ancestor lived in netted ten results. Two of these related to my great-greataunt who was listed as a registered midwife. I had believed her to be a midwife, anecdotally, but had only ever seen her described as a nurse in other records. This was a nice find.
I'll definately be playing with this some more...

If you give it a try and find something useful, please come back and comment!  

My intention when I started this blog was to write and post up little pieces of the family story. While that's still my intention, the act of trying to write some of the stories up has shown me how much more work there is to be done! As a result this blog contains bits and pieces of whatever I happen upon that I find useful or interesting. I have previously written about Google searches I didn't expect to be able to do here and here.

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