Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Planning a research trip

I’ve found a time that works with work… Mr Twigs has agreed to go solo with the twiglets… I’m going on a research trip!!

I’ll be heading back to my ancestral homeland.  Sadly my time and budget don’t allow for a global research research so I’ll have to be satisfied with just a few days in the homeland of my ancestors over the last 150 or so years. Melbourne, here I come!

I’ve been poring over the Public Record Office of Victoria website, which has an excellent collection of indexes (and quite a few digitised records, but I’ve already got them).

To get organised, I need to:

  • Make a list of probate files to view. They will be the “low hanging fruit” of this research trip. I’ve already got the probate files for most of my ancestors so the high priority probate files will be my spinster great-aunts. 
  • Review my database for people who were the subject of an inquest.
  • Review my database for land records I could look up.
  • Look over the other indexes on PROV for other record types.
  • Find out what microfiche are on open access at PROV, and be prepared with details of lookups to do (with a view to ordering the records).

There are also a few “off the beaten track” records I would like to see. Or in this case it’s more of an on the beaten track record. I want to look at tender documents and contracts for timber supplied to maintain the the road from Ballarat to the Goldfields. I believe I’ve found the right file in the catalogue. I hope it will tell me if the person who won the contract is my great-great-great grandfather, as I suspect.

I also wonder if there are any records around the demolition of several houses (including one of my ancestors) due to the putrid public health conditions caused by a lack of drainage. I have a bit more background work to do on that one.

Oh, and I mustn’t forget to book my flights and accommodation!

If you tips on making best use of your time on a research trip, or tips specific to the PROV, I’d love to hear them.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Land records: the titles office

One of my lingering undead ancestors is my great-great-grandfather James Bennett (1831-??). The next step in my research plan for him was to follow up on his land records.

I obtained the records relating to his initial purchase of the land from the Public Record Office of Victoria last year. They were interesting in their own right, but didn’t answer the question “When did he die?”.

The records I obtained didn’t cover his disposal of the land. For that, I would have to move away from archive research and into land title records. This sounded, well, scary. From my preliminary reading and general poking around online, it seemed like I would have to go to Melbourne and visit the titles office in person for such old records.

Easier than I thought

It turns out, this is not the case. Looking into title records again, I found that not only does the Victorian Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure provide an online database of recent title information for sale on their Landata site, they have also scanned in the older folios. For $10, a colour image of the old title information could be mine!

Obtaining the file was fairly simple. Search for the details of the property you want – various search options were available. Select the type of information you want. In my case, the historical title. Pay money. Get title.

In practice there was a little more complexity.

I couldn’t see any obvious way to determine which of the several folios listed against my very specific search was the correct one. I decided to take the plunge and just go ahead and purchase one. I didn’t find the correct folio on the first try, but I did find it before I needed a new mortgage on my own home.

I learned that in 1893 the small plot I was interested in was no longer owned by James Bennett. It had been combined with several others into a larger property under one new title by a new owner. I’m sure there’s some legal word for the process. I could also see a series of later transfers of that title through sale and probate processes.

The file gave several references to earlier folios – one for each of the Bennett family plots but again, there was no obvious way to tell which folio related to which plot. At least this time they were all owned by family members and so of some interest to me. Out came my credit card again.

$20 later, I had the folio I wanted.

It appears that the Bennett family members sold up their land in Bung Bong at the same time. I found that James Bennett, my research target, was still alive in 1892. Before that he was last been seen being discharged (alive and recovered) from Amherst hospital in 1883. While it would have been useful to discover a death date for him, at least I extended his known life span by nine years.

Now that I know how easy the title records from Victoria are to get, I will definitely keep them in mind for other family members I am researching. 

Look out credit card!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Are your messages going to junk?

If you found this blog or my website, sent me a message, but never heard back then please try again! Your message may have fallen foul of my junk filter.

Twice in the last month I have found genealogy messages that I would very much like to read hidden among the junk.

  • A DNA match I haven’t corresponded with before who had a theory about our connection.
  • A quotation for a genealogy service I requested, with an invoice for if I wished to go ahead (I did!).

I have also found more personal messages that I actually wanted to see sitting in my junk mail. I was very glad to have caught these but do wonder what else I may have missed.

Now I have adjusted my junk filtering settings to try to help the genuine mail get through. Because I use web based email address I looked at both the junk filtering applied by the web mail service, and the filtering settings applied by my desktop email client.

There wasn’t all that much I could do, but at least people I send emails to will automatically be added to my safe sender list and any emails sent to the unique addresses I use for FTDNA matches will get through. Clearly I will still have to check my junk folders from time to time.

Have you had a near miss with messages going to junk?