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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas is the season for lending

Most years I try to make a charitable donation at Christmas. This year I’ve done something a little different. I’ve made a small loan to help a group of Kenyans obtain low-cost seeds and training that will move them beyond subsistence farming. When the loan is repaid I will be able to redirect it to help others.

I made the loan via the Genealogists for Families team on Kiva. Kiva is a not-for-profit lending platform aimed at alleviating poverty. The Genealogists for Families team was started by Judy Webster because “we care about families (past, present and future)”. You can read more about the team here.

Please join us!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two hours in the library

AMHERST HOSPITAL FETE, 1871. (1871, December 4). Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 - 1875), p. 219. Retrieved December 21, 2011, from

I had today off work and was without my children for most of the day. This close to Christmas there’s a lot I could or should have been doing…. but instead I made a flying visit to the National Library of Australia. I try to keep note of things I want to check or refer to at the library for when I have a chance to go there. I reviewed my notes and did a little preparation the night before. Although I only had two hours there I think I made good use of my limited time.

Last night I pre-ordered Amherst District Hospital 1859 to 1933 : the outcome of compassion by Bea. Brewster. It was waiting for me when I got to the library this morning. I wanted to find out more about conditions in the hospital where my ancestors had been treated. The sort of information I hoped to find was included in the book, although I haven’t had a chance to digest the material yet. 

One thing I did notice was that the publication included a drawing of the annual Amherst Hospital fete (1871) – a quick search of Trove turned up the cited article. The article claimed that the procession included almost 1,000 men, 300 of them mounted, dressed up in what sounds like a quite astonishing array of costumes. My great-grandfather (then aged 7) was treated in the hospital for an injury earlier that year – I wonder if he was at the fete?

I also checked my research plan* for finding James Bennett’s (1831-???) death. My last firm sighting of him was in 1883 – being checked out “cured” from Amherst Hospital, as it happens. I’ve also got a newspaper mention of him in 1896 when his wife died that I think indicates he was alive. She was referred to as “wife of” rather than “widow of”. I checked:

  • Victorian probate indexes beyond 1925 (up to 1925 is available online)
  • Victorian inquest indexes

No luck there, but at least now I know that I’ve looked. I was going to make my way through some local directories to see if I could find him and when he dropped out. I decided against attempting that this morning, as there was at least one other James Bennett living nearby and I wanted to collect more information to distinguish between them first.

I then turned my attention to two of my great-great grandparents whose burial place I knew from death records but I hadn’t ever checked for cemetery records. I found that the cemetery has a database online but I wondered if the microfiche at the library had more information. It didn’t, the information was exactly the same. Another case of well now I know.

The vast majority of my known relatives came to Victoria, but I was aware that early church records for New South Wales were available on microfilm at the library. Last night I checked my database for any early New South Wales birth deaths or marriages and found two that looked like good candidates. I’m not used to microfilm (on rolls). For some reason most of the records I’ve looked at have been on microfiche (flat sheets). I’m not sure if I could have kept going with genealogy if it was the other way around as the microfilm whizzing by made me feel quite nauseous! I worked out how the records were arranged and managed to find my target before I started feeling too woozy.

A little advance planning paid off. I think I got good value from my flying visit!


* “Research plan” is a bit glorified for a page with a few dot points but it did have the heading “Research plan” and (and this is important) I was able to find it when I wanted it.