Government Gazettes and Police Gazettes

Government Gazettes and Police Gazettes are an enormously rich source of information for family historians. They can be useful for filling in some of the detail about the lives of our ancestors, and in many cases can solve mysteries.

NSW Government Gazettes

Government gazettes contained all the administrative detail that affected the lives of ordinary citizens going about their daily lives – such as laws and regulations, licenses, land auctions and sales, unclaimed mail, and much, much more. Records of convict assignments and absconding may appear nowhere else but here. Sailors who deserted their ships are listed, as are government employees. Court notices of probate and bankruptcies, livestock brands, and petitions.

Your ancestor should be in a government gazette if he or she:

  • leased, purchased, forfeited land
  • worked for the government
  • tendered for public works
  • died
  • went bankrupt or insolvent
  • had unclaimed mail
  • was a convict
  • was assigned a convict
  • had a livestock brand
  • had a license to run a pub, sell liquor, cut timber
  • signed a petition

Notices of this type were published in the local colonial newspaper until a regular government publication was established:

  • New South Wales – 1832
  • Tasmania – 1825
  • Victoria – 1843 (Port Phillip)
  • Queensland – 1859
  • South Australia – 1839
  • Western Australia – 1836
  • Northern Territory – 1927
  • Commonwealth – 1901

All are still published today, although mostly online rather than printed, and with much less of interest to family historians.

Police gazettes are where the juicy stuff was going on. They were published weekly and distributed to police stations for the information of the local constabulary in order to help them with their work – describing offenders, listing licensees, and so on. Later gazettes in the early-to-mid twentieth century contain lists of known offenders with photographs, for the information of police who may come across them.

In many States publication ceased in the 1980s, as methods of electronic distribution of information became available. Some States publish them to this day, but access is still restricted.

The contents of police gazettes vary slightly by state, but they contain most of the following:

  • Warrants for arrest and details of crimes
  • Arrests, convictions, discharged prisoners
  • Property stolen and recovered
  • Stolen cattle and horses, including brands
  • Escaped prisoners, ship’s deserters
  • Missing friends
  • Deaths reported to police
  • Police appointments, instructions, lists
  • Magistrates, Justices of the Peace
  • Licensed sellers of liquor, wine and tobacco
Police Gazettes were published in the following years:
  • New South Wales – 1862-1982
  • Tasmania – 1861-1933
  • Victoria – 1853-1994
  • Queensland – 1864-1982
  • South Australia – 1862-present
  • Western Australia – 1876-present (restricted)
  • Northern Territory – 1900-present (restricted)
  • Commonwealth – 1 January 1901-present?

It is important to look for your ancestor in other colonies/states, as people travelled over the borders as easily as we do today, particularly if they didn’t want to be found.

Photo of NSW Government Gazettes from the 1850s taken by the author at the Society of Australian Genealogists headquarters in Kent Street, Sydney.

Why a blog is more attractive than a website

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you are better off publishing parts of your tree as separate articles in a blog than as a full family tree website as produced by most family tree programs. My reasoning will be demonstrated by searching for a name and a place that I am interested in for my own family history:

Google search

The very first result in this list is a blog post: 

Riley blog post

Compare that page with this one: 

Riley family tree website

Which one looks more interesting? Which one would look more interesting to someone who wasn’t all that interested in genealogy?

If I’d put a picture or two in the blog post it would be even more interesting.

So that’s two good reasons:

  1. A blog post about a specific person or family line will be higher in a Google search
  2. A blog post will be more likely to hold the attention of a casual reader

A third reason is this: I have my full family tree as a separate website as produced by Second Site, a program to turn my The Master Genealogist project into a website. Most of the enquiries I get from it are for people on the edges of my tree, people who have married cousins of my ancestors. I have no more information about these people than what is on the tree, but the researchers who find them get excited when they find the name and email me for more. Really it’s a waste of  my time and theirs.

Anyone who finds the names in my blog posts is really looking for my family, and we are usually related. Over the years I would say that as many real relatives have found me through my blog posts as through my tree, although of course I can’t count the people who find my tree, grab the information, and leave without contacting me.

Blogs make it easier for them to contact me, as there’s a form for comments at the bottom of the page.

So there it is. Write stories about your ancestors in a blog. Don’t just put your tree up and wait for people to find you.

Note: in case you’re wondering about the Google logo in the first image – it was the 46th anniversary of the first Star Trek episode, and Google was celebrating. And why wouldn’t it?

Restoring old photographs

Old family photos are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for family historians, but often when you find them they have been damaged over the years. I have been practising my photo-editing skills to overcome this problem.

I have used Paintshop Pro for years. I know it’s not the industry standard; when I was deciding between it and the similarly priced Photoshop Elements (the cut-price version of Adobe Photoshop, which is very expensive) I decided that Photoshop Elements was going to take too long to learn and I just didn’t have time.

That was years ago, and Photoshop Elements has come a long way. I have continued to upgrade Paintshop Pro until this last one, and I still like it for some things like lightening up the photos I’ve taken of archival documents. Last year I was persuaded to buy Photoshop Elements for fixing scratches in photos because it does it so well and so easily. They have really tried to make Elements easier for novices to use since my first trial all those years ago.

This is one I worked on the other night for a client using Photoshop Elements. The brickwork was particularly tricky!

Unedited photo

 

Here is the photo after I had a go at it:

Edited photo

I spent about an hour on this on my laptop while watching TV. When I got to the bottom left corner I just decided that there was too much woodwork anyway and cropped the bottom off. There’s still more I could do. I was a bit nervous about his eye but I think it works.

Photoshop Elements and Paintshop Pro are about $100, depending on where you live; less for an upgrade. Paintshop Pro has most of the same tools as Photoshop Elements but Elements has a very cool brush  that lets you paint along a scratch and it takes the image on either side and fills it in for you. It’s like magic!

Online software

Today I attended a Dear Myrtle webinar on free online photo editing software, and was introduced to PicMonkey. It is fully-featured photo editing software that runs online. You can start editing without even signing up, upload (or drag) the photo you want to edit, and the resulting photo is stored on your computer, not on the website. And it’s free! I was very impressed.

Have a look at PicMonkey. Save a copy of your photo, upload the copy, and see what you can do. You can always undo what you’ve done, or rub it out with the eraser, so don’t be afraid to experiment. And you have your original stored safely because you made a copy to edit. Always make a copy before editing.

I highly recommend Myrtle’s webinar for a demonstration of how easy it is if you’ve never played with photo editing before. She recorded it so it should become available soon.

Social Media for Family Historians, 2nd edition

Social Media for Family Historians 2nd editionThe second edition of my book, Social Media for Family Historians, is now out. It explains what social media is; what use it is; and introduces you to more than 25 social media sites that can help family historians to communicate, share and collaborate with other family historians and with their own families.

It has been expanded and updated, with some sites removed that I no longer consider useful, and new ones added, such as Google+. The section on getting started with Facebook in particular has been greatly expanded, demonstrating the new privacy settings and layout.

You may discover new ways to communicate using Sykpe and SecondLife; social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+; blogs and microblogs such as Twitter; sites for sharing family trees such as Ancestry and MyHeritage; sites for sharing photos and videos such as Flickr and YouTube; and community information sites such as wikis and social bookmarking.

Contents:

Preface
1. Introduction
– About this book
– My experience
– A warning
2. What is social media?
– The internet
– Self-publishing
– Social media
– Mobile computing
3. Why use social media?
– Advantages
– Disadvantages
4. Communication
– Chat
– Social networking
– Blogs
– Microblogs
– Virtual worlds
5. Sharing
– Family trees
– Photographs
– Videos
– Social cataloguing
6. Collaboration
– Wikis
– Documents
– Questions and answers
7. Dangers
– Risks
– Some simple rules
8. What are you waiting for?
Appendix 1. How to get started with Facebook
– Sign up for Facebook
– Using Facebook
Appendix 2. How to get started with Blogging
– Find a host
– Create an account
– Name your blog
– Set security
– Create your profile
– Select a design
– Start writing!
– More advanced blogging
Glossary
Index

You can buy it from Gould Genealogy, and I hope you do!

Land Research for Family Historians in Australia and New Zealand

Land Research for Family Historians in Australia and New Zealand

My new book Land Research for Family Historians in Australia and New Zealand is out now at Gould Genealogy and History.

In the book I have tried to display the main types of land records available and give a summary of where they can be found in each Australian state and territory, and in New Zealand.

Here’s the blur from the back cover:

Land research can tell us so much about how our ancestors lived and worked. It can help us find out the truth about stories we’ve heard, and can give us a much richer picture of our ancestors’ social and economic position. It they owned a house, business premises or rural property there are records to be found, many of which contain a wealth of information.

We can also break down brick walls using land records that we have been otherwise unable to solve. Buying or selling property may have been the only time our ancestors dealt with government in colonial times, and land records can contain evidence such as birthdates and names of family members; information that is recorded nowhere else.

This book will introduce you to the main types of records you can find, such as deeds and grants, Torrens titles, Crown leases, selections and conditional purchases, closer and solder settlements, title applications, maps, and plans. We will look at what they mean and where to find them in New Zealand and each Australian state and territory.

Whether you are researching the history of your house or tracing the history of an ancestor through the property they owned, this book is for you.

Contents:
Abbreviations
Preface
1. Introduction
2. Why land research?
3. Challenges
4. Where to start
5. Where to find land records
6. How to find land records
7. Old System grants and deeds
8. Crown leases and licenses
9. Torrens Title
10. Title Applications
11. Government purchase schemes
12. Maps ad plans
13. Local land records
14. Putting it all together
Addresses
Further reading
Glossary
Index

 

Ordering films in the new FamilySearch

FamilySearch, or what we used to know as the Family History Library, has an enormous number of resources for family historians in their library in Salt Lake City. They have travelled the world collecting original material by microfilming it, and these microfilms can be ‘borrowed’. If you have a FamilSearch Center nearby, or a society library designated for lending films, you can borrow the films and research them without having to travel to Salt Lake City. In most cases the microfilms were also donated back to the archive or repository, protecting the original records from wear and tear.

Go to FamilySearch and click on the word Catalog under the main heading.

The new catalog search looks like this:

FamilySearch catalog

When I’ve typed in ‘Fiji’ I get a long list of possible places. I think it’s best to just use ‘Fiji’ to start with, without getting too specific.

FamilySearch results for Fiji

Birth, marriage and death records are held under Civil registration. If you click on any of these entries you will see what records they hold. For example, if I click on Land and property – indexes I can see:

Fiji land and property indexes

If I click on the last of these I can see the individual film entries. The film numbers are what I need to order the film:

Fiji land records card index

To order a film, you can click on the film number, which takes you to another page: https://familysearch.org/films/. You need to be signed in to do this; signing up is easy and free. You can order a film on short-term loan for 90 days or long-term loan for extended periods.

Just enter the film number:Film ordering

My most convenient library is the Society of Australian Genealogists and the website remembers that setting for me. You can change it at any time.

You can then go on to find more films, or checkout and pay by credit card or PayPal.

Once you’ve placed your order and paid for it you can track the status of your order at any time. You’ll get an email when the film has been received by your library, and you can go there and look at the film. Some libraries charge an extra fee for handling the film on top of what FamilySearch charges.

Bear in mind that the 90 days starts on the day the film is sent, not the day it arrives in your library. So get in and look at it as soon as you can.

LibraryThing for local and family history societies

LMDHS covers

I’ve been saying for a while now that I think LibraryThing is ideal for allowing small societies and libraries to maintain and display their library catalogues. Not only is the software practically free (US$25 one-off fee for unlimited books) but it is online, allowing members and potential members the ability to search their catalogues for free.

The Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society has been using LibraryThing to show off its catalogue since 2009. I admit that I didn’t know there was such an organisation, and I found it while seeing who else had a book I had just added to my catalogue.

LMDHS profile

http://www.librarything.com/profile/lmdhs

If I was ever looking for books relevant to a geographical area the library of the local history society would be the best place to find them. Not every society has the funds or the means to create a library catalogue on their own website. LibraryThing allows them to do so for minimal cost. Accounts are free for up to 200 books. For a one-off fee of US$25 you can catalogue all the books you can  afford to buy, and then the ones that you would like to buy.

Here’s an example from the Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society’s library catalogue:

LMDHS catalog

Books can be catalogued manually by filling in the details yourself, or you can search for the book in any one of over 700 major libraries around the world, such as the US Library of Congress, the National Library of Australia, and the British Library. Bookstores such as Amazon and Amazon UK are also included. All data can then be imported directly into your own catalogue, with a book cover photo if there is one. You can use a barcode reader to read the ISBN from the book into the Add Book screen, making the cataloguing process even quicker and easier.

I’ve been using LibraryThing since 2007, and my ambition is to catalogue all of my books, not just the genealogy- and history-related ones. In the meantime, I can search the catalogues of libraries such as the Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society, and start a new wishlist!

Council rates assessment books for the City of Sydney and Newtown

Rates assessments can tell you a lot about the owners and renters of land. The content varies between councils and over time but at the very least you can see who is living in the property, the type of building, and the value of the land and improvements. You can check subsequent books to trace changes in ownership and tenancy over time.

This information is particularly useful for the early 1800s if your ancestors were not eligible to be enrolled to vote, either for property or gender requirements, or the early electoral rolls have been lost. They can also help in tracing land ownership for pre-Torrens Title land where Old System deeds have to be found one at a time.

CSA027377 p56 1848 Sydney Place
Sydney City Council Archives, CSA027377 p56, 1848 Sydney Place

The image above has been taken from the City of Sydney Council Rates Assessment books 1845-1948. These books have been transcribed and indexed, so that you can search for a surname or street name, and bring up a list of results. When you click on a result you get a transcription of the page, and if you scroll further down the page you can see an image of the original page. The little square in the middle of the page is the magnifying glass that hadn’t yet opened.

SCCA CSA027377 p56 1848 Sydney Place transcription

Even back then in 1848 we could see the name of the resident and the name of the owner. In those days the occupier was responsible for paying council rates, and so both are listed. We can see the type of building; what it was made of; what the roof was made of; and the number of floors and the number of rooms.

City of Sydney Council Rates Assessment books 1845-1948 transcriptions and images are here –> http://www3.photosau.com/CosRates/scripts/home.asp

Newtown Rates and Assessments 1863-1892 (transcriptions only) are here –> http://www.sydneyarchives.info/rate-books

For the Newtown books you need to know which Ward your street was in. There are maps to help you identify the Ward. You can then select the book for the Ward and the year you want and search the PDF yourself.

Some tricks to be aware of:

  • House numbers Most properties did not have house numbers in the 1800s. The house number column in the assessment books refers to the number of the house in the book, not in the street.
  • Street names may have changed since the books were compiled, particularly in the inner cities.
  • Surnames may be spelled differently from one year to the next, and given names may not always be shown. Tenants’ names may be less than informative, with names such as ‘Bob the Jew’.

Most local councils have kept their rates assessment books, although they probably don’t go back as far as this. They may have been microfilmed and made available at your local library, or they may have been deposited with State Records NSW. If State Records or the local library doesn’t have them check with the council.

Image: Sydney City Council Archives, CSA027377-056, 1848 Sydney Place.

Fijian savages in Sydney, 1847

Bell'sLife in Sydney 18471120 p1

Apparently the Fijian natives who were brought to Sydney in the 1840s as ships’ crew and so on made a nuisance of themselves once they were left to their own devices. This article shows the difference in the cultures of the Fijians and Europeans.

THE FEEJEE SAVAGES
THESE fiendish looking cannibals have become a complete nuisance in the city. They enter without ceremony at everyopen door, and demand food, clothing, andmoney in a tone and manner at once impudent and threatening. Surely somemeans of subsistence and place of shelter ought to be furnished these unfortunate wretches by their importers, or is it the intention of these gentlemen that Government shall be at the expense of re-shipping them for the Islands? Why do not thepolice interfere to prevent their intrusion into the residences of the citizens? When our christian paupers are interdicted from the solicitation of public charity, is that privilege to be accorded to a horde of anthropophagi, who have been introduced into the country at the instance of a private individual? Or is it because the object for which they were seduced from their native wilds has failed, that they are now mercilessly left to their fate by their self-created masters, and that the citizens are subjected to insult and outragefrom a mob of starving, and consequently, desperate intruders?

Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer, Saturday 20 November 1847, page 1.

The Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer was publishedfrom 1845 to 1860, and was not afraid to make the opinion of its editors’ known.

General information of the Feejee Islands, 1847

Sydney Chronicle 23Jun1847 page2The Sydney Chronicle, an early Sydney newspaper, was published from 1846 to 1848. The following article about Fiji was published for the interest of readers. Despite the unusual spelling it gives a good picture of life at that time.

THE FEEJEE ISLANDS. We have been favoured with some general information relative to these Islands, which will, no doubt be found interesting to most of our readers. We have, therefore, appended it in a concise form.

EXTENT AND POPULATION.–The group contains upwards of fifty inhabited Islands, besides a considerable number of islets. Of these Islands, the largest is Vanaulever (or Big Island), which is about three hundred and sixty miles in circumference, andcontains a population of nearly 40,000. The next in size is Vitilevu, which is three hundred miles in circumference, and contains a population of from 20,000 to 30,000. The remaining Islands are of various sizes down to ten miles only in circumference, with an average population of from 80 to 100 persons to the square mile. The Island of Ovalau, mentioned in the narrative which appeared in our number of the 16th, is thirty miles in circumference, and contains a population of about 3000. It is impossible to make any accurate estimate as to the entire population of the group, but it must be immense.

CLIMATE AND PRODUCTIONS.—The climate of this group is particularly healthful, extremes of heat and cold being never felt, and besides the ordinary productions of the South Sea Islands, such as yams, taro, arrowroot, sweet potatoe, &c., the Islands produce coffee, sugar-cane, and cotton. No European fruits have been tried there except the grape, and the few vines which have been planted have been found to succeed particularly well. Pigs are numerous, but there is yet but few cattle. The basis of all the Islands is coral, and there are many of them mountainous, but there is an abundance of level land for agricultural purposes, and the forests yield an inexhaustible supply of timber adapted for ship building. The principal articles of export are beche le mer, cocoa nut oil, and tortoise shell.

HABITS AND DISPOSITIONS OF THE FEJEANS. The Fejeans are an intelligent race, although not so keen as the New Zealanders and some other of the Polynesian tribes; they are however, very industrious, being in this respect superior to any of these races. They cultivate the earth and rear abundance of provisions not only for their own consumption but for sale; so that it is not the want of provisions but their depraved appetite which induces them to indulge in cannibalism. Their fondness for war is the chief curse of the race, and prevents them from enjoying that happiness which their beautiful and fruitful country would otherwise afford them. To strangers they are exceedingly hospitable, and willshare with them to the last morsel of provisions. Of their warlike propensities and the efforts which are made to attain conquest, a sufficient proof is afforded by the fact that in the last expedition undertaken by Saru, the chief of Bow, no less than 15,000 lighting men were engaged. The Fejeans have double war canoes, capable in some instances, of carrying about 300 men. The dress of these islanders is composed of Tapa, a cloth made from the Inner bark of a tree in the same manner as that worn by the other natives of the South Sea Islands, although the fashion of wearing it is different. Their original arms were bows and arrows, spears and clubs, but firearms are now superseding these weapons. RELIGION.- The Fejeans aire heathens but not idolaters, and have a numerous priesthood. The priests are called Nambattas, and there are man houses where the spirits of the Gods they worship are said to dwell. A house of this kind is called Boura, and besides its sacred character as a resting place for the Fejean deities, it is a species of Town Hall where all strangers come to relate their business, and where all public matters are discussed. In these houses strangers are also lodged. The Wesleyan missionaries who are numerous, have made a good many converts, and there are two French priests at Lakambo, who have made some progress. The principal station of the Wesleyans is at Vava, where they have a printing press. The natives, after their conversion to Christianity, be-come exceedingly docile.

CIVIL GOVERNMENT AND GRADES IN SOCIETY. The government of the Fejees is an absolute monarchy. Saru, the Chief of Bow, having become, by the success of his late expedition, Tua Viti or king of Fejee (Fejee, we may here remark, is an European misnomer, the name of the islands and nation, according to the native tongue, being Viti,) has an immense revenue, tribute being paid to him in kind, by all his dependants; and, so great is his power, that he has only to demand and to receive. His Majesty is treated with great respect by his subjects, who approach him on their hands and knees whenever they have occasion to address him. Next to the Tua or king, there are a class of sovereign chiefs called Turanga Koro, who are the heads of subordinate districts or states, and over whom the supreme chief has but a mere feudal superiority. The next grade in society is that of the Matanafan[?] or owner of the land. These “lords of the manor”  receive no particular rent for their patrimony, but possess great influence, antd are generally about the persons of the chiefs. Every old man can make   seunet- every woman can make the tapa, or cloth with which the people are clothed, and every one can cultivate the ground ; but there are a few trades which are exclusively practised in particular fami- lies, being in fact hereditary. These are the mataso[?] or carpenter, the kiwi or fisherman, the mati-na- kouro or manufacturer of earthenware, and the mati-na-emba or mat maker; the last are principally women. Besides the persons in authority above named, every district or state sends to the neigh- bouring states an officer, called a matacambon whose situation and privileges are precisely analagous to those of the European ambassador, his person being sacred from violence during the more turbulent times. The great bulk of the population consists of the kassi, or poor people, who cultivate the ground; but there is a still lower class – the Barnboola, these are the slaves who have been taken in war, and may be killed and eaten by their captors at pleasure. The law of inheritance is very different here from what it is at most of the other South Sea Islands, nobility, and property being inherited by the male instead of the female line.

EUROPEAN SETTLERS.- The European and American settlers are about sixty in number, and are for the most part married to native wives. The number of half caste children is very great, and at the town of Soalevir, which is the principal settlement of the Europeans, there are no less than 96. These enterprising men are of a superior class to those who are found at most of the other islands in the South Seas, and are employed in ship building, as pilots or as traders among the various islands of the group. They possess among them no less than eleven small vessels, all decked, varying in size from six to thirty tons, which are all armed with swivels. No opposition is offered by the chiefs to Europeansettlements, and a new settler is readily allowed sufficient land for a house and garden. Provisions are plentiful and cheap, being procured by barter for the ordinary articles of trade – arms, ammunition, hardware, &c., but as these articles are only to be procured from the vessels which call there for supplies, the settlers have generally to pay a high price for them.

HARBOURS. – The group abounds with harbours and good anchorage may be found anywhere among the Islands, with a muddy bottom, at from thirty to five fathoms. There are, however, many coral reefs, but as competent European pilots can at all times be procured, the trade among these islands may be pursued without danger.

* The above particulars were communicated by a person who has been for seventeen years a resident on the Islands, and may, therefore, be relied upon as accurate. The only inaccuracies worthy of note in the narrative which appeared in a previous number are in the names of the principal chief and of two Europeans. The chief who was called Sam in our last, is the before mentioned Saru, King of Feejee.The man whose murder was mentioned in the fourth paragraph, was named Wilson, instead of Nelson, and he whose life was so much sought after by Saru  was named Pickering, instead of Tickay. This man was a native of Sydney, and has a mother still living in this city.

Source – Sydney Chronicle, Wednesday 23rd June 1847, page 2. Accessed on Trove 29 April 2012.