A soldier goes to war

This post was first published in May 2010 as ‘A World War I Service File’. This month (August 2014) is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of The Great War, and interest in these files will only grow, so we need to understand what is in them.

The National Archives of Australia holds the service records of Australian defence servicemen and women from Federation in 1901. Records are closed for thirty years. If your ancestor served in the Boer War, World War I, World War II or in between, the records you need will be in Canberra.

Many of these records have been digitised, and are available to view and download online.

Some of the first to be digitised were the World War I service records.

World War I service records usually contain, at the very least, the following documents:

  • attestation paper – the attestation paper was completed by the person on enlistment and normally gives next-of-kin, employment details, marital status, age, place of birth and physical description
  • service and casualty form – this form, known as ‘Form B103’, shows movements and transfers between units, promotions, when and how the soldier was injured and where treatment was received
  • military correspondence – correspondence between the Department of Defence and the soldier’s next-of-kin may include notification of wounds or death, awards and medals and questions about the whereabouts of the serviceman or woman [NAA]

Here is the first page of the Attestation Paper of my grandmother’s cousin Douglas James Stewart, downloaded from the website. Douglas, a telegraph messenger, had barely turned 18 when he enlisted in Sydney on Sunday, 18th February 1917.

His next of kin was his father, James Simpson Stewart, of Albury Street, Holbrook NSW. The next page is a bit more instructive:

We can see that he was a Presbyterian; 5 foot 9 inches tall, 146 lbs in weight, with a scar on his left knee and a lump on his left thumb. By looking at a copy of the Attestation Paper in the file we can see the headings for the information that has been pasted over: his chest measurement was 31-36 inches, and he had a medium complexion, with brown hair and brown eyes. I presume that the numbers in red next to his eye colour refer to eyesight testing.

He was pronounce fit for service and was appointed to A Company, 1st Infantry D Battalion.

The pages that were taped inside tells what happened to his afterwards:

And on the other side of the paper:

This appears to be much the same thing only typed:

I am not knowledgeable about the codes and abbreviations used, but it looks to me like he embarked on His Majesty’s Australian Transport Marathon at Sydney on 10th May, 1917, for a journey of a little over two months to Devonport, England. After some months of training in England he was shipped to France, arriving in Havre 20th March, 1918.

He survived the fighting in France for nearly five months, and was killed in action on the 8th August 1918.

The big blue stamp on the last page of the Attestation Form says it all:

Other documents in the file include the original Application to Enlist in the Australian Imperial Force and a certified copy. The form was signed by both his parents, since he was under 21 years and needed their permission. How difficult that must have been!

This file is 61 pages, and much of it is made up of correspondence between the Office and Douglas’ father James Simpson Stewart after his death. Further examinations of the file will be posted in the coming days.

Was there a teacher in the family?

Castlereagh School

Castlereagh School

Was your ancestor a school teacher? Was there a teacher in the family? There weren’t many professions open to women in the 19th century, and teaching was one of them. 

Until 1905 most teachers trained ‘on the job’ as pupil-teachers. This 4-year training began when they finished school at 13-16, teaching all day and then receiving an hour or so of instruction from the head teacher after school hours. Preference for acceptance to teachers college was given to pupil-teachers who had finished their 4 years, but many pupil-teachers went on to become teachers or assistant teachers without ever going near a teachers college.

Teachers of small bush schools – Provisional, Half-Time and House to House Schools – received no training at all or learned by observation at a larger school.

The length and quality of education teachers received changed over time. Here is a brief timeline of teacher training requirements:

1850 – the first training school was opened at Fort Street. Standard training period was 1 month.

1851 – Pupil teacher training begann at Fort Street.

1856 – Pupil-teacher system extended to all schools of 70 pupils or more where the head teacher was sufficiently qualified (reduced to 50 pupils in 1861)

1859 – standard 1 month course extended to 3 months for a small number of teachers

1867 – 3 month course became standard, some teachers were trained for 1 month or 6 months as necessary.

1872 – standard training 3 months, or 6 months for promising teachers

1875 – standard training 6 months, or 12 months for promising teachers

1883 – standard training 12 months for most students. Residential training school opened in Hurlstone for females, leaving Fort Street to the males.

1889 – standard training 12 months, or 2 years for promising teachers. A 3 year course leading to a B.A. degree was available for a small elite.

1895 – standard training 12 months, with only 1 or 2 students per year chosen to attend university

1905 – pupil-teacher system phased out over 3 or 4 years. Teacher training only availble through the training colleges, with 2 years training standard and 3 years for those with special ability. a 1 year course was still available for teachers training for small bush schools.

1905 – Fort Street and Hurlstone amalgamated to form Sydney Teachers College, at Blackfriars Public School until 1925 and then in new premises at the University of Sydney.

1911 – 6 month short course for bush school teachers at Hereford House in Glebe, an annex of Sydney Teachers College

1911 – University of Sydney introduced a one-year post-graduate Diploma of Education course for secondary school teachers

1918 – 6-month Hereford House course extended to 12 months

1924 – Hereford House closed

1928 – Armidale Teachers College opened

1930 – 12-month short course discontinued; 2-years standard for all primary school teachers

1936 – 12-month short course conducted as an emergency measure during 1936 and 1937 in addition to 2-year course

1946 – Balmain Teachers College opened

1947 – Wagga Wagga Teachers College opened

1949 – Newcastle Teachers College opened

1951 – Bathurst Teachers College opened

1958 – Alexander Mackie opened

1962 – Wollongong Teachers College opened

1969 – Minimum primary school training increased to 3 years

1970 – Goulburn and Lismore Teachers Colleges opened. Bathurst Teachers College absorbed into the new Mitchell College of Advanced Education

1974 – All teachers colleges had become independent of the Department of Education, being established or absorbed into colleges of advanced education

1988-1991 – all colleges of advanced education were incorporated into existing universities or amalgamated to form new ones. All teacher training is now delivered by universities.

Sources – 

J. Fletcher and J. Burnswoods, Government Schools of New South Wales 1848-1983, Department of Education, 1983.

NSW Department of Education, Government Schools of New South Wales from 1848, http://www.governmentschools.det.nsw.edu.au/teacher_education.shtm

There is a wealth of incredibly useful information published in old books that are no longer in wide circulation. This book is an old foolscap-sized publication which I bought at the recent State Records NSW Open Day for about $1.00. The book is falling apart and it doesn’t fit on my bookshelf with the other books. The list of schools and other information has been updated and is available online at http://www.governmentschools.det.nsw.edu.au/index.shtm.

I’ve previously published a number of resources to help you research your ancestor’s school education:

  • timeline of the milestones in NSW public education
  • an explanation of the types of government schools
  • instructions on how to find information about your ancestor’s local school, particularly the Department of Education school file
  • timeline of compulsory attendance and school fees.

 

Did your ancestor serve on the local council?

Peter Hannah Stewart

Peter Hannah Stewart

My grandmother was quite proud of her family, and when I started researching them I could see why. Both her grandfathers paid their own way here, and both made something of themselves once they arrived. Peter Hannah Stewart arrived during the Victorian Gold Rush, although that didn’t occur to me when I first found this out, as he had settled and died in Albury, on the New South Wales side of the border with Victoria.

I had found all the usual records that are now becoming more accessible – directories, electoral rolls, the birth registrations of all his children, and so on, and I thought I knew a bit about how he lived and what his life was like.

This obituary in the Albury Banner and Wodonga Express on Friday 17 February 1911 told me little I didn’t already know, except that he represented Indigo Riding in the Yackandandah Shire Council. This was news to me!

Albury Banner and Wodonga Express 19110217 Fri p31 Personal - Peter Hannah Stewart obit

Peter was declared insolvent in May 1881 at the Beechworth Courthouse. He claimed that the causes were ‘bad crops, want of employment for machine, and pressure of creditors’. He appears to have sold up and moved to Albury, New South Wales, around this time.

I suspect that his insolvency and move to Albury put an end to his Council adventures, but he involved himself in public life in other ways, in the local Presbyterian Church and the IOGT – the International Order of Good Templars. The Good Templars was, and still is, a temperance organisation promoting moderation or total abstinence in alcohol consumption. They no longer appear to be active in Australia but I imagine that their influence lived on in their descendants. My grandmother wouldn’t have had a drink to save her life.

The next step is to examine the records of the Yackandandah Shire Council, if they still exist – minutes of meetings, decisions taken, and so on. That will have to wait for another day.

 

Sources:

National Library of Australia, Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, Friday 17 February 1911, p.31, ‘Personal’, obituary of Peter Hannah Stewart, accessed on Trove, 23 July 2013.

National Library of Australia, The Argus, Friday 6 May 1881, p.5, ‘New insolvents’, Peter Hannah Stewart, accessed on Trove, 16 May 2012.

Victoria Government Gazette, 1881, p.1243, ‘Insolvency Notices’, Peter Stewart.

Wikipedia, International Organisation of Good Templars,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Organisation_of_Good_Templars

 

Did your ancestor go to school?

Castlereagh School

Castlereagh School, one of 5,300 NSW schools no longer in operation

Did your ancestor go to school? Was there a school in the area? Does the school still exist today?

I’ve previously published a number of resources to help you research your ancestor’s education:

  • timeline of the milestones in NSW public education
  • an explanation of the types of government schools
  • instructions on how to find information about your ancestor’s local school, particularly the Department of Education school file

Just because there was a school in the area, though, didn’t mean that your ancestor attended. To find out when your ancestor went to school you need to know whether school attendance was compulsory during his or her childhood years, and under what conditions.

Here is a brief timeline of compulsory school attendance:

Before 1848 – no government schools.

1848-1880 – attendance not compulsory.

1880-1916 – attendance required between the ages of 6 and 14 years for not less than 70 days every half year. Exemptions could be obtained if the school was more than two miles away or the child was incapacitated or otherwise being instructed.

1917-1939 – attendance required for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon for all children from 7 to 14 years for every day that the school was open. Similar exemptions except the children older than 11 years had to be more than 3 miles from school.

1939 – attendance required for children from 6 to 14 years.

1940-1943 – a higher school-leaving age was phased in over 3 years, to 15 years by 1943.

1944 – special schools introduced for blind and infirm children between 6 and 15 years who could not be educated at ordinary schools.

Another important aspect of school attendance was school fees. School fees were used to supplement the teachers’ income until 1880, when the government paid the whole of teachers’ salaries. The cost of fees and the number of children in a family had a big influence on whether a child was able to attend school.

1848 – local school boards could set the rate at between  penny to 1 shilling per child per week.

1853 – a minimum of 3 pence per child per week was set, with the local school board to determine any amount above this rate.

1867 – fees set by the local school board had to take local economic conditions into account. Fees ranged between 6 pence and 1 shilling per child, with reductions for additional children in the same family.

1880 – fees reduced to 3 pence per child per week to a maximum of 1 shilling per family for Primary School children.

1883 – High School fees set at 2 guineas per child per quarter.

1893 – High School fees raised to 3 guineas per child per quarter.

1906 – Primary School fees abolished.

1911 – High School fees abolished.

1923 – High School fees of 2 guineas per child per quarter re-introduced, subject to a means test.

1925 – High School fees abolished.

No matter how important parents considered the education of their children to be they could not always afford the school fees. Attitudes to the education of girls may also have been an issue, despite the legal requirement for both boys and girls to be at school. Lists of defaulters often appear in school files at State Records NSW, and these may the only mention of your ancestor in the files, as enrolment lists rarely survive.

From these timelines I can see that my grandfather Richard Norman Eason, who was born in Greghamstown, near Blayney, in December 1900, probably started school in early 1907, the fourth of the five children in the family to attend school. As the fees for Primary School were abolished the year before his parents could afford to have four children in school.

Richard stayed at school until late 1914, an ominous year. His older brother, Eric, enlisted but at 14 Richard was too young to go to war and he worked on his father’s farm. He was a farmer and grazier for the rest of his long life, and I always thought that his big round writing probably hadn’t changed much from his school days all those years ago.

Source – J. Fletcher and J. Burnswoods, Government Schools of New South Wales 1848-1983, Department of Education, 1983.

There is a wealth of incredibly useful information published in old books that are no longer in wide circulation. This book is an old foolscap-sized publication which I bought at the recent State Records NSW Open Day for about $1.00. The book is falling apart and it doesn’t fit on my bookshelf with the other books. The information in the book, including the list of schools, is now available online and updated where necessary at http://www.governmentschools.det.nsw.edu.au/facts/attendance.shtm.

 

Online Government and Police Gazettes

I’ve discussed Government Gazettes and Police Gazettes before, with their enormous usefulness to family historians. They can be used to find out more detail about your ancestors, and can sometimes solve questions about what happened to them. They can give clues to further research about residence, land and occupations.

The good news is that they are increasingly becoming available online. Here is an updated list:

Government Gazettes

  • New South Wales 1832-1850
  • Queensland 1859-1905
  • South Australia 1841-1870
  • Tasmania 1907-1916, 1919
  • Victoria 1851-1852, 1855-1891, 1893-1901
  • New Zealand 1876-1878, 1880-1883, 1886
  • New South Wales 1832-2001 coming
Government sites

Police Gazettes

FindMyPast

  • New South Wales 1862-1900
  • Queensland 1864-1900
  • South Australia 1862-1900
  • Tasmania 1884-1900
  • Victoria 1855-1900
  • New South Wales 1854-1930
Government sites

When you can’t find the birth, death or marriage in the indexes

 

This post was first published here in March 2008. I think it bears repeating, with some minor updates.

© Phil Date | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The New South Wales Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages has a marvellous online index for searching for these events at http://www.bdm.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/Index/IndexingOrder.cgi/search?event=births. It allows searching by surname, given name, year or range of years, and/or district. For births and deaths it also allows searching by parents’ names, and for marriages by spouses’ name. It allows many fields to be left blank. It contains records from before civil registration began in 1856 because the Registry has transcribed the majority of parish registers to include pre-1856 events as well as post-1856 events that were recorded in parish registers but were not reported to the Registrar.

Many Australian States have their own online indexes, and most of these records are available on Ancestry, with much broader search capabilities.

Sometimes, though, no matter how long you search, you simply cannot find the entry you are looking for. Nick Vine Hall’s Tracing Your Family History in Australia – A National Guide to Sources gives an excellent list of possible reasons for not finding your ancestor in the parish registers that I think bears repeating here, as it applies more generally to all index searches.

  1. The index entry is spelled differently than you expect. Phonetic variations were quite common, such as HAWKINS/ORKINS or ANDERSON/HENDERSON, and your ancestor may not have been able to read well enough to detect a spelling mistake.
  2. The index entry was transcribed incorrectly, or the index is not in strict alphabetic sequence. Many handwritten indexes are by the first letter of surnames only.
  3. Handwriting is misinterpreted through inexperience or illegible handwriting.
  4. The index entry was overlooked by the indexer. Marriages may have been indexed under one party’s surname only.
  5. The event took place in a different parish, colony, state or country than the one you are searching.
  6. The event never took place. Not all children were baptised, not all burials were conducted by clergy, and not all parents were married.
  7. The event took place in a different time period than the one you are searching. People lied about their ages at marriage, so you may be looking too late.
  8. The clergyman forgot to write up the event in the register when he returned from his journey around the parish on horseback. Notes were lost or distorted.
  9. The event was never registered. Early Catholic and Methodist burials were not recorded, and in remote districts the mourners could not wait until the parson happened to pass by.
  10. The event was recorded in the church register but was not sent to the government.
  11. The event was unrecorded. Sometimes the deceased could not be identified.
  12. The event was recorded at the time, but the record was lost through fire, flood or insect attack. There are a few cases of deliberate destruction of parish registers, such as pages being torn out, possibly to obliterate evidence of convict ancestry.
  13. The child was born out of wedlock, in which case the baptism will be recorded, and indexed, under the mother’s name.
  14. The child may have subsequently been adopted, and so the birth name will be different.
  15. The person may have changed their name after birth or baptism.
  16. The family was not religious and didn’t attend church.
  17. The family held a different religion to the one you thought they did.
  18. The names are recorded differently than you expect. The father might answer to Harry but his real name, as given to the registrar, was Thomas Harold. If you search using “Harry” you will get no result.

If you have followed up, as best you can, all of these possibilities and still can’t find the event in any of the likely indexes then it is time to consider other sources, such as newspapers and family bibles.

Source: Nick Vine Hall, Tracing Your Family History in Australia – A National Guide to Sources, 3rd Edition. Mount Eliza, Victoria: Nick Vine Hall, 2002.

Photo: © Phil Date | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Tuncurry Afforestation Camp

I’ve been researching the great-uncle of a client. We started off with a notice in the NSW Police Gazette that he had been arrested for stealing money from the Government Savings Bank. A Sydney Morning Herald report of the trial at the Sydney Quarter Sessions showed that he had worked for the bank for 17 years and was sentenced to two years hard labour in Goulburn Gaol ‘to be made an example of’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Aug 1925, p.12).

For more information I needed a trip out to State Records NSW at Kingswood.

The Goulburn Gaol Entrance Book [7/13506] is an enormous volume requiring three pillows to support it. The Entrance Book gives:

  • Entrance date
  • Entrance number
  • Name
  • Gaol Number
  • When, where and by whom committed
  • Offence
  • Sentence
  • Where born (with date of birth in this case)
  • Ship and Year if born out of the colonies (it’s an old book)
  • Religion
  • Trade
  • Age
  • Height in feet and inches
  • Colour of hair and eyes
  • Education
  • Remarks, which appeared to indicate whether this was a first imprisonment
  • How and when disposed.

Our former bank employee was admitted to the prison on 10 September, along with some other prisoners. He’d been a bank manager, aged 36, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was disposed ‘To Tuncurry’ on 4 November 1925.

Tuncurry? I hadn’t realised there was a gaol at Tuncurry.

It turns out that Tuncurry hosted the first ‘Afforestation Camp’ in New South Wales. Tuncurry Afforestation Camp was a 6,000 acre property where prisoners were provided with ‘a modified form of prison life and the opportunity to acquire skills which could be used on release’. It makes sense – he was never going to be a bank manager again.

There are a number of volumes generated by the camp in its history from 1913 to 1938. The Entrance book shows some of the same information as the Goulburn book, without the physical description or birth date, and the final column shows that he was disposed ‘On license’ on Christmas Eve 1926. I imagine this was an early release for good behaviour, since his two years wasn’t up yet.

Entrance book [Tuncurry Afforestation Camp] 1913-1937, [5/1617]
Entrance book [Tuncurry Afforestation Camp] 1913-1937, [5/1617]

I had high hopes for the Visitors Book [5/1620] but I guess Tuncurry is a long way for family members to travel. Visitors weren’t as common as they are now. Few of the pages were actually used and the visitors were usually chaplains and surgeons, although there was a visit from the Governor of New South Wales and his entourage during my bank manager’s inprisonment. What a day that must have been!

[5/1620]
Visitors book [Tuncurry Afforestation Camp] 1913-1938 [5/1620]

I would love to know how this ex-bank manager got on after his year of planting trees. I do, however, know what happened to the prison camp:

Sydney Morning Herald Tue 29 March 1938, p.8
Sydney Morning Herald Tue 29 March 1938, p.8

 

University libraries for family historians

University of Sydney clocktowerUniversity libraries can be enormously helpful for your family history research, especially if you have one nearby. They have a lot of books and microfilms on the open shelves that are not available in most other libraries, or must be ordered and retrieved at the state libraries.

You don’t need to be a student or staff-member  to enter the library. The hours are usually extended into the evenings except during university holiday periods, although it might be better to avoid exams. You can stay all day and make cheap photocopies of what you find.

I attended the University of Sydney, which is in the inner city and a short walk or busride from Central Station. Fisher Library is the main library of the university, and there are smaller specialist libraries around the campus. As a graduate of the university I can pay $80 for a yearly membership that allows me to borrow books. Members of the public can also join in this way as well, although at a higher cost. See http://sydney.edu.au/library/borrowing/cards.html for more information. Other universities may have these provisions.

When you search for books, magazines, journals, or whatever on Trove, the National Library of Australia’s master catalogue (it’s not just for digitised newspapers!), you can also find out which library has what you are looking for. Here is part of the listing for the Historical Records of Australia:

HRA on Trove

The full series of the Historical Records of Australia is in 33 libraries in NSW alone, and most of them are university libraries, which are far more numerous than the state libraries. There may be one closer to where you live than you think.

Consider university libraries too when you visit other cities to research there. A couple of years ago I visited Auckland for a conference and stayed an extra week to do some research on my great-grandmother’s family. I found that Margaret Lowe nee Craig signed a petition in 1893 to give women the vote. Two or three of her sisters-in-law signed it as well, and appear on the same page. New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote, and seeing my ancestor’s name on the petition gave me a real sense of pride – a real ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ moment!

I then spent a morning at the library of the University of Auckland, down the road from my apartment in the centre of Auckland, and found historical information and contemporary sources on the women’s suffrage movement. Reading about the history of the suffrage movement in the university library gave me the context in which this event occurred.

Outlines of the Women's Franchise Movement in New Zealand, by W. Sidney Smith, 1905.
Outlines of the Women’s Franchise Movement in New Zealand, by W. Sidney Smith, 1905.

Consider, too, whether your nearest university library may have microfilms published by the archives authority of your state. The University of Sydney library catalogue lists 80 titles published by the Archives Authority of New South Wales, all microfilms and books that your local library may not have.

The Australian Joint Copying Project was a project to make available to Australians and New Zealanders the the historical sources of Great Britain. Any microlim you see with a PRO prefix has come from this project, and includes Surgeon-Superintendents’ journals, Home Office records about convicts and Colonial Office records about immigrants. The whole set of over 10,000 films is available at the State Library of NSW and the National Library of Australia, but some universities outside Sydney and Canberra have some of the films most relevant to the courses they teach. The University of New England in Armidale, for example, has 18 series of films, of which this list is about half:

UNE Library Catalogue entry for 'Australian Joint Copying Project' microfilms
UNE Library Catalogue entry for ‘Australian Joint Copying Project’ microfilms

So don’t discount university libraries just because you’re not a student there. They may have just what you’re looking for!

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.

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.