Australian and New Zealand Genealogy Online Classes

The next Australian and New Zealand Genealogy class offered by Genclass.com starts on the 1st May. Genclass is a USA-based company that offers online training on a wide range of genealogical topics and geographic areas. The instructors are all experienced educators in the field of family history research. Courses last for a month, two lessons per week. Students receive the materials for the class by email and take part in online discussions with the instructor, who is also available for questions via email.

The Australia and New Zealand class is taught by Kerry Farmer, a member of the Education Committee of the Society of Australian Genealogists who has given classes to community college groups for over 10 years.

I have seen the preparation and commitment that Kerry puts into all of her classes and seminars and I can highly recommend this course.

You can see more details of the class topicsĀ here.

NSW Research Guides

Many repositories that are essential in the search for detailed information about your ancestors have research guides to help you find what you are looking for. Research guides contain general information about what to look for and how to find it. Here are the guides of three Sydney repositories to get you started.

State Library of New South Wales

The website of the State Library of NSW has a Family History Research Guide. This gives a brief overview of the parts of their massive collection relevant to family history and some significant examples; links to their fact sheets on Cemetery Records, Church Records, Electoral Rolls, Assisted and Unassisted Passenger Lists and other topics; descriptions of their catalogues, including the Pictures and Manuscripts and Scanned Cards catalogues; links to Family History databases and websites; links to the highlights of the collections related to family history; and links to relevant exhibition.

State Records NSW

State Records New South Wales are the repository for a great many documents that are invaluable for family history research. Their online research guide For Family Historians is an excellent introduction to the records they hold. The Research Tips section has links to comprehensive :

State Records NSW also has a large number of fact sheets called Archives in Brief on specific topics, which are well worth printing out and keeping. You can also collect them from the reading rooms in the City and Kingswood.

Society of Australian Genealogists

The Society has a wealth of knowledge and experience in Australian family history research in their staff and volunteers, and this is reflected in their research guides on their website.

Here is their list of topics to get you started:

Other repositories have similar guides. Have a look!

Your genealogy library

IMG_7033_300x200My first thought whenever I need to learn something new is to buy a book, and there are many to choose from. I like to have them on my shelves at home so I buy them, but there is nothing wrong with using the resources of your local library.

I have to admit to being a bit of a book collector from way back. I learned to cook, to grow pot plants, to make curtains, to program a computer, and a great many other things, from books. (Yes, as my Mum will tell you, she was never interested in cooking and I had to learn elsewhere).

So when I wanted to know how to take my family history further I started buying books, and I haven’t stopped. I stay on the lookout for new books, and I update them when a new edition comes out. I now use LibraryThing to catalogue my books so that my catalogue is available to me anywhere, even on my mobile phone. You can see a random selection of my genealogy books at right.

These days a library does not only contain books but also CDs and links to websites, among other things, but I think you really have to start with books. Here are some of my favourites.

Australia

For Australian genealogy I would suggest that you need these books:

  • A good beginner’s guide. Who Do You Think You Are? The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History (Australian Edition) is a good choice – informative and entertaining at the same time.
  • Tracing Your Family History in Australia by Nick Vine Hall is the most comprehensive guide to sources in every State. He started updating each state on CD, starting with Tracing Your Family History in New South Wales, before he passed away last year. The New South Wales version is now out in book form.
  • Any book by Cora Num: Convict Records in Australia; How to Find Shipping and Immigration Records in Australia, Occupational Records in Australia, Websites for Genealogists. She has an excellent website as well.
  • If you are really interested in convicts then you also need State Records New South Wales’ Guide to New South Wales State Archives relating to convicts and convict administration.

Britain and Ireland

  • An excellent general reference on British family history is Ancestral Trails by Mark Herber. Although it concentrates on English records the principles are the same for Welsh, Scottish and Irish records and where there are differences he spells them out. Now in it’s second edition.
  • The standard general reference for Ireland is Tracing Your Irish Ancestry by John Grenham. Now in its third edition, you can’t go past it.
  • An excellent series for the beginner is The Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your English/Irish/Scottish Ancestors. These books are American and give a great introduction, with pictures of the records, to records from these countries.

Genealogical standards

  • Evaluate and cite your sources correctly and you can’t go too far wrong. The essential reference is Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Her examples are mostly from American sources but the principles are the same wherever you are.

There are many, many other books that a good library should have but they vary depending on your interests and the geographic situation of your ancestors. As you progress in your research you will probably move from introductory family history books to more detailed guides to specific subjects, such as convicts, immigration, land or schools. We will cover these more specific areas another time.

Sometimes there isn’t a book available in the subject you need to learn, or a book may have been published but it is no longer in print. Second-hand book stores are always worth searching, especially the online forms such as AbeBooks or SeekBooks or even eBay. I use eBay often because I can get it to alert me when a book or a subject I am interested in becomes available.

There is no substitute for a good library. Take advantage of all those people who have gone before, who have spent the time looking for what you need and know how to find it. Buy the books (and read them) and learn from them.