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!

Where do you fit in the world’s population?

I have been playing with an interesting calculator on the BBC News website. You can see the rise in the world’s population and find out where your birth came on the graph by entering your birthdate. They don’t store any of your information, they just use it to calculate the numbers for the display for you. Here’s mine:

BBC population calculator

Of course this is only an estimate based on the date; it cannot be exact. When I went through the same exercise for my husband, who was born nearly four months before me, the difference in our numbers was over 18 million. 18 million people were born in four months around the world!

You can then enter your country to find out about your country’s population. Make sure you watch the world population counter rising steadily before you enter your country; it’s astounding!

BBC population world

It is almost beyond comprehension to imagine 15,000 babies born every hour around the world. I wonder when the counter will get to 7,000,000,000?

Here is Australia the numbers are not quite so staggering, but they are still surprising:

You can then watch the population counter of your country tick over. Even in Australia, with 33 births per hour, you will see some action there.

I clicked to find out why Qatar has such a rapidly-growing population. This is what I was told:

In developing nations, where improvements in health care and sanitation are seeing death rates fall, birth rates still remain relatively high. This is leading to rapidly rising populations. In fact, 97 out of every 100 new people on the planet are currently born in developing countries. Qatar – which has a large immigrant workforce – has seen its population rise rapidly in recent years.

Moldova is shrinking because of emigration.

Then you can find out your life expectancy based on the country you entered previously:

BBC population gender

Finally you are shown a summary of what you have just seen:

BBC population summary

It is staggering to think of how quickly the population is rising and how much higher our life expectancy is than it was for our ancestors. How many of your ancestors lived past this age? My two Australian grandparents both lived past ninety so my odds are good!

The website is http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-15391515. What number were you in the world’s population?

Microfilm scans can now be downloaded at State Records NSW reading rooms

State Records NSW has microfilmed many of their most popular records, including those concerning immigration, convicts, Colonial Secretary’s correspondence, land, and much, much more. The whole of one wall at the Kingswood Reading Room is covered with shelving for microfilms. Many more records are available on microfiche and aperture cards.

Whereas this saves wear-and-tear on the records themselves, the catch has always been the cost of obtaining copies. Microfilm scanning machines allow you to find the record you want and then pay to have a photocopy. Copies are $1 for an A4 and $2 for an A3, which can run into quite a bit of money.

They are now experimenting with machines that you can download the scanned image to your flash drive instead of printing. I say experimenting because there are few machines available; perhaps that will change. The last time I was out at Kingswood early last week the existing machine in the corner used for taking digital photos of the screen now had a computer connected and had instructions for scanning and downloading images to your flash drive. The instructions were easy to follow and I got some great images.

There was a brand new ScanPro scanner on the desk behind that was still wrapped up. ScanPros are available at the State Library of NSW and are much easier to use, although there is a bit of a learning curve to them. Seeing the announcement from State Records NSW about ‘digital copiers in the reading rooms’ this morning leads me to think that the ScanPro is now ready for action. See http://www.records.nsw.gov.au/news/digital-copiers-in-the-reading-rooms.

If you’ve tried them out let me know what you think!

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