Family history travels

I’ve just spent two weeks travelling – doing family history, attending AFFHO‘s 13th Australasian Congress in Adelaide, and playing tourist in outback South Australia and New South Wales. Now that I’m home I have nearly 4000 photos to deal with, as well as all the books and brochures I collected along the way.

To attend the Congress in Adelaide my husband, Keith, and I decided to make a holiday of it. I have family history to investigate in Albury; we both have gold field ancestors; and he has ancestors who immigrated to South Australia and then moved to western Victoria; so we took the long way around, staying in Albury, Ballarat and Warracknabeal (western Victoria).

Albury is a lovely town, with many of its historic buildings remaining. I was disappointed to see that the old Mechanics Institute had been demolished, as my ancestor James Simpson was the caretaker there, but a visit to the library gave me a lot of new information on my Stewarts to follow up.

Albury Pioneer CemeteryWe visited cemeteries, churches and small towns and creeks all along the way. My ancestor Peter Hannah Stewart settled on the Indigo Creek near Barnawatha, Victoria, before moving to Albury where his elder brother had settled, and now I know what it looks like.

Indigo Creek

We then travelled down through Chiltern and Bendigo to Ballarat. I had been to other pioneer villages over the years but I’d never been to Sovereign Hill at Ballarat, and it was a revelation! I have so many wonderful photos that it is difficult to chose one. Sovereign Hill has actors in costume to give visitors a taste of how things were in the old days. As you walk around the place you can follow its history, from the early days when thousands of miners set up tents and panned for gold, to the establishment of shops, houses, churches and banks, to the large scale industrial mining once the surface gold ran out.

Sovereign Hill, Ballarat

I had never been through Western Victoria before, and what I can say about it is that it’s flat. Very flat. We found some cemeteries and churches from my husband’s family history.

Minyip Cemetery

On to Adelaide. I spent most of the four days attending sessions and talking to other genealogists, and making short visits to local repositories such as State Records South Australia, the Supreme Court and Land Services. Keith spent much of the four days researching, with only some of his time attending sessions. He got a lot done in that time! He transcribed over 50 birth, marriage and death registrations at the Genealogy SA library, and obtained copies of wills from the Supreme Court.

Keith made a breakthrough on his early South Australian pioneer ancestor John Jones from Wales by finding he was listed in the Royal Adelaide Hospital Admissions Index 1840-1904 on the computers at State Records. This index states the name, age, residence and ship of arrival and was enough for Keith to make the breakthrough he never expected with such a common name. Had it not been available on the computers there he may never have sought it out to check it, as he had no reason to believe that the Joneses, who lived in the McLaren Vale, would ever have had reason to go to hospital in Adelaide. It just shows, you must always check indexes even if you think there’s no reason to.

Adelaide Congress 2012

If you have never been to a Congress consider the next one, which will be in Canberra in 2015. They are only held every three years and are shared around Australia and New Zealand. Four days of concentrated family history is just too good to pass up.

We then drove north to Lyndhurst, with a detour through Mount Pleasant and Lyndoch for some more cemeteries and churches. Lyndhurst is at the end of the bitumen road towards Lake Eyre, and we had a flight booked over the lake and a room booked at the pub. It was April Fool’s Day when we arrived and they tried to tell us there was no room!

The flight was magnificent. The lakes had water, with algae growing that made them look pink in places. There is no multitude of birds like you see on TV documentaries; they are all at Birdsville, and it isn’t the breeding season. But it was a brilliant sight all the same. It looks like it should have flamingoes in it.

Lake Eyre

It is amazing country up there. Every few kilometres along the road you cross another dry creek bed, and flying over it you can see why. When it rains it really rains, and the countryside is covered by a network of creeks that drain into the lakes. One of the creeks we crossed had water in it, and when we got out of the car to take photos we could see small silver fish trying desperately to swim upstream across the road in an inch or two of water. Keith caught two and helped them to the other side.

Water on road

Broken Hill was next. We spent three nights there so we could have a good look around and go out to the Menindee Lakes, which also has water in them. The road into Kinchega National Park was closed, but we saw quite a bit. We went out to Silverton, and old mining town that is pretty much a tourist village and movie set now, particularly the Silverton Hotel, which has Mad Max vehicles parked outside.

Mad Max

There is a lot of history in Broken Hill. We tried following the self-guided heritage trail and took lots of pictures of churches and old mines. The Miners’ Memorial, up on the Line of Lode next to the lookout, costs $2.50 to visit but is worth it for a taste of the dark side of the mining industry. The names and causes of death listed are a stark contrast to the self-congratulation found in most other displays around town.

Miners' Memorial

As I said, I have nearly 4000 photos to deal with. I spent some time last night sorting them into folders named by date and place, which makes the whole business of culling and processing much less daunting. Many of them are research-related and will need extra analysis, but even the tourist shots have to be sorted or I will have to buy another hard drive to keep them all.

I will post some more of the highlights on Google+ as soon as I can.


  1. I enjoyed your travels very much Carole and the great photos. I’m looking forward to seeing the other 3991 or so! Also great to catch up in Adelaide AND on the Walk Down Under.

  2. I enjoyed following you on your travels Carole. It sounds as though you had a very successful genea trip. Love your photos too! Look forward to seeing the other 3991.

  3. Haha Sharn, you won’t see 3000 photos! I didn’t even mention the Adelaide photowalk, I guess that should be in the other blog. So many posts to write, so little time.

  4. What a great story Carole. My husband’s ancestor had a pub in Albury -right on the river, now the heritage centre (or when we were there). He also had rellies at Indigo Creek. Talk about coincidences! Lake Eyre is on my bucket list, preferably full of pelicans, but we did see one lake in SA a few years ago with the same pink colour from algae. The Miners’ Memorial was very evocative. Scary that there are so many plaques. As to 4000 photos -I thought I was bad 😉

  5. Seonaid (@genebrarian) says:

    Hey Carole

    We went to Sovereign Hill too. I was soo impressed. It was excellent day out! Kids had a ball, as did the adults!

    Lovely to see you again, although it was pretty full on and hard to catch up with everyone

    See you again soon


  6. I also have a John Jones from Wales but as he never set foot here in Australia, it’s obviously not the same one. I know how hard it is to deal with common names.

  7. It was great to see you in Adelaide even though we didn’t get a chance to chat. Amazing how you can all be there for four days and not have any time free! Looking forward to hearing more of your travels and photos.

  8. It’s my only regret, that I didn’t make enough time to talk to everyone I wanted to, especially those from overseas!

  9. Great photos Carole, enjoyed your post 🙂 I remember going to Sovereign Hill with my school, probably due to go again some time, an amazing place 🙂

  10. I had a really yummy sausage roll at Sovereign Hill when I was a kid. Great post about your trip.

  11. Just home from a trip to Lyndhurst with flight over Lake Eyre 9May2012 – wasn’t it just amazing. The four rooms at the pub were occupied that night too. We had the bacon and egg brekkie before the flight. Yum. I too am now sorting though all the photos taken during our ten days away. We also had a cruise along the Coorong and the mighty River Murray mouth.

  12. Great post. I just went to Victoria recently and went to Bendigo. Rather sorry now that I didn’t have time to go to Ballarat too!

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