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!

My grandfather served in World War II after all

I have written previously about how I hadn’t realised my grandfather had a defence forces service file until I saw his name in an index. The file hadn’t been digitised when I searched for it, so I ordered it and waited.

I recently got an email from the National Archives of Australia to say that my file was ready to download.

It turned out to be 16 pages. Richard Norman Eason of Hill Street, Blayney, farmer and grazier, was taken on strength of the 26th Battalion of the Volunteer Defence Corps in March 1943.

Mobilization Attestation Form

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B844, Citizen's Military Forces Personnel Dossiers, 1939-1947; N348332, Richard Norman Eason. Mobilization Attestation Form.

He joined the VDC, or Volunteer Defence Corps. According to Wikipedia:

The Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) was an Australian part time volunteer military force of World War II modelled on the British Home Guard. The VDC was established in July 1940 by the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) and was initially composed of ex-servicemen who had served in World War I.[1] Thegovernment took over control of the VDC in May 1941, and gave the organisation the role of training for guerrilla warfare, collecting local intelligence and providing static defence of each unit’s home area.[1] General Harry Chauvel, who had retired in 1930, was recalled to duty in 1940 and appointed Inspector-General of the VDC. Chauvel held this position until his death in March 1945.[2]

Following the outbreak of the Pacific War, the Government expanded the VDC in February 1942. Membership was open to men aged between 18 and 60, including those working in reserved occupations. As a result, the VDC reached a peak strength of almost 100,000 in units across Australia.[1]

As the perceived threat to Australia declined the VDC’s role changed from static defence to operating anti-aircraft artillerycoastal artillery and searchlights. Members of inland VDC units were freed from having to attend regular training in May 1944 and the VDC was officially disbanded on 24 August 1945.[1]

Service and Casualty Form

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B844, Citizen's Military Forces Personnel Dossiers, 1939-1947; N348332, Richard Norman Eason. Service and Casualty Form.

According to his Service and Casualty Form he was trained at the Millthorpe School of Instruction for a few days. I would love to know what sort of training he received.

There are no further entries on the form until the disbanding of the unit in September 1945.

This does explain why my grandfather was sent off to look for escaped Japanese prisoners of war during the Cowra Breakout. I guess those sorts of orders don’t appear here.

You can see more about the Australian defence forces here.

If there’s an index, check it!

My mother had always said that her father didn’t serve in either of the world wars. The stories I remember were that he was too young in the First World War and too old in the Second World War, and that he was a farmer and needed at home to grow food. He was born in late December 1900, and was a farmer and grazier all his life, so I accepted these stories without question.

There was also a story about how he had to go to help search for the Japanese that broke out of the camp at Cowra during World War II. I don’t know if he ever found any; probably not or it would have been more of a story.

Yesterday I was searching the NameSearch at the National Archives of Australia website for others of the same surname and there he was:

NAA NameSearch

My grandfather is the last one. As you can see by the lack of an icon in the “Digitised item” column, it hasn’t been digitised yet. If it had been I would be able to see, and download, the images of each page in the file straight away. I can pay $16.50 to have it digitised early, before its ‘turn’, or $25 to have it digitised and colour photocopies sent to me.

I’ve paid the $16.50, and now I wait. It may take up to 90 days for a file which is “Not yet examined”, but I can’t imagine there will be anything in there that would cause it to be restricted once it has been examined.

If only I’d searched earlier! Why didn’t I? I think because I accepted what my mother told me. I don’t always believe what people tell me, but parents are different. Of course, my mother also told me that the Easons came from Wales and I have proven that they came from County Tyrone in what is now Northern Ireland. Talking about her own father is different, I guess.

So the lesson for today is – If there’s an index, search it! What have you got to lose?

Switch to our desktop site