Atlas of New South Wales

NSW Lands Atlas ExplorerI remember the old Reader’s Digest Atlas of Australia that my mother had when I was young. Half of it had detailed maps of the country, but the first half showed New South Wales with different overlays to show the distribution of different things – people, minerals, spoken languages, and so on.

Now there is a similar atlas online, and it’s absolutely marvellous!

NSW Land and Property Information, or the NSW Lands Department as we know them, have set of maps online for historians and other researchers to play with. It’s called the Atlas of New South Wales.

There is quite a bit of contextual information on the site. The most important part, though, and the most fun, is the Atlas Explorer. This  allows you to view, in map or satellite image form, the State of New South Wales or Australia as a whole. For example, you can look at the Changing State Borders map and move the slider along the timeline to see when the different colonies were established and the borders of New South Wales changed as a result.

NSW Lands Atlas borders 1851

You can zoom in and out, choose different types of information within each map, and for some maps you can slide along a timeline to see how things have changed over time. Here is a list of the broad categories of maps available:

  • People
    • Populations
    • Health
    • Housing
    • Religion
    • Indigenous Population
    • Social Inclusion
    • Crime
  • Economy
    • Labour Force
    • Labour Underutilisation
    • Economic Sectors
    • taxation and Revenue
    • Agriculture
    • Forestry
    • Fruit and Vegetables
    • Oils and Grains
    • Livestock
  • History
    • Heritage Properties
    • European Settlement
    • Changing State Borders
    • Goldrush
    • Elections
  • Environment
    • Geology
    • Soils
    • Vegetation
    • National Parks
  • Census 2006
    • Populations Distribution
    • Indigenous Population
    • Housing Costs
    • Income
    • Dwellings
    • Religion
    • Languages

In the examples below I have looked at the maps for European settlement and moved along the timeline from 1820 to 1830. This maps shows how far Europeans settlement had spread in 1820:

NSW Lands Atlas European settlement 1820

This map shows the spread in 1830:

NSW Lands Atlas European settlement 1830

You can see how far Europeans had spread in ten short years. It had already overrun the Nineteen Counties and the Limits of Location. Port Macquarie had been established, and the spaces in between were being filled in. Compare this map with the Map of the Nineteen Counties on the State Records NSW website.

There is much, much more in the Atlas than I can describe here. Have a look around and let us know what you find.

Other resources:

Archives in Brief No. 22 Occupation of Crown Land Prior to 1856

Map of the Nineteen Counties

What’s for dinner?

When I was young my mother served up much the same thing for dinner every single night. Dinner was some form of meat – chops, sausages, (rarely) steak, cooked quite thoroughly; and three vegetables – potatoes (boiled), carrots (boiled), and either green beans or peas (boiled).

Occasionally dinner was a large piece of meat roasted in the oven, such as a leg of lamb, or (very rarely) a chook. I remember chooks being reserved for Christmas dinner; they were a special occasion meal in those days, roasted whole and served with gravy.

I’m not telling you this to criticise my mother. She was just doing what she learned from her mother. I’ve just put an osso bucco in the oven and it made me think about what my ancestors may have had for dinner on a Friday night. The answer came immediately – fried meat and three boiled vegetables. What else was there?

It’s easy to forget how much the food we eat has changed even in my lifetime. When I was young lunch was called dinner and dinner was called tea. There was no pizza, or pasta, or curries. We didn’t eat pork. All meat had to be cooked and cooked and cooked to avoid serious illness, especially pork. Takeaway night was hamburgers or fish and chips. Chinese food was a special night out, once every year or two. Rice was used for dessert in a pudding, as was sago.

Come to think of it, there was much more variety in the desserts than in the main courses. Steamed puddings, apple pies, bread-and-butter puddings, rice custard, caramel tarts, custard tarts, apple crumble; the list goes on. And then there were morning teas: scones, cupcakes, teacakes, rock cakes, coconut slices, biscuits.

The cooking in a family is usually passed down from mother to daughter, and my mother’s mother came from mostly Scottish stock (small joke there!). I don’t think my Gran was especially fond of cooking, but she made an apple pie that I remember to this day. It probably wasn’t anything special but we knew Gran was a better cook than Mum and it was because of this apple pie. It had sugar on the top.

So it is not hard to imagine what sort of food my great-grandmother cooked in the early 1900s, or what her mother cooked in the 1880s.

Were they healthy on this unvaried diet? You’d have to conclude that they were. My mother’s parents lived on the land and they worked hard so I’m sure that contributed to their long lives; they both lived into their nineties, and neither drank or smoked. Many were overweight, though, and these days the lack of variation and the over-abundance of fat and sugar is still apparent for many people.

It all reminds me of the rations that were given to convicts and soldiers in the early days of the Colony. Meat, flour, sugar, tea. Or the rations the great explorers lived on through their great exertions. Not a great diet, certainly there weren’t enough vegetables.

I don’t remember vegetables being a big deal at home. We had to eat them but there wasn’t a great variety, as I said: potatoes, carrots, beans and peas. We didn’t grow anything at home, but I remember those that did grew mostly salad stuff – tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, some beans. And fruit trees. My grandfather had the best plum tree I remember to this day. No lemons or limes (what could you do with lemons but make lemon butter?).

Pumpkins, too; they grew pumpkins. And made pumpkin scones with them, or roasted pieces with lots of dripping with a roast dinner.

They do say that the English diet was, and still is, the worst, and most unvaried, in the world, and that’s what we inherited here in Australia. Baked cakes and pies and fatty stuff. Bread and dripping! Ugh. It changed quicker in the large cities, but the process was much slower in the country towns like Dubbo, where I grew up.