Teaching and Troving

It is a pleasure to share the adventure of researching Family History and, over the last four weeks, I have been sowing the seeds of what is likely to be a lifelong addiction for the students attending the course I am teaching.

In this Beginners Course, we are learning about research skills, learning how to avoid some of the pitfalls, how to be discriminating about those wonderful family legends and how to keep all that you find in the safest and most organised of manners possible.

Most importantly, we have discovered the human impact of probing into the past. I could see that not everyone thought it was relevant to be cautious about with whom they shared their most recent exciting discovery. I could warn them of the possibility that someone was likely to get upset if a long held belief was overturned or family secret uncovered and published. It was impossible to ensure that they heeded the message.

It is easy to assume that an official document like a birth, marriage or death certificate will be of all things accurate.  After all, its the official record, it will be right, surely?

I had shared my own experience of arriving at the church to find all the documents I was asked to sign had my surname spelled incorrectly.  I can recall quite clearly Canon Holt telling me I was going to be fashionably late whilst he rewrote all the paperwork – it seems I would not have been legally married if he had gone ahead with the wrong name on the certificate! My students humoured me…. but they took a second look at their own paperwork.  Imagine the surprise when one discovered that she too had a marriage certificate with her given name incorrect – she had been married for over 40 years and had never noticed!

Their heads bent over the certificates and, with fresh eyes, they looked for all those little clues that could lead to a new line of inquiry. They discovered how the details given on any certificate could be incorrect, or that information could have been missed.  They learned that death certificates could provide clues but not all the answers they sought.

But what could they do to uncover details of family comings and goings, funerals and financial scandals, deaths and deliveries, if these events occurred within the embargoed periods where state held information was protected by Privacy Acts?

This is where TROVE and the combined resources of the National Library of Australia and all the state libraries comes in.  The digitised newspaper collections accessible through TROVE can offer up all sorts of wonderful insights into the events of the day.

How wonderful is it to be able to browse the pages of the local newspaper and find the report of the wedding of your grandparents detailing the gowns, the gifts and even the grub served at the wedding breakfast?   Or perhaps a social event they attended in the weeks leading up to their wedding?

Recently, it was announced that funding cuts to the NLA would be applied to TROVE, jeopardising this world class resource and service beloved by historians, researchers, students and family historians alike.

The response was immediate – a Facebook page sprang into life, the Twitterverse went into overdrive #fundTrove and its making the news: ABC News

Trove is part of the future for research… its going to be vital in the making of this ‘clever country‘ as it is already to the many thousands who have already discovered its abundant treasures.  Why would anyone think it was a good idea to take funding away from the very place it needs to be if we are to become world leaders as smart, inventive and scholarly people?  The very nature of Trove in itself is world class – why would we settle for second best?

Support the campaign to restore and extend the funding to the NLA. Sign a Petition, write to your local Federal MP, blog about it, tweet about it, talk about it. Become part of the community that learns from and helps to build the resource that is TROVE for future generations of students, teachers, researchers and all round clever people!



The Hamilton Spectator needs you!

There are only a few hours left to pledge your support to get the Hamilton Spectator digization project up and running.


Support Inside History and the National Library of Australia in their campaign to crowd fund this iconic regional newspaper. Here’s the link to the Pozible site: http://www.pozible.com/project/191002#p2

Time’s running out…. make your pledge now!

AFFHO Congress 2015…. still!

I’ve been a home a few days now and have finally unpacked the conference satchel.  I haven’t unpacked my head yet – there are so many thoughts floating about, clues to follow, posts to write, books to read and contacts to enter up in the database.

I was reminded today of one of the finals day’s presentations from Tim Sherratt, manager of Trove , the treasure house of wonderful information and resources available to us all via the National Library of Australia.  Tim’s entertaining presentation explored the how, when, where and why of Trove as well as some of the places it is going in the future.

One of the interesting sidelines of the Trove service and, by default, community that has grown up around the site is how ‘Trove’ as a word has entered the lexicon. My house mate commented over breakfast this morning about how, on a word site he belongs to, they define a word a day.  Trove, they say,  is usually found in the company of treasure as a phrase and nowhere else is it in common use…..that is, except in Australia!


Shhhhh! We won’t tell that word site about the online game called Trove, will we?

Tim was delighted to recount examples of how the extended Trove community was creating its own ways of interacting with Trove.  He gave examples of amazing efforts in OCR text correction, support by local history groups in submitting their digitized newspapers for inclusion, IT gurus who have taken the Trove API and created new ways of interacting with the service, blog posts like ‘Trove Tuesday’ and particularly Carmel’s Troveictionary!

We can all be part of expanding this wonderful resource if we so choose.  We can give back by text correcting the OCR transcriptions of articles, we can add tags and build lists thereby enhancing the search experience for others; if we are smart enough, we can build our own TroveBot or QueryPic as Tim has done.We-Need-You-v1_3

We can also help to make it possible for more resources to be added by contributing to the fund raising for the digitization of the Hamilton Spectator, a Victorian Western District newspaper, from 1860 to 1913.  Inside History magazine has launched a Pozible Fundraising campaign to raise $10,000 needed to complete this project.

Your support is needed and would be welcomed!  You can help get the Hamilton Spectator into Trove.

Happy Endings

Happy Endings

In early July, I posted observations about the value of using Social Media and crowd sourcing techniques as a way of solving family history or genealogy puzzles.

Today’s Victorian state daily paper, “The Age”, reports on the positive outcome of the search for the person named on those lost USMC dog tags.

Read Lawrence Money’s article from The Age here

The Age's photograph of John Naismith.
The Age’s photograph of John Naismith.

“Wangaratta on Trial”

Thank you for Supporting Wangaratta on Trial.

Another Archival Access project to digitise and distribute court records from country towns and Regional centres around Victoria.

Crowd sourced funding of projects, books or even music gigs through sites like POZIBLE is a great way of engaging new public interest and gathering existing client support to fund a specific project.



Crowdsourcing to solve mysteries

Having spoken recently at a couple of workshops on using Social Media as a means to extend your family history research opportunities, I am always on the lookout for ways in which people use that media.

Many people, particularly the more senior amongst us, have shied away from the likes of Facebook and Twitter, seeing both as something that is a waste of time, or just for the young ones or even dangerous.  There is no disputing the powerful nature of Social Media to effect change.

It can be used for good things like this “share” picture that has popped up in my feed over the past few days:



Posted originally by Dave Golden (Penn, USA) he asks for this picture to be shared in the hope that the person to whom this dog tag belonged, can be found.  The ‘share’ notes that it was found by an Australian teacher in Vietnam 2 years ago. 57,039 people so far have spread the word about this picture in the hope of finding T. F. Martinson.

This is not the first time I have encountered historians, genealogists and even just caring people who have found something that they felt should be reunited with its owner.  Just last week it was a specialist road bike; a couple of weeks previous it was someone’s camera with precious family photos.

Many Social Media platforms can be put to good use when it comes to solving genealogical “brick walls”, reuniting families with lost historic mementos, even reuniting families.  Someone out there will know and someone will care.

Link to Dave’s Facebook Page – here

People power…

In no time at all, the power of the people to support a worthwhile project is demonstrated by the success of Mark at Archival Access Victoria.  His proposal to raise a moderate funding base to enable the digitisation of court records has reached its target well ahead of the proposed time frame.

Digitisation of historic records serves several purposes, the least of which is enabling a wide range of people access to records that would otherwise be out of reach.  For historians of any sort – family, local, academic, student – access to primary source material can be difficult to obtain.  Archival Access is changing this.  Thank you, Mark.