The Song of the New Guard

Sydney Calland - Sunday Times 1927
Clipped from ‘The Sunday Times” 1927

I’ve been chasing down a few family lines recently – and was a little surprised to find there were more artistes in the family. Celene Hooper (born Selina Hooper Hudson) is/was my 1st cousin 3R. She married Sydney Calland (born Sydney Charles Scoble) and, in 1924, came to Australia.  They performed regularly on the live theatre circuit as Calland &  Hooper and, later, on radio. Syd also taught singing.

Imagine my surprise and delight when this blog post turned up as a result of my Google search. In it is an audio version of the only published work by Syd and Celene I have been able to find – “The Song of the New Guard”.  I had already established through TROVE that the sheet music was in the hands of the National Library but to find that someone had brought it to life, was a little added bonus! Thank you, Matthew.




Matthew Cunningham

A couple of months ago, I wrote briefly about the New Guard, a right-wing paramilitary movement that sprung into being in Australia during the Great Depression.

Since that time, I have been in Australia conducting research for my PhD. And since the New Guard features in my work, i’ve spent a good deal of time looking at the material left behind by its leaders and members. At this point, i’m sure many of you are stifling a yawn, and wondering “what’s so exciting about dusty old papers and pamphlets?” Well, lots, if you’re a history geek like me… but history ‘aint all paperwork, you know.

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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!


Spreading the love

It came as a surprise to be asked to facilitate a beginners family history course.  It seems our local neighbourhood centre are quite keen to see a course offered that starts with the basics of sound research with a view to providing an ongoing family history study group.

Researching family history is a pasttime that’s attracting more and more people – especially with the increasing amount of material available online making research far easier.

Is it easier? Or is it just more convenient? Some online providers would have you believe its simply a matter of typing in your name and off you go.  Given that the basic records of births, deaths and marriages within Australia are embargoed, its highly unlikely you will find your own birth listed unless you are a centenarian!

Some of us of a certain age may, however, find the notice of our arrival in that wonderful resource known as TROVE.

I did.

Type in your name in the Trove search box and it may just pop up in one of the hundreds and thousands of digitised newspapers now fully searchable via the website of the National Library of Australia. This is certainly easier that scrolling through miles and miles of michrofiched newspapers in the Library’s Reading Rooms.

One of the research skills I plan to cover in the course is how to access and use newspapers – TROVE and the NZ equivalent, PapersPast will both feature strongly.

Snippet from Trove - Argus Masthead, Tuesday Oct 5 1954
Snippet from Trove – Argus Masthead, Tuesday Oct 5 1954



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:

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

The GeneaDictionary

The wonderful Jill Ball aka Geniaus has the most amazing collection of words, phrases, inventions and descriptions of a language that is devoted to the world of family history and genealogy – there are some classic terms explained, new ones you never would have imagined and a whole heap that you recognise as having crept into your own daily use lexicon.

Tim Sherratt (@wragge) couldn’t contain his delight at having discovered there was a whole list of Trove related words that had evolved as the Trove user community had grown over the past few years. Carmel Galvin (@crgalvin) has created this great list in her Troveictionary.

So here I was this morning taking a look around to see what else I could find in the way of free online courses for those amongst us who have caught the study bug. Quite a few of the students who completed the UTAS course on Family History have gone on to study other subjects like ‘Introduction to Technology for Healthy Living’ and FutureLearn‘s courses on WW1 – quite a few including myself are currently engaged with World War 1: A History in 100 Stories being presented by Monash University.

I found a site that was offering a course on researching British Army nurses. Of course it was necessary to share this information with my fellow students which I did via Twitter and on the Family History course’s Facebook group page.

In the process of keeping to the character limit for Twitter, I coined the term “genistudents” – in my head I defined it as family historians and genealogists who improve their knowledge through online study. It also struck me that there are a number of us who have become quite addicted to the online delivery model and can’t help signing up immediately a new course pops up!

Knowing of Jill’s GeneaDictionary, I just had to pop over to her blog and check whether it was already there….. and, lo and behold, it isn’t!

So… distraction for the day complete, I must get back to that study or I will fall behind!


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.

Getting a little distracted….

Yesterday, I remarked that I would need to spend the next few days getting myself organised for #AFFHO Congress2015. Those preparations would include some more work on the research project I am undertaking for my friend.

How easy it is to get off the track?

I had set myself the task of ensuring that I had completed the pedigree to 4 generations back on every side. Sometimes that involves going a little sideways to see if you can collect clues that can confirm or deny your direction being correct.

It was proving to be a little difficult to establish what had happened to each of the grandparents siblings. I had marriages and children sorted for all bar one who happened to be the second youngest daughter.  I had found the announcement of her engagement via TROVE where, at 19 years old, she was declared betrothed to the son of a doctor.

Then nothing.

No marriage.

No births.

No death or cemetery records in either her name or nor his.

What had happened?

I widened my search to include the father – and back I went to TROVE and the Adelaide papers.  Eventually I turned up an obituary for the father of the potential groom where his widow, children and step children were acknowledged.  His only son was reported to be in England working as a doctor.

Had my girl followed him there? Was there no South Australian marriage because they wed in England?

Off to search the English records – and there was the man in question.  Not many months after the announcement of their engagement, it appears that he had graduated from University of Adelaide and left for England where his registration as a Doctor was confirmed.  He never returned to Australia, dying quite young in 1952.

But had my girl gone too?  So far there’s no suggestion that she did.  Electoral rolls for the UK show our doctor firstly living in the hospital, and then at an address where there was a woman living with him with the same surname.  Wife?  Seems it may have been possible but he did have a sister (who was unmarried at the time of her father’s death) with the same first name.  There was no UK marriage record to be found so far.

Three hours of back tracking, cross checking and searching – all to discover that it looks very much like he stood her up!

Not being a party to the family folklore, I have yet to establish whether any of this story was a subject of the family’s oral history.  No doubt I will find out when I share all my research with my friend.

I’m no closer to putting all those branches in place, but I have explored a “what might have been” moment.  These “off track” ventures can sometimes help to put a more human face to the facts, the dates, the official records….

It was a distraction but it certainly wasn’t time wasted.