Friday, August 31, 2012

Author Q&A :: Jack Cross - Great Central State

From time to time, we'll be talking to great Australian authors about their local history and what inspired them to start researching and writing their stories.

This week we talk to Jack Cross, author of Great Central State - The foundation of the Northern Territory and historian. Jack Cross grew up in the lower Flinders Ranges amid the influences of the German Lutheran community. Jack spent five years as a Research Fellow in Australian History at the University of Adelaide. For twenty years he was Head of Studies in Education at the Underdale campus of what is now the University of South Australia. He was a founder of the Aboriginal Tauondi College at Port Adelaide and the Anangu Teacher Education program at Ernabella in the APY Lands. He is now a teacher in the History of Ideas at the Adelaide Central School of Art and the University of South Australia, and was awarded the 2012 Chief Minister’s Award for History.

  1. Q. What inspired you to start researching the 19th-century history of the Northern Territory?
    • A. I was challenged by my mentor Douglas Pike (Paradise of Dissent, 1957) to write one thorough history in a lifetime. At the time, I was a teacher in history in the Northern Territory. 
  2. Q. You utilised over half a million pages of primary research documents over an impressive 40 years of archival research. What resources did you come across when compiling your book that haven’t been widely used by others?
    • A. There are no records on 19th-century Northern Territory history on the web. Most records are held in the State Records of South Australia. Some private records relating to the territory are held in the State Library of South Australia. Only a few nineteenth-century records have survived in the Territory. Because of the time I took, I wrote numerous letters to families of interest. Their documented replies are to be donated to the Northern Territory Library as well as my extensive rare library on Northern Territory subjects. Because indexes proved unreliable I worked line by line through half a million pages of documents. I still believe that relying too much on indexes is a sloppy way of doing history. Much revealing history is in the cracks – the give-away asides
  3. Q. Your publicity mentions that you were introduced to many leads and anecdotes by the strong oral tradition in SA regarding the Northern Territory. What were the advantages of using oral history in addition to documents?Could you name any specific examples where this oral tradition helped you?
    • A. Up until the Second World War, many Territorians retired to Adelaide. I got the tail end of these people. They provided me with a unique opportunity to obtain leads which I could then check against records. I heard many tales about the alcoholism of J.M. Stuart. In the 1960s the Royal Geographical Society was patronised by the Adelaide establishment. One prominent family would tell tales to me about the other.
  4. Q. Was there any information you uncovered that stopped you in your tracks?
    • Q. Which stories affected you the most in the course of your research?
    • A. I was exposed to the mistreatment of Aboriginal peoples as far back as the 1950s and it gave me a shock. The urban story that Aboriginal women would use sand to protect themselves from rape was cut out from the book in the last editorial review because we could find no documentary evidence to support it.
    • Q. Which stories amused you the most in the course of your research?
    • A. The Territory is full of tragic – comic stories. A good example is the first Government Resident at Darwin (Bloomfield Douglas) threatening to shoot up the police force while standing on the roof of the Residency, because he believed they were coming to arrest him as a debtor.
  5. Q. If you could track down one thing you haven’t yet managed to find out, what would it be?
    • A. I would like to find out more about the mystery of the Shou Lao (now held in the Powerhouse Museum). It is a Chinese statue dug up four feet under a large banyan tree in Darwin in 1879, a tree not indigenous to Australia. It could be evidence that the Chinese navy may have come as far south as North Australia.
    • I am also interested in when the Macassan fishers first started first started coming to North Australia. Also when Aborigines first started going to the land of Macassar. 
  6. Q. What’s your best tip for people wanting to write a history book of their own?
    • A. As with most things of life, nothing can replace years and year of practice. History is a discipline which benefits from rich background experience and considerable knowledge. It also requires imagination in order to empathise with people in another time and another place.
  7. Q. In your book’s preface, you mention your desire to “make the history live”. How did you go about bringing the characters and stories to life?
    • A. I am a ‘raconteur lecturer’ – to quote student feedback. The way to make history live is to back up generalisations with interesting relevant stories. I believe that telling stories is archetypal as a way of transmitting culture. African proverb: God made Man so that he can hear stories!
  8. Q. How do you know when you’ve written a good book?
    • A. I doubt if you ever know. Early feedback is important. Soon after reading the text Michael Bollen of Wakefield Press said: ‘The kind of book that will be read 300 years from now.’ As a result Wakefield Press spent 6 ¼ years editorial work on the text. The book was launched in Government House Darwin in March 2011 by the Administrator Hon. Tom Pauling – who had seen an earlier version of the text. His detailed analysis was extraordinary – like a judge summing up a complicated case. It was re-launched in Adelaide in June by Dr John Bannon – former premier. Nicholas Rothwell wrote a two-page essay in The Weekend Australian. Philip Adams interviewed me on Late Night Live. In May 2012 I was awarded the Chief Minister’s Award for History, awarded in the Great Hall, Parliament House, Darwin. The cover by Liz Nicholson and rare nineteenth-century visuals have been applauded by the art school lecturers with whom I work. I have now been lined up to write three short histories.

"The Northern Territory's first European decades were an extraordinary mixture of grand vision and human folly, peopled with larger-than-life characters.

In Great Central State, Jack Cross tells the story of South Australia's ambitious - or foolhardy - plan to become the premier colony of Australia using its own unique experience in planned colonisation, and its bid to develop the north coast as an integral part of South-East Asia. Bitter feuding abounds alongside admirable efficiency, while tales of courage and sacrifice are matched by episodes of sad ignorance and abuse. This is a history strange but true.

Great Central State is a result of the most sustained historical research on a South Australian subject since Douglas Pike's Paradise of Dissent published in 1957. In his wry, meticulously researched book, Jack Cross demonstrates that already before 1911 when the Northern Territory was ceded to the Commonwealth, it had a sophisticated history of its own. He looks forward to the day when it will become the seventh Australian state". From our friends at Wakefield Press.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NAA passenger records to be digitised & indexed

Big news from National Archives of Australia and!

From the NAA Press Release: Thursday, 23rd August 2012

Family historians and other researchers will have greater access to archival records following a new partnership being negotiated between the National Archives of Australia and The new partnership was announced at the International Council on Archives (ICA) Congress.

‘This is a first for us and will mean the people of Australia will have easy online access to records that were previously difficult to find,’ said David Fricker, Director-General of the NAA. ‘Without a partnership such as this, providing such access would be a long-term project for us and costly.’ will create an index and digitise the records of passengers who arrived in Western Australia between 1897 and 1963. This included most people arriving in Australia by ship, even if they travelled on to other ports.

These records currently have no complete index so anyone searching for information needs to know where a person arrived in Australia and the approximate date.

‘This project is the first of its kind for the Archives and will include the records of the millions of passengers arriving in Western Australia by ship and aircraft during this period,’ said Mr Fricker. ‘We are negotiating to have records available on both the National Archives and Ancestry websites, providing a much-needed resource for family historians and others.’

Passenger arrival records are an excellent source of genealogical information.  They usually include information such as name, nationality, race, age, sex, place of embarkation, occupation, name of the ship and date and place of arrival.

“We are excited to be working with the National Archives of Australia to provide Australians with greater access to these key records which document the arrival of millions of people to the shores of Australia during the twentieth century,” said Brad Argent, Content Director, “These records offer us a unique insight into the travels of our ancestors, providing us with links to a land beyond the one we call home today.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Author Q&A :: Ann Howard - Rainbow on the River

From time to time, we'll be talking to great Australian authors about their local history and what inspired them to start researching and writing their stories.

This week we talk to Ann Howard, author of Rainbow on the River - a terrific new book on the history of Dangar Island and the lower Hawkesbury. It continues her series on the subject, including:
  1. Rainbow on the River
  2. A Ghost, a Murder & Other Dangar Tales - Volume 1
  3. Ten Dry Pies & other Dangar Tales - Volume 2
  4. Derrymacash to Dangar
Your can purchase by contacting Ann on annhoward[at] or phoning 02 9955 2074. All books are $25 + $5 postage except Derrymacash to Dangar, which is $10 + $3 postage.

  1. Q. What inspired you to research the Hawkesbury River area? 
    • A. Thirty-eight years ago, I was invited to a party on the island from university. I went there in September. The jasmine hedges were perfuming the air and there was no traffic. It was an instant love affair. I moved on a year later, buying and restoring The Pavilion, the last remaining part of the Dangar homestead.  
  2. Which resources did you find most helpful?
    • Q. Favourite website? 
    • A. Trove is brilliant but I’ve been researching for 38 years and all my preliminary research has been primary.
    • Q. Favourite library? 
    • A. For this particular research I didn’t have one – I looked at the Royal Australian Historical Society Library but found sketchy and inaccurate information about the Dangar family. I was really on my own as an independent scholar. 
  3. Q. What resources did you come across when researching your books that haven’t been widely used by others? 
    • A. Well really it was finding and interviewing people (sometimes serendipitously, sometimes by due diligence), and obtaining family documents, diaries, photographs and letters. People have been very generous with their time, resources and information. I think that the great mass of Australian history is slipping through our fingers. People are grateful to me, because I record in a straightforward, non-political, non-judgemental way. When I first came to Australia from London, I found that children did not know what a drover was, but they knew what cowboys were. Australian drovers moved more head of cattle at one time than their American counterparts. I took my sons in a gypsy caravan over stock routes in the far reaches of NSW and interviewed drovers for a book.
  4. Q. Was there any information you uncovered that stopped you in your tracks? For eg, you've previously mentioned that a chance encounter with a 90-year-old woman led you to fascinating research into the 1890s. 
    • A. Yes, historical research is like opal mining. I chipped away at it over many years and found new historical facts about the 1890s that stopped me in my tracks. The Dangar family was unaware of what I uncovered – illustrating just how quickly history is obliterated! They had a father who was really keen on history and they tuned out! Then later they were grateful to me. Also, the mother of John Dangar Reid transcribed the family letters, for which I am abidingly grateful. 
  5. Q. Which stories affected you the most in your research? 
    • A. Well, the fact that 800 passengers at a time and two brass bands used to leave Lime Wharf and go out into the ocean and up the river to Dangar Island, where they stayed for four hours. Everybody had assumed the island was a quiet backwater. 
  6. Q. Which stories amused you the most in your research? 
    • A. Ryland, a manager from the American company which won the tender for building the Hawkesbury River Bridge, arrived with his whole family, a cigar-smoking American full of bravado, with a revolver in his belt. He was the father of a little boy, born to a local Australian woman, name unknown. His baby was christened ‘Hawkesbury’ after the river and taken back to the US.  
  7. Q. If you could track down one thing you haven’t yet managed to find out, what would it be?  
    • A. I’d like to know the draught of the SS Namoi because I know the Hawkesbury River is 108 feet deep in the centre, but I wonder whether they had to moor offshore and take passengers in small boats to Dangar Island, or if they could moor at the wharf. I’d also love to go underwater in the murk of the river because there must be all sorts of artefacts half-buried there. I’ve watched people lose fishing knives and bottles in the river – it’s easily done! 
  8. Q. What’s your best tip for people wanting to write a history book of their own? 
    • A. If you are passionate about a subject, you will find a way to do it.
  9. Q. How did you go about bringing the stories to life?  
    • A. I let them speak for themselves. The last book I wrote was hardly edited and is in the voice of an 8-year-old girl. Learn to listen carefully to what folk tell you. 
  10. Q. How do you know when you’ve written a good book?  
    • A. I get the same warm, expansive feeling you get when you have your family and pets around you, or you’ve drunk slightly too much good single malt whisky or had a great cassoulet. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Expert Q&A :: Getting the most from NAA

For our Expert Q&A Thursday, August 23 we had Zoe D'Arcy, Director, Digital and Online Access at the National Archives of Australia, and Anne McLean, Director, Reference and Information Service at the National Archives of Australia. Thanks again to Zoe and Anne for giving us all the benefit of their experience. Please find the transcript of the Q&A and links below.

Don't forget our Expert Q&As happen every Thursday night on the Inside History Magazine facebook page.

When: NSW - ACT - VIC - TAS: 8:30-9:30pm AEDT | QLD: 7:30-8:30pm | WA: 5:30-6:30pm | NT: 7:00-8:00pm | SA: 8:00-9:00pm

Zoe D'Arcy is the Director of Digital and Online Access at the National Archives of Australia, and she knows all about what people can do online (plus much more). Anne McLean, as the Director of Reference and Information Service at the National Archives of Australia, has a great knowledge of what the National Archives' collection holds - and how people can get access to what they need.

Zoe D'Arcy's top tips for getting the most from the NAA collection:
  • Tip 1. Keep your search terms REALLY simple. 
  • Tip 2. DON'T use the word 'photo' if you're looking for a photo. 
  • Tip 3. Keep trying. 
  • Tip 4. Remember that the files in our collection were created by public servants from a bygone era. What words would they have used to describe things? 

Anne McLean's top tip for getting most from the NAA collection:
  • As we are the archives of the Commonwealth government, think about your family's connection to the Commonwealth government. If you have relatives who served in the armed forces, migrated to Australia in the 20th century, were of interest to the security services then the National Archives is bound to have something to help you with. There's a wealth of information to explore on our website - jump in and explore. 

Summary of links from the Q&A:

Transcript of Expert Q&A - Getting the most from National Archives of Australia:

Comment: IHM: Welcome everyone, thanks for joining us tonight. The rules are simple. Try to keep your questions concise and focused on the National Archives of Australia. That will help Zoe and Anne to answer as many as possible in the hour that we have.

Q. From Kristen: Is it advisable to use NAA as a guest or better as a member?
A. Zoe: Hi Kristen, I always go in as a guest! I only use my log in when I want to request records to be copies or to go to our reading room.
Q (b): From Kristen: Thanks Zoe - how extensive is NAA?
A. Zoe: NAA is huge - we've got repositories in every state and territory - we have to measure our collection in shelf metres, and it works out to be about 350km worth of shelf metres.
A. Zoe: (There are some great records in there, too)

Q. From Geoff: Emma Morris possibly Emma R Morris, left Australia maybe sometime in the 1890s. She was definitely in Indiana for the 1900 Federal Census. She had lived in both South Australia and Queensland with second husband, and even finding the details of deaths of the husbands has been problematic. John Odgers was alive in 1875, in Morinish near Rockhampton, but she married Joseph Morris in 1876 in Port Pirie. No death for Odgers has appeared - maybe because of a bad transcription. A Joseph Morris died in QLD in 1896, but not sure if it is him. She went to America to join her son, who had left home in Morinish for England when still in his early teens and had gone on to Indiana while still in his early 20s. Very complicated life, this lady.
A. Anne: Hi Geoff - great question. The general rule for finding passenger records is to identify the port or State of departure. The National Archives holds passenger records for the 20th century. Earlier records are held by the State Archives. Check the website of the relevant State Archives to see what's available online.

Q. From Helen: There are some Queensland militia records between WW1 and WW2 online. Are there other militia records that have not been catalogued to name level?
A. Zoe: Hi Helen, there are some militia records in Melbourne from 1901 that are listed online.
A. Zoe: Check out Series B4747, which holds militia files from 1901 to 1940.

Q. How do I find my relative’s WWI wartime service records?
A. Anne: 
WWI service files are easy to find on the National Archives RecordSearch database. You can search by name or service number. We've imaged the entire collection of 376,000 files so you can read them online.
A. Shauna: 
And it's free too - great service NAA!
A. Zoe: 
You can also view them on our website which allows you to search for records, and even add your own information about our Anzacs!

Q. From Shauna: What about Boer War records - my mother's two uncles served in both colonial and Australian regiments?
A. Anne: Hi Shauna - NAA holds Boer War records for the Commonwealth contingents - search on RecordSearch by name
Q (b): From Shauna: Thanks are the records all digitised too?
A. IHM: Here is the link for the NAA RecordSearch ::
A. Anne: Hi Shauna - yes the Boer War records are digitised.
A. Shauna: Thanks. Just found both Solomon (spelt as Soloman) and William Price records for Boer War on RecordSearch - it's a reminder to look at all spelling variations if you can't find something.

Q. From Jane: Will you be undertaking a project to digitise all the WWII service records or will they just continue to appear ad hoc as people order them?
A. Zoe: Hi Jane, we'd love to. There are, however, just over 1,000,000 WWII dossiers, it would cost a massive amount to do. They are all listed, and all the Navy cards are digitised. People can request them to be digitised for a small fee.
Q (b): From Jane: Wow! That's a lot of dossiers. My next question: if there are three dossiers for the same individual, do you need to pay the fee three times?
A. Zoe: Hi Jane, unfortunately the answer is yes. We still have to get three files out of storage, digitise them etc etc... However, once they are digitised and online, anyone can look at them for free.
A. Jane: Thanks Zoe. I definitely appreciate the effort involved in accessing the files, and the service is phenomenal. Just thought you might do a three for the price of two deal - never hurts to ask
A. Zoe: Jane, nice try

Q. From Helen: Any idea about New Guinea police records about 1901-1904?
A. Zoe: Hi Helen, we do have some New Guinea patrol officer reports, but not many. Have a look at our Fact Sheet but if you don't find what you're looking for there, send an email to our reference people at

Q. From Linda: What would be your favourite records that you think are under-utilised? Or online but rarely looked at at all?
Q (b): From Linda: And also (getting up to speed), are there records you would recommend that tell us more about small country communities, rather than those where the emphasis is on family history?
A. Anne: Hi Linda - we've got a great collection of photos online - have a look at our PhotoSearch database. You might find a photo of the town you grew up in or the local shopping centre. It brings back great memories.
A. Linda: Thanks - I had forgotten them. I think that may be where I found a wonderful series of post office photos once.
A. Zoe: Hi Linda, there are all sort of records. Have you tried even just putting in the town name into RecordSearch? (always interesting) You might find aerial photographs, ration records, what servicemen from WWI and WWII were born or enlisted there... all sorts of things
A. Zoe: Hi again Linda, yes, we have lots of post office records - photographs and plans of the old buildings themselves.
A. Linda: Just over there having a play - not a lot coming up in photo search, but they are very small towns. Nice one of Upper Maffra West post office.
A. Zoe: I'd say that one of my favourite records that has just recently come into our collection is the list of Australian men who were on board the Montevideo Maru when it was sunk in 1942. We had to translate and do some hefty research to work out who each of the named people were. Have a play:
A. Jane: Zoe, thanks for the suggestion of searching on a town name. I've just put in Belair (SA) to see what kinds of things come up and found this highly entertaining record: Prohibited publication - 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', 'The Years of Passion' imported by Mr RM EVANS, Belair (1963).
A. Anne: Another interesting group of records are the records of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. You can find photos, film and files on people of interest to ASIO. Search on NameSearch under the category 'security and intelligence.' We also have a number of relevant fact sheets on our website.

Q. From Alison: Hi Zoe and Anne, I have obtained my Great Uncle's WW1 Service record it notes that an Inquiry in the field was held regarding his staus as MIA, but there is no copy of that inquiry on his digitsed file. Where would I go to attempt to obtain a copy? (Refer to Appendix A)
A. Anne: Hi Alison - have you tried the Red Cross files at the Australian War Memorial ? The Red Cross investigated MIA soldiers.
A. Alison: Yes, got the Red Cross files from AWM - contained letters from family and statements by fellow soldiers, but not the actual ARMY enquiry in the field referred to in his service record file. Page 3 of 50 has note of Proceedings of Court of Inquiry in the field on 11-3-1918, Finding: Killed in Action 12 -10-1917, Australian Section 3rd Echelon G.H.Q. British Expeditionary Force
A. Anne: Hi Alison - please send your contact details and question to our reference service through the Ask A question link on our home page and I'll have one of our experts get back to you
A. Alison: Thank you

Q. From Linda: Last one - is there anywhere online you would suggest for files about Italian Prisoners of War placed with local families as agricultural labourers during WWII? I know there was a depot in one of our towns, and people are starting to tell stories of them. One local returned man did not know that while he was away fighting them, they were living in his home town, and when he found out 40 years later he was devastated. Many of them were sponsored back by local families after the war.
A. Zoe: Linda, we do have some files on Italian POWs, I think they even come complete with photo ID. We also have files on the Germans and Italian who were interned during both wars. Are you looking for someone in particular?
A. Linda: Hi Zoe - not anyone in particular, just would be good to know more about the men sent to our local area. Just typed "Italian Prisoners of War" into the photo search and stunned to find a number of men getting off boats and getting onto trains. Although I can't see where they were, it just goes to show so much more about them.
A. IHM: Here is the link for the NAA WW1 - WW2 Internee POW fact sheets Linda ::
A. Zoe: Oh wow, hadn't thought to look on photosearch! Have a look on RecordSearch, and there are several series listed there that might be useful - B3842 - D2285 - J3118 - K1174

Comment: IHM: Thanks again to Zoe and Anne for joining us tonight, I’m sure you’ve found it very useful. I know we have. If you have other questions you’d like to ask you can use NAA’s contact form here :: or call the National Archives of Australia on 1300 886 881. Stay tuned for our regular column from the NAA team in our upcoming Issue 12: Sep-Oct edition!
A. Helen: Thank you Zoe, Anne and Inside History. Great session
A. Shauna: Another great Thursday night! Thanks
A. IHM: We’ll be here again next Thursday, 30th August from 8:30 – 9:30pm, with our next expert. Margot Riley from State Library of NSW. Margot will be answering questions on interpreting photographs and fashion for family history.
A. Alison: Looks like another great topic next week. Thanks.

Big news from National Archives of Australia and! Announced today, a joint project will create an index and digitise the records of passengers who arrived in Western Australia between 1897 and 1963. This included most people arriving in Australia by ship, even if they travelled on to other ports. Click here for more.  

Next Week: Who's joining us for next Thursday's Expert Q&A? Margot Riley from State Library of NSW. Topic: Interpreting photographs and fashion for family history.

When: NSW-ACT-VIC-TAS: 8:30-9:30pm AEDT | QLD: 7:30-8:30pm | WA: 5:30-6:30pm | NT: 7:00-8:00pm | SA: 8:00-9:00pm.

Margot Riley is the SLNSW dress historian and curator of the exhibition, "Flashback: 160 Years of Australian Fashion Photos”.


Read the previous Expert Q&A transcripts:
[1]  Thursday, July 26 :: How to get the best from Trove Australia
[2]  Thursday, August 16 :: How to get the best from BDM Certificates
[3]  Thursday, August 23 :: Getting the most from NAA
[4]  Thursday, August 30 :: Interpreting photographs for family history
[5]  Thursday, September 6 :: How to get the best from
[6]  Thursday, September 13 :: Using Trove for research
[7]  Thursday, September 20 :: Today's toolkit for the digital historian
[8]  Thursday, September 27 :: Preserving your artefacts with NAA
[9]  Thursday, October 4 :: Studying and doing research at UNE
[10]  Thursday, October 11 :: How to research war graves and Anzac ancestors
[11]  Thursday, October 25 :: What's new at


Appendix A:
Regimental number 3177. Religion: Presbyterian. Occupation: Drover. Address: Alton Downs via Rockhampton, Queensland. Marital status: Single. Age at embarkation: 25. 
Next of kin: Uncle, John McKenzie, Laurel Bank, Alton Downs via Rockhampton, Queensland. Enlistment date: 27 October 1916. 
Rank on enlistment: Private. Unit name: 47th Battalion, 8th Reinforcement. AWM Embarkation Roll number 23/64/3. Embarkation details: Unit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A64 Demosthenes on 22 December 1916. 
Rank from Nominal Roll Private. Unit from Nominal Roll 47th Battalion
Fate: Killed in Action 12 October 1917
Panel number, Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial: 144
Other details - War service: Western Front
Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

No known grave. (not strictly true: service record file page 3 of 50 has note of Proceedings of Court of Inquiry in the field on 11-3-1918, Finding: Killed in Action 12 -10-1917, Australian Section 3rd Echelon G.H.Q. British Expeditionary Force. Buried 1000 yards S.W. of Passchendaele and 1000 yards NE of Zonnebeke Sh 28 N.E. D18ac D17 GD V.R1 (Sh 10). So it appears he was "temporarily" buried during an attack on the German lines, but body never recovered. Presumably because later bombardments obliterated the site) It was some time before the family had definitive advice of his death,- he was listed as Wounded, then Wounded and Missing in Action for some time - during which period the Red Cross received incorrect advice that he had been sighted in a hospital in England by a fellow Battalion member! Even as late as 18 December 1917 there was no advice as to the nature of his wounds and the family received official advice via telegram that in the absence of a report of serious injury he was assumed to be progressing favourably, when in fact he had been dead for over two months. His cousin, Dr Stuart MacKenzie, with whom he had been raised, was on active service in France with the Medical Corps and had been searching for him and seeking news all that time to no avail.

Commemoration details The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (Panel 27), Belgium © 2012
Copyright The AIF Project, UNSW@ADFA, 2012

Grave Tales 5 :: From Germany to Bega in 1842

Here is the next instalment in our series of Grave Tales. The 5th in the series sees Ancestry's Brad Argent in Quaama Cemetery, just north of Bega in New South Wales, following Adam Engelman's journey from Germany, to being Australian and marrying "Big Jack" the bushranger's daughter.

Don't forget to read instalments 1-4, the links are at the finish of this tale, and find a sample of what history awaits to be discovered when you go walking.


Just north of Bega, surrounded by national parks and state forests, rests the small New South Wales community of Quaama. This hamlet was established in the latter half of the 19th century and formerly called ‘Dry River’. I’m unsure when they changed their name to Quaama – or why – but it was originally spelt with an extra ‘a’ on the end. I assume that someone believed that was one ‘a’ too many.

It was a beautiful spring morning when I found myself searching for Quaama’s cemetery. It lies south east of the bucolic village, in a gently sloping field behind the last of the houses. As I parked my car and entered the cemetery I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was interloping – there was a palpable ‘spirit of place’ here.

The cemetery has a few marked burials in what I assumed were family clusters, but the one that caught my eye stood all alone, some considerable distance from the entrance.

Adam Engelman(n) was born in Germany in February 1842, the second son of Heinrich and Agnes Engelmann (nee Dumm). He came to Australia with his parents, his older brother Martin and his younger sisters Agnes, Catherine and Elizabetha in March of 1855. The voyage must have been difficult for the Engelmanns as the infant Elizabetha died on the voyage.

Adam and his family were assisted immigrants brought to Australia by William Macarthur, the youngest son of John and Elizabeth Macarthur. As his father and older brother were both ‘Vine Dressers’ they no doubt went to work on Macarthur’s extensive vineyards in Camden, New South Wales.

At Bega in September of 1864 Adam married Celia Eden Hayden, daughter of the convict and bushranger known as “Big Jack”. Celia and Adam had 15 children, though it wasn’t until 1872 that they moved to Quaama.

Adam was naturalised in early 1876, and his brother Martin followed suit the following year – their father Heinrich having undergone the process just a few years after arriving. It must have troubled Adam – as it must have for all German-born Australians - to see the outbreak of the First World War. How sad that he did not live to see it end, dying only days before the official cessation of hostilities.

Sad, too, that Adam rests alone; an isolated grave in an isolated burial ground. In life he would have been surrounded by family, but now he is deserted – or so it would appear. Many of Adam’s family remained at Quaama – his wife Celia passed away there in 1935 – and perhaps they are buried there too, resting in graves unmarked.


Read the previous instalments in the series of Grave Tales:
[1]  Story of Strange Butson Hartigan
[2]  The murder of William Hird
[3]  The loss of the 2 Graham girls
[4]  Fatality at Warragul. A youth drowned *

The Coroners Inquest, from the 22 January 1901 West Gippsland Gazette
[*] Fatality at Warragul. A youth drowned. Source: Trove

Brad Argent is content director at Australia’s leading family history website, contains more than 1 billion records in its Australian and UK collections.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Expert Facebook Q&As :: BDM Certificates

Another Thursday and another great Expert Q&A sharing session. This week we discussed how to get the most from your Birth, Death and Marriage certificates. Thanks again to Shauna Hicks, for joining us and giving us the benefit of her family history expertise and years of experience! Please find the transcript of the Q&A and useful links, and you can count on Shauna being back to help with your family history in a future Q&A.

Don't forget our Expert Q&As happen every Thursday night on the Inside History Magazine facebook page.

When: 8:30-9:30pm EST | WA: 6:30-7:30pm WST | SA - NT: 8:00-9:00pm CST | Weekly on a Thursday night

Summary of links from BDM Certificates Expert Q&A:

Top tips from Shauna Hicks on BDM certificates:
Read the certificates carefully, compare info on birth, death and marriage certificates carefully, where possible try and get the handwritten copies rather than a typed certificate (minimises human error), don't always believe what is on the certificate (only as good as person giving the info) and sometimes they just simply lied! So check with other documents as well. Remember that civil registration dates for each state /or countries varies and before then you definitely need to look for parish registers.


Transcript of Expert Q&A - how to get the most from your certificates; Birth, Death and Marriage certificates:

Welcome everyone, thanks for joining us tonight. The rules are simple. Try to keep your questions concise & focused on Birth, Death and Marriage certificates, that will help Shauna to answer as many as possible in the hour that we have.

Q. Hi Shauna and Cassie. Years ago, in Victoria, I think there was an attempt to database witnesses to marriages, but I don't know if that happened anywhere else. Are you aware of any databases such as that - as I am especially looking to find a family black sheep acting as a doctor in NSW, so he should be on birth and death certificates.
A. Shauna: ‎@Linda Yes I have heard of people doing witness indexes but not familiar with the details - I would need to look into that more
A. Linda: @Shauna Thank You!
A. Shauna: @Linda Re the witnesses index - try looking at Cora Num's website as she often picks up related indexes - here is the link to her BDMs page
A. IHM: @Linda Hi Linda Barraclough, this could be the witness database you're looking for ::
A. Shauna: Thanks Cassie now I'm going to have to check that index out myself!
A. Linda: Ta for the two indexes - been away looking. I'm looking for a doctor in Boggabri in NSW - basically guess best bet is to write and register with local hist soc, and hope they can keep an eye on certs. Used to be good in the old days when you could just rock up to the court house and look at the lot. Did a lot up the Darling River that way, but never got to Boggabri.
A. Shauna: @Linda local newspapers might be worth checking too, maybe he advertised too.
A. Linda: [Friday, 17/08] I was going to throw this one in last night, but it was a little busy! Many years ago, a famous incident happened at the East Gippsland Genealogical Group. A new member came in, and asked how to use the microfiche indexes to BD&Ms (this is in the old days, of fiche of the actual indexes). The member pulled a random fiche out of the births, and put it up on the screen. And seemed to go into a really strange trance, that it took him a long time to come out of. There, in front of him, was the birth he had searched unsuccessfully for, for years. She was registered with her third given name as her surname. Father's name had been changed to make it fit, and everything. We have never been able to calculate the odds of this happening, but they are pretty long! There are witnesses!

Q. I am trying to locate the Birth certificates of two deceased sons of my Great Grandmother Elizabeth Tegreth,(maiden name Debnham, first married name Maxwell) died in Forbes NSW 1926: one was Allan Maxwell (possibly original surname was Debnham) born in Young who died on 26th April 1915 at Gallipoli aged 25 years, the other has no information on her death certificate. Would love some guidance, please.
A. Shauna: ‎@Colleen Usually when people can't find a certificate it is a spelling variation so you need to check all possible variations, also check under maiden name of mother or former married names as
A. Shauna: @Colleen Re the missing birth certificates question sometimes I just search on given names and a year and that way I can pick up any odd spellings of the name, you just need to try all variations of a search
A. Jill: @Colleen Colleen, I recently visited the Forbes Family History group in person and from their resources was able to knock down a 20+ year brick wall. May be worth contacting them.
A. Shauna: Thanks Jill yes local genealogical and historical societies have some great local resources and are definitely worth contacting.

Q. What do people commonly miss when reading certificates?
A. Shauna: People tend to just look for the date and place of the event but it is also important to look at all fields eg witnesses at a marriage maybe relatives or the midwife at a birth even witnesses to a burial. Spelling of place names can vary so the more certificates you look at you may be able to work out what it should be - I purchased all the birth certificates of my gg grandfather's children and eventually ended up with the right place in Ireland!
Q. IHM: Do the certificates vary by state? If so, what are some important variations to note?
A. Shauna: Because certificates are expensive you should make certain that the type of information you are looking for is on the certificate - I find Graham Jaunay's quick guide very useful as there is a lot of variation between the states
A. Shauna: I find NSW, QLD and VIC the best certificates but sadly I have SA ancestors too and SA is one of the least detailed

Q. We have searched (via for a relative born in 1845 Gravesend, Kent. Is it possible his birth was just never registered? Where else should I look?
A. Shauna: @Rachael The UK indexes are now available online via a number of different sites as well as the old microfiche. I would try another online site because you can get indexing errors (we are all human)
A. Helen: @Rachael It is worth checking with the Northfleet registrar office which was the local office as the Ancestry indexes are the National GRO indexes. My grandfather born in 1915 Northfleet in was not listed on the national indexes but I was able to get his certificate from Northfleet. Also check that he is not one of the Male (your surname) listings as there was a requirement to register by a set date and sometimes the name decision had not been made.
A. Shauna: Thanks Helen yes local offices are another place to look and Helen's example also highlights how errors can creep in to the official indexes too.
A. Shauna: Yes I find those unnamed children quite frustrating!
A. Helen: Also worth checking for the Gravesend parish registers as it may narrow down when the baptism took place.

Q. Hi Shauna - and other researchers! I was wondering if you had any tips for tracking down death certificates in NSW in the mid-late 19th century? A few former convicts I've been researching have been seemingly impossible to find.
A. Shauna: @Sarah Are you sure they died in NSW? Sometimes convicts changed their names and moved on? Are they common names?
A. Shauna: @Sarah Were they married? Any children? I tracked one convict from TAS, to VIC and finally got him dying in Auckland - it helped that he was a butcher and he stuck to that trade.
Q. IHM: Did your Auckland butcher have a NZ Death Certificate Shauna Hicks?
A. Shauna: Yes there was a NZ death certificate with absolutely no information on it, his wife was the same and getting back further has been tricky!

Comment. Shauna: As we are getting close to the finish line (still in Olympics mode) I would just like to suggest that people should relook at their certificates from time to time as sometimes we don't recognise something and it is only with further research that a piece of information becomes more significant - this goes for all documents too

Comment: Chez: Hope you don't mind...but wanted to make a comment re: names - for years I had looked for Arthur born in Newtown NSW could never find him...but knew that was his name (we are only going back to early 1900's) any how on a whim I think I just used the first letter 'A' and believe me he has a very common surname...found him...he was registered on his birth certificate as Author - yep never would have found me it indicated a bit of an accent! So be adventurous!! lol
A. Shauna: Love that comment Chez - yes just using a first letter can be useful - great example of a spelling variation, must remember it! Reminds me of when I found an Onions family for someone - the certificates made it look like Union and it was only when I sounded it out that I thought of Onions and sure enough, there they were!
A. IHM: Great tip Chez Leggatt! What are your top 5 tips for family historians examining certificates Shauna Hicks?
A. Shauna: 5 tips - read the certificates carefully, compare info on birth, death and marriage certificates carefully, where possible try and get the handwritten copies rather than a typed certificate (minimises human error), don't always believe what is on the certificate (only as good as person giving the info) and sometimes they just simply lied! So check with other documents as well.
A. Shauna: Another point to remember is civil registration dates for each state /or countries varies and before then you definitely need to look for parish registers.
A. Jill: I had a group registered as a job lot after the parents were married and the Legitimation Act came in in 1902 in NSW so don't just look at the estimated birth date - widen your search.
A. Shauna: Another good point thanks Jill - lateral thinking is the only way to go with family history research!
A. IHM: Go to the FamilySearch wiki for more on Australian state civil registration dates and BDM records ::

Comment. Cathy: I could not find a Hawes ancestor in the death index-turned out he had been indexed as Hawkes. The certificate itself was correct.. Also my grandmother and her six siblings did not have registered births in SA-had to locate the baptism records.

Comment. Jill: Thanks for the conversation everyone - I feel a Geniaus post coming on.
A. Shauna: Yes I like hearing about other's experiences especially with finding people under weird entries in the indexes - it's a great way to learn.

Comment. IHM: Time flies when you're having historic fun, we're at 9:30 already! Thanks again to Shauna for her expertise tonight and thanks to everyone for your questions and comments. Don’t forget to follow Shauna's blog and you can find her books on Unlock the Past. We’ll publish the questions, answers and links from tonight’s session in a blog post this coming week.
A. Shauna: Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it as well as learnt a few more sites. Now off to research!
A. IHM: It was our pleasure Shauna :) We’ll be here again next Thursday, 23rd August from 8:30 – 9:30pm, with our next expert Q&A. Next week we have Zoe D'Arcy and Anne Mclean from the National Archives of Australia, answering questions on how to get the most from NAA’s amazing collection! We’ll be coming to you from the International Council of Archives [ICA] Congress.

Links for Birth, Death and Marriage certificates:
BDM transcription services:
Online databases:

Read the previous Expert Q&A transcripts:
[1]  Thursday, July 26 :: How to get the best from Trove Australia

Friday, August 17, 2012

Father's Day Offer! 18 months for price of 12 months!

Wondering what to buy your dad for Father's Day?

Socks are a practical gift but let's face, most dads like history and we're a history magazine. I bet your family was like ours, Mother's Day is a big day and sometimes Father's Day is overlooked. Well, this year we're celebrating Dad's Day with a subscription offer too!

Buy a 1 year subscription for your Dad and he gets an extra 6 months free! That's 18 months of Inside History magazine for the price of 12 months, $63.00 including postage. That's a saving of $31.50!

Either order online on the Inside History magazine website and include your father's name and address details in the PayPal comment field, along with code IHDADS12 or call us on 02 95909600 to order!

But be quick, the offer expires 5pm 9th September, 2012, so don't miss out!

Terms & Conditions: 
Offer is only valid with 1 year subscriptions. Offer is valid until 5pm, 9th September 2012. Offer is for Australian subscribers and print edition only.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Issue 11 Giveaway: Win 2 VIP tickets to NSW History Week

The entries have gone into the Inside History hat and the winner is... Congratulations to:

  • Jenny Cowen, Caulfield North, VIC

Who was Jenny's favourite fashion icon?

  • "The Womens Weekly of course! It headlined fashions, showed us how to make them, gave us the confidence to wear and feel “it” in them". 

For more on History Week and to plan your event calendar, visit


Join us on 9 September when history meets the catwalk! The final fittings are being made for History Week NSW 2012 and this year it’s all about fashion. The theme is Threads: long before the fashionistas of today decided “the look”, dress was an important element of human expression.

From 8 to 16 September, there will be events across the state celebrating the history of dress. A highlight will be “The Muses” on 9 September at the State Library of NSW. In the stunning vestibule of the Mitchell Library, leading Australian fashion designers will exhibit original pieces, created using historical muses as inspiration.

The muses have been selected by the History Council of NSW (HCNSW), and their stories shine a light on the history of dress and fashion in Australia. How will Bennelong, the first Aboriginal diplomat who insisted on the highest standard of European dress or Annette Kellerman, an Olympic swimmer whose form-fitting attire shocked the world, inspire today’s leading designers? How will old become new?

This special event will fuse the glamour, the champagne and excitement of the catwalk with evocative images of the past. And we have two VIP tickets to the “The Muses” to give away, thanks to our friends at HCNSW!

To go into the draw simply answer the following question in 25 words or less:

  • Q. Who is your favourite fashion icon?

Send your name and contact details to Inside History, History Week Giveaway, PO Box 406 Erskineville NSW 2043 or email cass[at] by 5pm, 15 August, 2012.

Members of hosiery and gloves depts Messrs Horden Bros., 23’2’46, Image courtesy RAHS Photo collection.

For more on History Week and the program, visit

Terms and conditions: Entries close 5pm, 15/08/12. One name will be drawn at random and the winner notified by 20/08/12. Travel to the event is not included in the prize and is the responsibility of the winner. Entrants must be aged 18 and over. Prize is not redeemable for cash. Please indicate if you would like to opt out of our mailing list.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Top 10 things you didn't know about Sydney

  1. Sydney businesswomen in the 1790s
  2. Our earliest known film 
  3. 6000-year-old discovery in Alexandria
  4. Tamarama rollercoaster
  5. The mortuary train 
  6. Sydney’s (unofficial) queen 
  7. Our hidden lake
  8. The man who was hanged on Fort Denison 
  9. “Professor” Parker, the “champion of Australia”
  10. Coffee Culture
1. Sydney businesswomen in the 1790s
One of the earliest female business owners in Sydney was an Irish convict called Jane Maher. She was one of a handful of licensed bakers in Sydney in 1799. Jane’s “Bakehouse on the Rocks” was situated between Lang, Grosvenor and York Streets in the city. Her partner, Edward Turley, also an Irish convict, ran a sly grog shop ‘round the back of the house. Their trades before transportation? He was a highwayman, she was a madam of a brothel. (Both are Cassie Mercer’s GGGGG grandparents).

2. Our earliest short film: Le Patineur Grotesque 
Australia’s earliest surviving film was shot in Prince Alfred Park, Surry Hills, and dates back to 1896. Patineur Grotesque, aka The Burlesque Roller Skater is one-minute-long comedy act by French filmmaker Marius Sestier, and features a cigar-smoking man on rollerskates lifting his jacket to reveal a white hand on the seat of his trousers. A French film historian attributes Patineur Grotesque as the forerunner to the work of Charlie Chaplin and Max Linder. Featured in issue 11 of Inside History, part of the film can also be viewed at

3. The dugong, the axes and the canal
During the construction of the Alexandra Canal in 1896, humble Alexandria revealed a surprising archaeological discovery: a large dugong skeleton bearing curious cut marks was uncovered, along with Aboriginal weapons. Recently radiocarbon-dated to about 6,000 years, the skeleton bears evidence of the region’s long history of human habitation – and, presumably, dugong-hunting!

4. Tamarama beach had its own rollercoaster
Tamarama Beach was the scene of Australia’s first rollercoaster. The Switchback Railway opened in 1887 and was a diving, plunging, hold-your-breath circus attraction above the sands near the waterline.

Source: Kimberly O’Sullivan - Waverley Council’s historian

5. The mortuary train
As Sydney’s cemeteries became increasingly full in the 19th century, a macabre railway service began operation in 1867. Twice-daily funeral trains picked up coffins and mourners from Mortuary Station on Regent Street en-route to Rookwood Cemetery. The structure, complete with cherub and gargoyle sculptures, connected cemeteries from Sutherland to Newcastle.

Image: State Records NSW, Mortuary Railway Station c.1865

6. Sydney’s (unofficial) queen 
A brass breastplate presented by Governor Macquarie in the early 1800s declared Cora Gooseberry the ‘Queen of Sydney and Botany’. Following the death of her famous husband, Bungaree, Cora became well-known throughout Sydney for the government-issued blanket and clay pipe she sported, frequenting inner-city pubs right up to her death in 1852.

Sources: Significant Aboriginal People in Sydney, City of Sydney 
Cora Gooseberry:

7. Our hidden lake
Under St James railway station is a lake measuring about 1km long, 10m wide and up to 5m deep.  St James Lake runs through an old disused railway tunnel built in the 1920s.  The water is beautifully clear, having been filtered through the surrounding sandstone walls.

8. The man who was hanged on Fort Denison
In 1796 Irish convict Francis Morgan was hanged and gibbeted on Pinchgut (now called Fort Denison) for committing murder in the colony. He’d been originally transported from Ireland after being convicted in Dublin of manslaughter after giving a man “a mortal wound on the head with a stick”. Morgan’s body was still swaying in the breeze on Pinchgut four years later.
Source: A Nimble Fingered Tribe by Barbara Hall; see

9. “Professor” Parker, the “champion of Australia”
George Parker was a self-styled professor who became a celebrity after he was awarded the title “Champion of Australia” in front of 2,000 spectators at the inaugural Grand Assault D’Armes at Dawes Point Battery, Sydney, on 13 November 1858. Known for “feats of swordmanship” the professor went on to travel through New Zealand to perform and show off his skills.

Source: Margot Riley, curator, State Library of NSW
Image: the man thought to be Professor Parker is on the cover of issue 11 of Inside History.

10. Coffee Culture
While 21st-century Sydneysiders are renowned caffeine addicts, our forebears were tea-drinkers. Australia’s first coffee seeds arrived aboard the First Fleet in 1788 yet failed to grow in the climate. Though Parisian-style coffee palaces were popular in the 1870s, only with post-WWII European mass immigration did our modern coffee culture really start to percolate.

Sources: Dictionary of Sydney,
Garry Wotherspoon, ‘A Rich Brew’, Inside History, Issue 6

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bringing history to life :: Big Byron Bay book giveaway!

Every Friday we giveaway beautiful books from our publisher friends. Why are we doing this? Well we love to read and of course, we love books and it is the National Year of Reading!

Today, we're "Bringing history to life" at the Byron Bay Writers Festival and we have a bumper giveaway today to celebrate! WIN 1 of 20 BEAUTIFUL BOOKS! To enter, simply go to our Facebook page - Inside History Magazine - tell us FAVOURITE AUSTRALIAN AUTHOR. Winners will be announced Monday, 6th August on our facebook page, so stay tuned!

Which books can you win?! Well, each of the authors on our  "Bringing history to life"panel today have kindly agreed to give away 5 copies of their latest books each! Here they are:

Hope to see you at the Byron Bay Writers Festival over the weekend! Starts today and finishes on Sunday, August 5. Don't forget to enter the giveaway on our Facebook page - Inside History Magazine!