Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Australian literary treasures from local studies

The local studies collection has some obscure titles from Australian authors that have a connection to our region. Here are four gems for you to enjoy :

Above the snowline by Denys Burrows is classified as a children's book and it is set in the building of the Snowy Mountains Scheme era. It is written in the style of children's adventure stories popular in the 1950s and 60s, and does obliquely deal with themes of racism and sexism.More directly,  the harsh, cold climate of the mountains throws up some unforeseen events (like a blizzard) that people need to deal with and work through to get to a happy ending.
The line illustrations are by Graham Wade , born in Junee  in 1931.

Sydney Royal: divertisement by Miles Franklin ( 1947) is another children's book, written in a whimsical literary style, is about the Sydney Royal Easter Show, and has some hilariously accurate depictions of scenes still to be found at country shows. Miles Franklin calls it a "fairy tale".  Hordes of tired and hungry people crowding into tearooms for a cuppa and a scone with jam and cream, the farm animal displays in corrugated iron sheds, the vegetable displays, the cake competition, the rides (somewhat tamer in the forties, with the Swiss Mountain ride simply being a huge slide), affectionately lampooned by Miles Franklin. 
The illustrations are by Nan Knowles, who was part of the Miles Franklin, Dymphna Cusack and Florence James cohort, and they are particularly fine (reproduced in black and white, though the cover is in color. This may have been due to leftover wartime restrictions.on art supplies ).

This collection of poems by Dame Mary Gilmore was first published in 1939, and our library edition facsimile is from 1989. This collection has some lovely pieces, including Wake not the sleeper, and this poem that seems to describe a World War One veteran:

Interestingly the subject material of this collection was seen to be pacifist in tone at the time. This little collection is well worth a read and is one of the lesser known of Mary Gilmore's works.

Australia's Alps by Elyne Mitchell, author of the beloved Silver Brumby books, was originally published in 1942, and is a collection of stories about her and her husband's trips into the Snowy Mountains. Reading these adventures written in a beautifully lyrical yet simple style, I am reminded of why I loved the Silver Brumby books so much as a child. Elyne Mitchell was a champion skier, rode and walked and skied the mountains, and ran their farm when her husband Tom Mitchell was interned as a POW in Changi, and was clearly a highly skilled person in every facet of her life.

Illustrated with black and white photographs taken by the author, it is also her first published book.

As always with local studies items, these books are available to view within the library. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A league of their own : local Rugby League team histories

The History of Wagga Wagga Kangaroo Rugby League Football Club 1954 - 2010 compiled and edited by Peter Aiken

An interesting start to this history has this particular club as first formed in 1924, though the period covered is from 1954 to 2010. Peter Aiken has meticulously gathered together facts, statistics and anecdotes (with many team photographs). The Ron Vaisey ring-in controversy of 1957 is also covered in some depth. 

The Breakaway of the Murrumbidgee Rugby League by Jack Weeks

Jack Weeks chronicles a complicated part of country Rugby League history between 1960 - 1972, in this meticulously detailed account. 
Mr Weeks kept notebooks during this period of turmoil and has used his first hand experience and material to great effect. Section one covers the story of the splintering of the various groups and section two presents copies of the original newspaper reports, so that people can cross reference the information. This is a serious yet readable account of the controversial issues surrounding local country Rugby League.

The history of Wagga Wagga Turvey Park R.L.F.C. by Peter Aiken

Rugby League luminaries Steve Mortimer and Greg Brentnall came through this club and are part of the colorful history presented here by Peter Aiken. Detailed accounts of significant games, personal anecdotes, and team photographs illustrate this very readable league footy history. 

These books are available to view within the library and there are copies available for loan if you would like to brush up your sporting history this holiday season !

Monday, October 30, 2017

From commerce to art and poetry : new books in local studies

We are always adding to the local studies collection and this week we have two new items to introduce to you. Both are a fascinating read :

This guide to preserving historical shops has everything you need to know about saving ephemera or objects associated with shops and shopping. Illustrated with amazing photographs of bygone stores (and historical shops still active - the Niagara in Gundagai is one of the shops featured) it has practical advice on preservation, presentation, making statements of significance, and what to do if you want to keep the shop and business going. The NSW Heritage Office always produces well written and easy to understand guidelines on preserving heritage in its many forms. The potted history of shopping in New South Wales at the start also puts the subject in perspective.

The Wong Sat collection at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Local exhibition catalogues are worth reading for a number of reasons, not the least being their insights into local artists work - this catalogue being a great example of that. The premise for this exhibition was seven Arabic odes from the seventh century, by seven authors, produced on textiles. The exhibition was created and curated by Sam Bowker of Charles Sturt University and brings together a wide range of responses created in multi media, soundscape, artist books , photographs, poetry and more. 

This catalogue is really worth a look - for the broad sweep of artistic diversity alone. Both these books are available for viewing within the library, as they are part of the local studies collection.

Friday, September 29, 2017

We're here to help you : new family history guides

Wagga Wagga City Library recently purchased a range of up-to-date, concise guides to a wide variety of tricky family history problems. These small booklets offer straightforward advice with no waffle, no dithering on topics that cause issues for the modern day researcher.

Many guides, in the past, brought an inappropriately long-winded and literary tone to the subject making an already difficult job harder. The great thing about these guides is they set out complicated processes and ideas in plain language anyone can follow.

All of these guides are available for loan and, as part of the local studies collection, available for viewing within the library.

Here is a small selection to pique your curiosity :

Author Shauna Hicks has over 35 years experience working with historical records, archives and libraries, and brings that wealth of knowledge to helping you research family history. 

In Where do I start Ms Hicks outlines the "golden rules of genealogy", how to search births, deaths and marriages online, military records and more. There is an introduction to searching overseas databases, and tips on how to actually start writing your family history as a compelling story.

The cost of researching your family history has been one of those subjects not often tackled. Ms Hicks addresses the issues surrounding the sometimes hidden costs involved with family history research and shows you how to minimise your expenditure. Topics covered include : not paying full price for certificates, planning your travel to cut down on costs, and whether or not you should use professional researchers. 

The third title here by Shauna Hicks, It's not all online  shows you how to do real time research in the real world. Not everything has been digitised and the actual repositories of historical records can be a gold mine of information if you plan in advance. Ms Hicks covers how to use museums, local historical societies, and libraries to find the information you need.

You are probably already aware of how great Google is as an aide to family history research, but now here's a book confirming it's helpfulness. Helen V Smith sets out clearly how to use Google alerts, what search terms and tactics to use, and even how Google translate and other services you may not have thought of as relevant, can turn up some real gems.

Next time you are in the library, as a new researcher or someone already on your family history journey, have a browse of the many great titles available in this series.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Whatever happened to...Sandy Creek

I have recently had some very interesting queries about specific places in central Wagga Wagga , which prompted me to think about some little places around the district that have disappeared over the years, references to which I have often wanted to research but have hit the proverbial wall of no information.  Sandy Creek is one of those intriguing local areas that had a vibrant past that still lives in documents, newspapers and old maps.

Here is a map showing Sandy Creek in relation to Wagga Wagga :

image courtesy Google Maps

The Wagga Wagga City Library has the minute book from the Sandy Creek Presbyterian Church 1919 to 1940 as part of its local studies collection. The minutes, written in ink and pencil, only take up half a plain black covered exercise book. The minutes point to there being an actual building, a church, in Sandy Creek itself, but I have not been able to find an area on a map or a reference in a book that shows where the actual building stood. 

The minutes discuss very practical concerns such as repairs to the church, replacing hymn books, and creating a social group for younger members of the congregation. All minutes closed with the following:

Other references I found on Sandy Creek in conjunction with a Presbyterian church are in Kengal  Lion of the plains : the story of the Rock, edited by Charles Maish, 1984 , and a plain advertisement in the Daily Advertiser of 1923.

“In 1906 The Rock was included in the new Parish of Lockhart with James Jennings as  minister. Then in 1910 a new parish was formed comprising The Rock, Collingullie,  Sandy Creek and Tootool."

                                             Kengal Lion of the plains, p 73 

In 1923 there was an advertisement in the Daily Advertiser for a concert and supper at the church:

from the Daily Advertiser, Saturday 13 October 1923

Other aspects showing that Sandy Creek was a thriving little community are also seen in a Trove newspaper search. In 1882, Sandy Creek had their own football team:

from: The Wagga Wagga Advertiser, Tuesday 1 August 1882

As the little community in Sandy Creek progressed, the land holders agitated for a school for the area, saying that thirty children would benefit from this, and it was "four miles" to a school at The Rock, clearly a long way to travel in the days before easily accessible transport. It would have been a very hard walk at the height of summer, too. 

from The Wagga Wagga Express, Thursday 25 October 1900

In 1900 a bushfire passed through Sandy Creek over the course of some days and caused extensive damage (and injury to those who tried to protect their property):

from: the Wagga Wagga Advertiser, Thursday 20 December 1900

In 1901, a local district luminary of the Best family who had owned the Sandy Creek station, died: 

from the Wagga Wagga Advertiser, Thursday 31 October 1901

The Best family are well known as a major part of the local district history and the Best family graves are still in Truscott Drive, Wagga Wagga. George and Martha Best, the original Bests, were convicts, whose children became graziers and property holders in the district. The local historical connections between districts are endlessly fascinating and any research is always rewarding. 

As with all searches for historical information, the information, photograph or map location may or may not exist at this point in time. Many people do expect historical information to be all accessible, all of the time, but in reality this is often not the case.

If anyone has any information about the history of the Sandy Creek community and/or the Sandy Creek Presbyterian Church, or any photographs of the area,  let us know !  Drop by the Information desk at the library, or email  wagga.local.studies@gmail.com

Happy researching 🙂 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How to: four new books to help with family and local history research

Help! Why can't I find my ancestor's surname?  Carol Baxter

This is a really solid reference work that explains how differences in spelling, handwriting, and speaking can create problems for people researching their family history, but even better, gives solutions on how to get around these problems. There is a concise introduction to the history of British surnames, including various types of  classification, and recommends many other reference works you can look up to aid your research. 

Finding families: the guide to the National Archives of Australia for genealogists compiled by Margaret Chambers

Absolutely everything you need to know about accessing the records in the National Archives of Australia - what records are available, privacy questions, how to search and view records, and recommends other reference works that may help your searching. Areas covered include: post office records, war records, and shipping records. 

Genealogy basics in 30 minutes by Shannon Combs-Bennett

If you are looking for a quick and concise introduction on how to start researching your family history, this book is for you. It covers many new researchers queries and realistically prepares you for the common problems associated with family history research. Topics include genealogy road trips, genetic genealogy, and preserving your records and research.

Keep it for the future ! How to set up small community archives, compiled by the National Archives of Australia

Another succinct, clear, well set-out handbook, covering every aspect of setting up your own community archive. There is a lot more to preserving community heritage than you'd think ; this handbook also covers administration aspects as well as disaster recovery policy and plans, and how and why you should make your collection accessible to all. Alternatively, the practical advice given also applies to private family history collections.

There are copies of all these books for loan, and copies in local studies that you can read within the library. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Online Resources for family and local history

Above: image from Trove  

Online resources for researching family histories are improving all the time. Whether you are just starting out, or already have information bits and pieces you want to organise but don’t know where to start, or are researching a particular aspect of local history, online resources can be very helpful. 
Here are a few of my favorite websites. Have a go at using them and you will be surprised at what you find. For those who don't know or are unsure about searching, go to Google, type in the name of the website, and the site will come up. 

New South Wales Archives and Records

This website is easy to use and contains much useful information. Not everything is digitised but there are really great how -tos, indexes, and information sheets. So if the stuff you’re looking for isn’t digitised check the indexes, if you can’t find your stuff there, there are a number of ways to contact the NSW Archives & Records, which are listed on the website contact page. They have also started posting webinars on how to search for family history information which are really helpful. 

National Library Of Australia 

The National Library family history online resources page has a handy downloadable PDF guide to its resources. Again not everything is digitised (online), but the guide tells you what is available. Also there is a brief how-to video which guides you through getting started in researching your family history. 

Land & Property Information NSW

This website has all sorts of maps, including Parish maps, online. You can access these maps through the Historical Land Records Viewer:

Some records which were formerly available through their website are now only available through information brokers. Contact details for the information brokers are on the website. Land & Property NSW also have straightforward information on how to use what records they do have on and offline. So read the instructions and if still in doubt, contact them via email, phone or write them a letter. But hours of fun are assured by doing simple searches through the Historical Lands Viewer and you may not need to go any further than a simple search within this application.


I primarily use Trove to search their newspapers, which are literally a treasure trove for people looking for any sort of information about their ancestors. Trove does have a lot of other fantastic features but I am focusing primarily on the online, searchable newspapers. It does take a bit of mucking around with to find a way of searching that suits you, but it is worth it. An advanced search may take a little more time but may reward you more quickly. If one set of search words or terms doesn’t work, try another, and another, and another.  

The Trove newspapers front page and search pages look like this:

Click on the newspapers button                                                          

                                                                                    Choose place, paper or date                                  

Click on day or date

If you are unsure about how to search Trove, or any of these websites, drop by the Information desk and the reference librarian will be able to show you how to search.

You can access these websites at home , or come into the library to use our free wifi using your own device or access the computers in the library with your library card. Happy searching!