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

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! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

New to local studies - three family histories

It's always interesting to see the variety within family histories, and here are three to look at - not new per se but new to the local studies collection at the Wagga Wagga City Library.

The History and family tree of Richard and Ann Whiticker of Jellingroo and their descendants

The Whitickers were on Jellingroo run circa 1855, Jellingroo being the property adjacent to the Yabtree and Mundarlo runs, just to give you an idea of where the property was located. Richard Whiticker was quite a character according to this history, being described as "...bluff , straight and always hearty" (Obituary, The Gundagai Independent, 1912) but he came to an untimely end. Richard Whiticker accidentally shot himself at age 78, his unfortunate habit of shooting sparrows in his back garden, from the porch, literally backfiring on him as he sat down on his favourite wicker chair to take potshots at the birds. Whiticker was also described as a "hard working and prosperous grazier", (Obituary, The Gundagai Independent, 1912), mainly running Merino sheep.

Details,left and right, from a Parish map circa 1898.

Right:shows some of Richard Whiticker's property holdings

The Pratt Story

The Pratt generations in Australia started with Charles and Sarah Ann Pratt, coming to  Australia on the Fairlie about 1838. Their son, George Pratt, with his wife Esther, came to Junee about 1863 or 1864. George was employed as a shepherd on the station Wyoming (or Junee Station) owned by Hammond and Gwynne. Another son, James Pratt, owned inns in Junee and Wallace Town, that were stopovers for the Cobb & Co Coach Company.

Detail, left:  Map (no date visible) of the Parish of  Gwynne.

Detail, right: from the Parish Map, showing some of the Hammond run.

Descendants of John Crane

The original John Crane came to Australia as a convict, on the Clyde, 1832. John Crane ended up in the Gundagai and Yass area, assigned to property owner Henry O'Brian. John Crane married Mary Fuller and apparently had twenty children. The names of all the children are listed in this history, which is a collection of mostly factual information, family trees, some photographs. Not a lot of anecdotal information but still a colorful story, if you read between the lines. 
I did search for a corresponding map for the above mentioned Henry O'Brian, and found a small holding to an O'Brian in the Yass area, but spelt O'Brien, so without proper evidence that this was the same O'Brian, decided not to show that map. 
If you would like to do your own searches of Parish Maps, The Land & Property Information website has a treasure trove of historical records including surviving Parish Maps. You can start your search here :

The Wagga Wagga City Library has a small collection of Parish Maps you can look at within the library. Just ask at the information desk if you have any queries about  maps and  family history resources. Happy searching ! 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Resources at the library : the microfilm reader

The Wagga Wagga City Library has a collection of  Wagga and district newspapers on microfilm. If you've ever wondered how it works, here is a brief guide to using the microfilm reader.

The films and reader are located near the lift - all the films are kept in draws so it's easy to find the year you would like to research.

Find the reel you want and take it to the microfilm reader desk. You'll need to have your library card to log onto the computer in order to use the reader. Don't forget if you haven't a library card, you can apply for a card online - fill out the form and submit, then bring your ID to the library desk and collect your new card. If you're from out of town, or not in our library area, you can buy a visitor card to access the reader.

If this is your first time using the microfilm reader, ask one of our friendly staff to help you loop the film onto the reader, and give you a demo of how it works. There are picture instructions on the reader itself to remind you of which way the film fits on the reader.

Once you have the film looped on and the reader software open on the computer screen, you can adjust the contrast, focus, brightness, reduce or enlarge the image, and print or save your chosen image to a USB. It's easy to move the film backwards or forwards, or click and drag to scroll through the pages slowly. Again, the staff can show you how super fun and easy it is to operate the microfilm reader.

A select collection of microfiche is also available, and microfiche look like this :

Microfilm is a continuous loop of film, whereas microfiche is a flat little rectangle of film. As you can see, the microfilm reader at the library reads both formats.

Other records on film include the Police Gazette 1900-1930, selected items concerning the Tichborne trial, local newspapers The Urana Shire Advocate, The Lockhart Review, and the Coolamon and Ganmain Farmers Review.

Microfilms from other branches in the Riverina Regional Library service can be requested and used within the library. If you still can't find the microfilm you're looking for, it may be available through inter library loan from the National Library in Canberra. Ask at the information desk for details about this service.

Last but not least, always worth a plug as an amazing resource anyone can access and use, is Trove's online Australian newspaper search:

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dirty old town : death and disease in early Wagga Wagga 1870 to 1930

headline from the Wagga Wagga Express 1909

Drains, sanitation and the removal of waste water, garbage and other refuse may not seem like an interesting subject, particularly if you are a bit squeamish or have a germ phobia, but the start of public health in Wagga Wagga is a fascinating story to follow.  The 1880s were the real start of a public health revolution, with the borough council of the time trying to establish  sewerage, water and garbage systems. There was oddly a lot of push back by some members of the public who were averse to changes and resented attempts to clean up the town and eradicate disease.

Infectious disease was everywhere in a town without proper sewerage and drainage systems. And as Sherry Morris writes in A Delicate Balance: A history of Wagga Wagga Base Hospital ,
“During the first half of the nineteenth century, medical practices were still somewhat  limited. Doctors knew nothing about disease carrying bacteria or germs.” p 3, A  Delicate Balance 

Infectious disease cases were reported in the newspapers of the time, with a growing acknowledgement that hygienic practices, clean water and the removal and careful storage of  of waste were the basic and best protection against the big three diseases of the time: scarlet fever, typhoid, and diphtheria.

People emptied waste water into the streets, despite laws and fines being imposed. Backyards filled with horse manure, kitchen waste, dead animals and worse, and if rain came, it would sluice the waste into the streets and contaminate wells, food, and people would walk in it, and carry disease into their homes.  Personal hygiene wasn’t a priority for many either. Hand washing wasn’t yet established as a way of avoiding disease, and as the water was most probably contaminated, in cases of typhoid, it wouldn’t have been an effective deterrent. There was no systematic collection of garbage, and in 1908, the Sanitary Inspector "urged the adoption of garbage receptacles".

The Sanitary Inspector raised the ire of many householders if they were caught – usually they were given a notice to clear up the waste, and if they didn’t comply within a given time, the matter would proceed to court. The inspector was also expected to report on conditions and make recommendations that the borough council would carry out.

from : the Wagga Wagga Express July 1908

There was a high turnover in the early years of sanitary inspectors, mostly due to resentful residents of the borough objecting to being told to clean up their refuse. The facts of science and disease were received with disbelief.

from : Wagga Wagga Express, September 1898

The Inspector of Nuisances  mostly attended to environmental pollution such as drains from businesses  emptying into waterways and public use land. The Albion brewery in Baylis street, in 1898, emptied all its waste into a creek at the rear of Baylis street (highly likely it was the current Bolton Park) . Manure from horses and other livestock was another problem.  The Inspector of Nuisances and the Sanitary Inspector’s duties often overlapped and at some stage the Nuisance Inspector role was merged into that of the Sanitary Inspector.  Buildings and new buildings also had to be inspected to comply with new and emerging regulations that dealt with sewerage and waste water.

The borough council took sanitation very seriously and different aspects of how to best solve the problem of infectious disease was regularly discussed in council meetings and reported on in the newspaper, which also regularly devoted whole editorials to the cleanliness of the water supply, how to manage refuse, and the duty of every citizen of the town to comply and promote hygienic practices.

Dead bodies were another ongoing problem. The lack of proper mortuary services in the town meant that the local police and district coroner took bodies around the town in a cart asking if any householder had an outhouse or other building in which to put the body or bodies for a few days storage in order for the post mortem examination to be carried out.  Hospital mortuaries were often built as an afterthought, and the local hospitals refused to house bodies of people that hadn't died in the hospital itself.  Post mortem examinations involving dissection  of the body on the back of a handy cart were sometimes carried out in full view of the public. Police and the Coroner (who at this time, in the 1870s to 1880s, was one of Wagga Wagga's pioneers, F A Tompson) would take the body around the streets of Wagga, in a cart, asking  pubs and even households to take the body in for a few days. Often publicans refused (understandably) though I did read that at one stage it was a law or regulation that publicans were obliged to house the body if requested by the Coroner. Public dissections were avidly attended by the more bloodthirsty citizens of  the town, who happened to be walking past at the time.

from : A Delicate Balance by Sherry Morris

There was no sewerage system so human waste was removed by sanitary wagons, sanitary pans in outside toilets being collected and stacked into the waggons. In 1909 it was discovered that there was leakage from the carts and pans which caused a typhoid outbreak.

from : the Wagga Wagga Advertiser, May 1909

The 1920s still saw cases of the disease, with an outbreak of typhoid at the Wagga Experiment Farm in 1924 prompting an inquiry.

Infectious disease was still being reported during 1930, but with scarlet fever cases being described as "mild" in the Daily Advertiser on 8 January 1930. By this time infantile paralysis, also called poliomyelitis or polio, had appeared and was being included in the health statistics gathered by the health authorities. There would be weeks at a time go by with few reports of disease, then there would be another outbreak. Medical treatments for infectious diseases evolved over time and with the control of sanitation taken on at all government levels, the diseases that were a part of daily life were controlled.

Wagga Wagga City Library has copies of A Delicate Balance : A history of the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital , by Sherry Morris, if you would like to borrow or read the book within the library.

If you would like to do your own digging into Wagga's murky past, go to Trove: