Case study in using online resources

In just a few weeks, with more than a modicum of good luck, one very happy Melbourne beginner has traced his paternal grandmother's family from Ballarat to their origins in Cornwall. He began with some reliable source material about private schooling in Ballarat in the 1880s. The surname was not common and the family made a habit of using the mother's maiden name as a middle name so these factors hastened his progress.
This is a generalised version of online resources used to research this family.

Victorian Births, Deaths and marriages
Certificates purchased online for $17.50 arrived within two days. These were a 1907 marriage certificate for his grandparents, an 1897 death certificate for his great grandmother and an 1868 marriage certificate for his great grandparents.

Index of Unassisted Inward Passenger Lists to Victoria from British, Foreign and New Zealand Ports 1852-1923
Twenty-three arrivals of passengers with that surname in the 1850s.

Online index for the Creswick & Clunes Advertiser 1859-1865
Many references found for this family in Ballarat which can be followed up in the newspaper on microfilm.

Australian War Memorial
Obtained the WW2 service record of a relative who was born in Victoria and enlisted in Queensland.
First World War Nominal Roll
Found that his English-born grandfather served in the Australian army as a chaplain with the rank of Captain and returned to Australia on 8 August 1919.

NSW Online Historical Indexes
The death of his great grandfather was found in Sydney in 1909. The death certificate was purchased for $24.00 over the internet and promptly snail mailed. This revealed two more marriages late in life so back to the NSW Online Historical Indexes where these were found as well as the deaths of the wives.

Archives Office of Tasmania - Index to Census Records
Colonial Tasmanian Family Links Database
By searching these sites one of two females with the same name in the Ballarat Hospital within two years of each other was eliminated.

Family Search in the UK
By now it was known that several branches of this family were Cornish. A gr gr grandmother had the relatively unusual given name of Mercy and her christening and marriage were found on the International Genealogical Index (IGI).

Then the batch numbers were used to bring up all the entries for that surname in a given parish. Typing in the surname and the 6 figure Batch Number beginning with either C or P will show all the christenings for that parish. Change the beginning letter to M and marriages will come up. This method produced great results for the families of both the husband and wife. Other unusual given names of Whearn (male) and the female Asenath in another line also in Cornwall were a big help.

GenUKI (Genealogy - United Kingdom Information) Cornwall
This revealed that the British Census returns for their parish for 1841, 1851 and 1861 had been indexed and were available online for free. By following the links the family groups could be traced over these decades.

Cornwall Online Parish Clerks
Between 1851 and 1861 the father of the goldrush immigrant brothers died so an Online Parish Clerk will be asked to do a lookup for his burial.

Collaboration via email with cousins in far away places was a fantastic way of sharing family history information quickly. A new contact who had accessed a family bible was found in Melbourne and a sister-in-law in Tasmania produced a collection of old family photographs. This resulted in few dozen jpegs of documents and photos being transmitted through cyberspace. Distance is no longer the tyranny it once was and it was remarked that, "This is getting to be quite an obsession. I can see how people get hooked on tracing their ancestors".

Dating Old Photographs
Here a start can be made with dating old family photos.

Family webpages have now been created on this site. The content includes stories, photos and certificates as pdfs created with a free application from www.fastio.com/

This search engine was great help along the way for learning more about items which came to light such as the 1853 Bendigo Petition, ships of arrival and Binnerton Manor in Cornwall.

Despite this remarkably rapid progress, it is not possible to rely solely on the internet for family history research. Genealogical resources which are not online were also consulted:
Vic BDMs
CD Hatches Matches & Dispatches for Ballarat & District
Ballarat Old Cemetery Register
Gravestone inscriptions
Ballarat Directories
Ballarat Base Hospital Admissions Register
Victorian and NSW Probate Indexes

The Research Officer for the Ballarat & District Genealogical Society could help with all of the above but one thing you must do yourself is to chat with elderly relatives before all their stories and memorabilia are gone.

Jennifer Burrell: jburrell@ncable.net.au



Created : 18 April 2005
Last Modified : 7 April 2006
Email : jburrell@ncable.net.au
URL : http://users.ncable.net.au/~jburrell/link/8case.htm