Researching the history of your house
A dozen participants, including people from Gunning, Dalton, Collector, and Crookwell, attended the third workshop on local history research at the Gunning Library recently.
The workshop was conducted by Dr Michael de Percy a Senior Lecturer in Political Science from the Canberra University and Gunning and District Historical Society.
This is part of an ongoing series run by the Gunning Library and the Gunning and District Historical Society.
In his third workshop, they looked into the history of one's house or property. In this region, there is a rich heritage in Colonial and federation architecture. But discovering that history can be a big job.
Participants employed a variety of techniques for discovering the story of their houses, uses the following online resources:
Six Maps: Use this site to locate your property or to find the relevant plan numbers.
Historical Land Records Viewer (HLRV): Use this site to search the historical maps of the location of your house. Look for the notations on the old maps and sometimes you can find who owned the land, and when it was sold. Town maps are best if you live in the village.
Land & Property Information NSW: Here you can search for all sorts of historical and current property information. Current property information usually incurs a fee, but most historical information is free.
State Archives & Records (Records NSW): On this site you can search the names of owners for wills and other property information.
Trove: Here you can search for the lot and plan number of your property. Sometimes you can find when the block of land was first offered for sale. Or you can search for the names of previous owners. Narrow down your search by town and year.
Ancestry.com.au: Electoral rolls and post office and telephone directories are free to access from this service in the Gunning Library. Try searching for previous owners of your property. I usually start a family tree where the house is the most recent person and then search for previous owners and add them as "parents".
Feedback from the workshop was positive, but of course there is never enough time. Some participants confirmed a few stories they had heard, while others were frustrated with the lack of available information. But it can be hard work.
One warning, though: it is addictive! Research in moderation is advised!
Researching Australian Military Service Records
The second workshop was was "Researching Australian Military Service Records" facilitated by Gunning resident Dr Michael de Percy from the University of Canberra.
Information and paraphernalia provided by the National Library of Australia's Trove team and also the Research Centre at the Australian War Memorial were welcomed by the participants, many traveling from as far as Ulladulla, Canberra, Mt Pleasant and Breadalbane to visit the village.
Two sessions were held from 10:30am to 12:30pm and from 1:30pm to 3:30pm. Participants enjoyed morning and afternoon tea during the sessions, allowing time for new connections to be made and to share stories and ideas about researching family histories.
The workshop covered the basics of researching the information available from the Australian War Memorial, Trove, the National Archives of Australia, and ancestry.com.au (which can be accessed for free from the Gunning Library), with some venturing into the births, deaths and marriages websites for NSW and Victoria.
Some of the participants were able to discover digitised war records of various family members. This is much easier for those who served in the Australian Imperial Force in the First World War and the 2nd Australian Imperial Force in the Second World War. But it can be particularly challenging to find information on those who served in the Citizen Military Forces (CMF) or in the Royal Australian Navy.
The Australian Army website provides more information about searching records from various conflicts, and online access to the records from the Royal Australian Navy are still somewhat limited but improving over time.
Some of the participants discovered various records of family members who were Prisoners of Waror Indigenous servicemen. Others worked patiently and were rewarded by discovering their family members under slightly different names (for example, one "James" was officially "Jim" in the records), while others were able to find new information such as newspaper articles on Trove about the exploits of their relatives some time after the war.
Some of the more difficult to find records appear on the Australian Government's World War Two Roll website, which is currently being updated to a new website managed by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
One participant was able to complete an assignment for school based on the service records and was very helpful in assisting other members of the group to grapple with some of the more technical issues that inevitably arise when using technology!
Others will have to request a copy of their relative's records, but were able to register to request this information either for purchase or physical viewing from the National Archives in Canberra.
Overall, participants reported that the event was a success, with many wishing that the sessions were longer. Ideas for future sessions included a session on researching family history and creating a blog for use by individuals and community groups.
The Gunning and District Historical Society plans to run one of these free community sessions each quarter. Details of the next workshop will be advertised in the Lions Club of Gunning Noticeboard, on the Gunning Community Announcements and Events Facebook page, and on this blog.
If you have any other ideas for community workshops using the computers at the Gunning Library, please contact Dr Michael de Percy at: email@example.com.
Using Trove: Family and Local History
Gunning is a village in the Upper Lachlan Shire, situated about half-way between Goulburn and Yass. Gunning marks the starting point of Hume and Hovell’s expedition that enabled settlement throughout the Murray region and established an inland route from Sydney to Melbourne.
Up until that time, Gunning marked the limit of settlement, and in 1875, the end of the railway line from Sydney.
As a major sheep grazing area, Gunning has had many periods of wealth, and this is reflected in the outstanding colonial and federation architecture in the village.
The Gunning Library is one such example. Originally the Gunning Centenary Literary Institute, opened in 1925, the Gunning Library remains a community hub and a venue for the many community groups
The Gunning Historical Society is an active group of committed locals with an interest in local and family history. Recently, the ABC program “Who’s Been Sleeping in My House” featured an episode on a local residence that is the former police lock-up, complete with underground cells.
Keith Brown, a local author and former Deputy Official Secretary to the Governors-General Sir Zelman Cowan and Sir Ninian Stephen, recently published The Day Dunkley Died: Murder and Retribution in Colonial Gunning, the story of one of the more chilling incidents in Gunning’s history investigated on the ABC program.
Brown’s work uncovers the facts and the myths surrounding Dunkley’s wife and her lover, Dunkley’s man-servant, who brutally murdered the settler while he slept, and were hanged and reportedly buried standing up “so they may never rest in peace”.
Brown’s work continues a long tradition of historical scholarship in the region that includes an early history of Gunning by Mrs Flora Timms, whose article ‘The Centenary of Gunning’ and related journal submissions are now held in the Mitchell Library at the State Library of NSW.
Last year, Mr de Percy was fortunate enough to acquire a lovely federation house in the village of Gunning, and discovered the history of the house from the time of the sale of the original town lot in 1878 to the building of the house in 1926.
The National Library’s Trove database enabled him to discover that the first owner of the block of land was a journalist who later went bankrupt, and that the house was built by the local undertaker and his family.
After joining the Gunning Historical Society, Mr de Percy met many others in the village who shared my passion for history, and given the long-established scholarly tradition and the encouragement of the Gunning Historical Society, he put together a workshop on using Trove to assist others in researching local and family history.
The Gunning Library was a natural place for such an event, and after almost two decades of living in Canberra and being sheltered from the services offered by a traditional local government, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Gunning Library has a computer room with internet access and access to numerous databases including Trove and ancestry.com.
On Friday 17 June 2016, I ran two workshops on using Trove and ancestry.com for family and local history research.
Both workshops were fully booked out and the team at Trove and ABC 666 in Canberra were interested in what we were doing at a local level.
Participants were encouraged to bring along their own research projects, and after a brief introductory session on each database, I shared some of the tips and tactics I have gleaned from my many years of research using databases such as Trove.
I am happy to report that each participant found something interesting and relevant to their respective research projects, and there is demand for additional workshops using Trove and other services such as the National Archives of Australia collection and the Australian War Memorial’s war service records.
It is pleasing to find that these fine national institutions are accessible in regional Australia, and with the superb facilities provided by the Gunning Library, the local community has a wonderful resource for historical research.
In closing, I would like to make some observations about the symbolic importance of the Gunning Library and others like it.
When the original Literary Institute was opened in 1925, the then member for Eden Monaro, Sir Austin Chapman, in his opening address, mentioned how Canberra would provide many opportunities for tourism in and around Gunning, while also using his address to chastise the Victorians for their opposition to the proposed location of the national capital.
Trove can help to unearth many such stories throughout regional Australia.
And recently, just before this workshop commenced, Labor promised to restore funding to Trove if it was elected.
It would seem that despite their small stature, libraries like those at Gunning play an active role in community development. With appropriate engagement from the local academic community, citizens in rural and regional communities can continue to enjoy the country lifestyle, while at the same time playing an active part in the federation through access to the many first-rate national institutions.
Indeed, Trove is one such institution, and I trust that our recent workshops have helped to perpetuate Gunning’s well-established scholarly tradition.