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Expert Q&A :: What’s new at

For our Expert Q&A Thursday, December 20 we had Brad Argent from to discuss what’s new at Ancestry, and how to get the most from the new Police Gazettes, NSW Gaol and Parish records, plus much more. Thanks again to Brad for giving us all the benefit of his 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


Brad’s top tips for family history research over the Christmas break:

    1. Pester the oldest person in the family for more info – eventually they’ll crack and give you the good stuff (a glass of sherry works well too)
    2. Ask visiting Aunts and Uncles for their version of any family stories (perspective is everything)
    3. Hit a brick wall?  Think outside the state you live in.  Our ancestors traveled more than we might think and they turn up in the most unlikely places when you go looking.

Summary of links from the Q&A:

A 1929 Gaol certificate :: see more at


Transcript of Expert Q&A – What’s new at Ancestry

Our Expert Q&A with Brad Argent, from starts in 15 minutes at 8:30pm AEDT. Please ask your questions in a comment below and Brad will answer in a following comment.

Got questions on what’s new at Ancestry, want to know more about the new Police Gazettes, NSW Goal or Parish records? Hit a brick wall with your research, want to know more about how to use BDMs? Ask your questions.

Comment: IHM: Welcome everyone, thanks for joining us. Please welcome Brad from to tonight’s Q&A!
A. IHM: Christmas reminder :: Keep refreshing your browser to see the answers as they appear. Tonight’s Q&A serving suggestion is with egg nog.


A. IHM: Hi Carol, welcome. Can you give us a little more detail?
A. Brad: Hi Carol, you’d be best off by asking the oldest people in your husband’s family first.  If you’re having trouble or hitting brick walls call the Ancestry Customer Services people on 100 251 838 or drop in to your local Family History society.
A. Michelle: Isnt that 1 800 251 838 🙂
A. IHM: Here’s the link to the Help – Ask a question ::
A. Brad: Thanks for the help Michelle and sorry Chez, at the moment the only way to filter is by excluding everything but one country or by seeing them all.  However you can get better results by using ‘exact’ matches on location details in the search but that does come with risks.


Q. From Brad: What new records are there going to be for New Zealand within the next year available through Ancestry? By the way I have actually seen advertised in NZ when I was over there. I thought that was interesting.
A. Brad: Hi Brad, I’m working on getting more NZ records.  There should be some out later next year.  NZ is important to us, hence the advertising spend.


Q. From Chez: Brad, can ancestry have a selection in the search section to NOT include USA records. You can select English only or Aust only but still those sneaky USA ones will appear…I know it is not just me that finds this an issue.
A. Brad: Hi Chez, you can select just Australian records and check the box that excludes everything else.  If you can’t see the check box make sure you’re using advanced search.
A. Chez: Brad Yes I know I can select just AUS or Just UK but if I want both of those it would be good to deselect the USA
A. Jill:  It would be great to be able to select English plus Australian records and ignore the US ones.Would you like this Chez?
A. Brad: Thanks for the help Michelle and sorry Chez, at the moment the only way to filter is by excluding everything but one country or by seeing them all.  However you can get better results by using ‘exact’ matches on location details in the search but that does come with risks.
A. Brad: Agreed Jill. That would be great.
Q (b): Chez: When you ‘correct’ due to a transcription error on Ancestry are they checked and then updated?
A. Brad: Hi Chez, we apply the corrections so that they then become searchable.  They’re not checked individually (we do spot checks) as they’re only made by members and we know they’re always right.
Q (c): Chez: Brad on electoral rolls in UK if a name has been transcribed incorrect ly how can you report that so the search is updated
A. Brad: Hi Chez, if you make a correction it will get updated and then it will surface correctly when searched (eventually).
Q (d): Chez: Yes but HOW can you do it for the electoral roll as there doesnt seem to be a place to edit it?
A. Brad: Chez – go into view the image and you should be able to add an update…
A. Chez: Thanks Brad didnt realise :view all” meant that I got that bottom screen part up thanks


Q. Denise: My ancestor, Robert Bird, arrived in 1837 as a convict on the Bengal Merchant. I know that he ended up at Harpers Hill in a stockade but I am not sure how he ended up there or how, after that, he ended up at Spring Gully near Scone NSW. He is buried in our local cemetery – we haven’t ventured very far obviously as  i was born here, as was my father and grandfather – so I guess my question is how do I follow the trail from Sydney to Harpers Hill to Spring Gully? I cant seem to find anything much about it. Thank you
A. Brad: Hi Denise , I’d try following his trail through the convict records.  Check Ancestry as well as NSW State records.  Then try the land records as they’re an often overlooked source of great info.
A. Jill: Denise – a coincidence – my direct ancestor Richard Aspinall also arrived on Bengal Merchant in 1837.
A. Denise: Thanks Brad, have searched through ancestry and government records without much luck.  Will try land records. Any idea how I would find out more info about the convict stockade at Harpers Hill? Apparently it was a bit wild. Were they building roads or railways or what?


Q. Michelle: G’day Brad from the other side of the ditch, recent survey showed had 39% of Kiwi had Australian ancestry in their trees. I wonder what percentage of Australians have NZers in theirs?
A. Brad: Hi Michelle – it wouldn’t surprise me if the figure was similar (though we’d be loath to admit it).


Q. Denise: Wondering if Ancestry will be adding any more Baptism’s from early churches in NSW?
A. Brad: Hi Denise D, Hmmm, let me just say…perhaps and leave it there for the moment 😉
A. Denise: Yes I have a Jane Connolly in my tree who first turns up in a NSW Muster around 1802 so I have assumed she was born around 1800 no record. She then shows up as a witness to her sisters wedding then I have her Headstone at Windsor buried as Jane Day with her father and brother both James Connolly. Cannot find any record for the birth, baptism. marriage or death of Jane  lol but I figure something will turn up one day lol
A. Michelle: For Denise D, you might want to check out this group for your Windsor relative.
A. Denise: Michelle thanks for that have checked their records and they don’t have anything more then I already have thanks
A. Michelle: Hi Denise Dobinson, have you spoke with Michelle Nichols? She and Jonathan Auld are a mine of info. Then there is the Claim a Convict site and mailing list, worth searching the mailing list archives if nothing else…
A. Denise: Michelle thanks will check it out
A. Michelle: My pleasure Denise, have waayyy toooo many Hawwkesbury Convict’s myself. Floods and Fires meant a lot of very early parish records didnt survive. But collecting lots of side evidence from musters, the 1828 census and the great Col Sec records (thanks Ancestry for making those freely available) can help piece supporting evidence for the birth
A. Brad: Michelle and Denise – I too have a Hawkesbury Convict (Aaron Walters).
A. Michelle: I have a bunch of CROSS’s, DOUGLASS (yes with 2 s’s) HOBBS, ROSE, JOHNSON, WATTS, FLOOD, MORRIS, SPEARS, CRAFT, ROBINSON… hmmm getting late over here and this list is toooo long… Night everyone.
A. Denise: I have followed my GGgrandfather on my fathers side from the rocks in Sydney through the goldfields around hill End and then over to Nymagee and Forbes and parkes with Birth, marriage and death certificates but will probably always wonder how the family ended up in St George Qld. I always wish I had asked my parents questions when they were alive.
A. Brad: Hi Denise – it’s the genealogist’s lament.  You can never ask too many questions.  Once someone is gone you can still ask the question, the answers are just harder to understand.


Q. Gary: I hold a NSW BDM Certificate of a birth in the family (1860) I have spend 2 years researching this family member in all possible avenues. There is no records from State Libraries or anywhere. Is it possible that a death wasn’t recorded? Also is there anyway to locate a record as I have exhausted this one too My GG Father was in the police gazettes for a bench warrant but no record of an arrest or further info ( NSW courts 1923).
A. Brad: Hi Gary,  absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence – there’s got to be a record somewhere.  You could try doing wild card searches through the BMD Indexes on Ancestry to cover off the possibility that it was transcribed incorrectly.  Also, check out the NZ BMD indexes on the registry’s site.  As for the bench warrant, try the magistrates Bench Books – at NSW State Records – you might need to go out to Kingswood to see them.
A. Michelle: Gary – the other thing is human error, our NSW BDM’s have up to 12 steps on transcription. there are 2 different microfiche sets, the CD and online versions are based on the more recent set. So it is work checking the 1976 (I think that was the date) set as some whole pages didnt make it through to the indexes we are used to…
A. Michelle: Another thought for Gary, have you searched the newspapers at Trove and Papers Past? Have you checked out SAG’s AGCI indexes? Have you check the Police and Government Gazette’s? The Australian Cemetery indexes – online somewhere I will just go look for the link.
A. Geoff: Ah, yes, recording and transcription errors. I forget how many different ways I’ve found to spell the surname “Warboys”.
A. Michelle:
Q (b): Gary: Ill post again because you liked it but no response to it. Question: I hold a NSW BDM Certificate of a birth in the family (1860) I have spend 2 years researching this family member in all possible avenues. There is no records from State Libraries or anywhere. Is it possible that a death wasn’t recorded? Also is there anyway to locate a record as I have exhausted this one too My GG Father was in the police gazettes for a bench warrant but no record of an arrest or further info ( NSW courts 1923)
A: IHM: Hi Gary, Brad has answered your question in a comment above, let us know if you have a followup Q
A. Carmel: Gary are you sure they did not go interstate, Trove may have a death notice. also many went to NZ Also in Victoria, often inquests did not make it to death indexes.
 Q (c): Gary: Brad. As I had mentioned I have exhausted all avenues with both of my questions. I have been to kingswood and there is absolutly nothing and I have been through wildcard entries there is absolutely nothing… Any other suggestions?
A. Brad: Hi Gary.  I’ll ping you my email address and we can mull over this offline.
A. IHM: For Gary, can you email me on & I’ll connect you up with Brad Argent


Q. Corrinne: My great grandmother born 1864…oral history says possibly at Dublin Police barracks. Her father was a retired policeman at Dublin in 1901 census . Early correspondence with Garda Liochana and Dublin Police museum both returned negitive results. Further correspondence with police historian Jim Herlihy (Royal Irish Constabulary) provided 3 possible candidates. How can I find out if she was born in the police Barracks?
A. Brad: Hi Corrinne – that’s a tough one.  You could look to see if there’s any suggestion of a residence at the time of baptism. That might be as close as you get.  Baptism records do exist for Dublin though – I’m sure I’ve seen them somewhere…
A. Corrinne: Thanks Brad
A. IHM: For Corrinne, here’s the link to Ireland, Selections of Catholic Parish Baptisms, 1742-1881 ::


Comment: Carmel: Hi all a bit late but got here!
Q. Carmel: So when will the police gazettes be on line? or are they already there? I have not looked yet!
A. Brad: Hi Carmel  – they’re already up.
A. Carmel: I would like to see Ancestry put a way to put a possible Ancestor, maybe mark it red! I often find a possible person but not sure but if I do not put them up I lose track, I do put a note saying it is not a proven ancestor or record etc but people will pick up and run with these, if it is in red maybe stop it getting moved to another tree
A. IHM: For Carmel, here’s the link to the New South Wales, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1854-1930 ::
A. Carmel: My problem is Cassie I go to look and find something else!
A. Brad: Hi Carmel – someone told me that they put all possible ancestors in lowercase (surnames) and all confirmed ancestors in uppercase (surnames).  Great idea.
Q (b): Carmel: so are the Vic police gazettes on the radar?
A. Carmel: yah, just found one in police Gazettes!
A. Brad: Hi Carmel – VIC records are on the radar and the Police Gazettes are a high priority.  Ideally I’d like to create a national collection.


Q. Leanne: Hi Brad how can I find out more on Ward of the State children?
A. Brad: Hi Leanne – try your state archive as a first point of call for state ward stuff.  Access might be trick though depending upon the date you;re after and your relationship to the individual.
A. Leanne: Thank you Brad


Q. Wendy: A Great Grandmother of mine was married in 1918 aged 22yrs , did they have to produce a Birth Cert. to prove age then? I cannot find a birth rego for her . She does show up on younger siblings birth certs . Her parents were married the same year as her birth … is it possible they never registered her ?
A. Brad: Hi Wendy, it is possible that they didn’t register her but it could also be possible that they registered her some years after her birth so cast your net a little wider when searching for the record.  I think proof of age was somewhat flexible depending upon the minister, the church and the circumstances.
A. Michelle: Wendy, to add to Brad’s comment – worth checking under mother’s maiden name too, sometimes people didnt marry when you think they did.
A. Wendy: Thanks Brad and Michelle , this one has been doing my head in for years 😉 have tried all combinations of maiden, married , etc and have tried wider date. I have copies of all her siblings birth regos but not Great Grannie’s ….her mum , my GG Grannie has no registered father either to complicate matters further …. the GGG Grannie was married had children then maybe had a child or two with another bloke then remarried …. the kids names are all over the place. And ‘the other bloke’ appears to have married my GG Grannie !!! This was all BEFORE they moved to Tassie 😉 Great Grans maiden name was DeBruine …. so you can imagine the variation of spellings  for that , her Dad was Dutch , so add heaps more. It becomes Brown too … real helpful ..


Comment: Linda: In beautiful, Port Albert in tent, and can hardly see the keybord. So not asking questions tonight, just “listening”.
A. Brad: Hi Linda – I’m kinda jealous.


Q. From Sandra: I have been searching for information on the Brownlow Hill Sunday School at Brownlow Hill N,S,W. I could only find 1 newspaper article . Any suggestions ?
A. Brad: Hi Sandra,  I did a check at the Mitchell Library earlier today (somehow I knew you’d be asking this question) and they have nothing specific but I’d get in touch with the Camden Area Family History Society via as they are bound to have some info on Brownlow Hill.


Q. Brenden: Hi Brad, I have an ancestor who was a ships engineer and worked up and down the coast between Brisbane and Sydney, and i believe spent some time in India aswell so the family legend says, however I can not find when he actually arrived in Australia. Is it possible that because he worked on the ships that he arrived here and it isnt recorded. His name was Arthur Nicholls born in 1861 london, first sign of employment in Australia is on the ship Clitus in 1888 and he is 27,then Adonis and a few other ships that were owned by Captain john Burke in Brisbane. any help would be appreciated?
A. Carmel: Brendon I have the same with a couple of mine
A. Brad: Hi Brenden, As a sailor he’s bound to appear in the records, but unlikely to be listed as an immigrant anywhere.  There may be some records relating to his work as a seaman in Australia (try NSW and QLD archives) and this might give you a date that he ‘settled’ here.
A. Geoff: Brenden, many of the passenger lists include crew, but many don’t. Luck of the draw, mostly, whether you find one or not.
A. Carmel: You are right there Geoff, I have an ancestor who names his ship and date of arrival in Melbourne, it was not a passenger ship but I have found it was a merchant ship and yes it left Warnambool the day before he said he landed in Melbourne and was in Sydney a couple of weeks later. Just cannot find a list with him on it.
A. Brenden: Thanks Brad, I have found all of these records just not when he arrived. On his death certificate and marriage certificate he would have arrived around 1886, but who knows, and I cant find him in the 1871 or 1881 census or the family in the UK..brickwalls..grr!
A. Brad: Hi Brendan, Have you checked out the newly released Master Certificate from the UK (on Ancestry)?
A. IHM: Link to UK & Ireland, Masters and Mates Certificates, 1850-1927 collection ::
A. Geoff: Talking about shipping records – if you want confusion, try tracking Cornish miners that went back and forth between Cornwall and Mexico (like one of my great great uncles).


Q. Paul: How would I go about finding information about my dad’s family if they went to United states to work for a while and returned to England?
A. Brad: Hi Paul,  Check the border crossing records for the US and the incoming Passenger Records too – both for the US and the return to the UK (they’re on Ancestry).
Q (b): Paul: Hi Brad, is there a way I could find out about some photos I find in my dad’s stuff using ancestry. all I know about them there taken in America of his family
A. Brad: Hi Paul, first thing is to date them and then work out where they were taken.  Attach them to your tree and see if anyone else is interested in them – sharing photos has been very successful for me (and others).


Q. Ellen: Was it normal or convicts to be married nod then remarried if the partner was sent off somewhere – looks lie there might be some bigamy in one generation – but not sure as cannot verify marriage?
A. Brad: Hi Ellen,  when dealing with convicts ‘normal’ isn’t a word that applies.  If they married again it was likely that they convinced someone that their spouse was dead. Bigamy was much more prevalent than you might at first think and you can see evidence of convict marriages being refused on the grounds that previously deceased spouses have miraculously come back to life.
A. Ellen: Hi Brad thanks for the wedding bigamy info now know why Fruin name was referenced but was in fact a furfie. Of to the uk to try and track Robert Fleming in the little Bolton area before his conviction in 1833 – keeping the fingers crossed that I will be successful again – as Preston records office in Lancashire had the original hand written conviction doc


Q. Tracie: My great grandfather was in pentridge prison in the late 1920’s and early 30’s.  i have found newspaper articles about his sentencing but have been unable to find his prison record.  he was convicted under the name john david munro and john david hobbs.  he serms to disappear after about 1933 where my great grandmother says he died but no death certificate can be found.  any help regarding his prison record would be appreciated.  he was also known under the surname poore in his earlier years.
A. Wendy: Hi Tracie – Start with – they have most of the prison records and I believe some are microfilmed.  If you not a Melbourne local you could always get the guys at to help you out for a small fee.  And don’t forget
A. Carmel: I believe some of the prison records are also on line for PROV, I did get some but cannot remember where exactly I found the reference
A. Christine: Some of the Victorian prison records are available online now but there is a trick to get to them so worth ringing them for help
A. IHM: Here’s the link to the Public Record Office Victoria Prison Records guide with link to online index ::
A. Carmel: I know many of the prison records are very fragile. I got a copy of one and it is quite poor but able to get dates to go back to Police Gazettes for more info
A. Tracie: Thank you!


Q. From Margaret: I have been trying to find a letter written to the Surveyor-General in 1856 by my ancestor, Joseph Simpson about acquiring land in Deniliquin, NSW. The newspapers of the time printed the reply, so I know it happened. This is the reply dated 25th April, 1856: ” Sir, I have to inform you that the allotments of land applied for in letter of the 10th instant, have been measured and will be brought to sale in due course.” I would love to know which allotments were mentioned in the letter from my ancestor. I have not had any luck in my searches so far, where else can I look?
A. Brad: Hi Margaret,  You can look at the Col Sec stuff from 1825 – 1856 – it’s all on microfilm and I believe it’s at the State Library (NSW).  There are also land grant records (


Q. From IHM: Wow, that went quick! Great Q&A everyone, thanks Brad Argent! Last question for you: What’s 3 ways that everyone can further their family history over the Christmas break?
A. Brad:

  1. Pester the oldest person in the family for more info – eventually they’ll crack and give you the good stuff (a glass of sherry works well too)
  2.  Ask visiting Aunts and Uncles for their version of any family stories (perspective is everything)
  3.  Hit a brick wall?  Think outside the state you live in.  Our ancestors traveled more than we might think and they turn up in the most unlikely places when you go looking.

A. IHM: As always, great advice Brad! Thanks again for joining us tonight! Merry Christmas one & all.
A. Brad: Thanks to Inside History for doing these Q&A’s !
A. Carmel: Thank you for your time Brad
A. Brad: Hi Carmel – I’m always happy to help out where I can 🙂
A. IHM: For all, have updated their West Yorkshire Non-Conformist records, 1646-1985 with additional Baptism & Marriage records ::


Questions asked before the session:

Comment: Carmel: I transcribed some of those police gazettes. interesting stuff
A. Brad: Thanks Carmel! Those records are there because of the great work by you and many others.
Q. From Pam: I would love to know when more Victorian records will be available on Ancestry?   All my family settled in  Victoria in the mid 1800’s, and there is so much more NSW and Qld and Tas history available and very limited Vic records.  We need more Vic police gazettes and other Vic records please….
A. IHM: We’ll ask Brad Argent for you tomorrow Pam, until then Brad recommended going to the online collections of the Public Record Office Victoria ::
A. Pam: I do use PROV which is great…..but sometimes I get so frustrated when I see a message saying that more Australian records are available on Ancestry, only to find that they always seem to be ANY state but Vic..
A. Brad: Hi Pam,  I’ve been trying to get more Victorian records on the site for ages but I’ve been struggling to get access to the material.  The staff at PROV have been fantastic but, as always, it’s a battle between resources and priorities.  Here’s hoping we can make some real progress in 2013.
A. Pam: Thanks so much for your reply Brad.  I look forward to seeing more records in 2013.

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