Alt banner image

Expert Q&A :: State Library of NSW on goldfields and the Holtermann collection

For our Expert Q&A Thursday, February 14 we had Alan Davies and Megan Atkins from the State Library of NSW to discuss the 19th century photography of the NSW goldfields, including the Holtermann collection. Thanks again to Alan and Megan for giving us all the benefit of their time and 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 | Weekly on Thursdays nights!

Summary of links from the Q&A:

From the Holtermann Collection: Short Street, Hill End, 1872


Transcript of Expert Q&A – State Library of NSW on goldfields history 

Our Expert Q&A with Alan Davies and Megan Atkins from the State Library of New South Wales starts in 15 minutes at 8:30pm AEDT on this page. Tonight we’ll be discussing the 19th century photography of the NSW goldfields.

Please ask your questions in a comment below, and Alan or Megan will answer in a following comment.

Comment: IHM: Welcome, thanks for joining us. Please welcome Alan and Megan to tonight’s Q&A.
A. IHM: Early questions received will be repeated in a comment on this post, for Alan and Megan to answer in a following comment.
A. Linda: Hi Alan and Megan – thanks for calling by.

Q. From Gail: I’m trying to find out about the HANNAN family who were in Tambaroora, NSW in the mid 1850’s. James Hannan was a miner,  from Co Clare, Ireland, who died in Sofala in 1874?
A. SLNSW: @Gail and @Denise The Hill End & Tambaroora Gathering Group has a great website that has gathered together some resources for researching your family in this area of NSW. It’s at Gail, I found James Hannan listed on the Cemetery Headstone records section in the ‘Researching Hill End – Online’ section. They have also gathered together extensive records relating to families in the area. Contact them through their website with your families names – Megan
A. Gail: @ Alan and Megan… thank you for your advice and the link.. I’ve sent my request

Q. From Kellea: How can you find out if any miner’s licenses were issued to a person in Victoria? Grandfather was a publican in Kilmore, Vic and went to work the gold mines somewhere in Vic around 1847. Got into some kind of trouble there, took his youngest son, changed his name and moved to the gold fields in NSW around 1857. His changed name shows up 10 years later in Wellington and Mudgee district, the son under the name change married in Gulgong, but he was never issued a gold license there even though his marriage occupation is listed as a miner.
A. IHM: Good question Kellea Croft, are you able to send across your Grandfather’s name/s?
A. Kellea: Sorry, I have been out of town, hence why I posted the question and did not attend session. His birth name was John Mitton (son of a convict), he changed his name to John Ragen/Ragan/Regan/Reagen whichever they felt like spelling it at the time. His son at birth was George Samuel Middleton Mitton then changed to George Samuel Ragen with varies spellings. Their death records it is spelled Ragan, Grevilles spelled Reagen, etc. John Mitton was a publican at Sydney Road, Kilmore, Vic at the “Currency Lad” when he got gold fever. We are not sure why he changed his name (besides family legend), but his son, George’s death certificate stated that they came to NSW in 1857 when he was aged 10. From 1847-1857 we are trying to find where he was mining
A. SLNSW: Hi, finding information on miners can be difficult.  The first official discovery of payable gold was made in Victoria in 1851 so 1847 sounds a bit early.  A good place to start looking for information on mining is the Public Record Office in Victoria.  Here is some information on the sorts of records they hold – Megan

Q. From Patricia: Hi there, would love to find my G-grandfather somewhere in the records. John Blackhall who jumped ship in Sydney 1857 and disappeared for a few years. Turned up in Wellington about seven years later and married the daughter of Dana Mudgee, Aboriginal woman.
A. SLNSW: @Patricia, are you looking for records about his time in Wellington? – Megan
A. Patricia: Megan, not particularly. More so the goldfields out west. We don’t really know where he went from the ship. We do know where he ended up. Thanks p
A. SLNSW: @Patricia Sorry I didn’t get a chance to get back to you.  Have you searched resources such as post office directories and electoral rolls?  If you’re Sydney-based you can come into our Family History Service to use databases such as or Find my Past, or our Family History librarians can suggest some other resources that might help.  Have you checked the digitized newspapers on Trove? I imagine though this might be a fairly common name – Megan

Q. From Wendy: Hello Alan and Megan, were there goldfields at Orange?
A. SLNSW: @Wendy Yes there were. Holtermann even invested in a mine at the Mullion. Unfortunately, the mine flooded faster than his pumps could remove the water. There were photos made by Merlin of Orange in 1872. He wrote of his experiences in Orange in Australian Town & Country Journal. All the photographs of Orange have been digitised and can be viewed on our catalogue – Alan
A. Wendy: Thanks Alan 🙂
Q (b): Wendy: Also curious about Lambton but have a feeling it may have been coal ?
A. SLNSW: @Wendy, yes I think Lambton in Newcastle, NSW, was coal
A. IHM: @Wendy Here’s the Trove link to 2 articles on Holtermann in Orange :: and

Q. From Carmel: I am in search of my cousin’s mother. It appears she was taken in to care by a couple and named by them, however the foster mother died a few years later and the father put her into care with some nuns. She eventually ran away but knew nothing much of her history. We believe she was born in 1913. What records can we search to find her.
A. SLNSW: @Carmel Was this in N.S.W.? – Megan
A. Carmel: Sorry yes, Sydney
A. SLNSW: @Carmel  Sorry I was unable to get back to you last night.  Have a look at this publication – it gives you an overview of child welfare in NSW and what records exist for government and non-government institutions. Are you Sydney based?  We have available in our Family History Service birth indexes for NSW for 1913 on microfiche and computer.  Our Ask a Librarian Service can provide you with further advice This guide might also be useful– Megan

Q. From Linda: Oooh, I will be there! Could we please know what areas in Victoria are included in the Holtermann collection? Is it only the central Victorian goldfields such as Bendigo and Ballarat, or did they get into any of the alpine goldfields? Oh my Sainted Aunt – I have just jumped from that link above to the Exposition, and found out just how much those photos can be blown up.
A. SLNSW: @Linda Victoria was photographed by Charles Bayliss for B.O. Holtermann using a large format wet plate camera during 1874-1875. Mostly these panoramas and street scenes appear devoid of people, because of the long exposures. However the detail is exceptional. Places include Ballarat, Beechworth, Bendigo, Bright, Castlemaine, Geelong and Melbourne – Alan
A. Linda: Thanks Alan – all the usual suspects, but none of the ones I am after. But still most interesting.
Q (b): Linda: Is there anything in the Holtermanns for the Darling River – which was not gold? Just hoping.
A. SLNSW: @Linda Sorry no – however Charles Bayliss produced a series of photographs of the river in flood in 1886. The images have been digitised and are available on our catalogue – Alan
A. Linda: What set of photos! Thanks Alan. I had heard of that flood, as my family had to move out and camp on a higher sandhill for six months. When it was over, they built a raft of Murray Pine logs and put my widowed great-grandmother’s house on it, and poled it from below Pooncarie to Wentworth, put it ashore, and she lived in it there. This lovely set of photos brings it much closer.

Q. From Gary: I have been back and forth on this a few times. Contacted police who said contact the courts who say contact the State lib. I bash my head against the brickwall but cannot locate anybody who can tell me where ( if at all) are the old NSW court records are kept?
A. SLNSW: @Gary Do you know what court you are looking for? – Megan
Q (b): Gary: Parramatta Court House Megan – i have 2 police arrest warrants for my Great Grandfather looking for records of arrest or was the case closed Circa 1923?
A. SLNSW: @Gary State Records NSW hold court records The NSW Police Gazettes may also be helpful – Megan
A. Gary: police gazette is where I found the arrest records. I have looked at this link before but nothing there. Thanks anyway looks like a dead end
A. Carmel: Gary have you tried Trove?
A. Gary: Yes been all over the place I have been on this search for 5 years
A. SLNSW: @Gary Maybe contact State Records NSW directly through their reference service – Megan
A. Gary: Thanks Megan been there done that too! Trust me I have been everywhere.
A. Gary: Well thanks for hosting and the State Lib for partaking – I guess this chapter of my family I just have to accept is closed 🙁
A. SLNSW: @Gary I found this on State Records NSW site this morning: Some of the record series cover your time period.  Maybe it’s worth another try? – Megan

Join our mailing list