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Expert Q&A :: Family history resources at the Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV)

For our Expert Q&A on Thursday, June 13 we had Joan Hunt from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria to answer your questions on doing family history in Victoria and how to get the most from the RHSV collection. Thanks again to Joan for giving us all the benefit of her time and expertise.

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!

Please find the transcript of the Q&A and links below.

Summary of links from the Q&A:

Courtesy of Royal Historical Society of Victoria.
Courtesy of Royal Historical Society of Victoria.


Transcript of Expert Q&A – Royal Historical Society of Victoria

Our Expert Q&A with Joan Hunt from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria starts in 30 minutes at 8:30pm AEST. Join us with your questions on the RHSV collection and resources, and doing family history in Victoria.

Please ask your questions in a comment below, and Joan will answer in a following comment.

Comment: IHM: Welcome everyone, thanks for joining us. Please welcome Joan to tonight’s Q&A!
A.IHM: Tip :: Keep refreshing your browser to see the answers as they appear and remember to look through the entire list of comments, as Facebook may order your questions and answers out of sequence.
A. Joan: Welcome, everyone, and it is a real pleasure to be sharing in this chat with you all. I shall now reply to Michelle’s query.
A. Carmel: Hi Joan good to see you on here!
A. Joan: Thanks, Carmel. It is great fun. Do you have something you’d like to ask?

Q. From Michelle: What are some of the unique resources found at RHSV specifically relating to family history research?
A. Joan: Michelle, what I really like about the RHSV on-line are the databases as follows: there is one that you can use to search the catalogue of the collection; another you can search to find contact details for local historical societies across the State; another one about Parliamentary Papers held by the RHSV; yet another that lists the memorials which was a big research project some years ago (war memorials, statues, street memorials and similar); and another I really found useful myself was the index to the PROV Series VPRS 19 with loads of details about accessing records about the exiles. But best of all is the RHSV Heritage Register dating from about 1917 when people filled in information sheets about themselves and/or their family if they arrived or were born in Victoria before 1900. There are 25,000 names. The library at RHSV is fabulous, as it has local histories galore; access to Sands and MacDougall directories, and so on.
A. IHM: Here’s the link to the Royal Historical Society of Victoria collections ::

Comment: Linda: Maybe not asking any questions – just sitting here in awe of the great Joan. I was wondering who was stepping up to the plate.
A. Joan: You are a darling to say such lovely things, Linda. Please do ask something, though.

Q. From Carmel: What records would be of interest to genealogists and why?
A. Joan: Sorry, Carmel, I missed your question. Mostly, the RHSV Heritage Register would be the most value, but the whole collection (manuscripts, photographs, local history books, etc.) are enormously valuable for the actual researching of a person and/or place.
A. IHM: Here’s a link to the online treasures of the RHSV :: – with some lovely photo lantern slides ::

Q. From Christine: The Heritage Register sounds awesome – is the index online?
A. Joan: Hi, Christine and thanks for the question. Our Local History Librarian at the RHSV is Jason, and he is currently working on getting the index searchable on-line. I hope it will be available very soon. At present you can send him an email through the RHSV’s webpage:
A. Joan: and Jason will do a search for you. Sorry to send this in two bits.
A. Christine: Definitely on my list next time I’m in Melbourne!

Q. From Carmel: Do people look for information about periods of time to match an ancestor they are researching?
A. Joan: Yes, Carmel, I am delighted to say that increasingly people undertaking family history research are extending from the ‘bare bones’ and really starting to be interested in researching their ancestors set within the social and cultural context of the period in which they lived….so, long live local and family history!
A. IHM: We couldn’t agree more Joan – long may local and family history live!!
A. Carmel: I wonder how our ancestors like being bought back to life?
A. Joan: I am sure they would love the whole idea!
A. Carmel: pity they do not talk to us though!
A. Joan: Yes, Carmel, and it is a pity we can’t all have our own Tardis!

Q. From Peter: I’m researching the paddle steamers of the Victorian waterways, do you have any tips?
A. Linda: Wondering if he is including the Gippsland Lakes? Best collection of photographs is at the East Gippsland Historical Society at Bairnsdale, and best book “Highways of Water” by Peter Synan.
A. Joan: Thanks, Peter, but as paddle steamers are something of a mystery to me (I live at Ballarat and the goldfields are my forte), I can only give some clues about actually searching the databases that might mention anything or something about them, such as the catalogue at the RHSV and importantly, the index to the Victorian Historical Journal which is produced by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, and dates back to 1911. That’s a huge range of published research on all sorts of topics, and it is all indexed and all on-line. So, do have a look at the RHSV website and chase it through. I am sure you already know about Trove, but if not, it is a must for your project. And all the local historical societies along the Murray, of course, through this link:
A. Joan: Thanks, Linda; those are great contributions.
A. IHM: Thanks Linda, here’s the link to East Gippsland Historical Society :: and Trove link to “Highways of Water” for everyone here ::
A. Linda: Blasted facebook – trying to find Joan’s original answer of what RHSV has online. No such luck. How much of the RHSV Journal index is up on line now? And if we do find an article where we want a copy, what sort of fees are we looking at to get a copy of an article posted or e-mailed to us?
A. Joan: I am not sure that anyone has asked for copies to be sent. In fact, I think not because there is no actual list of fees for that to be done. I shall definitely get back to you on this one, Linda. These days, with digital cameras, it would be really easy for someone to click away and email you the pages, I would think, but I shall find out. The index, by the way, is totally up to date because the recent years are constantly being indexed by the wonderful John Adams.
A. Linda: Joan is unbelieveable – I have just looked, it is 1911 to 2007/2008. I tried one of my interests, which is the Hunter brothers, and the number of hits for “Hunter” is unbelieveable. And the results actually have meaning. I must use it more often.

Q. From Jonathan: Do you have any resources relating to occupations in the late 19th century? Particular interested in bakers around Beechworth, Carlton and Fitzroy. Tracing an ancestor…
A. Joan: Thanks, Jonathan. I have no doubt you would come up with useful material by checking through the Victorian Historical Journal index online at the RHSV website, and also through the State Library Victoria. The Sands and McDougall directories and other trade directories should be useful too. And why not post up your question on the RHSV discussion group. I have seen some wonderful responses from people when questions have been asked there. Just check the home page for the RHSV to find the link.
A. Jonathan: Thanks for your response Joan – the Directories are certainly wonderful underutilised resources
A. IHM: Here’s the links to the digitised Victorian Historical Journal at State Library of Victoria :: | RHSV index ::
A. Linda: Oooh, dat is noice – didn’t know that was there. The link beside the pic isn’t working, but the tiny URL is. You may never see me again.
A. IHM: lol, they’re both working here – enjoy Linda
A. Jonathan: also some good projects on Linda …Linda? Linda? – we’ve lost Linda 🙁
A. IHM: lol, Linda are you there Nice link Jonathan
A. Linda: I’m here, I’m here…….. I really HATE this fb thing where you have to keep looking for replies…
A. Linda: I am woman. I can do two things at once. I have at least FIVE screens open at the minute, and both smoke and steam are coming out of my laptop!

Q. From Carmel: There has been talk of RHSV and GSV finding premises together so one can go to either, or, or both. is this still happening?
A. Joan: The change of Victorian government put everything on hold, Carmel, but discussions continue, and continue, and continue….. It would be really wonderful, indeed fabulous, if we could set up History House shared between the RHSV, the GSV, and other groups.
A. Linda: Happening on the smaller basis, too – just heard of another Gippsland town maybe putting the two separately under the same roof.
A. Carmel: Hmmm wonder if that could ever come about in Ballarat!

Q. From IHM: Hi Joan, I’m sure there have been lots but what is your favourite story you’ve found in the RHSV collection?
A. Joan: I was browsing through the RHSV Heritage Register when I came across two people who married in Ballarat in 1867. The husband, John Merlo, came from Tirano in Lombardia in Italy. That’s a small town where my husband’s Italian line ancestors came from. The wife, Mary Ann Tuddenham, was born at Ross Creek near Ballarat where I taught for 20 years and about which I wrote a local history in 1991. I was amazed at that coincidence.

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