Treasure Chest

Treasure Chest Blog Posts

Was your ancestor a criminal? : A World-First Survey on Crime History and the Public

Bill Barlow
27 October 2018
Treasure Chest

Recently the GSV Writers shared their writing about topics such as 'a skeleton in the family'. A number of interesting stories emerged, of forgers and even a murderer. How do we deal with those in our family who have become entangled with the law?

Old portable police lockup, Chewton, Victoria, 1860s. (Photo. W. Barlow 2017)

Dr Alana Piper, Research Fellow of the University of Technology Sydney researches criminal justice history and is conducting a survey on the public’s engagement with crime history. The purpose of this online survey is to find out about public interest in and understandings of criminal justice history. The online survey is run through SurveyMonkey and takes 5-10 minutes to complete. The survey is completely anonymous.

The survey can be found via the following link -

In this project Alana is using digital techniques to map the lives and criminal careers of Australian offenders across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her research interests draw together the social and cultural history of crime with criminology, legal history and the digital humanities. Her PhD thesis examined female involvement in Australian criminal subcultures across the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Castlemaine prison, Victoria, built 1857-61 on the Pentonville Model (Photo. W. Barlow 2017)

Dr Piper outlines the project:

A World-First Survey on Crime History and the Public

'One of the things I love about my job as a criminal justice historian is talking to people about my research. It does not matter who they are – or even if history in general is not a particular passion for them – most people are interested in hearing the stories I’ve uncovered about nineteenth and twentieth-century crimes and criminals.

Some people like to chat about the celebrity criminals whose lives have been immortalised in fiction and film, like bushranger Ned Kelly or Sydney crime queen Tilly Devine. Others like hearing about the quirkier or more unexpected tales I have come across, such as the fact that book theft was made a special offence in Victoria in 1891 after a spate of book stealing from public libraries. Or that until relatively recently fortune-telling was a criminal offence across Australia, with police intermittently cracking down on fortune-tellers throughout the twentieth century, in particular during the World Wars when people were desperate for reassurance about their loved ones.

These are not one-way conversations either. Family historians have often encountered at least one ancestor who had an entanglement with the law. It is fascinating to hear how sometimes those actions or events ended up changing the course of the lives of the entire family. Other people have developed an interest in local cold cases, such as the unsolved murders of three adult siblings that occurred in Gatton, Queensland in 1898, but still generate frequent speculation today.

The sense that I am left with from these encounters is that crime history is a subject in which the public is highly engaged. Anecdotally I know that other crime historians – both in Australia and overseas – have similar experiences. However, to date there has been no empirical research into public attitudes and interest towards crime history.

I am trying to change that by running an anonymous online survey about community perceptions of crime history. The survey only takes 5-10 minutes to complete, but will generate data that provides insights into the sources of information that inform public understandings of crime history, and how public attitudes about crime history vary across different national contexts.

Any participation in or promotion of the survey is much appreciated. It can be found via the following link - along with more details about my research project.'

Alana Piper, University of Technology Sydney. 

You can follow Alana on Twitter on @alana_piper

Together again

Bill Barlow
25 September 2018
Treasure Chest

By Karen Mather

One of the pleasures of family history research is to uncover the tracks made by our ancestors at a time when travel must have needed exceptional courage and endurance. For those who are not squeamish, cemeteries can often work as important hubs in joining up these networks.

Town Hall plaque, Kalgoorlie, WA, 2016

In 19th century Australia, a rumour of a new gold prospect in another state would immediately send thousands of people trekking from shore to shore. Of course, not only gold-seekers and their entrepreneurial providers trod new paths. Explorers, surveyors, naturalists and settlers also criss-crossed the land, leaving fragments for family historians to piece together.

John Flanagan's grave, White Hills Cemetery, Bendigo, Victoria, 2016

John Flanagan (1829-1864) set out from his parents’ farm in Ennis, County Clare, arriving in Melbourne in 1858, and within three years he and his wife, Margaret O’Halloran (1832-1916), were mining in Bendigo (aka Sandhurst). Of their three children only Michael (1862-1901) survived past early childhood, and John himself succumbed to tuberculosis in 1864.  His younger brother, Tom Flanagan (1832-1899), had by then arrived from Ennis, and, it was he who signed John’s death certificate. John was buried in White Hills Cemetery in Bendigo.

Lake Flannigan, King Island, Tasmania, 2017

Hobart next became an important junction on the network of Flanagan-family travels. Michael Flannigan (as he wrote his name in adulthood) qualified as a government surveyor in 1892, and then left the Mines Department in Melbourne for the Tasmanian Lands Department in 1894. 
In Hobart he gained a reputation as a highly professional surveyor and was appointed as the first District Surveyor for King Island in 1898. But, as with his father, his life was cut short by tuberculosis. He returned to Bendigo to spend his last months, in early 1901, with his mother, Margaret O’Halloran, now named Higgs and widowed for a second time. Ten years later his colleagues in the Lands Department in Hobart arranged for Big Lake on King Island to be named Lake Flannigan, in his memory.

Michael John Flannigan is buried in with his father, mother and sisters in White Hills Cemetery, but what has been little known until recently is that the biggest lake on King Island is his memorial, and further, that his uncle, Tom Flanagan, is buried in the same cemetery, but far away across the other side.

Michael Flannigan's family grave, Section E4, White Hills Cemetery, Bendigo, Victoria, 2016

The discoverers of the first gold at what has now become the astonishing Super Pit of Kalgoorlie, were three unassuming Irishmen, Paddy Hannan, the leader; Tom Flanagan, his regular prospecting partner; and Daniel Shea, an acquaintance who joined them on the way to Kalgoorlie. Their gains from the find were modest, and, as was usual for prospectors, they stayed only a few months before moving on.

Fame would come years later, after Tom had returned to lodge with his late brother’s wife, Margaret O’Halloran, in Bendigo and had died there in 1899.

Tom Flanagan's grave, Section H5, White Hills Cemetery, Bendigo, Victoria, 2016

The linked stories of Tom Flanagan, and his nephew Michael John Flannigan and his friend in the Lands Department, William Nevin Tatlow Hurst, can be read in Wikipedia, and various history magazines. 

September, 2018


[All photos courtesy of K. Mather, 2018].

The Catholic Heritage Archive

Bill Barlow
15 August 2018
Treasure Chest

Today's post contributed by Ted Bainbridge draws our attention to the Catholic Heritage Archive available at
Findmypast. Ted has been a researcher, teacher, speaker and writer on genealogy since 1969. He has taught many beginner and advanced genealogy classes. His genealogical and historical articles are published frequently by several US national, state, and county organizations. Ted is the past president of the Longmont Genealogical Society, in Colorado, US. and he is currently on the staff of the Longmont Family History Center.[Ed.]


The  Catholic  Heritage Archive

Ted  Bainbridge  PhD is enlarging its Catholic Heritage Archive [CHA] which intends to become 'the most comprehensive online collection of Roman Catholic records for the USA, Britain and Ireland, containing one hundred million records.' The site’s front page claims, 'Most of these records have never before been accessible by the public - either offline or online.'

Go to and sign in or subscribe.  [Access to Findmypast is free to members of the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV) within the GSV Research Centre. Alternately free access is also available at LDS Church Family History Centres or your local library.]

The CHA contains or will contain millions of Irish records*, plus sacramental registers of England, Scotland, and the United States.  Records of the archdioceses of New York, Philadelphia (beginning in 1757), and Baltimore contain thirty million records. English records include those of Birmingham and Westminster, both beginning in 1657.  Records include baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials, censuses, and more.

You can search the entire collection by specifying various name, date, and place parameters. Alternatively, you can access English or Irish or Scottish baptism, marriage, or burial registers; as well as American baptism or marriage registers, or parish registers. Each data set can be searched for several parameters that you can specify or omit as you think best.

Invaluable guidance is available by selecting Learn More, Understanding the Records, Searching Irish Catholic Parish Registers, Common Latin Terminology, and Finding British and Irish Places of Birth.

There are many links to other helpful internet locations at the bottom of the CHA front page. 


*  The GSV also recommends going to the free for locating any Irish ancestors for birth, death and Marriage records. [Ed.]


Maryborough's gold-rush newspapers to go online

Bill Barlow
30 June 2018
Treasure Chest

It's pretty cold in Melbourne so it's good to be reminded of colder places in Victoria, but it's also great to hear of genealogical activities in those places. In this post Robyn Ansell, a member of GSV, the Maryborough Midlands and Creswick historical societies and the Chinese Australian Family Historians of Victoria (CAFHOV) lets us know of new online records being created to help researchers.

Robyn 's great grandfather William Henry Ah Whay came to Maryborough as a teenager from China around 1860. He lived there for 60 years, marrying a young girl from the Creswick Black Lead Chinese camp and fathering eleven children.

Whay family fruiterer and refreshment rooms, High St, Maryborough, c.1918-1922 (Courtesy R. Ansell)

Teachers, students and residents of Maryborough, Victoria, past and present will later this year be able to read the Maryborough newspaper online for eleven years of the gold-rush period 1857 to 1867. It will be made available through the National Library of Australia on the Trove website. The State Library of Victoria, which holds the microfilms from 1857 onwards, will send the microfilms to Canberra for digitisation.

Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Beechworth, other significant Victorian goldfields towns, have newspapers for the goldrush period on Trove. To provide comparable Trove coverage for Maryborough will make a rich goldfields history resource available worldwide online to researchers and family historians. The World War I period 1914 to 1918 is already available on Trove. Users can easily browse the newspaper and download selected pages or individual articles.

The Maryborough-Midlands Historical Society holds many decades of the Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser in hard copy, however the paper is fragile. It is expected that digitisation will reduce the need for people to handle the hard copies for 1857 to 1867.

The Local History Grants program which will pay for the digitisation is funded annually by the Public Records Office of Victoria. The successful application was made by the Chinese Australian Family Historians of Victoria, CAFHOV, which was established in 2001. Many Australians are descended from Chinese who came to Australia in the last 150 years but may not know about this element of their heritage. They have been discovering it through genealogical research and DNA testing. The Facebook page and website for CAFHOV may be of assistance to them.  and

Other links : 

The Maryborough Midlands Historical Society

You can find them on Facebook  'Worsley Cottage' and read about them at Culture Victoria website

Maryborough Family History Group Inc.

Worsley Cottage, Maryborough Midlands Historical Society


Writing a Morkham history: a member's challenge

Bill Barlow
7 April 2018
President's Keyboard
Treasure Chest

I was interested to read an email from John Morkham, sent in response to the first 'Keyboard of the President' article. John has been a GSV Member for twenty-eight years. Life is busy for most of us, and our genealogical research proceeds in bursts, when it can be fitted in. In John's case, the family history compilation has been going on over a number of generations and that work has passed down to him. With so much accumulated research, he now plans to retire from his 'retirement' positions, so he can commence writing the history. Many of us can identify with John's objective, as he described it in his email.


'May I, at the outset, wish you, the Board, Staff and the Members, a very happy Easter. I joined GSV in July 1989. How pleased was I today to receive your 'Keyboard' number 1 report concerning activities and observations for the GSV's future. This prompted me to reflect on my family history research and my present situation.  

Morkham family tree, painted by Thomas Frank Morkham, 1902. Courtesy of John Morkham.

My great grandfather, Thomas Frank Morkham, following his retirement as Secretary of Lands (Victoria) travelled to the UK and Ireland in 1902. His father, who brought most of his family to Geelong, told him of the then known history of the Morkham family, which had been based in Dunster, Somerset. This drew him to start family research from the Dunster records. As a result of that trip he wrote notes from those records and then painted a Family Tree, which shows at its base his own great grandfather. His notes also include a reference to the death of his great, great grandfather’s wife Katherine, wife of John.

Since 1902, recordkeeping has evolved immensely, with digital recording of hard copies and the collating of them into family records. It is most unfortunate that Catholic Ireland failed to undertake Parish recordkeeping before 1837. Odd records were maintained by UK legislation and Victorian church systems. My great grandfather, who was born in Denmark, possessed an older family history, which was burnt in 1870. Such a shame; but fortunately the Diocese had many relevant records. From 1973 up to today, I have researched our whole family history with the help of branches of over three times-removed supporters as well as my father, mother, aunts and uncles and others not related to me but carrying the now false name of Morkham.

I have retired from employed positions, but I am presently the treasurer of three organisations, as well as being committed to the Catholic Church weekly and with visits to Prison and a Hospital. I have started to inform those organisations that I wish to retire during 2019 so that I can undertake the writing and recording of our family history back to a date of about 1490. In 2019, I plan to start the recording of my family history in the hope that I can accomplish this in my remaining years.

With my other 'retirement' commitments, I find it very hard to attend functions of importance arranged by GSV. Despite this, I support GSV, its relationship with RHSV and the Australian Congress on Genealogy & Heraldry. I am also a member of the Somerset Archives and the Australian Heraldry Society. I hope to be able to use the GSV resources more fully as I undertake this next stage of my family's history. Best wishes to you and the Board.'

John Morkham, 4 April 2018.                                                                                          [This is an edited version of John's email, reproduced with his approval, Ed.].


Presenting years of research in a readable way can be daunting. GSV can assist its members to get started and can provide ongoing support from other writers in its Writers Discussion Circle. Articles in Ancestor's 'Getting it Write' series address all aspects of writing family history - for example, 'Getting Started' (vol. 28 no.1) and 'The Writer at Work' (vol.30 no.7). See the list here Our best wishes to John and thanks for his membership support.


Hunting for a cemetery on

Bill Barlow
20 December 2017
Treasure Chest

This is Part 2 of our post on Dec 16 about the revised website. Here Ted Bainbridge tells us about finding a cemetery.

Don't forget that the Genealogical Society Victoria holds a very large collection of headstone transcriptions from almost 800 Victorian cemeteries compiled by our volunteers over many years . With the gradual degradation of some headstones these records may now be the sole source of that information. These records are being scanned and can be checked in the GSV's online Cemeteries Database.

I hope you have enjoyed our re-launched Blog this year and please add your comments and re-post to your friends. *  Bill Barlow. Editor, Family History Matters at GSV.

Hunting A Cemetery

by Ted Bainbridge.

The next most common use of findagrave is hunting cemeteries. There are three ways to find a cemetery:

  • On the main menu click “cemeteries” and type a name in the box provided. (This is an auto-fill box. Use it as above.) Click “search”. A hit list appears. Click the name of the cemetery you want. That cemetery’s page of information appears.
  • On the main menu click “cemeteries” and type a place in the other box. (This also is auto-fill.) Click “search”. A hit list appears. Click the name of the cemetery you want. That cemetery’s page appears.
  • On the main menu click “cemeteries” and type a place in the appropriate box. (This is an auto-fill box. Use it as above.) Don’t click “search” or press the “return/enter” button. Instead, look at the map. If the map doesn’t show any location markers, click the ‘+’ button near its lower right corner. Zoom in or out and pan in any direction until you see the area you want. Click any marker to see the name of that cemetery, then click the name to see its information page.

Favourite Cemeteries

If you registered as a member, you can create a list of your favorite cemeteries. Go to the information page of the cemetery you want to put on your list. Near the top right corner of that page, click “add favorite” and proceed.

You can create virtual cemeteries by linking interesting individuals to a collection that you create. (For examples, you might link all of your Blankenship relatives’ information pages to a group called “My-Blankenships”, or you could gather all your relatives who served in the Civil War.) Go to the page of a person you want to add to a virtual cemetery. Near the top right corner of that page, click “save to”, click “virtual cemetery”, and then proceed. At this location you can create a new v.c. or add this person to an existing v.c.

Other Features

The main menu at the top of findagrave’s home page includes an item called “famous”, which allows a search for a famous person, as was described above. That menu also has an item called “contribute”, which people use to add information to findagrave’s database.

Between the home page’s background photograph and the button for tutorials is a large white space that offers links for these items:

  • read about a random person
  • famous graves
  • newly added graves
  • most popular graves
  • add a memorial
  • upload photos
  • transcribe photos
  • forums
  • search cemeteries
  • browse cemeteries
  • search grave records
  • browse grave records
  • famous people
  • log in
  • memorials
  • cemeteries
  • contribute
  • famous
  • help
  • about
  • forums
  • store
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • language
  • mobile apps
  • privacy statement
  • terms of service
  • end feedback.

Most people probably can ignore most or all of those items, but feel free to explore and experiment as you like.


Get to know the new

Bill Barlow
16 December 2017
Treasure Chest

This week we have further advice from Ted Bainbridge about finding cemetery records using In Part 1 of this article, Ted deals with searching for a person's grave - in Part 2, to follow, he explains how to find a cemetery. This site provides free searches but following up suggested records may require paid access to Remember access to is free for GSV members at the GSV's Research Centre. [Ed.].


Getting acquainted with the revised version of

Ted Bainbridge PhD

FindaGrave - - is a web site that collects individuals’ cemetery and other information, whether a grave marker is present or not. The site’s database includes over 165 million people’s memorials, and adds about 1 ½ million per month. It contains information from almost half a million cemeteries around the world. This free site can be searched in several ways, and its information is easy to download onto a home computer. The site is menu-driven and intuitively easy to use. Registration, which is optional and free, gives the visitor access to features that are not otherwise available. Everybody should explore the tutorials.

Think of the home page as being organized into four areas:

  • the main menu, near the top of the page and filling its entire width
  • the search panel for individuals’ graves, which dominates the background photograph
  • the link to findagrave tutorials, a blue oval button near the bottom right of the page
  • other less-frequently used items, occupying the rest of the screen below the background image

Hunting A Person

By far, the most common use of findagrave is hunting individuals. The simplest search is done as follows. Enter a first name in the box provided near the center of the background photo. (This is optional, but if you don’t do it you will get an enormous hit list for all but the most unusual surnames.) I recommend leaving the box for middle name blank, because grave markers usually don’t show middle names. Put a surname in the appropriate box. (This is required.) There is no option for “similar spelling” or “similar sound”, so do separate searches for each variant spelling of the first name and surname.) Click the search button. A hit list appears, showing records that match your request and headed with the count of how many records are on the list. Search the hit list for the person you want, then click that person’s name. You will see that person’s information page. (If a picture of the grave stone exists, look at it in detail. Sometimes this will show that the typed information on the page contains an error.) To save the information on that page, you can command a “print” from your computer’s operating system. Alternatively, you can scroll to the top of the page, click “save to”, click “copy to clipboard”, open the program you will use to save the information, paste the clipboard’s content into that program, and save within that program. To save the source citation scroll to the bottom of the person’s page, click “source citation”, copy the text of the cite, paste that text wherever you want it to be, and save that destination’s content within the appropriate program. The person’s page might include links to findagrave pages for relatives. Click those links to see their information.

Typing only the first and last name probably will produce a hit list that is too long to read. If that happens, search for that name again but narrow the search by using the pull-down menus next to the “year born” and “year died” boxes below the name boxes you used. In addition to or instead of those restrictions, you can use the location box next to those date boxes. As you type a place into that box, an auto-fill list appears. When you see the appropriate place, select it from the list. (Typing the name and clicking the “search” button instead won’t give good results.) If you use all three restrictions and the new search doesn’t find the person you want, remove one of those restrictions and search again. If that search fails, replace that restriction and remove another one. If you fail again, repeat. If all those searches fail, use only one restriction at a time and do all three restricted searches. Repeat this process until you are successful. (But remember that not everyone is in findagrave, so all your searches might fail. In that case, try again later, remembering that findagrave adds about 1 ½ million records per month.)

Next to the “search” button you can see “more search options”. Clicking that makes the following available:

“Famous” separates a famous person from others who have the same name. (Asking for Marilyn Monroe creates a hit list of 29 people. Going to the top of the list, clicking “refine search”, pulling down “more search options”, clicking “famous”, and then clicking “search” shows only the movie star we all know.

“Sponsored” shows only pages that have no advertisements because somebody paid to remove them.

“Nickname” must be checked if you ask for somebody by nickname instead of given name.

“Maiden name” must be checked if you ask for somebody by maiden name instead of married name.

“Partial last name search” lets you search by putting only the first letters of a first or last name in the appropriate boxes. (Requesting “wana” shows Wana, Wanamaker, Wanabaker, and other surnames that begin with those four letters; but it doesn’t list Wannamaker.

“No grave photo” gives only people who have no grave photo on their information page.

“Grave photo” gives only people who have a grave photo on their information page.

“Flowers” gives only people who have virtual flowers attached to their page. (Asking for Clarence Bainbridge without this option clicked gets five names, but clicking this option reduces the list to two.)


(next) Part 2 - Finding a cemetery.

Odd stories from an amateur family tree enthusiast

Bill Barlow
9 December 2017
Treasure Chest

The following tale comes from GSV member Maurice Duke who reminds us not to throw away information that seems to be irrelevant to your research.


In 1983, not long after I had begun researching my family tree, I received a letter from a lady from Kurri Kurri, NSW, inquiring about a possible connection between her family and mine.

She said that her great grandfather had migrated to Australia from England in 1886, and mentioned his parents’ names.  Later, this was to prove definitive: her great grandfather in fact had the same surname as mine, but because of my ignorance at that time, I had no knowledge of the person to whom she was referring.

I therefore rang the number she had provided and informed her that I couldn’t help her. At that point, the matter ended and I didn’t think any more about her enquiry.

Early in 2017 I decided to do work on my family name with particular emphasis on my great grandfather who had come to Australia in 1856 from Ulverston, Lancashire (now Cumbria). With the aid of Bishops Transcripts and the Latter Day Saints, I was able to trace great grandfather's antecedents to his great great grandfather who died in Dalton In Furness in 1790 after parenting seven children.

His eldest daughter turned out to be a strange lass who had two male children but no spouse; and who gave her children her surname. This of course makes me wonder what my real surname should have been. One of her sons was my great great great grandfather.

Out of curiosity, I decided to explore the descendants of her other son, my great great great granduncle. With access to Bishops' Transcripts and LDS data, I found that the families were concentrated around Dalton in Furness, not around Ulverston on which I had previously concentrated. The two towns are in close proximity so, even with the travel limitations of the time, interchange between residents was probably not unusual. Together with the Census returns and the other sources, I was able to trace the family throughout the nineteenth century and as result, my database increased by about 250 names.

Then the miracle occurred.

Over time, I had carefully stored every piece of family history that relatives had provided me over the past 40+ years and I decided to do a massive clean-up of papers in my possession.

In the course of the clean-up, I came upon the 1983 letter - the letter I had filed and forgotten.

Names that meant nothing to me in 1983, particularly the names of the letter writer’s great grandparents, were now made familiar as a result of my recent research.

I rang the number on the original letter and the lady, now 34 years older, answered. She was amazed to hear from me but very pleased that she could make a connection with a very distant relative.

Maurie Duke