Category Archives: Research tools


One resource that I get particularly good mileage from is the National Library of Australia’s online resource Trove ( Trove is a free online repository of Australian material and includes digitised newspapers, journals, photographs, videos, books and archived websites amongst other valuable resources. Trove currently includes almost 240 million resources for users to browse.

The area of Trove that I tend to access most often is their fantastic online repository of digitised newspapers. Currently this collection includes a range of Australian newspapers published between 1803 – 1954. These newspapers are from right around Australia but are predominantly those from New South Wales and Victoria.

The NLA is continuously adding new newspapers and issues to the website and users can subscribe to an RSS feed to be kept updated on new additions. New additions for the month of April include The Australasian Sketcher (VIC), The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW), The Clarence and Richmond Examiner (NSW), The Empire (NSW), The Gippsland Times (VIC), The Mail (SA), The Observer (TAS) and The Townsville Daily Bulletin (QLD).

It is always worth searching through Trove for death notices, funeral notices and obituaries. I have found many missing puzzle pieces in my own family tree this way.

Obituary for Thomas Power (1843-1929)


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Filed under Archives, Australian history, Research tools

Mapping our Anzacs

Robert Cedric Dorman (1897-1917) - Enlistment Papers

Many of us will have had military history on our minds this week and with that in mind, I thought I should mention a fantastic website developed by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs…

Mapping Our Anzacs is more than a website, it is really an interactive and collaborative online tool for researching those that served in the Australian Army during WWI. The format is quite unique and utilises Google mapping technology to explore our military history in a new way. The site includes over 375,000 service records that became more widely accessible in 2007 when the NAA released online copies of all the records in their B2455 Series i.e. records of those serving in WWI.

The website has a number of facets which is what makes it so interesting. The user can use maps to search for soldiers by their place of birth or place of enlistment. Each location displays an alphabetical listing of all soldiers from that location which the user can then select from to display service records. What makes the website so special is that users can select a person and add their own information to a digital scrapbook which will appear on the website. Users are also encouraged to develop ‘tribute pages’. This is something I plan on doing in the future.

Well worth a look –

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Filed under Archives, Australian history, Military history, Research tools, WWI

Some useful military resources

Petty Officer James Armstrong & actor Charles "Bud" Tingwell.

Being ANZAC day on the 25th, I have been doing some more research on family members that served in the military. The very useful thing about researching those who have served is that the military keep very thorough records and are also quite mindful of making historical records accessible. I thought I would make a quick list of some websites that I often use in my research…

The AIF Project

Created by ADFA, this database is an invaluable resource that gives quite comprehensive details of over 330,000 Defence members that served overseas in the First Australian Imperial Force 1914-1918.

The Australian War Memorial

Users can search the AWM’s collection for records related to individuals or the units in which they served from 1885-present.

World War II Nominal Roll
A searchable database of those that served in the Australian Defence Forces or Merchant Navy during WWII.
Australians on the Western Front 1914-1918
A comprehensive guide to WWI battles, with a detailed information about European war cemeteries.
Includes a useful database of 1.7 million men and women who served in the Commonwealth Forces in WWI & WWII and details of the 23,000 cemeteries and memorials where they are commemorated.

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Filed under Archives, Australian history, Military history, Research tools, WWI, WWII

The Goddard / Armstrong Family History Wiki

After much experimentation with different Wiki hosting tools, I have finally (kind of) got the hang of Wikia and have just launched the Goddard / Armstrong Family History Wiki.

The wiki is designed to compliment this blog, my Flickr page and my Delicious bookmarks page and will provide greater level of detail about the members of the Goddard and Armstrong families (and many associated families).

The wiki will essentially exist to keep family members updated with my research and will include profiles of ancestors, documents, stories and photographs.

It is something that I have been meaning to start work on since late last year when I borrowed a number of photo albums from my mother-in-law in order to scan and hopefully preserve some of the Armstrong and Dorman family photographs. At the time, I emailed various photos to various family members to share but it has always occurred to that a wiki would be the perfect platform for sharing family information, with family members able to open the wiki and access all the information I have (as I add it of course) and also have the ability to contribute their own information.

The Goddard / Armstrong Family History Wiki –

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Filed under Research tools, Uncategorized

50 Years State Records NSW 1961-2011

This year marks the 50th anniversary of State Records NSW (SRNSW). To celebrate, SRNSW will be displaying 50 items from the State Archives Collection covering the time frame from European settlement in 1788 through to the esatblishment of the Archives Authority in 1961.

A list of the items can be found on the SRNSW website –

There are some fascinating inclusions. It is also worth visiting the website to browse some of the other online galleries including some amazing new images just added which document the Bubonic Plague that spread throughout Sydney in 1900, killing over 100 people in 8 months.

The State Records NSW website has been an invaluable source of material while researching my family. Archives Investigator ( is the key online database of the SRNSW. It is a web-based catalogue of records held in the New South Wales State Archives, providing users with an online access point with which to explore the archives of both the SRNSW and the City of Sydney Council.

Archives Investigator contains an extensive list of records. These include shipping and arrival records for both New South Wales and other Australian states from 1788-1922, convict records, naturalisation records from 1834-1903, electoral rolls, police service records, Crown Land records, deceased estate records, selected criminal records, bankruptcy and insolvency records, cemetery records, migration records and extensive indexes of maps and photographs. In addition to this, the database provides access to many local history records including those relating to education, sport, mining, railways, public health, hotels, the Lands Department, roads, water supply, hotels, public buildings, the maritime industry and the offices of the Colonial Architect and Colonial Secretary.

It is also well worth subscribing to the SRNSW Now & Then eNewsletter. It will keep you updated with all the resources, services and events related to the SRNSW –

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Filed under Archives, Australian history, New South Wales history, Research tools

Top tips for family history research

While doing some research this week using the website, I came across what I thought was a very handy list of tips to keep in mind while researching your family history.

The following was written by Jeremy Palmer and can be found in more detail at I have recorded some of my own thoughts after each tip.

Tip 1 – Talk to elderly relatives.

Unfortunately I think this is an important task that many of us only think about after it is too late. Much of the inital work on my own family tree was completed by my mother and passed down to me after her death in 2005. It was only after I started working on our tree in 2006 that I realised there were many questions that I should have asked her while I had the chance. I am fortunate that her cousin is still alive and has been able to answer some questions but I often regret not having more conversations with my mother and grandmother while they were still here.

Tip 2 – Work from the known to the unknown

Research is very much a step-by-step process and as much as you would like to jump ahead, you really are best to follow a linear path starting with what you already know. It is amazing how quickly your tree will open up and you will find clues along the way.

Tip 3 – Record your progress

It is an excellent idea to record any supporting evidence you find whether it be a certificate no from the BDM Index or whether it be information from a relative. So often I am contacted and asked how I came across certain information and I am always annoyed with myself when I have been forgetful or just sometimes a little lazy and have not recorded the source of my information. Recording BDM certificate numbers is also very handy if you would like to order certificates in the future as you will need as much information as possible.

Tip 4 – Record your searches

It’s a grea idea to keep track of what you have researched so that you don’t waste time going back over information you have already looked at or start using records that you have previously used without success.

Tip 5 – Get a map

Google Map is a great friend of mine. This is particularly true when researching ancestors from overseas. It is very handy to be able to locate two towns on a map and see the distance between them. Many times this has led me on the right path in terms of tracking relatives through census records.

Tip 6 – Consider spelling variants

Even the simplest of names can be spelt a multitude of ways. I often wonder how researchers years from now will cope with all the odd variations of names we use these days. My great grandfather’s surname was Sneddon and I have seen it spelt Sneddin, Snaddon, Snedden etc. It also was not uncommon for a family member to simply change the spelling of their surname, particularly after emigration. One example in my family is Braidley changed to Bradley.

Tip 7 – Do not make assumptions

I have to admit that sometimes I would really love to make assumptions but it usually gets me in trouble. Try and back up everything with credible sources and if you aren’t sure, maybe make a note or comment rather than necessarily adding the information to your famiy tree.

Tip 8 – Work as effectively as possible

Family history research is incredibly time-consuming. You can spend many hours researching a single person or fact and still not come up with a satisfactory answer. So many resources are now available online for little or no cost so make use of everything that is available to you. I have found that making contact with other people who are researching the same ancestors has been a very efficient way of adding to my research. Use websites like Ancestry to make mutually benefical contacts and join online communities.

Tip 9 – Share your findings

I now have almost 30 other people that I share my Ancestry tree with and I have met some fantastic people through my research who have been very generous with sharing their information. I am always happy to be contacted and I appreciate how beneficial it can be to make contact with others and share your research. I have been able to add large amounts of information to my tree this way.

Tip 10 – Join a family history society

There are a large no of local family history societies all around Australia and the World. Apart from the opportunity to meet like-minded people, your local family history society will usually have an extensive number of resources available for you to use for very little cost.

Here is a link to groups around Australia (courtesy of Coraweb) –

Robert Sneddon (1873-1954)

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Filed under Australian history, Research tools

Book Review – “The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet” by Mollie Gillen

For anyone researching ancestors that arrived in Australia as part of the First Fleet, this book is an indispensable tool.

In the foreward, the book’s contents are described as…

A valuable bibliography, an introduction containing a perceptive analysis of the background of the First Fleet, notes explaining the methodology that has been followed, and appendices that cast light on different groups of First Fleeters including the ‘phantoms’ – those men and women erroneously listed in earlier publications as having come.

Thais is a very important reference book, but the word ‘reference’ fails to do justice to what is a lively, vivid, colourful piece of writing that in addition to being original and highly informative is enjotable and readable.

Brian H. Fletcher – Bicentennial Professor of Australian History, The University of Sydney

The book was published back in 1988 after some 20 years of research on Gillen’s part. The bulk of its contents includes an alphabetical listing of approx 1500 people who sailed on the 11 ships that comprised the First Fleet. There are also abstracts of biographical data and a fascinating section that includes the signatures of 160 people, many of which were taken from the marriage register of St Phillip’s Church in Sydney, the oldest Parish in Australia together with the Parish of Parramatta, the first service being held on 3 Feb 1788 and the original church being built in 1793.

On a personal level, this has been a fantastic resource for me to use to research some of my First Fleet ancestors. Two of the most fascinating were men by the names of John Randall (also known as Reynolds) and John Martin. Most interesting to me initially was the fact that both men were described as “negro” and I was unaware of any connection that I had to any black ancestors. Interestingly, through marriage, subsequent years saw such a change in the appearance of the children that any connection to black ancestors was unrecognisable. Also of note is the fact that both Johns were related through marriage, with John Randall’s daughter Mary marrying John Martin in 1812 – an age gap between them of 36 years!

John Randall / Reynolds (c1764-?) – A black American sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing a steel watch chain. He arrived on the Alexander at the age of 24, mustered under the name Reynolds. Randall / Reynolds appeared to be relatively well-educated. He could read and write, he had musical talents including the ability to play the flute and tambourine and he was also a ‘crackshot’ with a gun. He married fellow convict Esther Harwood on 21 Feb 1788 in the first marriage in the Colony. Sadly, Esther died in 1789. John subsequently married Mary Butler on 5 Sep 1790. Mary was an Irish convict who arrived in 1790. They had four childen – Lydia (1791-1793), Frances (1792-1870), Mary (1793-1857) and John (1797-?). The final fate of John Randall is unknown. It is thought he may have relocated to Tasmania, where he was murdered, but this has been unable to be verified.

John Martin (c1757-1837) – John was described as “a negro” originally from Barbados, who was sentenced to 7 years transportation in 1782 for stealing a bundle of clothing. He was held on the Ceres until eventually arriving on the Alexander at the age of 31. He married fellow convict Ann Joy in 1792 and received a grant of 50 acres at the Northern Boundary Farms. John and Ann had no children and she died in 1806. John subsequently married Mary Randall, daughter of fellow convict John Randall, in 1812. There is some confusion over the number of children he and Mary had with Gillen’s book listing 5 children – John (1807-1855), Sophia (1809-1870), Frances (1811-1888), Henry (1813-1892), Hannah (1815-1871). However, other research suggests that there was also Richard (1818-1892), Frederick (1821-1903), Mary (1822-1870), Amelia (1826-1886), Harriett (1830-1882) and Nicholas (1832-1902). John also gained employment over the years as a constable and poundkeeper as well as maintaining his 50 acres and livestock. He was pensioned as a constable in 1828 at the age of 72. He died at Field of Mars in 1837 and is buried at St John’s Parramatta.


Filed under Australian history, Convicts, New South Wales history, Pioneers, Queensland history, Research tools, Tasmanian history, Victorian history