Sunday, 12 January 2020

Have Your Family History Records Been Destoyed?

Image courtesy of 9comeback at
I know that some of my clients have digital backups of family history documents and files, either in the Cloud (for example, in a free account at Dropbox), or on external hard drives or USBs - but some don't.

After the 2003 Canberra bushfires, and after Hurricane Katrina in the USA, I was contacted by clients who had lost everything. I was able to send them a copy of my report with the results of the family history research that I'd done for them.

If you've lost your home in the current bushfires, don't be afraid to contact me (at the address on my main genealogy Web site) to ask whether I have a backup copy of the information I sent to you. If I do, I can email it (FREE) on request.

If a natural disaster occurred in your area today, would your family history records survive? Some simple and practical suggestions are in Natural Disasters and Family History.

(This post first appeared on and family history societies are welcome to share that link with their members.)

Sunday, 8 September 2019

More Changes at Queensland State Archives

Image by farconville (
These changes at Queensland State Archives may suit some people, but personally I find them inconvenient and annoying.

  • UPDATE: After extensively renovating the Reader's Lounge, the Archives did not proceed with the cafe. The old Reader's Lounge is about to be replaced by a cafe, which will serve tea, coffee, cakes and light meals. Sadly, this means that researchers will no longer have access to a fridge, microwave and free tea/coffee making facilities. Archives staff warned me that (quote) "if you want to bring your own lunch, you will have to leave it in an esky in your car."

  • As part of the renovations to the Reading Room, Queensland State Archives have removed the desks that had individual lights, and they have replaced the old ceiling lights with much brighter LED lights. Unfortunately this has resulted in shadows that create problems when you take photographs of documents. I was told that (quote) "desk lamps will be available on request - just ask the archivist on the desk") - but apparently that's not always the case.

(This post first appeared on

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

'Insanity and Unsound Mind' Index for Family Historians

A file from one of the 53 record series. The pencil shows how huge it is.
Does your family history have someone who 'vanished'? If you cannot find a death certificate, or if children were raised by someone other than a parent, check mental asylum records. Reasons for admission include epilepsy, head injury, alcoholism, congenital defects, depression (including post-natal depression), etc. Many patients (adults and children) spent only days or weeks in an asylum before being discharged, and descendants would be unaware of that. I've spent many years creating indexes that make the information more accessible.

In response to requests from users of my Web site, I've combined all of my separate 'insanity indexes' for various sources, and I've added thousands more names, to create a huge 'Insanity and Unsound Mind' index. In addition to asylum patients, it includes many people 'of unsound mind' who were *not* in an asylum. The new list (which will continue to grow as indexing progresses) already has 19,000 names extracted from 53 separate series of original records (yes, fifty-three). Those names include some interstate and overseas asylum patients, but most were in Queensland.

The steps involved were:
  1. Finish several 'indexes in progress'.
  2. Index an important source that I'd previously neglected. For about 1,000 people it refers to circumstances prior to their admission to a mental asylum (information that is often difficult to find).
  3. Change the layout (data fields) of each index, to enable merging.
  4. Merge all of the indexes into one.
  5. Check for formatting errors (eg, leading or trailing spaces that cause incorrect sorting).
  6. Check for formatting inconsistencies (eg, how to list names with no surname, such as 'Billy (Aboriginal)'.
  7. Check for obvious duplicate entries.
  8. Check the use of 'see' cross references.
  9. Write the HTML code for the combined list of names.
  10. Write the text and HTML code for the explanation on new Web pages with those names.
  11. Change the HTML code on Web pages that had previously listed some of the names (and make a link to the new combined index).
  12. Change the description on my 'Indexes' Web page.
  13. Decide upon a new fee structure for dealing with requests. (Genealogy is my business, not just a hobby, so I charge fees for my time.)
  14. Create a new request form for my research/copying service.
  15. Re-write my mini-guide Researching Mental Asylum Patients.
The decision to create a huge combined index was not taken lightly. I'm not convinced that it was worth the effort, but because so many people requested it, I finally agreed. The new arrangement has both pros and cons. Obviously it's easier for you to check a single list of names; but the new format cannot show (free of charge) a description of the source in which a particular name appears.

I know there will be a few complaints (there always are), but if you don't like the options available to you (see the link at the bottom of the Web pages with names), you can learn about all of those original records, then attempt to find the information yourself. But be warned... I've spent 35 years learning about the records! If you want to go it alone, you'll find it helpful to read my mini-guide 'Researching Mental Asylum Patients'.

To access the new list, start at the introductory page for Insanity and Unsound Mind.

(This post first appeared on

Friday, 13 October 2017

New copying costs at Queensland State Archives

Photo of QSA search room (photo copyright Judy Webster)
Public Search Room at Queensland State Archives
(photo by Judy Webster)
Since 1 Sep 2017, copying fees charged by Queensland State Archives have increased as follows.

Up to A3, on paper
  • Black & white up to 10 pages: $1.75 per page
  • Colour up to 10 pages: $2.90 per page
  • Photos on photo quality paper: $3.35
  • Certified (per item up to 8 pages): $45

Bulk discount for scanning standard resolution
  • Per item 11-20 pages: $24.75
  • Per item 21-50 pages: $57.75
  • Per item 51-100 pages: $123.75
  • Per item 101-200 pages: $247.50

High resolution reproduction (over 300dpi), on paper, CD* or USB*
  • A4 and A3: $6.70
  • Larger than A3 CD/USB* only: $13.40 per metre
  • Photographs on photo quality paper: $6.70

  • Category 1 up to 100 pages: $3.35
  • Category 2 over 100 pages: $5.50
  • Overseas: Price on application
  • Registered mail: $6.70
  • CD / USB: $8

  • *CD: $0.55
  • *USB: $8

  • Category 1 Digital emailed: $6.90
  • Category 1 Paper posted: $10.65
  • Category 2 Digital emailed: $18.55
  • Category 2 Paper posted: $21.90

For some records, my fees for digital copies are lower than those charged by the Archives. My Web site has details of my services.

(This post first appeared on

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Mental Patients - One List or Separate Lists?

Advice re ancestors who 'vanished'
I've used 25 different series of historical records to create various indexes to mental asylum patients and people who were suspected of being of unsound mind. Names from some of the indexes are already on my Web site, but many more will be added soon.

QUESTION (it only applies to those series, not my other indexes):

Would you like me to put those names on my Web site in one alphabetical list, with separate Web pages for names beginning with each letter of the alphabet?

Or should I leave things as they are, with separate indexes for different 'mental' series, and (on my Web site) separate lists of names?

(Comments are now closed. This post first appeared on

Saturday, 12 August 2017

What the Archives did with my index

One of five volumes of pension records  that I indexed
When I published my index to Queensland's old age pension records, I donated a copy to the Public Search Room at Queensland State Archives. I recently discovered that it was no longer there. I also found out why - and I was not happy!

The Archives said that they took it away to create an electronic version (which will undoubtedly end up on the Archives Web site). I was told that my indexes 'cause trouble' because people see the names on Findmypast, but don't quote the source reference shown there when they order document copies from the Archives. I don't know how many such orders they get, but it is apparently too much trouble for staff to consult my printed index.

I pointed out that I donated my index for the benefit of family historians who visit the Public Search Room. The archivist agreed to put it back there, but (get this!) she said that they may have already removed the binding and started scanning the pages of my index, in which case it will take a while to get them bound into book form again.

I should mention that I'd previously been asked whether I would give the Archives an electronic copy, and I said NO (along the lines of, 'If you want to waste time reinventing the wheel create an index, knock yourselves out, but don't take advantage of all my hard work').

Genealogy is my business, and I've spent thousands of hours indexing original records!

My indexes to hospital records have also disappeared from the Public Search Room. The Archives may try to tell you that they removed them because the records are no longer open to the public. The Croydon Hospital index 1888-1919 includes some pages that are currently less than one hundred years old, but most are accessible now, as are all of the Brisbane Hospital and pension records that I indexed.

For more information about the records, 70,000 names from my indexes, and details of my research and copying services, follow links on 'indexes to historical records and other sources for genealogy'.

(This post first appeared on

Thursday, 15 September 2016

3 Reasons to Use Archives Previous System Locations

A section of  the search room at Qld State Archives
Family historians make a note of source references so we (or someone else) can find an item again. There are 3 reasons why you should know the 'Previous System location' for records you use at Queensland State Archives, as well as the newer 'item ID' number.

  1. Typos and misinterpretation are less likely with Previous System location numbers. For example, the immigrant file for Agnes Adamson AITKEN is item ID 1111111. Its Previous System location is IMM/5. I know which one I am more likely to get wrong when I read it or write it!

  2. Even if there is a typo in a Previous System location number, the letters at the beginning often indicate the agency. With that, it may be possible for you to eventually find the record (perhaps with help from the archivist on duty). For example, IMM means Immigration Department; SCT means Supreme Court; CPS means Court of Petty Sessions; JUS means Justice Department; and so on.

  3. If the computer system crashes while you are in the Public Search Room, staff may be able to retrieve documents from the repository if you can quote the Previous System location, because it often indicates the shelf position. If you only have item ID numbers, you may have to give up and go home. I can always keep working because I know the Previous System locations for records that I've already located in the catalogue.

In the Queensland State Archives' catalogue (on the Internet and at the Archives), the 'Item Details' screen shows the Item ID and (if applicable) the Previous System location and Departmental numbers. The latter often point to a specific file in a bundle.

From your own experience at Queensland State Archives, what other tips can you share?

This post first appeared on

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Queensland's Missing Births and Deaths

The Queensland Pioneers Index 1829-1889 is an excellent genealogy resource that was published on CD-ROM by the Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages.

Listed below are fourteen entries that are on the CD but not in the online historical indexes.

Baptisms with details shown on the CD:
  • BAINBRIGGE Philip Parker, father Thomas, mother Sarah, 30 Jul 1828
  • CLARK Emmeline Cameron, father Thomas, mother Emmeline SANDERS, 28 Oct 1828
  • FERRIS Thomas, father John, mother Catharine, 15 Dec 1828
  • GUERD Mary Anne, father Thomas, mother Mary, 18 Apr 1828
  • ROBERTS William Henry, father Charles, mother Esther, 15 Sep 1828
  • STACE Robert Austen, father Austen, mother Susanna, 5 May 1820

Burials (these undated burials had '1800' in the 'year' field on the CD-ROM):
  • ARMS John
  • BELL
  • BELL (Mrs)
  • HARVEY Elizabeth Ann

Searches on the Registry's Web site require a date of 1829 or later. Perhaps that's why these entries no longer appear in search results. If the Registry replies to my enquiry about this problem, I will add a comment here.

(This post first appeared on

Friday, 15 April 2016

Queensland Births Index up to 1919

Image by 'africa',
Despite the fact that Queensland's Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages currently (in 2016) only lets you search for births up to early 1916 (due to its 100-year access restriction), there is now another way to find births up to 1919!

To the delight of those with family history research here, indexes to Queensland births registered up to and including *1919* can now be searched online at Findmypast (that link takes you to the search page).

View the transcription there to get the exact date of birth plus parents' names including mother's maiden surname.

(This post first appeared on

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Passport Records

It's great to see more Queensland records being added to FindMyPast - for example, the indexes to passport registers 1915-1925 and passport registers and receipts 1926-1939. Most applicants lived in Queensland but some gave an interstate or overseas address including England, Canada, Papua, Ceylon, Fiji and China.

The National Archives of Australia and Queensland State Archives hold various series of passport records. They include:

  • Immigration Department: passport clearance register 1926-1935 (Qld State Archives series 7149; one item). This register gives the passenger's name, ship and date of arrival, State of disembarkation, ship and date of departure, passenger's reason for returning overseas, and whether he/she was planning to return to Australia. These records are indexed on FindMyPast.

  • Immigration Department: passport receipts 1930-1939 (Qld State Archives series 10222; thirteen items). These are duplicates of passport clearances issued to assisted immigrants. They give the passenger's name, ship and date of arrival in Australia. Some also give the ship and date of departure and how long the person expected to be away. These records are indexed on FindMyPast.

  • Passport registers 1915-1974 (National Archives of Australia, Brisbane Office). After the Passports Act 1920, Australian residents over sixteen years of age needed a passport if they left the country. This did not apply to those going to New Zealand, Papua or Norfolk Island. Others who were exempt included merchant seamen and defence force personnel on duty. The National Archives Brisbane Office holds passport registers 1915-1974 and various other records of people departing Australia. Some of those passport registers have been indexed. The Queensland Passports Index 1915-1925 is on FindMyPast. It is also available on CD from the Queensland Family History Society.

  • If a person 'vanished' (either temporarily or permanently), passport records are definitely worth a look. They can also reveal interesting information about overseas holidays or trips to visit relatives.

    NOTE!  The transcription on FindMyPast is a useful finding aid, but it does not include all details, so it is essential to get a copy of the original document. If you can't go to the Archives yourself, ask about my copying service.

    For other countries, these links take you to lists of passport records on:

    (This post first appeared on
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