My research plan

Mapping with Hyde
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Brian Moore via Compfight

So we are now over halfway through the family history course and we have had to put together a research plan. This is interesting because I usually just go to the archives, search through things I want to and go off on tangents if needed. But having listened to Dianne, it is important to have a plan that you can follow. So here it is:

My Research Aim:

To create historical timeline of Captain William SMITH’s life as a whaler. To do this

  • find out the names of the ships he was on and the dates (PS 1,2 and 4)
  • where the ships voyages were (PS1)
  • his role on each ship (PS1)
  • life on board the ships (PS3) (SS1 and 2)

Hopefully  find out his Samoan name by finding out when he was given the name William SMITH.

Primary Sources:

  1. Marine board records of ship’s voyages – government record
  2. Application for master of foreign vessel certificate – government record
  3. Newspapers of the times – shipping news and articles about voyages – newspaper record
  4. Images of ships he served on

Secondary sources (if any):

  1. Susan Chamberlain thesis about early whaling in Hobart Town – public record
  2. Books about whaling around Tasmania from the 1850′s to the 1890′s – public record
  3. My relatives including Glenn (who I will be interviewing) and Kim – great grandsons of William
  4. I am wondering if there might be records at the Australian Maritime Museum?

Repositories and Records that I plan to use:

LINC Family History

Marine board – Application for Master Mariner’s certificate

Trove newspapers of the time

Maritime Museum – Susan Chamberlain thesis

Readers: How could I have improved this research plan?

My William SMITH research plan

Davo the Tassie Devil tours Albany whaling station

As part of this family history course we have to come up with a research plan. Here is what I have added to our discussion area.

As I have already completed a lot of my family history over the last 40 years, I want to try to find out more about my great great grandfather who was given the name William SMITH. I would love to find out his actual Samoan name.

So the following is my research aim:

To create historical timeline of Captain William SMITH’s life as a whaler. To do this:

  • find out the names of the ships he was on and the dates (PS2) (PS1) (PS4)
  • where the ships voyages were (PS1)
  • his role on each ship (PS1)
  • life on board the ship (PS3) (SS1) (SS2)

Hopefully find his Samoan name by finding out when he was given the name William SMITH.

Primary Sources:

  1. Marine Board records of ship’s voyages – government record
  2. Application for master of foreign vessel certificate – government record
  3. Newspapers of the time – shipping news and articles about voyages – newspaper record
  4. Images of ships he served on

Secondary sources

  1. Susan Chamberlain thesis about early whaling in Hobart Town – public record
  2. Books about whaling around Tasmania from the 1850’s to the 1890’s – public record
  3. My relatives including Glenn (who I will be interviewing) and Kim – great grandsons of William
  4. I am wondering if there might be records at the Australian Maritime Museum?

Once I find his Samoan name, then Missionary records held at the Mitchell Library – might need to visit Sydney at some time in the future.

I have lots of records once he became a master mariner in the 1870’s but don’t have much prior to this.

 Readers: Can you think of any other primary or secondary sources I could use? Which repository would I find them in?

 

Who is William Smith?

William SMITH is my great great grandfather but from his application for a Master Mariners certificate he was born in the Navigator Islands in 1840. Therefore he should have a Samoan sounding name.

 

Master Mariner certificate

 

Here is a scan of Master Mariner PDF to see it enlarged.

I have also seen it mentioned in a book which is a secondary source [1. Poulson, Bruce. Recherche Bay: A Short History. Southport Tas.  Southport Community Centre, 2004. Print.]

Captain William Smith arrived in Tasmania in an open boat (from who knows where) and sailed up the Derwent into the waiting arms of officialdom. He was accepted and given the name “Smith”.

I am going through the Marine Board shipping log records at the moment trying to find when he first had his name changed to William SMITH. But I am stuck on the boat name between Offley and Calypso in the certificate above.  They are all whaling boats so far always in and out of Hobart.

Shipping logs are a great primary source as it is filled in when a sailor agrees to serve on board a ship. Information included is:

  • Signatures of each crew member – both Christian and Surname in full
  • Age when signing agreement
  • Place of birth – can be any of these city/town/country/state
  • Ship in which he last served and port the ship belonged to
  • Place and date of discharge from that ship
  • Place and date of entry onto this ship
  • In what capacity they will serve
  • Time when he should be on board – usually at once or a date given
  • Wages per month or voyage
  • Lay – black oil, sperm oil, whalebone
  • Amount of wages advanced
  • Amount of monthly allotment

Readers:  Can anyone using the PDF work out a possible boat name for me?

Sources of information

First page of letter re Ann JACKSON

Since beginning the course we have been told about the importance of collecting primary source data. Our second video this week was by Stefan Petrow about primary and secondary sources. Here are my notes.

Approach your sources with a set of questions in mind – on the trail of a problem

Seven steps to good research

  1. Ask right questions
  2. Find relevant documents
  3. Search in documents
  4. Taking notes by summarizing or quoting
  5. Writing arguments or stories from info
  6. Position yourself in relation to what others have written
  7. Draft, edit and revise to produce polished piece of historical prose

Fun lies in finding interesting information, continually finding more questions and documents

Don’t ignore evidence that is not what you expect to find

Primary Sources

First hand accounts of an event and created during time event took place or created retrospectively by a participant in the event

Best form of evidence is original document or record – next can be scanned or microfilmed or photocopy of original

Seven categories of primary sources

  1. Family
  2. Public
  3. Institutional
  4. Newspaper and post office directories
  5. Non written sources
  6. Physical evidence
  7. Oral history

Newspapers often secondary source as journalist not always at the event

Basic questions to ask re primary sources

  1. Where and when was record made – published or personal
  2. Who made it
  3. For what purpose – official or personal
  4. Did info come from someone with personal knowledge of facts
  5. What conventions exist that shape info – church vs tax lists vs census
  6. Reason for informant to provide inaccurate info – bias
  7. Corroborating testimony

As family historians weigh evidence – don’t blindly accept information – evaluate and record sources – trace back to primary record

John Tosh’s book about history – research carefully and systematically, gather lots of information from lots of sources

Secondary sources

Written after the event – sometimes based on primary sources

Provide background information relating to life or period of time in your families life.

Questions re secondary sources

  1. Who is author – claim to expertise – do they have bias
  2. Book or article for general audience or scholarly work – sources clearly set out
  3. Claim of author, interpretation or range of evidence

Footnotes are most important to cite your sources for future generations and researchers

The primary source used for the image above was found at the National Archives of Ireland in June 2014. I used the “Outrage papers of Donegal for 1847” looking for any reference to my JACKSON family.

For my readers: What has been the most unusual primary source you have found with information relating to your family history research?

Researching

Convict record of Rebecca Jackson
Convict record of Rebecca Jackson

One of the most important things to do when finding out about your family history is to research thoroughly.

Don’t believe everything you see online.

If it is a digitized copy of the original document that you can decipher on your own, then that is OK. But many people add their family tree to online websites without having first verified the data. This can then be added to other people’s trees and so the problem or inaccurate data is passed on.

Always check and double check from original or primary sources as historians call them.

What can primary sources include:

  • digitized documents like newspapers, convict records, diaries, ships logs that were written at the time of the event
  • photos, videos taken at the time of the event
  • government records such as census, immigration records taken at the time of the event
  • quilts, paintings, sculptures etc made at the time of the event
  • interviews with locals at the time of the event

So in general, anything written, taken or made by an eyewitness or participant in the actual event.

Where to find primary sources:

  • local libraries
  • family history centres
  • online digitized documents
  • microfilms of documents – many now being digitized
  • parish or county record centres

You will find links on my sidebar to some of the places I use when researching my family history. Many relate to Tasmania, UK and Ireland as these are the places my ancestors came from or lived in.