Books for family history

Our weekly twitterchats are becoming more well known and we had many family historians from other countries joining with us tonight discussing:

  1. Types of books: What type of books & topics do you read to help with your research? E-books or paper books? Journals? Academic theses/publications? Family history, DNA or local history? Buy or borrow books?
  2. Finding books: What are your criteria for selection? How or where do you get & share book recommendations? Use alerts, apps for reading or listing books? Popular book sellers?
  3. Finding ancestors in books: Have you found a mention or an ancestors story in a book or Google book search? Or a book written primarily about your family? Or found about your ancestors “place” in a book?
  4. Favourites: Which books are your go-to reference books? Share titles you found useful for your research. Family history fiction? Favourite authors?
Pezibear / Pixabay

Some blog posts written about family history books 

Jennifer summarized her answers to this week’s chat

Pauleen’s post about resources – books and papers

Pauleen looking beyond the internet to books

Jennifer’s post about migration books

Types of books

  • Marian: #FamilyHistory books (like Evidence Explained), #History books (hubby has #USCivilWar ancestors and my ancestors fought in #WWII). Usually borrow but occasionally buy digital books or books for reference (like Euro border changes over time)
  • Yvette: I buy many source guides, books about local history, DNA, methodology. Subscribe to about 20 magazines/journals. Use JSTOR/ProQuest for academic publications. I sometimes borrow ebooks. I buy ebooks and hardcopies.
  • Carmel: Where do you store ebooks? Many of mine are in Evernote – Entire book in Evernote, but I also have them in my documents folder on laptop, but Evernote is good if I’m out and about, can access on mobile
  • Margaret: Internet Archive is a great source of history books. I use it often. I’ve found some treasures there including the information that led to my 2xgreat grandfather’s siblings.
  • Shauna: Wow I have a copy of Graeme Davidson’s Lost Relations – loved his way of doing a family history that was interesting – have you seen it
  • Helen: Graeme’s book is a fabulous read. I aspire to write something about my family which resonates beyond the family circle and which reflects on the process like this does. I’ve read this book TWICE
  • Tara: Currently on my wishlist is a book that Mayobooks have, about women in 19thC county Galway that seems to focus on ordinary women rather than elites. I also got a great book The West of Ireland, New Perspectives on the 19th Century
  • Carmel: See Archived books searchable and for borrowing or downloading Search e.g. Genealogy, refine by History or Australia
  • Brooke: I’m gathering quite a few Australian convict related books, both non-fiction & creative non-fiction. History books eg, Australians by Keneally, Girt Vols 1 & 2 by David Hunt. But my favourite history book is Brief History of England 1911, my pa’s textbook
  • Tara: Recently I’ve bought a lot of books online from thrift shops but my guilty pleasure (ref Book Dragon) is my local auctioneer who has antiquarian book sales
  • Fran: For non family history books, my husband reads a tonne of non-fiction and donates it to a retirement home. They have a wonderful library!!! We have a few books that we cannot give away.
  • Tara: I read anything and everything. I’m a book dragon but I like the convenience of e-pubs. Often “just in time” reading but also wider foundation reading, e.g. Herds of East Galway
  • Pauleen: I choose reference materials that give me a better understanding of a topic I need to know eg migration, Famine, place, military, education, and which teach me theoretical research approaches. How could I nearly forget? I always look at the footnotes and bibliographies given in books I’ve found useful and interesting on my topics
  • Jill: I get recommendations from genies I trust and read reviews from various sources. I often chase down titles from reference lists in books I read
  • Pauleen: Should have mentioned some German newspapers are online in Google Books as well as through some sites. I’ve found insights into my Bavarian family there.
  • Sandra: My main topics is early convict history, and WW1. Starting to collect books on Passchendaele (October 1917). I prefer books over journals though if need be I’ll go searching for specific topics that can be downloaded via Journal or PDF.
  • Hilary: I have books I inherited that were written by a neighbour of my grandparents and have family mentioned
  • Jill: I don’t enjoy reading boring histories of other families. I like histories that show the methodology used to compile works in this genre.
  • Jennifer: I usually buy my family history books as they are handy to have for future research. But I have borrowed books from @PMILibrary They specialise in history of Victoria books. You can go there or order from your local library


  • Jane: I read everything and anything I come across that is relevant to what I am researching at the time
  • Kelly: I specialize in going down rabbit holes and sometimes ended up far from where I started but just where I discovered I need to be. Sometimes on a completely unrelated matter. Current deep dive. Civil War ancestors from opposing sides on same battlefield.
  • Shauna: I like buying local histories of the areas I’m researching. How to books for subject areas eg DNA. Journal articles in genealogy magazines are full of tips and tricks eg WDYTYA and Family Tree magazine. I can read them as emags through my local library.
  • Jennifer: I read quite a few ‘how to research’ books. I’ve been reading books about Scottish research lately. Can recommend @ChrisMPaton books
  • Helen: I will do general Google searches and specifically in Google scholar. I’ve also noticed recently that some articles have been indexed in Trove, then I source them, hopefully freely available online somewhere
  • Pauleen: I have a wide range of reference books including local history, and interestingly, fewer “how to” books for family history though I have my first-ever for posterity. No matter how many DNA books I read I still struggle.
  • Daniel: Well mainly, I would read books on Irish research, especially on Irish parish records. They’d be proper books, nice sizeable book!
  • Fran: I do the lot. Paper books are usually the special ones like “Evidence Explained“. E-Books to avoid more physical items to have to deal with and portability. Loads of stuff online like journals. Buy and borrow from @CaloundraFamilyHistory Library
  • Jill: I don’t read many journals for #genealogy but will sometimes source articles in academic journals if they are relevant to my research I recently paid $US30 for an article that mentioned a forebear.
  • Sharn: I often search for journal articles about topics I am researching. Among my favourite sites are JSTOR and Oxford Journals.

  • Sue: Luckily anything related to Tasmania, either my father or I will have it on our bookshelves. Depending on the topic I am researching, books specific to the topic or to the person’s occupation eg flourmilling. Try to find journals as well.
  • Jennifer: I like reading books about an area where my ancestors lived. I prefer reading real books but my family history books are often ebooks as it’s handy being able to search text
  • Helen: I read widely. Books. Theses. Search Google Scholar for academic articles of interest
  • Jill: I borrow eBooks from library if available for background reading. I prefer hard copies of #books that mention #ancestors or discuss methodology.
  • Hilary: I buy books relating to locations and occupations usually hardcopies
  • Pauleen: My target is reading material (books, theses, journals, records) relevant to the place, occupation, events/experiences of my families. About 95% of my library is paper copies, about 5% is digital. I like to annotate and mark passages.
  • Jill: I read anything that mentions people, places or events in my family tree in whichever format they are available. I don’t discriminate.

Finding books

  • Time booksellers has a great list
  • Wayback machine is great for finding books online
  • Pauleen: This is a good bookshop for those with Co Clare interests. I often buy my local journals there too.
  • Jane: Google Alerts can be useful
  • Tara: I used @thrift_ify in Ireland which is an umbrella portal Some shops are on ebay too. In UK, I’ve used e.g. @Oxfam and others found via google. Found fabulous bargains in both
  • Jen: I have an app to avoid duplicate purchases… now if I could just remember to look at it before the purchase!
  • Yvette: I buy reference works for places where I do a lot of research, either for myself or for clients. Get recommendations through newsletters of organizations and publishers, blogs, social media, etc.
  • Jill: I have a Samsung Tablet that is dedicated to reading. Stores all my ebooks and has apps for three libraries I borrow from plus a few other bookish apps.

    Sue: Ian Brand book details what each probation station, road gang etc was like in 1847 from C J La Trobe’s report, the other is how to transcribe the convict records.

  • Tara: I get academic publisher mailings. Will recommend something I think might be useful, e.g. a book about life as a domestic servant in late 19/early20C Dublin. Or will share online resources I’ve found specific to an area/topic/name of particular interest. My wishlist is huge! I’ve lately discovered a small Irish bookseller online and I’m delighted with them. Great for anyone with Connacht roots, they seem to have a good genealogical/local history selection. I would also recommend @KennysBookshop who are based in Galway and are lovely people to deal with.
  • Daniel: Topic wise for me, if I was to buy one would have to be specific to what I’m reading. I would say if I have a genealogy related question, I’d ask for recommendations on Twitter!
  • Jennifer: I do my online book buying mostly from Amazon. bookdepository, bookgrocer, worldofbooks, and fishpond. But I do love browsing in a second hand bookshop. You just never know what you will find. It’s a fave thing to do when travelling
  • Jill: I have been using Librarything to track my reading for over ten years. I follow other genies and interesting libraries on the platform. You can see my library here:  My criteria include availability, price, authority of the author, physical format, personal interest, will the book add to my knowledge. Is the book well referenced, does it have an index.
  • Pauleen: I find it easiest to look for ebooks these days if the book has to come from overseas. For books that are out of print or hard to get, I’ll use a Google alert. I have some/most of my library on LibraryThing. I add my reading to Goodreads. When travelling I always seek out local bookshops or family history societies to see if they have locally published, specific interest books or journals. Have got some good info that way
  • Sharn: I most commonly buy books through Booktopia, Amazon or on Ebay but I have excellent book shops near me that I browse for serendipitous finds
  • Jennifer: I get recommendations also from bloggers, Twitter, FB and Instagram

  • Carmel: I like to look at Shauna and Jill’s collections, have also found some genealogy societies on LT. Interesting to look through their catalogues e.g. Cairns and my local
  • Jill: Another vote for @LibraryThing. I follow you there @HicksShauna #ANZAncestryTime If you can’t find a book in a library you might find it on Librarything – then you can contact owner for a lookup
  • Brooke: Some of my favourite books have come from new found cousins: Haughley (Suffolk) History Society put me in touch with my nan’s cousins & they sent me The Book of Haughley which included pictures of more cousins & key places.
  • Mairead: The sort of magazines produced for school centenaries are great for family references if more than one generation went to the same school.
  • Alex: I also get a lot of recommendations from podcasts e.g. Genealogy Guys. SAG’s Friday afternoon sessions have provided me with heaps of suggestions
  • Sue: When travelling to somewhere in my ancestral places, I will usually buy a local history book to put on shelves when I get home.
  • Maggie: For specific books I want, I’ll set up an alert on online sites, or trawl ebay, Abebooks, Book Depository. Was much easier when living in England – so many 2nd hand books going for 1p plus postage!
  • Sylvia: The books I need have not been digitised unfortunately. Also tried to get a thesis from a university but the author will not allow it to be digitised, so in order to read it I need to go to Kingston University in London
  • Jill: For secondhand books ABE Books and eBay, lists on genealogy societies like @SocAustGen, Brotherhood Books – an online charity store, rummaging in charity stores.
  • Carmel: my bookshelves arranged digitally on LibraryThing tagged Genealogy or Genealogy – fiction (the fiction ones have some good methodology)
  • Jill: I get recommendations from the lists produced after the @SocAustGen Friday Members’ Hang Outs which are scheduled several times a year. I love hosting these sessions for the Society
  • Shauna: I find a lot of historic books on places like Google books, Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive. These are usually rare books that have been digitised and are free to download.
  • Mairead: one of my earliest discoveries was from a book in the local library. It talked about a Frank Payne who was in the Larrikins who found gold outside of Kumara. I didn’t know if this Frank Payne could be an ancestor so I asked my Aunty who told me to ask a cousin, and he knew all about it. The book about Kumara, New Zealand’s Last Gold Rush, I first found in the library. I set up an alert to find it on TradeMe (NZ version of eBay) which is eventually where I found it.
  • Hilary: I use library thing for my books and buy them at conferences or Family History events usually like the My ancestor and Tracing your series
  • Pauleen: It’s great that @nlagovau gives us access to JSTOR if we are pursuing something. Also don’t forget the journals (not society mags) published for some local history areas. I’ve often found them invaluable.
  • Jennifer: I often get recommendations from seminars and conferences. I follow authors on social media, that I’m familiar with, who I know have expertise in areas of my interest.
  • Fran: No big strategy for books. Usually follow my nose. Rabbit holes seem to find away some excellent books. Real conferences where a good speaker has a great presentation can lead to me purchasing

In books

  • Jane: A number of my husband’s Ancestors got themselves into the Cyclopedia of New Zealand. One of my relatives frequently appears in writings about Spanish East Florida and the 1795 East Florida Rebellion. No problem finding secondary sources about him, primary sources more problematic … lots of DNA links
  • Marian: My aunt was the historian of her US Army WAC unit in #WWII and I found her book in multiple libraries as well as digitized. Proud of her work documenting what Women’s Army Corps did to support the Allies!
  • Margaret: My 2xgreat grandparents feature in the book about the history of Christ Church Taita, Guardian of the Valley. I’m giving that book to my nephew. My father features in The Featherston Chronicles about the Prisoner of War Camp as he was one of the soldiers involved.
  • Yvette: There’s a book about the police in Winterswijk, the Netherlands, that features my 3-great-grandfather who was a police constable. It includes a photo of him and his wife, overview of the cases he was involved in, etc.
  • Jill: Just remembered that my convict ancestor Elizabeth Phipps got a mention in The Wanton witches of the Wanstead
  • Brooke: Just recently my ancestor got a paragraph in Kate Forsyth’s family history book ‘Searching for Charlotte‘. The information surrounding the interactions between my ancestor & Kate’s ancestor were new. Now I’m just itching to get my hands on her research, the bits that didn’t make it into the book.
  • Hilary: one of the books I have has a personal note from the author as she knew my dad
  • Maggie: I was researching an ancestor’s first husband, who died in South Africa during the First Anglo-Boer War. Came across a book that had been digitised and put online, that detailed how he died. That was definitely a “Eureka!” moment.
  • Daniel: Now this one might be more interesting than my previous answers, there was a book on the history of a school that my granddad had been teaching in for a period of time and even had a scholarship named after him… his brother had written a history on his surname so it includes some invaluable information for my tree (which I have confirmed!) and it’s not necessarily a book but there have been blog posts written about my great grandfather’s involvement in the IRA, during the 1921 Irish War of Independence.
  • Hilary: A book about Bitterne a suburb of Southampton includes photos of family members. Another book about Warminster includes a family group who are my relatives
  • Alex: My husband’s Duncan ancestors on the Gold Coast in The Kombumerri People by Rory O’Connor. My great-great-aunt who taught at a lighthouse at Bustard Head in Lighthouse of Tragedy by Stuart Buchanan. And my convict ancestor in a book about Cavan Station.

  • Sharn: I found a couple of old tattered books in a second hand bookstore about NSW trams and bought them without looking inside. One book was all about my g g grandfather. I hadn’t known he built tram carriages. Only trains. I discovered through a Google Book search that my 6th great grandfather, a Sexton at St Mary’s Islington had books of hymns published in the late 1790’s. I found one on Ebay and now own it
  • Sandra: not found any references to direct ancestors in any books, but I do have pamphlet style ‘ Boggabri – the story of our town 1957‘, which is where my grandparents were born.
  • Dara: Sadly, I’ve never found mention of known ancestors in books, apart from once when I did all the research initially and mentioned it to the author, but I love when I find old books describing my ancestral home back through the centuries.

  • Helen: No, other than in directories. That’s why I’ve started writing about them! Here’s a plug for a recent article in @PRO_Vic journal Provenance:
  • Shauna: yes usually in local histories which are a wealth of info on those who lived in a particular community. Sometimes I have found references to them in digitised ebooks eg parish registers
  • Pauleen: I was amazed to find references to Callaghan relatives from Courtown in Reilly Ace of Spies. Disappointed to find the book on the Furlong footballers from Ireland were from Tullamore but unrelated. Then there’s my book on the Kunkel family 🙂
  • Sue: My whaling captain half Samoan great grandfather who is no longer my relative through DNA is mentioned in lots of whaling books as Black Billy de Samoan.
  • Fran: No, No. Nearer ancestors are regular people. Perhaps if I extended more branches to the USA the family History Library might have something. (Wondering when the next visit might be…..) I do research places via books
  • Sharn: I have a large collection of books which mention my three time great uncle, convict, Lawrence Frayne. My latest find was accidental when I bought the convict diary of Thomas Cook who talks at length about him
  • Jennifer: In the very early days of my research I found a book written about my GG Grandmother’s family. I was very excited until I found incorrect info about my family. The author made changes for the second edition
  • Pauleen: Funnily enough I have on close reflection. I have a Qld history pic with a photo of my dad at the 1948 railway strike. Mr Cassmob’s great-uncle is mentioned extensively in books on Fromelles with references to his bequeathed docs and photos at @Library_Vic

Favourite books or authors

  • Brooke: Favourite authors: I have quite a few by Carol Baxter about writing interesting family histories. Also an excellent example of how its done, The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller.
  • Jill: I love family history fiction. I enjoy the mysteries in books by @NathanDGoodwin and enjoyed the one by @LorineMS .Have read a few other authors. I learn about resources and research methodology through this genre. So often fiction authors do extensive research and provide useful bibliographies. So useful for background info
  • Sue: lots of fiction books I enjoy but number 1 is @NathanDGoodwin  Also enjoy MJ Lee books with Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mysteries
  • Hilary: One book I think will be invaluable but not really got around to using much yet is not on Library Thing The Parish Atlas of England. I often find Ancestral trails : the complete guide to British genealogy and family history by Mark D Herber is a go to book I have 2 editions of this book
  • Dara: Absolutely! and his website is one of my go to places starting researching a family for the first time.
  • Maggie: My go-to ref books depend on where I’m researching, but favs definitely John Grenham’s Tracing your Irish Ancestors, Phillimore’s Atlas of Parish Registers, and all the Gibson guides.

  • Pauleen: Ances-Tree: the journal of the Burwood and District Family History society. Articles by Jenny Paterson on the German emigrant ships. Thesis by Pat O’Brien on the village of Broadford Co Clare (Uni Limerick). Oceans of Consolation for the impact and story of Irish migration; School centenaries and school indexes; The End of Hidden Ireland (Scally); Argyll 1730-1950 (McGeachy); Life and Death in the Age of Sail: the passage to Australia and others (Haines, R) I have so many I go to regularly depending on the topic. James Reilly’s Richard Griffith and his Valuations of Ireland; Dorfprozelten Teil II for my Bavarian emigrants incl George Kunkel; Farewell my Children (Richard Reid) and his other articles.
  • Jill: I shouldn’t forget the NSW Muster books and Log of Logs that sit on my shelves.

  • Sharn: Blaine Bettinger’s The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Forensic genealogy is my go to book for DNA
  • Maggie: If you love chatting and learning about #FamilyHistory, a wee plug for Talking Family History with @fiona_memories and @patientgenie – fortnightly sessions 8.30pm NZDT. This year’s subscription season starts this Friday
  • Dara: My most used book for #Genealogy is The Surnames of Ireland, Edward MacLysaght. This week it was Jim Herlihy’s The Royal Irish Constabulary, courtesy of @Rosiemonstre
  • Pauleen: As fun as genealogical fiction can be it’s not necessarily educational except to say “aha, that happens to me too”. I’ve read some fictionalised accounts of the Great Irish Famine that have brought the personal trauma home to me.
  • Shauna: reference books is harder as things change so fast in the genealogy world now. I tend to use wikis more eg FamilySearch Wiki

  • Hilary: when I started I used Beginning your family history by George Pelling…
  • Fran: I usually Google or Wikipedia things I want to quickly find out more about. Sorry books – the Internet is too easy although you do need to understand the sources of the information, its quality and make value judgements.
  • Jill: My favourite reference book is one I need now. Many US publications are irrelevant to my needs @blaine_5 being an exception. I find works by @JanetFew @Dave_Lifelines @johngrenham & many published by Pen &Sword useful.

Some more Shelfies

Migration across the seas

A topic to suit everyone. Some relatives migrated “Down Under” while others stayed “Up Over”. Other members of the same family might have headed east or west.

Our questions this week:

  1. Share the story of your emigrant ancestors: -which country were they from, -when and where did they emigrate to, -on which ship?
  2. Were your emigrants families, couples, teens or children? -Which other records or techniques have you used to fill gaps in the passenger records?
  3. What factors pushed your emigrants to leave or tempted them to their new country? Did they settle where they arrived, or move around?
  4. What diaries, books or museums have you found that helped you understand your emigrants’ migration experiences?

I was amazed that we had some members of ANZAncestryTime who did not have at least one convict in their family history. But they certainly had interesting stories for those migrants mainly travelling here from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Capri23auto / Pixabay

Our migrant groups

  • Families travelling with small children … one from London on 30 April 1853 to Port Phillip aboard the Marchioness of Londonderry … children aged 13, 10, 8, 3 and infant – Jane
  • Lots of family groups and some singles seeking a better life. My great-GF Robert Walter Marshall DUNBAR came over in 1913, aged only 17, with his 15 yr old brother Duncan. They definitely fibbed about their ages! – Melissa
  • I have one child died at sea. It was on the passenger list in the newspaper – Margaret
  • The Quirk family because of the famine but the 1st one wrote to his father and requested his brother’s to come for the gold fields so they all came out. I have a copy of a story that the younger brother wrote about his life – Sandra
  • My great grandma emigrated from Ireland to England to Victoria to NZ. What a story she could tell. – Margaret
  • Several of my husband’s immigrant ancestors followed the gold … Sandhurst (Victoria) … Kyeburn Diggings (Central Otago), Grey Valley (West Coast) – Jane
  • From my Waters Upton #OnePlaceStudy, a bit of a mixture. Families, and individuals of various ages, emigrated to Australia, America and Canada. I need to conduct a proper analysis at some point!
  • Once my ancestors got to Tasmania, they loved it so much they stayed till death. Both the convict and free settler families. Clean and green, so different to back home for many of them – Sue
  • Most of my ancestors came to NZ from England, Scotland and Wales – and one couple came via Australia. I also have a 2x G-GF, Antonio LIMA, who came from the Azores on a whaler & jumped ship in 1880 to settle near Wellington! – Melissa
12019 / Pixabay
  • My great grandfather was a fireman on the railway. He left Germany after his mother died and his father remarried. He sailed to Australia 3 months later and became a farmer – Sandra
  • Most of my families moved around Queensland after arrival, following work opportunities. Only William Partridge, his wife Hannah Kent and her parents remained in Ipswich after arrival. – Pauleen
  • Am writing about my husband’s family tonight because I am an immigrant … do have some immigrant ancestors to colonial America though. – Jane
  • Husband’s 2xGGF left Ireland (County Wicklow) between 1850/55 (tail end of Irish Famine) … Saddler in Melbourne until 1880 … then Christchurch, NZ – Jane
  • Most of my ancestors stayed in the state where their shipped docked – Jennifer
  • My g g grandfather James Berry Hoyes, a Methodist, migrated from Nottinghamshire to NZ with the Albertlanders, a religious group. On arrival his wife insisted they move to Auckland where he was a miller and gold investor – Sharn
  • I suspect my 2 x great grandfather father came to Australia to get away from a marriage that wasn’t working. On arrival he was ‘suddenly’ a bachelor and remarried a couple of years later. Of course, divorce was mainly for the wealthy in the 19th century – Jennifer
  • My g g grandmother came from Zurich Switzerland in 1870 aged 4 with parents and seven sisters. Two children a boy and a girl had died in Zurich. Her father was a bootmaker and worked as this in Maryborough Qld – Sharn
  • My pioneer family were my 2xgreat grandparents and their 7 children. My great grandma was born in NZ. – Margaret
  • My great great grandmother Rebecca Jackson from Ireland was a convict with her father and younger brother tried at the same time. I can’t find the males sent to OZ though. – Sue
  • I researched and wrote a lot about my great great grandfather, a half Samoan whaling captain, only to find through DNA testing I wasn’t actually related to him – Sue
Couleur / Pixabay
  • Husband’s 2xGGF convicted Bedford Assizes for stealing a box of buttons – sentenced to 7 years transportation. Travelled on ship ‘George III‘ and survived shipwreck on arrival Tasmania (Van Dieman’s Land) – many lives lost – Jane
  • My first non convict emigrant actually came to Australia with her convicted felon of a common law husband in 1802. Mary Reece and John Pitches arrived in Sydney on the Perseus 13 June 1802. Their relationship didn’t last. – Kevin
  • All SA arrivals O”Leary via assisted passages, Horgans paid for by Fitzgerald brother after death of husband during famine, O’Deas also chain migration – Carmel
  • My earliest ancestors (the Frank family) sailed from Hamburg, Germany to Sydney in 1852 on the ship Peter Godeffroy. They then sailed up to Moreton Bay, Queensland. – Sandra
  • I have family who married after emigrating to SA think they were assisted travel – Hilary
  • I have adult siblings emigrating, and whole extended families. As many seem to have ended up in communities with neighbours from home, I think there is a good chance that many friends emigrated together, but that’s harder to prove without a lot more research. – Allie
  • My first immigrant ancestor was Francis Colgrave, tried in Huntingdonshire, from Thurleigh Bedfordshire, arrived in 1832, arriving on the Circassian – Sue
  • My maternal g g grandfather John Morrison left Northumberland with wife and 4 children in 1878 on the ship KENT. As a carpenter he was seeking a better life and became a well known Sydney Builder and Rail carriage maker. – Sharn
  • Lots of convicts and a few free settlers but the closest are my newly found grandfather from UK who became a bigamist and my step grandfather a Polish immigrant after WWII – Sue
  • Watching people’s replies with interest as a lot of my indirect ancestors emigrated to Aus and NZ during the C19th. With one possible exception, they all went voluntarily! – Allie
  • Widow Annie Sim McCorkindale emigrated from Glasgow SCT with adult children incl my grandmother arr Moreton Bay (Brisbane) in 1910. – Pauleen
  • Joseph and Elizabeth Dilworth 1842. Quirke family 1848 to 1861 – Ireland. William and Susan Baker 1863 Kent. William Baker’s father and uncle were also convicts (1835). William Baker’ maternal uncle was James King arrived in 1822 as a free settler. – Sandra
  • My Sherry/McSharry family from Co Wexford IRL arr Rockhampton on Melpomeme 20 Jan 1883. Eldest son Peter Sherry/McSherry and family arr Rocky May 1884 on Almora – Pauleen
  • My earliest ancestors to move to NZ from the UK were the Harper family arriving on 1 Feb 1842 on the Fifeshire. Unfortunately the mother died on the voyage. – Fran
  • A maternal 2nd g grandfather Edward Weston left Suffolk aged 10 years with his widowed mother and arrived in Maryborough Qld 1870 on THE FLYING CLOUD. His mother married a German man soon after arrival and Edward did not get on with him – Sharn
  • All of my husband’s 2xGreat Grandparents are immigrants … some to NZ via Australia and some direct to NZ … 14 from England, 4 from Ireland – Jane
  • My ancestor Ellen Boyle was an Irish Orphan Girl from Donegal Ireland. She came to Australia on The Lady Kennaway in 1848 under the Earl Grey Emigration Scheme – Jennifer
  • So many emigrant ancestors, so many ships! Earliest couple (Tunnicliffe/Barber) were from England, arrived Auckland 1857 aboard the Dinapore, met on the voyage over, married three days after arriving. – Maggie
  • My Boyle ancestors came to Australia from Donegal Ireland on the Pomona in 1857. The family, including three children under 4 travelled with the children’s grandmother. They settled in Victoria and had a prosperous life. – ANZ
  • My family has migrated all over the world over the centuries but the original residences would have been Scotland and England (and maybe Ireland but those traced are Ulster Scots so far – Margaret
  • My McPherson family from Scotland, came to Australia on The Hercules during the Highland Clearance. They came under the Highland and Island Emigration Scheme – Jennifer


Emigration factors and the effects on families

Pauleen: In as much as political and socio-economic action impacted those on the margins especially, and the changing practices of agriculture.

Pauleen: Children out of wedlock were fairly common in southern Germany at the time. Maybe the woman herself wanted a better/different life?

Jane: My parents thought NZ would be a better place for raising children. I was 13 and agreed to come as long as I could bring my record player and buy records here!

Sharn: My Irish grandmother never even put her feet in the ocean after her voyage!  She hated water after it.

ANZ: The Irish did chain migration so well, bringing kin after them. Having said that, some still went to different countries…or we wouldn’t have that Nth American DNA matches 😉

Pauleen: I think they went where they thought it would work best for them, and sometimes I suspect friendship links were more important that family.

Fran: What I think is interesting is that many of the grandchildren from my maternal side have migrated to numerous countries from NZ or within NZ

ANZ: I often wonder, and hope, that my ancestors didn’t regret their decision to emigrate, especially my Bavarian 2xgt grandfather who died during WWI.

WikiImages / Pixabay

Carmel: Some worked in copper mines until they could acquire land. The Horgan farm acquired by gt gt grandmother in SA in 1858 is still farmed by my nephew so they didn’t move around but her other sons had to move – all large families

Sharn: My German g g g grandfather gave up the farm he owned in Toowoomba, took his family to the Gold Fields of Gympie in 1869 where he died along with their baby. My g g g grandmother remarried and the children went into an orphanage

Jennifer: I can’t imagine what it must have been like for our ancestors to make the decision to leave their home and make the dangerous voyage to an unknown country., To top it off most knew they would never see their families again

OPS: The ‘push and ‘pull’ factors behind emigration stories are always fascinating! For the most part it appears that those people from my #OnePlaceStudy who emigrated did so for economic reasons, to find work and maybe receive a land grant.

Jennifer: I am sure that most of my ancestors came to Australia for economic reasons – potato famine, highland clearances. Also to get away from the mining in Wales

Pauleen: We can’t readily know, but I think they must all have had an adventurous – or desperate – streak as well

Maggie: I think a lot of them moved due to employment, business opportunities. Taking risks possibly second nature to them by the time they arrived

Pauleen: My Scottish Melvin and McCorkindale families were likely pulled by chain migration following earlier family members and the opportunities available to them.

Sandra: Lack of land and job opportunities. Most arrived in Moreton Bay, went to Ipswich and then moved to the Fassifern when that land opened up

Pauleen: The Kent family may have been pushed by financial difficulties in Herts; the pull again cheap fares and opportunities for adult family members

igorovsyannykov / Pixabay

Allie: I wish I knew more about their motivations for emigrating, but would assume (based on what I do know) that in most cases it was for economic reasons. The majority seem to have settled down quite quickly, though sometimes the next gen moved on elsewhere.

Sharn: I seem to have a few ‘illegitimate baby” related migrations. My g g g grandmother arrived from Germany in 1863 for an arranged marriage. She was pregnant on arrival but still got married. My g g grandfather was born four months later.

Pauleen: My Sherry families were experienced railway families and were most likely attracted or recruited to work on the construction of new lines in Qld

Maggie: Many of mine were from Ireland, and emigrated just after the Famine. Most moved around once they arrived, before settling.

Pauleen: For my mid-1850s Irish ancestors the push likely was post-Famine, independence & the chance to send $ back to family; the pull was opportunity for land ownership, escape from poverty, cheap sponsored fares on safe voyages.

Hilary: I have LDS pioneers in my ancestry and they moved for religious freedom others were agricultural labourers possibly after a better life

Fran: From researching Cornish History I am assuming my GGF came to NZ because there was push with all the local migration agents and others going. Plus the pull from NZ to promote migration. If this was his reason – not sure if I will ever find out.

Sharn: I like to understand my ancestors’ migration journeys before and after a voyage. I research how they reached a port. is Was there a railway nearby? This helps me understand the real challenges they faced

Sharn: my paternal grandmother arrived in Qld in 1913 aged 11 years.. She told me her father came reluctantly and it took 10 years for him to sell his flax farm in County Tyrone and accept he was staying here. For some the move was difficult.


Diaries, papers and records to use

  • One of my convicts left a diary but it wasn’t about his voyage. it was about his harsh treatment on Norfolk Island. Oh… and the voyage there so I guess its immigration of a kind – Sharn
  • New Zealand Gazette was New Zealand’s first newspaper published in London 1839. Second issue published 18 April 1840 in Wellington, first newspaper printed in New Zealand. No papers for my immigrants arrival to appear in – Margaret
  • I find researching surnames often helps me to find people in unexpected places – Sharn
  • Researching siblings can make an enormous difference and knock down brick walls!! it did for me with Mary O’Brien, helped by oral history and unusual married names – Pauleen
  • Most State Libraries and Archives hold ships’ diaries. State Library Victoria has 160 shipboard diaries, 104 written by women. Maritime Museums also have ships logs and diaries – Sharn
  • Trove is such a great resource isn’t it?? You might even find a letter of thanks from the passengers to the captain – Pauleen
  • San Diego Maritime Museum – standing on the Star of India (formerly the Euterpe) the ship that brought my ancestor to New Zealand… so so cool. – Fiona
  • Archival documents for the voyage, where surviving incl disposal lists, deposits for their fares, official reviews of a voyage, Board Lists not just Passenger lists. Go wide, go offline – Pauleen
  • I also like to trawl the Immigration Deposit Journals for people from the same place or parish. – Pauleen
  • I map the journeys my migrating ancestors made using Google Earth and its tools including placemarks, lines, paths, imagery, creating videos of journeys. This gives me a real sense of undertaking a journey – Sharn
  • Been following up siblings too so that I can figure out some of my DNA matches. It has been helping. Now I know our direct ancestors of people with DNA initial as their names. Interesting that families migrate to different places and at different times. – Fran
  • Trawl Trove & other newspapers sites for stories of your early pioneers, obituaries, death notices. Buy certificates and widen your search to siblings. – Pauleen
  • Reports of ship’s arrivals can often be found in newspapers, giving arrival date, names of passengers and details of the voyage. I’ve confirmed many arrivals and ships this way on Trove – Jennifer
  • I found a diary written by a man who arrived in Aust. on the same ship my ancestor in a second hand shop. Sadly, all he talked about was praying and shaving. Nothing about the voyage. I found the family and handed it over – Sharn
  • Ireland’s EPIC museum is superb; Victoria and South Australia‘s Immigration Museums; Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks and National Maritime Museum. Canberra’s National Museum and the National Archive of Australia‘s passenger lists. – Pauleen
  • To relieve overcrowding in the Irish #workhouses during the Great Famine, over 4,000 female orphans were sent to the colonies in #Australia. 📍 Now you can attach those ancestors to the very workhouse they came from on IrelandXO!
  • Shipboard diaries found in Archives have helped me understand the challenges my ancestors faced on voyages to Australia – ports of call, storms, illness. Invaluable information – Sharn
  • Passenger lists and newspapers have been my main resources for migration stories in my one-name study and #OnePlaceStudy. But books (at Google Books, the Internet Archive, Hathi Trust etc) have helped with wider context and occasionally with individuals.
  • For German immigrants: the QFHS Kopittke indexes to the Hamburg Shipping lists; the Hamburg Passenger lists on in Burwood FHS’s Ances-Tree journal. – Pauleen
  • Apart from chasing diaries and letters, I’ve also visited places in Ireland that tell the emigrants’ stories – Ulster Folk museum, EPIC Ireland, Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross: – Maggie
  • Now that I am matching DNA with those in USA and Canada, I am researching them through passenger lists and census which often mentions year they arrived or got citizenship – Sue
  • The National Library of Australia has in its collection Surgeons’ Journals, Log Books and Convict Diaries, relating to voyages to Australia. – Sharn
  • The National Library of Australia’s Manuscript collection houses immigrant diaries. – Sharn
  • I haven’t any diaries but my Samoan non-relative is mentioned in books as Black Billy de Samoan, but my grandmother thought he was sunburned from the whaling ships – Sue
  • My 2nd cousin recently did a photo book with all their grandparents and their descendants….some emigrated, some stayed in the UK. It’s been a great hit! – ANZ
  • I’ve already mentioned the diary for the Melpomene voyage. Also google search or trove search for ship images, checking shipping records and Lloyd’s List for ship specifications – Pauleen
  • One of my ancestors kept a diary of his voyage to NZ, and I know of another diary (in an Aus archive) that a female passenger kept when she emigrated at the same time as my gg-aunts. I’d love to read as they probably lived in close quarters for the journey – Allie
  • Back in the early days in Ireland, emigrants walked vast distances to get to an Irish port then travelled as deck passengers to their port of embarkation in England. – Pauleen
  • NSW Immigration deposit journals. From there I was able confirm that my great great grandmother sister had died prior to arrival. Their uncle had paid for the family to arrive which she was listed but name crossed out with deceased – Sandra
  • Also found the Polish have their own museum and archives in Australia with stories about soldier immigrants after WWII – Sue
  • NAA got me great info on my Polish Uncle Mike and his arrival and citizenship – Sue
  • Sometimes passenger lists use initials or Mrs. Master, etc with no initials. Then I have relied on Census and birth records to try and identify the children that migrated. It’s frustrating when they migrate in between census periods. – Fran
  • Websites such as the Journeys to Australia, Museums Victoria can give us a better understanding of the challenges ancestors faced on voyages. – Sharn
  • Our lists of passengers for first ships to Petone are in the Settlers Museum database. I found my Dickson originally by hand in Melbourne Registry – under Dixon. – Margaret

Blog posts or book recommendations about our migrants:

Pauleen: Robin Haines’ books on aspects of journeys incl Migration and the Labouring Poor: Australian Recruitment in Britain and Ireland 1831-1860. Life and Death in the Age of Sail: the passage to Australia

Pauleen: Richard Reid’s Farewell My Children: Irish Assisted Emigration to Australia 1848-1870 as well as monographs; Oceans of Consolation by D Fitzpatrick; Famine Orphan blogs and database; Trevor McLaughlin’s blog

Allie: I’ve a copy of ‘Scottishness and Irishness in New Zealand since 1840‘ by Angela McCarthy in my ‘to be read’ pile. Came across it as it quotes my ggg-uncle’s ship diary (where he’s highly uncomplimentary about some of his fellow travellers/countrymen :-D)

Fran: A book by Philip Payton call The Cornish Overseas I learnt lots about the migrating Cornish. It is not light reading. The cover refers to the book: ” The epic story of the ‘Great Emigration’.”

Carmel: 2 of the best for me Farewell my children by Richard Reid, Irish South Australia by Susan Arthure et al.

Jennifer: Did anyone have ancestors on The Triconderoga that left England for Australia in 1852. Michael Veitch’s Hell Ship tells the story of this horror voyage that was stricken by the plague. I’d recommend it as a great read and an eye opener to what could go wrong.

Jennifer: The Long Farewell by Don Charlwood is a great book about migration from Britain to Australia. I refer to it often

Interesting websites to help look at the social side of the migration of people to Australia and New Zealand

Couple of thoughts to consider

Remember to document your own migrations for family historians not yet born – Fran

Wherever they went, it’s always a joy to be able to complete the stories of the people from our family trees and #OnePlaceStudies, and to see the wider stories that each person was a part of!

Readers: Who was your first ancestor to migrate?  Where did they go? Why did they migrate?