Society record sets

Each state of Australia has records in their libraries and archives but many towns have their own historical society and they also have records available for their particular area. A list of many family history societies is found at the AFFHO website – Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations. Alona Tester has also put together a 75 page list of Australian and New Zealand History and Genealogy Facebook groups.

Family history societies are a great and sometimes under utilised resource.

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Do you belong to a family history society? How does your society share its indexes and record sets with its members and the wider community?

I belong to several societies both local and farther afield where my ancestors lived. If $ was no object I’d join even more. 🙂

I belong to quite a few Family History Societies both in Australia and in the UK. Most have a good range of resources online but some records are not digitised. In this case I sometimes use the Society’s research services

I belong to the Tasmanian Family History Society as well as Sorell Historical Society. TFHS has an index on their website you can search tasfhs.org/csi.php

I have used this index Sue. Tasmania seems to have excellent resources for family history

I had never seen this index until I started looking for links for tonight’s chat

Yes and yes. Our resources page lists what we make available on the web and more that can be accessed on site genealogy-noosa.org.au/resources

Yes, I belong to Caloundra Family History. CFH as a large collection of records on computers, maps, microfiche, etc. Members have access to this at the rooms. We have a list online of this & our books so we do get queries. caloundrafamilyhistory.org.au/library-comput…

I belong to 4 family history societies and one of the reasons I stay a member is the online resources provided by them. Oops just realised I belong to 6 societies – how could I forget Caloundra and Bribie Island

These days most societies have access to their catalogues, and some indexes, through their web pages. The best ones have ways of ensuring remote members can get the benefits even if it’s with a fixed time of research offered

I think we’ve come to expect online access after the covid experience of more being online

I only belong to Society of Australian Genealogists (or I will again when I renew. Oops.)

I joined the Maryborough Family History Society years ago and it became the first Australian Society to put records on Ancestry.com. Through the Cooroy and Toowoomba and other Societies I found records I would likely never have found

I found that the Devonport or Mersey branch also have lots of online resources tfhsdev.com/index.html

I used to belong to the Invercargill Branch of the NZ Genealogical Society, but they changed their meeting time to dinner time. I no longer miss meals for meetings. Also the topics were not of interest to me.

I tend to agree with you Margaret. This is something that some societies need to look at. The one in our town is at an inconvenient time and has been that time for decades. Lifestyles and needs change

My local branch changed their meeting day to a work day for me, so I rarely attend now unless it’s a topic or speaker I really want to hear. I’ve joined interest groups instead as they have weekend meetings/events.

I think Covid has also changed societies approach to access – there are more online meetings and access to subscription sites through your membership. Great value the last 2 years.

It’s worth remembering that many societies have social media pages where they post regularly. You can join their Facebook etc pages even if you’re not a member. What you learn might tempt you to join.

The way I’ve used the SAG records is to order files before my visit, using the online search, & then visit the archives site to view. Lucky I can do that, being in Sydney.

I belong to several family history societies, though I don’t often take full advantage of membership. Depends where I’m at in my research! Some have online indexes which have proved incredibly useful.

I belong to several family history societies in England including @GuildOneName some share things with members

I belong to quite a few Facebook groups and follow a lot such as Gairloch Museum, Scottish Indexes, etc.

Facebook groups can be very useful Margaret. I have joined some that display old photos of my ancestral places as well

if you live in regional Australia and don’t have easy access to the major society libraries, then it is essential that they cater for the needs of more remote members.

I used to be a member of Devon family history society and might need to rejoin as have found lots of dad’s new ancestors came from there devonfhs.org.uk

I sometimes join a society especially on overseas one while I am researching a family line. Depending on what is available I might keep the membership going

I was a member of Bedfordshire FH Society for many years, but let it lapse as my research interests changed for a while. Need to rejoin again as I’m back to that line again

I do this too. I usually keep my Australian ones going but dip in and out of the overseas depend on research interests at the time

I know it’s away from the question of societies but relevant archives usually have good indexes to some records as well. @travelgenee is correct – it can be a challenge to maximise our use of all the societies we join.

I also belong to the Essex Society for Family History that I joined a year ago via #rootstech. They have collections online of Parish Registers and Memorial Inscriptions. I have not made as much use of this as I should have! Need to see what else they have

I also belong to the One Place Society although my OPS is not getting far lately

Sorell also has a Facebook page and after lots of chat one time, they did include membership info and many joined.

Have always belonged to SA too genealogysa.org.au essential for South Australian record sets

Many societies now have journals available online for members some go back many years

But @GSQPresident #Toowoomba & Darling Downs FHS and Toowoomba Historical Society #Online #indexes for #records held at society allow me to plan my research ahead of time

I’m part of @IGRS_1936 which has unique databases on its website for members.

For me, one of the most valuable indexes is the Hamburg to Australia indexes and publications through @QueenslandFHS. They are gold for people with German ancestry in that time period.

I belong to Family History ACT. While most of my ancestors are Tasmanian I’ve found their special interest groups and library resources really useful esp for English ancestors further back

Also joined the Irish Genealogy Research Society because I needed to access something on their database. Have not used them much though should investigate South Carolina as I’ve discovered ancestors there going back to first settlement in 1670

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Question 2: Does your society have any of its indexes/record sets online with one of the big genealogy websites? Are there benefits to this? Do you think users realise these were created by society members?

We are now indexing even more at Cooroy-Noosa Sharn. Currently doing photos from 10 years of newspapers 1985-96

Another thing to consider/ask whether your local society sends out the e-journals from other societies. Perhaps another way to access your area of interest? Caloundra FHS does this.

as WebWeaver at Fellowship of First Fleeters website I have been working on improving findability of our records & journals back to 1968 fellowshipfirstfleeters.org.au

Our society does not have anything with the big genealogy companies

I am running a workshop on Thursday afternoon at Sorell FHS on the blog I am using for my one place study. Hoping to get some of the participants to write some posts for the A-Z challenge. sorell200.edublogs.org

Another benefit of a local society is that they often have publications relating to their area. Toowoomba and Darling Downs FH Society is an excellent example of this. Check out publications and shop on a society’s page.

I have been taking note of Ancestry’s American sources when researching my New England US ancestry

I don’t think most users look at where the data comes from. Society members might notice but people usually cite Ancestry or whoever without acknowledgement of the original source

I always check Shauna but that is because I add sources to my tree and blog posts. I find it interesting to see where data is sourced from

My guess is that most users of the big sites haven’t a clue who has done the indexing. This is a shame as it might encourage people to see more of the benefits of a society. They don’t realise that members have put a lot of time & effort into the indexes.

I have joined American Ancestors americanancestors.org which covers New England – great online resources – some of these available via Ancestry

I’m sure most users, maybe just casual users, don’t realise society records on the big genealogy sites have been submitted by society members

There are $ benefits to the society for having their indexes with the big sites and also for users who don’t want to/haven’t joined the relevant society as otherwise they may not have a clue they exist.

Two of them do but the other 2 don’t have their resources in subscription sites. This is so the data is exclusive to their members and a reason to join.

I think Covid has also changed societies approach to access – there are more online meetings and access to subscription sites through your membership. Great value the last 2 years

Online meetings and access has been a great highlight of the past two years. =Being regional, I hope it continues

Me too Jennifer. Access to so much more including those free documents from the National Archives UK.  One of the few Covid benefits

Caloundra Family History has indexes they created online with Ancestry. Benefits include access to Ancestry at the rooms for a set period of time. Ancestry acknowledges “Original data: Caloundra Family History Research Inc.” & includes research tips.

Sorell also has a Facebook page and after lots of chat one time, they did include membership info and many joined.

I know that Hampshire and possibly Lincolnshire have indexes on Find My Past

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Question 3: Tell us about indexes/record sets your society holds which are unusual or unique? Have any of these led to research breakthroughs for you?

I found Scottish Indexes a great resource for my only Scottish convict

Cooroy-Noosa indexes cover 25 years of local newspaper clippings, names, organisations, clubs etc. also indexes to early tennis and bowls clubs memberships One member has indexed local land records too.

New members get toured through centre and depending on skill of research assistants (volunteers) on duty that day, should be shown everything. This week one very experienced member running a local history workshop on our resources

We do similar tours with the volunteers and volunteer training. Also give each new member a buddy to help them. They are responsive to introduce them also. Plus do workshops on what we have available. Looks like we are very similar

Illawarra Family History Group showed their resources in Wollongong City Library at its January 2022 meeting – covid restrictions mean that one on one sessions with inquirers are still not possible but emailed inquiries can be handled illawarrafhg.blogspot.com

My favourite discovery in society indexes years ago was at @GSQPresident. They had indexed the Equity files for the period immediately after Separation and I found my Kunkel ancestor there – opened up great discoveries.

With Genealogy SA I can get all the data from birth death and marriage records as part of my membership. Being able to access this data online without purchasing a certificate is really good

The answer to this question is the key differentiator that every family history society should put above the fold on their home page. Potential members need to know, what does this FHA have that I can’t get anywhere else.

Interesting point. I will have to think about what I can do to improve this. Things get pushed down the page and there loads of details on our Join us page. Perhaps a Join us button is needed.

I added a Join us to our home page, links to an online document which can be sent by email, still relying on a bank deposit. Hope to add PayPal soon genealogy-noosa.org.au/home

PayPal fees are a small extra cost though the number of members paying by credit card shows they want this. We have to start providing what members want and keep the old processes for a while also.

#queenslandFHS has indexes of Qld school pupils which can be invaluable if you have peripatetic relatives. My grandfather’s younger orphaned siblings could be found through these. You can easily see the actual register then online at @QSArchives

Caloundra FHS has an index of Railway employees which is also online. Even though I’d searched extensively in other areas I found my great-grandmother listed as a gatekeeper.

Hampshire have a Wills beneficiary index which can be very helpful

Speaking of German migration, the Ances-Tree journals of the Burwood & District society have detailed articles by the late Jennifer Paterson. These are invaluable as well as unique

Lincolnshire actually have a search facility to make it easier to find what may be available for a particular parish that they have indexed

One of our members Peter Mayberry has built a very useful website on Irish convicts to NSW but I think that has been a private effort

Peter Mayberry’s Irish convict site is one of my key go-to resources

Very few of my ancestors came to Australia however Caloundra Family History does have things like some NZ records. Again, I have not made full use of these. Being a @FamilySearch Affiliate Library gives us access to more records via our rooms.

Fellowship of First Fleeters has all its newsletters/journals back to its inception in 1968 online – these are searchable too fellowshipfirstfleeters.org.au I have found this useful for doing my own research

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Question 4: Have you helped index, collect record sets, or promoted the society’s holdings?

Not really. However, I’ve written two family history articles for two historical societies in New South Wales. One is published and the other is under review. I’ve also corrected many articles on Trove, which has hopefully assisted other researchers.

It strikes me how much we now take for granted in terms of online access. It really isn’t all that long ago (20-25years) since everything was offline and required in-person visits. It’s changed the face of #genealogy research

Remember this: It strikes me how much we now take for granted in terms of online access. This is why societies indexed so much. No online indexes at archives, no Ryerson, no Trove, no online BDM or census searching. It’s changed the face of #genealogy research.

Am actively involved in 2 digitisation projects indexing stuff, and do all the website, FB and some internal promotions. too. Giving 2 more short how to Zoom workshops in March as some members still not confident.

Caloundra FH is indexing for the @naagovau presently. Has the advantage of a wider audience getting access to the indexes. Though societies need to do some local things that a national body might not be interested in to provide value to local members.

Back in the late 1980s @GSQPresident set out to index deaths in newspapers. I was allocated six months in the midst of WWI. You can imagine how many hours that took reading microfilms. Sadly the project seemed to languish somewhere. Now we have Trove

Though an index can be a quicker way to get to the source. Ryerson, for example, is good when you do not have access to the local newspapers or can chase them up later.

And it lets you get beyond the official death date indexes 😉

Indexing is a great contribution but also look among the publications to which many researchers have contributed. I have entries in the Drayton Cemetery books published by Toowoomba and Darling Downs FHS

During Qld’s sesquicentenary many Qld FHS had special projects. @GSQPresident updated an earlier project on early pioneers. @QueenslandFHS asked for stories of pioneers who arrived pre-1859. I did stories on my own ancestors + “my” German immigrants.

Making things more accessible for distant members or those unable to get to meetings is the way forward now

Yes, totally agree. The assumption that our ancestors lived in the same place as we do is less and less valid as time goes by.

I agree Hilary. I’m regional and I’ve loved being able to participate more during covid than in the past. Online is the way to go for success I’m sure

I have promoted the Fellowship of First Fleeters materials on its website and also the physical library on our Facebook page – we also have the FFF library’s catalogue on the website fellowshipfirstfleeters.org.au

Yes back in the 80s I did a lot of cemetery transcriptions with the Genealogical Society of Queensland and the Queensland Family History Society. There can be real clues on tombstones

I help promote our records via the website and we also have a FB group for members only that I must remember to share the resources we have on that so that more members become aware of them.

I have not helped with indexing as I live a distance from the area and did not have the time whilst working

Some comments about family history societies:

Following #ANZAncestryTime I’ve been looking at some #FamilyHistory Society websites. I challenge all FHS website managers to include a picture of young people engaging with #Genealogy at your society. You can’t be what you can’t see.

It would be interesting to know if society membership is going up or down. Some seem to be incredibly active now with online webinars while others don’t seem to be proactive online. Probably depends on their volunteer pool and skills.

Advice for beginners

Another great #ANZAncestryTime twitterchat. Hope these tips and mistakes not to make help you in your journey as family historians.

Tips for starting your family history journey

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The most common tips were:

  • Start with yourself and work back one generation at a time.
  • Get proof for every fact by having documents, certificates, newspaper reports etc
  • Talk to the older members of your family including cousins – record these stories if possible with their permission; photos and newspapers are good prompts
  • Keep records using charts, notebooks, digital files, folders – whichever suits you best
  • Buy certificates if possible – check all information on these including witnesses; in New Zealand get printouts rather than certificates
  • Don’t believe everything that you see online without seeing the proof
  • Keep a note of where you searched (research log), and what you found (or didn’t).
  • Cite your sources so you find information again
  • For beginners listen to this brilliant podcast (see link at end of post)  it talks you through every single step in a logical sequence brilliant for beginners @AFHpodcast
  • There is not just one way to do family history research. We need to be able to adapt to the circumstances when necessary for better results.
  • BACK UP your research. You don’t want to lose all those hours of work!
  • Surround yourself with support by joining a local family history society
  • Do a workshop or course in the how.
  • Look for a list of questions to use when asking your elders about ancestors. eg
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How and where to record the information you find

Thinking about slow cooking, slow family history might be a thing. Many variations of way to record your family history being listed. Use the method that makes it easy for you such as paper, charts, or digital with software.

When I volunteer with people at the library, we start with pedigree chart, family group sheets then if they want to connect to others especially DNA, then online tree with ancestry

Can I be an alternate voice? I loathe being straight jacketed by those forms, even back in my earliest days decades ago. I probably kept the same info but in my own way.

Try a few genealogy software programs and pick one you like, where you record everything you find. Also, think about a digital filing system for your computer. I started out mostly using A5 notebooks, and I still use them, but am waaaay behind in transferring info

I decided to put all my digital stuff in one folder with useful file names. Searching for things on the mac has always been easy (according to me) and I only need one copy in one place. Not multiple versions for different people. (Make sense?)

I’d recommend a software program or spreadsheet at first to get started

A few people have suggested spreadsheets & I’m curious to know how you use them

I’ve used them for shipping data, census details, timelines and a checklist for possible sources and if I’ve checked them. Do as I say not as I always do 😉

I use them for my DNA matches adding them from every source where I have it. Add info on whether has tree, what likely family, & if added to my tree & the relationship. I download DNA data from some sites.

Spreadsheets for timeline of a persons life, or for downloading a range of search results for analysis and sorting or for keeping track of certificates bought, or #genealogy expenditure just a few for starters

One way I use them is for NZ electoral rolls, for example. I have all the names down the left and dates of electoral roll across the top. Black out cells when people to young to vote, migrated or dead. Then mark of in each cell when found with a ref. FH software.

I do this for UK census records – note the ages down for each census I’ve found them in, group with family, mark off years before born and after died, so I know who I’ve found in each census (and who I haven’t). Interesting to contrast ages across decades too!

I have columns for DOB,DOM, DOD, Where Living, Where died, Occupation. IF you’re clever, and I’m not you can have the spreadsheet do the calcuations of age etc and codes to cross ref

Export the names and info from your family tree software. It is so much easier to see the gaps with a spread sheet. Have another one with UK census info. It is easy to see families together and then when person moves.

Use 1. pedigree charts 2. family tree charts 3. research logs so you know what sources you have already consulted and when, this very much helps avoiding unnecessary repetition

I would suggest an online tree either public or subscription based plus family tree software for recording your tree. A research log for information and sources

Assuming you have a computer try various software programs or start a blog

Write it down and store it somewhere safe. I would say type it up too but PLEASE back it up.

Invest in the best family tree software you can afford e.g. if you think you might want to publish a book down the track, look for software that will help you do that. Also record on paper using standardised templates available for free on Ancestry. Back up!

Always & Everywhere. Go mobile – start with audio recording & scanning apps & build up to local family tree software alongside online platforms with confidence & affordability + keep a notebook or journal whether paper or online to record progress

join a free website such as @WikiTreers where you can keep living family private but connect to deceased ancestors

I started with a dedicated notebook, still precious to me, moved to a timeline format in Word, supplemented by narrative format in Word

depends on how comfortable one is with computers. Pen and paper initially is good start to see what info you have. Talk to other family historians before using genealogy software. Spreadsheets can a good way to record too.

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Mistakes to avoid when starting out

Remember no family is perfect. We all have black sheep ancestors and skeletons on the closet. Don’t ever assume all your discoveries will be happy.

Ensure you record all the details and look at first few pages and last pages of a book and for margin notes or errata message

And I use their bibliography for future reference.

Never assume family stories are correct, or that you are getting the full story. Details change, recollections alter over time and sometimes people muddy the truth for a variety of reasons

Don’t think that everything is online. Visit libraries, archives, societies

I have found that libraries in larger towns can have resources for other places. I used to spend time in the @Library_Vic doing NZ research. So pays to check in larger places.

When I lived in Darwin I would keep a running file for future research in QLd archives and libraries, then hit them hard when visiting. Did better then than I manage now.

Do not copy other people’s online trees or information. Research and find the evidence yourself

Don’t dismiss anything as hearsay make a note and look for proof

Assuming everyone in your own family will be excited as you about any if it – you need to find your people (we are your people)

The biggest mistake I made was not writing down where I found something for everything I found. Even acknowledging who told you is important. When you want to check it later it cannot.

1. Not accessing an original document when possible (#Digital or #Paper ) & just relying on #index entries helpful though they are. 2. Basing my own research on the research of others without verifying 2. Not citing/recording sources

when I started I recorded everything in one notebook at a time. Advantage: in one place to find. Disadvantage: separating out the families’ data later on. You won’t believe how much info you’ll accumulate over time!

Beginners should be wary of ordering anything through a third party try to order directly from the official office

Don’t go blindly accepting Ancestry hints assuming they are all the same person

And if someone goes out of their way to tell you you have the “wrong ” person in your tree, do yourself a favor and investigate their data. Don’t just immediately blow them off.

Absolutely!!! In one of the cases there were 14 or something people with the wrong one. I didn’t have the mental capacity to tell them all. I will when I have a chance.

Yes. Most ancestors have hints for records in the US. Only one ancestor ever went to America and that was when he worked on ships, he never stayed there.

Accepting hints on Ancestry and discoveries & smart matches on MyHeritage – both are often wrong. Assuming that anyone else’s tree is correct without doing your own research

Assume everyone in the family is interested and want to know all details – they don’t. Don’t assume all online tree owners have done research thoroughly – many haven’t, just copied from others and don’t even show any proof.

Biggest mistake: believing anything you read or anything anyone tells you – go and investigate, find out as much of the truth yourself as you can. Next biggest mistake: not listening, not reading between the lines.

procrastination can lose you personal knowledge as the older generation passes away. I got fabulous info from some but didn’t get round to all my contacts.

Thinking I’ll write down that source later. Or not having a plan. Or thinking you know the answer and not considering other options. Not asking for help is probably a biggie. And of course….thinking that it’s all online. It most definitely is not.

Keep record of sources; prove other’s work online – don’t believe everything is correct; visit archives and towns if possible for museums etc

you won’t remember where you found everything as your research progresses. Record when and where you found info and the name of the source. This lets you and others find it again.

listen to what you’re told by family, read and record what you find BUT also look at it critically. Test the consistency of the data and between what you find. Some stories may be 100% true, some 1% and some 0%. Follow up what you discover in other records
Where to find help when getting started


1. your local & other Genealogy family history societies 2. archives libraries 3. community groups 4. religious political & fraternal organisations … go where the journey takes you 😀

Find a genealogy friend to buddy up with who can help with where to look. Check out Family Search’s wikis for learning, attend seminars, webinars, read books. HAVE FUN!!

1. Get help by joining a local family history society. 2. Purchase a beginners book. 3. Check out YouTube. 4. Legacy Family Tree Webinars @legacyfamily. 5. @RootsTechConf sessions. 6. Many societies have Zoom meetings. 7. Family History magazines.

The wiki from @FamilySearch will have answers to most questions including a section for beginners. familysearch.org/wiki/en/How_to…

For those in Australia there is help on starting your family history info at the @nlagovau website. nla.gov.au/getting-starte…

Family history societies and libraries are a fab resource to begin with for the area you are researching as they have knowledge of the streets and general history.

Facebook groups, twitter groups like #ANZAncestryTime , Library, YouTube and other online sources.

locate a family history society near you and join up. There’s lots of knowledge in the membership + learning opportunities,seminars etc. they will usually have access to the big pay-to-view genie sites

Also join, or visit, a family history society where your ancestors lived. They know the local history and will likely have indexed local records.

If you need more information and thinking of buying certificates in England or Wales see if available as pdf and only use gro.gov.uk/gro/content/ho…

if in Hobart on a Friday, book in a one hour session with me (Sue) at Rosny Library haha

Not everything is online! There’s still mountains of info undigitised in archives and libraries. Learn the skills you need to explore them and don’t be intimidated. Use discoveries from Trove as clues about where to look.

Join a family history group Look at free websites such as @FamilySearch which has a Wiki Join @WikiTreers and check out their pages Join Genealogy Facebook groups

Help is everywhere families, books, libraries, local societies, YouTube, webinars, Facebook, Twitter etc.etc.

The #NZSG have three video tutorials available on their website, very useful when you’re starting out: genealogy.org.nz/Getting-It-Rig…

I actually learnt quite a lots from @AFHpodcast Andy’s brilliant podcast, stuff that I’m sure I really should have known!

Blogging posts

Hilary – importance of documenting what you do and find

Paul – Top ten sins of a genealogist

Daniel – Double check those Ancestry hints

Alona – 27 do’s and do not’s when researching family history.

Amanda from Geni – 5 Things to Do to Get Started on Your Family Tree

Amateur family historian – podcast about beginning your journey

Readers: What tips would you give to people starting their family history journey?