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?



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.