Thursday, 5 June 2014

Lifeline Bookfest (Thrifty Thursday)

Brisbane Bookfest - part of one of the three halls
(photo by Judy Webster)
Books relevant to family history are lurking in secondhand shops, markets and book fairs. One of the best places to find them is at a Lifeline Bookfest.

Bookfests are held at various times throughout the year in Brisbane, Bundaberg, Caboolture, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Mackay, Maryborough and Rockhampton.

The Brisbane event is held in January and June each year. The next one starts this week (7 - 10 June 2014), in the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre at South Brisbane.

There are three separate halls: 'High Quality (prices as marked)', '$1 Section' and '$2.50 Section'.

Within each hall, books are arranged by category (Australiana; History; Biography; Reference; Paperback Fiction; Hardback Fiction; Children's; Humour and Oddities; Literature and Classics; Textbooks; Travel; Health; Science Fiction; Art and Music; Cooking; Computers; Hobbies; Sport; Gardening; Religion; Foreign Language; Vehicles and War Craft; Animals; Penguins and Pelicans; Economics; Sociology; Philosophy; Science). Each section also has magazines, stationery, videos, CDs, cassettes and records.

You may want to stock up on stationery items such as ring binders and lever arch files, which sometimes cost less than a dollar.

The real treasures for family historians are usually in the Australiana and History sections. Look for books about the history of regions, towns, schools, churches, businesses and organisations, and published family histories.

The Reference section has atlases, street directories, medical dictionaries, and sometimes unexpected items like a complete set of The Public Acts of Queensland 1828-1936.

With luck, you may find some of the titles listed on 'Suggested Reading (Genealogy and History)'.

Another money-saving tip? If you are on a very tight budget, wait until the last day when the (already affordable) prices are usually reduced.

I strongly advise you to bring a suitcase on wheels, as books soon get heavy when you are browsing. Local street parking is limited and fills very early. Undercover parking is available, but it costs about $16. You can travel by train to South Brisbane station or by bus to the Cultural Centre bus stop.

To find out more about Lifeline Bookfests in Queensland, use the links on the Brisbane Bookfest Web page.

('Thrifty Thursday' is a theme used by Geneabloggers.)

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Queensland Genealogy News (BDMs, seminar, records)

(1)  Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages can now supply more death certificates as images, with 1939-1953 being added to the list. The Registry has also extended 'available births' to 1914, 'available marriages' to 1939, and (after I contacted them to point out the mistake on their Web page) 'available deaths' to 1984. (See also 'Free Certificates in Archives Files'.)

(2)  Genealogy seminar, Brisbane, Sat. 1 Feb 2014 (Broncos Leagues Club, Fulcher Road, Red Hill). Four main presentations by renowned international speakers Chris Paton and Thomas MacEntee (both of whom I have heard and can recommend), plus short presentations by local and sponsoring partners, an exhibition, and special offers and hundreds of dollars worth of prizes. The four main talks are 'Irish land records', 'Scottish inheritance records', 'Building a genealogy research toolbox' and 'You use WHAT for genealogy? Wonderful uses for unusual tools'. You can book for the morning, afternoon or full day. Click here for more details of this seminar or here for other presentations by Chris and Thomas in Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart, Sydney and Perth.

(3)  New records available at Queensland State Archives include Caboolture Divisional Board / Caboolture Shire Council rate books and valuation registers.

(4)  My weekly posts in the '52 Weeks of Genealogical Records' series will include many tips relevant to Queensland research.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Improved Searches for Births Deaths and Marriages (Queensland)

The Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages has today (16 October 2013) released an improved version of its search engine. Features include:
  • It is no longer necessary to enter information in the 'Last name' field. You can leave that blank and just enter the person's first name, the first name of their father or mother, or any combination of these. You can also use the wildcard feature on all of these search fields.
  • Mother's maiden surname is once again shown in results for death index searches. (This wasn't mentioned in the press release, but I was pleased to see it. We've been waiting a while for that to be fixed - see 'Maiden Names missing from Qld death indexes online'.)

In the field labelled 'Mother's first name', you can enter the first name plus surname to narrow down the results, but beware of spelling variants.

Now that you can omit the surname:
  1. Enter 'father's name + mother's name' to find deaths of daughters whose married surname you do not know.
  2. That technique may also find:
    • previously unknown siblings
    • events registered under weird spelling variants.
  3. Enter 'mother's name' only to find illegitimate births.

You will find that some illegitimate births are registered under multiple surnames. In this example the birth is registered under DREW, DENMAN and SOLWAY.

The birth of Cyril Richard, son of Eliza Ann Drew, is registered under three surnames - Drew, Denman and Solway.
Some illegitimate births are registered under multiple surnames
My main Web site has an index and advice for family historians who are trying to identify the father of an illegitimate child. I have also created a mini-guide, Researching Illegitimate Children.

Did you know that Victorian birth, death & marriage indexes are now on FindMyPast?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

My Web site has moved

Find local, interstate and overseas folk using Queensland's historical records

Please spread the word...

Judy Webster's Web site has moved!

The site has advice and indexes that help genealogists to research local, interstate and overseas folk by using historical records. The emphasis is on unusual sources that are superb for problem solving.

Features of the new site include:

  • 135 pages, and more than 53,000 names (including tens of thousands of people from other States and countries, especially the UK, Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia and New Zealand) from Judy's indexes to original records in Queensland State Archives.

  • Additional names from certificates, headstones, church plaques, published local histories, etc.

  • Tips on how to research 'black sheep of the family' and people who 'vanished'.

  • Unusual sources that are superb for problem solving (including records of asylums, hospitals, Police, Justice Department and Courts).

The site is now easier to use, with a different font, a new 'main menu' navigation bar, and 'breadcrumb' navigation links. Many pages have a section called 'Other Suggestions'. Before using the customised search box, read the search/navigation tips.

The new Web address is

Please update your bookmarks and ChangeDetection settings, and notify family history groups, genealogy mailing lists etc.

Can't find a death? Maybe he/she died overseas. Check indexes on FindMyPast.
~ ~ ~

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Maiden Names missing from Queensland death indexes online

I recently sent this question to the Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages:

'Since your recent changes to online historical indexes, the mother's maiden surname has disappeared from many death index entries. Why is that, and will the matter be rectified in the future?'

Their reply was (I quote):

'If the Mothers maiden name (or Parents names) had been included on a Death Certificate than it will also be included on the historical index. Any details and information included on a Death Certificate does vary and is dependent on the amount of information provided by the Informant at time of death. All details we have are included on the index.'

Umm... WRONG!

Example 1 (death of Frederick William STEVENS, 1882):

Queensland Registrar-General's Pioneers Index 1829-1889 (on CD-ROM) shows the mother's maiden surname (GIBSON), but the online index at does not.

Example 2 (death of John PERRON, 1911):

Queensland Registrar-General's Federation Index 1890-1914 (on CD-ROM) shows the mother's maiden surname (BERBACCI), but the online index at does not.

I sent this information to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. Their response was:

'We are aware of this and it will be rectified in the new release which will be in October.'

My main Web site has more tips about Queensland BDM indexes and certificates.
~ ~ ~

Burials at Geraldton (now Innisfail), North Qld

Bluebird Cafe and Robertson Brothers, Innisfail
Innisfail, 2013 (photo by Judy Webster)
Cassowary Coast Libraries want to fill the gaps in their local burial registers. If you have a death certificate or other information for someone buried at Geraldton (now called Innisfail), either in the cemetery or elsewhere, contact:

Natasha Lavell
Cassowary Coast Libraries
PO Box 887
Innisfail QLD 4860

Email: natasha.lavell [at]

Phone: (07) 40302246

Please forward this request to family history societies, genealogists on social media, etc. The URL for this post is

The photograph, which I took earlier this year, shows two of the Art Deco buildings for which Innisfail is renowned (the Bluebird Cafe and Robertson Brothers).

Friday, 7 June 2013

Some Queensland Certificates as Images

It is now possible to save money by downloading some Queensland birth, death and marriages certificates as images. Whether you receive an image or a certificate on paper depends on the date and type of event.

At the moment the Registry's Web site says:

* Births: 1825-1890 available as images or certificates; 1891-1913 available as certificates only.

* Deaths: 1825-1890 & 1965-1979 available as images or certificates; 1891-1964 & 1980-1983 as certificates only.

* Marriages: 1825-1889 as images or certificates; 1890-1938 as certificates only.

Before you buy certificates, see the advice in 'Free Certificates in Archives Files.'

For more tips about births, deaths and marriages in Queensland, see my Web site.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

My Web Site is Getting a Makeover

My genealogy Web site, which has been a bit neglected recently, is about to get a facelift.

To help me decide how to make the 100+ pages more user-friendly, I'd be grateful if you would
  1. Explore (it opens in a new window), noting what you like or dislike - but remember that it is a Web site, NOT a blog. The revamped site will use a better font, but if you want to increase the font size now, your browser can do that. Most pages have a menu and search box at the top.

  2. Do my quick (and anonymous) survey at
Early feedback has shown that some of the changes I had in mind are indeed what people want. There has already been one excellent suggestion for a change that hadn't occurred to me, and I'm sure there will be more.

If you know someone who might like to help shape the future of my Web site, please send them the links above. Thanks!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Free Family History Seminars in North Queensland (June 2013)

Next month I will be presenting a total of six family history talks at four libraries in North Queensland. Admission is free but bookings are recommended and must be made by contacting the relevant library (not me) as explained below.

  • Atherton: Thurs. 20 June 2013, 10:30am - 2pm (three talks - bring your own lunch).

    10:30am: 'Black Sheep and Vanishing Relatives'. This talk discusses sources and strategies for researching the 'black sheep' of the family and people who 'disappeared' (either temporarily or permanently). Problems and sources to be discussed include unregistered deaths; aliases; family stories that hide the truth; illegitimacy; mental asylum records; electoral rolls; inquests; 'no-inquest' preliminary enquiries; police and prison records; Police watchhouse records; murder files; registers of criminal depositions; maintenance records; Police Gazettes; and various series of Court records. For those with Queensland research, this session will provide a wealth of information; and because most Government archives hold similar records, learning about Queensland resources will also help with research in other areas.

    11:30am: 'Using Indexes: Tips and Traps'. Family historians use many indexes. We are less likely to miss relevant entries in indexes if we understand the different formats used. We also need to be aware of the many mistakes that are commonly made by indexers. In some handwritten documents, it is impossible to distinguish between certain letters of the alphabet. If we know what those letters are, we can predict some mistakes and thus search more thoroughly. By showing examples of many problems that we may encounter, this talk will help us to avoid the traps involved in using indexes.

    12:30pm - 1pm: short break (bring your own lunch).

    1pm: 'Who Else is Researching Your Family?' Distant relatives are likely to have photos, letters and other precious items from your branch of the family. Learn how to contact these 'new' relatives using Societies' journals and Members Interests; the GRD; visitor's books; conferences; personal Web pages; online family trees; genealogy blogs; Google searches; Rootsweb's WorldConnect, Freepages, mailing lists etc; LostCousins; CuriousFox; GenesReunited; MyHeritage; DNA testing for genealogy; and social networking (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, the 'Genealogists for Families' project, etc.) This talk also briefly discusses ways to prevent the results of your research from being destroyed by fire, flood, computer failure, or disinterested descendants.

    Venue: Atherton Library meeting room, 16 Robert St, Atherton.
    More info: phone Gwen, 4043 4787.
    Bookings: phone Atherton Library, 4091 2229.

  • Innisfail: Fri. 21 June 2013, 5:30pm - 6:30pm.

    'North of the Border: an overview'. This is an introduction to the main repositories in Brisbane; history and genealogy resources available on the Internet, and published and unpublished indexes for Queensland; and important records that are only available in the Search Room at Queensland State Archives. This talk will highlight some major differences between Queensland and NSW research. It will also demonstrate why you should look in Queensland for information about people who lived or died in other States or overseas.

    Venue: Innisfail Library, 49 Rankin St.
    Bookings / enquiries: phone Wendy Orbell-Durrant, 4030 2249.

  • Tully: Mon. 24 June 2013, 10:30am - 11:30am.

    'My Favourite Archival Sources'. Some sources in Archives are of special interest to family historians, with personal details that 'put flesh on the bones', and information about people whom you might not expect to be mentioned. This talk demonstrates the benefits of using mental asylum records, probate files, annotated electoral rolls, and various records created by the Courts, Justice Department and Police.

    Venue: Tully Library, 34 Bryant St.
    Bookings / enquiries: phone Helen Pedley, 4043 9138.

  • Wongaling Beach: Mon. 24 June 2013, 2pm - 3pm.

    'My Favourite Archival Sources'.
    Some sources in Archives are of special interest to family historians, with personal details that 'put flesh on the bones', and information about people whom you might not expect to be mentioned. This talk demonstrates the benefits of using mental asylum records, probate files, annotated electoral rolls, and various records created by the Courts, Justice Department and Police.

    Venue: Wongaling Beach Library, 2018 Tully-Mission Beach Road.
    Bookings / enquiries: phone Claire Shepherd, 4068 8153.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Children in Mental Asylums

This week someone asked me about children admitted to mental asylums. From notes that I made while indexing records at Queensland State Archives, I was able to give a few examples. The list below (which is in random order) shows the child's age, mental disorder, and my comments based on what I read in various sources.

Records from previous centuries contain many terms that, though considered normal then, are offensive to us today. Conversely, certain 'minor swear words' are now used in everyday language, but a hundred years ago we would have been arrested for saying them in public. Police watchhouse charge books are full of examples! Putting information into the proper historical context is a challenge faced by all family historians.
  • Age 3, 'idiocy from the age of six months'. Died of pneumonia five years after admission.
  • Age 14, 'imbecility; epilepsy for five years'. Transferred to Toowoomba. Died aged 40.
  • Age 15, 'dementia; epilepsy'. Discharged into the care of a sister four months after admission. Father had several attacks of insanity and committed suicide.
  • Age 8, 'idiocy; epilepsy'. Died five months later. Post mortem held.
  • Age 5, 'idiocy; congenital'. Died six years later (epilepsy).
  • Age 15, 'imbecility; epilepsy'. Died the following year. Post mortem held.
  • Age 9, 'imbecility'. Died five months after admission.
  • Age 9, 'idiocy since birth'. Died seven years later. Mother was already in the asylum and father was admitted later.
  • Age 9, 'idiocy since birth'. Died from measles six weeks after admission.
  • Age 5, 'idiocy; epilepsy'. Always climbing; tried to get onto the roof.
  • Age 7, 'idiocy; congenital'. Died six years later.
  • Age 12, 'imbecile; fell on her head'. Suggestion of hereditary syphilis. Died four years later.
  • Age 15, 'imbecile; congenital defect'. Mother is deficient in intelligence and earns a living as a washerwoman, and can't look after the child, who wanders around the street. Transferred to Toowoomba.
  • Age 11, 'imbecility since sunstroke at age 5'. Child was taken home by father the following month, and died two years later.
  • Aged 13, 'dementia; epilepsy for two years'. Always asking about her mother and says she is lonely without her. Always nurses a doll. Transferred to Toowoomba. Died aged 19.

These particular examples are from the 1890s and early 1900s. Surnames of the children are (in alphabetical order, not the order shown above) AHNFELDT, BULCOCK, CHAMPION, DUMPHY, HAY, HORN, JOHNSON, KYLE, MANSFIELD, McKENZIE, MORRIS, PATTEN, PEDERSON, STUBBINGS and WEBB.

For more information about these children and their families, use Goodna Asylum case books and Public Curator insanity files, and various other records, as explained on my Web site and in my mini-guide Researching Queensland Mental Asylum Patients.
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