Explore your family history: Genealogy research through ADPML
Did you know that August is Family History Month? While the month is almost over, it’s never a bad time to explore genealogy research – and our Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library (ADPML) collections could be a great place to start!
Genealogy collections at ADPML
The best starting point for searching ADPML is our genealogy collection guide:
- Web resources include useful resources from other libraries and beyond that will help you find background information, identify keywords, and perhaps even find some other archives before you visit us.
- Overseas and general sources is our guide to sources in the collection that will be most useful for finding material related to why your family members might have left their country of birth and come to Australia.
- Victorian sources is our guide to sources in the collection that are from Victoria, with a particularly strong focus on Geelong and Western Victoria.
- Rest of Australia is our guide to sources in our collection related to states and territories beyond Victoria.
Local history collections
Our Western Victoria collections will help you find out what everyday life might have been like for your family members when they were living in this area and sometimes you might even find your family members in them!
Even more local collections can be found via the Geelong Regional Libraries Heritage Centre and the Royal Historical Society of Victoria (historyvictoria.org.au)
You can also use Victorian Collections to find local community heritage organisations and more, including:
- Peninsula Surf Centre
- Australian National Surfing Museum
- Portsea Surf Life Saving Club
- Port Fairy Surf Life Saving ClubWe recommend doing some preliminary research online to get the most out of your visit – so below are some quick tips for getting started with your family history research.
Brainstorm, record and adapt your search strategy
The search process is iterative and there will never be one perfect combination of keywords and phrases for your topic. There are likely to be different strategies for different aspects of your topic. Keep adapting and exploring new combinations as you learn more about your topic from different sources. You can find search tips and record your search strategy using our search planner here: Search tips and planning | Library (deakin.edu.au)
Additional search tips for archival research
- Use and record the names of people and be aware of possible spelling and transcription errors and name variations – e.g.: – MacDonald or McDonald, Thompson, or Thomson. Even Brown may have been written down as Browne, Braun, Bowen or Bourne. Perhaps they shortened or anglicised their surname – Goldstein to Gold or Schmidt to Smith. First names might also have been abbreviated – John to Jack, Johann to John, Margaret to Betty or Peg and so on.
- Think about who might have created records related to them, especially which level of government they might have interacted with, as this determines how records are organised and therefore where to look for them.
- Try searching with a broader age range – people often lied about their age for various reasons and birth date wasn’t always recorded.
- As well as checking place of birth and location listed in birth certificates, check neighbouring areas too, check ship names, check hospitals, hostels, boarding houses and so on.
- Remember that not everything is online and not everything has been indexed or has an index available online so you might need to visit in person to dig deeper in the archives.
- Try to think of your topic in media language rather than academic or theoretical language.
- Identify and use language that was used from the time and place you are researching.
- Look for articles and advertisements promoting Australia as a place to come to – use Australia or a specific town or city as one of your keywords in a newspaper search.
- Use the names of relevant migration schemes as keywords (e.g. The Dreadnought Scheme, The Big Brother Movement, YMCA youth migration, Boy Scout youth migration, Young Australia League youth migration, The Children’s Overseas Reception Board Scheme, Dr Barnardo’s Homes, British Empire Land Settlement Scheme and so on).
- Use keywords related to the socio-political climate that may have been part of their reasons for leaving (famine, war/conflict).
- Look for names of ships they might have left on (e.g. Dunera).
- Note that many traditional, mainstream media sources have a history of not reporting, under-reporting and/or misrepresenting events and issues involving people from diverse backgrounds, so you will often need to think laterally about the language used and even look beyond them to compare with alternative news sources. Some of that language may be racist.
Start your search in Trove
You can use this search strategy in Trove as this is a gateway to online library and archive collections all around Australia. You can add to your search strategy based on what you find and pick up archival clues that will help you know where to search next and what terms to use.
Newspapers and Gazettes category in Trove (nla.gov.au) includes many local and national newspapers from throughout Australia and some international sources particularly from the pacific region. The national newspapers seem to have more comprehensive coverage and are therefore a good source of more recent histories.
Magazines and Newsletters category in Trove (nla.gov.au) includes Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal annual report 2000-2019, Australian foreign affairs record 1973-1988, Current notes on international affairs 1936-1972 and and more!
People and Organisations category in Trove (nla.gov.au) could help you find biographical information.
Websites category in Trove (nla.gov.au) could help you find recent histories, including: Geelong CityGuide (2005) and Migration Heritage Toolkit (2002)
Find more recent newspapers beyond Trove
In Google News Archives you can browse The Age and Sydney Morning Herald by date from around 1850–1980.
You can also come and check out The Argus and Geelong Advertiser held in microfilm at the ADPML library.
Our Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library (Special Collections) reading room is open most Tuesdays from 10am–4pm and is open by appointment on all other weekdays.
We can also offer Zoom consultations with special collections material. Request an onsite or Zoom appointment via our online form.
If you’re a current student or staff member at Deakin, you can access even more collections.
If you’re not a current student or staff member, you can join the library as an alumni or community member.