Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Operation War Diary

In the first eight weeks since the launch of TNA's Operation War Diary project - which is being jointly run with Imperial War Museums and web portal Zooniverse, more than 10,000 people across the world have volunteered to tag names, places and other key details in the diary. For more information on the project or to register to volunteer, visit the website at

Now The National Archives has released the second batch of its WW1 unit war diaries, comprising almost 4,000 diaries which relate to the last of the Cavalry and the 8-33 Infantry Divisions deployed to the Western Front in the First World War. It also covers the period of the units’ involvement in France and Belgium, from their arrival on the front, to their departure at the end of the Great War.

“This second batch of unit war diaries provides detailed accounts of the actions of the next troops to arrive on the Western Front,” explained William Spencer, author and military specialist at TNA.  “They show advancements in technology that made it the world’s first industrialised war with many mounted troops going into battle, at first with swords on horseback before ending the war with machine guns and tanks.”

Data gathered through Operation War Diary will be used for three main purposes:

  • to enrich The National Archives' catalogue descriptions for the unit war diaries,
  •  to present academics with large amounts of accurate data to help them gain a better understanding of how the war was fought
Operation War Diary depends on the work done by The National Archives to digitise the unit war diaries, and they've made individual pages available free of charge on the Zooniverse platform for this project. Whole war diaries are available from Discovery, The National Archives' catalogue, where they can be searched free of charge and downloaded for a small fee.

All of the data produced by Operation War Diary will eventually be available to everyone free of charge- a lasting legacy and a rich and valuable introduction to the world of the War Diaries.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A New Feature At FamilySearch

Behind every photo is a story. You can now record that story with the photos of your family that you upload to FamilySearch on both the website and the FamilySearch apps.

To add audio, first go to your family photos by clicking the Memories tab at the top of the FamilySearch screen. Or, in the Family Tree, you can click an ancestor’s name and go to the person’s details page. Then choose Memories to see photos for that particular family member.

Next, add a new photo or click on one you want to add audio to. (You will only be able to add audio to those photos you have uploaded to You will notice a microphone below the photo with the words Record a Memory. After you click the words, an audio recording screen will appear. Click the blue microphone to start talking, and record up to five minutes for that photo.

This is a quick and easy way to record the stories and memories that make so many of our family photos so special, and share them with friends and relatives.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

WDYTYA Magazine

The latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are magazine is now available free online for Campaspe Library members via our subscription to RB Digital eMagazines.

Inside this month's issue
  • Find your match
    • Break down brick walls and find your distant cousins with DNA testing
  • A sense of place
    • How a leading online resource for free maps can transform your research
  • Reader story
    • The family treasure Bridget Yates found in a toffee tin
  • Empire ancestors
    • How to find ancestors across the globe with the surviving records of the British empire
  • Eureka moment
    • The National Archives led David Walshe to a grisly murder in his family tree
  • Plus...
    • The lives of ancestors who worked as milkmen; the best genealogy bloggers; the history of the lottery; and much more...

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Return of the Heirloom Gnome

Although I am always quick to say that I am NOT a gardener, I have been spending quite a bit of time in my garden recently.  Just not working with plants.  No, I've been 'planting' a garden gnome.

He's not just any garden gnome.  When I moved house two years ago, I took with me a concrete garden gnome - and a huge thank you to the removalists who managed to bring him along.  It was not an easy task.

Some family treasures are small, portable and easy to take with you when you move.  Some, like my gnome, are not.  He is about 50 cm tall, and my family purchased two of them for my father's 50th birthday, back in January 1976.  When we sold the family home my sister and I decided we wanted to keep one gnome each.

There is a story behind our gnomes.  At the time we first brought them, there was a rash of gnome-napping happening where we lived, with gnomes disappearing from gardens, never to be seen again.  Dad was determined that no one was going to 'nap' his gnomes.  So he filled the concrete shells with solid concrete, then installed them on concrete plinths about 30 cm in diameter and 10 cm thick, out in our front yard.

They weigh a ton.  Over the years people have tried to steal them numerous times.  No one has gotten them more than 2 or 3 metres.  Usually when someone tried to steal a gnome, we would get up in the morning to find him tilted on his side or lying prone, and Dad would enlist the help of a few neighbors to help get him upright again.  Everyone in town knew the house with the gnomes.

Occasionally Dad would repaint them, in bright red and blue for their jackets, leggings and hats, with silver for the fish each gnome held.  One of them had the tip of his hat broken off during a particularly enthusiastic gnome-nappng attempt.  Dad found the broken bit and glued it back on.  Those gnomes were a part of my childhood.

In my new home (I've been there two years this week!) my gnome now lives in the back yard.  On a little platform surrounded by small white stones and edged with a double row of creamy yellow bricks, he has pride of place and I see him every morning from my kitchen table as I have breakfast.  And every time I smile and think of my father, so determined that NO ONE was going to kidnap one of HIS gnomes.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Saluting Our Military History

For those with an interest in World War 2 or who have Australian family who served during the conflict, the Australian government has just announced a plan to digitise Australia’s World War Two records of service men and women, as part of a new program that is ‘focused on recognising the service of our veterans’.

In a joint release from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester, the pair announced that ‘digital records will make them easier to access so Australians can discover the as yet untold stories of their relatives and how they defended our nation during times of war’.

The government has also announced the expansion of the Saluting Their Service grants program, providing an extra $10 million in funding.  The program is designed to preserve Australia's wartime heritage and to involve people throughout the nation in a wide range of projects and activities that highlight the service and sacrifice of Australia's servicemen and women in wars, conflicts and peace operations, and promote appreciation and understanding of the role that those who served have played in shaping the nation.
Two categories of grants are available under the STS program:
  1. Community Commemorative Grants (CCG) — Grants up to a maximum of $4,000 are available for community-based commemorative projects and activities. This includes, for example, the building of community memorials and the preservation of wartime memorabilia that is significant locally but is not necessarily nationally significant.
  2. Major Commemorative Grants (MCG) — Grants are available for projects and activities that are significant, from a national, state or territory perspective and that contribute to Australia’s understanding of its wartime heritage and honour the service and sacrifice of its servicemen and women.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

China Families

China Families is a new website launched by a team led by Professor Robert Bickers of the University of Bristol, with records of thousands of foreign nationals who lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  

While the site will continue to be updated, it currently contains approximately 60,000 names, with record sets including the British Supreme Court for China intestate and probate records; cemetery records; staff lists for the China Navigation Company and Chinese Maritime Customs Service; and names of Allied civilians interned by the Japanese army during the Second World War.

The largest concentrations of foreign residents were in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin, but there were smaller communities in many of the cities that were opened by treaty to foreign trade and residence, and which were known as Treaty Ports. More lived in the British Crown Colony at Hong Kong. Missionary societies were present much more widely across the country, and as well as evangelical activity, were engaged in education and medical work. 

Family history researchers can search for an individual by name to find transcripts of the original records. The collection includes British, European, American, Australian and New Zealander families, as well as Jewish refugees who came to China to seek refuge from the Nazis.

The records were created during the publication of Robert Bickers books in the past 15 years. A companion site, Historical Photographs of China, has nearly 20,000 photographs of foreign nationals in China shared by their descendants.

Thursday, April 25, 2019


As April 25th comes around again, I find myself reflecting on the meaning of ANZAC Day to me.  And while we say the Ode today, I will be remembering not only my father and several uncles who served in WWII, and those of my family who went before them, but all of those men and women who have served.  I will remember especially those who did not come home and all of those who came home forever changed, as well as those who did not see fighting, but served in different ways both at home and abroad.
ANZAC has very much become a part of our national vocabulary.  The people who lived though that campaign were ordinary volunteers, just as Australia’s current veterans were ordinary volunteers.  They put their daily lives on hold to serve and protect us all, most with very little clear idea of just what they were volunteering for.

My family was extremely lucky, in both world wars, to have most of those who served not only come home, but come home fairly unscathed.  Once second cousin was killed in France in World War 1 ; one uncle died in the Merchant Navy in World War 2.  All the other relatives who served – my father, uncles and great-uncles - returned safely to their loved ones.  While they all had to live with the memories of the conflicts, they were mostly uninjured by their experiences and able to rebuild their civilian lives. 

So many others were not so fortunate.  Numerous Australian families endured the loss of loved ones on foreign soil, or the return of family members forever scarred by their service.  So many who returned faced a lifetime of ruined health or years of recovery and rehabilitation.  My family was lucky indeed.

I am forever grateful to all of you who have served and sacrificed on our behalf. It is a solemn undertaking to be ready to put your life on the line for your Country. One that is deserving of our gratitude.
Lest we forget.