VAFHO Family History Expo in Sale, April 2018


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Start planning NOW to get to the VAFHO Family History Expo in Sale – it’s just 2 months away so a good time to make bookings and plan your visit to Sale.

VAFHO has a web site and blog that will continue to give you updates on the Expo – the details, the speakers, the exhibitors, and anything you need to know about the Expo.

History comes alive!


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History can come alive in video even if it’s static photos.

This image is of Ocean Grove shows the main shopping strip – The Terrace – from the corner of Presidents Avenue near the bottom right up to the intersection with Hodgson Street at the top left.  The building at the top left is the Corner Store on the south east corner of The Terrace.

Watch these amazing videos of The Terrace.

More than 5 decades of research – where did it start?


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I have recently made contact with a new branch of my maternal family – the MURRAY family.  I was going to explain how it started when I realised it should really be a blog.  It’s appropriate here but even more appropriate on my AncestorArrivals blog so that’s where I posted it.  You can read the rest of the story there.

Blowing up the Milo tin !


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What?  What has that got to do with history?  Well a lot more than you think but you’ll have to be patient.  I have to set the scene, explain the background, then we’ll get to the blowing up bit.  The big problem is where to start.

I think it has to start with my darling late Dad.  He would have been 95 tomorrow – 13th December 2017.  I think about my Dad often – and ‘chat’ to him regularly.  He died far too young – back in 1989 – but in my mind he is as alive today as way back when those Milo tins were getting blown up.

But I digress – a bad habit I have.

My brother and I had a totally decadent upbringing – Dad was Production Manager of Peter’s Ice Cream and we were the official taste testers of EVERYTHING that came out of that factory.  There’s a special photo of Fussy and me in an earlier blog.  Fussy is my brother – two years older – and he was called Fussy because our surname was Fussen (French) but as a little tacker I couldn’t say ‘Graham’ – Fussy was MUCH easier to say!  And more than 60 years later he’s still called Fussy!  And of course he answers to it.

See – I said I have a bad habit of digressing!  Back to Peter’s Ice Cream.  That’s the factory in Adelaide although Dad started at Peter’s in Taree, then Grafton before the family moved to Adelaide.

The two-storey part at the front was Dad’s floor – his office, laboratory, cool room, and a view and access to the factory floor below.

Getting back to that decadent upbringing – Fussy and I would get home from school, grab our homework and run around to the factory and upstairs to Dad’s area.  What new exciting concoction had Dad created that he needed an honest opinion on?

Of course the BIG one was the Drumstick – yes, our Dad created Drumsticks.  And lemonade ice blocks and all sorts of other things.  Every kid’s fantasy!  And of course the workers at the factory also believed in spoiling the boss’s kids.  Can you image a birthday party when a team of men jogged around from the factory with a special ice cream cake for me.  Remember the little plastic dolls with a fancy ice cream skirt?  Well, the reason for the special trip from the factory – that doll was bigger than ME – I think it was my sixth birthday.

There I go – digressing again.  Drumsticks – some years ago I met my brother in Mount Gambier.  He lived in Adelaide, and still does, and I was living in Ocean Grove at the time – Mount Gambier was about half way and he was there at a Rotary Conference.  He stayed on so we could have a bit of time together.  We went down to Port Macdonnell doing the tourist bit.  We remembered we had been there on a holiday with Mum and Dad when we were quite young.  We were about to walk out on the very long jetty when Fussy yelled … WAIT!  Why?  He ran across the road and bought two drumsticks – we couldn’t reminisce about Dad without having a Drumstick!

In the early 60s we moved from the house around the corner from the factory to the house that Dad built – and he really did build most of it.  He hired the tradesmen and worked side-by-side with them every weekend until we were able to move into our first ‘real’ home in Adelaide.

OK – I’m getting to the Milo tin but this is an important part of it.  It was a two-storey house – my bedroom was the dormer window on the left and Fussy was in the one on the right.  We had our ‘wardrobes’ in the eaves of the roof and for two little tackers it was so easy to crawl from one room to the other via the built-in-wardrobes.  We rigged up a string on hooks just inside each cupboard door and attached a small cardboard letter box which we could send to and fro simply by pulling the right string.  And of course we rigged up a small bell to signal when there was mail.  Just like on your computer these days – You’ve got mail!

Back then there weren’t as many obstacles in the front yard and there was no roller door blocking the driveway – it was important to be able to run quickly from the back yard to the front yard.  YES – this is ALL relevant!

Although we’d moved further away from the factory we were still regular visitors to the tasting laboratory a number of times each week.  Dad was also the ‘ice-cream’ man for our school fetes.  He would pack up the big green canvas bags with the obligatory dry ice in the bottom.  The walls of the green bags were a good four inches thick – heavy insulation.  On top of the dry ice was a thick wad of newspaper, then the bag was chock-a-block full of Dixie Cups (ice-creams) to be sold at the school fetes.  Dad had a trailer that was loaded up at the factory with a number of canvas bags that he would then deliver to the schools.  He’d also collect the bags to go back to the factory and sometimes there were a number at home in the carport or on the back verandah.  The ice cream was all gone but that dry-ice lasted forever.


Because we spent so much time roaming around the factory, in and out of the freezer rooms, and helping Dad load up the big green canvas bags, it was essential that we were taught about the dangers of dry-ice and how to handle it without burning the skin off our fingers.

OK – ARE YOU READY?  Back in the 60s we didn’t have computers and the electronic games etc that are so prevalent today.  We made our own fun and games and unless it was bucketting down we spent weekends outside.  The neighbourhood kids gathered at our place because we had the best game – and their parents were happy – as long as they could hear the explosions they knew where their kids were!

Of course these days we wouldn’t be able to blow up Milo tins – for LOTS of reasons including:

  • We wouldn’t be able to get hold of dry-ice
  • Milo tins aren’t real tins any more – they’re foil lined cardboard or thin tin – not nearly sturdy enough for our needs
  • Our game would be deemed too dangerous – no-one EVER got hurt!


This is how the game worked.  Only Fussy and I could set up the ‘bomb’ as we were trainined in the use of dry-ice.  We knew exactly how much water to put in the milo tin and exactly what size piece of dry-ice.  We pounded the lid on so that only a really good explosion would blow it off.  We also had a little mound of sand to tilt the Milo tin at the right angle.  This was all done in the back yard so all the kids in the front yard couldn’t see what we were doing.

Then we ran like blazes to the front yard (with no roller door blocking our path), and then we waited, and waited, and waited, and then BANG.  That’s why it wouldn’t work these days – the Milo tin was STRONG so that only the lid blew off and the tin stayed intact.  The lid went flying up in the air, OVER the two-storey house, and into the waiting arms of the excited mob of kids in the front yard.  The winner was the one who caught or grabbed the lid first.  Lots of cheering and shouting.  And then we did it all over again … and AGAIN, and AGAIN, and AGAIN.

We never tired of blowing up that old Milo tin.  We sometimes stopped for lunch – a picnic lunch that Mum or one of the other mothers supplied – then it was back to blowing up the Milo tin.  All the other kids understood that you needed special training to set up the ‘bomb’.  There were never arguments about it, just the excitement of waiting to see the lid come flying over the roof of the house.

By the end of the day we were exhausted but happy and safe.  The explosions stopped and the other Mum’s knew their little darlings were on their way home.

Now do you understand why Dad’s birthday tomorrow reminded me of blowing up Milo tins?  Oh, and of course tomorrow I will be eating a Drumstick and ‘chatting’ with Dad.  And YES – this is all important history that should be recorded.  These days I have diabetes but one of the first things I worked through with my Diabetes Educator was how I could eat an occasional Drumstick without causing havoc with my blood sugar levels.

It’s a bit like making a toast with Champagne or Whiskey – in our family we make a toast with Drumsticks!

Happy Birthday Dad – love you lots.

Not sure? – ASK !


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When you’re at that stage in your research that you’re sure something should exist but you just can’t find it – sit back and think quietly and logically – and if you’re still stuck – ASK!  I’m not simply talking about asking questions on Facebook – and don’t get me wrong I personally have had a lot of success on Facebook and hopefully helped many others with their questions.

I’m talking about asking experts – and sometimes more than one expert – two or more brains are often better than one!

I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog – Ask a librarian – it’s wonderful!  And there have been many other occasions where the opportunity to ask a librarian has been an absolute gold-mine.

This time I was stuck with some land records from the Public Record Office Victoria – VPRS 460.

I also made a big MISTAKE – I didn’t read and understand the description for VPRS 460: Applications for Certificate of Title.  I merely groaned and said … “Murphy’s Law – the ones I want aren’t there!”

I had quickly read the description that said …

Note that VPRS 460/P0 units 3213 to 30298 do not exist.

I had incorrectly presumed that the FILES I wanted weren’t there whereas the description stated that the UNITS weren’t there!

If you read the description now, you could be forgiven for saying I was silly not to read the next couple of sentences which were perfectly clear.  BUT I wasn’t that silly, I’m just grateful that PROV have since updated the description in the catalogue so others don’t make the same mistake that I did.

After I ASKED for help, the verbal explanation made perfect sense … part way through the consignment [P0], they had changed the way the Application files were catalogued – initially UNITS equated to boxes which contained numerous FILES.  From Application File Number 30299, each FILE was a UNIT.

The Application files EXIST – all the ones I’d grumbled about as “missing” were there!  My big mistake – I didn’t read the Description properly and I didn’t ASK!

And why are these files so important?  The contents can be amazing.

The ACTUAL Application files are currently in the Land Titles archives at Laverton – the General Law Library for the Registrar General Office documents.  The SUPPORTING documents are at PROV.  From the PROV description of VPRS 460:

If the researcher holds a certificate of title for the piece of land, then the application number may be marked on that certificate. If present, the number may be shown with the words, for example, “derived from application number 12345”.

This series consists of the files created to record the progress of applications to bring land alienated from the Crown prior to 2 October 1862 into the Torrens system of land registration.

VPRS 460 at PROV contains the details and background documents.  At the beginning of this blog is an image of a death certificate.  Why?  In VPRS 460, together with a Statutory Declaration they were evidence as to why the family of the late John MACKEN / McKIE had no claim to the land.  In fact the Stat Dec gave amazing details of John MACKEN’s life and work on the property in question.

Another property I was researching contained multiple documents including an Indenture for a Mortgage.  It was a LONG document to transcribe but well worth it when you find these amazing words:

portion of the said land has been and is now used as a cemetery

Not exactly what you expect to find but it had been claimed that two people were buried on the property.  Other documents in the VPRS 460 file also refer to this private burial ground.

Now do you understand why I love finding VPRS 460 Application files?

And I am so glad that I ASKED!



CHALLENGE – who was G. G. M., photographer?



A little over a month ago I came across this beautiful photograph of the Miller’s Family Hotel – one of my favourites and included in my book Hotels of the Bellarine Peninsula.  The image was from the State Library Victoria online collection – H2002.198/72

One thing I noticed was that there was no location recorded for this image so I was in the process of contacting the State Library when I noticed the ‘creator’ – G. G. M., photographer.

On further investigation there were 121 images attributed to G.G.M. with a number being around the Bellarine Peninsula.  I have a web page identifying all photographers in Geelong and District and G.G.M. wasn’t included in my list.

I checked the two main references for photographers in Australia – The Mechanical Eye in Australia: Photography 1841-1900, Alan Davies & Peter Stanbury, 1985, and Australians Behind the Camera: Directory of Early Australian Photographers 1841 to 1945, Sandy Barrie, 2002.

There was one possible entry: George G MURRAY (New York Studio / New York Photo Co.:

  • 246 Collins Street, Melbourne 1903-06
  • 244 Collins Street, Melbourne 1908
  • 28 Union Street, Brunswick 1912-19
  • 28 Union Street, Brunswick 1936-37

The G.G.M. images in the SLV catalogue were dated ca 1914 – ca 1916 however Gerard, a Librarian from the SLV Pictures Collection, has positively identified one of these images to November 1906.  In fact Gerard has provided a great deal of information including the fact that the donor of this collection and numerous SLV staff had spent a great deal of time trying to identify G.G.M.

Another clue from Gerard and other librarians from the SLV Pictures Collection was that perhaps G.G.M. ‘might have been a skilled and ambitious amateur rather than a full-blown professional.  There is something amateurish in the way he inscribes his initials on the negatives.’

In addition to numerous locations, G.G.M.’s images include many people – I think perhaps these are of his parents and siblings.  I wonder if family historians / genealogists can help solve this conundrum?  Certainly someone related to this family would discover a number of images of members of their family.

People mentioned (could be siblings):

  • Mum
  • Dad
  • Self
  • Alan (also in AIF uniform)
  • Bert (also in AIF uniform)
  • Daisy
  • Elsie
  • Jerry
  • Rose
  • Jim
  • Ted

Locations mentioned:

  • Portarlington, Vic
  • Clifton Springs, Vic
  • Kyneton, Vic
  • Healesville, Vic
  • Coburg, Vic
  • Brunswick, Vic
  • Lilydale, Vic
  • Richmond, Vic
  • Melbourne, Vic
  • Beaconsfield, Vic
  • Badgers Creek, Vic
  • Williamstown, Vic
  • Fern Tree Gully, Vic
  • Sassafras, Vic
  • West Gippsland, Vic
  • Belgrave, Vic
  • Coogoo, NSW
  • Dubbo, NSW

Property / house name:

  • River Lea
  • River Lea and Mount Toolebewong? (shown in the background)

To find all 121 images look at the details of one of his images and click on the link beside AUTHOR for G. G. M., Photographer

The results show 118 images but a couple of those have two images in the link.

So are you up to the challenge?  Who was G. G. M., photographer.

Sharing G. G. M., photographer might unearth family members who recognise the family and siblings.

Do we belong here?


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Sometimes you just have to read something!  It’s not very long – less than 1,670 words – in fact less than 4 pages.

I challenge anyone who has ever done any family or local history research to read this and not want to go back for more or to pass it on to others.

Graeme is well known for a number of books such as the Rise and Fall of Marvellous Melbourne.  On 16th October 2017 Graeme spoke at the 2017 Victorian Community History Awards at the Arts Centre in Melbourne – fortunately you can read his words in the Public Record Office Victoria blog.

I hope this blog never disappears as it deserves to be read again and again.

In fact if you ever find it missing, I’ve copied the text to a safe place and would not hesitate to ask for it to be reinstated.

Enjoy – it’s definitely worth reading.

Some things make you laugh out loud



Oh how I wish I could credit this to the person who created it but there are TOO MANY versions on the web, many claiming ownership.  So I tried but failed to credit the originator – I’m sure you know who you are and to you I say Thank You for making me laugh out loud.  Definitely got a strange look from my house companion – my pussy cat!

There are millions of clever genealogy sayings out there but this one is SO appropriate for Victoria, Australia – today is a Public Holiday for the Grand Final parade.  Tomorrow the Grand Final is between the Adelaide Crows (from interstate but favourites as they finished top of the home-and-away end-of-season ladder)  and the Richmond Tigers (local – Melbourne – favourites as Melbourne is where the AFL Grand Final is generally held.  Anyway, that’s the reason for the Public Holiday in Victoria – not a Public Holiday anywhere else in Australia!

It’s even more appropriate if your team isn’t in the Grand Final and you want to drown your sorrows – go Ancestor Hunting instead!

AND I hope it makes you laugh out loud.

I’m going to chase more of mine: