A GUIDE TO THE CONVICT &
Introduction by James McClelland, O.A.M.
Every Australian has the right to write to their State Archives for information, but I must stress that the State Archives of NSW and the Mitchell Library reserve the sole right to decide to whom they will supply information and the nature of that information.
Access to the actual records is usually restricted to people to whom a reader's ticket has been issued. A letter should be sent to State Archives and Mitchell Library asking for an application form for a reader's ticket. This is because our national records are priceless and irreplaceable and over the past few years there have been several attempts to steal them and disfigure them, but most of them have been placed on microfilm and usually the Archives will allow you to view these. I do know that the people who staff the Archives and Mitchell Library will bend over backwards to assist and advise you.
It takes a long time to understand the location codes and it takes many hours to research volumes or reels. Just think that in some cases you are trying to obtain information that may have happened 180 years ago and we must be realistic and realise that to do this could take a little time.
Now, it would be impossible for any State Government to supply enough staff in their Archives or State Libraries to completely handle the massive flood of inquiries that they receive every day, often from people who have none or only the vaguest details of the person on whom they are seeking information, so you could get a letter back from Archives stating that they regret that they do not have the resources to look for the information you are seeking, and that is the plain, honest truth.
You should than ask people engaged in research work, tracing ancestry or genealogical or historical societies for a quote as to how much it would cost to search for the information for you and supply you with a written report.
When asking for a quote, clearly state the type of information you require and supply as many details of the person or family you are interested in as possible.
Now remember the old proverb that one picture is worth 1,000 word. Gather together every single piece of information you have - birth certificates, death certificates etc. - and copy out a sample family tree on a large sheet of drawing paper and start to fill it in, working from you or your children back down the years.
Don't worry about any ancestors you cannot yet locate. With the aid of your blueprint family tree you can always come back later to fill in the gaps. Now start writing letters for information. You are going to get a few knockbacks, but in the long run the whole effort is going to be very worth it, and one of the most rewarding experiences of your lifetime, and you will make many new friends.
I would also like to encourage people to try a Living Memory Family Tree. That is, go and visit relatives you have not visited for over twenty years or more; arrange family reunions of all known descendants from your ancestors you have come across. Remember we walk this way but once. Go back to your old home town; visit the places you enjoyed and where you played as a child. Make yourself known to some of the old folk and share the experience with your children. Give them a Living Memory of you and your way of life to remember, for as we grow too old to wander, it's nice to remember faces and places and people from our past.
The purpose of
this book is to show Australians some of the convict, pioneer and immigrant
Searching for records of one's ancestors is not easy, but it is not impossible. It is like putting a big jigsaw puzzle together; it takes time, but one day all the pieces fit together, and the picture is complete. The personal satisfaction of having done so is indescribable.
It involves writing letters for information, possibly writing hundreds of letters, but remember that when writing a letter it is a common courtesy to enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope for a reply. Also, if writing to a church for information, it is nice to enclose a small donation.
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