As we prepare for the AddressingHistory launch we are delighted to welcome another guest blogger to the AddressingHistory blog.
Shauna Hicks has been tracing her own family history since 1977 and holds a Diploma in Family Historical Studies from the Society of Australian Genealogists. Having worked in government for over 35 years, primarily in libraries and archives in Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, Shauna is currently Director of Shauna Hicks History Enterprises and regularly blogs about genealogy news, events and experiences.
Shauna is a collaborative partner in Unlock The Past a new venture promoting history, genealogy and heritage in Australia and New Zealand. She is a Fellow of the Queensland Family History Society; a recipient of the Australian Society of Archivists Distinguished Achievement Award and in 2009 received the AFFHO Services to Family History Award.
Shauna has written a piece for us on the usefulness of Post Office Directories in her own family history research.
Using Australian Post Office Directories to Trace Ancestors
Post office directories (PODs) have similar contents regardless of where in the world they were published. In Australia due to our smaller population in the 19th century, PODs tend to list most people (usually the head of the family) who were resident in a given area. Even miners can be found if they stayed long enough in an area to make it on the annual POD. While there are State based directories, there are also individual ones for capital cities and for regional areas. There were numerous publishers over the years but well known names include Sands and Wise.
An example from my own family history will highlight both the usefulness and the potential traps of using directories for family history research. All information should be confirmed by at least two different sources.
The 1898 Wise Directory for Queensland lists my Scottish gg grandfather John Carnegie as a selector living at Toorbul, 41 miles north of Brisbane. Listed as a selector indicates that he had land and a land search revealed he selected two farming areas. John’s daughter Clara married Charles Davis and a Charles Davies is listed as a selector living at Toorbul. Researchers need to be flexible with spelling as in this instance Davies is in fact Davis.
The 1909 Wise Directory still has John living at Toorbul but he died in 1903 so researchers need to be aware that directories may not be totally accurate but provide clues to be followed up. Similarly a Chas Davies is still listed at Toorbul and illustrates how given names may be abbreviated and taken into account when searching. Charles disappeared in the Western Australian goldfields ca 1895 so he wasn’t there in either 1898 or 1909 but had been living there prior to going to WA in 1893.
The majority of Australian PODs have been digitised by Archive Digital Books Australasia and are available for individual sale. They are also in the collections of FindMyPast.com.au and Ancestry.com.au. Western Australian PODs are searchable online 1893-1949 for free at the State Library of WA. A useful article by Graham Jaunay on Directories and Almanacs is available online and in my article Find Your Ancestors in Church Publications Part 2 I used directories to find out what churches existed in places my ancestors lived.
Over the years I have found Australian PODs extremely useful in my research and with digitised copies and online access it is easier than ever to use directories. I already know that John Carnegie’s wife Helen Stratton was the daughter of Charles Straton listed in the 1842 Oliver & Boyd’s New Edinburgh Almanac and National Repository as a writer in Montrose. The Stratton family moved to Edinburgh and lived there between 1847 and 1859. I am really excited and looking forward to accessing Edinburgh directories online and finding out new information on my families.