RESEARCHING YOUR PIONEER ANCESTOR


If you are trying to ascertain if one of your ancestors was a Port Phillip Pioneer, either for an initial claim or for an additional one, then the following information may be helpful.

The first step is to find out as much information as possible about yourself and your family by asking other family members and examining available documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates. Start with your own birth certificate and follow the information backwards through those of your parents, grandparents, etc. Victorian certificates (BDM) are one of the best in the world for providing genealogical information. Look especially on death certificates for the birthplace of the deceased. If they were born in Victoria then you will have to go back a further generation to locate an ancestor who was born elsewhere. When you find such an ancestor the certificate should state how many years they had lived in Victoria. By deducting this number of years from their year of death an approximate date of arrival can be ascertained.

If you are fortunate enough to have ascertained a year of arrival by this method then you can start looking in passenger lists for the ship. Permanent settlement of Victoria began in 1834 at Portland and 1835 at Melbourne. These early settlers came from Van Diemen's Land ( now Tasmania ). They were soon followed by settlers from the Sydney area and after a few years ships started arriving directly from the British Isles. Even after this many emigrants would arrive in Australia on one ship and complete their journey to the Port Phillip District by a coastal vessel.

There was no systematic recording of passenger arrivals in Victoria prior to 1852 other than for those immigrants who obtained government assistance. These people were known as bounty immigrants and records of their names and other details are now held in Melbourne (PROV) and Sydney (SRNSW) with some slight variations between the two listings. Searchable indexes of both are available online and the SRNSW website also has digital images of the original lists.

The main source of information about passengers who did not receive government assistance comes from the "Shipping Intelligence" columns of newspapers. However it is usually only the passengers who travelled as cabin or intermediate class who had their names recorded. Those who travelled in the steerage were usually not named. A number of indexes to these records have been published.

If you are unable to find your ancestor's name in one of the above passenger listings there is still hope. There were occasions in later years when a person would quote their year and ship of arrival. One of these would be on being admitted to a hospital. The GSV has just published such a listing in "Patients in Melbourne Hospital 1856-1905." Another would be if a list of early pioneers was being compiled such as "Victorian pioneers who signed the loyal address to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1867" or the index to Thomas Chuck's photomosaic of "The Explorers and Early Colonists of Victoria." Obituaries also often gave this information.

Even if you are unable to locate the year and ship of arrival it is still possible to prove that your ancestor was an early pioneer. For example, an entry in a parish register for a baptism, marriage or burial would prove that they had arrived by that date. An entry in a directory such as "Kerr's Melbourne Almanac and Port Phillip Directory for 1841" or "The Port Phillip Almanac and Directory for 1847" by J. J. Mouritz or a mention in a newspaper are other possibilities. There are also many types of government records where your ancestor might have been named such as those for land dealings, education, occupational registrations, finance, correspondence, government gazette notices, inquests, probate, etc.

There is also a growing number of published local histories, pioneer registers, family histories and genealogies of pioneering families. While generally concentrating on a few family names they usually include the names a large number of related families. The PPPG website has a listing of publications available in GSV library relating to the Port Phillip District, many of which are also available in other libraries.

If your research reveals an ancestor who arrived in Victoria prior to 1 July 1851 then contact the Examiner of Proofs, Clare Bayne for an application form to join the Port Phillip Pioneers Group.

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ADDRESSES:

Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) 595 Collins Street, Melbourne, Vic., 3000

State Library of Victoria (SLV) 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Vic., 3000

Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) 99 Shiel Street, North Melbourne, Vic., 3051

State Records, New South Wales 2 Globe Street, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW, 2000

Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV) Level B1, 257 Collins Street, Melbourne, Vic., 3000

Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies (AIGS) 1/41 Railway Road, Blackburn, Vic., 3130

Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV) 239 A'Beckett Street, Melbourne, Vic., 3000

Contributed by Alexander Romanov-Hughes ( PPPG Member No. 52 )


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