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Top Five 'Lived Experiences' Genealogical Resources

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Published August 11th 2014
They Did What?

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away" Author Unknown.

Life is not about start and end dates but what you got up to in the middle; the triumph and tragedies, the things you want to remember, the things you want to forget. I think this is an important component of Genealogy; the decisions our ancestors make can impact generations to come and you as the researcher can be the best judge of the result. There are a lot of resources which can enable you to look deeper into your ancestor's lives and below are my Top Five resources for researching the lived experiences of your ancestors.

Top Five 'Lived Experiences' Genealogical Resources:

Trove (Online)
Australian War Memorial (Online)
National Archives of Australia (Online)
Google (Online)
J. S. Battyle Library, State Library of Western Australia.
Family Members


Did your ancestors do something amazing in the past or a little naughty? Quite likely there was a write up in a local paper and Trove (National Library of Australia) is the place to search. I find the newspaper Advanced Search function the best place to start but Trove is so much more. Was your ancestor mentioned in a book? Did they donate their diary or letters?

From my experience, I had a distant ancestor who mysteriously died at a young age in the 1800s. It was not until I searched Trove that I discovered he was unfortunately killed with his own gun in a farming accident. This ancestor immediately went from a couple of dates and a name to a young man accidently killed in the prime of his life. You will never know what you will find until you look!

Trove: Newspapers.
Trove: All.

Australian War Memorial.

The centenary of the Gallipoli landings' is fast approaching and I imagine there has been an interest spike in military service records. I find the Australian War Memorial website easier to use than the National Archives of Australia but it can be time consuming. When you search for a person, their name may appear under several different areas; for example the Roll of Honour, (Australian armed forces members who died while on active service), Prisoner of War etc., particularly if they had a common surname.

You need to view each section individually as names may appear in one listing but not another. It is best if you have a full name and a time frame or conflict they were involved in but I can guarantee you and the Australian War Memorial site will be spending a lot of time together. The time is worth it, listings sometimes come with photographs or with links to other websites with more information ex. Personal Service Records or the location of war graves.

Australian War Memorial: Home.
Australian War Memorial: Search for a Person.

Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Australian War Memorial, family history, Genealogy, military service
Anzac Day, Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey.

National Archives of Australia.

Good for finding records of everything from military service to immigration records. The downside, I find the website not very user friendly. I usually locate information from this website through pure chance and not any academic process. The information you do find is fascinating ex. copies of the actual enlistment form of a relative who died in WWI, so it is worth the hair pulling and anger this website, and your/my inability to understand it, can create.

National Archives of Australia (Good luck, you'll need it!)


A newbie to the genealogy world, imagine my surprise when I typed the name of an ancestor into google and up came pages of information. This might seem like a copout but genealogy has been around for a while and don't assume you are the only one from your extended family who is researching your roots. Again, always double check what information you find as we all know the internet lies (No! Heresy!). Okay, sometimes lies (Better!).

J. S. Battyle Library, State Library of Western Australia.

Yes, everything else I have mentioned can be accessed from your laptop in the comfort of your own bed, in your underwear. BUT you will walk away from this library a rather informed person. Just the Western Australian Biographical Index 1829-1914 (WABI) alone can keep you occupied for hours with its listing of births, deaths, jobs, famous or infamous things your relatives engaged in. Then there are the ships lists, census records, maps, newspapers

J. S. Battyle Library, State Library of Western Australia.
State Library of Western Australia.

How to get there:
Address: State Library of Western Australia; 25 Francis Street; Perth Cultural Centre; Perth WA 6000; Australia. (The J. S. Battyle Library is on the third floor).
Car: Parking underneath. $3.40 an hour (August, 2014)
Public Transport:
Bus: Bus to Perth city or to front of State Library of Western Australia. See:
Train: Train to Perth Station. Head south-east over the bridge towards the Art Gallery of Western Australia. The library is beyond this on your left. [Google Map]

Family Members.

This is the sixth! You caught me, I'll admit it. I just wanted to see you were paying attention. Talking to family members or even long time family friends is a good resource for getting first-hand accounts of family members and their lives. Sometimes the only documentation is someone's memories but these need to be approached with caution. How many times have you slightly changed a story so you appear to have the moral high ground or to make the stakes seem higher?

For example, a usual Saturday night conversation:

"I was out last night late (it was like 9.30pm), I was wasted (I'd had one) and I thought I heard someone in my house (this is the truth). So I ran into the kitchen (yes), grabbed a knife (it was actually a spoon) and started banishing it around to terrify the intruder who jumped out of the window and fled! (I hid in the corner and cried until the source of the noise, my cat, stopped eating the half-dead mouse and went outside.)"
"Wow, were you scared?"
"Nope." (Lies, I nearly wet myself).

There are many different reasons for someone to change a story whether willingly or otherwise so it is always good to attribute information you acquire to someone so you don't get blamed for the defamatory stories about Aunt Whoever.

As you can see there are many different methods for you to begin researching your family history. It is best to start slow and not get too carried away. It can be exciting when you discover Uncle So-and-So was actually adopted but also depressing when you realise your great-grandfather's brother was a murderer and is still said to haunt the spot where he killed his victims

Happy hunting!

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