Victorian ‘insanity’ in the 19th century

Why did Victoria have such a high rate of insanity? A new book illuminating the world of Melbourne’s early lunatic asylums recently won the Victorian Premier’s History Award. Jill Giese, clinical psychologist and author of The Maddest Place on Earth, spoke with Tracesabout an intriguing slice of colonial history. When I stumbled on an 1876 eyewitness account of … Read on

Ghost signs

Once you know where to look, it’s amazing how many clues about the past are hidden within plain sight, in seemingly everyday objects and locations.  Today, Melbourne’s laneways attract international attention for their trendy restaurants and cafés, but to the discerning visitor, they are also a treasure maze of hints about Melbourne’s history as a … Read on

Accessing Personal Service Records for family research

Twenty years ago, historians could travel to the National Archives of Australia (NAA), Canberra, where they could request the Personal Service Records of individuals who served in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the First World War. Today, those records are digitised and available online via the NAA website (naa.gov.au) under the B2455 series number; … Read on

Recaptured, by William Cotter

Port Arthur, Van Diemen’s Land, 1840 He has struggled through the surf of mist, Heard the wind trample the hills, The gullies drum like tambourines, Felt the cold, companionable earth beneath his feet And smelt, through the leaves of the eucalypts, The brief, disorientating drug of freedom. But, now, in the damp, stone walled darkness, … Read on

Expert tips on tracking your roots

Traces spoke with Ancestry.com for some expert tips on family history research. Here is their best advice: Talk to your relatives: It seems simple, but you might be surprised by how much information your grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles might have that they’ve never shared, only because they were never asked. Ask them what they … Read on

Finding your ancestor’s burial location

Finding and visiting the graves of your ancestors can be an essential step in your family history research, whether to pay your respects or to look for further information about your lineage. So, where do you start when it comes to finding the burial location of an ancestor? Death certificates A great place to begin … Read on

Prison hulks: Australia’s floating prisons

There is a classic narrative in Australia that convicts spent their days in penal colonies like Port Arthur and Norfolk Island, which struck fear into the hearts of convicts and settlers alike. But many convicts weren’t even lucky enough to end up there. With prisons overflowing and nowhere to put the convicts who were continually … Read on

Researching your convict ancestry

According to Ancestry, one in five Australians descends from convicts. The stories of penal colonies and their convicts are considered a fundamental part of the rich tapestry of the Australian story, and the history of individual families. Now, more people are eager to uncover their convict past than ever. For some, the stories of their … Read on

The battles and the blood of the Salvos

By Roy Maloy The Salvation Army (Salvos) have been in Melbourne since the early 1880s, when its work erupted into the streets of Melbourne. Today the Salvos is seen as a benevolent charity and welfare provider, however, that wasn’t always the case. The Salvos was also the subject of ridicule and torment from a large … Read on

An unfortunate accident (part two)

The following letter to the editor was received as a response to ‘Cycling through time’, the cover story of Traces Edition 6. In the second part of the letter, Susan Weisser further shares her family’s unfortunate history with 19th century transport. Click here to read part one. Tragically, this was not the only brush with new forms … Read on

An unfortunate accident (part one)

The following letter to the editor was received as a response to ‘Cycling through time’, the cover story of Traces Edition 6. In her letter, Susan Weisser shares the story of her family’s own history with 19th century bicycles, and reminds us that it wasn’t all fun and games. Dear Editor, The article ‘Cycling through … Read on

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