Alt banner image

Expert Q&A :: House history and archaeology with Adam Ford

Comment: Tanya: I wish I could think of a question. ūüôā I was fascinated watching the episode last week to see that records had probably been destroyed by the government. So wonderful to have personal recollections from people involved in events to fill in some of the details.
A. Adam:¬†Hey Tanya – thanks for watching. The kick I get from archaeology is finding out our back story. It is an adventure – there are so many areas of the past that have never been explored….its that last (past) frontier……
A. Tanya:¬†Thanks for a great show. The past impacts on our present, that’s why it is so interesting.

Q. From Chez:¬†Hi Adam, Apologies straight up I have not had the pleasure of watching the show…but hear it is great…and plan to view at some stage…so much to see so little time! Query…any plans to look at Emily cottage at Campbelltown?! What is the most difficult thing you find about researching?
A. IHM:¬†Hi Chez,¬†here’s the link to last Friday’s Western Australian episode 1 of Series 2 on¬†ABC iview¬†::¬†
A. Adam: Chez Рthe most difficult thing about research is staying on target Рso easy to go off on numerous tangents!
A. IHM:¬†Hi Chez,¬†we’ve put Campbelltown’s Emily cottage on the list for Adam to consider later.

Q. From Andrew: On that point, how do you guys select the houses to look into?
A. Adam: Andrew Рfirst the researchers look at the geographic spread Рas an ABC show we need to be national, second we need to look at the themes the house history throws up Рcannot have too many with similar themes, third they need strong stories and histories that we can find. Finally the owners need to be around for the week we want to film!

Comment: Janice:¬†Hi Adam, our Australian history is so interesting. It’s about people but also about where they lived and died that tells the story. Thank you for a great programme.
A. Adam: Hi Janice Рthanks for watching РI reckon Australia has one of the most fascinating social histories as it relates to all of us, the commonwealth and the amazing happenings around the world in the 19th century,
A. Geoff:¬†Adam Said “and the amazing happenings around the world in the 19th century”. I was amazed to discover, via Trove, that my great-grandfather loaned his boat (plus my great-uncles) to SBJ Skertchley, who counted Charles Darwin (and many other great scientists of the era) as a friend.
A. Adam: Geoff РTrove is an amazing resource.

Comment: Whitehorse Historical Society:¬†If you’re ever in the area Adam, we hope you will come and visit¬†Schwerkolt Cottage!
A. Adam: Whitehorse HS Рwill do

Q. From Susie:¬†And here’s another great fan of the show – as a researcher who has worked on many Heritage Studies I keep yelling at the screen suggesting different sources and records – there are soooo many! Is it appropriate to suggest a couple of books that people might find helpful?
A. Adam: Hi Susie Рyes there are so many sources and of course due to the length of the show we cannot outline all that we use Рbut where we can we always give a big talk up to the local historical societies, libraries and museums.
Q (b): Susie:¬†Adam – do you find that owners of the houses in your show “get the bug” and continue on with the research after the show is over? I hope they give you this sort of feedback if they do!
A. Adam:¬†Susie – some have but the interesting thing is that none of the owners are particularly ‘in’ to history or history buffs – its for them the love of their house – but they certainly have a greater appreciation of the wealth that history bring.

Comment: Wendy:¬†Wonderful show Adam. I’m about to visit a house that my 4 x Great Grandfather built in Taradale Vic over 100yrs ago and family still own it ! Wish the walls could talk ūüôā
A. Adam:¬†Wendy – it’s amazing that a property has stayed in the family for so long! What a huge store of history there must be in that house.

Q. From Corrinne: Any chance the program can be increased to one hour? I’m absolutely sure you could easily fill the time with these other interesting tangents… I’m sure I’m not the only who feels 30 mins is not long enough.
A. Adam:¬†Corrinne we thought long and hard about making the show an hour – its really a question of keeping the story moving. We are always looking at how the show is received and I’m sure we will talk again at the end of series 2 – I’d love to do an hour long ep – I really enjoy filming and hunting around these beautiful old places

Comment: Geoff:¬†I have one house-related brick wall. There was once a residence in Sandgate named Anchor Cottage. My great grandparents, great aunts and great uncles stayed in it for a while when they arrived in 1885. It was built by the man who talked my great-grandfather into leaving America to come here, and it was occupied by his sister. But I’m damned if I can find out exactly where it was. If only there was a way to officially reverse search a title on owner’s name, not real property details.
A. Alison: Geoff Drew ANCHOR COTTGE was in William Stret SANDGATE Рsee list item in Newspapers on this link to TROVE:
A. Susie:¬†Geoff – with Alison’s tip from TROVE you should then have enough to search the rate books for the period – they generally show occupiers and owners – could give you the answer.
A. Geoff: Sorry, Alison, but William Street was the man who met great grandad in America and talked him into migrating to Queensland. William Street is not a street in Sandgate.
A. Alison:¬†Sorry Geoff – bit hasty it was not located in William Street, a son was born in Anchor Cottage to a man called William STREET!! The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933) Saturday 21 April 1883 p 1 Family Notices will check further…
A. Adam:¬†Geoff – perhaps census data, rates records, again street and business directories, municipal sewer and water records…
A. Geoff:¬†It’s OK, Alison, I know almost all the details of William Street’s life, and have even met his great-grandson. The living family don’t know where Anchor Cottage stood, either. I think of his great-grandson as an honorary second cousin, because if William Street hadn’t gone to America when he did he would have never met either his wife or my great-grandad.
A. Geoff:¬†Adam, the only thing I haven’t checked from that list is the rate books. I have my doubts that they survived the changeover from Sandgate Town Council to Brisbane City Council as much of the Sandgate material was lost in the 1974 floods. But I’ll look around – might be in the state archives.
A. Geoff: Woot Рthe PO Directory is published on CD by Archive CD Books! Might be in with a chance in the 1885-86 edition.

Q. From Jonathan: Adam РDo you use local studies collections and image databases at local libraries during the course of research?
A. IHM: Jonathan Рlocal history sources are vital for this type of research Рyep we look at local info and being a TV show we are very keen on images and photos.

Q. From IHM:¬†That was fascinating, please join me in thanking Adam Ford! We’ll look forward to Episode 2 tomorrow night at 8pm – where are you off to this time?
A. Adam: Thanks everyone Рthat was a lot of fun Рtomorrow we have a brilliant story of a fugitive British MP hiding in the Yarra Valley Рgreat house and great story.
A. Adam: Lovely to meet you all.
A. Mary Lou: Thanks Adam look fwd to it!
A. Lesley: Thanks Adam, you have been really helpful Рlooking forward to the rest of the season!
A. Geoff: Thanks Adam, ad Cassie for hosting.
A. Corrinne:¬†Thank you and good evening Adam… great talk, looking forward to the show tomorrow evening.
A. IHM: Thanks for joining everyone & thanks again Adam! We’ll publish the transcript from tonight’s session in a blog post this coming week.

Comment: Bindi:¬†Hello Adam Ford.¬†I’m Bindi, from Bendigo. I loved reading about the Turkish houses & burials underneath.¬†I’m wondering if you would like to share that story in my FB group ” lost graves “.¬†I started this group because I was starting a list of lone burials, while I was searching for my lost g g grandfather. (A big brick wall for more than 9 yrs. It turns out he is recorded as 3 different names…)

Q. From Rebel:¬†Hi Adam, do you know how far back the NSW land records go? I had a look at the site but couldn’t see.¬†I’m looking at Moyne Farm near Little Hartley, built by John Grant in the early 1820s, the Pineapple Inn near Emu Ferry on the Nepean River and 2 O’Connell St, Sydney, from 1813.
A. IHM:¬†You’re a little late Rebel, we’ll pick your question up tomorrow with Adam ūüôā
A. Rebel:¬†I know… juggling time zones isn’t my strong point ūüėČ Thanks for that, I really appreciate it.
A. Michelle: In meantime Rebel checkout LPI factsheets
A. Rebel: And thanks again for another great Q&A.
A. Rebel: Thanks, Michelle! Great idea.
A. Adam: Rebel –¬†Land information stretches back as far as European settlement and quite a bit survives – contact State archives and or NSW Heritage Office.

Comment: Michelle: Fabulous show- some other good sources to locate occupants are the books held by local councils or libraries and also post office directories.
A: Michelle:¬†Rate books that should have said….

Comment: Alison: POST SCRIPT: A nice case study for house historians.

Comment: Robyn: Hopefully Series 1 will be repeated in the near future.

Questions asked before the session: 

Q. From Lesley: Can Adam give us some tips on the best way to get started on a house history in NSW? That would be brilliant. 
A. Adam: Lesley Рstart with the Land and Property Information service for NSW at

Q. From Barbara: There is a story in our family that my GGGG grandfather owned the Bakery on the Rocks near the first windmill in Sydney. Can you suggest how I would go about proving that?
A. Adam: Barbara –¬†Due to the antiquity of your GGGG grandfather records are few and far between. ¬†For all things Rocks I would talk to the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority – they manage the heritage of the Rocks – Wayne Johnson is the archaeologist there.

WBSIMH series 2 Paddington House

Join our mailing list