My children’s ancestors came to Australia between 1840 and 1863, and all were in Victoria by 1870, so my main research has been in Victoria. The first historical records I started using back at the end of 1992 were the birth death and marriage indexes, which were on microfiche at my local library (I was living in Coburg at the time).
In 2000, I started buying the birth death and marriages indexes which had been released on CD. I preferred these, as I could search the indexes in my own home, and because I could transfer the results directly from the database results to my Microsoft word files, reducing the risk of transcription errors.
In 2005, I noticed that these indexes were now available online. However, since there was a small charge to access these indexes, I preferred to keep using the CDs, except for the indexes that weren’t available on the CDs.
Unfortunately, I was no longer able to use the CDs when I upgraded to a Windows 8 computer around 2014, although there was a program that allowed me to continue to use them. Since then, I have upgrade to a laptop that no longer has a CD drive. Fortunately, in 2015 the indexes on the website became free to search, so I then used the Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria website.
In February this year, the website was updated to their new system, and the indexes didn’t provide as much information as they used to, as well as being harder to search. At this time, I started to use the indexes on Ancestry –
- Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985
- Australia, Marriage Index, 1788-1950
- Australia, Birth Index, 1788-1922
One of the disadvantages of these indexes was that often the place names are incorrect – instead of using the place names as they were actually written on the original indexes (I’m not sure if they used the old microfiche, or the CDs), they have guessed what the abbreviations meant. For my great grandmother’s brother, Edward Fitzgerald Russell, they have his birthplace as Deptford – the original index had abbreviated the place name to D’ford. This abbreviation is for Daylesford. Also, for my Whimpey family from Tarnagulla, the place is abbreviated to T’gulla (or Tarn) on the original indexes – on Ancestry it is listed as Tallegalla.
Ancestry had also recently released the three collections:
- Victoria, Australia, Death Index, 1836-1988
- Victoria, Australia, Marriage Index, 1837-1950
- Victoria, Australia, Birth Index, 1837-1917
These collections didn’t provide as much information as the old indexes (they appeared to be the same as the indexes that were on the Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria website), so I preferred to use the old Australia indexes.
Many genealogists here in Australia wrote to complain about the new indexes on the Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria website, and these have now been restored to providing as much details as the old online index, so I am using the indexes on Ancestry for my Ancestry tree, but I prefer to use the Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria website. The new index is even better than the old index in one respect. The old index only listed a number as the age at death, so for a child who died aged 6 months, the age would just show as 6, and there was no way of knowing if it was 6 years, 6 months, 6 weeks, or 6 days.. The new indexes now include these details.
There are still times when I prefer to use my original notes from the microfiche, as sometimes the information is different. For example, this is my note for Maureen from the original microfiche
1947 Maureen June Ivor Merlin Parsons Ethel Lila W’beal 8 hrs 21600
There is one time when I would prefer to be able to use the old CDs, and this is for the Early Church Records prior to when civil registration began in 1853. The CDs used to include a field that showed which church the event was held in for baptisms and burials:
MEIKLEJOHN Janet Alexander B Alexander Mary F
MELBOURNE 1853 33508 PRESBYT MELBOUR 480
The online indexes don’t include those details. The old microfiche didn’t include those details either.
These examples of the differences between the different formats of the indexes demonstrate why it is best to just use the indexes to purchase the certificates – the certificate will have all the information, not just what has been extracted for the index.
Although I have purchased many certificates over the years, it would cost more than I can afford to purchase every certificate for everyone in my tree, so for many of them I use the indexes, as well as using cemetery records, newspapers, probate records and inquest files. I also use online trees, particularly the Ancestry Public Member Trees, to find other people researching my families, to see if they have copies of any of the certificates I don’t yet have.