Researching aboriginal records v1.0 sg 20110704
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A presentation on how to research documents and records relating to Victorian Aboriginal people in the collection of the National Archives of Australia and Public Record Office Victoria

A presentation on how to research documents and records relating to Victorian Aboriginal people in the collection of the National Archives of Australia and Public Record Office Victoria

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  • Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) is the archive of the State Government of Victoria. Established with the Public Records Act 1973. To care for, provide guidance on and make available to Victorians the State collection Repository at North Melbourne in the Victorian Archives Building visible from above
  • The KRU was established about 10 years ago with the aim of Promoting records about Aboriginal people in PROV’s collection Improving access to those records, helping Aboriginal people negotiate the two collections successfully Has been working with organisations such as Connecting Home and others to develop a single access form for clients seeking to access records. Working with PROV volunteers on the indexing of records relating to Aboriginal people, data going into KIN database. Worked with digitisation team to digitise high value records containing information vital to personal and community identities for Aboriginal people. Takes the form of a number of initiatives, including publications, research guides, exhibitions, training, grants programs indexing project etc
  • ++++ One thing to bear in mind is that NAA also has Aboriginal records for Victoria for the period 1860 – 1970s Essentially the same collection, in that they are all records about Aboriginal affairs in Victoria over time, it’s just that for govt administrative reasons they are split across the two archives PROV and the KRU shares a close relationship with National Archives – both in same building at VAC North Melbourne – Mark Brennan from NAA is also speaking today
  • PROV has quite a large collection of Abl records that reflect govt admin of Abl affairs in Vic These records cover period earliest non-Abl settlement up until about mid 1940s Diverse range of info can be found in these files
  • There are too many records series in the collection to name them all here, but as an exampleL Early records series include: Aboriginal protectorate reports, and correspondence Annual reports Native police corps records VPRS 10 and 11 are digitised and available online via PROV’s online catalogue
  • Later records from Board for Protection of Aborigines, which operated between 1869 and 1957, include: correspondence files represent one of the largest single collections of the BPA in PROV’s collection, relating to missions and reserves such as Lake Tyers, Cordanderrk, Framlingham, Condah etc
  • To show how documents found in series such as these can be used for family history purposes, I will talk briefly about the story of the Pepper family, which was the subject of a book we published in 2008, and is now the subject of a travelling exhibition… Background to Peppers: family from Gippsland, defined as ‘half caste’; denied ongoing residence on Lake Tyers station with other family members. Seven children, moved around Victoria in search of work, wife Lucy sick with tuberculosis. One of 40 Vic Aboriginal men enlisted in WW1, fought in France sustained head wounds in a shell blast. One of the few Aboriginal soldiers to secure a soldier settlement block – and with it the hardships faced by many soldier settlers. Worked closely with Pepper descendants during the process of writing the book, and particularly in preparing the travelling exhibition. By combining their own photographs stories and memories with documents found in public collections, the family was able to learn more about their ancestors, to discover more about where they have come from and how their grandparents and great-grandparents struggled to live independent lives. The Pepper’s story is now the basis for a travelling exhibition developed by PROV, available for communities to loan for their community centre.
  • Context for the lives of the Peppers presented in the book was a regime of legisation which governed the lives of Abl people in Victoria. This regime of control of Abl people on missions and reserves had a major impact on Aboriginal people across Victoria Provides the context for the lives the Peppers led, 1886 Half Caste Act was also in force, meaning that families were often separated as those defined as “half caste” or mixed heritage were sent of the missions away from govt responsibility
  • Although it may not be immediately apparent how govt records can be used for family history research, the operation of this system meant that records were being created that often contain detail about: health, movts etc Therefore, through these records we were able to retrace the different places the family had lived, extraordinary details about the events of their lives, their resilience in the face of adversity, and the strong family connections they sustained despite government policies which sought to separate “half-caste” Aboriginal people from their full-blood family relations.
  • For example, Correspondence and other information in Aboriginal records series – particularly correspondence files of the BPA – have info not only generated by govt officials of the day, but Abl voices can be heard through letters written by them to the govt. Letter - Part of a chain of correspondence written by Lucy Pepper to the Board requesting assistance for herself and family to leave wet humid Gippsland coast to travel to better climate Purnim near Framlingham during winter. Eventually able to stay at Lake Condah from late Dec 1915.
  • A 1913 letter from Percy Pepper to the Chief Secretary (who was also a member of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines) requesting assistance to build a house for his family, states that they had been living in a tent for the past 2 years and detailing the impact of Lucy Pepper’s tuberculosis on the family
  • What we can see from these documents is that the Pepper family was resilient and resourceful They understood how the system worked They wrote many letters to people in positions of power, including several to Victoria Premiers Persevered with their requests for assistance Showed determination to keep their family united They maintained close relationships with their relatives on Lake Tyers, even though they were not allowed to stay there. For example, as this letter shows, Percy even drafted a petition on behalf of LT residents requesting that Caroline Bulmer – wife of former station manager and spiritual guide – be allowed to continue to reside after his death. This despite him not living on the reserve and being denied that.
  • Other record series at PROV can contain info about Aboriginal people. Percy Pepper was one of only known Aboriginal people in Vic to successfully apply for a solider settlement. Image shows Percy Pepper’s application for a soldier settlement block on his return from service in WW1. the file reveals the hardships of running a farm on the former Koo-Wee-Rup swamp – flood prone land, difficult to make viable, poorly chosen land for making a living
  • Image on the left is of Notice of upcoming auction of Percy Pepper’s farm, issued by the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey, 1924. Reveals the anguish of eventually losing his farm and family home
  • You might be wondering, how do I get started and explore these records for yourself During this section of the presentation I will talk about some of the resources and services available at PROV for doing indigenous family history research …
  • Before you search, it helps to have as much information as possible The more information you have, the easier it is to follow a lead - assists index searches, provides clues for where you could look next Compile as m uch info as you can… Each bit of information you find helps to locate more Organise your information otherwise, you may go back to records you have already ruled out, or find it impossible to go back to records that have been of use.
  • The Koorie Index of Names project is an ongoing project to progressively indexing names and places in records about Aboriginal held at PROV Helps researchers to locate records in PROV’s collection about particular person(s) or place(s) What’s included:
  • Index is a tool – does not contain person information, tool to access the original record, without having to browse an entire file – points you to the exact page. VPRS 1694 – 21 boxes of correspondence
  • FYS - initiative developed by PROV, AAV & the VKRT, published in 2005. It is a resource manual developed to assist SG members in Victoria to find records and agencies that may hold records of relevance to their research. It is also a useful guide for those people who generally experienced life in care or institutions to find information about themselves and family members. The publication also assists agencies supporting SG members on their journey of discovery and healing, by providing information about what agencies can provide either support or hold records, for referrals etc Hard copy for sale and an online PDF version for free download. MHIB - Comprehensive guide to records in PROV and NAA between 1830s and 1970s relating to Aboriginal people in Victoria. There is also has a section that explores some example records in the context of themes including health, life on missions, education etc. It was first produced in 1993, was reprinted in 1997. PROV and NAA are currently working together to produce a much needed updated version of this valuable resource. BTW – all copies of publications here today are available for purchase
  • Koorie Records Unit webpage PROV’s online catalogue – Access the Collection PROV guides and research pathways Digitised records available online Family history publications Training and grants programs Online exhibitions Online journal Provenance Tools are available online to assist you . These include: Guides and research pathways - Koorie records, wardship records, BDM records – some printouts are available here today Digitised records accessible via Internet and reading room PCs – wills and probate to 1925; inquest files; indexes to prison, divorce, BDM, mental asylum, education records etc Online catalogue Info about more training and grants, exhibitions and publications
  • Link to Koorie Records Unit Info about more training and grants, exhibitions and publications
  • You can also check out the KRU website: Research resources Training Grants Travelling exhibition Read or Subscribe to our newsletter -
  • Apart from the Aboriginal affairs records, information about Aboriginal people can be found in other series such as those relating to education, land, legal matters, health, wills, probates and inquests etc. Links to: Guides and research pathways - Koorie records, wardship records, BDM records – some printouts are available here today Digitised records accessible via Internet and reading room PCs – wills and probate to 1925; inquest files; indexes to prison, divorce, BDM, mental asylum, education records etc Access to PROV’s Online catalogue

Researching aboriginal records v1.0 sg 20110704 Researching aboriginal records v1.0 sg 20110704 Presentation Transcript

  • Doing research about Aboriginal people at the Victorian Archives Centre Sebastian Gurciullo Coordinator, Koorie Records Unit
  • What are we covering today?
    • How to research government records relating to Victorian Aboriginal people
    • Two intertwined collections: National Archives of Australia & Public Record Office Victoria
    • Work of the Koorie Records Unit
    • Examples of records about Aboriginal people from the two collections
    • Online and other resources to assist with research
    • How to access the Koorie Reference Service to conduct research for you and who is eligible
    • How to conduct some basic searches on KIN database
    • Some case studies: Footprints book and Ed’s story
  •  
  • Victorian Archives Centre
    • Provides a place for staff and services of 4 organisations
      • Public Record Office Victoria
      • National Archives of Australia
      • National Gallery of Victoria
      • Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation
  • National Archives of Australia
    • Archive of the Australian federal government
    • This is a national organisation
    • Main presence is in Canberra but have facilities in every state and territory (see NAA Fact Sheet 1 for further details)
    • In Melbourne, co-located with Public Record Office Victoria at the Victorian Archives Centre
    • Established under the Archives Act 1983
    • Records mostly date from Federation (1901)
  • Public Record Office Victoria
    • Archive of the Victorian state government
    • This is a state organisation
    • Main presence is in Melbourne at the Victorian Archives Centre, with a branch at Ballarat, and with affiliated collections in Geelong and Bendigo (see PROVguide ?? for further details)
    • Established under the Public Records Act 1983
    • Records date from the start of the colony (from the 1830s onwards)
  • Koorie Records Unit (KRU)
    • Assists Aboriginal people with access to Victorian and Commonwealth government records
    • Builds links and partnerships with community and government organisations
    • Co-ordinates projects enhancing access to Koorie records
    • Provides outreach , education and training activities with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people
  • Records about Aboriginal people in Victoria
    • Government records about Aboriginal people in Victoria held in two collections
      • National Archives of Australia
      • Public Record Office Victoria
    • Koorie Reference Service: we conduct a search into both collections on behalf of Aboriginal clients to help trace connections – further from Ed Story later
    • If you are doing research yourself, you will need to understand the way the collections are split across the two organisations and how to go about finding what you want
    • Victorian State Government legislation to transfer responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs to the Australian federal government in 1975 – records were in bad condition in a basement needed preservation treatment and a stable environment
    • Shortly after this, those records not already in the custody of PROV were transferred to the Australian federal government by the Victorian state ministry of Aboriginal Affairs
    • For the period c. 1860 to 1970s it is necessary to conduct research at both PROV and the National Archives of Australia (NAA), Melbourne Office.
    • Victoria is the only state in Australia to have this unique split collection
    Victoria’s Aboriginal records – how did it get like this?
  • What does Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) have in its collection?
    • Documents created by Victorian government departments, agencies and authorities, other public bodies.
    • Information on every function of government: immigration, land settlement and use, education, health, criminal trials and prisons, premiers and governors, royal commissions and boards of inquiry, etc
    • Aboriginal people, missions & reserves
    • Date from mid 1830s onwards
  • Records about Aboriginal people at PROV
    • Reflect government administration of Aboriginal affairs in Victoria
    • Records held cover the period 1839 – 1945
    • Early Protectorate period 1830s – 1850s
    • Records about the operation of Aboriginal missions and reserves during the 1800s and 1900s
    • Information includes medical and education reports, correspondence, employment details, meeting minutes, annual reports, police reports, clothing and rations, and records of the movement of Aboriginal people across Victoria. 
    • These records are open for researchers to access for family history purposes
    • A complete list of record series at both PROV and NAA, is in the research guide My Heart is Breaking
    • Also see PROV guide 65 and 67
  • Records about Aboriginal people at PROV
    • Selected record series in PROV’s collection:
    • VPRS 10, Inward Registered Correspondence to the Superintendent of Port Phillip District relating to Aboriginal Affairs, 1839-1851 (Digitised and available online)
    • VPRS 11, Unregistered Inward Correspondence of the Chief Protector of Aborigines – Reports and Returns, 1847-1851 (Digitised and available online)
    • VPRS 2897, Registered Inward Correspondence of the Superintendent Port Phillip District relating to Aboriginal Stations, 1847-1851
    • VPRS 90, Victoria Police: Daybook of the Native Police Corps, 1845 – 1853
  • Records about Aboriginal people at PROV
    • Selected record series in the collection cont:
    • VPRS 1694, Board for the Protection of Aborigines, Correspondence files, 1867 – 1946
    • VPRS 926, Aboriginal Board: Letter Book Coranderrk 1838 – 1924
    • VPRS 10768, Board for the Protection of Aborigines Register of Inward Correspondence, 1909 – 1941
    • A complete list of record series at both PROV and NAA, is in the research guide My Heart is Breaking
    • Also see PROVguide 65 and 67
  • Records about Aboriginal people in the NAA collection in Melbourne
    • Some examples:
    • B313 Correspondence files (1869-1957)
      • Correspodence about the administration of Aboriginal Affairs, such as Aboriginal stations and reserves
    • B337 Aboriginal case files (1893-1968)
      • Files created for each Aboriginal person who had dealings with the Board for the Protection of Aborigines and later the Aborigines Welfare Board
    • B356 Lake Tyers correspondence files (1865-1968)
    • B332 Annual reports [of Aboriginal stations and reserves] (1861-1957)
    • See also NAA Fact Sheets and My Heart is Breaking (pages 24 to 33) for further details
  • Other records in the NAA collection in Melbourne
    • Immigration
    • Defence
    • Post Offices
    • Aboriginal Affairs
    • Government employment
    • Works and Property
  • An example of what you can do
    • Footprints: the journey of Lucy and Percy Pepper
    • A joint publication between PROV and National Archives of Australia about an Aboriginal family in Lake Tyers area, Gippsland
    • A 20-year journey of the family’s life told mainly through government records
    • Example of how public records can be utilised to tell family histories
    • Also an example of how you need to research records in both the NAA and PROV collections
    • Now a travelling exhibition available for communities to loan free of charge
  • Acts of Parliament governing the lives of Aboriginal people in Victoria
    • We have documents because the Victorian Government had laws governing the lives of Aboriginal people from the 1860s onwards
    • Powers to regulate the lives & identities of Aboriginal people – a system of control and surveillance
    • 1886 Act (pictured) often referred to as ‘the half-caste Act’, because of provisions aimed to force people of mixed Aboriginal descent away from Aboriginal stations
  • Victorian Aboriginal missions and reserves
    • System of legislation and control of Aboriginal people on missions and reserves led to the creation of records about Aboriginal people.
    • The impact of these laws on their lives are often documented in detail, including:
    • health
    • movements across the state
    • family relationships
    • attempts to find work
    • how they lived
    • who they saw
    Photograph of cottages and residents at Lake Tyers courtesy State Library of Victoria
  • Footprints publication Researching the history of Lucy and Percy Pepper PROV, VPRS 1694, P0, Unit 5, Bundle 3, page 249 - Correspondence files of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines Letter from Lucy Pepper to the Victorian government (addressed to Chief Secretary John Murray) on 10 March 1915, asking for assistance to move from Lake Tyers in Gippsland for the sake of her health She had Tuberculosis, and the normal treatment at the time involved getting away from wet humid climates as occurs in coastal areas
  • Footprints publication Researching the history of Lucy and Percy Pepper PROV, VPRS 1694, P0, Unit 5, Bundle 3, page 244 Another letter from the same file, this time from Lucy’s husband Percy Written two years earlier – 22 September 1913, introducing himself as a ‘half-caste Aboriginal’ and asking for help to support his sick wife and his 6 children He and his family had been living in a tent for the past two years following seasonal work
  • Footprints publication Researching the history of Lucy and Percy Pepper
    • Resilient and resourceful
    • Wrote many letters to people in positions of power, including several to Victoria Premiers
    • Persevered with their requests for assistance
    • Showed determination to keep their family united
    PROV, VPRS1694, P0, Unit12, Bundle 4, p 531, Petition 9 September 1913 A petition organised by Percy Pepper on behalf of Lake Tyers residents wanting to allow Reverend Bulmer’s wife and child to stay with them after his death
  • Footprints publication Researching the history of Lucy and Percy Pepper PROV, VPRS 10381, P0, Unit 13 Soldier Settlement Advances File, Description:278 Pepper P, Kooweerup, 3748/86.6
  • Footprints publication Researching the history of Lucy and Percy Pepper PROV, VPRS 5714, P0, Unit 2508, Allot 26, Page 75 Closer [and Soldier] Settlement file
  • Indigenous family history research
    • Preparing for your search
    • Koorie Index of Names
    • Publications
    • Online resources
  • Preparing for your research
    • Compile as much information as you can from family members, diaries, letters etc
    • Sketch out as much as you know of your family tree
    • Gather information about relatives’ names, where they lived, and when
    • Organise your information
    • Ask yourself – what was my family’s contact with government?
  • Koorie Index of Names
    • The KIN project aims to improve access to records containing information about Aboriginal people held by PROV, which assists Aboriginal people to find information about themselves and their families.
    • What’s included in the index:
    • Names of Aboriginal people
    • Names of non-Aboriginal people related to or associated with Aboriginal people
    • Names of missions and institutions where Aboriginal people were placed
    • Places where Aboriginal people have lived or visited
  • Koorie Index of Names
    • Available to researchers at the Victorian Archives Centre reading room in North Melbourne
    • The KIN database currently contains more than 13,800 names
    • The index does not contain personal information about the people named.
    • What have we indexed so far?
    • VPRS 1694 Correspondence Files Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1889 - 1946
    • What’s next?
    • VPRS 10 Inward Registered Correspondence to the Superintendent of Port Phillip District, relating to Aboriginal Affairs 1839 – 1851
    • VPRS 11 Unregistered Inward Correspondence to the Chief Protector of Aborigines - Reports and Returns 1847 - 1851
  • Indigenous research guides Finding Your Story: a resource manual to the records of the Stolen Generations in Victoria My Heart is Breaking: a joint guide to records about Aboriginal people in Public Record Office Victoria and National Archives of Australia (Vic)
  • Online research resources
  • prov.vic.gov.au
  • prov.vic.gov.au/community-programs/koorie-records-unit
  • Free online newsletter - subscribe at prov.vic.gov.au /join-our-mailing-list
  • access.prov.vic.gov.au
  • Digitised records
    • VPRS 10 Inward Registered Correspondence to the Superintendent of Port Phillip District, relating to Aboriginal Affairs (refer to digitised images available online)
    • VPRS 11 Unregistered Inward Correspondence to the Chief Protector of Aborigines - Reports and Returns (refer to digitised images of P0 consignment, available online)
    • Digital copies of these can be viewed through the PROV catalogue
  • Questions? Contact us at: koorie.records@prov.vic.gov.au Image above shows detail of a photograph from PROV, VPRS 14562/P4, unit 6, item 11 Copies of this Powerpoint presentation are available online at: http://www.slideshare.net/publicrecordoffice/