When Mark Grealy's grandfather stopped researching his family tree, Mark took over the task from him. He obtained a lot of information from the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) and enjoyed researching so much that he decided to set up his own business supplying, for a fee, digitised records for people who are unable to get to the PROV themselves.
He is happy to do small projects such as searches for Wills and Probate Documents from 1926 onwards, which are not online, and also he is willing to work on larger projects such as the digitising of the Ringwood rate books which he is working on at the moment.
The most common requests that Mark receives are for information regarding school records. In the PROV archives are Pupil Registers for 900 Victorian schools. Most of these are from the 1870s onwards when government schools were introduced but there are some from earlier times.
Where there is no pupil register for a school, Building File records or School Inspector's reports for the time 1856-1862 (VPRS 1406) provide much information. School Inspector Gilbert Wilson Brown kept personal notebooks from 1861-1867 of his inspections of schools in North-West Victoria, some city schools in Melbourne and also the Lilydale area. He wrote the names of all children at the schools he visited and if there was a proposed new school he wrote the names of those children who would later attend (VPRS 9684).
A Building File record exists for the life of a school and is continually added to. The majority of these files contain maps, sometimes hand drawn, which show where students lived and the distance they travelled to school. The child's home is usually indicated on the property and the name of the property owner. Some files are large and might include correspondence from parents petitioning for a school. Sometimes a proposed site is indicated and there may be a plan of the school building. The list of pupils' names is usually near the beginning of the file but another list may appear later if the school is to be enlarged. VPRS 882 lists names of children who were to be granted assistance to attend school.
Other records that Mark has accessed are Court and Police records, Exemption records, Asylum records, Land records, Divorce files, Rent Rolls, Shipping records, Municipal records and Public Servants' indexes.
Not every court case produces a conviction as some cases go to Petty Session and Magistrate Courts but Cause list books record all hearings in Magistrate Courts. If there is a conviction then the conviction index will provide the name of the convicted person, the date convicted and the offence. The cause list provides the name of the plaintiff. As well as providing details of an offence and dates, Prison records give a personal description and nearly always a photo.
Exemption records for World War I list the names of men who wished to be excused from military service and the reason for this. Usually the reasons given are because of ill health or quite commonly in rural areas the need for a person to remain at home to run a farm.
Information on land holdings can be found in the Land Titles Office and for early conveyances the Registrar General Office; however there is a lot to be found in the PROV. For every parcel of land purchased in Victoria there is an Application File and Parish maps usually give this file number as a fraction number, (file number over section of land act date at time of final payment made) which can be used to access information about the land. For the times when no file number is present there is a microfiche series in the PROV where the number can be found in an alphabetical search for the appropriate Parish.
Application files may contain correspondence from the occupier which might describe a house, or on a farm might give details about crops planted. Evidence of hardship caused by fire or failure of crops might be indicated.
The name given on a property on a parish map is the person who made the final payment. There is no indication given as to whether there might have been a previous person or persons on that property before that final payment was made. Rent Rolls however can be searched alphabetically under the appropriate land district and can provide names of previous occupiers, period of tenure and who land was transferred to.
Details about Crown grants before 1862 are to be found in VPRS 460.
The Department of Sustainability and Enviroment (DSE) website of maps can be searched online under its Land and Survey Spatial Information (LASSI) link. A parcel of land, which hasn't been altered in some way, can be searched online and for a fee the application file number and conveyance records can be obtained. Mark often accesses this information before going into the PROV.
More and more records in the PROV are being digitised and can be searched online, but for those people who don't have access to a computer or for those people who wish to look at information which is only accessible at the PROV and who are not able to visit, then Mark Grealy may be able to assist. His websie is located at www.archivalaccessvictoria.com and his e-mail address is email@example.com.
Contributed by Jan Hanslow ( PPPG Member No. 1057 )
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