Ann Major who is an experienced genealogical researcher at the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies (AIGS) outlined the range of records held by the AIGS which are available to be viewed by members and non-members alike.
As the records are extensive there are tours of the centre held once a month for new members and there are classes for beginners in genealogical research. One-on-one help can be provided for those who wish it and regular seminars are held. Members have reciprocal rights at various interstate genealogical societies.
The AIGS has a comprehensive library of reference books, 15 dedicated computers, and film and microfiche readers. Members receive a quarterly magazine, a monthly newsletter and access to all the records in the library at all times.
"Ancestry.com", "The Genealogist", "Find my Past", and "British Origins" are all online at the centre. Many indexes are online of course including te births deaths and marriage (BDM) indexes of all Australin states. These are the building blocks for a family tree and the 'Digger' indexes of BDM provide the registration numbers that are needed for the purchase of certificates.
A service for purchasing records from the United Kingdom using vouchers, UK stamps, and Sterling cheques is available.
There are 10 interest groups within the AIGS made up of people researching particular counties in the British Isles. Ann herself is involved with the South-East England Group and the London Area Group.
Records are held for countries other than the British Isles. The AIGS hold the best collection of British India records in Australia but also hold records for Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and the United States of America.
Since the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has closed its research centre in Blackburn, the AIGS has become a designated 'Familysearch' affiliated library for ordering microfilm and microfiche from the LDS.
Images of Victorian and Tasmanian wills are free to download online although in Victoria to view wills dated post 1925, a reference number needs to be obtained from a probate index available at the AIGS.
United Kingdom (ie English and Scottish) indexes to wills are available from 1859 when government control began, to 1941. British Origins is producing a National Wills data base from the 1400s to 1800s.
Australian electoral rolls can be viewed back to 1851 and the Australian Referendum of 1889 might be of interest.
Any index or roll is worth looking at. Trade directories, newspapers, land and rate records, convict and hulk records, cemetery records, shipping lists, and military records. Early Australian census records don't exist but English census records are wonderful. Parliamentary papers, records for hospitals and asylums, and Police Gazettes contain enormous amounts of information.
The UK apprentices and masters records are accessible. Freemen of the City of London records are interesting. To apply for the title of Freeman a person had to be a member of a Guild, not, as the Americans seem to think, to have been a previous convict. It was compulsory by Royal Charter to become a Freeman before having the 'freedom' to conduct business in London.
Amongst unusual English records are the Hearth Tax rolls and the Fleet Prison marriage records. The Hearth Tax was levied on households according to the number of fireplaces in the house. The Fleet Prison marriages occurred after 1696 when a Marriage Act required that people had to be married by Banns or a special license. In an area around the Fleet Prison, called the Liberty of the Fleet, marriages were performed, often by defrocked clergy, who could not be prosecuted. Sometimes these marriages were clandestine affairs, but they also suited immigrants, many of them from France, who needed to be married to look respectable. These marriages were recorded as non-conformist marriages.
In England in the 1850s, 30-50% of people were non-conformist, meaning people who were not members of the Church of England. It was compulsory to be married in a Church of England but baptisms and burials could be in another faith like Wesleyan. Only Quakers and Jewish people could marry in their own faith.
The British Poor Law records which cover work houses and bastardy records are interesting. The father of an illegitimate child was encouraged to pay regularly for his child's care or to pay one lump sum. He could be jailed if he refused to pay. If the father was unknown, the Parish in which the child was born became responsible.
If you lived in England and you decided to move your place of residence from one village to another, you needed a Settlement Certificate to take with you. After your move, if you weren't successful you would then be given a Removal Order and sent back from whence you came. The AIGS has these records available.
The AIGS also has extensive Scottish records such as parish and census records, cemetery and monumental records are very helpful.
Most of us have probably watched the televsion show "Who do you think you are?" but Ann Major says that at the AIGS she and her colleagues know who we are because of their huge volume of records.
Contributed by Jan Hanslow ( PPPG Member No. 1057 )
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