|The photo I took yesterday morning of |
Bendigo Magistrates' Court,
a short walk away from the
Bendigo Library in Hargreaves Street.
Yesterday was full of the highs and lows that make up the life of a passionate genealogist.
Off I went to Bendigo, only a couple of hours drive from Melbourne. I had booked into a course at the Bendigo Regional Archives Centre (BRAC) for a brief run down of their resources.
BRAC is located on the first floor of the Bendigo Library, located in Hargreaves Street. It is a regional branch of the Public Records Office, (PROV) which is located in North Melbourne. If you are a family historian in Victoria, Australia, you will, or probably already have, visited PROV in North Melbourne. I went there a few months ago and got some copies of inquests for my family. I was super impressed with PROV's professionalism and wondered how BRAC would compare.
Very well as it happens. The course was interesting and informative, and we were presented with information packs that would assist us later, As each available record was described, we got shown an example of that record, which was passed around the table. Some of the volumes were enormous and some of us were unable to lift them at all.
It was so exciting to see these documents, often leather-bound with colourful marbled endpapers. Some of the handwriting was so fine and meticulous, I don't think I have ever seen its equal. Books varied in size depending on age and what it contained. As I said before, the Land Title volumes were so large that they were easily the length of my arm, and three inches thick including the heavy leather bindings. Some of the Bendigo City Council pay books I went through were only 20cm square, but they contained each employee's signature, information about their occupation, even sometimes the area they worked in during that pay period. Gold for someone with that ancestor! Other pay books contained stamp duty stamps attached to the page and cancelled out. Others contained handwritten notes such as "Please pay Mrs. X my wages as I am too sick with influenza. Kind and oblige, Mr. X." Another note gave me pause: "Please pay Mrs. X my wages until such and such a date. (Months in advance). I imagined the man owed back rent to his landlady. Or something like that. Just think, I handled those books and papers and they were at least 80 years old.
Others were even older and some were in downright bad condition. One particular volume from 1877 had very thick linen covered cardboard covers, with two perfect shoe shapes cut out of them. The shoe lining thief stole them a long long time ago, perhaps during the depression. The front page has dark patches in perfect shoe shapes where the cover is missing.
The BRAC volunteers work hard and are friendly too. I gleaned lots of local knowledge without which I would have been truly stuck. Local knowledge is gold, and highly undervalued in this day of "everything's on computer" because that's not true.
You should go to BRAC if your ancestor lived in the area. If you, like me, are from out of town and plan to visit the Bendigo Library and BRAC for longer than an hour, park in the multi-storey carpark directly across the road. It only costs $7 for the whole day, and saves moving your car periodically. The Bendigo Library also has food and drink available downstairs. More about Bendigo Library tomorrow.