Question: I have found out that my great great grandfather migrated to Victoria from Germany in 1882 on the Sorrento, aged 20. I know he lived in Richmond and was an undertaker. I would like to know what records there might be about his life after he arrived in Victoria.
A funeral procession. A horsedrawn hearse is followed by a number of carriages.
Source: Museum Victoria, Biggest Family Album in Australia
Answer: Family history research is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle and can be an all absorbing experience. Sometimes you might find that the information you are looking for was not recorded at the time, or that the records haven’t been kept, but there are certainly many avenues you can explore.
Since your great great grandfather migrated from Germany, you may want to investigate early naturalisation records which are kept with National Archives of Australia. Early naturalisation records mention personal details including occupation and contact details at the time of application (only 10 per cent of the records held by the National Archives are currently online).
Another avenue to explore is the Victorian Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. Their online database contains historical births, deaths and marriage records, as well as historical indexes spanning from 1853 until 1943. These are also searchable at the State Library of Victoria Genealogy Centre.
Post Office Directories are another valuable resource. Similar to modern day phonebooks, they were used to find the addresses of businesses and individuals. Sands and MacDougall published Post Office Directories in Victoria from mid 1800s until 1940. These resources are generally available at major libraries and provide a useful tool when trying to find out about an individuals’ living situation and stated profession.
If your great great grandfather purchased land, you could investigate the land titles held by the Public Record Office of Victoria.
Other resources to consider are local historical societies such as the Richmond and Burnley Historical Society and the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. Historical societies often have archival material relating to the local area which may prove useful.
If you are serious about continuing your family history research, you may want to consider becoming a member of the Genealogical Society of Victoria. The Genealogical Society of Victoria is an excellent resource and there are many benefits to becoming a member.
The Immigration Discovery Centre provides access to books, multimedia and online resources which can assist you with your research on family history, immigration history and migrant communities. The Immigration Discovery Centre is open seven days a week and our friendly staff are available on weekdays to answer any questions you might have. Entry is free.
The Immigration Discovery Centre
Photographer: Ben Healley, Source: Museum Victoria