Who was my great great grandfather?

12 December, 2008

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 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

Comments (11)

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BEATA BUEIAN 22 April, 2009 11:00
why is it that i cannot research information whilst on my computer , it seems i have to go in to the museum to do it. i would like access from home
Discovery Centre 27 April, 2009 11:41
The research links on this page are available from any computer with access to the internet. Happily, more and more research information in the field of family history is available online.
Geoff Mcgowan 6 June, 2009 15:37
Rex Douglas Jones donated information regarding the Hibernia 1951 in which Henry Jones migrated to australia. Is it possible to find the informtion donated to the library as Rex has sadly passed away and we cannot find the information
Discovery Centre 14 June, 2009 15:08

Hi Geoff,

Thanks for your question - it has been referred to the Acting Curator for Migration to see if she can find anything in the collections donated by Rex Douglas Jones.

We will let you know as soon as we have heard back from her.

Discovery Centre 25 June, 2009 16:19

Hi again Geoff,

Our Curator has reported that Museum Victoria holds no material donated by a Rex Douglas Jones, but has suggested that perhaps the donation was made to the State Library of Victoria, and that you could contact them instead.

Good luck!

Mary Doyle 19 August, 2009 05:34
I emigrated to Victoria in 1963. My family name at that time was DIMECH. No record was found when I tried to search. My husband John DOYLE emigrated here in 1964 and there is no record of him either. Why is this?
Discovery Centre 20 August, 2009 10:03

Hi Mary and thanks for your pertinent question. The National Archives of Australia is the central repository for Australian Commonwealth Government records and you can contact them for a passenger list for your voyage. Only 10% of the material archived by the National Archives is so far featured on the internet, therefore, if you are having trouble finding your own immigration records online the best thing to do is to contact the National Archives of Australia directly, either by telephone or by visiting one of their reading rooms. Good luck with your search!

Nancy Halafihi 20 January, 2012 14:32
My great grandfather whom I was told that he is from Tasmania and he was in the military, he went to Tonga in the 1900 and my grandmother was conceived, he came back to Australia and I was told his name was John Johnson fro Tasmania and I don't know anymore, my grandmother who is now 97 is still alive and well but we have no other connection or knowledge about her father because she lost all photos he sent to Tonga when she was younger. I hope you can give me some advise as to where to look. Thank you
Discovery Centre 21 January, 2012 15:36
Hey Nancy. There are a few places you should look. Look for his service record at National Archives of Australia, this might tell you a little bit more information and then you can search for his birth certificate with Births, Deaths, Marriages Tasmania. This should get you started for the moment. Feel free to contact us through our enquiry service if you have any further questions or want to explore further. There are also some good general resources on the State Library Victoria website about doing family history research and the types of things you may want to look for. Good luck!
Evelin 27 November, 2016 15:35
If my father was contracted to Australia from Berlin in 1952 with the Victorian Railways , where is the online venue for me to find any records about him , from HOME. (as i am in NSW) I am soo tired of going around and around in circles. Vic Rail records state it is to be done in person :/ His name was Heinz Pamp , and other than his name on a passenger list , there is NOTHING else, anywhere . Please , can anyone help me. Kind regards :)
Discovery Centre 27 November, 2016 15:55
Hi Evelin, 

The Public Records Office Victoria is the state repository for public transport records generated in Victoria. PROV have published two guides on using their archives for family history research: PROVguide 62 – Public Transport – Railways and PROVguide 40: Railway Employment Records.

Please note that from these resources it does appear that they have not been fully digitised, so you may have to prepare yourself for the possibility that there may be no one singular online venue for you.

With regards to the passenger list entry you have found, we assume that this was through the National Archives of Australia. You may already be aware, but if you look towards the top right-hand corner of the item details screen for 'PAMP Heinz - Nationality: German - Arrived Melbourne per Anna Salen 30 March 1952', there is a 'Request copy' link. 

Click on this, and if you follow the prompts you can pay for the NAA to digitise and send to you copies of the file. 

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