A young girl in Scottish costume in front of Garvoc State School c.1935.
Source: Museum Victoria
Question: I live in a rural Victorian region. How can I find out more about migration history in my region?
Answer: Migration is a historical theme common to all Victorian regions. Immediately after the founding of Melbourne in 1835, and particularly after the discovery of gold in 1851, migrants began to settle in all parts of Victoria. In the decade between 1846 and 1855, the Victorian population grew from 32,879 to 347,305. Less than 30% settled in Melbourne.
At the same time as beginning new lives for themselves, Victorian migrants were also contributing to the development of the state of Victoria as a whole by establishing farms and businesses, starting schools and founding community organisations. The rich historical traces left by the early migrants to Victoria can be explored using a range of resources.
At a broad level, sources such as Museum Victoria’s ‘Origins’ web site, James Jupp’s The Australian People and the SBS World Guide provide useful overviews of community histories, including settlement patterns in regional Victoria.
Official government records such as wills, inquests, education records, immigration records, land titles, and court proceedings are accessible through the Public Records Office of Victoria or on-line through the Department of Justice web site. The Australian Bureau of Statistics can provide profiles of populations by place of birth (or parents’ birth) over time.
You can also discover more about local places through maps, plans, correspondence, and photographs pertinent to your region. Many of these are available at the State Library of Victoria, which holds an important genealogy collection. The National Archives of Australia holds extensive migration-related information, such as individual applications to migrate and war records.
Another way to explore local or regional history is through your local historical society. These organisations may hold resources such as personal histories of families from the region, histories and documentation about local buildings, and oral testimonies from current and former residents. Some towns may have heritage museums that display objects and memorabilia related to local history. It may also be possible to access old local newspapers and locally-produced history books through library services.
Historical traces of migrant history in particular regions can also be seen in more physical expressions such as the mining landscapes and streetscapes of goldfields regions, the farming methods or crops in certain regions, and the naming of towns, streets and monuments, as well as local companies and shops. In particular, streetscapes, local building and food and wine businesses offer more tangible expressions by which present day residents can imagine and consider the stories and histories of their region.