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Author: Claire Moore
A researcher and writer currently completing the 2018 'Finish Your Book' course with Hazel Edwards at the Victorian Archives Centre.
One of the advantages of researching at the Victorian Archives Centre is that you can access both state and national public records, from Public Record Office Victoria and the National Archives of Australia, in the one building - so I've learnt with a recent archives tour and monthly visits as part of my writing class.
Touring the archives
We started at the huge lift at the end of the reading room, the public order items, both small and huge, all are transported from storage below for viewing. Air lock doors, guards and records. Tall rows of shelving stand erect holding leather bound books for councils and the State Government.
The original map of Victoria land selection reclines on a shelf at head level behind a custom made long, dark wooden box. It has amazing wooden joinery at the corners and a smooth appearance. Not a nail anywhere. Denotes craftmanship.
In the reading room itself, computer access is made easier by efficient and compassionate staff, especially for people like me, slightly dyslexic and completely dyspraxic when it comes to digital literacy. They rescue me when I'm stuck. All staff are very knowledgeable making any research at the archives easy. Through the help of staff I was able to access the National Archives' military records of my Great Uncle Jack Anderson during his service in England and France in the First World War.
Jack Anderson enlisted on 29/9/1915 aged 28.
I was surprised to learn he was in an artillery regiment. A further surprise was the fact he owned and worked a farm in Gippsland before 1915. Family myth claimed that he was a soldier settler farmer in Drouin. Horses or men generally pulled the huge guns during World War One. It was natural for a farmer familiar with horses and machinery, to join an artillery regiment.
When enlisting in 1915 he gave his mother in law's address in Essendon where his wife and child were staying. Only to scratch out this on his army records in favour of his farm address - he was a farmer at Rossville, Tarago and Gippsland both before and after the war.
He designated 3/5ths of his pay to his wife Phoebe.
Jack served in both England and France and received the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914-1918 Star Medal.
He was first wounded in the hand. His second wound, gunshot wounds to jaw and chest, the page describing these injuries are blanked out. He received medical discharge 23/3/1919.
Jack died in July 1930 from lung cancer. His will, I accessed from Public Record Office Victoria, said:
"...To my darling wife Phoebe I hereby leave all my possessions.
O my Darling beloved Phyllis I can only leave my love and adoration for the wonderful good child she had been to her parents. I know they will love and cherish each others company."
Discovering these, among other records from both Public Record Office and National Archive collections has helped me form a greater understanding of my Great Uncle Jack.