Charlie Farrugia Senior Collections Advisor at Public Record Office Victoria is our guest blogger for March 2015. He updates us on the range of records now digitised, indexed and available on their website. Have you looked at the online records available at Public Record Office Victoria recently? Public Record Office Victoria has been improving access to a number of frequently used, complex or damaged records for a number of years now. Taking advantage of the internet and digitisation, strategic partnerships with groups such as FamilySearch and drawing on the skills of our (2014 Melbourne Awards) award winning volunteer program, we have managed to digitise, index and publish on our website a considerable quantity of records. We have made the wills, probate and administration files in our collection up to the year 1925 available on our website and are now working on increasing this by a further 12 years. We’re also working on doing the same for the inquest files for the same period.
During 2014, we also completed the task of providing digitised access to Victorian Public Record Series (VPRS) 4527 Children’s Registers (also known as Ward Registers) dating from 1864 to the 1890s. Also completed during 2014 was the digitisation of VPRS 515, the Central Register of Male Prisoners up to 75 years ago. These volumes date from 1850 and initially recorded the details of prisoners received at Melbourne area prisons, including the Collingwood, Carlton and Williamstown stockades, the Eastern Gaol, the Prison Hulks and Pentridge. From around 1860 it appears to document any prisoner who passed through Pentridge even if on their way to another prison in the system. Entries for individual prisoners record identification information, details of the offences and sentences that landed them behind bars and major events that may have occurred whilst incarcerated. Many of these histories contain a photograph of the prisoner, and for those who were frequent or long term visitors, multiple images.
Entry for Edward (Ned) Kelly in VPRS 515/P1 Central Register of Male Prisoners, Unit 17, Prisoner Number 10926 (Public Record Office Victoria). Click to enlarge.
The indexing and digitisation of this series is a major achievement, given that this was arguably the single most damaged series in our entire collection. A number of these volumes were so severely water damaged that when I first joined PROV, nobody was able to use them for fear of inflicting further damage. The volumes have since been painstakingly treated to the point where they could be digitised. Our volunteers have name indexed each of the digitised volumes. As a result, finding and viewing specific histories in VPRS 515 is a relatively simple task. A PROVguide has been written that takes you step by step through the process: http://prov.vic.gov.au/howtoguide-58.
If you want more information about our digitisation activities, including links identifying which projects have been completed and which are currently underway, please visit our Digitisation Program page. Finally, for information about our major WW1 commemorative project, Battle To Farm, a research tool that, when completed, will incorporate digitised images of records pertaining to that war’s Discharged Soldier Settlement Scheme go to: http://prov.vic.gov.au/publications/provenance/provenance2014/battle-to-farm
Charlie Farrugia, Senior Collections Advisor, Public Record Office Victoria