This afternoon, attendees at the Family History Feast, had the great pleasure of hearing Professor Geoffery Blainey deliver the 2010 Don Grant lecture on the topic of Victoria in the 19th Century : everyday life and family history.

Professor Blainey began the presentation (after a tribute to the great Don Grant) by speaking about his own family. He stated that growing up, he knew very little about his ancestors. Professor Blainey suggested that this was a common experience for many Australians, which is why the study of family history is so important in Australia.

Blainey talked about the 1850s as the great decade of migration to Victoria, influenced by the discovery of gold. The port most passengers departed from was Liverpool and the Liverpool – Victoria route often had the fastest ships, due to there being many passengers willing to pay for the quickest voyage possible. A great fear, Blainey suggested was that they would arrive too late to discover any gold!

For those who decided to return to Britain (usually the lucky ones that discovered gold), the return voyage took a different route (via Cape Horn) which was a very different type of experience, often very cold, with iceberg sightings.

Blainey also talked about the influences of emigration from Victoria during the late 19th Century. Victoria was hit hard by bank crashes and drought in the 1890s – early 1900s, which caused many Victorians to depart. Between the years 1891 – 1906, more people left Victoria than had arrived in the preceding 30 years. A number of Victorians left for South Africa, Western Australia, North Queensland and New Zealand.

Blainey spoke of religion as being an important social institution in Australia during this time, perhaps even more so than in the British Isles. As late as the 1930s, Blainey stated that a high proportion of marriages were still between people of the same religion.

Professor Blainey also briefly mentioned the influence the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union had in reducing the number of hotels in Victoria (the number of hotel licences were halved between 1890 -1920).

Professor Blainey concluded by encouraging genealogists to write up their family history for the benefit of subsequent generations. He suggested also including social and economic factors in these histories – to enrich the knowledge of future generations.

For those of you who missed Professor Blainey’s presentation, don’t despair! The lecture is now available as a vidcast on the Audio & video section of our website. Podcasts of the other Family History Feast presentations are also available.

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  1. Pingback: Index to passengers leaving Victoria extended to 1901 « Family Matters | State Library of Victoria

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