Sport is a huge part of community life and sporting club records can provide another dimension to your family history. They can help to locate a person in a place, at a particular time and give a richer sense of a life through their interests, activities and connections with their community. The Library’s broad collection includes club magazines, histories and photographs. Here are a few examples of what you can find in our collection.

Tennis courts are a feature of many towns and localities and club histories record the growth of the club and the many people involved over the years.

group portrait of men and women dressed in tennis attire of the early 1900's - long skirts for the women, long trousers for the men.
[Mixed tennis party at the Richmond Catholic Club, 9, The Vaucluse, Richmond], photograph by Allan Studio, ca.1915; H2001.2

Rifle clubs were another source of sporting and social engagement and here we see the unlikely combination of the Rifles and the Wangaratta Ladies Hockey Club after a happy day in the field.

group photograph of men in uniform belonging to the rifle club and women, hockey sticks in the foreground and a dog standing to the right - partly obscured
Rifles and Wangaratta Ladies Hockey Club, 1908; H2017.94/11

Staying in the north east, the mountains were also a source of club activities as ski clubs were established and structures built. The Ski Club of Victoria was founded in 1924, and the Wangaratta Ski Club in 1930.

group photograph of skiers standing and kneeling in the snow, a sunny date, with receding mountains in the background. Some wearing shirtsleeves, and one man in shorts
Members of the Wangaratta Ski Club, Mt. Feathertop by Gerard Wardell, 1937-1938; H2009.38/16

The Melbourne Amateur Touring and Walking Club was formed in 1894, and the Library holds their journal, The Melbourne walker along with guides and maps. The Melbourne Women’s Walking Club is also represented in our collections, and a collection of images and maps from the Federation of Victorian Walking Clubs.

Photograph of group of walkers on a track through tall trees
The climb out of Big River [Vic.]. Federation of Victorian Walking Clubs, 1935; H2002.51/14

Lawn bowls was and is a widely practised sport. We hold histories of a range of Victorian clubs including the Creswick Bowling Club, Auburn Bowling Club and the Queenscliff Bowling and Tennis Club.

group photograph of men members of the bowling club in front of the club building, a large roller on the right hand side of the picture
Alexandra & Healsville [i.e. Healesville] Bowling Clubs, [Vic.] by Lindsay G. Cumming, [ca. 1910-ca. 1925]; H2011.136/48

Intercolonial bowling matches were a regular fixture across many sports – the first bowls match was played in 1880, the writer noting that with over 50,000 bowlers in the Commonwealth, per capita bowling had one of the highest levels of participation in the world.

Picture of a large group of men bowlers standing,a few seated and one reclining in front of a marquee tent,  with a building to the right, with trees beyond, and a clump of pampas grass. There are some bowling balls scattered on the green in front of them
Intercolonial Bowling Match, West Melbourne Green, by C. Nettleton, 1883; H6302

This photograph of the Eaglehawk Croquet Club has some members of the McWilliam family identified in it. Part of the Tatnall family collection of photographs, it includes sporting teams, portraits and aspects of Victorian life in the early 20th century.

photograph of a large group of mostly women, and some men., The women dressed mostly in white, with large hats. a string flying flags suns across the middle of the photo, a croquet hoop in the foreground
Eaglehawk Croquet Club by A.Levy, ca.1910-1915; H2015.118/3

Cycling clubs ran large events and races as well as social gatherings – a key component of many of the sports we have covered here. Australian cyclist is available online (1893-1905) and club histories provide a local context.

a cycling club outing, with horse drawn vehicles, bicycles and club banners
[Group of men and women with cycling club], [ca. 1900]; H2008.35/4

Golf clubs contributed to the social fabric through courses private and public. Their histories include the contributions made by their members.

Photograph of the club rooms a grand double story building with gables rooves, people sitting on timber benches in the foreground
Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Ladies Day [Club House, Sandringham], 1909; H2011.73/1

Rowing is well covered in the Library collections – through club histories – and of the sport more generally. An early activity in Victoria, the Oarsman includes a register of names from 1857, and there are histories of rowing in Ballarat on Lake Wendouree.

Four young women, full face, two seated with two standing behind them. Subjects, from Bendigo Ladies' Rowing Club are: J. Hesse, N. Oldfield, T. Walker, J Weibgen. All wearing white short sleeved blouses, three with sailor style collars, one with kerchief, and wide brimmed hats. Two women have an insignia on the breast pocket of their blouses PLC with crossed oars.
Studio portrait of four female members of a rowing club, photograph by Vincent Kelly Studio, ca. 1917-1932; H2017.74/41

Or, maybe you had a gymnast in the family? The Ebenzer Gymnastics Club, based in Collingwood travelled around the state, displaying their physical skills and prowess, spectacularly illustrated by this formation.

men and boys creating a human mountain, perched and supporting each other in formation. wearing white trousers and singlets or vests.
[Large suspension formation by members of the Ebenezer Gym Club], ca.1923; H98.227/26

Trove’s digitised newspaper website is another invaluable source of sporting information, as club results were published in regional and local papers and achievements celebrated.

image of an article in the Benalla standard newspaper on a tennis match played in Glenrowan between the Glenrowan and Lurg teams
Tennis. Benalla Standard, 28 September 1909, Page 3.

If you don’t know if your relative played a sport you can try searching Trove by their name and where they lived, and adding in ‘sport’ or ‘results’ to pick up sports pages or sections. Or, you can search by the sport, and the locality, then narrow your results using the filters on the right of the screen.

Screenshot of searching Trove's newspapers and Gazettes with the keywords McEwen glenrowan and sport.
Screenshot of Trove search results

Once you know the name of your ancestor’s sport or sporting club, try searching our catalogue to see what you can find. This could lead to you writing the history of a sporting club too!

More to explore

Researching your Victorian ancestors – research guide to a wide range of sources helpful for family history research.
Discover your sporting ancestors : it was not all work and no play! – tips on sporting resources for looking for sports in your family history.
Australian rules football – research guide.
How many games did you play again? – blog post – tips on tracking a football players career.
How to find items in newspapers
Australian sport history clearinghouse – guide to sports history – information and archives.
Sporting ancestors : tracing your family’s athletic past – for some research tips from further afield – and an article based on the book – Some Yorkshire sporting heroes.

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  1. Merci beaucoup! Glad you enjoyed the post!

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