Australia - National

Australia - National

Case study: researching the notorious Mary Ann Bugg

When Carol Baxter began researching Captain Thunderbolt’s lover, Mary Ann Bugg, for her book Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady, historians told her that she wouldn’t have a hope of discovering the full details about Mary Ann’s parents, siblings, partners or children. Mary Ann Bugg – they said – was part-Aboriginal so she had slipped through the cracks. For a professional genealogist, that was a red rag to a bull! With money, persistence and sheer luck, Carol was able to break through these previously impenetrable research barriers.


Bearing arms for the King: tracing British military ancestors

Carol Baxter is the descendant of a First Fleet marine who later joined the NSW Corps, and of a British soldier who was taken prisoner during the American War of Independence, and has spent a considerable amount of time researching these ancestors. She has also examined military records in depth in her role as General Editor of the Biographical Database of Australia. This seminar will provide an overview of military records available in Britain and Australia and guide you towards the sources you can readily access.  

- 45/60 minutes – Powerpoint presentation


Polled! Australian muster and census returns

Carol Baxter has an unparalleled knowledge of the NSW Colonial Muster and Census returns, having edited all the surviving General Musters from 1800 to 1825, examined smaller returns for the same period, and processed the raw data of the 1828 NSW Census/Household Returns and 1837 Convict Return. This seminar explains how to best use colonial muster and census returns, including later returns such as the 1841 and 1891 Australian Census returns, taking into consideration their many faults and foibles.

- 45/60 minutes – Powerpoint presentation


Land ahoy! Tracing ancestors who arrived by sea

Four groups of people sailed to Australia in the colonial years: convicts, passengers, sailors and soldiers. Through her job with the ABGR and BDA Projects, Carol Baxter edited or processed records relating to all four groups of individuals. She edited the CD-ROMs Convicts to NSW 1788-1812 and the Free Passengers to NSW 1826-1837, the latter including records relating to ship’s crew members, as well as earlier and later sources of similar records.


Nicked! Tracing criminals and their crimes in Britain and Australia

Carol Baxter not only has convict ancestors of her own, she researches and writes about criminals in her popular histories – which fall within the sub-genre “true historical crime”. In fact, two of her books were long-listed for the Davitt Award for women crime writers. She edited the CD-ROM Convicts to NSW 1787 to 1812 (Society of Australian Genealogists, 2002) – a transcription and compilation of all the convict transportation records for that period – and, while General Editor for the Biographical Database of Australia, edited similar records for later years.


The murder that kick-started the communication revolution

In 1845, ex-Australian convict, John Tawell, made history as the first murderer caught using the electric telegraph. This amazing technology, recently nicknamed ‘the Victorian internet’ was struggling to find community support and financial backing – until Tawell was caught by the wires. This talk tells the story of the Jekyll-and-Hyde character at the heart of this sensational story.  

- 30/60 minutes – no equipment necessary but Powerpoint slides are available


The Thunderbolt conspiracy

In December 2009, the Sun Herald devoted a full page to claims that, according to new research, the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt did not die in 1870 but instead escaped to America. According to these researchers, the police had shot the wrong man and, fearful of the consequences if the news broke that Thunderbolt was still alive, they implemented a cover up. This conspiracy of silence supposedly continues even today and reaches as high as the Governor of New South Wales. Their claims were raised in Parliament in March 2010 and were reported in newspapers as far away as Britain.


Bail Up! The story of Australia’s most successful bushranger

In 1863, colonial-born horsebreaker Frederick Ward and a fellow prisoner escaped from the Cockatoo Island penal establishment in Sydney Harbour, the only successful escapees from this barbaric prison. On the run from the authorities, he became the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt and roamed in northern NSW from 1863 until his dramatic denouement in 1870.

- 30/60 minutes – no equipment necessary but Powerpoint slides are available


Australia’s greatest bank robbery

In 1828, thieves tunnelled through a sewerage drain into the vault of the Bank of Australia and stole the equivalent, in today’s terms, of nearly $20 million, making it the largest bank robbery in Australian history. The crime, in a penal settlement of all places, nearly broke the bank. This talk tells the story of this astonishing robbery; it also provides insights into colonial times and reveals parallels with society today.

- 30/60 minutes – no equipment necessary but Powerpoint slides are available


Free at last! Records of Pardons, Certificates of Freedom and Tickets of Leave.

Records relating to freedom are an important source of information about convicts. In fact, they are often the only means of determining whether a certain person was your ancestor or not. This seminar covers the types of records that have survived, their purpose, contents and location. 

– 45/60 minutes – Powerpoint presentation


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