As a proud Victorian, Easter always makes me think of the annual Stawell Gift, Australia's pre-eminent foot race since 1878. That in turn makes me think of my pioneering Barnes family who were among Stawell's founding fathers. My 3xgreat grandfather arrived in Australia during the goldrush in the 1850s. His eldest son followed him a year or so later but it was 12 years before the rest of his large family finally joined him in Stawell from Lancashire.
Last year I had one of those lucky finds when searching Google for a photo of my great great grandfather Albert Henry Barnes and came across a reference to him in a Victorian heritage document. On reading the document I discovered that he built the grandstand at Central Park, home of the Stawell Gift.
The report said Albert Henry charged £573 and built the grandstand in less than three months so it could be ready for the 1899 Stawell Gift which had moved to Central Park the previous year when he had also erected a fence and installed seats in the park. The report included a recent photo of the grandstand which is well maintained, still in use and listed on the Victorian State Heritage Register due to it being a rare example of its type.
I had visited Stawell several times previously for family history research purposes and had driven past the grandstand numerous times never knowing the family connection. So on my recent family history trawl around Victoria, I visited Stawell again and took my own photos of the grandstand and other buildings my great great grandfather and his father constructed in their capacity as "well known builders of Main Street".
I'll talk more about using heritage documents in family history research in future Blog posts but in the meantime did you have any ancestors in the building and construction business? If yes, perhaps you would like to share some of your research success or ask me a question in the Comments area below.
In the meantime, I hope you have a safe and happy Easter.
Your Family Genealogist
Photo : from my own collection