WHEN the executor of a Dutchwoman’s will tried to trace her Australian half-brother to Wodonga the National Archives of Australia drew a blank.
Undeterred, the Dutch executor turned to Wodonga Family History Society.
In 2016 the society’s research officer Harry Leggatt traced the 91-year-old half-brother, who had settled in Australia via Bonegilla, to Mount Dandenong as well as another living relative to Yackandandah.
Wodonga Family History Society secretary Wendy Cooksey says it’s one of many examples of how good research can benefit families.
She recalls the case well because the executor was more than happy to pay them generously for their time.
“She wrote: ‘If this research costs more than 500 euros ($785 AUD) can you please inform us’,” she says.
“We charged them the flat $20 fee (now $25) because we’re not out to make money!”
Founded 31 years ago, the not-for-profit Wodonga Family History Society has about 100 members.
The society’s librarian, Lyn Larkin, says the research rooms at Wodonga Library offer members a wealth of information from births, deaths and marriages to early election rolls and shipping records.
She says they are now indexing the Wodonga Night Soil records from 1902.
“It’s the Cleansing Register but, in reality, it’s a list of the residents who lived in Wodonga in 1902, their occupations and their addresses,” she says.
“These types of local records aren’t accessible anywhere else.
“Because the Census records get destroyed in Australia, we have to rely on lists like these and rates and eligible voter registries for our research.”
Ms Larkin says while the society guides members, it encourages them to trace their own histories.
“The aim is to give people the basics they need,” she says.
“They can do the initial research with us, then go on the internet and elsewhere to look further.”
The society hosts two writing competitions to encourage people to map their family histories in a structured way.
The Townsend Trophy is offered every two years in memory of the late Gwen Townsend, who was one of the first members of the society. It is due to run in 2019.
The Wayne Bedella Award is an annual competition held in three sections: novice, intermediate and open. Entries must be received by the end of May.
Wodonga Family History Society will host a display in the Albury Library Museum during July ahead of Family History Month during August.
Its research rooms at Wodonga Library open to members Tuesday and Wednesday 11am to 3pm and Thursday 1.30pm to 4.30pm.
The society meets at Felltimber Community Centre on the third Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm. Its next monthly meeting is on March 20. It hosts new members meetings regularly too.