Six Feet Down Under: A Response

As a researcher whose main interest areas include Australia (and being an Aussie myself), I would like to offer a response to the recent webinar and blog post by GeniAus regarding Australian burials. This instructive post provides an example of finding a burial using free online tools, and discusses alternative resources and methodologies.

In particular, I was inspired by the webinar in question, Six Feet Under Down Under, and Lois Willis’ follow-up blog post to put my own two cents in re finding burial locations in Australia. Jill discussed at a high level the current legislation regulating burials and cremation, and looked at current trends, practices and statistics for burials in Australia. She then ran through how to find burials and using online indexes. This post focuses on a response to the latter part of her webinar.

Resources for Australia

The idea of collating websites and resources for burials in Australia is not a new one. In conjunction with her webinar, Jill created a website "to fill the gap", but there are already resources which have a similar function. For example, the indispensable Cyndi’s List has a great collection of resources for cemeteries and funeral homes in Australia (among other countries). This includes several websites and resources not mentioned in Jill’s webinar, such as BillionGraves and Find A Grave. A particularly great resource is Lorraine Larment’s Oz Burials which has an awesome selection of headstone inscriptions and photographs, not to mention the Australian Cemeteries Index’s 2+ million headstone inscriptions and 500,000+ images.

The Process

The process of identifying the resting place of a deceased individual should be a very honed process. If time is taken to precisely identify the records we already have, then finding the burial location should come as a natural consequence of that process. Furthermore, death and/or funeral information can suggest or even outright state the burial location for the person in question.

Take the following example. A funeral notice was quickly identified on Trove using narrow search terms, and a subsequent search using Google yielded a database record held by the relevant authority. This method does not always provide a solution—and it should be acknowledged that genealogical research only starts with online resources! Remember that archives and private entities hold volumes more information in offline repositories. Sometimes even just sending off an email, making a call, or visiting a library can get you the results that seemed to be “missing” on the web. This is what makes genealogy such a varied and exciting hobby, if I do say so myself!

(In later blog posts, I will be sharing my experiences with accessing newspapers on microfilm at the State Library of Queensland and the Richmond Tweed Regional Library. So stay tuned!)

Finding Harriet’s Grave

I know from the “Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985” database on Ancestry that my 3rd great-aunt Harriet Ellen Andersen (nee Short, formerly Brown) died on 28 May 1940 in Queensland.1 A search on Trove reveals a funeral notice that includes the following:

…her funeral, which will leave St. John’s Church, Lake-street, at 12 o’clock NOON TO-DAY (WEDNESDAY), en route for the Cairns Cemetery, Martyn-street.2

From a simple search, I have gleaned precise details about her funeral and where she was buried. A subsequent Google search for the Cairns Martyn Street Cemetery brings up the Cairns Regional Council’s Cemetery Search database where I enter the known details for Harriet. I am provided with a great database entry, which includes the option to view her grave location on a map.3 Further investigation also reveals a Find A Grave memorial for Harriet, including an image of her unmarked grave.4

Conclusion

In conclusion, I hope that this post has demonstrated the power of simple search engine manipulation. Combined with knowledge of what records are available, finding burial locations in Australia can result in success. While genealogical records are increasingly available online, it should not be forgotten that many are still housed offline. If we are to do a reasonably exhaustive search, those records should still be identified and viewed by the researcher. Good luck!

References

  1. “Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985,” database, Ancestry (http://ancestry.com.au : accessed 10 February 2019), entry for Harriet Ellen Andersen, died 28 May 1940, reg. no. 001580/1940, p. 34. ↩︎

  2. “Funeral Notice,” Cairns (Queensland) Post, 29 May 1940, p. 6, col. 3; image copy, Trove (http://trove.nla.gov.au : accessed 10 February 2019), Digitised Newspapers Collection. ↩︎

  3. “Cemetery Search,” database, Cairns Regional Council (https://www.cairns.qld.gov.au/facilities-sport-leisure/cemeteries/search : accessed 10 February 2019), entry for Harriet Ellen Andersen, buried 29 May 1940, Martyn Street Cemetery, Section MES, Row Q3, Site 3880. ↩︎

  4. Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://findagrave.com : accessed 10 February 2019), memorial 182714681, Harriet Ellen (Short) Andersen (1890-1940), Cairns Cemetery (Cairns, Queensland, Australia); unmarked burial plot photograph by Tara Barnwell (48708827). ↩︎