Sunday, 30 March 2014



North Sydney Municipality is fortunate to have an almost complete set of Rate and Valuation books that have survived to the present day.  The collection starts in 1869 with the Rate Books of Victoria, St Leonards and East St Leonards. These were the three councils that amalgamated in 1890 to form the Municipality of North Sydney. The collection continues until 1930 when   cards replaced books to record North Sydney Council rates. Stanton Library has these cards scanned on microfilm up until 1971.

The Rate Books are mostly used these days by people researching the history of their homes but they can also be useful in researching the people who lived in them.  They will have the owner’s name and the occupant if the property was being rented, but not always the occupant. In some years, particularly later ones, only owners were listed although if the owner’s address was listed this indicated if they were living in the property.

If your ancestor was head of a household and living in North Sydney, the Rate books will tell you where they were living, how long they were living there and sometimes their occupation. Very often you can work out when they died when ownership changed. For example, ‘John Smith’ changes to the ‘Estate of John Smith’. The listed executors and executrixes are often other family members. Occasionally if your ancestor moved, and still owned the property, it would give the address they moved to.

 You can get similar info from the Sands directory but the problem with Sands is that it can be very inaccurate. Rate books are a much more reliable source of information. Also Sands is a record of occupancy not of ownership. You will occasionally get misspellings in Rate Books but the typos you find in Sands are more common.

The Electoral Roll is more accurate than Sands and is often better than Rate books in that it lists every person of voting age in a household but there are many years they don’t cover. Australian Federal Electoral Rolls start in 1903 and only were made every 3 years or so.

As with North Sydney most Rate Books in Australia are not viewable online. You must visit the local Municipal Council that has them for viewing. There are however a few exceptions to this such as the City of Sydney City Assessment Books 1845 to 1949 that are freely viewable online. They cover the City of Sydney and surrounding suburbs.  

The Assessment Books of the (now defunct) Municipality of Newtown 1863 to 1892 are also available online.
Also the City of Perth’s Rate Books have been scanned and made available on as ‘Perth, Western Australia, Australia, Rate Books, 1880-1946’
If there are others online, my searches didn’t find them. I think eventually, as scanning and memory costs decrease, every council will put their rate books online if only so that residents can research the history of their homes themselves.


Friday, 21 March 2014


Stanton Library provides free access to the Library Edition website for people visiting the library. There are also many free family history websites online, we all know, but not many people realise that the library has a quite a few crucial genealogy resources that are not on available on the internet. There are many things specific to the North Sydney Municipality as you would expect but there are a few other things that can only be viewed in the Heritage Centre of Stanton Library.

For example, if you were looking at the ‘Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980’ set of records on the website you might not realise that NSW electoral rolls from 1903 to 1930 are not included. For a genealogist these are the most crucial years of our country’s most populous state. We have the years 1903, 1906, 1908, 1909, 1913, 1915 and 1916 available here on microfiche at Stanton.

The Sands Post Office Directory 1858-1932 for Sydney is available on library edition but it only covers 10 years 1861, 1865, 1870, 1875, 1880, 1885, 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930. In some of those years the directory is not complete with either the street listing or alphabetical name listing having been left out. Stanton Library has an almost complete set of 71 of the 72 years on microfiche. Searching Sands electronically on does have it’s advantages of course. The Optical Character Recognition (OCR) feature that uses will scan thousands of pages for the name you are looking for in an instant but remember you are only searching 11 of 72 years. Also finding your search result can take a while as Ancestry doesn’t mark where it is located on the digitized page.

The NSW Telephone Directory 1889-1972 and the Sydney Telephone Directory 1973-1985 are also available on microfiche at Stanton. Of course it took a while before telephone ownership became as ubiquitous as it is today.  The earlier years have few entries. Initially it was the wealthy people and companies/organisations that had phones. Phone books would eventually take over as the best resource to find people and Post Office Directories disappeared. Sydney Sand’s Directory last year of publication was 1932. Tasmania’s Wise’s PO Directory ended in 1947. New Zealand’s Wise’s directory ended in 1955 (I guess it took them a while to ‘get the phone on’).

Today, with there being no phone directory for mobile phone numbers and with fewer people having land lines telephone books have fewer entries and are becoming less relevant. We are anticipating some problems ahead for the genealogical searches of the North Sydney Family History Group 100 years from now. But we're not panicking just yet.

Stanton Library has many historic local newspapers on microfilm and in bound book form that are not available on the internet. The Mosman Daily from 1920 to present and The North Shore Times from 1960 to 2003 are the main ones that are not yet on the ‘Trove’ website. Stanton Library has many local newspapers where only a few years have survived such as The North Shore and Manly Times (1886-87, 1899-1901, 1902-07), The Quiz (1904-1905), North Sydney (1901) to name a few.

The magical way that the National Library of Australia’s Trove website can reveal family stories with the entry of just a name and a few particulars is remarkable. There are a lot of pre 1955 local newspapers that are not yet on the website. There is a listing on the Trove website of newspapers waiting to be scanned which can be seen on their website. The Mosman Daily is not even on the list so it could take a while. We look forward to when every Australian newspaper is on the site.

Saturday, 8 March 2014


The family history research service of Stanton Library has well and truly started for 2014. Every Friday morning from 10am to 12pm in the North Sydney Heritage Centre we have 8 volunteer genealogy helpers who are ready to assist members of the public with their family history enquiries. The North Sydney Heritage Centre is located on the first floor of Stanton Library at 234 Miller Street North Sydney. We can give one on one help or just be there to assist people who would like to come in do it themselves and get occasional advice. Everyone is welcome.
The library is easily accessible by public transport. It's a 20 minute walk from North Sydney Station and right next to a major bus stop. There is only paid parking near the library on weekdays but often free parking can be found on Bent Street and around Forsyth Park in Neutral Bay which is about a 20 minute walk away from us.
The best thing about our service is that it’s free. We have free access to library edition for people who come into the library as well as free access to many other genealogy websites available on the internet. We can assist people who have no computer or internet skills or who are just beginning their genealogical journey all in a relaxed social atmosphere.  People can come in and use the library’s computers or bring in their own and use the library’s free wifi.
Although our expertise is predominantly on the records of English speaking countries we do have expertise in a range of European countries and languages in keeping with the multicultural backgrounds of many Australians. Most people who start their research find that looking for an ancestor in the records of a non-English speaking country is not as hard as they think. If none of us speak the language we can certainly guide people through this process using a few basic tools and principles.
For anyone planning to come to our  Genealogy Help Desk we ask that they ring the information desk of Stanton Library on 99368400 to tell us that they are coming. People can also email the information desk on for that purpose. It is quite okay for people to drop in but if they ring before they come it really helps us plan the day for everyone and ensures that the person coming in will have access to a computer and a volunteer to help them.
Please come and use our service. It is available for anyone who would like to use it.
“To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source a tree without a root” chinese proverb