Monday, 5 October 2015

Buried in the vaults

An elegant old building stands at 120 Kent Street, very close to Barangaroo. It houses a vault with genealogical gems that capture the early history of Sydney's major cemeteries: Camperdown, Macquarie Park, Rookwood, Waverley and South Head.

Part of Ben Hall's headstone
This history is cared for by the Society of Australian Genealogists, and its membership is open to everyone with a research interest in local and family history across New South Wales as well as Sydney's 19th century architecture.

Some of that architecture is immortalised in the design of memorials and headstones which reach for permanence.
Nambucca Heads Cemetery

There are also maps of New South Wales cemeteries and visites-de-carte supporting the life stories, tragedies in death, and moving tributes to Australians who migrated from many countries around the world captured in photographs. The range of stories is extraordinary - from Ben Hall the bushranger to Eliza Donnithorne, believed to have inspired Miss Haversham in Dickens' Great Expectations.

The Society has a long track record of service to historians and genealogists. While the stories of the cemeteries and their inhabitants are available by visiting either 120 or 379 Kent Street, a digitisation fund-raising project was recently launched to unlock the photographs of headstones and other unique content from the vault.

The record of existence of many people, once acknowledged in the now crumbling headstones and memorial vaults, will be brought back to life. It just needs your support.