The following publications, information and forms are provided to you as a guide to help you get started.  The MHP book ‘Every Story Count Recording Migration History’, was developed by the MHP specifically as a practical guide to your research.  Every Story Counts can be purchased by downloading the order form below.  In addition to Every Story Counts examples of a number of forms and two further publications are available for you to download to help you prepare to begin your research.


Every Story Counts Recording Migration Heritage
A Wollongong Case Study

Every Story Counts encourages the recording of experiences and local knowledge of post-Second World War migration and settlement.

Every Story Counts is not only for the people of the Illawarra but for all Australians; for clubs, historical societies, museums, family historians and for all people researching and caring for heritage places.

Every Story Counts is a great resource for teachers and students of history providing a thematic framework that can help identify and understand the relevance and significance of migration, including starting a conversation about their own family heritage and the heritage of others.

Every Story Counts has Wollongong stories and migrants featured as case studies to record people's stories and the places, objects and collections associated with those stories.  Not just another “how to” book these featured stories connect you to people who have lived this experienced giving a personal, new and first-hand perspective on Australian History.  Behind every 'ordinary house' is an extraordinary story and our photo albums and family mementos inside can hold the key to special community memories.

Every Story Counts can get you started on your story, your family's story, your community's story.

Every Story Counts winner of a Highly Commended Award at the 2016 National Trust Australia (NSW) Heritage Awards in the Education and Interpretation Category and nominated for the 2016 NSW Premier's History Awards.

Recording migration heritage, and in particular people’s memories of migration and settlement, provides first-hand perspectives on Australian history. Meredith Walker’s thematic framework provides a new and innovative approach to recording the migration experience. It gives voice to memories which would not be heard or shared and ones which are rarely documented formally. They are however, part of the kaleidoscope of stories that bring us together as a nation.

This book is for all people to encourage them to record their experiences and local knowledge of post-Second World War migration and settlement. It is also for clubs, historical societies and museums, and for all people researching and caring for heritage places to research, record and collect migration heritage. Wollongong stories and migrants are featured as case studies to record people's stories and the places, objects and collections associated with those stories.

The book is presented in themes to assist to interpret the relevance and significance of the information and more importantly to communicate the messages to a wider audience. This book is presented in two parts. Part one is the themes of migration and outlines the history of post-Second World War migration to Australia and settlement using eleven historical themes. Part two provides ten suggestions for recording your migration stories and tips for getting started.

Behind every 'ordinary house' is an extraordinary story and our photo albums and family mementos inside can hold the key to special community memories.



Recording and documenting history, whether your own or a community, takes many resources. To begin with, it is best if you have a computer, printer, scanner and digital camera. Current trends and practices are making collecting information almost totally electronic. Digital cameras allow the photographing of objects to occur instantaneously and the computer is an excellent storage facility of information that can be shared. Recording equipment, such as a microcassette recorder with dictaphone capability, is also a very useful item to have and is a much more efficient means to record interviews and provides a more accurate account of what was said. In addition to this equipment, consumable items such as paper for printing out copies of documents or photographs and external hard disk drives (or cloud storage) to store images and to back up your computer files are an ongoing cost, as is archival storage materials. All in all, it takes time and a little money to sustain a collection.

Before you start your project determine your approach and your collection policy. That is, what are you going to collect? Then survey what is currently held to ensure that you are not duplicating what has already been collected. Always start with the elderly first and always catalogue photographs, objects etc with names, dates etc because it is always harder to go back and get the information. Whether these items are to be donated or to be copied should be left up to the individual. Custodians of this information must be prepared to preserve it. Custodians have a moral obligation to protect images being abused by stereotypes, so access must be controlled. Forms therefore must be prepared for authorisation of use, copyright and access. Names and addresses of donors should not be revealed as this would allow people to go directly to the donors and the risk of misrepresenting the donors is very real. If you are an organisation, it should be essentially a community-based one to give your collection credibility and it should serve the community and schools on immigration and socialisation. Try to have a collaborative agreement with main stream repositories such as libraries or museums where copies can be deposited. These comments are drawn from personal experiences by organisations and individuals who are collecting and documenting migrant history.

Your Own Family History

Every Story Counts is a valuable reference and guide to assist you with your research. 

Tracing family history is a bit more difficult when it involves countries other than Britain, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  Each country has different collecting agencies that keep records of birth, deaths, marriages etc, not to mention changes to borders and countries which mean family records might found across more than one country, in Northern Italy some records may be found for your Italian ancestor in Austria and then there were changes on who and how records were to be kept during Napoleon's era.  Also taking Italy as an example again, the local "Town Hall" will have records, as do churches and other State agencies.  So to a certain extent you will need to know about the history of the country of your ancestors birth and world events that changed which country had control of that part of the world. Sometimes a simple a Google search on how to trace your family history in a particular country will provide information on who you need to contact to obtain overseas records or allow you to join forums and ask questions.  Sometimes wars and natural disasters result in records being destroyed, this is not limited to non-British records, as natural disasters and wars had a similar result on some of those records too.

To begin with, start with yourself listing your own date and place of birth, marriage, children and work back from there listing your mother and father's details and continue working back.  Ask your living relatives these questions.  Family Group Sheets are what you will need to use to compile this information.  In Australia you can obtain immigration and naturalisation records from the National Archives of Australia online.  If the record is open and a digital copy is available you will be able to view and save a copy, otherwise you will need to request a copy in which access will need to be given first and a small cost will need to be paid.  Some records are also available from the relevant state archives and depending on what date your ancestor migrated to Australia or requested naturalisation some state archives may hold these records too because the individual states were at one point responsible for immigration and naturalisation.

It is always good to obtain the actual records to support the information supplied to you from your family members as sometimes dates of events they give you may be not be entirely accurate.  This is the case of obtaining verbal information from your family to build the skeleton of your family history and the records provide the meat for the skeleton.  

Some digital ancestory platforms you see advertised on TV will allow you to search their databases many of which will include overseas countries, but once again you may be required to subscribe and pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee.  These types of ancestory platforms also provide forms, such as the family group form that was previously mentioned, to allow you to complete details about your family members and will automatically generate family trees or descendent trees once you input that information into their programme.  Some of the ancestory platforms already have family trees uploaded and made public for you to access and if you are lucky a lot of the work has been done for you.

Local Family History groups may be of assistance too and should be contacted to see what records they have and if they have any resources that could help you in your family history research.

Tracing your family history is a long and involving process and can take years to complete.  It can add up to be costly after you purchase subscriptions, pay for copies of records, write to overseas repositories, printing and scanning, but however long or costly it  is, it is worthwhile.  Good Luck and Happy Hunting. 


Documenting Migration History

This information was compiled from a workshop for multicultural communities at the National Library in Canberra in June 2004.  The workshop was organised in collaboration with the National Archives of Australia as part of the Library's Multicultural Documentary Heritage Project.  Collecting, preserving and conserving is what it is all about, and there are professional organisations and people who do this for a living, so what about the rest of us who are committed to preserving our history in our own communities, yet don't have the training or expertise.  This handout has been compiled to give you some background knowledge of what is required when you start your collection.  <Download>

Significance 2.0

Significance is a guide to help you assess the significance of the heritage objects and collections in your care.  It takes you through a simple significance assessment process that equips you to make sound judgements and good decisions about conserving, interpreting and managing objects and collections, now and into the future.  It is a guide to assessing the significance of cultural heritage objects and collections. <Download>


Permission to Use Form: This example allows you to develop a form to seek consent to use material gathered during your research from individuals or representatives from organisations who may provide you with their personal stories, documents and photographs.  <Download>

Object Description Form: When recording details about an object certain information should be recorded.  This form is an example of how a completed object description may look. <Download>

Personal Detail Description Form: When embarking on interviewing people about their personal history a good starting point is to complete a form that provides you with their personal details such as date of birth and other similar information.  This form provides an example of what information may need to be collected.  <Download>







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