Book Review: See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt



See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Cold. Creepy. Claustrophobic. I have just finished reading a book that perhaps I would not normally have picked up.  You may have heard of it. As a debut novel it has amazing buzz and promotion from the book industry.  See What I have Done by Sarah Schmidt.

In one way,  I may have picked it up because I enjoy reading memoirs, biographies and true stories and this aligns, but it was at the end of the day, because, I know the author, a work colleague, that I wanted to read this book.   After ten years she is now published locally and internationally by a mainstream publisher.

This fictionalised account of the real- life Borden Murders that took place in Fall River, Massachusetts, 1892,  takes the reader into the heads of this dysfunctional family and associates, cleverly weaving back stories of the key living characters in this heartless joyless house. We know from page one, a murder has been committed.

“He was still bleeding. I yelled. “Someone’s killed Father”. I breathed in kerosene air, licked the thickness from my teeth.  The clock on the mantel ticked ticked.  I looked at Father, the way hands clutched to thighs, the way the little gold ring on his finger sat like a sun.  I gave him that ring for his birthday when I no longer wanted it..”

The setting and time period has been well researched but it is Sarah’s skill as a writer in voicing the key characters in all its detail:

“I looked at him, saw the beginnings of a grin, saw a little gap between his front teeth.  He struck out his hand and I grabbed it, gave a handshake.  His skin was elderly-soft, someone who never had to use their hands for work.  There was blood on my thumb, on my wrist, and when we finished shaking hands, there was blood on his too.

..that makes you pay attention to this book…

The murders became international news almost immediately, with many articles to be found via the digitized newspapers via Trove.


The Age, August 15, 1892


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Shire of Alexandra Civic Leaders history

A new book has been launched this month on the 150th anniversary of the Shire of Alexandra, about 90 kms north east of Melbourne, which was proclaimed on September 3, 1869.

The e-book which can be downloaded from the Murrundindi Shire Website features a biography of each civic leader from 1869 through to 1993, many are well detailed and include a photograph.

The project is described as follows: “This is a living document produced as a community project in conjunction with the Sesqui-Centenary of the township of Alexandra, around which the old Shire of Alexandra was centred. Corrections and additions will be gratefully received and will be included in future updates to this electronic eBook.”

Congratulations on all those people involved in this project which should be of great interest to local historians, family history researchers and the wider Murrundindi Shire Community.


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Breaking Down Brick Walls – Aspects of Irish Family History

picture1I am pleased to be invited to speak to the Ballarat & District Genealogical Society for the Irish Ancestry Group on “Aspects of Irish Family History” this Saturday 9 October and am looking forward to travelling up for the day.

My presentation on breaking down brick walls will include reference to the following online resources:

Geneabloggers (A resource for blogging, telling and sharing family stories)

Trove (for research in Australia before your Ireland research)

Irish Anzacs Database

Irish Census Indexes and records (links)

Census Finder (links)

Ireland Census Search (FamilySearch)

National Archives of Ireland

Cyndislist (Gateway to genealogy websites on the internet)

Coraweb (Australian gateway to genealogy websites on the internet)

Family Search Wiki

Family Search

A Primer in Irish Genealogy

Irish Genealogy Toolkit

Genealogy Links

70 resources finding Irish ancestors

Irish Famine Memorial

Ireland Gen Web

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

From Ireland

Find My Past full list of Irish Family History Records

British Newspapers Archive (Subscription website)

Ask about Ireland (Public Libraries directory)

Earl Grey’s Famine Orphans

Clare-Australasia Emigrants Dataset


A visit to Ballarat also avails the opportunity to visit the  The MADE Museum new exhibition: The Roses from the heart Memorial.  A memorial to female convicts exiled to Australia.  This has been an ongoing project since 2003 to create bonnets to remember the lives of over 26,500 women.  This exhibition should be of interest to many family history researchers and crafters who may or may not have convicts in their ancestry.



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Pandora Archive


I have recently granted the The National Library of Australia a copyright licence to include this blog in the PANDORA Archive. This licence permitted the Library to copy my publication into the Archive and to retain that copy and provide online public access to it in perpetuity.

Access to publications in the Archive is facilitated in two ways: via the Library’s online catalogue; and via subject and title lists maintained on the PANDORA home page. I believe that a number of Australian family history websites and blogs have been recently added.

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Westminster’s Diary of a Victorian Clerk


Nathaniel Bryceson’s diary is back online.

I visited Westminster Libraries and Archives in London in early 2013 as part of my Margery C. Ramsay Scholarship project. I was privileged to view the original diary of Nathaniel Bryceson which archives staff blogged on the corresponding dates in 2010. They also illustrated the posts with images from their collection. The blog was, for a time, in a consolidated form and accessible on the Westminster website but then it disappeared.

This year, on the 170th anniversary of the Diary – that of a young man- nineteen years old written in 1846, new life has been breathed into it this project.

Westminster’s blog Books and the City announced on January 1st that the diary will once again be blogged on the corresponding dates of the diary (this time I note on a separate WordPress platform – previously it was part of the Westminster website) in addition to also being accessible via a podcast and Nathaniel is now also on Twitter.

For a long time this manuscript sat on the shelves as part of the Archives collection. Transcribing it, researching, placing it online has enabled this unique item to reach a new audience and also attract attention to the collections of Westminster Libraries and Archives.  Historical diaries translate well online via a blogging format. Other examples include The Diary of Arthur L. Linfoot set during World War One and the Diary of Samuel Pepys . Many original diaries have also been digitised and placed online.  I would love to hear of Australian examples and any efforts public libraries may be doing in this regard.


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Menus, Maps and Manuscripts: story telling via content creation

The wedding party of Ben Owen and Jessie Cumming is photographed on the steps of the caretaker's cottage, Toorourrong Reservoir. 1893 City of Whitttleesea (Preserving the Past Collection - Yarra Plenty Regional Library

The wedding party of Ben Owen and Jessie Cumming is photographed on the steps of the caretaker’s cottage, Toorourrong Reservoir. 1893 (City of Whitttleesea Preserving the Past Collection – Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

I was delighted to be invited to speak at the upcoming annual Association of Eastern Historical Societies Conference on Saturday 27 June 2015 at the Karralyka Centre Ringwood. My presentation: Menus, Maps and Manuscripts: story telling via content creation discusses the following websites:

Life and Loves of a Victorian Clerk

Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Cholera and Thames

West End at War

What’s on the menu?

Lincoln Collection

Picture Norfolk


Flickr State Library of Victoria

Guildhall Library Great Plague 1665

Alistair Knox

John F Kennedy Presidential Library – Hemingway’s scrapbooks

Australia’s community heritage


Community Heritage

Anzac Live

Lives of the First World War


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Alexander Henderson Award

The Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies (AIGS) presents two prestigious Awards annually for people who have published their family history. The Alexander Henderson Award is for ‘the best Australian Family History’ and the Don Grant Award is for ‘the best Australian historical biography with a family history focus’ submitted for the awards in that year.
More information about the criteria for the judging of the Awards and an entry form, is available via AIGS website.
Entries close for the 2014 Awards on 30 November 2014.

Please consider donating a copy of your family history research with the local public library where your family settled.

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