Yesterday I went to the launch of the Biographical Database of Australia at History House in Macquarie Street. The BDA won't be online for a couple more weeks but when it is it seems set to be a very valuable tool in researching people who lived in Australia. Don't go looking for it yet, but once it does go live I will make the URL known.
The BDA is the brainchild of Keith Johnson and Malcolm Sainty and will include tens of thousands of records of people who were born in Australia, or born overseas and came to Australia. They include not only records of Europeans, but also Aboriginal Australians, Chinese immigrants and so on. The only restriction is that the subject must be deceased.
The "unique selling point" will be its ability to link different references to an individual together, despite name changes, errors when recorded or so on. To give a couple of brief examples, one of my ancestors arrived in 1820 as a convict under the name James Ansley. By the time he died the family name had morphed into Annesley (perhaps to sound more like the aristocratic Irish family of that name). He appears as James Ansell in one of the musters, and at various other times he has appeared under the name Anslow, and another as Annerley. Another convict ancestor, Elizabeth Boardman, appears under the name Broadman in one of the musters. It is the aim of the BDA to link these people together and identify them as the same person. Input from subscribers will be welcomed to achieve this, as well as work by historians and other genealogists.
The number of datasets included in the BDA will increase over time, but at the initial launch it will include information from all the early musters and censuses, records of the NSW Corps, church records up to about 1833, convict records and much more.
Searches will be free, but to view the full list of references to an individual (called their Biographical Report) an annual subscription will be required. As the BDA is a not-for-profit organisation, subscriptions will come at the very reasonable price of $25 p.a.