The Australian Joint Copying Project is a joint public archives venture, ‘a partnership between the National Library of Australia, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the United Kingdom’.

It began in 1948, identifying, describing, and copying records relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, held in hundreds of institutions, organisations, and homes throughout the United Kingdom.

Over the next 49 years the Project filmed 8 million records (10,419 microfilm reels), dating from 1560 to 1984.

However, even with the help and guidance of the Project’s 11 paper handbooks, 500 individual finding aids, and 10,000 pages of description, up to now I’ve felt too daunted by the size and scope of the AJCP record collection to make any real use of it.

But from 2017 there has been a project to digitise the microfilm images and text and provide online access to the Project’s content.

Yesterday afternoon I listened to a short webinar presented by the National Library of Australia (NLA) introducing the Project and explaining how to search its records through the NLA’s AJCP portal.

I immediately applied my new knowledge.

There are several ways to get to the Project. I used the path from the Library’s home page, at http://nla.gov.au, choosing the menu “using the library” (a very Covid-safe way to visit the NLA).

On the AJCP screen I typed my maiden name, ‘Crespigny’, into the search bar. ‘Crespigny’ is a more uncommon surname than my married name ‘Young’; I hoped it would produce a manageable set of records to look at.

I was taken to Trove, the NLA’s main search portal, with an already populated search. There were no results in the first categories. I needed to scroll down to get to the category “Diaries, Letters & Archives” to see the result I expected.

There were five items with the keyword “Crespigny”.

Two items were correspondence between my great grandfather Trent de Crespigny and Howard Florey, one of his students. (Florey shared a Nobel Prize in 1945 for his contribution to the development of penicillin.)

The fourth item was from CC de Crespigny, a Royal Navy Lieutenant, writing from Singapore in 1948. He had served in Borneo. This man was almost certainly my third cousin four times removed, Claude Augustus Champion de Crespigny (1829-1884). In 2017 I wrote about him, at B is for Borneo. The fifth item was a series of letters, also by Claude, written in 1858.

The first item, of eleven pages, was “Correspondence of W. Plunkett, C. Crespigny and C. Calvert (Christchurch), 1859 to 1860, (File 85947-50), (from Collections held by the Hertfordshire Record Office / Leake Family Papers (Acc. 599)) Unpublished – 1859-1860”.

To view this item I clicked on the item description. The text in blue is a hyperlink.

On the next screen is an image of one of the pages.  I needed to choose “get”

and then choose to “View at Australian Joint Copying Project”

I can then either choose to view the collection (green arrow) or choose to view the finding aid (orange arrow).

I first look at the collection and discover there are 11 items. The screen shows thumbnails of the images.

I next looked at the finding aid. The correspondence I am interested in is briefly described as “Concerning emigration of W. Plunkett to New Zealand on the Clontarf and his death on the voyage.” I can also see that it is part of the Leake Family Papers 1823 – 1922 (Fonds Acc. 599) held by the Hertfordshire Record Office. (“Fonds” is an archivists term for a “group of documents that share the same origin and that have occurred naturally as an outgrowth of the daily workings of an agency, individual, or organisation.”)

I have William Plunkett (1836 – 1860) on my family tree and I had recorded that he died on the way to New Zealand aged 23. He is the brother-in-law of my 4th great-uncle: his sister Frances Plunkett (1835 – 1908) married Charles John Champion Crespigny (1815 – 1880). Charles was the brother of my 3rd great grandfather Philip Champion Crespigny. Isabel Plunkett (1835 – 1924) was a sister of William and Frances and she married Stephen Leake (1826 – 1893), hence the connection to the Leake family papers.

The relevant letter was 9th of the 11 items.

It was from Arthur Willis, Gann & Co., New Zealand Line of Packet Office, London, dated 29 June 1860 to C. Crespigny, my fourth great uncle and William Plunkett’s brother-in-law. It advised that William Plunkett, passenger by the “Clontarf”, died of phrenitis [brain inflammation] on 23 January 1860.

I am no longer daunted by the vast size of the Australian Joint Copying Project, and I look forward to exploring it for what I might discover there about my family history.

Resources

The webinar I watched was recorded and has been uploaded to YouTube by the National Library of Australia: https://youtu.be/94yeJpoVXc0

National Library of Australia Australian Joint Copying Project link: https://www.nla.gov.au/content/australian-joint-copying-project

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