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    LIFE MEMBER: Ian Rees was awarded a life membership of the Wimmera Association for Genealogy for his dedication as a genealogist and assisting others with their family history research.

Ian Rees rewarded for genealogy research

By Sean O’Connell

Ian Rees, of Horsham, has been awarded a life membership of the Wimmera Association for Genealogy. 

Mr Rees, a member of 26 years,  is ever-present at the association’s headquarters in the Mechanics Institute building in Pynsent Street, Horsham on Tuesday afternoons – when it is open to the public.

He has been the association’s research officer for eight years, treasurer for 23 years, and has been compiling information into a comprehensive database for 25 years.

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The database includes photos, certificates of titles, electoral rolls and cemetery records.

“I’ve taken 245,000 photos at the Public Records Office Victoria of early land selection records for this area, downloaded 9914 certificates of titles and made up a database for 853,000 entries of early Wimmera people,” he said. 

Mr Rees said early land selection records gave an insight into how land was distributed and paid off, with most blocks at that time being 320 acres and costing as little as one pound per acre. 

“Back when the land was thrown open for selection around the Wimmera here in the 1870s, government, like today, had heaps of paperwork,” he said.

“Most of the files have at least 30 pages to one block of land for selection.

“I’ve taken photos of the official-looking bits of paper; they give all the details of the improvements to the blocks and the payments.”

Mr Rees said his documenting of various records started out of personal interest and became a lengthy undertaking.

“How it really started was I answered an email from a guy down in Gippsland who was wanting photos of the headstone of his ancestors in Horsham Cemetery,” he said. 

“Not knowing how much work was going to be involved, I volunteered and took photos of all the headstones in Horsham Cemetery and made up an excel spreadsheet with all the details.”

Mr Rees said his work at the cemetery allowed him to begin a database of Wimmera people, including hundreds-of-thousands of entries, which people interested in family history could draw upon.

“Throughout the past 26 years, it’s kept on increasing,” he said.

Mr Rees said people interested in accessing the database could visit the association. 

“We are open every Tuesday afternoon, so people who are either members or non-members can come in and there’s normally two or three committee members in our library,” he said.

“People are totally amazed at the information there. 

“I can show them exactly where their ancestor’s block of land was.

“I have all these records – there are even signatures on paperwork that their ancestors did 150 years ago.”

Mr Rees said people could also send research requests to the association by visiting its website, and clicking the ‘research’ tab.

The entire February 7, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!