175 years ago – Geelong Harbour and Corio Bay

Hotel at Point HenryFrom the Geelong Advertiser Saturday 26 June 1841 [175 years ago] …

About 15 miles up the bay [Port Phillip], the high shores of Indented Head bend towards the westward, and the arm of Port Phillip which stretches inland nearly 20 miles, is deep, capacious, and well sheltered.  The whole of this extent is available as a shipping port, and between Indented Head and Point Henry bears the name of


The anchorage at present frequented by merchantmen is near Point Henry, about 4 miles from the town of Corio.  It is there that the wool ships take in their cargoes.  Point Henry is a peninsula about two miles long and half a mile broad, which separates Outer Geelong Harbour from the Inner, or


across the entrance to which a bar exists, which cannot be passed by any vessel drawing more than eleven feet; the mud and shells, however, which choak [sic] up the channel could be very easily cleared away; the mud, in fact, can be sounded to the depth of eighteen feet: if the channel were deepened for about a hundred yards, the largest class of merchantmen could enter the compact basin of Corio Bay, and anchor within a ship’s length of the Jetty at the township.  The bay is nearly land-locked from the outer harbour, and is about 3 miles in diameter, the area of the anchorage (the depth varying from 3 to 6 fathoms) is about four square miles.  At present, the largest of the Van Diemen’s Land traders can cross the bar, discharge their cargoes of timber at the township, and return with a cargo of fat wethers for the Launceston and Hobart Town markets.  The rise and fall of the tide is less than in any other part of Port Phillip.

Of course history shows us that for some decades the Geelong Town Council had the channel dredged however each episode took so long that by the time the dredging was “completed” the overseas ships had doubled or trebled in size and could not fit through the newly deepened channel!  Back to the drawing board!  It was 1893 before the Hopetoun Channel was completed and opened – more than 50 years after this article!  More can be read about the history of Point Henry.

This article in the Geelong Advertiser is even more interesting as it is a LONG article titled “Descriptive remarks on the harbours of Australia Felix” and in addition to Geelong Harbour and Corio Bay it includes:

  • Moruya Bay
  • Twofold Bay
  • Corner Inlet, Port Albert and Shallow Inlet
  • Sealers’ Cove
  • Western Port
  • Port Phillip
  • Port King
  • Hobson’s Bay
  • Melbourne
  • Port Fairy
  • Portland Bay

… a truly wonderful group of descriptions of the harbours around Victoria.

The sketch above is from The Building and Engineering Journal, December 27, 1890 and shows ‘Sketches at the new summer resort: Bellarine Gardens, Point Henry’.

Another great article from 175 years ago.

Australia Day additions to database

Citizens Bar Committee 1858-1861This update includes a mixture of items – some adding to existing ones and others new.  Because this lot includes both Assisted and Unassisted Immigrants to Geelong [actually Point Henry] it seemed appropriate to include this photo of the Geelong Citizens’ Bar Committee 1858-1861 – the group representing the citizens of Geelong to arrange the removal of the sandbar across the entrance to Corio Bay.  This sandbar stopped ships carrying immigrants from overseas from sailing into Corio Bay and the wharves of Geelong.  The end result was these ships dropping anchor east of Point Henry leaving the immigrants a long journey into Geelong.

Some members of the Bar Committee were William G McKELLAR, chairman; Frederick CHAMPION, vice-chairman; and Walter M HITCHCOCK, secretary]; Peter HUDDART; James Clark WALLACE; John MATTHEWS; George A STEPHEN; John NOBLE; and Captain F TROUTON.

We now have 1,486,217 records in the Geelong and District database.  This is what’s been added since the last major update on 30 December 2013:

  • Geelong District: Assisted Immigrants – limited PROV index – 244 entries
  • Geelong District: Unassisted Immigrants – limited PROV index – 3,611 entries
  • Geelong District: Nurses from the Victoria Government Gazette 1931-1933 – 322 entries
  • Geelong District: Surnames of Interest – 18 entries
  • Geelong District: Honour Boards – 1,404 entries
  • Geelong Infirmary & Benevolent Asylum: Annual Report 1868 – 1,814 entries

Details on these indexes can be found in the Geelong & District Potpourri pages and the Geelong & District List of Books.

And don’t forget to search again for your ancestors in the Geelong & District Database – they could have been in the last load of additions!

MAJOR additions to database

The GRANT girlsFinally I found the “missing” register of midwives for 1921 – this completes the set of Midwife Registers from 1916 to 1956 from the Victoria Government Gazette.  In the process of indexing it I spotted a familiar name – Lily GRANT, the great aunt of my former partner.  I couldn’t resist including this photo – one of my favourites – it’s Lily with her four sisters. It was taken in 1916 on her younger sister Janet’s wedding day [L-R: Dora, Ethline, Lily, Janet and Mary].  The wedding took place at their home ‘Chesterfield’ at 221 Noble Street, Newtown.  It was five years later, 1921, when Lily was registered as a midwife.  She went on to become a Registered Nurse and eventually ran her own private hospital in Blackburn.

With the Midwives completed, indexing is now progressing on the first six registers for Nurses have now been added to the database – these also continue through to 1956 in the Government Gazette.  These are not all “local” girls as the registers include girls from Melbourne and all over Victoria who did their Nurse Training at Geelong Hospital or Colac Hospital.

But the really BIG addition comes from the PROV Assisted Immigrants to Victoria index.  Over the years we have identified the ships that brought Assisted Immigrants to Geelong, or more specifically Point Henry.  We have extracted all passengers and list references for these ships.  If they landed here, even if they moved on to other areas, they spent at least SOME time in our region.  Many people don’t realise the importance of some of these “duplicate” passenger lists – some identify passengers who were eventually moved from the ship at Point Henry to the Immigration Depot in Geelong.

Although many of these entries are available through PROV, Ancestry, Findmypast etc. this database gives you different options for searching that might help find that elusive ancestor.  Make sure you read the Search Tips to understand the string, wildcard and group search options.

As an example, search for:

INDEX ENTRY     bridg

TITLE                      immig

and you will find lots of entries for Bridget etc. but not just from this new Assisted Immigrants index – you will also find local entries from Assisted Immigrants Remittances; Orphan Immigrants; Immigration Depot Funerals; and Immigration Depot Returns.  Leave out the title to find other local entries from almost 140 indexes in the database.

We now have 1,478,815 records in the Geelong and District database.  I thought 1.5 million entries by the end of 2014 would be a challenge but hopefully an achievable target.  So much for that theory!  We have no excuse for not achieving that target now!  After I’ve taken a breath I need to start working on the Unassisted Immigrants who landed at Point Henry / Geelong.  This is what’s been added since the last major update on 27 December 2013:

  • Geelong District: Assisted Immigrants – limited PROV index – 39,202 entries
  • Geelong District: Midwives from the Victoria Government Gazette 1921 – 36 entries
  • Geelong District: Nurses from the Victoria Government Gazette 1925-1930 – 355 entries

Details on these indexes can be found in the Geelong & District Potpourri pages and the Geelong & District List of Books.

And don’t forget to search again for your ancestors in the Geelong & District Database – they could have been in the last load of additions!