Carol Baxter

I am an author, historian and genealogist, having first become interested in family history research while still at school. My career as a professional genealogist began when I was appointed Project Officer of the Australian Biographical and Genealogical Record (ABGR) in the 1980s. In that role I edited six volumes of early New South Wales muster returns (similar to Census returns) and later the Convict Indents for 1788-1812. I later became General Editor of the revamped ABGR – the Biographical Database of Australia (BDA) – yet to go online. For my services to Australian genealogy, I was voted a Fellow of the Society of Australian Genealogists in 2002.

These days, I write and speak full-time. My writing career took off in 2005 when I sent an unfinished manuscript (the story of a political sex scandal in NSW in 1829) to Allen & Unwin expecting that it would be rejected. To my surprise, I received a call only two weeks later expressing interest in the manuscript. The book was published in 2006 as An Irresistible Temptation. Breaking the Bank (2008) and Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady (2011) were also published by Allen & Unwin, and I have a contract for another book, The Lucretia Borgia of Botany Bay, to be published in 2014. Meanwhile, my fourth book (title still to be determined) is being published internationally by Britain’s OneWorld publishing house in 2013.

When undertaking my Thunderbolt research, I became associated with Dr David Andrew Roberts at the University of New England, and we co-wrote an article Exposing and Exposé which was published in the international Journal of Australian Studies in 2012. From that association, I was invited to become an adjunct lecturer at UNE.

Over the last half-dozen years, I have given hundreds of talks including author talks, research seminars and writing seminars. I was one of the speakers on the first Unlock the Past Cruise and am a guest speaker on the third cruise. I have also spoken at the Sydney Institute, and the Australian and Union Clubs. 

For further information: see www.carolbaxter.com.

Topics

  • Anointed: Given names in history - Most family historians never explore the given names of our ancestors, yet these names can provide information about our ancestors’ families and the society they lived within. This seminar provides insights into the meanings of given names and the...
  • Arrived by sea: a comprehensive examination of “Free” passenger records - As editor of the passenger records published in the CD-ROM Free Passengers 1826-1837, and General Editor of the Biographical Database of Australia, Carol Baxter spent many months finding and processing records relating to non-convicts arrivals. This...
  • Australian newspapers - Newspapers provide a wealth of information about ordinary people living their ordinary lives. Many researchers have accessed the newspapers published on Trove, but are unaware of the availability of other newspapers. This seminar provides detailed...
  • Australia’s greatest bank robbery - In 1828, thieves tunnelled through a sewerage drain into the vault of the Bank of Australia and stole the equivalent, in today’s terms, of nearly $20 million, making it the largest bank robbery in Australian history. The crime, in a penal settlement...
  • Bail Up! The story of Australia’s most successful bushranger - In 1863, colonial-born horsebreaker Frederick Ward and a fellow prisoner escaped from the Cockatoo Island penal establishment in Sydney Harbour, the only successful escapees from this barbaric prison. On the run from the authorities, he became the...
  • Bearing arms for the King: tracing British military ancestors - Carol Baxter is the descendant of a First Fleet marine who later joined the NSW Corps, and of a British soldier who was taken prisoner during the American War of Independence, and has spent a considerable amount of time researching these ancestors....
  • Blessed! The tricks and traps of church register research - As General Editor of the Biographical Database of Australia, Carol Baxter edited every baptism, marriage and burial entry found in every surviving NSW church register for the years 1787 and 1830.  As a historian and researcher with more than 30...
  • Case study: researching the notorious Captain Thunderbolt - When Carol Baxter began researching bushranger Captain Thunderbolt, she found that other books and articles had, naturally, been written. However, most of these were riddled with errors and failed to make use of the wealth of information that was...
  • Case study: researching the notorious Mary Ann Bugg - When Carol Baxter began researching Captain Thunderbolt’s lover, Mary Ann Bugg, for her book Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady, historians told her that she wouldn’t have a hope of discovering the full details about Mary Ann’s parents, siblings,...
  • Colonial crimes and criminals - Was your ancestor a NSW criminal or the victim of a crime or a witness to a crime? This seminar provides a detailed examination of the sources (both common and obscure) available to researchers. It will use as examples Carol Baxter’s research into...
  • Dodgy claims: the Landed Gentry Drews of Ireland and Devonshire - With evidence suggesting that some of Carol Baxter’s Irish ancestors descended from an Irish Landed Gentry family that itself descended from a Landed Gentry family living in Devonshire in the 1500s, she jumped at the opportunity to learn the skills...
  • Dodgy research: the Douglass controversy - Have you come across people desperate to have a famous or infamous ancestor, people who will sometimes manipulate information in order to achieve their dream? This case study examines the families of three early colonists with the surname Douglass,...
  • Dodgy research: the immortality of bushranger Frederick Ward aka Captain Thunderbolt - Claims have been made that bushranger Frederick Ward did not die in 1870 but escaped to America where he lived out his days. This case study explores how spurious claims can be made about historical figures and how these claims can spread until they...
  • Don’t assume! Dealing with errors in original records - While researchers have to assume that most historical records are accurate (or there would be little point in undertaking historical research), everyone makes mistakes, including those producing the historical records of interest. This seminar...
  • Electoral rolls and directories - The politics of the critical 1850s meant that manhood suffrage was essentially granted to the people of Australia at a much earlier period than elsewhere. As a consequence, the electoral rolls serve as a virtual census return of males from that...
  • Family stories: truth, myth or a bit of both? - Most of us have heard stories that have been passed down through our families, sometime for one or two generations, sometimes for many. This seminar takes a look at family stories, and provides strategies for determining whether they are true or not...
  • Free at last! Records of Pardons, Certificates of Freedom and Tickets of Leave. - Records relating to freedom are an important source of information about convicts. In fact, they are often the only means of determining whether a certain person was your ancestor or not. This seminar covers the types of records that have survived,...
  • How to become a skilled historical detective - As a genealogist, historian and author, Carol Baxter had to learn strategies for determining historical truth – in particular, when she discovered that most of the works previously written about her “popular history” subjects were riddled with...
  • Land ahoy! Tracing ancestors who arrived by sea - Four groups of people sailed to Australia in the colonial years: convicts, passengers, sailors and soldiers. Through her job with the ABGR and BDA Projects, Carol Baxter edited or processed records relating to all four groups of individuals. She...
  • Mary Ann Bugg: Lieutenant and lover - Beautiful, feisty, intelligent and educated, Mary Ann Bugg was the “right-hand man” of bushranger Captain Thunderbolt. She was also his lover, the mother of his children, and the most notorious Aboriginal woman in nineteenth-century Australia.–...
  • Milestones in Australian history of relevance to family historians - Many family historians have a poor knowledge of general history, yet historical milestones often resulted in new series of records being produced or changed the nature of those already in production. This seminar provides a guide to events that...
  • Nicked! Tracing criminals and their crimes in Britain and Australia - Carol Baxter not only has convict ancestors of her own, she researches and writes about criminals in her popular histories – which fall within the sub-genre “true historical crime”. In fact, two of her books were long-listed for the Davitt Award for...
  • Norfolk Island: the first settlement, 1788-1814 - Many convicts and soldiers who arrived in the early years of settlement spent time on Norfolk Island until, in the first decade of the 1800s, the authorities decided to close the settlement and transfer the settlers to Tasmania. A wealth of...
  • NSW church registers: a comprehensive examination - Baptisms, marriages and burials provide critical information about our ancestors’ lives however these details are not always easy to find.
  • Polled! Australian muster and census returns - Carol Baxter has an unparalleled knowledge of the NSW Colonial Muster and Census returns, having edited all the surviving General Musters from 1800 to 1825, examined smaller returns for the same period, and processed the raw data of the 1828 NSW...
  • Records relating to NSW, Norfolk Island and Tasmania found in Colonial Office microfilms - As a penal settlement answering to the British government, copies of colonial paperwork were sent to the Colonial Office in London. The Colonial Office papers contain a huge amount of material relating to the early settlements and residents of New...
  • Retransportation: researching convicts sentenced to secondary penal settlements - Colonial criminals were often sentenced to secondary penal settlements such as Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Moreton Bay, Norfolk Island and Cockatoo Island. Among them were the bank robbers Carol Baxter wrote about in Breaking the Bank and the...
  • Scandal and skulduggery in early Sydney - Carol Baxter talks about the political-sex-scandal and major bank robbery at the heart of her first two books, An Irresistible Temptation and Breaking the Bank (Allen & Unwin), events that both reflected and impacted upon the nature of colonial...
  • Something from nothing: reading between the lines of military records - While General Editor of the Biographical Database of Australia, Carol Baxter examined all the Muster Books and Pay Lists for Governor Macquarie’s 73rd Regiment of Foot, which served in New South Wales between 1810 and 1814. By examining the records...
  • Tagged: Surnames in the making - Most family historians think little about the surnames they are tracing even though most of us would have gathered information about the origin of our own surnames. Yet many of their ancestors’ surnames came into existence 800 years ago and provide...
  • Temptation - Sexy convict Jane New was a temptation that John Stephen Jnr found too difficult to resist. John was the Registrar of the NSW Supreme Court, son of a Supreme Court judge, and brother of a future Lieutenant-Governor of NSW. His relatives in England...
  • The murder that kick-started the communication revolution - In 1845, ex-Australian convict, John Tawell, made history as the first murderer caught using the electric telegraph. This amazing technology, recently nicknamed ‘the Victorian internet’ was struggling to find community support and financial backing...
  • The Thunderbolt conspiracy - In December 2009, the Sun Herald devoted a full page to claims that, according to new research, the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt did not die in 1870 but instead escaped to America. According to these researchers, the police had shot the wrong man...
  • Tracing your ancestors in colonial New South Wales - As the editor of many volumes of early colonial records, the author of three works of popular history revolving around stories from our colonial past, and previously the General Editor of the Biographical Database of Australia, Carol Baxter is...
  • Tracing your ancestors in the Mitchell and State Libraries of New South Wales - While government records are held by State Records of NSW, records produced by private organisations are held by the Mitchell and State Libraries in Macquarie Street, Sydney. These include microfilms of newspapers and church registers, directories,...
  • Tracing your ancestors through New South Wales land records: Old System, Torrens Title, Pastoral and Conditional Purchase - Land records are an under-utilised genealogical tool. Not only do they include details of land holdings, they can include other useful material as well, such as wills not found in probate records, marriage contracts and other personal documents....
  • Tracing Your Ancestors through the Land and Property Management Authority (aka Land Titles Office)
  • Tracing your ancestors through the State Records of New South Wales - Records produced by the government from the first days of settlement onwards are stored at State Records of New South Wales, Kingswood (near Penrith). Many genealogists are daunted at the thought of having to travel out to Kingswood when they don’t...
  • Tracing Your Criminal Ancestors
  • Transported beyond the seas: a comprehensive examination of convict transportation records - Most family historians examine only the convict indents published in the Archives Kit to find details of their ancestors’ trial and transportation.  As Editor of the CD-ROM Convicts to NSW 1787 to 1812 and General Editor of the Biographical...
  • Which family did my ancestor come from? - As we trace our ancestors, we sometimes find that there were a few people with the same name who were born around the same time as our ancestor. Or we may find that different publications list our ancestor with different parents. This seminar...
  • Writing a non-fiction book in 15 easy steps - Have you a topic you would like to write about? Perhaps you are a “how to” expert. Perhaps you give seminars and would like to write a back-up book. Perhaps you wish to write a history of your local school or church or hospital, or a building or...
  • Writing and self-publishing a “how to” book - Are you interested in writing and self-publishing your own book? This talk will provide you with simple guidelines to follow, and direct you to more detailed sources. – 45/60 minutes – Powerpoint presentation
  • Writing INTERESTING Family Histories - Carol Baxter always wrote up the results of her genealogy research as family histories and eventually used the same skills to write her popular histories. This seminar reveals how you too can turn dry facts into interesting family histories. A book...
  • Writing narrative non-fiction - Narrative non-fiction is a writing genre that is rapidly growing in popularity. Carol Baxter is the author of three works of narrative non-fiction – in her case, history told as a gripping story rather than a dry analysis – with more to be published...
  • Writing: structuring a family history - How do you turn your reams of notes, photocopies and certificates into a family history? This seminar provides you with simple guidelines to help you structure a family history. – 45/60 minutes – Powerpoint presentation
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