Precis of a talk delivered on 12th July, 1961, by Mr. W. Poster (Councillor of the Royal Historical Society of N.S.W. and Headmaster of the James Cook High School, Kogarah)
The chief task of any newly formed Historical Society is to add to the information already in existence.
The Rockdale Historical Society has an almost unlimited field in which to work.
James Cook, discoverer of this part of Australia and possibly the first white man to set foot in what is now the Rockdale Municipality,is comparatively unknown yet a wealth of information on him is available.
The same may be said of Arthur Phillip.
This district is particularly rich in family histories. Those of James Chandler whose estate “Bexley” covered a huge portion at the Rockdale Municipality and Alexander Brodie Sparkes whose home “Tempe House” still stands would each make a first class lecture.
No one has yet written a history of the Rockdale School of Arts yet all its records are still in existence. Only the Rockdale Methodist Church has written a history of its existence. The history of State and Federal Politics in this area is untouched despite the fact that this district produced some of the most colourful personalities of the early years.
Accuracy must be the keynote of all research. “Everything is wrong until it can be proved right”.
Where can this information be obtained?
Thanks to the foresight of David Scott Mitchell, Australia has an- unrivalled collection of its early history. Mitchell was an assiduous collector of Australiana. When he died in 1907 he left over .70,000 volumes and 6,000 manuscripts and diaries on Australia plus £70,000 for additional purchases. Australia, thanks to Mitchell, is the only country in the world which can trace its origins from its original beginnings. Today the collection numbers some 150,000 volumes.
Always go to the Mitchell Library where original manuscripts, newspapers and Statistical register and the Historical Records of N.S.W. are available. Secure a reader’s ticket and the rest is up to you.
Other places to obtain information include the Railways’ Department Historical Society, the Registrar General’s Department for early land grants and transfers. The Lands Department. The records of various churches, Municipal records and newspapers.
All are available to the genuine student of history.
This article was first published in the February 1962 edition of our magazine.
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