Grace Hutchison collects funeral notice clippings to assist people with family history.
Grace Hutchison collects funeral notice clippings to assist people with family history.

The daily task that unearths family history details

GRACE Hutchison can spend hours clipping funeral notices from the Daily Mercury. Sitting at her table, she carefully flicks through the paper. She has her scissors, glue and books by her side.

It is not as morbid as it seems, Mrs Hutchison is doing a public service; she is collecting information on behalf of the Mackay Family History Society.

Mrs Hutchison (right) took over the collection from Doreen Townson who began the archiving in 1983. Mrs Townson died in 2016. The records, known as the 'Townson Death Indexes and Notices' are available to the public at the Mackay Family History Society at Old Town Hall, Sydney St.

Mrs Hutchison's ritual is to cut notices out the paper and paste them in a hardcover book in alphabetical order. She dedicates a portion of the day to the process and can get absorbed by the information.

"You can find out many things. When the person died, maybe where they were from and lived, sometimes their age, where they are buried and their relatives," she said.

This information can be beneficial to someone researching family history.

"They can call and by providing some information such as name and year, we can find the funeral notice," she said.

Bev Pyman and Mackay Family History Association treasurer Yvonne Peberdy look over the records compiled for 31 years by Doreen Townson. Photo: Emily Smith
Bev Pyman and Mackay Family History Association treasurer Yvonne Peberdy look over the records compiled for 31 years by Doreen Townson. Photo: Emily Smith

Mrs Hutchison also collects In Memoriam notices, which can have additional information. She pastes them alongside the original funeral notices. She also cuts out other articles useful for family research purposes.

"Obituaries, weddings, anniversaries, they all hold information about a person's life," she said.

Personally, she collects newspaper supplements that cover important events such as floods, cyclones and milestone anniversaries.

On average, Mrs Hutchison can fit 10 notices to a page and can fill 70 to 80 pages a year.

She said she was not sure what would happen when the Mercury switched to a digital news model but the society was now looking at the digital format and planning the next step.

If her role changes, Mrs Hutchison said she has plenty of other research to keep her busy.

She also has an interest in Freemason history. Her husband Alan, a Freemason, happily helps her.

Mrs Hutchison said there were many articles to be found in past Daily Mercury newspapers. Her main source is Trove, an online service created by the National Library of Australia.

The Hutchisons said they would miss the printed version of the Daily Mercury as it was part of their daily routine.

"Making a coffee, splitting the paper in half and reading it front to back," Mrs Hutchison said.

They both enjoy Harry Bruce's cartoons.

Both have been avid newspaper readers in every town they have lived in. They describe a paper as a luxury saying otherwise you would "have to listen to gossip".

"Alan worked in the banks. When we were in St George, a weekly called the Balonne Beacon, was a must-have," she said.

"In Roma, people would line up for the Sunday Mail.

"In Mareeba, it was the Advertiser Weekly."

The Hutchisons relocated to Mackay in 1985 and have read the Daily Mercury ever since.

Mrs Hutchison said a newspaper was the first source they go to when travelling.

"It tells you what was happening, things you should know," she said.