I work at the State Library of South Australia (SLSA), and one of my main duties has been to staff the Family History Desk of the Mortlock Library. Some areas of research I would like to share with you to help you gain more information about your Australian or South Australian families. I intend to cover the basic, leaving the more obscure for the time being. However, I hope what I have to offer will give you some insight, as I do whilst assisting customers with their research into the hidden past of their families.
In my experience, many people who decide to research their families, begin at the most difficult place, and that is often with a question about a person several generations ago. The most frequently asked question I have heard at the Family History Desk at the SLSA, is:
"My great grandparents came from (country), and I want to know about their families, can you help me?"
Usually, there are no facts known about these sturdy people who left their own country, [indeed, some people don't know the names of these relatives] just the fact that they came to this one. The best place to begin family research, anywhere in the world, is with your family's facts.
The Family History Research sheet produced by the SLSA is quite definite about how to proceed:
"Step 1. Build up all the known information you can find from your relatives. Visit parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Find out what they know of the family's background. Write down what they tell you - make a note of WHO tells you.
Be on the lookout for: Family Bibles, old documents (marriage certificates, baptismal certificates, military discharge papers), old letters and the contents of scrapbooks, newspaper clippings (births, deaths, marriages, obituaries). Find out where family members are buried. Visit the cemetery, copy inscription details from the gravestone. It is important to differentiate between confirmed and unconfirmed material. Unconfirmed items will need to be authenticated - but they will be of assistance in your quest.
Remember the family itself is the richest source of information and this is free of charge. Once you've collected all you can find, it may be necessary to verify or clarify this information by taking your second step on the journey back in time.
Step 2. Birth, Death and Marriage:
In SA civil registrations of births, deaths and marriages(BDM) began in 1842, just six years after the foundation of the colony.
Indexes are held at the South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society Library as well as the SLSA. These are only indexes, but they give volume and page numbers which can then be requested from Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Office in Cheshire House, Grenfell St. The actual certificates cost $27 (Australian). You can get copies from relatives much cheaper.
(The SLSA now has Birth records in hard copy which gives names of parents as well, 1842-1906).
District Registers are another source of BDM information. District Registers are now on microfiche and are held in the appropriate districts. The Genealogy Library in Unley has them all, but SLSA only has indexes to the country registers. What are the registers? They are the records kept by the district before they were submitted to the BDM registration. They are handwritten and a little difficult to read, and the Adelaide register is not indexed, so one has to be prepared to search a bit, but if you already have a date, gleaned from your vigilant search of the BDM Index, it will be easier.
Cemetery Indexes are also a good source of information, and are held at both the SLSA, and the SA Genealogy and Heraldry Society Library.
Step 3. Your own birth certificate:
this should provide:
* your father's full name, age and birthplace (and his occupation at the time of your birth)
* your mother's maiden name, age and birthplace
* the date and place of your parents' marriage.
You can then begin your family tree.
To simplify recording, keep your father's family on the left of the page and your mother's on the right. At this stage don't record the names of all the children of the marriage. Concentrate on your direct line of ancestry.
Additions can always be made later, if this sort of detective work appeals to you.
Step 4. Your parents' marriage certificate: this should provide:
* their full names, dates of birth and birthplaces
* names of your two grandfathers (and their occupations at the time of your parents' marriage)
* maiden names of your two grandmothers.
Step 5. Your parents' birth certificates: these will help you to establish:
* grandparents' full names (if not established before hand), their ages and birthplaces (and possibly further information on your grandfathers' occupations)
* details of your grandparents marriages.
Steps 6, 7 & 8. Other Certificates:
Get your grandparents' birth and marriage certificates, and your great-grandparents' birth and marriage certificates.
By the time you reach this stage of your search, it's likely that a "No Record" will result from an application for a certificate. This could mean that an event was not recorded or registered (a common occurrence in the 19th century), or it could indicate the arrival of the family in South Australia , or perhaps the event occurred outside South Australia.
Step 9. Check the records of baptisms, marriages and burials for the years 1836-42, along with some church registers (the SLSA holds these, as well as records for the Church of England, Baptist and Methodist churches where official records are not kept), shipping arrivals and passenger lists, and a large collection of recorded history from individuals and organisations. Also check cemetery lists.
Step 10. If you need some specialised help along the way - if you want to find out, for example, how to pursue your search through interstate or overseas sources - call in for advice at the SA Genealogy and Heraldry Society's library in Unley.
Researching your family history can be an enjoyable and fascinating pastime. The State Library has a number of resources available that may be of use to you as you trace your family's story.
Biographical dictionaries can provide information if any of your ancestors were particularly well-known in their day.
Postal directories and electoral rolls may help trace family members as they moved about the country.
Map collection holds South Australian, interstate and overseas maps which can help you pinpoint where your family once lived.
State Records hold the records of the State Government, semi-governmental and municipal authorities, the records of businesses and societies and personal papers of individuals. The also hold immigration records.
State Records hold ship passenger lists from the 1800s, shipping records, church registers, official correspondence, some hospital records, student and teacher registers, prison, social welfare records and inquests. It also contains various indexes, almanacs and directories.
Australian Archives holds military records, naturalization records and anything related to the Federal Government.
Mortlock Library - published material that relates to South Australia may be found in this collection. It includes local histories, family histories, microfilmed copies of early South Australian newspapers, pamphlets, annual reports and newsletters. Newspapers can be a rich resource for family historians but using them can be time-consuming when they aren't indexed. "
However, South Australia is the product of free settlement. The South Australia Company was set up in Britain, and aimed to create a settlement of upper middle class people, a replica of England, but with more land. Land was the key. The people who decided to settle in SA for the opportunities of becoming land owners also acknowledged that they would need labour to work the land. So, assisted passage, that is, passage to Australia, assisted by the South Australia Company (given by the landowners and prospective land owners) was regulated. The landowners wanted only particular types of people, and so application had to be made for assisted passage. The applications hold the information used to choose the "right" people ie marriage status, children, age, place of residence. Only people from the UK are found in this list, and very few single women., unless they were sponsored before they left England.
In SA we have a set of Passenger Lists which covers the time period of 1836-45, and another series which covers 1847 - 1886. You may notice that 1846 is not covered. The first series also refers to sources compiled of articles from newspapers, photographs and other cuttings. The second refers to photocopies of passenger lists, which gives name of ship, captain, date of departure, date of arrival, names of passengers, occupation, ages, as well as their status ie married, single and age of children. Sometimes there are notes about the behaviour of different passengers, and if someone died during the journey.
There is also an index to passengers for the period 1888-1908, called the Burdett Index which also has a chronological list of the ships for which passenger lists are held. [Passenger Lists are held by State Records, with duplicates being held in the SLSA.] Apparently Passenger lists held in England relating to these voyages were destroyed in 1900.
Departures for overseas and New Zealand which were listed in The Register newspaper are indexed by the Horner Index, 1839-1887.
Of course South Australia was also a refuge for those fleeing persecution in Prussia, and the South Australia Company was proactive in arranging for transportation of these refugees of political persecution to South Australia. Some of these ships took refugees to England and some departed directly for South Australia, so these passengers are logged as having left Hamburg, or England, and so are found either on what is called the Hamburg Index or in the regular Passenger Lists from England. As these people were mostly fleeing religious persecution, they usually settled in what we refer to as the German settlements of Hahndorf and the Barossa Valley, and their records can usually be found in the Lutheran Archives.
Index to notices of BDMs as well as obituaries appearing in South Australian Catholic newspapers for various periods between 1867-1945. This is called the Keain Index after Maurice Keain who compiled it.
Then there is a Register Personal Notices which covers all BDM and other personal notices appearing in the Register newspaper from 1836-1870. All entries are reproduced in full, unless noted in the entry concerned.
Adelaide Observer index covers the period 1880-1908. Two useful headings for the family historian are "Biographical" and "Obituary".
Advertiser index covers the period 1932 - 1966. It is worth searching this index under the heading 'Obituary'.
South Australian Family History Addict.
Births, Deaths and Marriages Principal Registry Office: GPO 1351, Adelaide, SA, 5001
Lands Titles Office: GPO Box 1354, Adelaide SA 5001
Lutheran Church of Australia Archives and Research Centre: 101 Archer St, North Adelaide, SA 5006
Pioneers Association of SA: 1st floor, Aston House, 13 Leigh St, Adelaide, SA 5000
Probate Registry: 301 King William street, Adelaide 5000
South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society Inc.: GPO Box 592, Adelaide SA 5001
State Library of South Australia: GPO Box 419, Adelaide, 5001, South Australia. URL: http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/sslhp.htm
State Records (formerly Public Record Office of SA and South Australian Archives): PO Box 1056 Blair Athol West, SA 5084
Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
Box 30 GPO Sydney NSW 2001
Northern Territory Archives Service:
GPO Box 3021 Darwin, NT 0801
State Library of Queensland:
GPO Box 3488, South Brisbane QLD 4101
Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages,
PO Box 188 Albert Street, Brisbane QLD 4001
Archives Office of Tasmania:
91 Murray Street, Hobart TAS 7000
Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages:
PO Box 198, Hobart TAS 7001
Public Record Office of Victoria: City Search Room,
4th Floor, 318 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 3000
Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages:
GPO Box 4332, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Library and Information Service of WA.
Alexander Library Building, Perth Cultural Centre,
James Street Perth WA 6000
Registrar General's Office,
GPO Box 7720, Cloisters Square, Perth WA 6850
Relations in records : A Guide to Family History Sources in the Australian Archives
Sources of South Australia : A guide to State Records
Kith and Kin : State Library of South Australia : Guide to Sources in State Library of South Australia
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