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Government Records and the Family Historian: Introduction

As a family historian, consider what information may be found in the Police, Education or Government Gazettes or hospital, electoral, probate, naturalisation or other government held records. This guide focuses mainly on South Australian resources.

Getting started

South Australian State Government records and publications hold a wealth of information for the family historian. However many forget to look beyond the obvious birth, death and marriage records.

This is a general guide to the types of information that may be found in various South Australian Government records and publications. Not all records mentioned are available at the State Library of South Australia. Many are located elsewhere, including State Records of South Australia or in some cases the National Archives of Australia. Indexes to some of these records are however, available at the State Library.

Some of the types of information you can locate in government records and publications include:

  • ship deserters
  • patient admissions to the Adelaide, later known as the Royal Adelaide, Hospital (Hospital Admission Registers)
  • appointments of public servants, teachers, doctors etc
  • deaths on board immigrant ships
  • publicans' licences
  • openings and closures of schools
  • lists of unclaimed mail
  • insolvencies
  • naturalisation
  • Justice of the Peace appointments
  • livestock brands
  • passenger lists
  • deceased estates
  • prisoners' names

Commonwealth Government Records about South Australia

Although we are focusing on the types of information to be found in South Australian Government records, we must not forget that many records of interest to the family historian are under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. 

Recently the National Archives of Australia produced a publication entitled Commonwealth Government Records about South Australia which points researchers to a wide range of items including security investigations, photographs of World War I enemy aliens, immigration records, building plans, information on the wine industry, railway records, the establishment of Woomera test range, weather records, Maralinga idenitity cards and copyright and patent records.  

This publication also refers to South Australian inventions such as Smith's stump jump plough, developed on the Yorke Peninsula in 1876 to 'jump' over mallee stumps, and the Hills Hoist invented in 1945. Records of well known South Australians such as Daisy Bates, Kym Bonython, Don Bradman, Don Dunstan, Sir John Downer, Sir Howard Floey, Julia Gillard, Bob Hawke, David Unaipon and Sir Robert Helpmann are also held by the National Archives. Available online, this publication is well worth consulting once you have exhausted South Australian Government records.