Family and Local History Research Tool- Index of Births, Deaths and Marriage in Sydney Newspapers 1830-1840

Of the seventy odd publications I have written and self published, only four have had anything to do with our families. All the rest have been to assist the local community to tell their story or to assist other family historians access records to further their research. Many of the publications are available on my website ( http://www.heritagepath.com.au/ ).

However this will be changing over the next few months. I have decided to up date and rebuild my website over the coming months. A few publications will remain available and new ones will be added, but many will be removed and integrated into databases which at sometime in the future I hope to have available for researchers to access.

Some twenty years ago I spent many months extracting and indexing all the birth, death and marriage entries in some nine Sydney newspapers, copies of which have survived the ravages of time and have been microfilmed. I purchased copies of these microfilms from Pascoe and Company in Sydney.

The surviving issues of the following newspapers have been used in these indexes; Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser; The Sydney Herald; The Sydney Monitor; The Australian; The Colonist; The Sydney Times; The Australian Chronicle and The Sydney Standard and Colonial Advocate.

Not only the Birth, Death and Marriage notices but inquest reports, death reports, court reports, overseas items recorded in other countries. Many of these people are not recorded anywhere else.

This series called Index of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Sydney Newspapers covers the period 1830-1840. There are six volumes in all. Volume 1: 1830-1832;Volume 2: 1833-1835; Volume 3: 1836-1837;Volume 4: 1838;Volume 5: 1839 and Volume 6: 1840;

As you will note, the first two volumes cover three years of papers, the third volume two years, while the last three are yearly volumes. Each volume is in four sections. The first three cover the Birth, Death and Marriage Notices in each paper and the fourth section records deaths from the news columns and includes reports of death, inquests, funeral notices etc

I choose this time period because many historians were very frustrated that there were few records available for researching in this time frame, which was the last ten years of convicts and the first ten years of free immigrants into New South Wales.

Some interesting examples include:

Marriage: Volume 5 1839, p27

JOUBERT – BOUNEFEU, Married on 23 November 1839, at Kororarika at the Catholic Chapel, by Bishop Pompalier, D N Joubert, merchant of Sydney, to Louise Marie, eldest daughter of Piere Bounefeu.”

References- Australian, 24 December 1839; Sydney Gazette, 24 December 1839 and Sydney Monitor 25 December 1839.

Death; Volume 5 1839, p 54

“SKINNER Hughina, wife of Alexander Skinner, late Surgeon Superintendent of the government ship Lady McNaughton, and daughter of the late John Clarke, Sutherland, Scotland, died 7 April 1839, at Jerry’s Plains, Hunter River.”

Reference- Sydney Herald, 1 May 1839

Many of the libraries throughout the world, including Australia and New Zealand purchased copies of these indexes, as did many family history societies. I received hundreds of letters and emails from all over the world thanking me for compiling the indexes, as many people were able to find details of their ancestors, which they could follow up in other records if they have survived.

I published this series in book, microfiche and e-book format.

In the last few years the National Library of Australia has scanned these microfilms of each of these newspapers and digitally released them on their website under Trove, in their Historical Newspapers section. In theory this makes my indexes obsolete as the word search facilities of the National Library site makes all the records available at the press of a button.

However, as I have often stated, any family historian who relies on the computers facilities to find all their family history entries will often be very disappointed. Often many thousands of possible entries have to be sieved through to see if your family is indeed there. Also, the text recognition program used, although very helpful cannot hope to be 100% accurate. The printing of these early newspapers range from very dark and easy to read print to very faint and impossible to read. It needs the human eye to interpret those dark and smudged, as well as those faint broken text words. I have spent some forty years working with early 18th and 19th Century newspapers from all over the world, and have had much experience in working out those troublesome words.

I would use the National Library of Australia newspaper website everyday, but always consult my indexes if working in the 1830- 1840 time frame, as it saves me many hours of time. I immediately know if there is an entry, and in which newspaper I should be looking in.

Why not give these indexes a try, as you just never know, they just may solve your research problem.

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Planning the Work and Working the Plan

Over the last few weeks I have continued to refine my system and consistently sorted and filed the information I have on each of our ancestors, and their immediate families. I then entered this information into my computer family history program.

While tracing these ancestors from the present generation back generation by generation I have collected most of the pertinent birth, marriage and death certificates, from the Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the various states in Australia, for each individual, who is a direct ancestor, However, having one reference or document, of an event, is not the whole story, nor can we consider it ‘proof’ of a correct ancestor.

I then embarked on the quest for other documents concerning the events of births, deaths and marriages to add further details of our ancestors. I first sort the baptism, marriage and burial entries in the church registers of our parents and grandparents. The marriage certificates of my paternal family stated that the services had been conducted by the Anglican Church in Murwillumbah, in northern New South Wales. There were no on-line indexes to search because the events were too recent, but I was able to find the relevant name, address and phone number to approach the Diocesan Church Archives, which confirmed they held the records for Murwillumbah. The records are not open to the public, but the archivist will carry out a search on an enquirer’s behalf. The fee schedule is available on request.
I must admit there were a few surprises for me on my family.
A search for my own baptism revealed that I wasn’t baptised soon after birth, but was four years old and was part of a ‘job lot’, where a younger sister and a cousin were also baptised on the same day.
A Confirmation Card amongst the family memorabilia shows that I was also confirmed in the same church.

My mother was also four years old when she was baptised with her younger sister, on a week day soon after the birth of the sister. Another surprise was the birth date on my mother’s baptism entry was not the same date as on her birth certificate, but it was the date we remember my mother always celebrated as her birthday. Which one do I entry into my family history? My mother’s older siblings were also baptised in the same church shortly after birth.

It would appear my father was not baptised. A search over twenty years revealed no entries for his family except two sisters, who were baptised as adults shortly before their marriages.

I then searched for relevant entries in newspapers for details of the births, marriage and deaths. I first searched on-line in the historical newspapers available through the National Library of Australia, where I found a brief obituary concerning my paternal grandfather. This had been extracted from a small provincial newspaper in the area my grandparents lived. That newspaper was not on-line, but I was able to access it on microfilm at the Richmond-Tweed Regional Library. I contacted the library and made an appointment and then spent several hours searching these newspapers. Not only did I locate the above mentioned obituary, but a funeral notice including a reference to a Protestant Lodge membership, which led me to believe the Lodge probably paid for his funeral. Confirmation may be among surviving archives concerning the relevant ‘Lodge’. Another item to put on my ‘to-do’ list.
Using dates from the ‘certificates’ I held, I was also able to locate a short report of the wedding of my grandparents in 1910, as well as a very full report of my parents wedding in 1946. These were great finds, as details not on the wedding certificates were found in the newspaper articles.. They were well worth the effort in seeking them out. More recent reports of deaths, inquests, funeral notices and obituaries in the newspapers have filled in further details of many family members.

Other records I sort concerning the death and burials of family members were Wills, Undertakers records, Municipal Cemeteries and Crematoriums, headstones and Memorial cards .Success concerning these has been very patchy.

This will be an ongoing process as I gather the story of each of our ancestors in Australia before I start researching overseas in the country of origin. In the majority of cases this means researching in Ireland.