Note: Due to a lack of support AFFHO closed down this site in 2010. Unlike their English counterparts, AFFHO and its member societies failed to see the potential that such a concept has for family historians.

Australasian Strays Register

A strays' register is a listing of people and events that seem to be out of place. Often our research comes to a sudden halt because our ancestor just seems to appear out of nowhere and no matter where we look we cannot find their origins. Often a strays’ register will help. Our English cousins, the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) have maintained such registers for many years and a huge database has been developed. Of course to be of much use such a database has to be large otherwise the chances of helping anyone are very remote indeed!

Usually strays are picked up and submitted by researchers trawling through material and finding a person that is not where they were expected to be. In my own family there is a typical example picked up by someone unknown to me and registered in the English list. My great grandfather, Franck Jaunay lived in Reims France until he emigrated to Australia in 1894. He and his younger brother, Jules, as young men are to be found in the 1871 census in Liverpool visiting a family then unknown to me. This in turn led to locating a lost aunt who also was found living in the same place.

Many people confuse a stray with a lost ancestor. In fact the strays you are likely to locate will have nothing to do with your own family. You will come across them while undertaking all sorts of research. They are in effect people found away from where you would expect them to be. For example you may be trawling though a newspaper’s death columns when you come across a tourist from some remote place who has died in the area through some sort of misadventure. This is a very obvious example of a stray but the reference you may find may be by no means as dramatic and may simply refer to the person mentioned in the event as, of somewhere else!

In registering these strays which have nothing to do with you, you are in fact contributing to the wider knowledge of family history. You are giving something back in return for all the help you have received by unknown indexers and researchers who have provided the data you have accessed. Strays are not your lost ancestors—they are records of someone not in their usual or expected place—someone else’s lost ancestors!

Of course you could say that almost everyone living in the region of Australasia is a stray as most of us have ancestors who emigrated to Australia and New Zealand. However, by definition only the original settlers could be deemed strays in that they would have left records indicating that their origins were elsewhere. Taking my own example, I can hardly be deemed a stray as I have lived, married and worked in the same small area of South Australia. However, my sister-in-law is clearly a stray in that she was born in South Australia, but married and lives in the United States. Ideally she could be recorded on an American strays listing and an Australian one too.

In giving my sister-in-law as an example raises the issue of privacy as determined by the new Australian Privacy Act. Technically she would be precluded from the listing without her consent as the Australian Privacy Act and AFFHO’s own code of practice prevents the listing of living people without their expressed consent. Therefore the only person who should list my sister-in-law would be herself!

Because of these provisions the Australasian Strays Register has a cut off time for most submissions. To observe these legislative requirements the Register does not accept entries for living people unless they are the submitter. This means that births and baptism after 1910, confirmations after 1920, and all other events after 1930 will not be accepted unless the submitter’s name matches the stray’s name. All deaths are, of course, accepted!

A site has been created at AFFHO’s web address to allow online submissions. Go to the site and on the right you will see a button marked ‘Strays’. [Button removed and listing now closed.] Unfortunately because it is not possible to determine that the submitter is genuinely giving consent for material about a living person, the cut-off dates outlined previous apply to all submissions. Living persons wanting to submit their own record for posterity must do so in writing but you can use the form on the AFFHO web site. The web site will eventually list all the names of people in the register.

At this time the list is small. We hope that all member family history societies will get behind the project and make it work. How can your society help? The easiest way is topromote the concept to all your colleagues. Perhaps you already have a stray? Why not go online now and complete the form. To be an effective researcher prepared to assist this project I suggest you rule up an exercise book to be your Strays Log. Every time you come across a stray in your research, record it and when you have a small collection submit them as your personal contribution to the family history community.

When you make a submission to the register the material will be entered into the database and the online index will be updated periodically. However, this is only part of the task and the register will also operate a clearing-house if the stray’s record indicates that another register (such as the one in England) needs to be informed.

For example, Mary Jane Feige formerly Cawley nee Puttick born 21 Mar 1833 West Cowes on the Isle of Wight, who died at Glenelg North SA on 24 Jul 1911 arrived in South Australia in 1906 to be with her daughter. Rightfully, her death record should be entered in the FFHS Strays Register as she spent all her life in England.

Graham Jaunay BA DipT MACE AAGRA

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