Government Gazettes in Australia

Every colony published gazettes to communicate legislation, regulations and information to the public service and the general community. The original gazettes covered all government departments but as widely dispersed departments such as education and police grew in size, they often produced their own versions. Gazettes are useful not only to monitor the actions of the government, but also as far as family historians are concerned, they are primary source documents that have been largely overlooked by many researchers.
Unclear understanding of the scope of the contents of these publications hampers many researchers. Essentially the only way to determine the scope is to sample some of the editions for yourself, but before embarking on such an expedition, it is recommended that some time be spent determining how and why your Australian forebears may have had contact with government bureaucracy. While there are some quite obvious scenarios, you may be able to come up with other pointers:
   gazette• Your ancestors may have needed to brand their stock—brands were reported in the government gazette.
   • The letter carrier is unable to locate the addressee for mail and returned the letter to the post office—dead letters were listed.
   • Victims of a crime, suspects and the police involved—all crimes were listed in reports by the police commissioner.
   • Licenced teachers are named as are many other professions, such as doctors, marriage celebrants, publicans, auctioneers, hawkers, magistrates and other legal officers, sundry food handlers and the like.
   • Your ancestor failed to pay their council rates on time—they may be named in a gazette.
   • Young colonies attracted entrepreneurs and some business ventures failed forcing the proprietor into bankruptcy—the gazette names the bankrupt and their circumstances.
   • British garrisoned troops were supplemented with volunteers. Some records and especially promotions are published.
   • Those that died needed to have their estates wound up. The executor needed to pay debts and distribute assets and a notice in the gazette was deemed to comply with the legal requirement of employing best endeavours to contact all interested parties.
   • Memorials and petitions prepared by citizens such as those to create a new local government region are published together with the names of the signatories.
   • Deaths in government institutions such as hospitals, gaols and asylums are reported.
The above is just a small taste of some examples that may lead to the naming of your ancestor in a gazette. According to the nature of the entry you may receive the bonus of some vital statistic about the person previously unknown to you or unavailable via more conventional methods
Some of the material in government gazettes are general reports about conditions and current issues of the day. The family historian trying to develop an understanding of the circumstances under which ancestors lived can gain great insights from reading some of this material and attempting to understand how this may have impacted on lives.
Many government gazettes contain information relevant to family historians simply because citizens have to deal with their government and their government had to manage. If you are looking for people, then you will need to consider a search of Government Gazettes!

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