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.
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:
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
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
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
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!