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:No: 30
August 2008

August seminars
1: Tracing your English ancestors, WEA Centre Adelaide 6:30pm
2:Accessing the primary research stream—the family, State Library for Flinders University 9:30am
16: Accessing the secondary research stream—the paper trail, State Library for Flinders University 9:30am
24: Coming to grips with FamilySearch, WEA Centre Adelaide 10:00am
27: Historical snapshots of Marion, Park Holme Library 10:30am
30: Interpreting the record, State Library for Flinders University 9:30am

See the seminar program for more details.

SA BDM Certificates
SA certificate fees were increased to $38.00 each on 1 July.

National Family History Week 2–10 August
Checkout what your local Family History Society is doing for Family History Week.
   SAGHS: Open Day—3 Aug 1:00 to 4:00pm

Understanding SA BDM records
An understanding of the process used to create an entry in the BDM registers may reveal some reasons why you cannot find that elusive record. Indeed it may reveal where the record may be located.
The system used in South Australia was the same as that used in England but, unlike that tiny country, suffered some problems in the transposition often due, in the earliest days, to the tyranny of distance!
Civil Registration was introduced to SA in mid 1842 which is quite early for most of Australia. It came about as the result of the proclamation of An Act for the Registering of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the Province of South Australia.
In this issue:
August seminars
SA BDM Certificates
National Family History Week 210 August

Feature article
Understanding SA BDM records


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Originally just two District Registries based on Port Lincoln (called Flinders) and Adelaide headed by District Registrars answerable to the Principal Registrar in Adelaide were established. Originally the boundaries of Flinders was not all that clear.
Incidentally starting civil registration early in the colony and following the English system means that you can locate certificates from very early in the life of South Australia but the downside means that the certificates lack the detail presented by the later starters such as the Eastern mainland colonies of Australia who followed the more comprehensive system like that in Scotland.
All people living outside the defined areas were expected, but not obliged, to make their way to the nearest Deputy Registrars' agent. In fact initially there was no compulsion to register a birth although by attempting to make a late registration one could be heavily fined.
The Act allowed the registration of children born elsewhere in Australia to South Australian parents and at sea. A number of parents took the opportunity to register children born prior to the establishment of the process on 1 June 1842. Some did this when they registered their first child born after registration started. A later Act also accepted deaths of South Australian citizens who were killed in overseas service during WW1.

Map showing the initial two districts.

As the population grew and spread across the colony additional districts were created with the third district being The Murray centred on Kooringa (Burra) in 1848. By 1874 the whole colony was covered, although technically from 1855 areas not embraced by a district were considered to be in Adelaide. (In 1863 the SA western border was extended to its present day position.)
Within each district, agents were set uo to service local areas. They were local people of some repute, such as a postal officer, a police officer or a landowner. Their task was to pass on notification to the District Registrar who in turn created two certificates, one of which was retained and the other forwarded to the Principal Registrar as the official record. There are a considerable number of known differences between the two certificates.
There were many opportunities for events to be not registered or the registration to be lost in the chain of reporting. There are a number of examples where the system discriminated against sections of the population. The registration of indigenous and Asian people was rare and for those registered often confusion over names is evident. Still births were not registered. Deaths where the body was not recovered (especially in shipwrecks) were often not registered. Many remote deaths failed to be registered due to a misunderstanding by regional officers over the need to report to the District Registrar AND complete a burial order.
When the number of districts peaked at 29 we find a good number of registrations were made in neighbouring districts. Some districts were quite small and for a number of residents the neighbouring district included aspects such as a nearer market. In my own family who lived in Houghton, some children were incorrectly registered in Adelaide when the produce was brought to town for the fruit and vegetable markets.
The process continued on until the concept was abolished in June 1992 and with the abolition of District Registrars the SA Genealogy & Heraldry Society was given permission to film all the surviving records.
As a consequence, SAGHS is the only repository that holds a full set of District records. The Registrar of BDM allows regional libraries to purchase only the set of records pertaining to their district.
As a matter of interest, before the Province of SA was proclaimed, the colony was within NSW and people were living in the region. Since NSW did not have civil registration at this time, if any birth, death or marriage was recorded it would have been most likely in a parish register of a church based in the then NSW. Indeed after the establishment of the province and before civil registration, some church denominations were slow to establish themselves and serviced SA from NSW. The Catholic Church is a good example of this. William Ullathorne visited from Sydney for a two weeks in June 1840 and took the register back to Sydney. Some of his baptisms (about 26) conducted in Adelaide were deposited with the NSW BDM Registry but no marriages were deposited. About the end of July 1840, Ambrose Cotham OSB. who was on his way from Van Dieman's Land to England called at Port Adelaide and remained for a few days—whether he undertook baptisms or marriages and what he did with the records remains unknown..
Within SA itself after the proclamation and prior to the start of civil registration the researcher needs to refer to parish registers. Apart from Trinity Church North Terrace, these are few and far between. CDs of births, deaths and marriages for this era are available and an online index can be searched. The first settlers to the colony were accompanied by the Colonial Chaplain (incumbent of Trinity), the Revd Charles Beaumont Howard. He was the only clergyman present for much of this period and conducted many of the marriage services regardless of the denomination of the couple and maintained a register. The Revd James Farrell, initially an assistant priest, arrived in 1840.
Other clergy amongst the earlier arrivals included Thomas Stow (Congregational) and Ralph Drummond (Presbyterian). The Revd Newland (Congregational) was based in Encounter Bay from mid 1839 but no records of early marriages have been located for this district. William Benson (Catholic) arrived on the Dorset 14 February 1841 to establish a regular presence. The first church and presbytery in Adelaide were situated in Waymouth Street, at the corner of Tatham Street. Father Benson’s records have not survived. Fr Edmund Mahoney conducted marriages in the colony after civil registration started but failed to register some of them.
There is no doubt that the Lutheran congregations founded at Klemzig (1838) and later at Hahndorf (1839) by Pastors August Karvel and Gotthard Daniel Fritzsche conducted marriages. These records have not survived. Methodism arrived in the colony by the beginning of 1837 and each minister may have maintained records but none are known to survive.The Baptist Church was operating by July 1838 but there are no known records for this period. Quakers marriage records date from 1841.
Interestingly, in the absence of local laws in SA at this time, it is not certain under what authority persons other than Anglican ministers, Quakers and Jewish rabbis could perform marriages (Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act 1753). The marriages in this era technically could not be performed under the Marriage Act 1836 (which allowed for licenced civil celebrants) because Section XLV of that Act confined it to England
As for burials, these are recorded in the few extant parish registers but in March 1840, the West Terrace Cemetery employed a sexton and soon after the cemetery also maintained a burial register. Whether there was an earlier register is not known although some suggest there was one which was lost in a fire.
Other early cemeteries included the German cemeteries at Klemzig and Hahndorf. The registers for these was maintained by Pastor Kavel have not survived. Lothethal was another early German settlement and its registers record one burial in this period. Where the German settlers at Glen Osmond were buried is unknown although some suggest it was in the now St Saviour churchyard (this Anglican parish was not established until 1854). Most other early burials predate the cemeteries in their area although it is likely that some sites were subsequently declared cemeteries. Port Adelaide St Paul was established in 1841 and had a cemetery at Albert Town. According to 1840 records of land usage, Yilki (then Yelkie) cemetery at Encounter Bay was established on RW Newland’s property by then.
In closing the reader needs to be aware that the published BDM Indexes for SA record the references produced by the Principal Registrar and these do not relate to the District Records. Not all District records are indexed and the entries are not strictly chronological and the registration of deaths in particular might be considerably delayed and so the hunt for the duplicate District Certificate may be quite lengthy!
Some of the problems you may encounter include:
  • District Registrar may mis-read the records from the local agent or licenced marriage celebrant.
  • Out of District records may not be appropriately passed on by the District Registrar.
  • The original birth certificates of children adopted (after 17 Dec 1925) were removed by order of the Registrar.
  • Parents marrying after the birth of their child may result in the child being listed under mother's name or even two certificates being produced.
  • A person may be known by a name differing from that on the certificate. Changing or adding names attracted a fee.
  • A number of Scots and Catholics did not register pre-1875 births. Some Scots registered their children in Scotland (after 1854).
  • Some children were registered more than once by different persons.
  • Some children born outside SA to non-SA residents were registered.
    George Walkington registered children born in Cambridgeshire before the family came to SA. (see Bk 9 p380/1)
    George Tucker register children born in Cambridgeshire under similar circumstances (see Bk 39 p112-5)

  • Some places were listed within Adelaide District when they were clearly located in neighbouring districts.
  • Often children who died before the 42 days required to register did not receive a birth certificate. Still births were not registered
  • Some books are missing. Some have been lost over the years and others vandalised by mis-use when unsupervised public access was allowed by some libraries who gained custody after the filming by SAGHS. No dupicates exist for Adelaide District prior to 1857.
    District of Willunga Missing: Births Bk 3; Deaths Bk 2
  • Not all deaths were registered often brought about by a lack of a body and/or confusion as to whom should lodge the registration. An online index is available.
  • Certificates lack detail. What is recorded is listed on the Adelaide Proformat web site.

For futher reading: Beryl Schahinger, SA Registration Districts of births, deaths & marriages,1998.

Adelaide Proformat offers a transcription service for all SA District records. A facsimile of the certificate can be posted or emailed to you as a pdf file.
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