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Proformat News
No: 46
December 2009
December Seminars
6: Coming to grips with FamilySearch WEA Centre Adelaide 10:00 to 1:00pm

There are no seminars in January 2010.

See the seminar program for more details.

National Archives Adelaide
In the middle of November the Director of the National Archives announced that the Adelaide Office (along with Hobart and Darwin) would close shortly. Adelaide had already lost its Director and was being administered from Brisbane but individuals in Adelaide had been reassured by the Director himself that there were no plans to close the facility.
Of course its a double issue for SA in that it was the only state to hand over its colonial records of the government departments taken over by the Commonwealth in 1901.
Our State Records is crying out for space already and I suspect they will resist any offers to take back all this material if indeed it is offered. The problem is even further compounded with State Records itself needing to find larger accommodation and looking to the National Archives to co-locate. I suspect this decision will make State Records task of getting a new facility all that much harder. A petition is being circulated and I urge you to download a copy, sign it and circulate it for additional signatures but make sure it is delivered before the end of January.

SA Wills and Probate records
Wills can often reveal information about a family as well as provide clues about the socio-economic status of a family. Older Wills tend to be much more informative about families than modern Wills and this is largely because individuals are easily identified in modern times, but not in the past and particularly in the era before the advent of civil registration. This has limited application in South Australia as the colony has a recent past.

In SA the management of Wills is overseen by the Supreme Court which has established a Probate Registry at 1 Gouger Street Adelaide, to manage the process. This office maintains an index of their material which can be viewed at the registry by the public. The index is also available in poor quality fiche format at SAGHS and the State Library. The index covers 1844 to 1997. For Wills after this period the researcher needs to attend the Probate Registry counter and make an enquiry. For records before 1844, the researcher should check the General Registry Office which will have a record if there was land involved in the assets of the deceased. It may be that the Will was proven in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury [PCC] now held in The National Archives and a check of the PCC Index can be made online. A search of this index under the terms 'Adelaide' and 'South Australia' reveals no listings but one may get a result with a known surname. There are certainly results using the term 'Australia'.

In this issue:
December seminars
National Archives Adelaide

Feature article
SA Wills and Probate records


Graham Jaunay

Glandore SA 5037

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Not all the records will be Wills and a Grant of Probate as people do die intestate, that is without a Will but with assets. In this case an application has to be made for Letters of Administration [Admons] and in this case all that will be found in the collection is the Letter of Administration giving authority to the administrator to wind up the estate. The third type of Grant occurs when a person has a valid Will but the named executors are unable to fulfill their duties. In this case we have Letters of Administration [Admons] with the Will annexed. An index search does not identify whether the item is a Will or an Admon. This is only revealed on purchase of the item. Unfortunately the Admon (not one with Will annexed) reveals nothing about the family other than the date and place of death of the deceased together with the locality in which they lived.

Pictured: Entrance to the Probate Registry 1 Gouger Street Adelaide

Rather than a reference number, some names in the index have PT as a reference. This means the Will is held by the Public Trustee at 25 Franklin Street Adelaide. This agency provides a service to the public as an executor and trustee of Wills and the Administrator of Estates. Members of the public can elect to have the Public Trustee as their executor. The Court may appoint the Public Trustee to administer an intestate estate although, the Court may equally appoint a member or associate of the deceased, When an entry is marked PT, then the Will is held by the Public Trustee and not the Probate Registry. Older records of the Public Trustee are at State Records but the public must access much via the Public Trustee and a fee will be charged. A listing follows this paragraph. The person who secures material from the Public Trustee will be rewarded with far more than that available at the Probate Registry in that the files will contain material proving relationships, general correspondence and inventories.

Public Trustee files at State Records:
GRG33/2 Estate Records 1881–1957
GRS 1175 Estate Records 1957–1989

Index available in Reading Rooms
closed for 75 years Relates to estates with Proven Wills and generally gives name, date of death, details of estate, debts and liabilities and supporting correspondence.
GRG33/1 Intestate Estates 1878-1910
GRS 747 Intestate Estates 1910-1991

Index available in Reading Rooms
closed for 75 years Relates to intestate estates with information that generally gives name, date of death, details of estate, debts and liabilities and supporting correspondence.
GRG33/9 Deceased soldiers estates restricted; apply for access to Public Trustee via the Duty Archivist at State Records.
GRG94/7 Estates handled by the Public Trustee open Clippings from the Government Gazette.

There are a few examples where the Probate Registry cannot supply a Will although it is listed in the index. These examples are, seemingly, quite rare and are thought to result from a deceased person having assets within and beyond South Australia and having died outside South Australia. The Will itself will be found in the records of the jurisdiction where the person died. In the days before photocopying, it seems that once the estate within South Australia has addressed, the Will was sent on without a record being made of its location. If this occurs the Probate registry cannot assist and will refund your fees.

Some Wills and Admons are held in the General Registry Office [GRO]. These relate to land as before 1892 when the Probate registry only held jurisdiction over personal property, persons with real estate had their records deposited in the GRO. Andrew G Peake has compiled a list persons, their address together with the volume and page number and year of deposition, whose Wills or Admons can be found at the GRO. This list is to be found in Sources for South Australian History [2nd ed] 1998 pp149–153. Sometimes a mention of a Will is made in a memorial but only details of the parcel of land involved will be mentioned and no copy of the Will itself will be available. GRO records can be searched at the Old System Title Section in Building 4A, 300 Richmond Road, Netley SA 5037, from 9:00am to 5:00pm weekdays, telephone number 82264809. A names based index is available to find references to documents. [Note that these records were until recently held at 39 Carrington Street. Adelaide SA 5000.]

The problem of modern Wills not always naming children, often the main reason for seeking a Will, can often be addressed by seeking out records generated by the government collecting Death Duties more properly called Succession Duties. These were introduced in 1876 and are now indexed and held by State Records of SA. GRG84/10 is the index covering 1876 to 1893 and GRG84/11 covers 1893 to 1944 with the records themselves in GRG84/9. For some inexplicable reason, files which relate to deaths occurring after 27 Nov 1919 are restricted to beneficiaries or executors of the estate only. One would have to wonder how many beneficiaries or executors of pre-World War 2 Wills remain alive today! The files give details of personal property and real estate, persons to whom property was bequeathed, the degree of relationship of deceased to beneficiaries, and duties paid. Duties were not paid on property passing from spouse to spouse, where the value of the deceased's estate was less than £50, or where the duty to be paid was less than £20.

A summary on how to access Wills for all Australian States can be found on the Adelaide Proformat web site.

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