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Proformat News
No: 48
February 2010
News
February Seminars
7: Tracing your English ancestors from afar West Torrens Public Library 1:30 to 3:00pm
21: Coming to grips with FamilySearch WEA Centre Adelaide 10:00am to 1:00pm

March Seminars
14: Family History on the Web WEA Centre Adelaide 10:00am to 1:00pm
17
: Tracing your Irish ancestors Mt Barker Community Library 1:30 to 4:30pm
20: Coming to grips with FamilySearch WEA Centre Adelaide 10:00am to 1:00pm
26: Tracing your English ancestors WEA Centre Adelaide 6:30pm to 9:30pm

See the seminar program for more details and bookings.

Shake your family tree
The National Archives is hosting a Shake your family tree day across all its reading rooms on 23 Feb 2010 from 9:30am to 4:00pm. Each office will be offering a range of talks, workshops, demonstrations, and research guidance. For details go to: naa.gov.au


School records
To convert a genealogy of a family into a family history, family historians seek out records that fill in the gaps between birth and marriage and death. A worthwhile resource in this quest has to be school records and in the case of South Australia one can much insight into a family by trawling though this material which unfortunately is largely unindexed.

In 1875 the Colonial Government passed the Education Act which placed full responsibility of public education with the government and resulted in the establishment of the forerunner to the modern Education Department to manage this aspect of education. Moreover, schooling became compulsory for children aged 7 to 13 years. However, the government had been involved in some management of education from 1847.

In this issue:
News
February Seminars
March Seminars
Shake your family tree

Feature article
School records

Special feature
NAA abandons SA

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In 1847 the administration commenced paying teachers a stipend of 1/8 [17¢] per month per pupil for schools whose enrolment was at least 20 pupils. The records for this era are with State Records Series GRG 24/6 Returns received by the Colonial Secretary. This material will provide the researcher with the name of the school, the teacher and the pupils as well as the pupils' ages, attendance and grade. These records cover the period 1847–1851 and have been indexed [see the Special List in the Reading Room] and the records themselves are available for viewing on film.

Unfortunately the period 1851 to 1875 is not well represented in the records. In 1851 a new Education Act provided a stipend for teachers, the construction of classrooms and school inspectors to be managed by a Central Board of Education. No pupil records are available for this period although the researcher may find records about the teachers and facilities in GRG 50/1 Minutes of the Central Board of Education and the Council of Education. This material has a limited index within the collection: GRG 50/1/0000/7

The 1875 Act provided teachers with a salary, made attendance largely compulsory for primary aged children but still required fees from parents. Being a government bureaucracy the system soon established a significant level of record keeping. Unfortunately the more pertinent material for researchers was not required until 1885 and even then much of the material has been lost or remains in the custody of individual schools. Until the 1920s there was no requirement to preserve government records and even after the introduction of the archives school managers were not aware of their responsibilities in this matter. The writer can recall in his early days as a teacher looking through ruins of remote schools in the state and often finding records still within the structures! Of all the paperwork generated by schools, the most useful would be the Admission Registers but only 10% have been deposited with State Records. Roll Books and Inspectors Registers are less useful. Unless you seek your own record, these have a closure period of 30 years.

Some schools have deposited a significant collection of material and the research is best served by checking the holdings at State Records. The easier way to do this is to visit the web site catalogue even though it is not all that user friendly or complete and certainly does not welcome a Macintosh visitor! Click of the search button in the left side blue column to reveal a choice of search engines. Select keyword search and type in the name of the school in the format such as Edwardstown AND primary school. {Because there has been more than one school with the name Edwardstown, it is useful to distinguish which one.] Such a process using the example will reveal a substantial listing for this particular school.

By contrast some school have no records deposited. When this is the case it is worthwhile checking with the school itself to see it it is holding onto the records. A search of the catalogue will fail to find a listing for Mitcham Primary School - a long established large school that is still holding on to its records. Of course if the school is retaining custody of their records, the researcher will have to negotiate with the manager of the school and that may prove a problem. On the other hand if the management is not aware of their responsibilities to deposit their records, they may also not be aware of the rules regarding access which places a 30 year embargo on these records to the general public and one may be able to access rather recent material!

A less well-known set of records are those for public examinations. The Public Education Board maintained Registers [GRG 130/1 Examination Registers 1901–1965] that provide the pupil's name, school or address and subjects passed. The later volumes also provide a date of birth and marks achieved. Access is restricted and a researcher will have to consult with the duty archivist. Associated with this group of records are the Registers detailing who gained a Qualifying Certificate [QC], that is, they were eligible to enter a secondary school having passed the appropriate examination in Grade 7. GRS 7186 Registers of Qualifying Certificates 1930–1942. These records were only discovered in the basement of the Education Department's head office in 1999. The information contained in these registers includes, an index of schools with corresponding page number; on each page is listed the school's name, distinguishing number for each student, the student's name, student's age at 31 December next, examination results by subject, total examination result and whether student achieved a QC or failed. These records are open.

The University of South Australia [UniSA] maintains a web listing of teachers and their postings for 1851–1962 developed by the late Brian Condon. Three types of searches are available – by teacher's name, by school and by service year. The information disclosed about individual teachers, their postings and performance can be quite revealing! Details include date of birth and death (if in office), training and qualifications, rank, date of appointments, placement, salary, inspector's marks and comments.The list is far from complete and given the compiler's death in 2005 the future development of this database is unknown.

When it comes to private schools, the survival and access of records is rather hit and miss. If the records have survived then the access of the records requires an approach to the school and an acceptance of their access policy. The largest school system outside the state schools is Catholic Education SA. Currently only individuals can access their own personal information on application to the appropriate principal or the education office if the school has closed. The other much smaller system is conducted by the Lutheran Church (Lutheran Education Australia) and again the approach is via the school principal as generally each school holds its own records with its own access policy. The Lutheran Archives do have records from a few schools and the archive has an access policy which allows viewing of admission registers. If the school has since closed the records may remain with the local congregation. The records of those schools shut by an Act of the SA Parliament in 1917 have likely been lost. The remaining private schools, most of which have some religious affiliation, operate independently with their own policies regarding access to their records.

NAA abandons SA

Most in the genealogy and history fields are now well aware of the shock announcement by the management of the National Archives of Australia to close the Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin offices, and many have made representations to the NAA and federal politicians about the matter. There is still no certainty that such representations have made one iota of difference to the decision in spite of the current PM's stance on the matter of closure of such facilities made in April 2001.

The decision process…

It might sound churlish to suggest that the closure decision has been orchestrated in an underhanded way but these are the concerns being expressed about the decision process…

• The decision to provide the service in some state capital cities and not others is contrary to one of the principals under which this nation was federated, namely state equity regardless of the population size.

• The decision-making process and lack of transparency and consultation is clearly evident. There was no consultation with the NAA Adelaide Consultative Forum prior to the decision. In fact this group and others in Adelaide were given the clearly false impression that a new office was being sought with a preference to co-locate with State Records of South Australia. This misleading intention was being bandied about up to just eight days before the announcement.

• On the one hand the NAA claims it is as the result of budget cuts by the government but if the budget was so tight why was there a reported under spend of $5.246M in the 2008-09 budget in the annual report? It would be interesting to see full costings of paying out the staff in the three offices, relocating the records interstate, moving other office equipment and facilities interstate, and “making good” the leased buildings, and how this will save the money required in the short term.

• There has been a significant lack of consistency in the messages that have been delivered to the public when SA Director (based in Brisbane), David Swift was quoted in the Canberra Times saying that the the smallest of the offices and the least-used collections were closing. He said, "They’re very small collections by comparison [to other states], and it’s very expensive to maintain a physical presence for such a small body of material, and low usage”. There was a different reason given in the public message put out by National Director, Ross Gibbs on the NAA web site: “The decision to close the Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart offices was based on the knowledge that they could not endure any more budget cuts while still maintaining the high level of service that they are known for.” Ironically in 2001 when the Adelaide office was relocated to it present site, 27 of the 30 shelf kilometres were removed from SA. This is a typical ploy of government—run down a service and then claim it is not being used to justify its closure!

• The last NAA annual report shows that the number of original records accessed by researchers in reading rooms jumped up nearly 10,000 more than the previous year and the number of researchers visiting reading rooms increased while those who were accessing NAA remotely (ie via phone, email and the web) dropped. A fact sheet suggests that the majority of access to the records is online, but that does not mean that serious in-depth researching that requires trawling though records is of lesser importance.

• The NAA have published a fact sheet on their web site to justify the decision: collectively the three offices to close hold 4% of the total record collection and yet already the majority of SA's collection had been removed from SA in 2001. If all the records relating to SA, NT and TAS were returned, what would this percentage be then? The same fact sheet reveals the seemingly few visits to the offices to be closed but fails to reveal how many visits were made to the offices to remain open and more importantly fails to reveal how many visits to offices in ACT, NSW, QLD, VIC, and TAS related to records for the states where offices are to be closed.

* Nowhere does the justification for the closure of offices recognise the importance of academic research. Now students of history who need to access material generated locally will need to travel and possibly stay interstate to research records generated in their own region!

Concerns at the lack of a state-based office…

Apart from the flawed decision-making process, South Australian based researchers need to be especially concerned. (No doubt those in Tasmania and the Northern Territory need to be too, but I am confining my comments to the state I focus on.)

• As previously mentioned, SA has already lost most of the NAA collection interstate in 2001 and no one was consulted the first time around either.

• The records that were moved interstate have not been made more accessible as promised at the time, nor has there been any reduction in copy costs for SA researchers.

• The records chosen to remain in Adelaide during the 2001 relocation project were those that were determined to be records that should not leave the state because they were considered iconic and significant to SA. How have they lost their significance since?

• The digitisation program started with providing researchers with the opportunity to request digitisation of publicly accessible records held in Canberra for no charge in 2001, but by the time this digitisation service was extended to the states in Feb 2007, records could only be digitised on public request for a fee. (The only records being digitised at no cost to researchers were those nominated by NAA for its proactive program – principally the WWI service records in Canberra and assorted migration records in the states.) This has meant that SA records sent interstate can only be accessed by SA researchers either paying to travel to the interstate reading room to view them, paying a research agent to view them interstate on their behalf; paying for a print of the whole record for a steep fee, paying for a low resolution digital copy of the record to be loaded to RecordSearch that they (and anyone else) can then view and print out. This discriminates as researchers living in the city where the records are kept can visit and view the original record and take digital photos of it with their own cameras at a higher resolution at no charge, or pay 50c to have selected pages from the record photocopied when they visit.

• According to NAA’s own web site, only 10% of the collection is described at item or file level on RecordSearch. How will SA researchers know a record exists in order to be able to order a digital or print copy of it? Currently they can visit the SA office to look through checklists and trawl records.

• Many records have a very general title – such as correspondence or simply a person’s surname and initials. Currently researchers are able to visit the Adelaide office to trawl through large numbers of records at no cost to see if they are relevant for their research purposes. With relocation of the record interstate this opportunity is lost.

• Other services for SA researchers have also been eroded in recent years. In October 2006 the reading rooms in all states/territories except Melbourne and Canberra closed on Mondays and Tuesdays to allow the NAA to focus resources to meet the increased demand for online access and services. This was at the expense of those wanting to visit to view original records on those two days and because there were no funds to employ additional staff to provide the digitisation service being offered.

• Some members of the general public need to contact the NAA for certified copies of records for entitlement purposes often with very short deadlines and the vast majority of people in this category of user do not even know NAA exists until they discover they need the records it holds. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship requires some South Australians to get certified copies of records of their arrival in Australia from the National Archives in order to be able to apply for Australian citizenship, apply for an Australian passport, and/or to apply for an Australian Resident Return Visa among other things. Similarly Centrelink also requires certified copies of passenger lists held by NAA as proof of arrival in Australia as a permanent resident in the form of a certificate of evidence of resident status for those who apply for an Australian pension. As three of the other Australian documents required for a pension (each worth 70 points) are a current Australian passport, an Australian citizenship certificate, or an Australian birth certificate, many non-naturalised migrants need this documentation from the National Archives. Certified proof of arrival is also required for applying for driver’s licences, taking out a mortgage, job applications, student loans, and so on.

The fate of the material in the existing local collection…

As mentioned in a prior newsletter, closure of the Adelaide Office is 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. What will happen to these records generated by the Customs, Defence, Naturalisation, Maritime (Fact Sheet 260), Meteorology Departments, and the Post Office? These are just some of the concerns relating to material about SA. A list of the most used series is appended to the end of this article.

• With no SA expertise many records will not be described accurately or in any depth, plus there is the possibility that they will be reviewed for retention at a later stage and non-SA staff not knowing their significance or level of usage – could dispose of them.

• Despite the fact that most SA records went to Sydney in 2001 there has not been any large scale data entry to RecordSearch or digitisation of this material on the part of NAA. If they have not managed to do anything in nearly ten years what is the chance of anything being done with the rest once it’s relocated. There is the possibility that any program once commenced will not focus on non-local material!

• Fact Sheets, Research Guides and other finding aids are written by staff members who have a good knowledge of the records to help with public access. This lessens the likelihood that any additional finding aids for SA records will be produced when they are relocated.

• Both State Records of SA and the State Library have been approached by the NAA to take the Adelaide records yet these state institutions have just as many if not more resource and budget problems. If the records are returned to their agencies as was the case with some records in the 2001 relocation that were taken back by Defence Science and Technology Organisation at Edinburgh for storage, then the public loses access to them and the storage is likely to be less than archival standard.

• There are virtually no archival jobs available in SA and so the six Adelaide NAA staff and their considerable archival expertise with South Australian material will be lost.

Highly used Adelaide holdings…

Passenger lists. See NAA Fact Sheet 256.
• Merchant marine records of crew members who deserted or were engaged and/or discharged in SA ports from 1852 to 1986.
• SA colonial naturalisation certificates from 1848 to 1903 – many for early German migrants and also for those who were residing in the NT.
• SA “alien” (non British) registration records (some with photos) from the 1920s to the 1980s.
• British migrant selection documents for those requiring assisted passage to SA 1947–1981 including some child migrants (the “Forgotten Australians”).
• Migration case files that cover not only individuals but also document changing migration policies and their implementation in SA.
• WWII army pay files for those who enlisted in SA. These records include more family details than the service records held in Canberra.
• Records for those who were interned in SA in WWI and WWII – especially those interned at Loveday Camp in the Riverland.
• Plans, drawings, specification and photographs of SA National Estate buildings such as the GPO, post offices, customs houses (Fact Sheet 92), drill halls, other defence buildings (Fact Sheet 91) and facilities – used by heritage consultants, architects engaged in restoration projects and archaeologists.
• Investigation case files created by the SA branch of the Federal Police precursors covering a range of topics such as records of wartime interrogation and appeal hearings, information garnished from informers and surveillance, aliens, enemy sympathisers, subversive elements, Revolutionaries, Bolshevists, Fascists, enemy espionage, communists, European Fascist parties, Anti-Semitism, reports on internment and internees from both World Wars, cults, sects, Irish National Association activities, propaganda, strikes and protest marches, information on deportations, applications for naturalisation and requests for information from the Immigration authorities. The series also contains confiscated material in the form of photographs, postcards, maps, posters and so forth.
• Petitions for patents registered in SA often including drawn specifications from 1878 to 1915.
• Boer War attestation appears for the 5th Imperial Contingent from SA.
• Registration of ships in South Australia including their specifications and owners.
SA lighthouse (Fact Sheet 259) log books from 1853 to 1969.
• Applications for the registration of trademarks in SA (usually with a sample of the trademark) 1893 to 1997.
• Applications for the registration of copyright (Fact Sheet 105) in SA (often including samples of the work being registered such as photographs of SA events, people and places, sheet music, postcards etc) from 1878 to 1909.
• SA/NT pension index cards from 1948-1982 that are used to help re-connect Indigenous family members who are part of the Stolen Generation.
• Records of the Torrens Island Quarantine Station including photographs from 1924-1945.
• South Australian Post and Telegraph records from 1847 to 1994 which document post offices in SA and the NT often incorporating petitions from local communities for changed services and numerous postal and telecommunication functions like the issuing of new stamp designs, the construction and implementation of the Overland Telegraph and so on.
• Over 2000 photographs collected by the former SA Australia Postal Museum dating from 1840 to 1990;
• SA migrant hostel registers from the late 1940s to the 1980s.
• Files about SA businesses created by the Deputy Prices Commissioner dating from 1939 to 1948.

Particularly significant Adelaide holdings include:

• Records from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation especially those about Woomera and Maralinga. (Fact Sheet 129)
• SA records collected for or created by the Royal Commission Into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (Fact Sheet 112) which are supposed to stay in the state.
• Index cards for SA Aboriginal people 1917-1957 that have been listed on the NAA Bringing Them Home Index and are used by NAA in fulfilling its Memorandum of Understanding with Nunkuwarrin Yunti (SA Link-Up) to help re-unite members of the Stolen Generation. (Fact Sheet 209)
• A major collection of Commonwealth Railway files, diagrams, plans, maps and photographs as SA was home to the ANR head office for many years. With the centenary of the Trans Australian Railway construction coming up shortly these will become even more important.
• As the head office of the Australian Wine and Brandy Corp is based in SA all their records are also held in Adelaide including records of the marketing of our wines and brandies overseas from 1924 to 1991. (Fact Sheet 26)

Postscript…

On 20 Jan 2010 the Federal Government conducted a community cabinet meeting in Adelaide, and the genealogy and history community made a number of applications to meet with the Minister, Joe Ludwig, over the matter. Those successful in gaining a session, reported dissatisfaction at the response to their submission. The Ministers and his minders' attitudes were that it was a done deal and not negotiable as many debating points made, several of which are outlined above, were ignored. The authorities seem to be suggesting that they see digitisation as the solution to the problem especially for a researcher and yet we all know that this is rather unlikely and any requests for this will as likely or not fall on the shoulders of the applicant to fund.

At the time of writing the writer has been advised that a mere 5900 signatures have been appended to the petition being circulated. This suggests that the wider community are disinterested or unaware of the issues, as such a small response is not going to encourage any politician to review their decision! Probably the timing was not good for a petition over the summer break and hopefully the response will pick up.
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