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Proformat News
No: 52
June 2010
June Seminars
29: Tracing your English ancestors Mt Barker Library 1:30 to 4:30pm

July Seminars
10: Finding your way around the English/Welsh censuses 1841–1911 Tea Tree Gully Public Library 10:00 to noon
30: Tracing your English ancestors WEA Centre Adelaide 6:30 to 9:30pm
31: Accessing the primary research stream State Library for the Flinders University 9:00am to 4:00pm

See the seminar program for more details and bookings.

National Wills Index
British Origins has announced that the National Wills Index is now available online. This index covers pre-1858 English Wills and other probate documents. As with all such sites the user needs to pay close attention to the content before committing funds. For example this site has the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills Index 1750–1800 but at The National Archives one can access the complete range 1384–1858.

National Archives seminar
A free seminar on employment records held by the National Archives will be conducted by the Adelaide Office 8 June 2010 10:00–11:00am. Bookings essential 08 8409 8400.

Cemetery and burial records in SA
Prior to July 1948, a South Australian Death Certificate did not reveal the place of burial and this oversight makes locating burial places quite difficult especially in the Adelaide metropolitan area where clients have a range of choice when it comes to a burial. Apart from the fact that headstones often have useful information, knowing the place of burial can reveal other members of the family either mentioned on the headstone or interred in the same grave complete with birth dates and names of spouses.

In this issue:
June seminars
July seminars
National Wills Index
National Archives seminar

Feature article
Cemetery and burial records in SA


Graham Jaunay
Adelaide Proformat

Glandore SA 5037

Tel: +61 8 8371 4465

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During my own research I have discovered headstones naming still-born infants (unregistered in SA) as well as some headstones featuring extensive family data. Although I have yet to come across a headstone in SA to match an ancestral headstone I located in Templemore (Derry) Cathedral grounds which named three generations of my family.

Pictured above: a transcribed death certificate for the first half of 1948 to compare with a certificate for the latter half of the year below. Both certificates prepared by Adelaide Proformat transcription service. The BDM Registry prohibits photocopying records.

Elaborate headstones are the records of the wealthy. Many poorer families could only afford a wooden marker, long since rotted away or eaten by termites, or no headstone at all. Not that the more elaborate headstones were not prone to weathering or vandalism of some nature—albeit anti-social behaviour or institutional. South Australia, with its short term grave leases, is particularly prone to the latter and especially in the larger full metropolitan cemeteries that tend to operate as businesses. Of course a lack of headstone does not necessarily indicate poverty, as the deceased may have had no one to erect a monument. The graves lacking a marker should be recorded in the cemetery's burial register although the celebrant at the funeral may have also kept a record as did the undertaker, The latter two may often be ascertained by checking newspaper personal columns.

The cemetery burial register will normally provide the name of the deceased, often their age, their last place of residence, and the date of the burial. You can also expect to obtain details about the lease holder, the location of the grave in the cemetery and the depth of the grave. Some cemetery registers will also name the celebrant.

In some cases the newspaper can be accessed online. The scanning of newspapers is rapidly improving but compare the adjacent image with the one below and you will see that there is still some way to go. In fact in this particular example the Optical Character Recognition [OCR] software did a reasonable job allowing this entry to be located in by a word search.

Pictured: Advertiser, Adelaide Monday 29 April 1912 p2 col 5 extracted from

Below: the OCR result for the entry.

If the funeral was conducted in a church or with a religious graveside service, it may be possible to access the particular church's registers. However, in modern times many denominations have dispensed with burial registers knowing that the record is available in other official sources as outlined in this article.

Many funeral directors hold records compiled over many generations of their business as it would seem this industry tends to stay within the family. Several of these companies have deposited their records with the State Library of South Australia. Most of these records can also be found at the SA Genealogical & Heraldry Society. The records held by some funeral directors are quite comprehensive.

If one fails to pin down the cemetery, there are still a number of avenues open to advance the search...

Incidentally while checking the newspaper personal columns also look forward for about a fortnight and see if an obituary was published. Many ordinary people had obituaries. An alternative is to check the listing at the Adelaide Proformat web site. Not only may this report the cemetery, but of course the biography may reveal information about the deceased.

Pictured: Obituary Observer 20 Jun 1891 p29 col b as prepared by Adelaide Proformat newspaper transcription service.

Basically in South Australia there are three types of cemeteries. Those operated by local government authorities, known in South Australia as councils, those operated by religious denominations and secular companies or trusts, and those operated privately. The latter includes most pastoral properties and in most cases these are no longer being used.

The SA Genealogical & Heraldry Society holds an extensive collection of cemetery records for the first two above mentioned groups. The compilation of this collection predates the establishment of the society in 1972 but it suffers from two weaknesses that mean the collection is rapidly losing some of its usefulness. The early transcribers just extracted the genealogy on the headstones rather than transcribing the whole text and no photographs were taken. The original work is being transferred to computers to allow searching across the collection and a painfully slow photographing program is in progress. In the meantime many other individuals have taken up the work and many have contributed their efforts to the web site called Australian Cemeteries that has recently been upgraded to allow global searching of the contributions. The burial records of a number of cemeteries operated by local government authorities can be accessed via the author’s web site. One can also locate every known cemetery including station cemeteries, via the usual search process or by a interactive map. Centennial Park, the largest metropolitan cemetery, is the only cemetery to have its records online.

The CD, Lonely Graves of South Australia, compiled by the author and available from Gould Genealogy lists known burials outside cemeteries and includes pastoral station cemeteries.

A number of burial registers and monumental transcriptions have been published. The State Library of SA as the legal deposit library should have a copy of all these publications and so a search of their online catalogue will reveal the cemeteries covered by publications. Simply type … cemetery into the search engine. Gould Genealogy also sell a number of current publications.

Most 20th century funeral notices in newspapers mention the cemetery and knowing the date of death makes it relatively easy to access the newspapers following that date looking for a notice. When the embargo date 1973 is reached and death certificates are not readily available, the researcher can use other avenues to find the date of death and thus access newspapers. The SA Genealogical & Heraldry Society is indexing death notices in newspapers working back from the present towards 1972. Persons owning property at the time of their death have this information recorded on the land title and this can be especially useful if the death occurred after the closed period 1972. Knowing a date of death aids the search of newspaper funeral notices which may mention the cemetery involved.

Online records pertaining to South Australian cemeteries are somewhat limited to work being undertaken by individuals. Many of these people are posting their work to the Australian Cemeteries web site. Some seek a fee to disclose the material while others freely display the material. Clearly the better material includes a photograph of the headstone. Also as previously mentioned, local government authorities have partially placed their burial data on line and this can be accessed via the page on the Adelaide Proformat web site indicated above. Cemeteries within the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority (West Terrace, Enfield, Cheltenham, Smithfield) give the public access to their records via touch screens at the cemeteries. They will charge a fee for all other avenues of enquiry. Using newspaper obituaries, death and funeral notices can assist in locating the cemetery and several web sites have recent and historical newspapers available online although no site has a complete run of Australian newspapers. The best site for past newspapers is the National Library's Trove site. Click on the newspapers as illustrated to access newspapers only.
For more recent material look at The Ryerson also offers access to recent newspaper obituaries. To access this pay-to-use site use your local library. Every public library in South Australia now has free access available to patrons. The web site dedicated to Germanic burials, German Headstones in Australia, is also worth a look. When using any of these sites remember to check the coverage before you discount there being no record available.

Locating burial registers becomes an option when no record of a headstone or newspaper report is evident. Many burial registers disclose little information other than the name of the deceased, date of burial and location of the grave within the cemetery. In some cases more information is provided. Probably the largest collection of burial registers is held by the SA Genealogical & Heraldry Society. The researcher should also check the holdings of State Records as this repository holds local government records. The following burial registers are known to be at State Records which has a 30 year closed period: Appila Yarrowie 1919–83, Beverley Primitive Methodist 1859–1930, Bodies donated to science 1899–1970, Callington 1904–39, Hindmarsh 1846–1986, Magill 1888–1992, North Brighton 1898–1932, Parkside Asylum (later Glenside Hospital) 1894–1992, West Terrace (includes Child, Pauper & Prisoner Registers. Licensee Register, and Receipt Books). The State Library also has some material.
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