Understanding how State Records of SA
manages its collection
The South Australian Government established archives in
1919 and set about gathering up the surviving records
for the past 80 plus years. The material held represents
items deemed worthy of preservation and no longer used
by the particular government agency. The archive stores
the material on behalf of the agency who technically
Archives manage collections rather differently from libraries.
Essentially material is kept grouped by the agency that
generated the material rather than its subject. This can
have some problems for the researcher trying to locate
a particular record.
Like all repositories, the archive or library is only as
good as its finding aids. There is little point storing
heaps of records that no one knows about and therefore
it is an on-going process to modify and update the catalogue
and especially the descriptions of the material held. Online
catalogues are rarely all embracing and this is the case
with State Records of SA which has only relatively recently
adopted a computerised catalogue.
State Records of SA is a relatively new organisation responsible
for the records generated by government agencies. Prior
to 1986 it was part of the State Library and collected
non-government material too. When it was split away many
records, previously holding accession numbers were grouped
into new series. If you come across an old reference to
a piece with the prefix letter A, then it is likely that
has a new identifier. For example:
Ships Manifests Feb
1838 to Apr 1842 were A743 and are now grouped GRG41/8
GRG = Government Record Group,
41 = Customs Department,
8 = this particular set of records
of three volumes.
To locate a particular item you need to add more information. Thus to
locate the first volume which covers Feb 1838 to Sep 1839
of the above example we require two additional pieces of information,
Number and Unit ID. Thus we have GRG41/8/0/1. where:
0 = Consignment (0 indicates a Consignment
number was not used—GRG & MRG did not use this system)
1 = Unit (ie Volume 1 in this case but could be a box, a folder,
a bundle, etc)
We can have a further division, an Item if the Unit contains
files etc. Normally we would not call up an item but we
need to use this when recording the source of the information.
In the case of our example there is no Item as the material
is contained within a book.
Other series prefix letters you will
find are MRG = Municipal Record Group and GRS =
Government Record Series.
State Records also prepare Special Lists to add a further
dimension to the catalogue. In the case of family history,
these lists are often lists of names on individual files
(ie Items) and can prove very helpful. Few are computerised.
One special list that has been placed into a database is
the names of the passengers listed in the Official Passenger
Lists of Emigrants selected by the Colonisation Commissioners
(GRG35/48a). This Special List (GRG35/48/1) that has been
placed online at the State Records web site: www.archives.sa.gov.au Whereas
Special List GRG7/18 which represents the names of agricultural
labourers corresponding with the Immigration Department
in GRG7/23 has not been computerised.