1. Tell us about your project to transcribe the “employment and dispersal lists” of assisted passengers from the NSW Governor’s Despatches in the Mitchell Library (State Library of New South Wales)
The NSW Governor wasrequired to make regular reports to the UK authorities regarding all aspects ofgovernment in the colony and these are referred to as Governor’s despatches.
The despatchesinclude details of Government assisted immigration schemes. “Shipping Returns”, according to the prescribed form, were filled in by Emigration Agents on the arrival of every emigrant ship and sent by the NSW Governor to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on a quarterly basis. Duplicates of the reports were retained in the Governor’s Despatches.
The information in these shipping returns “employment and dispersal lists” is additional to what is found in the assisted passenger lists. You will find immigrants in these records that do not appear in the assisted passenger lists, and some who have adopted a different name when gaining employment to that used on the passage. Others confessed to using the passage certificate of another person who had decided not to emigrate. In many cases children as young as 9 or 10 were being employed in locations far away from their parents and older siblings. Some young children were orphaned during the voyage and the details of where those children were placed after arrival are contained in these records.
I found evidence of 133 lists and reports in the NSW Governor’s Despatches having been sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies although 19 of those duplicate lists have not survived. I’ve also included transcriptions of many other reports when found in related documents.
There are 23,262 records in the database and each record contains the file names for all of the related transcribed documents. Publication of this completed transcription project on a field-searchable CD-ROM is expected in the coming weeks.
2. What inspired you to undertake this project?
When I first heard about these employment and dispersal lists found in the NSW Governor’s Despatches, I was hoping to find the list for the Tippoo Saib, the ship on which my own Irish orphan girl ancestor had arrived so I could try to fill in the eight year gap between when she arrived in the Colony in 1850 to her marriage in 1858. I scrolled through the microfilm and did find the NSW Governor’s despatch listing 10 ships including the Tippoo Saib but none of those 10 lists had survived.
However, while scrolling through the microfilm, I found so many of the surviving lists and I knew how vital the information contained in them was and how family history researchers would benefit from access to that information. I felt it was essential that these records were not only indexed but fully transcribed and published in order for them to become more widely available.
I have completed numerous projects over the years many relating to immigration records and published under the trading name “Pastkeys”. The records are well known to genealogists and include the following indexes:
NSW Immigration Deposit Journals 1853-1900 (more recently published as the NSW Immigration Deposits Combined Index 1853-1900)
Unassisted Arrivals into Sydney 1842-1857
Deane index Re-indexed (Settler’s Letters) 1823-1840
Convicts & Employers Index 1828-1844
Wages Paid to Orphans 1849-1851
3. Did you make any unusual or surprising discoveries in the course of your research?
I found many people arriving in one port being sent to another colony. This ranged from a single female arriving in Sydney being sent to New Zealand to join her sister; families arriving in Sydney being sent to Moreton Bay (Brisbane) with some family members being employed in NSW; immigrants arriving in Moreton Bay and Port Phillip (Melbourne) and coming on to Sydney for employment.
The deaths on board and some after arrival have the date and cause of death. The births give the date and sex of the child and the mother is named. Some still-born births are recorded as well. With the births, if the baby’s forename was recorded on the shipping list, that name has been added in Remarks.
4. Do you have any future research projects or plans to publish you own family history?
After this publication, I will concentrate on completing the research on my own family history, distribute the results amongst interested family members and lodge a copy with the Society of Australian Genealogists.
Over the years I have utilised many resources of the State Library (Mitchell Library) in compiling my family history including Pay and Muster Lists for military ancestors as well as records documenting the life of an ancestor who was an Overseer of Convicts and became Superintendent of Convicts at Port Macquarie. I have also made good use of the Deane Index to Settlers Letters to access Colonial Office records (Australian Joint Copying Project) to document the lives of my pioneer ancestors.
5. You are attending the major event on the genealogy calendar in Canberra later this month – the Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry. What are the benefits of attending a large conference like this for you personally and for others attending?
The Congress being held in Canberra will be the 10th one that I’ve attended since my first experience in 1986, also hosted by the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra.
The benefit of being able to attend talks by so many Australian and overseas speakers is to guide researchers to resources which can provide that breakthrough when you need it most. One of those moments for me was when I attended a lecture by a presenter from England at the Congress held in Perth in 2000. From that presentation published in the Congress proceedings, I was able to obtain the UK military history of my husband’s father who had been killed in WWII and also of his maternal grandfather.
You can browse the sales tables at the Convention Centre for the latest technology and products on display. The Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG) will have copies of my NSW Immigration Deposits Combined Index 1853-1900 CD for sale and I had hoped that this current project shortly to be available on a field-searchable CD would also be available from SAG at the Congress as well.