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Expert Q&A: Christine Yeats answers your family history questions

Q. From Harold: What staff records are available for my relative Nellie Welch who I think was a nurse at the Diamantina Receiving Depot and Infants Home in Brisbane in the 1920’s-40’s please?
A. Christine: @Harold In this period of time nurse training was hospital based so you’ll need to know where your relative trained. I suggest you contact the Qld state archives to see what records are available for the Diamantina Receiving Depot. There could be records to do with their employment if they were employed by the government.

Q. From Steve: Hi Christine, where would the best place be to view the gaol records of prisoners who spent time aboard the Prison hulks in Hobson’s Bay off Williamstown in the 1850s – 1860s?
A. Christine: @Steve I’d suggest contacting the Public Record Office Victoria for this infor. Victoria became a separate colony in 1851 and after that date the colony maintained its own records.
A. Steve: thank you very much Christine and Inside History Mag, much appreciated

Q. From Leonie: What records are available for the Randwick Benevolent Asylum? I know that the Sweeney children were there for a time in the 1800s but am i able to find details of their time there? 
A. Christine: @Leonie SRNSW has an online index to the admission into the Randwick Asylum, Ancestry has also indexed and digitised these. In addition I would also have a look at the records of the Benevolent Society – there is an online index. Children were often placed in the Benevolent Asylum before the Randwick Asylum and vice versa. There is also an Archives In Brief at SRNSW which provides some background information. If you want further info the Colonial Secretary correspondence is another avenue.
A. IHM:  Hi Leonie, here’s the Archives In Brief 66 – Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children :: | And the Sydney Benevolent Asylum Index :: | And ::
A. Leonie: Thank you Christine and Inside History. That is great.

Q. From Rebel: Hi Christine, hope I’m still in time. James Thomas Richards (Royal Sovereign, 1836) was convicted of robbery (again) at the Supreme Court, Sydney, in Nov 1839 and sentenced to transportation ‘to Norfolk Island’. Then he disappears from the records. Can you give me any hints, please?
A. Rebel: I meant – I can’t find out if he was sent there, or when he came back to NSW.
A. Rebel: (PS I have transported convicts, immigrants, gaoled convicts, inmates of asylums and children in orphan schools in my family! What a bunch.)
A. Christine:  Hi Rebel, there are records relating to convicts sent to Norfolk Island – one of the best places to look is the Convict Guide published by SRNSW, which has a chapter devoted to records of NI. Norfolk was transferred to the administration of Van Diemen’s Land in 1844. The Guide can be purchased from SRNSW.
A. IHM: Hi Rebel, here’s the link to the State Records NSW Archives in Brief 122 on Norfolk Island ::
A. Rebel: Thank you, Christine! I can’t find him on any ships going from Sydney to NI, so that’s a great help.
A. Rebel: And thank you, Inside History!

Q. From Vicki: Are there any records of mothers or children in the First Female Factory at Parramatta around 1810?
A. Christine: @Vicki Unfortunately the records of the Female Factory have largely not survived – there is some information about the surviving records in the Convict Guide available through SRNSW. However there are references to women being admitted in the Col. Sec. correspondence for the period you’re interested in. This is available free of charge on Ancestry. It is also indexed on SRNSW website. Generally women could keep babies with them until the child was 3 or 4 and then they were admitted to the orphan schools. The Orphan School records have been indexed on Ancestry as well but these date from 1817. The Col Sec records may have reference to the children.
A. IHM: Hi Vicki, here’s the link to The Female Factory Parramatta Index, 1826-1848 at The State Library of New South Wales :: | And Index to orphan schools records, 1817-1886 :: | And Applications and Admissions to Orphan Schools, 1817-1833 on ::
A. Vicki: Thank you Christine & Inside History Mag

Q. From Michelle: Hi Christine- do you know if all the Gaol record photographs have been published or are there more still to come? 
A. Christine: Hi Michelle, it’s my understanding that Ancestry will be adding more gaol photos to its website in due course, and SRNSW will continue to index its holdings of goal photo description books.
A. IHM: Hi Michelle, here are the links to the State Records NSW Index to the Gaol Photographs :: | And on – Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930 ::

Q. From Bindi: Can I offer I have some info; TAS foster children, & Sutton Grange, Vic; guardians. Happy to look for names.
A. Christine: @Bindi that’s great, thank you so much, that’ll be most helpful!

Q. From IHM: Wow, that went quickly! Thanks Christine, we’ll finish with one final question – What would be your top tips or golden rules for doing family history?
A. Christine: My top tips would be:

  1. Do your genealogical homework by checking out what else was happening in the time your ancestors were living (it will add to their stories).
  2. Do start from the present and work backwards.
  3. Do obtain birth, death and marriage certificates or transcriptions.
  4. Don’t rely on online index entries.
  5. Do refer to published family histories and online family trees but
  6. never assume anything – always check the facts for yourself.
  7. Do your research from the records and original sources.
  8. Do record your findings.

Comment: IHM: What a great session, thanks again to Christine for joining us tonight! We’ll publish the questions, answers and links from tonight’s session in a blog post this coming week.
A. Sharn: Thank you Inside History and Christine Yeats for a very interesting Q&A session.
A. Christine: Thanks everyone, it’s been a great session. Have fun researching!

Q. From Lesley: I didn’t ( or I can’t see it) an answer to my query re Dunwich Bevevolent asylum ?
A. IHM: Hi Lesley, Christine has very kindly agreed to take the questions we didn’t get to last night away and will have answers for you early next week.
A. Lesley: thank you 🙂


Questions asked before the session:

Q. From Kellea: Are records available for the Irish famine orphans? Mary Ann McGowan born Killrock, Leitrim, Ireland sailed on “Inchinnan” arriving at Sydney 20 Feb 1849 at the age of 16 with her cousin Jane also 16. Parents listed as Daniel and Winnie, deceased. “Barefoot and Pregnant” has she was sent to Maitland. Im. Cor. 49/110 meaning there is correspondence. She had my grandmother out of wedlock in1857, then married Thomas Harvey in 1859. Grandmother took Harvey name after their marriage, but I don’t know if he was the father. The officials were so strict on paper trails, I wonder what happened to Mary between 1849 and birth in 1857. What employers? Where was she sent to give birth?
Q (b): Kellea: Help needed on immigration of another grandmother, Ann McAteer. Born ca1837 Armagh Co., Ireland and death certificate lists she had spent 38 years in the colony. She married John Doran 1854 at Ipswich, Qld, then 1855 married William Cooey… Death certificate states age 16 for first marriage and 18 for second. She lived most her life in Toowoomba. I have searched,,, online Australian passenger lists – no listing for her coming to Australia. Parents listed as Patrick McAteer and Ellen Lewis…no record if they came in country or were even in Ireland. Heaps of different spellings for family name: Mackertear, McAtier, Macateer to name a few.
A. Christine: If you have not already done so I suggest checking out the reference to the Immigration Department correspondence that appears in Barefoot and Pregnant. Unfortunately, there are gaps in the surviving Immigration Department records. Have a look at the entry under immigration in the new Search on State Records’ website to see what there is. You or someone doing the work for you will need to visit State Records – the reading room is at 133 O’Connelll Street, Kingswood – and do the research. There was an immigration depot at Maitland but no records survive. I suggest you check the Indexes and Registers to the Immigration correspondence – even if the correspondence records have not survived there could be a reference to her. The other records that you might find of interest are:
• NRS 5274 Wages paid to orphans, 1849 to 1851
This shows name of orphan, ship of arrival, amount due to orphan from master or employer, amount paid by master or employer into orphan’s account, and amount withdrawn from account and paid to orphan. (4/4676).
• NRS 5275 Particulars of orphans’ monies, 1850-51
Included are lists of orphans. (9/6173 part)
• NRS 5240 Registers and indexes of applications for orphans, 1848-51
Each entry records the progressive number and date of the application, name and address of the applicant, type of employment offered, and result of the application. The volumes are of the same kind used to register and index ordinary letters received. These applications were processed separately for administrative convenience (4/4715-17; microfilm copy SR Reel 3111).
A. Kellea: Thank you, Christine and Inside History! Another avenue I did not know about. I live and work near Kingswood, so will be visiting soon.
A. Christine: If you have tried all the online indexes for NSW, Victoria and QLD it is possible she came into QLD through one of the ports for which there are no records or where the records have not been indexed. I suggest a recheck of the State Records NSW indexes before re-checking Ancestry. If she and her family arrived as steerage passengers they were often not named before 1854 – certainly in NSW. Don’t forget that QLD was part of NSW until 1859. Could she have been the child of convicts – I suggest checking this out too. Is there any other record relating to what happened to either Ann or her husbands that might provide a clue?

Q. From Gail: Why are asylum records so expensive? I would like a record from Sydney Benevolent Asylum, but baulk at $30
A. Christine: The cost of the records from the Sydney Benevolent Asylum is a matter for the Benevolent Society to determine. You could try contacting them. I know that the Society was looking at digitisation options. Perhaps these are now further advanced. State Records NSW holds the records of Government asylums – both mental hospitals and asylums for the infirm and destitute but not the Sydney Benevolent Asylum. State records charges fees on the basis of cost recovery if copies are ordered by those unable to visit the reading room. If you – or someone helping you – are able to visit the State records’ reading room the cost of copying is less.

Q. From Pamela: Looking for further information on John Peters believed to have been a convict of Morton Bay. Our first confirmed records of him are his marriage to Susannah Spreadborough on the 3/4/1854 in Warwick Qld. I’d like to know how can I find out when he arrived, on which ship, and perhaps what charges and perhaps where he came from- he seems to be a complete mystery prior to his marriage. Thanking you in advance of any help you may offer.
A. Christine: It appears that John Peters arrived as a convict exile on the Eden – arrived 4 February 1849 in Portland and Geelong (See Convict Guide). See the online index to convict exiles which is one State Records’ website at: He was tried at the Central Criminal Court (CCC) –Old Bailey – on 23 November 1846. This is a free resource. You may like to check this out for the crime. He was recommended for a conditional pardon according to the Index to the Convict Exiles compiled by the late Jan Reese which is on the State Records’ website. Check the:

  • Returns of Exiles employed at Darling Downs 1850-52, Mitchell Library (State Library of NSW), A1764; CY789
  • AJCP Surgeon Superintendent’s Journals, PRO Reels 3187; 3197; 3205; 3208
  • NRS 12192, Copies of shipping lists of exiles and transports 1846-48, Reel 706
  • Colonial Secretary’s correspondence – start with Joan Reese’s  Indexes to Convicts and other compiled from the  Colonial Secretary’s records.
  • 1841 UK Census

Q. From Janice: Is it possible to see Sydney Hospital records for 1890s – 1920s? If so where are they?
Q (b): Janice: Where can I locate ships logs of immigration journeys from England to Sydney for 1800s?
Q (c): Janice: Where can I locate pictures of immigration ships?
Q (d): Janice: Where can I see outward passengers lists in 1880s-1890s from Sydney to England ?
A. Kellea: Janice, I have found some photos of ships at state archives online. I got a photo of the “Young Australia” my husband’s grandparents ship from there.
A. Christine: There are no records of passengers departing from NSW – other than 1816-15 or 1898-1922. Why not try the UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 on :: 
The other option is always the newspapers of the day as people sometimes advertised the fact they were leaving the colony. Try TROVE on the National Library of Australia’s website:
A. Christine: Ships logs. There is an excellent publication Log of Logs by Ian Hawkins Nicholson which may be of assistance. Copies would be available in State Libraries and other libraries across Australia. ‘Log of Logs is a catalogue of surviving logs, journals and shipboard diaries, letters and all forms of voyage narrative covering emigration to the antipodes. These resources, written by passengers and crew, can provide much valuable information about the voyage and immigrant ancestors.’ Find it in your local library on Trove :: | And there’s more useful shipping info from the National Library of Australia at ::
A. Christine: There are many pictures/paintings of ships that arrived in the Australian colonies, which are held in various collections around Australia. Many of these have been indexed and digitised are available through the National Library of Australia’s TROVE
A. Christine: The records are not held by State records as NSW State archives. Contact the Sydney Hospital and the Sydney Hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital and the Lucy Osburn Nightingale Foundation Museum: I am not sure if patient records have survived for this period. Even if the records have survived they would be closed to public access under the State Records Act 1998 and you would need to apply to the health Department for access.

Q. From Lynda: My 3x great grandfather George Steele was a colonial convict sent to Norfolk Island from Tas 1835. He was returned to NSW in 1842-3, is it possible to find who he was assigned to, or where he was? The records seem not as thorough for colonial convictions.
A. Gloria: Good question Lynda. Would like to know who my ancestors were assigned to.
A. Christine: Responsibility for the administration of Norfolk Island was transferred from NSW to Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) in 1844. The ‘Convict Guide’ published by State Records includes a section on Norfolk Island and a number of records for the period leading up to the transfer are listed. You – or someone else – will need to visit State Records’ reading room at 133 O’Connell Street, Kingswood to access these records. It is also likely that there may be references to your convict in the Colonial Secretary’s correspondence. These records are also available in the reading room at Kingswood as they have not been digitised. I suggest you consult the ‘Index to convicts and others’ that Joan Reese has prepared from the Colonial Secretary’s correspondence. This can be accessed in the reading room. It may be available in other libraries or society collections. Although there are contemporary indexes to the correspondence Joan’s index is an easy way into the records. If you have not so I suggest you consult the records in Tasmania to ascertain if there is any notation on the court records as to what became of him.

Q. From Chez: Would like to find asylum records for the axe murdering 4th Great Grandfather James McManus (Poole) … the link to the newspaper article is
A. Christine: Chez, it is likely that James MacManus would have been placed in the Liverpool Lunatic Asylum, which was in use between 1825 and 1839 when the Tarban Creek (later known as Gladesville) Asylum was opened. According to State Records online catalogue – Archives Investigator – there do not appear to be many surviving records for the Liverpool Asylum. The only series that is listed is a bundle of correspondence containing only seven letters, ‘chiefly concerning the transfer of individuals from hospitals to the Lunatic Asylum, Liverpool’ [4/8136.3]. This is not available online so you would need to visit the State Records’ reading room at 133 O’Connell Street, Kingswood to see if there is a reference to James. If James was transferred to Tarban Creek/Gladesville there should be records about him. Again, you will need to visit the reading room at Kingswood to consult them. The other source that would be worth consulting is the correspondence of the Colonial Secretary as there may be a reference to him.

Q. From Lesley: I would like some photos and more information on Dunwich Asylum Queensland (I don’t live in Qld so I don’t have acess to Qld archives) my great great Grandfather James Cain died there around 1892 please.
A. Christine: Lesley, the records relating to the Dunwich Asylum are held by Queensland State Archives (QSA) The QSA Dunwich and Eventide Records Brief Guide 26 would be a good starting point. You may need to obtain permission from the relevant Government agency (QSA could advise of this) if you are looking for records that are less than 100 years old. The State Library of Queensland holds quite a number of photographs and these can be easily accessed through TROVE (National Library of Australia) by selecting Pictures, photos and objects and searching for ‘Dunwich Asylum’

Q. From Harold: Living in QLD, how do I get any asylum records relating to my ancestor Daniel Bell who died in the Yarra Bend Asylum in 1895 please?
Q (b): Harold: What records are available for my ancestor Moses Storer who served 3 years hard labour in South Australia in 1859 please?
A. Christine: Harold, these records are held by Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) I suggest going to PROV’s guide 23 Online Catalogue –PROV’s Digitised Records and Online Indexes which includes the mental health records and indexes that have been digitised. These include VPRS 7422/P1 Index to Male and Female Case Books, Yarra Bend Asylum, 1848-1912. PROVguide 59: Mental Health Records includes information about the records from Yarra bend Asylum held by the PROV.
A. Christine: Harold, you will need to contact State Records of South Australia for information on Moses Storer’s trial and time in gaol. This is the link to the contacts page: Have you had a look at TROVE (National Library of Australia) for a newspaper report of the trial There are a number of references.
A. Christine: A useful starting point for searching government-run asylums and
asylum records is Shauna Hicks’ 2010 presentation on Asylum Records: A Place to Look for Missing Ancestors:

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