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Expert Q&A :: Using the State Records Office of Western Australia

For our Expert Q&A Thursday, February 28 we had Gerard Foley and Lise Summers from State Records Office of Western Australia [SROWA] to discuss how to get the best from the SROWA collection for family history. Thanks again to Gerard and Lise for giving us all the benefit of their time and expertise.

Please find the transcript of the Q&A and links below.

Don’t forget our Expert Q&As happen every Thursday night on the Inside History Magazine facebook page

When: NSW – ACT – VIC – TAS: 8:30-9:30pm AEDT | QLD: 7:30-8:30pm | WA: 5:30-6:30pm | NT: 7:00-8:00pm | SA: 8:00-9:00pm | Weekly on Thursdays nights!

Gerard and Lise’s top tips for using the State Records of Western Australia collection:

  1. My first tip is to ensure you’re well prepared. Ensure you have all the facts you already know readily to hand. Also have a really good look at the SRO’s website. There is a lot of information about the State Archives collection, including 18 collection guides which give you information about all kinds of subjects like architectural, convict, court and railway records, to name a few. Also at least 90% of the collection is accessible via AEON our online catalogue. Archives are generally catalogued by title.
  2. When searching in AEON, especially for names, try not to be too detailed – go with the surname first, and then the initials. Full names are listed on some but not all files so you could be doing yourself a dis-service. Also try and think about how your ancestor might come into contact with government – rates and local government, land ownership, school and employment records, etc.

Summary of links from the Q&A:


Image Courtesy of State Records Office of Western Australia


Transcript of Expert Q&A – State Records of WA collection 

Our Expert Q&A with State Records Office of Western Australia starts in 15 minutes at 8:30pm AEDT or 5:30pm WST. Tonight we’ll be answering your Western Australian family history questions from the SROWA collection. Please ask your questions in a comment below, Lise or Gerard will answer in a following comment.

Comment: IHM: Welcome everyone, thanks for joining us. Please welcome Gerard and Lise from the State Records Office of Western Australia to tonight’s Q&A!
A. IHM: Questions received earlier this week will be repeated in a comment on this post, for Lise and Gerard to answer in a following comment. Thanks for your questions Sandra and Antoinette 🙂
A. SROWA: @IHM Great to be here – really looking forward to the session -Lise
A. SROWA: Hello everyone we’re ready to go, Gerard.
A. Sandra: Welcome Gerard and Lise 🙂

Q. From Sandra: If you live in rural/remote WA or interstate and can’t get to the SRO what service delivery do you offer?
Q (b): Sandra: Apart from the AEON index online what access is there to the records on line?
A. SROWA: @Sandra. Thanks for the welcome and your support on our page. We really appreciate it. With regard to distance contact, you can ask us to do a quick check for you via our email We have limited resources, so the more detail you can provide the better. For long queries, we recommend you contact a researcher – see our information sheets
A. SROWA: Hello @Sandra. With regards access to records online the SRO certainly does have about 10,000 records that are available online. These are mainly historical maps and plans of WA, they can be found by looking at our maps online webpage at:

Q. From Antoinette: Hi, I’m looking for Richard Lloyd, born 1854 in Fistiniog Wales. He was a miner. His death certificates states he spent at least 2 years in WA so I’m wondering if that was where he first landed here in Australia. Thanks.
A. SROWA: Hi @Antoinette, Been lookijng for your Richard Lloyd. Again it is a case of lots and lots of Mr R Llloyds coming to WA in the late 19th century. Can you give some more detail because on a death certficate it will say periods of time spent in Australia and various States/Colonies if they moved around. Is WA the first place mentioned? If so, what are the time periods for the other colinies and what year do you think he arrived in Australia? Gerard
A. Antoinette: Hi Gerard, yes it is the first place mentioned on the death cert – saying he was there for 2 years. I estimate he arrived around 1883/84. not much help I know
A. SROWA: Hi @Antoinette, I believe any bit of information helps in family history research. There’s a Mr R Lloyd arriving in Albany on the Sutlej from London in July 1883. Another Mr R Lloyd is also shown as arriving on the Pathan from London in 1882. These passenger lists are on Gerard.
A. Antoinette: thanks!

Q. From Bindi: Hello. I’m trying to find Thomas Johns & wife Ann.
At Kanowna, WA. There are 2 . Father & son… Rose Johns born Kanowna 1900.

A. SROWA: @Bindi. We had a good look but could only find reference to Rose’s birth certificate at the Department of Justice website Also have a look at the Wise’s Post Office Directories at State Library of WA. – Lise

Q. From Dean: From TROVE 1916 “Bert Thomas, the youth who was sentenced, some two years- ago to imprisonment for life in connection with what is known as the East Perth murder case, and whom Cabinet decided to release on the recommendation of the Attorney General”. I was discussing this with Gerard on Tuesday, where would I get more information on this?
A. SROWA: Hello Dean, Gerard here. The best place to look for this is in Attorney General and/or Colonial Secretary’s Office records. As you may know Dean this is a more involved search, so I’ll take this offline and find out more for you.
A. Dean: Thanks Gerard.
Q (b): Dean: Are there any records available on patients for the Wooroloo sanatorium for people with tuberculosis and leprosy?
A. SROWA: @Dean. Yes, there are, but many of them will be restricted access records. You can search for them yourself on AEON, using advanced search. Choose the agency, and then enter the WA Agency number (WAA) if you have it, or the agency name (Spell Wooroloo properly !). It’s WAA 1140. Lise
A. SROWA: @Dean – the spelling mistake was mine, but so easy to do! Lise

Q. From Carnamah Historical Society & Museum: We were wondering what plans the SRO have for future digitisation? Also, will this be through your own site or with partners like or
@Carnamah. We’d love to do more digitisation, but it takes time, money and equipment. If we can spread the love around, it means that we can get more done for less. We welcome contact from the different family history companies, and use a non-exclusive licence which involves getting access to the images for our own use after a short exclusion period. We are working with Friends of Battye to get more field books online. Lise
Q (b): Carnamah: 
Thanks Lise! Out of interest, what do you guys think are the most underutilised resources in the SRO collection?
@Carnamah. I’d say the Valuer General’s valuation maps – WA Series (WAS) 367 and 368. I also have a fondness for the Criminal Indictment files (WAS 122) which were used by the late, great Tom Stannage to great effect in People of Perth. Lise
Q (c): Carnamah: 
Two of our historians who often visit SRO both recently purchased Flip-Pal scanners from Gould Genealogy. Any chance you welcome their use like some US archives!?
@Carnamah. Basically, no. We are concerned about anything that touches the page – hence clean dry hands or gloves and pencils only. You can use your own camera or ours. The images are very good. Lise
A. Carnamah: 
Thanks Lise, that is what we presumed. We shall continue to happy snap!

Q. From Geoff: Looking for some kind of accessible listing of residents of Norseman in the 1890s. A distant relative was mentioned as being “of Norseman” in 1901 when one of his sons was married. I can trace the man from birth to marriage in Cornwall, emigration to Queensland, and movements around the mining communities in QLD until the death of his youngest child in 1891. He’s back in QLD in 1903 Electoral Roll.
A. SROWA: Hi Geoff, Gerard here. As you may realise the 1890s and 1900s was a mining boom time for WA. People travelled all over WA and there was much travelling in and out of WA by many people – kind of like today. Sometimes the records are sketchy. The first full list of residents in Norseman is the 1901 Electoral Roll, which is not held by us but which can be found on
A. Dean: May I also suggest for Geoff, the post office directories
A. Geoff: Thanks for confirming my suspicions. I’ll have another look for the 1901 WA Rolls, as I seemed to have missed that one. As an aside, his sons William Charles Drew and John Henry Drew married two Parker sisters, whose father was Town Clerk of Thebarton, SA. People certainly were mobile in those days.
A. SROWA: @Geoff. They certainly are. Passenger indexes help for movement between the colonies, but once we federated it got harder. Some police stations tracked people coming overland, so that occurrence books can help if you know exactly when, where and how, but otherwise… Lise
A. Geoff: None of ’em show up in the Norseman PO Directories. 1903 is the earliest electoral roll on ancestry. Looks like those 10 years are just going to have to stay a mystery until I find the right distant living cousin in either WA or SA.
A. IHM: Hi Geoff, here’s the link to Police Records & Occurrence Books on SROWA ::
A. SROWA: @Geoff, there is a full 1901 Electoral Roll in the State Library of WA. Perhaps he turns up there. I’ll check for you and will get back to you later. Gerard
A. Carnamah: There is no Commonwealth electoral roll for WA for 1901. The one previously believed to be 1901 was in fact undated and was re-dated by the National Library of Australia a few years ago after we proved it could not possibly have been 1901. Unfortunately some libraries and archives with copies, including the State Library of Western Australia, still have the roll incorrectly labelled as 1901 (it is in fact 1903).
A. SROWA: Thanks for the information @Carnamah. Did not know of this new development with the State Library’s 1901 (now 1903) Electoral Rolls.
A. SROWA: The SRO does have a few pre-1900 Electoral Rolls for parts of WA, but because the the full franchise for both men and women did not eventuate in WA until 1899, they don’t have huge number of people listed. See our infornation sheet webpage:
A. Geoff: OK, so no 1901 rolls. I’ll just have to put “Charlie” down as chasing his fortune but not finding it, just as he did before and after his Norseman sojourn. I have him, literally, from cradle to grave (yes, someone found his grave – unmarked – and photographed it for me) apart for those 10 missing years.
A. Carnamah: Maybe as more newspapers are added to Trove you might one day discover a mention somewhere Geoff. Never say never!
A. Geoff: Well, I DID find the son that stayed in WA in AEON Item No. 1941/234, Item Title William Charles Drew. From the date, it must be something to do with his death.
A. SROWA: @Geoff. Click on the detail button on the far right. It’s a grant of probate. Because it is 1941, the full probate file is restricted, but you can look at the will itself on microfilm. The filming was done by the LDS, so contact a Family History Library if you cannot come in to see us. Lise
A. IHM: Hi Geoff, here’s where you can find a Family Search Family History Library near you ::

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