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

Q. From Tracie: Just wondering why ancestry has records saying my grandparents Elizabeth C Twaddle and Cyril H Brown were registered as married in 1929 in Perth but their actual marriage certificate states they were married in June 1940 in WA. This has stumped me…
A. SROWA: Dear Tracie – Gerard here. Have checked Births, Deaths and Marriages online indexes and the microfiched marriage indexes we have here in the SRO and there is no record of Elizabeth Twaddle and Cyril Brown marrying in 1929. There is a record of Cyril Brown marrying a Kathleen Dennison in 1929. Therefore the information on Ancestry.com.au must be incorrectly indexed. Ancestry.com.au allows for reporting and changing incorrect information, please see the following link: http://ancestryau.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/668/kw/changing%20incorrect%20information Trust this information assists you.
A. Tracie: Thanks, that is what I thought. Indexed incorrectly. I have a copy if the certificate from 1940 and couldn’t understand why ancestry had it as 1929. Thank you for confirming that for me.
A. Dean: http://www.wamarriage.info/ has the year as 1940

Q. From Jane: My great-grandfather, Patrick Francis McDermott, arrived in either Perth or Fremantle from Ireland (Derry Goolin in Galway) in 1888. Family legend says he arrived with his brother. I know he had a brother named Michael and one named Thomas, but it may well have been another brother. Does the SRO hold any collections which can be accessed from SA that may help me trace if a brother did arrive?
A. SROWA: Hello Jane, Gerard here. Our Passenger lists here show that the earliest Mr P Mc Dermott (unfortunately they don’t always give the first name) arrived in WA from overseas in 1891, arriving through Albany, as many people did then, rather than Fremantle. He arrived alone. There are other P Mc Dermotts but I think I’ll take this one offline to look harder, so other queries can be answered this evening. Hope that’s OK.
A. Jane: Thanks Gerard. I appreciate it. He was also known as Frank, if that helps.

Q. From Wendy: Hello, are there any records for a Tom Penneyston other than those on ancestry … I don’t have a sub. When I searched my Penneyston family, he came up on Electoral Rolls but I’ve never checked it out because all the Tom Penneystons that I ‘know’ died as infants in Tasmania where the family settled.
A. IHM: Do you have any dates for Tom’s movements, Wendy?
A. Wendy: 1916 Kalgoorlie, just searched 😉
A. SROWA: @Wendy. I’ve done a simple search for Penneyston in AEON, and it didn’t come up. If you can provide some more details from the Electoral Roll we can look for ratebooks or other records for the place where he lived, or if it shows he was employed by the government we may be able to look for other records.
A. SROWA: @Wendy, Do you know how long he was there or his occupation? Lise
A. Wendy: Hi Lise, he was in Kal. 1916 -1931 then shows up as ‘Swan’ WA for 1936 and 1937 . Thanks, my guess would be a miner but have no idea really 🙂
A. SROWA: @Wendy. That’s a fair time. I’d suggest looking in the ratebooks for more details – they often provide details of occupation, and you could also try looking at the Post Office Directories. Lise
A. SROWA: Not just ratebooks, but miner’s lease records too. Also, have a look on the passenger lists to see if you can find out when he arrived. If you are in WA, all the public libraries have an Ancestry account. Lise
A. Wendy: Thank you
A. SROWA: @Tracey @Wendy. If you are not able to get to SRO to look up the ratebooks, you may need to ask a friend to come in and help, or contact one of the people and groups in our research information sheet. You can email sro@sro.wa.gov.au for some quick search help, but more detailed research will need to be organised by someone else. Lise

Q. From Carmel: Looking for inquests, are these available?
A. SROWA: @Carmel. It depends on the date and nature of the inquest. There’s a great index to inquests in the pre 1905 Police Gazettes done by the Western Australian Genealogical Society and we are gradually listing the Colonial Secretary’s Office files which include surgeons’ reports and inquest records. Lise

Q. From Tracey: According to family stories, one of my great-grandfathers went to WA from NSW around 1900-1902 to try his luck in the goldfields. Would there be any records from this time to help me confirm that he was indeed over in WA?
A. IHM: Hi Tracey, , can tell us your GGrandfather’s name?
A. Tracey: His name was John Bell (he was born in 1881 in NSW).
A. SROWA: @Tracey. Not just ratebooks, but miner’s lease records too. Also, have a look on the passenger lists to see if you can find out when he arrived. If you are in WA, all the public libraries have an Ancestry account. Lise
A. SROWA: @Tracey. Thanks for the name, although John Bell is fairly common. Any additional information you may have will help whittle down the possibilities. Lise
A. SROWA: @Tracey @Wendy. If you are not able to get to SRO to look up the ratebooks, you may need to ask a friend to come in and help, or contact one of the people and groups in our research information sheet. You can email sro@sro.wa.gov.au for some quick search help, but more detailed research will need to be organised by someone else. Lise
A. Tracey: I just looked at the notes I have & he may have been in Kalgoorlie. The dates may have been from 1898 to 1900.

Q. From Elisabeth: Can you tell me if there was an orphanage in York around 1905 or where I could look for orphanages in that era?
A. SROWA: Hi @Elisabeth, Have had a quick look through AEON and can’t see a specific mention of an orphanage. At that time most were run by Churches. They may also appear in the Post Office Directories held online by the State Library of WA. Gerard
A. IHM: Hi Elisabeth, we’d suggest contacting Find & Connect WA re orphanages as well :: www.findandconnect.gov.au/wa
A. Elisabeth: Thank you

Q. From Lyn: My father was supposed to have served time in Prison in WA for bigamy some time around 1959/1960. It was a big family secret that no one would talk about when we were younger and now there is no one left who could tell me more. How would I go about finding his prison records?
A. SROWA: Dear @ Lyn, Have checked the Prisoner Index for Fremantle Prison (Cons 4204) which is not restricted and the names listed by you – George Vernon Hall, Maxwell Vernon Hall, Harry Terry Hall, etc. – do not appear at all in all their various combinations. I think then we can surmise that he did not serve time in prison for bigamy in WA. I have also checked the Criminal Record Books (which are registers of calendars of prisoners at various court sittings in the Supreme Court and in country centres) for that time period (Cons 4332, items 1 and 2) and the name, again in various combinations, does not appear. I think we can therefore conclude that a trial for bigamy and any resulting imprisonment did not actually occur in Western Australia. It may have occurred somewhere else but there is no record of it in WA.
A. SROWA: @ Lyn, have you looked for a marriage record for George Hall in WA? Gerard
A. Lyn: Thank you Gerard & Lise for looking into my little mystery. I have checked for a marriage under the various names I know of, but nothing shows up. Maybe he was tried & incarcerated in NSW. My mother was a sweet, gentle lady who believed in shielding her children from the harsh realities of life and her secrets were well guarded, even in the last few months of her life. I guess all will reveal itself eventually. In the meantime, it does make a good family story!

Q. From IHM: What a brilliant session! We have to call time unfortunately, so we’ll finish with a question to Lise and Gerard: What would be your top tips for using the SROWA collections?
A. SROWA: Hi Gerard here. Yes, a great session – messed up my spelling a bit by typing too fast – apologies. 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.
A. SROWA: Ditto. 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. Lise

Comment: IHM: Thanks again to Gerard and Lise for joining us tonight! We’ll publish the questions, answers and links from tonight’s session in a blog post soon.
A. Carnamah: Many thanks Lise and Gerard for the helpful and insightful info. We weren’t aware of the pre-Federation electoral rolls so we’ll be sure to check them out soon! Thanks to you both and your co-workers for the wonderful service and help you provide at the SRO – from the Carnamah Historical Society & Museum and in particular Jill Tilly and Andrew S. Bowman.
A. SROWA: Thanks all. It’s been great. If you have a reference question, don’t forget you can email us at sro@sro.wa.gov.au or phone the Desk on 08 9427 3600 during business hours. We have limited resources so be very specific about what you are looking for – remember those top tips! Lise and Gerard.
A. Geoff: Thanks, everybody, for your assistance.
A. Tracie: Thank you!

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