Government Gazettes and Police Gazettes

Government Gazettes and Police Gazettes are an enormously rich source of information for family historians. They can be useful for filling in some of the detail about the lives of our ancestors, and in many cases can solve mysteries.

NSW Government Gazettes

Government gazettes contained all the administrative detail that affected the lives of ordinary citizens going about their daily lives – such as laws and regulations, licenses, land auctions and sales, unclaimed mail, and much, much more. Records of convict assignments and absconding may appear nowhere else but here. Sailors who deserted their ships are listed, as are government employees. Court notices of probate and bankruptcies, livestock brands, and petitions.

Your ancestor should be in a government gazette if he or she:

  • leased, purchased, forfeited land
  • worked for the government
  • tendered for public works
  • died
  • went bankrupt or insolvent
  • had unclaimed mail
  • was a convict
  • was assigned a convict
  • had a livestock brand
  • had a license to run a pub, sell liquor, cut timber
  • signed a petition

Notices of this type were published in the local colonial newspaper until a regular government publication was established:

  • New South Wales – 1832
  • Tasmania – 1825
  • Victoria – 1843 (Port Phillip)
  • Queensland – 1859
  • South Australia – 1839
  • Western Australia – 1836
  • Northern Territory – 1927
  • Commonwealth – 1901

All are still published today, although mostly online rather than printed, and with much less of interest to family historians.

Police gazettes are where the juicy stuff was going on. They were published weekly and distributed to police stations for the information of the local constabulary in order to help them with their work – describing offenders, listing licensees, and so on. Later gazettes in the early-to-mid twentieth century contain lists of known offenders with photographs, for the information of police who may come across them.

In many States publication ceased in the 1980s, as methods of electronic distribution of information became available. Some States publish them to this day, but access is still restricted.

The contents of police gazettes vary slightly by state, but they contain most of the following:

  • Warrants for arrest and details of crimes
  • Arrests, convictions, discharged prisoners
  • Property stolen and recovered
  • Stolen cattle and horses, including brands
  • Escaped prisoners, ship’s deserters
  • Missing friends
  • Deaths reported to police
  • Police appointments, instructions, lists
  • Magistrates, Justices of the Peace
  • Licensed sellers of liquor, wine and tobacco
Police Gazettes were published in the following years:
  • New South Wales – 1862-1982
  • Tasmania – 1861-1933
  • Victoria – 1853-1994
  • Queensland – 1864-1982
  • South Australia – 1862-present
  • Western Australia – 1876-present (restricted)
  • Northern Territory – 1900-present (restricted)
  • Commonwealth – 1 January 1901-present?

It is important to look for your ancestor in other colonies/states, as people travelled over the borders as easily as we do today, particularly if they didn’t want to be found.

Photo of NSW Government Gazettes from the 1850s taken by the author at the Society of Australian Genealogists headquarters in Kent Street, Sydney.

Atlas of New South Wales

NSW Lands Atlas ExplorerI remember the old Reader’s Digest Atlas of Australia that my mother had when I was young. Half of it had detailed maps of the country, but the first half showed New South Wales with different overlays to show the distribution of different things – people, minerals, spoken languages, and so on.

Now there is a similar atlas online, and it’s absolutely marvellous!

NSW Land and Property Information, or the NSW Lands Department as we know them, have set of maps online for historians and other researchers to play with. It’s called the Atlas of New South Wales.

There is quite a bit of contextual information on the site. The most important part, though, and the most fun, is the Atlas Explorer. This  allows you to view, in map or satellite image form, the State of New South Wales or Australia as a whole. For example, you can look at the Changing State Borders map and move the slider along the timeline to see when the different colonies were established and the borders of New South Wales changed as a result.

NSW Lands Atlas borders 1851

You can zoom in and out, choose different types of information within each map, and for some maps you can slide along a timeline to see how things have changed over time. Here is a list of the broad categories of maps available:

  • People
    • Populations
    • Health
    • Housing
    • Religion
    • Indigenous Population
    • Social Inclusion
    • Crime
  • Economy
    • Labour Force
    • Labour Underutilisation
    • Economic Sectors
    • taxation and Revenue
    • Agriculture
    • Forestry
    • Fruit and Vegetables
    • Oils and Grains
    • Livestock
  • History
    • Heritage Properties
    • European Settlement
    • Changing State Borders
    • Goldrush
    • Elections
  • Environment
    • Geology
    • Soils
    • Vegetation
    • National Parks
  • Census 2006
    • Populations Distribution
    • Indigenous Population
    • Housing Costs
    • Income
    • Dwellings
    • Religion
    • Languages

In the examples below I have looked at the maps for European settlement and moved along the timeline from 1820 to 1830. This maps shows how far Europeans settlement had spread in 1820:

NSW Lands Atlas European settlement 1820

This map shows the spread in 1830:

NSW Lands Atlas European settlement 1830

You can see how far Europeans had spread in ten short years. It had already overrun the Nineteen Counties and the Limits of Location. Port Macquarie had been established, and the spaces in between were being filled in. Compare this map with the Map of the Nineteen Counties on the State Records NSW website.

There is much, much more in the Atlas than I can describe here. Have a look around and let us know what you find.

Other resources:

Archives in Brief No. 22 Occupation of Crown Land Prior to 1856

Map of the Nineteen Counties

More Australian Electoral Rolls on Ancestry

Ancestry seems to have added more Australian electoral rolls onto ancestry.com.au without any great fanfare. At least, if there was one I missed it, and I didn’t get an update about it. They now cover the period from 1903 to 1954, although the coverage isn’t complete, nor is it the same for each state.

Here is the list, blatantly cut-and-pasted from their website.

State and Years Presently Included:

This database currently includes electoral rolls for the following states and years. Those marked by asterisk have been indexed. Others are image-only.

  • Australian Capital Territory: 1928*, 1929-31, 1935*, 1937*, 1943*, 1949*, 1954*
  • New South Wales: 1930*, 1931-32, 1933*, 1934-35, 1936-37*, 1943*, 1949*, 1953-54*
  • Northern Territory: 1922*, 1928, 1929*, 1930-31, 1934*, 1937*, 1943*, 1949*, 1954*
  • Queensland: 1903*, 1905*, 1906, 1908-10, 1912, 1913*, 1914-17, 1919*, 1921*, 1922, 1925*, 1926, 1928-29, 1930*, 1931-32, 1934, 1936-37*, 1943*, 1949*, 1954*
  • Tasmania: 1914*, 1915-17, 1919*, 1921, 1922*, 1925, 1928*, 1929-31, 1934, 1936-37*, 1943-44*, 1949*, 1954*
  • Victoria: 1856*, 1903*, 1905-06, 1908, 1909*, 1910, 1912-13, 1914*, 1915-18, 1919*, 1920-22, 1924*, 1925-28, 1931*, 1932-35, 1936-37*, 1942-43*, 1949*, 1954*
  • Western Australia: 1901*, 1905, 1906*, 1909, 1910-11*, 1912-15, 1916*, 1917-22, 1925*, 1926, 1928-30, 1931*, 1934, 1936-37*, 1943*, 1949*, 1954*

Take note of the years that are indexed and those that are not.

Full details here.

I did a test drive of a roll without going through the index. My Eason family was in Blayney until the mid-1950s, so I went searching for them in the 1954 roll. I know from searching previously for an earlier period that they were likely to be in the Commonwealth Division of Macquarie, State Division of Bathurst, Blayney Subdivision, so I went searching there first. I know that boundaries change over the years but you have to start somewhere and I started there.

I selected New South Wales, then 1954, then MacQuarie (as spelled by Ancestry). I then selected Bathurst, and E for the initial of my ancestor.

The page that came up was for the Subdivision of Bathurst, which I didn’t notice, so I then went back and searched for other divisions and subdivisions. Eventually I noticed that there were a number of pages for each selection, so I went back to Bathurst and there were 4 pages, of which I was on the first one. I moved on to page 2, which was still Bathurst, but page 3 was Blayney. There they were!

1954 Electoral Roll Macquarie Division Blayney Subdivision

1954 Electoral Roll Macquarie Division Blayney Subdivision

You can see it’s not a brilliant image. I’ve also cropped the black border around the image. The surnames don’t quite disappear into the binding on the right hand page, although on other pages they do. Still, it’s available on your subscription at home, if you have one, or at your library, if you don’t, without looking at microfiche, which aren’t indexed either.

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