Tuncurry Afforestation Camp

I’ve been researching the great-uncle of a client. We started off with a notice in the NSW Police Gazette that he had been arrested for stealing money from the Government Savings Bank. A Sydney Morning Herald report of the trial at the Sydney Quarter Sessions showed that he had worked for the bank for 17 years and was sentenced to two years hard labour in Goulburn Gaol ‘to be made an example of’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Aug 1925, p.12).

For more information I needed a trip out to State Records NSW at Kingswood.

The Goulburn Gaol Entrance Book [7/13506] is an enormous volume requiring three pillows to support it. The Entrance Book gives:

  • Entrance date
  • Entrance number
  • Name
  • Gaol Number
  • When, where and by whom committed
  • Offence
  • Sentence
  • Where born (with date of birth in this case)
  • Ship and Year if born out of the colonies (it’s an old book)
  • Religion
  • Trade
  • Age
  • Height in feet and inches
  • Colour of hair and eyes
  • Education
  • Remarks, which appeared to indicate whether this was a first imprisonment
  • How and when disposed.

Our former bank employee was admitted to the prison on 10 September, along with some other prisoners. He’d been a bank manager, aged 36, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was disposed ‘To Tuncurry’ on 4 November 1925.

Tuncurry? I hadn’t realised there was a gaol at Tuncurry.

It turns out that Tuncurry hosted the first ‘Afforestation Camp’ in New South Wales. Tuncurry Afforestation Camp was a 6,000 acre property where prisoners were provided with ‘a modified form of prison life and the opportunity to acquire skills which could be used on release’. It makes sense – he was never going to be a bank manager again.

There are a number of volumes generated by the camp in its history from 1913 to 1938. The Entrance book shows some of the same information as the Goulburn book, without the physical description or birth date, and the final column shows that he was disposed ‘On license’ on Christmas Eve 1926. I imagine this was an early release for good behaviour, since his two years wasn’t up yet.

Entrance book [Tuncurry Afforestation Camp] 1913-1937, [5/1617]

Entrance book [Tuncurry Afforestation Camp] 1913-1937, [5/1617]

I had high hopes for the Visitors Book [5/1620] but I guess Tuncurry is a long way for family members to travel. Visitors weren’t as common as they are now. Few of the pages were actually used and the visitors were usually chaplains and surgeons, although there was a visit from the Governor of New South Wales and his entourage during my bank manager’s inprisonment. What a day that must have been!

[5/1620]

Visitors book [Tuncurry Afforestation Camp] 1913-1938 [5/1620]

I would love to know how this ex-bank manager got on after his year of planting trees. I do, however, know what happened to the prison camp:

Sydney Morning Herald Tue 29 March 1938, p.8

Sydney Morning Herald Tue 29 March 1938, p.8

 

NSW Will Books to be digitised by FindMyPast Australia

dreamstimefree_6456266_320x240FindMyPast Australia has acquired the rights to digitise and publish the Will Books held by State Records NSW. I don’t usually publish press releases but this is such good news I just had to do it!

The Will Books are hand-written copies of the wills made by the office of the Probate Registrar. They have been on microfilm for some time, and I imagine it is the microfilms which will be digitised. The original will is kept in the probate packet, access to which is restricted until the packets are sent to the archive at State Records NSW. See the entry for this series in Archives Investigator.

Here’s the release in full:

Historical will books from New South Wales to be published for the first time by findmypast.com.au
Findmypast.com.au secures government contract to display NSW will books online

12 June 2013 – Leading family history site, findmypast.com.au, has secured the rights to publish all of the registered wills from New South Wales from 1800 to 1952. As the only genealogy site displaying this information, the tender win is a major coup for findmypast.com.au as it consolidates its strong presence in the Australian market.

The collection of will books will be available later this year and will include handwritten copies of the original wills, from about 1800 to 1924, and typed copies of wills from 1924 to 1952.

The will books are an excellent resource for family history enthusiasts tracing the financial history of their ancestors. Findmypast.com.au users will be able to track exactly where their ancestors’ wealth, estates and belongings were allocated, helping them uncover the past relationships and loyalties their family held.

Findmypast.com.au was awarded the contract by the State Records Authority of New South Wales following a competitive tender process, as findmypast.com.au proved a reliable and credible source to display this critical information.

Findmypast.com.au General Manager Vicki Dawson stated “Successfully securing the contract to display the NSW will books has been a significant milestone for findmypast.com.au. The will books are an invaluable resource to genealogists and only strengthens the already solid offering available from findmypast.com.au. We are continually growing our pool of resources and this win is another prime example of our efforts to become the market leader amongst genealogy websites.”

Jenni Stapleton, Acting Director, at State Records stated, ‘’The will books are one of the most vital sets of records held by State Records and provide a unique insight into the past lives of people in New South Wales. This agreement with findmypast.com.au is an example of increasing access to such valuable resources through new access channels and technologies.”’

For further information on findmypast.com.au or to uncover your family history please visit:
http://www.findmypast.com.au

The picture at the top, by the way, is not a will book, it’s a stock photo from Dreamstime [image 6456266] to show you what a will book might look like.

Council rates assessment books for the City of Sydney and Newtown

Rates assessments can tell you a lot about the owners and renters of land. The content varies between councils and over time but at the very least you can see who is living in the property, the type of building, and the value of the land and improvements. You can check subsequent books to trace changes in ownership and tenancy over time.

This information is particularly useful for the early 1800s if your ancestors were not eligible to be enrolled to vote, either for property or gender requirements, or the early electoral rolls have been lost. They can also help in tracing land ownership for pre-Torrens Title land where Old System deeds have to be found one at a time.

CSA027377 p56 1848 Sydney Place

Sydney City Council Archives, CSA027377 p56, 1848 Sydney Place

The image above has been taken from the City of Sydney Council Rates Assessment books 1845-1948. These books have been transcribed and indexed, so that you can search for a surname or street name, and bring up a list of results. When you click on a result you get a transcription of the page, and if you scroll further down the page you can see an image of the original page. The little square in the middle of the page is the magnifying glass that hadn’t yet opened.

SCCA CSA027377 p56 1848 Sydney Place transcription

Even back then in 1848 we could see the name of the resident and the name of the owner. In those days the occupier was responsible for paying council rates, and so both are listed. We can see the type of building; what it was made of; what the roof was made of; and the number of floors and the number of rooms.

City of Sydney Council Rates Assessment books 1845-1948 transcriptions and images are here –> http://www3.photosau.com/CosRates/scripts/home.asp

Newtown Rates and Assessments 1863-1892 (transcriptions only) are here –> http://www.sydneyarchives.info/rate-books

For the Newtown books you need to know which Ward your street was in. There are maps to help you identify the Ward. You can then select the book for the Ward and the year you want and search the PDF yourself.

Some tricks to be aware of:

  • House numbers Most properties did not have house numbers in the 1800s. The house number column in the assessment books refers to the number of the house in the book, not in the street.
  • Street names may have changed since the books were compiled, particularly in the inner cities.
  • Surnames may be spelled differently from one year to the next, and given names may not always be shown. Tenants’ names may be less than informative, with names such as ‘Bob the Jew’.

Most local councils have kept their rates assessment books, although they probably don’t go back as far as this. They may have been microfilmed and made available at your local library, or they may have been deposited with State Records NSW. If State Records or the local library doesn’t have them check with the council.

Image: Sydney City Council Archives, CSA027377-056, 1848 Sydney Place.