I have been amazed at the ease of my search for any Tasmanian records through their Names Index. At first, I thought I was being fooled by slick web pages and wondrous search filters. But I have kept on digging and have kept coming up happy. Obviously any digitalisation of records will have glitches, somehow. But pleasantly they don’t seem to be on the records that I have wanted. Tasmania seems to be opening up their records for free and making them very easy to search and navigate through. If you search the Names Index, you will find that it isn’t just Births, Deaths and Marriages that you find. I am really in awe of there efforts. It’s well worth just checking out their site, to see what can be achieved.
Background History for Tasmania – 1803 to 1899
The first settlement in Tasmania was on the Derwent River in 1803. It was 1812, when the first load of convicts arrived from England, and over the next 41 years (till 1853) around, 74,000 convicts were transported to Tasmania. (This represented around 45% of all convicts transported to Australia.)
Free settlers started arriving from 1816, but many were sought through bounty schemes after convicts stopped being transported in 1853. The Tasmanian government used a different types of bounty schemes from 1854-1887. This ranged from convicts families being encouraged to come out to Tasmania to single women having paid passage to increase the women in colony. However the population did not rise too dramatically. In 1816, there were nineteen hundred and fifteen free settlers, this increased to five thousand in 1820 and went up to twenty four thousand in 1830. However when the gold rushes hit in the 1850’s many families left Tasmania for the mainland.
For more information on migration, consult the University of Tasmanian’s website.
Tasmanian Births, Deaths and Marriages – 1803 to 1899
Knowing the background of Tasmania’s history reveals that records are going to start in 1803, not 1788 like Sydney. Also understanding that Tasmania had quite small populations keeps what you may find in perspective.
Originally a search of records for this era would have involved a search of the Tasmanian Pioneers Index. The Tasmanian Pioneers index covered between 1803 (when Tasmania was settled) and 1899 (before federation). This CD Rom indexed over 425,000 records of baptisms, births, deaths, burials and marriages. However in the last year the records from this era have been digitalised by the Tasmanian Archives in their Names Index. I was still curious to know whether the Tasmanian Archives had really covered what was in the index. So I consulted the librarian at the Tasmanian archives through their convenient chat service and called the Tasmanian Family History Society. They both agreed that the information in the Names Index has covered what was in the Tasmanian Pioneers Index. They did expect that being new the Names Index may still be incomplete and if you were missing a particular record, it would still be worth consulting both.
This digitalisation project was in conjunction with findmypast. However, unless you are a member of findmypast I don’t see why you wouldn’t go straight to the source. The images are easily viewed and presented well on the Tasmanian Archives website. Familysearch.org has Tasmanian Births, Deaths and Marriages that can be searched from 1803 to 1896/1897, however images aren’t available. Gould Genealogy did an article of the Tasmanian Archives last year with information about other records and examples of them.
When you are searching for your family history it is a wonderful thing to be offered such a high quality resource. I think that other states could take a leaf out of the Tasmanian Archives book. By sharing the information many more people can enjoy their family history. The idea of hoarding information because it costs money doesn’t really help anyone. I hope that the Tasmanian Archives opens up a whole chapter of your research.
Please feel free to share this article because – understanding the past can bless the present.