The Value of Government and Police Gazettes in Australian and New Zealand Genealogy

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By Sherry Lindsay,

Most genealogists and family history enthusiasts are unaware of the immense value of the government and police gazettes available in Australia and New Zealand. Most family historians, even in Australia and New Zealand, don’t even know what the gazettes are, let alone how they can be used in genealogy research.

As part of its the World Collection launch, World Vital Records partnered with Archive CD Books Australia to provide a vast array of excellent content from Australia as well as other nearby countries. Included in that content are 276 databases, 174 of which are government and police gazettes, a highly valuable but underused resource for researching genealogy in that area of the world. Click here to view these databases.

Government gazettes typically contain information that the government wanted the general population of the state to be aware of. Generally this would include any sort of new government policy, taxing issues, land for sale, lists of unclaimed letters available at post offices and the like. These gazettes are often abundant in names, and even if your ancestor did not have a career in the government, it is still possible that you might find his name in a government gazette.

Police gazettes were a bit different, and often contain more amusing, anecdotal evidence. Police gazettes were generally published by states and territories each year, and they contained information meant especially for police. Do not assume, however, that only criminals’ names or police officers’ names were used in the gazettes; people of all types were mentioned in gazettes, even law-abiding citizens. For instance, a person who had been robbed would be mentioned in a gazette, and so would a person who had filed for a license to run a business within a town.

Because the gazettes generally include details about day-to-day life, they are rich in historical and genealogical data. Even if your ancestor is not mentioned specifically, browsing through a gazette from the time period and location in which he lived can help you have an understanding of what life was like for him.

You might think that these gazettes are of no value to those who don’t have Australian ancestors, but they can be of great value to those doing descendancy research. With so many resources available for Australia, it might be worth your time to discover if one of your ancestors had descendants who immigrated to Australia.

Finding your ancestor in government or police records can be intriguing. Perhaps you have a petty thief in your family. Or perhaps your ancestor was assaulted while traveling to the market. Perhaps your ancestor found an abandoned baby. While these events might not provide the much sought-after dates and places, they do provide insight into their lives and perhaps give enough information to help you put together a few more pieces of your genealogy puzzle.

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