FROM THE ARCHIVES: National Family History month

By Eloise Armstrong, Archivist

The month of August was National Family History month.

Family history research is one of the services provided by the Archives & Heritage Collection, using information from the large collection of sacramental registers (337 in total).  Each baptism, marriage and death, handwritten in these registers, is stored in a database, with over 200,000 events recorded to date.

This database was designed in 2000 by Mrs Ros Giudici, one of our archives volunteers, after she retired as Archbishop D’Arcy’s secretary. Ros has entered most of the data, has double checked each entry for accuracy and has become an expert in deciphering difficult handwriting! This enormous contribution to Archives, was completed entirely without remuneration. To say we are grateful, would be an understatement.

These registers and the information contained in their pages, are historically significant. Much of the colonial-era data does not exist anywhere else in the world. So unsurprisingly, this data is an exciting and well used resource for family historians.

337 Sacramental registers are housed at the Archives & Heritage Collection, providing a valuable resource for family historians. Photo: Supplied

Staff member and historian, Dr Nick Brodie, provides most of the family history research at the Archives. Over the years, he has had hundreds of happy and returning clients. Researchers occasionally request to visit the archives to view the registers and some become quite overwhelmed and emotional when seeing their ancestor’s handwriting for the first time. It can be quite a powerful connection to the past.

Sometimes family history is more than just a research service; occasionally it becomes a pastoral one. Family history can provide people with a connection, albeit brief, to the church, that they may no longer be actively involved in.

Family history research has resulted in some funny moments too. We once had a gentleman visiting from South Australia, who came to view some records regarding his family. After a short discussion, in true Tasmanian style, it transpired that I was related to him!  He was most excited and was able to meet my late grandmother, who remembered his mother well.

We are working to improve the services we are able to provide and are photographing each register. This is a slow process, but it will allow us to provide high quality images of register entries. But more importantly, it will further preserve the registers and the stories they hold, for future family historians.

If we can help you with your family history, please contact us at

Tags: Archives & Heritage Collection