RQG Around the World – Dawn Jennifer

18 Jul, 2022

RQG Around the World – Dawn Jennifer

As part of our look at the international side of RQG, we are pleased to meet RQG student member Dawn Jennifer from South Australia.

” I’ve been collecting information about my ancestors for years, but only seriously started tracing my family tree
about six years ago. I’ve also completed family histories for friends and clients. I’m currently studying part-time with the University of Strathclyde. I’ve just completed the Post-graduate Diploma in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies with a view to continuing with the Masters in October. I’ve been involved in academic research in one form or another for over twenty years and the courses at Strathclyde have given me the opportunity to transfer
my research skills from the discipline of social psychology to the field of genealogy.

I’ve just completed a research project on destitution in South Australia in the mid-1850s. When destitution reached a peak in 1855-1856, large numbers of people were dependent and without the protection of extended family, including an emerging group that the Board for the Relief of the Destitute Poor termed “deserted” families. These families had been rendered destitute as a result of the fathers disappearance to the gold-fields in neighbouring Victoria. The families’ personal details and circumstances were published in the public press to try and shame the fathers into returning. My research sought to establish a demographic and destitution sketch of these destitute families; to find out what factors influenced their destitute circumstances; and, to discover what happened to them after the mid-1850s. I also evaluated the usefulness of the Register of cases of destitution, Destitute Board Circa 1846 to 1857 for genealogists and family historians

My favourite South Australian resources would have to be the Destitute Asylum, Adelaide records. In particular, the records relating to the admissions to the Lying-in Home at the Destitute Asylum of expectant mothers, usually unmarried, and the infants who were born there. My husband’s grandfather was one of those babies born in the early 1890s. The records are full of rich genealogical information which can be used to construct family histories, including
the name and occupation of the mother, date of confinement, name and gender of child and its date of birth, details of the father and his ability to pay maintenance, and details of other family members who might be able to support the mother in the absence of the father.

One thing that people might now know about researching people in South Australia: The census of 1841, the earliest census taken in South Australia when the colony was five years old, is the only one currently publicly available. All subsequent census returns were destroyed once statistical information had been extracted. The 1841 census lists the name, age range and residence of the head of the household. It sometimes includes information about other members of the household but not their names.

Clare O'Grady