State Library and Tasmanian Archives Blog

10 ways to boost your Tasmanian Names Index searches

an old black and white photo of 3 students using computer with a ticker tape printout
Photograph – Rosny College, students using computer with a ticker tape printout, Tasmanian Archives: AB713/1/12378

There have been some recent enhancements to how you can search the Tasmanian Names Index.

We have added more fields to the search filters on the drop-down menu to the left of the search bar. Some of these have always been there (while some are new additions). Many of you might not have been aware of the drop-down menu at all, but it can be a useful tool for refining your searches in our ever-expanding database of Tasmanian life.

Here is a short guide to what those options mean and when it might be useful to use them.

In the name index tab, expand the All Fields drop-down list and select an entry


The main purpose of the Tasmanian Names index is to identify the names of people in our records. However, as we index in more detail, searches can get crowded with information from other fields.

Relevant to: All types of records. Exceptions are contained in the Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence, Hotels and Properties and Miscellaneous record types which have entries indexed by Subject rather than a personal name.

Useful for: Restricting your search terms so that you only return entries containing your search term in a Name field (including parents’ names).

Example: If you were looking for someone with the surname ‘Butcher’, you could use this filter to exclude records that have ‘butcher’ in the Occupation field.

Mother Name and Father Name

Mother and Father names are included when we filter for Name, but there are times when it is useful to search these separately. When you select Mother Name and type a name in the search bar, all the results will have that name in the Mother field.

Relevant to: Births, Census, Deaths, Education, and Health & Welfare records.

Useful for: Finding all the children of a particular parent, or identifying records that contain that person as a parent.

To keep in mind: In Births, mother’s names are indexed by their maiden name (including unmarried mothers), or name prior to marriage to the father of the child (such as a surname acquired in a previous marriage). In other records, the mother’s name is name that was current at the time of the record. The spelling of a name might also vary between records. 

An example of a search. The search box text reads: Mary allport. The left column shows how the search has been limited. the text reads: "Limit search results. Narrowed by:. Mother name: Allport. Mother name. Mary." on the right it reads: "2 results found". At the bottom left it shows 1 search result, it reads: Reid, George Elliott
An example of a search using the Mother Name filter, which returns her children’s birth entries in the results.


Relevant to: Convict, Immigration, Arrivals, Departures, Health and Welfare records, and any other colonial records where the ship on which a person arrived has been recorded.

Useful for: Searching for the ship itself, or all passengers on board.

To keep in mind: There were different sailings of various passenger and convict ships. Sometimes these are identified with a number following the name. You can also filter for Ship using the facets down the left-hand side. Ship refers to all types of vessels.

An old black and white photo of a large ship. Text at the bottom reads:"Mokia"
Photograph – Ship “Mokoia”, Tasmanian Archives: LPIC22/1/109

Departure Port

Knowing their port of departure links people to a geographic location, which can help with finding out more information such as court records or where they might have had family or friends.

Relevant to: All Convict entries and many Arrivals contain this field.

Useful for: Filtering for Departure Port may help if you are investigating possible connections between convicts prior to transportation.

Place registered

Relevant to: All Convict entries and many Arrivals contain this field. Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Inquests all record Place Registered. This field can also be filtered using the facets on the left-hand side.

Useful for: Searching for events that happened in a particular region.

Census District

Relevant to: Census records

Useful for: Restricting your search to a particular district in Census records

Place of Origin

Relevant to: Place of Origin (sometimes called Native Place in the records) is recorded in Convicts, Deaths, Employment, Health & Welfare, Immigration, Inquests, Land and Naturalisations. This may expand in future.

Useful for: Knowing a person’s place of origin is enormously helpful for tracing someone’s life course, and when looking for family connections. The filter can help to identify people who came from the same area. It may help identify those who have family or social connections, or those who share a language or an experience of place.

If you know that someone came from a place, this may help to limit your search results. Just remember that you could be excluding records that don’t contain Place of Origin data.

Example: If you want to know how many convicts from Glasgow went to Port Arthur, do a Place of Origin search for Glasgow, then select Port Arthur Penal Station from the Properties facet (there were 162).

Example: Henry Burgess is the earliest recorded Tasmanian-born convict, having been tried in 1823 and sentenced to life. I found this out by selecting Place of Origin and searching for ‘Tasmania’ and looking at the earliest convict record.

Keep in mind: Different records may be more, or less, specific about a person’s Place of Origin. If looking for someone from a particular town, also try the county, parish, or country. Convict records tend to be specific, whereas Immigration and Naturalisation records primarily contain the Country.


Property can mean an institution such as a hospital, school or gaol, a cemetery, hotel, or a place of work such as a mine, mill, or factory. This field is also in the facets on the left-hand side of the search screen, so you can browse through the Properties included in the list.

Relevant to: Health and Welfare, Inquests, Convicts, Education, Employment, Deaths, and Colonial Secretary Correspondence records all contain this field.

Useful for: Collating records associated with a particular public place, institution or work site.

Example: If you do a Property search for ‘New Norfolk’ and then go to the Properties facet and select and include all the names used to describe the New Norfolk hospital for mental illnesses. This will return all entries in the index associated with that institution throughout its history.

Photograph – Royal Derwent Hospital, New Norfolk, Tasmanian Archives: AA193/1/253


Although a person’s occupation is subject to change, it can be a useful clue when attempting to identify whether a record belongs to the person you are researching.

Relevant to: We only recently started indexing occupation data. It is available for Education (parent occupation), Naturalisations, Employment, and some Health and Welfare entries. In future we will be adding parent occupation to newly indexed Birth records. We are also negotiating with researchers to incorporate Occupation data for convicts.

Useful for: Searching for people by their trade and looking for trends by trade. This field will become more useful the more we index it.

Location (Land records)

We have an enormous number of records relating to land, and we have begun the process of adding them to the Tasmanian Names Index. This currently encompasses deeds of land grants from 1832-1935.

Relevant to: Limited to the Land record type, Location (Land records) includes place names as specified in the deed documents. Often this involves county and parish names that are no longer in common usage, as well as more familiar town names.

Useful for: Many researchers interested in Land records will not be familiar with the name of the original deed-holder. Using this filter allows you to search for a property by its location.

General tips for searching using filters and facets:

  • You can stack filters and facets on top of each other to create a search refined by multiple parameters
  • When you are done with a search and want to start a new one, change the radio button on the right of the search bar to New Search
A screenshot of the search bar from the search box is empty. opn the right, there are two radio buttons, the first one is selected and reads "Within these results". the second radio option reads "New Search"

We can’t always imagine the problems that our clients are trying to solve when accessing our Names Index. These extra features are intended to provide options to make it a more versatile tool. Why not start experimenting and see what you uncover?

We love feedback. If there are features you would like added to the Names Index, or if you found this article useful and would like to see more blogs like this, let us know in the comments!


  • Jessica is a Librarian for the State Library and Tasmanian Archives.

9 thoughts on “10 ways to boost your Tasmanian Names Index searches”

  1. Sallie Davie says:

    Hi Jess, Good article. I find the names index often shows results to particular years. I don’t seem to be able to put in the date range I want. Is there a way to do that?

    • Jess Walters says:

      Hi Sallie. Unfortunately there are some technical barriers at the moment to making the dates display in the way we would like them to. I can assure you that we will continue to look for a way to improve this to make it more user-friendly. In the meantime, if you list the years you want to see in the search bar it will return records with those dates. If that doesn’t help with what you’re trying to do, let me know some more details and I can try to find another workaround.

  2. Kesa Maley says:

    Great idea I have 6 convicts all transported to tassie Er Van Diemens Land .
    Michale Maley/Mealey, he married Ann Reilly/riley
    , Mary Leary married George Hankin/ ankin, James Reilly/riley married Hanora (Nora) Sullivan

  3. Mike Hurburgh says:

    The use of the term “”Property” as a field of enquiry is rather confusing and, in particular, is not in line with common usage. You list several public facilities and institutions, and include other types of businesses and private entities as examples, none of which would be refered to as a “property” in every-day language. The word “property” in the context of this index is more of a legal term, referring to the total extent of land and any assets which someone or a business might own. I don’t think that the term is usually applied to government or public facilities or the land on which such institutions stand. This issue definitely needs to be adressed before your erroneous definition causes confusion and error.

    There are also a few grammatical errors in your blog, the most glaring of which is a complete lack of apostrophe and the ‘s’ when designatig a posessive case – “mother’s name”, NOT “mother name”! No free-form gramar here please!

    Otherwise there look to be a few new good features – just need the opportuity to try them out.

    • Jess Walters says:

      Thank you for your feedback, Mike. The term property was chosen as a broad term to represent a variety of entities from a wide range of different record sets. It may not be everyday language, but I trust that our wider user base will be able to understand its use in context.
      In relation to the grammatical question, ‘mother name’ is in quotations to signify that it is the exact terminology used in the database. I trust that our system administrator abbreviated the field name for ease of use in the database, considering that special characters can cause problems in some computing contexts.

  4. Mark Rowland says:

    Hi Jess, thanks for your article. Is it possible to limit a search for a name in a specific date range e.g. convicts, smith 1818 – 1847?

    • Jess Walters says:

      Hi Mark, thank you for the feedback! The search filters down the left hand side include date, but it sounds like you are trying to single out that particular range. I will check with our Systems team. We used to have check boxes so that you could select all the years to include or exclude, but removed them as they were causing problems.

  5. Susan Hinds says:

    Oh thank you! Another delight to dig go digging for & cross referencing anything I may have missed 🙂

  6. Lisa says:

    Thanks Jess for an interesting article. I use the TNI all the time refining searches with the ‘Limit Search Results’ options in the left hand column but had never paid attention to the options in ‘All Fields’.
    They won’t be relevant in every case but as you say as the number of records expands it will be useful to be have more ways to narrow down a search, at least on the first pass.

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