State Library and Tasmanian Archives Blog

Where the paupers went to die…

A part of a plan for a hospital. Text at top right reads: "Plan of general hospital Hobart town. Scale ten feet to one inch"
Plan of General Hospital Hobart Town (PWD266/1/422)

Hospital records are like the holy grail of archives. Because medical histories are so personal, they are carefully controlled. In the busy world of a hospital, not every slip of paper could be kept, particularly before computers. By the time 19th and early 20th century records reached the archives, many volumes had gone missing or been destroyed, and only intriguing clues have survived.

Some of the surviving records from the General Hospital in Hobart are the hospital’s registers of deaths (HSD145, 1864-1884) and orders for coffins ‘required for pauper interments’ (HSD146, 1864-1876). These records have now been digitised and added to the Tasmanian Names Index, under the record type ‘deaths’.

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Jack the Leecher

A drawing of workers with tools being escorted by colonial soldiers.
A chain gang convicts going to work nr. Sidney N.S. Wales / Edwd. Backhouse.

John Turner was a sprightly 21 year old baker when he was transported for stealing a watch, although he was missing a leg. It was the right, from below the knee.

Sometimes we lose track of a convict after they leave the convict system – even if they stay there, committing misdeeds, affronts and offences until long after their original sentence expired. Occasionally they turn up in unexpected places…

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Paltry Poultry at the ‘Port: Immigration records in the Tasmanian Names Index

A black and white photo of chicks standing next to eggs with numbers on them.
TAHO: AB713/1/5463

You can now find out more personal details about immigrants to Tasmania in the early 20th century, and the Tasmanian residents who nominated them.

What follows is a tale of disappointment, confusion indignation and despair.

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Begging for bigamy

6 people posing for a photo. 3 men wearing suits, 3 women wearing bridal dresses.
Wedding party, C.P. Ray collection: TAHO NS392-1-551

In November of 1878, two women from Waratah in the North West of Tasmania began a quest to marry one man. They were happy to share him between them, as long as they could do it with the blessing of a church. 

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Daisy Picken in the weeds: Prisoner records in the Tasmanian Names Index

Part of a person's record. includes a photo form front and side on. Text reads "Name: Picken Daisy. Ship: Native. Photo no. 959c"
Record: GD63-1-6

‘Daisy Picken’. It sounded to me like a circus stage name, and conjured up images of an energetic teenage girl with pigtails, like a long-lost cousin of Pippi Longstocking.

We have recently added volumes of prisoner files to the Tasmanian Names Index, and many of them have photographs. Some of them are quite comical – old lags suppressing smirks, stern mouths covered by generous moustaches, looks of surprise…or malice. So, when I looked up Daisy Picken, I was almost surprised to see despair and desperation, and the glistening of tears. 

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Tasmanian Film Corporation: If it moves, we’ll shoot it

A still image from a film. A woman, a girl and a dog on a raft. The dog is jumping into the water.
Photograph – Manganinnie and Joanna in canoe with dog: AD330/1/3

It operated for just five years, but the Tasmanian Film Corporation created many of Tasmania’s most iconic films.
40 years on, we remember this agency and their work.

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Memoirs of James Hardy Vaux

A drawing of a sailing boat sitting on the water in a bay
Photograph – Hobart Town Drawn by C Jeffreys 1817: NS1013/1/1643

Firsts are always exciting. We are justifiably proud that we own a copy of Henry Savery’s Hermit of Van Dieman’s Land – the first novel published in Australia.

Recently we found that we also hold two other significant firsts – both in the same volume. First published in 1819, our first edition copy of the Memoirs of J H Vaux is not just a great read. It is officially Australia’s first autobiography and Australia’s first dictionary.

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Explore Tasmania’s wilderness

Browse photographs, letters and diaries from some wilderness pioneers.

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The Fire of ’67

A picture of a stree and buildings from up high, a building burns in the background.
Photograph. Image 3 – Gore Street Mill, South Hobart – before, during and after bushfire. PH30/1/8552

It was one of Australia’s worst disasters. In just a few hours on Tuesday afternoon, 7 February, 1967, 64 people lost their lives and 900 were injured. Around 1,400 buildings were destroyed – homes, factories, schools, churches, halls. People lost family, their livelihoods, homes, friends, pets and possessions. Thousands of animals were killed.

50 years on, we invite you to reflect on the chaos of the disaster, its aftermath, and the beginnings of recovery, through the records of the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.

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Tasmanians in World War 1: Ernest Roy Pretyman

A photo of an old man inside in a suite in front of a window

Ernest Roy Pretyman might have lived out his whole life in Tasmania if it were not for the war. Instead this accountant travelled to France, fought and was wounded, and attained the rank of Sergeant before returning home to Hobart. His was an active mind, and in pursuit of his interests and hobbies he left a significant legacy to Tasmania’s heritage.

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