Posts filed under ‘New South Wales’

Parents Unknown

William Etherington, "parents unknown"

Parents unknown

If a death certificate has the dreaded word ‘Unknown’ – think about other ways of getting the information.

I was looking for the origins of William Etherington, a carpenter who died at Delegate (southern NSW). On his death certificate, not only were his parents listed as unknown, but so were any spouse or children.

Death certificates often have errors or missing information, because the owner of the property where a death occurred was the person required to register the death. The accuracy of their answers depended on who that was and how much did they know.

Next possibility – was there a will naming family members? If so, it might be found in a ‘Probate Packet’ – such files contain information about the property of the deceased and who was to inherit.

Checking the online indexes of NSW State Records (holders of New South Wales government archives), I found no entry for William in the Probate Packet index, nor the index of the Deceased Estate files (generally these contain an inventory of property and possessions).

However there was an entry for William Etherington in the index for Intestate Estates (‘intestate’ means died without leaving a will). The Curator of Intestate Estates determined who was to inherit when there was no will to indicate the wishes of the deceased.

The online index gave a clue that this file was working checking. The comments column included “contains original BDMs”. What an understatement!

William was one of 9 children, most of whom had married (and perhaps remarried) and had children of their own. William’s brother claimed that all his siblings and their descendants deserved to share the inheritance. In evidence there was a family tree (4 generations) along with all the applicable birth, marriage and death dates for everyone named. Not only that, but the file also contained all of the birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial certificates. Most documents were from England and the baptisms and burials were certified by the vicar.

Instant family! And photographing them all with my digital camera cost me nothing. (Fortunately I had a spare camera battery, as there were so many documents.)

I don’t think I have ever before found so many certificates in one file! However it was also a reminder that if the information is missing in the first place you seek, check elsewhere.

Family tree of William Etherington

Family of William Etherington

29 January, 2011 at 5:43 pm 2 comments

NSW marriages – missing information?

How disappointing it is to order a marriage certificate for your genealogy research, and when you receive it, find some of the fields blank. In the case of marriage certificates in NSW,all hope is not necessarily lost.

The First Fleet landed in what was to become Sydney on 26th January 1788 and the first marriage took place soon after. (The first baptism and death registered for the new colony actually occurred en route to Australia, in 1787.)

Britain had claimed all the are from 133 degrees east to 135 degrees east for the new colony of New South Wales. That western boundary line passes roughly down the middle of the Australian continent, to the east it included New Zealand and beyond. All this area was originally administered as part of the colony of New South Wales. Boundaries and borders changed over time, and new colonies were created out of land that was previously NSW.

But back to those marriages. The earliest baptisms, marriages and burials in the colony of New South Wales were recorded in the church records. On 1st March 1856 Civil Registration was established in NSW, meaning that the government began administering the registration of births, marriages and deaths, and issuing certificates. The Registry began acquiring the church records.

Between 1856 and 1895, some details (such as details of the parents of bride and groom), were recorded in the church marriage documents but not in the official Registry documents. In 1912 Registry staff began collecting these additional details and adding them into the Registry copies, but the process was never completed.

Most of the surviving 19th century church records have now been filmed and made available as part of the ‘Church and Parish Registers Joint Copy Project’, conducted by the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG), the State Library of NSW and the National Library of Australia. In addition many church records have been filmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – check out the Library Catalogue on FamilySearch.

So if you obtain a copy of a marriage certificate which has the parents’ details blank, it would be a good idea to check out the corresponding church marriage record. Often the information was recorded there, but just not transferred into the copy held by the NSW Registry.

John Austin Etherington marriage

NSW marriage certificate 1867

12 October, 2010 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment


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