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Research Guides

Commonwealth Government Records about Tasmania

Government employees, agents and contractors

Artists, performers and writers (ABC)

If your person of interest was artistic, perhaps they had a relationship with the Tasmanian Branch of the ABC (CA 1586). Information relating to performers is included in artists' files dating from 1937 (P183), which contain correspondence with artists hired by the Tasmanian Branch, publicity material and details of programs. Black and white and colour photographs of personalities dating from 1964 are held in alphabetical sequence. Radio play scripts, in alpha-numerical arrangement by the title of the play and dated 1935–83 (P892), may provide additional information about the writers. There are scripts written under contract for the ABC by the late Clive Sansom, an English-born poet who moved to Tasmania in 1950, dated 1950–73 (P2418).

Selected series relating to artists, performers and writers and the ABC, Tasmania
National Archives, Sydney
Artists' files, 1937 P183
Still photographs, black and white/colour (personalities), 1964– P319
Radio play scripts, 1935–83 P892
Radio scripts, 1950–73 P2418
Orchestra members files, 1939–55 TA1975/284

Agents (Customs and PMG)

Often it was more economical for the Commonwealth to contract agents to deliver services than to use its own employees. A few examples survive, and they list names of agents of possible interest. There is, for instance, a licence book of individual and corporate Customs agents; a warrant book for the Sub- Collector of Customs in Ulverstone recording shipping information for the harbours of Leven, Forth and Penguin; a register of allowances paid to money order agents with alphabetical entries by post office in six-monthly sections, which provides the name of the postmaster, details of transactions and remarks; and registers of mail contractors and contracts in Tasmania.

Selected series listing individual and corporate Customs agents in tasmania
National Archives, Sydney
Registers of mail contractors and mail contracts, Tasmania, 1871–1947 P2610
Warrant book for Sub-Collector of Customs, Ulverstone, 1879–91 P2374
Register of allowances paid to money order agents, Tasmania, 1879–92 P2575
Licence book (butt copy) of individual and corporate Customs' agents, 1961– P2564

Public servants in a Tasmanian office of a Commonwealth agency

If you think your target person worked for the Commonwealth Government, consider lists such as the Permanent Staff List and seniority lists compiled by the Public Service Board and other agencies such as Treasury. Other Public Service Board records held by the National Archives include the original register of Permanent Staff Lists 1902–48 (A802) and index 1905–46 (A803). The register comprises 207 large volumes, the first seven providing a list of people employed in 1902, including permanent, exempt and temporary officers, with remarks on particular people. For the years following 1902, the register comprises the previous year's printed staff list with handwritten annotations.

A useful Department of Treasury series, best referred to in conjunction with the original staff lists, is a register of pensions, compensation, gratuities and so on paid to former state officers transferred to the Commonwealth public service 1901–52 (A2901). Entries are by department, then state, and include name, office, cause of retirement, period of service and sometimes date of death. Related files, where they exist, may be traced in the department's correspondence series 1901–76 (A571).

Selected series listing or naming Commonwealth public servants, including those in Tasmania
National Archives, Canberra
Registers of permanent staff lists and establishment classifications, 1892–1948 A802
Index to permanent public service staff lists and establishment classifications, 1904–47 A803
Register of pensions compensation, gratuities, etc. [paid to former state officers transferring to the Commonwealth Public Service on or after Federation], 1901–52 A2901
Correspondence files, annual single number series, 1901–78 A571

Locally, records of the Public Service Inspector, Tasmania include staff history cards 1903–58 (P732, P734). The series are alphabetically arranged and show details of appointment, classification and service. Similar information can be found in a notational register 1914–74 (P611) and appointment cards 1950–61 (P733).

Selected series listing or naming Commonwealth public servants in Tasmania
National Archives, Hobart
Notational register annual alphabetical series (PSB102/103), 1941–74 P611
Staff history cards ('personal cards'), 1949–58 P732
Staff history cards, third division, 1903–49 P734
National Archives, Sydney
Appointment cards, alphabetical series, 1950–61 P733

Finally, there are records documenting Commonwealth public servants accused of disloyalty. The files of A387, opened between 1917 and 1919 by the Special Intelligence Bureau (Central Office) Melbourne (CA 746), comprise statements made by alleged 'enemy subjects' in 1917–19 employed by the Commonwealth public service. They record the personal histories of suspects within the public service, often of German parentage and in many cases naturalised citizens.

Selected series and items listing or naming 'disloyal' Commonwealth public servants in Tasmania
National Archives, Canberra
Depositions of enemy subjects in the Public Service, 1917–19 A387
Carlson, Carl – head lightkeeper, Goose Island, Bass Strait, Tasmania – declared at Goose Island 4 March 1919, 1919 A387, 94
Harris, Ella V – typist, Taxation Department, Hobart, Tasmania – declared at Hobart 12 March 1919, 1919 A387, 224

Public servants (lighthouse keepers)

Records about Tasmania's lighthouses are surveyed in some detail in Chapter 5. The point being stressed in this chapter is that, if you think your person of interest might have worked at one of Tasmania's lighthouses, there is good documentation available. The Commonwealth inherited many lighthouses in 1915, all staffed by one to three men, many with families living on site. Their core record was the logbook covering daily events at the lighthouse, and the name of the keeper on duty.

Selected Series of logbooks relating to Tasmanian lighthouses
National Archives, Hobart
Cape Sorrell, 1917–65 P782
Currie Harbour (King Island), 1861–1918 P2426
Deal Island (Kent Group), 1944–66 P1113
Eddystone Point, 1889–1967 P784
Goose Island, 1915–17 P1166
Low Head, 1937–70 P786
Maatsuyker Island, 1893–1964 P781
South Bruny, Cape Bruny, 1881–1965 P783
Swan Island, 1909–62 P778
Tasman Island, 1906–67 P779

There are other name-rich records held for the Hobart headquarters of No. 3 Lighthouse District and the Deputy Director of Lighthouses and Navigation, Tasmania including correspondence from 1918 (P1129– 30, P748), files and papers relating to particular lighthouses 1919–62 (P1131) and personal history cards from 1920 (P861).

Selected Series relating to lighthouses, including details of Tasmanians
National Archives, Hobart
Correspondence files, annual single number series with T [Tasmania] prefix, 1928–78 P748
Personal history cards (PSB Forms 53, 54, and 55), lexicographical series, 1920–93 P861
Correspondence files, annual single number series II, 1922–61 P1129
Correspondence files, annual single number series I, 1916–62 P1130
Files and papers relating to particular Tasmanian lighthouses, lexicographical series, 1919–62 P1131

Public servants (PMG)

The administration of a postal system was probably the most direct and visible representation of the Commonwealth Government outside the capital cities. All towns of any size and most city suburbs had a post office building, some of architectural note, and they were something of an indicator of the community's wealth and identity. A notable feature was the number of postmistresses in country areas. Post office records can yield good documentation about individuals, such as staff and agents, and context through office files containing petitions from residents, letters of complaint, character references and recommendations supporting applications for senior positions, sketch maps and occasional photographs.

Information on staffing at post offices (as well as myriad other things) is to be found firstly in the main correspondence series (P234) for the PMG, State Administration, Tasmania and its colonial predecessor. Further sets of correspondence files (P950, P236) concerned the administration of the GPO Hobart, local post offices and mail services throughout Tasmania, and telecommunications and engineering matters, but with personnel issues too.

Records of undoubted direct family history interest begin with the register of officers in the Tasmanian Electric Telegraph Department, which dates from 1852 and records in alphabetical groupings by officers' names the office, date of first and present appointments, salary and remarks (P2573). But there are also postal staff, salary and remuneration registers (P2568), volumes of personal registers (P1541), an index listing names of staff and the relevant folio numbers for those included in the registers (P1542), an alphabetical listing of Tasmanian postmasters and postmistresses (P2157), alphabetical name index cards (P2201), staff cards (P2216), a summary of officers who were 60 years of age and over 1934–66 (P2249), 'S' staff prefix correspondence files (P951), and resignation cards (P229).

Selected series relating to staffing and the wider context in Tasmanian post offices
National Archives, Hobart
File registration cards, annual single number series with S [staff] prefix, 1921–58 P229
Postmaster-General's Department – Tasmania – correspondence files, 1883– 1956 P234
Correspondence files, 1956–75 P236
Correspondence files, 1912–22 P950
Correspondence files, annual single number series with S [staff] prefix, 1921–56 P951
Personnel register book, postal staff, Tasmania, 1860–1913 P1541
Personnel register index, postal staff, Tasmania, 1860–1913 P1542
Alphabetical listing of Tasmanian postmasters and mistresses, 1899–1912 P2157
Name index cards, 1941–63 P2201
Post Office staff cards, 1944–73 P2216
Summary of officers 60 years of age and over, 1934–66 P2249
Register of officers in the service of the Electric Telegraph Department, Tasmania, 1852–94 P2573
Registers of monthly allowances of various categories of postal, telegraph and telephone offices in Tasmania, 1908–40 P2576
National Archives, Sydney
Salary and remuneration registers, Post Office Department/(from 1901) Postmaster-General's Department, Tasmania, 1878–1949 P2568
Correspondence files, 1956–75 P236

Public servants (Customs)

Trade and Customs was the second largest of the original Commonwealth departments. Its responsibilities included, in addition to the collection of customs excise and primage duties, quarantine and immigration control. A large series of correspondence files, dating from 1910 (P437) for the Tasmanian office of the department, includes a number of items which may confirm a particular person worked for it and provide context to that work.

Selected items relating to staff employed by Trade and Customs in Tasmania
National Archives, Hobart
Permanent staff list, 1913 P437, 1913/148
H James – employee with the Expeditionary Forces – premiums due, 1915 P437, 1915/147
Sympathy letter to Mr AE Skeels from customs staff, 1919 P437, 1919/1613
Permanent staff list 1921 – include increments and return of changes, 1920–21 P437, 1920/422
Personnel file – Mr A Stuart, Examining Officer, Launceston, 1920 P437, 1920/830
Staff lists for Trade and Customs, Lighthouses and Navigation branches in Tasmania, 1924 P437, 1924/2475


Chapter 7
Finding Tasmanians