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Where do Find an Orphan records come from?

The records made available through our website have been compiled by Joyce Purtscher who is an established local historian and a founding and life member of the Friends of the Orphan Schools, St John's Park Precinct. They are derived from a number of sources. The official registers of the King's/ Queen's Orphan Schools are the foundation for Joyce's research but over the years she has expanded her records to include information from other official records of the colonial period; information gleaned from newspapers of the day and the research findings and family anecdotes of others. Her endeavours have filled in gaps and expanded the records of some children, such that they emerge as people rather than just another colonial statistic.

The official records of the Orphan Schools, which form the basis of this database, are found in the archives of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) which are located in the Archives Office of Tasmania, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (TAHO), State Library of Tasmania, 91 Murray St, Hobart.

The relevant records are:

Some of these records, including SWD28, are now available online. Just follow the links above.

The basic register record includes the child's name, age at admission and dates of admission and discharge; along with the name of the child's mother and father (if known) and the name of the ship on which they arrived in the colony. Records catalogued SWD 26 for the period 1859 - 1879 include applications for admission, along with supporting letters and subsequent correspondence about the child.

In many cases details included in the official register are incomplete or incorrect. Sometimes the spelling of surnames for both parents and children varies within the register and between convict and marriage records. For example: the surname of the mother of Catherine Sharkett (Orphan 4879) is recorded as Shooket in the register index, Elizabeth Shukey inside the register, Eleanor Sharkett on the convict record and Ellen Sharkett on the Permission to Marry Form.

Variations and discrepancies also occurred because mothers were convicted under their maiden name or because married women who arrived without their husbands re-married shortly after arrival.

Children eligible for admission to the Orphan School were those:

Many children were admitted, discharged and later admitted again. In our web register multiple admissions and discharges are listed and separated by a comma (,). There is not always a matching discharge and admission record.

Many of the children admitted to the Orphan Schools were the children of convicts. In many cases Joyce's research provides the only link between transported convicts and the children who accompanied them. While the Colonial Office kept meticulous and detailed records of convict arrivals, the given or surnames of accompanying children did not appear on the indent records of arriving ships; the usual practice was simply to record the number of children who arrived on a particular vessel.

Children's Census

Our register also includes, for the sake of completeness, some records from Lieutenant Governor Arthur's 1826 survey of destitute and orphaned children in the colony.  Often referred to as the Children’s Census, it identified children recommended as needing care in an orphan school.  A digitised copy of the census is available from Tasmanian Archives (TA) at TA, CSO1/1/918O (formerly TA, CSO1/122A). You can find individual records from the Children’s Census on our website by searching for an orphan and then locating the section ‘Institutions’. If a child is included in the Census, it will appear as ‘1826 Children’s Census’.

The records found at this website are copyright. Individual entries may be copied for personal use, provided that the source is acknowledged. Those wishing to copy and use multiple entries should seek permission in writing.

Read more about further research options.

 Site last updated June 2021