Legacy Tree Onsite: Finding Your German Ancestors…in South Australia!
Legacy Tree Genealogists works with researchers all over the world to access records for our clients. We asked Benjamin, onsite in Park Holme, Australia, to give us insight into what it’s like to conduct research at the Lutheran Archives of Australia. Take a look!
Willkommen in Süd Australien!!
With the recent co-location of the National Archives of Australia (South Australian Office), State Records of South Australia, and State Library of South Australia, and with the City of Adelaide Archives, State Probate Office, Lands Title Office, and Registrar of Birth, Deaths, and Marriages only a 10 minute stroll away (are you jealous yet?), genealogical researchers in South Australia would be forgiven for thinking that the North Terrace precinct of Adelaide is their gateway to all things family history. But for researchers of German Australia, the key repository is just 3 km (and a free tram ride) from the city. It is estimated that 10% of the Australian population has German heritage, and this is concentrated in South Australia.
The Lutheran Archives of Australia is located at 27 Fourth Street, Bowden, in an unimposing industrial estate at the edge of a wasteland, but inside it is a trove of records related not only to the Lutheran Church of Australia (Adelaide hosts the national headquarters) but to German settlement in Australia more generally.
The key resource for family historians is the parish register collection. The archive holds the majority of registers – over 1,000 – from all mainland states of Australia, with only a few remaining in the local congregations. These registers are critical for determining possible links between migrant families, detail that is not captured on state records. Some have family group lists and church membership lists, often with dates of birth, date of arrival in Australia, and village of origin. Access to copies of the registers is made available to researchers and photography is freely allowed (but don’t try to photograph entire registers!). And don’t worry if you don’t speak or read German – archive staff will translate records immediately for researchers onsite to check for relevance. Once you’ve found information on your ancestors’ new lives in Australia, you can look for them in the archive’s collection of family and local histories relating to German immigrants to Australia, as well as reconstructed passenger lists up to 1850.
While not as broadly useful to family historians, the archive also holds the records of the various German religious missions to Australia. These include diaries, minute books, and correspondence to and from Germany and within Australia – a boon to those who have missionaries in their families. From a more general historical point of view, the collection is important in that it contains the work undertaken by the missionaries into local languages of Australian indigenous people. The archive has had a memorandum of understanding with the aboriginal group Nunkuwarrin Yunti’s Link-Up SA Program to help indigenous Australians trace family members. Associated with this is the Koonibba Mission project, which is scanning photos and providing copies back to the communities in the far west of South Australia.
Another part of this collection is a series of films taken by missionaries in both Australia and New Guinea, and of events within Lutheran congregations in Australia. The archive is currently seeking donations to help in the digitization of these films to make them more easily available.
There is a fee for onsite research ($15 per half‑day) at the Lutheran Archive, as well as the opportunity to have staff members undertake research and translation, and more importantly, translation! For $4, and $1 per page of results, you can also get a printout of all instances of a particular surname in their indexes. There is no wi-fi, so bring your own mobile internet if you need it.
All archive staff and volunteers are easy to work with and some of the foremost German Australian researchers volunteer at the archives, who can assist with research in both in Australia and the former Prussia.
Whether your Australian ancestors ultimately came from Germany or somewhere else, Legacy Tree Genealogists can help make that connection. We have onsite agents like Benjamin throughout Australia (and most other countries worldwide!) who can get the records you need. Contact us today for a free consultation.