Knowledge Base

Knowledge Base

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Each year we are asked thousands of questions related to information we have in our libraries and archives about Tasmania.

To support your research we are posting our responses below to the most topical and interesting enquiries.

We make sure to remove personal information from the enquiries, answers, related data and search tips.

When was wine first served in Tasmanian hotels?
On page 10 of Pubs of Tasmania : in search of the Holy Grail , the authors describe the Hope Tavern in Georges Square, Hobart Town, in which "the crowd is rowdy male with a smattering of women, most taking spirits in the form of rum, gin and  arak, some drinking Cape and Madeira wine or imported beer."

..."This is the tavern opened by Francis Barnes in 1808, serving grog and basic food but not providing accommodation."
Image: The old Hope Tavern, Hope and Anchor, Alexander, Corner Macquarie and Dunn Streets

Search tips

In the search box on the library website home page, type the words: pubs tasmania. Then click on the Search button. To narrow the results to books only, simply click on the "Library Catalogue" tab.

What was the shape of the swimming pool at the Silver Sands Motel at Bicheno in the 1960s?
Two archival photos display the resort from about 1964.

One of these photos displays part of the swimming pool which appears to be circular in shape.

An archival file contains a deed between the Minister of Lands and Silver Sands Pty Ltd for November 1977 in which you can find a drawing of a circular shaped swimming pool.


  • Tasmanian hotels and publicans licence records​​​​​

Search tips

In the Search Archives form simply type the words : silver sands motel. Click on the Search button to view references to six archival items about the motel.

How can I find old class photographs for a reunion at Rosetta High School?

How can you find photographs and yearbooks to celebrate an anniversary or reunion at Rosetta High School?

The more than 30 photographs available online for Rosetta High School come from the archival series AB713 Teaching Aids Centre Photographic Prints.  

The photos display students, classrooms, some of the opening ceremony for the school in 1965, and some staff.

You can find 50 references to newspaper articles from 1995 to 2009. 

Also, you can search a newspaper index from 1966 to 1991 under the heading: Rosetta High School.

Note that indexes do not contain the actual articles.  Once you have used the indexes to find interesting articles, you can view the newspapers themselves on microfilm, and makes copies, in the Reading Room in Hobart. If you intend to use recent articles such as these in a publication, you will need to seek permission from the relevant newspaper.

You may find especially helpful school yearbooks, magazines, and newsletters.  In our collection, you will find a short run of the Rosetta High Yearbook

Image: Rosetta High School
Search tips
We hold many records about Rosetta High School that may help you to prepare for your anniversary. Simply type: Rosetta High School into the Search field on our home page to bring up references to newspaper articles, school yearbooks and magazines, and photographs. To find online photographs in the search results, under "Limit Search Results", click on "Format", click on the Image (online) box, and on the Select button. 

How can I access surgeons' journals or reports?

You may be interested in looking at the journal for a particular convict ship arriving in Van Diemen's Land, such as the Chapman 1824 & 1826, the William Miles 1828, or the Northampton 1836.

The Surgeon's journals, 1816-1856 are available on microfilm in the Hobart Reading Room.

Surgeons oversaw the welfare of the convicts, and the health of the crew. The aim was to keep them as healthy as possible in the conditions. Journal entries vary but can include, immunisation lists, sick lists, case histories of patients, date and cause of death, a nosological synopsis (list of diseases or conditions), and general remarks on a voyage.

Image: Front cover of convict register vellum CON78-1-1


Search tips

Use resources in the Hobart Reading Room, the Microspace and the History Room

Step 1. Search the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) Handbook No. 7 (Pages 75-77) to see if there is a Surgeon's journal for the ship your convict was transported on. The AJCP handbooks are shelved on the Family History (FH) shelves in the Reading Room at Dewey no. Q 016.994 AUS.
You may prefer to use a volume behind the desk in the History Room called – Convict ships to Van Diemen's Land with a select list of associated convict records.
It is good to note the sailing dates because some ships did multiple trips.

Step 2. When you find a journal, note the AJCP reel and Piece number.

Step 3. Find the AJCP reel in the Microspace.

Step 4. Use the Piece number to find the correct section on the microfilm. The piece number is indicated in a reference tag, which appears before a ship's records on the microfilm. For example, Piece number 8 would appear on the tag as ADM 101/8. There may be several ships within each Piece.

How can I view reports of shipping or marine incidents in Tasmania?

For example, Marine And Safety Tasmania (MAST) produced a report when the FV Tauronga ran aground off Tasmania in 2002 .

Created in 1997, MAST has taken over the regulatory and safety functions performed by the former Marine Boards.

MAST manages the safe operation of all recreational vessels in Tasmanian waters and of domestic commercial vessels (until July 2017 when the Australian Maritime Safety Authority will be responsible).

Owners of ships, boats or other vessels must report marine incidents or accidents to MAST which may appoint an investigator to prepare an Incident Investigation Report. 

Image: Steamer Santa Rosa wrecked near Point Arguello, California, July 1911, digitised from postcard in the Crowther Library, TAHO


  • Archival records relating to MAST and its predecessor, Navigation and Survey Authority of Tasmania, contain certificates and files relating to slipways located in Tasmania. You will find slipway construction details in these files. Occasionally, the files have reports of incidents such as the "Lella incident" on Triabunna's slipway on 26 October 1988.

Search tips


Is there a history of the Anchor Wheel Motel in St Helens, Tasmania?
Responsible for the licensing of motels and guest houses, ​the old Tourism Department maintained a large file about the Anchor Wheel Motel (from 1971 to the late 1980s) from its beginning as the Shang-ula Motel. The file  includes documents about inspections by tourist department officers, complaints, applications for registration, fire safety, alterations, fixing items to comply with regulations. 

In the file is a yellow-coloured undated brochure (possibly written late 1980s) about the motel which describes the history as:-

"The Anchor Wheel Motel was built in 1971 and purchased by the present owners, Matt and Marg Osborne in 1981.

Of brick structure, the motel has seven heated, comfortable, fully furnished units with a colour TV in each room, tea-making facilities...

"The Anchor Mine

The Anchor Room Restaurant is renowned for its fresh seafood...

The restaurant is named after the Anchor Mine, a famous tin mine founded about 100 years ago. The Anchor was the largest of many mines in the St Helens disctrict, and employed up to 200 men, who founded towns like Poimena..."
Image: Motel sign from Pixabay free of copyrights under Creative Commons - no attribution required


Search tips

​You should search on words such as "St Helens AND motels" in the Advanced TROVE form and "Anchor Wheel Motel" in the Search Archives form.

Did Tasmanians help put down the rebellion known as the "Eureka Stockade" in December 1854?

The Tasmanian 99th Regiment consisted of between 130 to 135 Chelsea (or military) pensioners who volunteered for duty in Victoria in 1852 under the command of Captain Blamire. This regiment later assisted to quell the uprising at Ballarat in December 1854.

The following newspaper reports trace the regiment's early progress:-

28 February 1852 - 135 pensioners arrived in Melbourne (in steerage) 28 February 1852.

13 March 1852 - the "main body of the pensioners" [the 99th] were "to be stationed at Mount Alexander."

24 July 1852 – police and 16 of the pensioners under the command of Captain Blamire perform escort duties at Mount Alexander.

Do we have the names of the pensioners?

Yes, a Colonial Secretary's Office file for 1852 contains:- "Nominal list of a detachment of enrolled pensioners who have volunteered and embarked for service in Victoria under the command of Capt Blamire 99th Regiment (Ratable family allowances five pounds 7 and 9 per diem commencing from 1 July)."
 CSO24/185 6757 at pages 53 - 57 (on microfilm Z829).

This list is accompanied by a letter from the Victorian Colonial Secretary's Office Melbourne 6th March 1852 sent to the Honourable Colonial Secretary Van Diemens Land. The Victorians acknowledged receipt of a letter from Van Diemen's Land of 12th February 1852 "announcing the embarcation of pensioners in all one hundred and thirty men for the service of the colony; the men arrived safely under the charge of Capt Blamire of the 99th Regiment."

The Nominal List included the following columns of data: Corps/Rank/Name/Families: wives and children under 12/ Rate per Diem.

Image: Jubilee Parade, Eureka Stockade float AB713-1-628

Search tips

​The "nominal list" of military pensioners appear in the "General Correspondence" of the Colonial Secretary's Office (1). You can search both the index and the registers of this correspondence. You can search on the Trove Advanced newspaper form for the words "ballarat" and "99th" and select a range of dates between December 1854 and the end of 1855.

Do Tasmanian archives hold witness statements about sightings of Tasmanian tigers or thylacines?

Our libraries hold government agency correspondence which may refer to sightings of Tasmanian tigers or Thylacines.

Which agency is likely to have documents about sightings?

The Animals and Birds Protection Board was responsible for the protection, conservation and regulation of the wild birds and animals of the State between 1929 and 1971. After 1971, the National Parks and Wildlife Service took up the responsibility. 

Within the papers of the Parks and Wildlife Board are two files of correspondence relating to the Tasmanian Tiger:- 
 AA612/1/59 H/60/34 Tasmanian Tiger [date range 1928-1967]

Our heritage collection holds books and newspaper items on Tasmanian Tiger sightings. See the Search tips below.

You can read the following online book right now:-

Magnificent Survivor continued existence of the Tasmanian Tiger / by Tigerman.

You can visit our libraries to hear the following CD:-

Tasmanian tiger Thylacinus cynocephalus : alive & well : new taped interviews of genuine sightings since 1980.

This CD was published in 2004.

There is also a film: Find the Tiger - Tasmanian Tiger Sightings.

There is no viewing copy of this item at present. It may be possible to work out a quote and time-frame for supply if required. 

Image: Tasmanian tiger by Louisa A. Meredith.In: Tasmanian friends and foes : feathered, furred and finned P. 65


Search tips

  • For archival materials...

Open the Search Archives form.

In the "Everything" search box, type in the phrase: tasmanian tiger
Click on the Search button.
In the results page, you can use "Limit Search Results" by Record Type, Availability, Format, Years Represented, Series, Agency/Creator, Location and Access.


  • For library materials...
Type the words: tiger sightings into the search form on the library website home page and click on the search button.


Can I view online articles in the Mercury newspaper about a fire at the Theatre Royal in June 1984?
Currently the Mercury newspaper is unavailable online between 1955 and 1997.

To discover and view a full-text Mercury item, you can search our online Tasmanian historical newspaper indexes: 1966-1994 and 1994-2010. The earlier index has the following references to the fire under the heading:

Theatre Royal Restoration Medal
1) Medal will play leading role in restoration (illus)
Merc. 22/11/84, p .23
2) Commemorative medals will aid theatre restoration
Merc. 18/12./84 p.22
Note that the fire occurred on 18 June 1984, yet the index refers to Mercury articles in November and December 1984 only. In this instance, if you didn't know the date of the fire in 1984, it's best to search on the Trove Advanced search form.
Image: Photograph - Hobart - Theatre Royal Reference: NS3195-1-1492


  • The full-text of the Mercury newspaper is available at urban libraies on microfilm from 1856 until the present. 
  • Various State and Territory libraries in Australia also hold the Mercury on microfilm.

Search tips
​To find the Tasmanian historic newspaper indexes...
In the search box on the library website home page, type the words: historic newspapers indexes. Then click on the Search button.

How can I find police records for my ancestor who served as a convict constable in the 1850s?

Several archival series may provide details of your ancestor's employment with the Tasmanian police, including:-
Register of the appointment, transfer, registration, and dismissal of the police establishment
AC486 Register of police establishments

You can read the records of these two series on microfilm in the Hobart Reading Room where staff will be pleased to assist you.

Image: Lieut. Wm. Gunn, taken January 1868 [Police magistrate] Record ID: SD_ILS:612389


  • You should check out all the archival series that we hold for the Police Department 
  • Also, try our research guide for Tasmanian court records for items about the police and criminal matters. 

Search tips
​In the Search Everything archives search box  simply type the words: police department. 
Then click on the Search button.​

What do annotations to the online birth, death and marriage registers held by TAHO refer to?

Annotations to Birth, Death and Marriage registers held by the Tasmanian archive and Heritage Office (TAHO) can provide clues to discover your ancestors. In the mid-1900s, researchers annotated original records (using  letters and numerals) to assist with locating other BDM records linked to the individuals registered.

For example, the marriage record for Mary Ann Higgins and Michael Cairns is annotated with B 541/49 which identifies the birth record for Mary Ann – registration 541 of 1849.


This then gives you the names for Mary Ann’s parents.


The annotation 1637/34 D is a reference to a death register in 1934 number 1637. We hold records up until 1933 so we can’t check this one.  A family member would need to apply to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages if they wanted to get a copy of this certificate.


While helping to progress a family history search, these annotations are unofficial, unindexed references to documents.

Image: Photograph - Couple on their wedding day (unidentified) Reference: PH30-1-5921

Search tips

  • ​Search the Tasmanian Names Index by typing in the name of your ancestor in the search box on the library website home page and click on the Search button. 
  • In the search results, click on the Names Index button. Limit your search results in the left-hand column.

What were the names of the crew of the M.V. Lake Illawarra when it collided with the Tasman Bridge in January 1975?

​​The names of the crew are contained in the Police Investigation file AD889/1/15 and the names of the officers are contained in the Marine Board of Inquiry file AB984/1/1186.

Image: %22Lake Illawarra%22 (photograph) Reference: NS1054-1-78
​​See Court of Inquiry into the Lake Illawarra Collision.

Search tips
​Open Tasmanian Archives Online. Type in the words: Lake Illawarra and click on the Search button.

My ancestor worked as a Nursing Sister around Australia in the early 1900s. Did she also work in Tasmania?

Firstly, you should check The Tasmanian post office directory 1890 - 1948. 

You can search online year by year, either by location or alphabetically by surname. Since these directories were compiled using the head of the household, if your ancestor was living with her husband, then her name may not appear.

Nurses who were working in Tasmania were required to register with the Nurses Registration Board (1927-1988) who maintained an (annual) Register of general nurses engaged in all areas of nursing by their speciality. Nurses may be registered as : Mental,  Midwifery, General, Psychiatric, Child Health, Tuberculosis, Mothercraft, Auxiliary, Geriatric or General.

As you have an accurate idea of the dates of her time in Tasmania, you can either search this register by visiting the Hobart Reading Room or, if unable to visit in person, submit an online enquiry.

Image: Photograph - Nursing Sister Doris Burn - later White Reference: PH30-1-5293


Search tips

  • ​​In the search box on the library website home page type the words: nurse training register and click on the Search button. In the results, you should follow up the link to the General nurse training register and, within that, the link to the Nurses Registration Board. 

What is the difference between a "Certificate of Freedom" and a "Certificate of Emancipation" in early Van Diemen's Land?

A definitive answer remains elusive for the time being. We hold descriptive lists of convicts in the archival series, the "Alphabetical registers of male convicts" (CON23).

These lists contain a column called : "No. and date of Free Certificate Free Pardon or Emancipation"
This column contains the abbreviations: "CE" [Certificate of Emancipation], "FC" [Freedom Certificate] and "FP" [Free Pardon]. All three certificates have separate numbering systems. 
Newspaper items of the period seem to offer contradictory messages about the status of these certificates:-

1. On 22 August 1818, the Hobart Town Gazette published regulations that stipulate only four types of documents: Certificate of Freedom, free pardon, conditional pardon, and ticket of leave.

2. On 30 September 1820, the Hobart Town Gazette referring to the colonial regulations states (second column): "[A]ll persons, male or female, whose sentences have expired are desired to bring their certificates [to musters]:- Those who have received Pardons and Emancipations are also to produce them, and all Tickets of Leave are to be exhibited."

To try to unravel the contradictory data, it is clear : 
Due to the fact the "Certificate of Freedom " has a numbering system quite distinct from the "Certificate of Emancipation" with its own numbering system, it means that the two forms of convict status are officially separate and presumably intend different outcomes.

It should be noted that the 1820 newspaper item above cites the word "Emancipations" to include both "Certificates of Freedom" plus another kind of status included under the term "Certificate of Emancipation". In other words, the word, "Emancipations" (note the use of the plural), is used loosely to cover both types of documents, namely, "Certificate of Freedom" and also "Certificate of Emancipation"; that is, a single plural word to describe them both.

The earlier newspaper item (published in 1818) limits the status to four options, none of which allow for a "Certificate of Emancipation". 

So the question remains: was there a change in the documentary evidence between 1818 and 1820, in Van Diemen's Land, that, for a short period, established a slight variance in status between convict emancipation and freedom?


​Search tips

​To find CON23 to view the columns, you should open the Search Archives form and then select series records in the drop down menu, type the word: CON23 and click on the search button.

Was Kennedy's Exchange store at Franklin sold as a result of a bankruptcy in 1921?

Yes, the property was transferred in 1921 after the Supreme Court in bankruptcy proceedings allowed a petition for liquidation of the store. You can view online a range of documents relating to the bankruptcy proceedings, including the costs of liquidation proceedings for taxation, affidavits in proof of debt, Statement of Debtor's Affairs. The last document shows a list of the secured and unsecured  creditors plus the list of properties including the Kennedy's Exchange Store and business premises in the process of being sold.

Who purchased the Store in 1921?

As displayed in an advertisement in the Huon Times (Franklin), Hooper and Walker "wish to notify their numerous clients that they have obtained a lease of the premises lately occupied by Mr W. H. Kennedy as the Franklin Exchange Stores and intend opening on Monday, May 9 [1921]...".

In the Assessment and Valuation Rolls contained in the Tasmanian Government Gazette for 9 January 1922 (at page 36), you can view the new owner's details on microfilm:-

[Valuation and assessment Roll]
Shop and Store
New owner: Hooper and Walker
Occupier: Hooper and Walker
Area: 1 acre
Annual Value : 60 pounds.

A search for details of the sale can be obtained from the Lands Titles Office.

Image: Supreme Court Hobart W.A. Wiggins.SD_ILS:697825

​Search Tips

In this case, we used the Assessment and Valuation Rolls for the Huon area to establish the identity of the new owner as a result of the bankruptcy proceedings . You would start by searching our online guide: Researching a building's history. This guide will refer you to the Valuation Rolls in the Tasmanian Government Gazette where you will discover the name of the new owner. You can discover which roll applies to the town of Franklin in 1922 (plus the page number in the Tasmanian Government Gazette) by searching online the  Assessment roll index : Tasmanian Government Gazette years and page numbers for Assessment Rolls Tasmanian Municipalities 1853-c.1950 / compiled by Steve Pearsall, Launceston library.