Tasmanian Family History Society


A wedding at Campania, 1870 (AOT, PH30/1/2095)

The Tasmanian Family History Society's aims are to promote the study and research of the science of genealogy and family history through education, preservation and trans­cribing relevant records, and the writing and publishing of literature. It began in 1978 with a group of people who met in Hobart under the umbrella of the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies. In 1980 the Genealogical Society of Tasmania was formed with the inaugural meeting attended by 87 people at Rosny College. Branches were formed in Launceston (1980), Burnie (1980), Devonport (1981) and the Huon (1984). With the speedy addition of branches it was deemed necessary to change the constitution to give branches equal rights. A state executive was formed in 1982, and presidents have been Lilian Watson, John Goold, Douglas Forrest, Neville Jetson, John Grunnell, Denise McNeice, David Harris, Anne Bartlett, Peter Cocker and Anita Swan.

A library, which began on a shelf in the home of Lilian Watson, grew rapidly and in 1981 premises were found in Bellerive. By 1986 the collection had outgrown the building and Hobart branch obtained premises in the former Bellerive Post Office. Each branch now has its own library with Hobart branch housing some state resources. State-owned material is circulated quarterly between branches these include microfiche of birth, death and marriage registrations for England plus the indexes for national probate calendars, old parochial records, Griffiths valuation records for Ireland, and Scottish census records. A campaign by Lilian Watson and Neil Chick to have the Registrar General's Department release for public access the pre-1900 birth, death and marriage records for Tasmania achieved success in 1980.

Another major achievement was the transcribing and recording of all headstones in Tasmania. The project became known as TAMIOT Tombstone and Memorial Inscriptions of Tasmania. Indexes to all cemeteries have been published. Currently the society is photographing every headstone as part of the eHeritage Project that aims to make digital images and an index available on the web. Volunteers have undertaken various indexing projects, many of which have been published. A Family History Award was instigated in 1982 to encourage researchers to publish the results of their work. This was renamed the Lilian Watson Family History Award in 1998 in recognition of her achievements.

The first edition of the society's quarterly journal, Tasmanian Ancestry, appeared in 1980. An index of the first twenty years was published in 2003. In 1997 the journal was honoured with the Elizabeth Simpson Award for the best journal from a selection of entries by family history societies around the world.

In April 2001 the Society became known as the Tasmanian Family History Society Inc. with celebrations held to mark its twenty-first year. In 2004 the Society had a membership of about 1400.

Further reading: www.tasfhs.org.

Rosemary Davidson