A Dose of Local History and Surprises!

There’s no doubt that when you get into family history, you need to learn about the social history, as well as the local history of the area your family came from as well. You simply can’t do one without the others.

My research which has previously seen me focus on my Finnish and New Jersey lines, has now brought me back to my South Australian roots to some of my emigrating families and their descendants. And as such, I’ve been learning a whole heap about my Randell family who founded Gumeracha, my Kelly family who founded Cudlee Creek,  as well as my Hannaford family who were early pioneers at Cudlee Creek.

So to help with my education of the local history of the area I found two books listed on secondhand bookseller, Pioneer Books website, and ordered them:

– Gumeracha 1839-1939 by J.E. Monfries, 1939 (yes the original 1939 edition, not the later reprint)
– Gumeracha Soldiers Memorial Hospital Diamond Jubilee 1922-1982 by John Norsworthy, 1982

When Monica from Pioneer Books phoned me verify that these books were indeed in stock, and quoted me the freight, she said she was going to put in another book, which is a diary from the 1860s of someone who lived in Gumeracha at the time. She said the diary came as part of a lot that they won in a auction. It was all handwritten, and she and her husband took time to transcribe it all and have republished it. And she wanted to give me a copy.

Gumeracha books

Well as you can imagine I was “is it here yet? is it here yet?”, and that was only half an hour after confirming the order ;-). Anyway fortunately for me (and everyone else) my books arrived very quickly (fabulous service from Pioneer Books). The diary turned out the be written by William Spettigue Lillecrapp and covers the period from September 1863 to April 1864. So it was not written by any reli, but I can tell you that there are most certainly references to various reli’s throughout it, so that makes it very special and most grateful to Monica for even thinking about that book for me.

My second surprise with these books is that there are photographs literally stuck into the Gumeracha Hospital book, possibly by a previous owner. Based on the nurses uniforms they look like they are from the 1920s. But they are glued into to front page and back cover of  the book, and seem to be unnamed (as far as I can tell).

Gumeracha District Hospital Nurses, 1920sGumeracha District Hospital Nurses, 1920s

So that then leads me on to my next adventure. I was fortunate enough to take last Tuesday off of work (I know, it is a shock), but I did actually take a whole day off, and no I wasn’t sick, and no I wasn’t off working at a function or anything. I simply took the day off to do my own thing. And part of what I spent the day doing was visiting the Gumeracha Local History Centre.

As they are usually open on Tuesday’s during work hours I don’t get to go, so having a day off was my perfect opportunity to go visit, and check out what they have. And boy oh boy, they have some stuff there. I saw newspaper clippings, photographs, old documents and more that related to my families in the district. I didn’t even get on to looking at the WW1 and WW2 folders, the school records, or the biographies – they will have wait for another day (or two or three).

Gumeracha & District History Centre

I saw the sign, so I knew I was at the right place, AND the other sign says OPEN!

The Gumeracha and District History Centre was a hive of activity, with their volunteers looking up information that people had requested, while others were busy filing and doing other tasks.

Gumeracha & Distcit History Centre

volunteers at the Gumeracha and District History Centre busy doing their thing

As this was only my second visit to the History Centre I’m still a newbie. And I must thank everyone for being very helpful in answering my queries, and pointing me in the right direction when looking for information. I also took my camera and Flip-Pal scanner, both of which they allowed me to use on the items I was looking at. However, it is good to note that you should always double-check and ask before just assuming they’ll allow use on everything though.

I must say the time flew, and before I knew it, it was their closing time. So while quickly packing, I found out that they offer memberships which only cost $10.00/year (and they’re always after new members), so I joined up.  So now I’m a member of three Societies.

I am fortunate that the Gumeracha and District History Centre is only about 20 minutes away from me, but I know that not everyone can physically visit the Society of area their family lived in, which is totally understandable. But if you CAN, be sure to do so as you will most likely find a goldmine of stuff relating to your family, as well as learning heaps about the town. If visiting in person is just out of the question, don’t forget you can write to the Society or Group, as the volunteers are there to help you with your queries.

Gumeracha & Distcit History Centre

sign on the front door of the History Centre

So the moral of this post (hehe, who knew there would be one eh?), is to get in touch with the local group/s genealogy AND history groups (if there are both) for the area your family came from. They can be unbelivably valuable, both with information and stories.



Pioneer Books
– website
– phone: (08) 8298 4645
– Copies of “William Spettigues Lillecrapp’s Diary September 1863 -April 1864”, can be purchased from Pioneer Books for $20.00+freight

Gumeracha Local History Centre
– next to the Gumeracha Town Hall and Library
– open Tuesdays, from 10am to 3pm
– membership $10.00/year
– have all sorts of information, photograph, maps, records etc. covering Torrens Valley Ward of the Adelaide Hills Council. The towns covered by this region are: Birdwood, Blumberg, Chain of Ponds, Cudlee Creek, Forreston, Gumeracha, Hermitage, Houghton, Inglewood, Kenton Valley, Kersbrook, Millbrook, Mount Torrens, Paracombe and surrounding areas.

5 Responses to “A Dose of Local History and Surprises!”

  1. Lauren says:

    Very helpful post! I’m looking forward to checking out the Pioneer Books site – that’s one I didn’t know about. IMy families never really pioneered a town, unfortunately, or if they did it was so small that it doesn’t even exist anymore. That won’t stop me from looking for information, though. 🙂

  2. There is a wealth of information to be found in local historical societies. They are well worth visiting.

  3. Deb says:

    Yes the second hand book websites are great. I have these 3 books too. Diaries are always great reading to get hold of! The Gumeracha Historical Society – Fantastic, and so much to look at. You need a week!

  4. Maureen Williamson says:

    I found this site very interesting and even more interesting is that I am related to Emma Norsworthy and have been researching some of my family history. Thanks for providing me more details!

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