My Adventures During South Australia’s History Month

It’s the end of June, and yet I still haven’t event reported on “HISTORY MONTH” yet. What can I say … life, work and writing for multiple blogs means that this one has taken a bit of backseat. So while it is belated, I still wanted to write my thoughts on the events that I went to during South Australia’s History Month.

So firstly just a bit about South Australia’s History Month (also known as the About Time History Festival). Originally it started out as History Week, but it grew to be History Month and it’s held every May, and this year there was a record number of events (555 all up) scheduled. For historians or genealogists it is a month to look forward to and immerse yourself in history. Though you most certainly have to be a history-nut to enjoy the events held.

It is a time when you organisiations get to show themselves off to the general public. A time when the public gets to find out more about the history of places they see everyday.

I didn’t get to all the events I’d hoped to, but still I did enjoy those that I did …


South Australia's History Month - Carol Baxter Writing Seminar

Reading and Writing History Seminar
Date: Saturday 1oth May
Organiser: Unlock the Past
The Reading and Writing History Seminar was held over two days, and I went just on the Saturday. Internationally awarded author Carol Baxter was the key speaker of the event, and together with Dr Karen George and Shauna Hicks gave attendees a comprehensive overview on this topic. And the fact that there were numerous people who came from interstate is a testament to their knowledge. Carol says that family histories are notoriously the worst books to read, because they are simply a book of facts (names, dates, occupations etc, etc) … you CAN make a family history interesting. In Carol’s usual style, she captivated the audience, and had everyone participating in the mini-workshops, working on how to change a few words to make it far more descriptive and evoke an emotion.It really was fascinating, and an eye opener for probably all who attended.


Fall in! State Military Records 1836: To First World War
Date: Monday 12th May
Organiser: State Records of South Australia

My next event was a couple of days later, and I actually took the day off work to attend. And that was the behind the scenes tour of the South Australian State Records facility at Gepps Cross. The title of this event makes it sound like it was just about military records, but in fact that was far from the truth, though we did see some.

Having not been there before (yes, I know, I know … I’m always sending people there with my work, but I hadn’t been myself, smack on the hand to me) …  now I can say that I have. And I must say that I was (and I think the others who were on the tour with me) were equally blown away by the amount of records the State Records of SA holds there. The 1 1/2 hr tour took us through numerous back rooms of their facilities. We walked through a number of warehouse size rooms that are almost floor-to-ceiling, with row-after-row of compactusus with records of all sorts relating to this State’s history.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to write any notes about it as I went as we weren’t allowed to take any bags or pens with us on the tour.  But I must thank Lee and Helen for the tour, which was hugely informative. And I did learn that State Records of SA holds South Australian government created records, while South Australia State Archives hold any records (including private companies and individuals).

So anything that was created by a government department such a school records, hospital records, police records, old military records (when it was state based not commonwealth), government business records, land records and records that you’d never event think of. There’s event hundreds of plans of hotels right around South Australia as some department or another obviously needed them for something. But who’d have thought right?

After the tour, and browsing around their facilities for a while after it, I signed up to get my State Records card and was resolved to make use of their facilities. I learned that if generally only takes 10-15 minutes for someone to located and retrieve an item for you. That doesn’t sound too bad. But since then the big State Records of SA move has been announced, and the Gepps Cross facility will be closed to the public, with all records being looked at in the (new) city location in the State Library. Obviously they won’t hold all the records there, so there will be approx. half a day delay from when you order a record until when it is available to view at the State Records of SA in the city. Not as convenient by any means, but I guess as along as we can still view the records is the main thing.

So while it’s a shame that I won’t get to use my new found knowledge of this facility as such, I’m still glad that I got to see it.

hospital records at the State Records of SA

hospital records at the State Records of SA
(click for a larger image)

criminal records at the State Records of SA

criminal records at the State Records of SA
(click for a larger image)


opening of the Founders Gallery at Gumeracha Town Hall

opening of the Founders Gallery at Gumeracha Town Hall

Founders Gallery Opening
Date: Tuesday 13th May
Organiser: Gumeracha & District Town Hall Committee
My busy week of History Month events continued with the opening of the Founders Gallery at Gumeracha. I can honestly say that I never figured I’d get to an art gallery opening, but what do you know I did exactly. But it for a good cause. Because how often do you get to see paintings of your 3x and 4x great grandparents?

William Richard Randell & first wife Mary Ann Beare (click for a larger image)

William Beavis Randell & first wife Mary Ann Beare
(click for a larger image)

Anyone who is connected to the town of Gumeracha and knows a little of its history would know that the Randell’s founded the town. Well, Toby Forwood who is a direct relative of the Randell’s inherited four magnificent portrait paintings – William Beavis Randell, his wife Mary Ann Beare, his father William Randle, and his mother Elizabeth Beavis. These are huge, and he wanted them to go to a good a home, and place that would look after them, and to a place that more people could appreciate them. So after chatting with the Gumeracha & District Local History Group and the Town Hall Committee, they now have pride of place on the walls upstairs in the Gumeracha Town Hall.

William’s parents: William Randle & his wife Elizabeth Beavis (click for a larger image)

William’s parents: William Randle & his wife Elizabeth Beavis
(click for a larger image)

As an added bonus while I was at the opening I got to meet a social media friend (and relative) for the first time – Julie Olsen. She is the current owner of Randell Mill Bed & Breakfast. The place her 2x (or was it 3x?) great grandpa William Beavis Randell built.

Alona Tester & Julie Olsen at the Gumeracha Founders Gallery opening

Alona Tester & Julie Olsen at the Gumeracha Founders Gallery opening
(with our reli’s on the wall behind us)


Anthea Phillips & Alona Tester at the Clipper Ship "City of Adelaide"

Anthea Phillips & Alona Tester at the Clipper Ship “City of Adelaide” 150th birthday

Clipper Ship ‘City of Adelaide’: Welcome Home and 150th Birthday
Date: Saturday 17th May
Organiser: Clipper Ship ‘City of Adelaide’
The last event I made it to during History Month was the City of Adelaide Clipper Ship’s 150th birthday down at Port Adelaide. With basically an open day to the public (by gold coin donation) and numerous stalls and rides, and lots of hot food, and the weather even managed to hold out, we were expecting a busy day. I went there as work (Gould Genealogy & History) had a stall, so I was helping out. While we didn’t get the full-on rush as was expected I would say there were steady numbers throughout the day. And it was good to see so many people, from so many walks of life taking a interest in such an important piece of South Australia’s history and helping preserve the ‘City of Adelaide’ clipper ship.

Gould Genealogy & History stand at the City of Adelaide 150th birthday

Gould Genealogy & History stand at the City of Adelaide 150th birthday


So that was my South Australian History Month adventures for 2014. Like I said it wasn’t all that I had hoped to get to. But I did enjoy those that I did, so I shall have to wait till 2015 and see what is on next year.

For more about South Australia’s History Month:
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2 Responses to “My Adventures During South Australia’s History Month”

  1. You certainly immersed yourself in the activities. Thanks for sharing your notes. Aren’t those portraits precious.

  2. Alona says:

    Thankyou Jill. Yes I did totally enjoy all that I went to. But I might have to see if I can score a few extra days off in May next year, to do even more.

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