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New CD on Goldfields

by Di Cummings

“SOUTH AUSTRALIAN GOLDSEEKERS at the VICTORIAN GOLDFIELDS 1851-1853” is intended to be a companion to “BOUND FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA: PASSENGERS 1836-1851” both compiled by Di Cummings.

During September and October 1851, the SA REGISTER featured REPORTS of THE GOLD DISCOVERIES in Victoria and N.S.W. Within weeks it seemed that upwards of 2000 South Australians had left, and hundreds more were crossing from Van Diemen’s Land – all hoping to make their fortune on the goldfields.

From the end of 1851 there was a large exodus of people. Some sailed round to Melbourne. We are fortunate that the names of some of these gold seekers [when they departed and when some of them returned home], were recorded in the newspapers of the day. We know hundreds travelled overland. The greater part of those who went overland were men, but a few took their wives and children with them to settle down for a season on the goldfields. They tramped or rode or drove their wagons or pushed their carts/wheelbarrows over 800 miles of dreadful tracks, sand-dunes and swamps. Unfortunately there are few records indicating who made these arduous journeys. We are so grateful to those who recorded their adventures.

By the end of 1852, over 14,000 returned to South Australia by boat. This voyage cost a week’s wage. It seems likely that their returning by boat meant they were either fortunate or had discovered a fortune. Many of them took the precaution of sending their gold on before by police escort.

The Goldseekers CD contains many lists [passenger lists, Gold Excort lists, Unclaimed letters lists] – any one of which may provide you with an answer to that vexing question:
What did they do?

From amongst the mass of information on this CD, I hope you discover something of interest connected to your ancestors. I am thrilled to say “I have”. So often our family story is told only through the information contained in the Birth, Marriage and Death Registrations. My grandfather’s grandmother’s father JOHN OATEY [born c.1823] and his cousin JEREMIAH OATEY came to South Australia with their wives onboard the Wulliam Money in 1849. Then to find that John Oatey travelled from Melbourne to South Australia onboard the ANNA DIXON in February 1853, and Jeremiah Oatey onboard the DREADNOUGHT in September 1853, is as clear an indication as I can find that they probably visited the Victorian Goldfields.

My own personal interest in goldfields began sometime ago when I happened across Charles Sandry Rule’s diary of his trek from Burra [South Australia] to the Mount Alexander Goldfields [Victoria] in February 1852. This diary is by no means as adventurous as some, but it was exciting then because of its first-hand immediacy.

My chief interest was and is the diggers themselves. The interest grew from one particular group, and how they made their way to the goldfields of Victoria, to a wider interest of what happened to some of the 20,000 abled bodied men who deserted the Colony of Adelaide in search of better prospects for themselves and their families. Gold-digging bravery took many forms.

The first step was to leave the comforts of home, to face the elements as they made their way to ‘El Dorado’. The word “grit” is pretty old-fashioned now, but grit is what most of these people had, not only literally in their hair and clothes and food, but in the sense of courage and tenacity. This is why we proudly nickname our soldiers “diggers”.

The GOLDSEEKERS CD is available via Gould Genealogy of Modbury SA.
They charge $89.50 plus post/packaging.