One of the lesser known series in our collection is NRS 10968, Register of enquiries by detective police 1859-83, [4/5719] Reel 3041 (there is an index at the front of the register).
This register is not dissimilar to the modern day television program Missing Persons Unit. Just like today, people did go missing during the early days of the colony. With limited resources, investigations on missing persons were carried out and this register is a record of the process.
What you can find in the register
The register lists all the details relating to the case, when the individual was last seen or heard of, physical description, who reported the individual as missing (relation, friend), and other details that may assist the investigation - not at all dissimilar to modern missing persons investigations. The detective/s who investigated the case are noted and the result of the investigation is recorded.
Example from the records
Take the case of missing woman Margaret Baur, reported missing by her second husband John Baur. Here is the transcribed entry from the register for her inquiry [4/5719 p. 73]:
In the case of missing woman Margaret Baur or Hall or Price
Margaret Baur left home (11 June) Belfast Ireland 1864 taking a boy about 5 yrs old. She is about 30 years of age, 5ft 5inches, medium build, darkish complexion, grey eyes dark brown straight hair. Was seen by her husband John Baur in Sydney a few days ago, said she was living outside town with a commercial traveller, and lodging with a ships carpenter. Her maiden name is Hall, first husband's name is Peel, she may assume either names.
By whom instituted
John Baur (her second husband) at present residing at Mrs G.C.Haye's private boarding home corner of Kent and Crescent Streets.
By whom & when made
Detectives McGlover & Finegan
Remarks/result of investigation
Arrested for Bigamy 23 September 1865 and sentenced to 6 months imprisonment in Maitland Gaol at Quarter Sessions Sydney 2 October 1865.
For the family historian or for anyone interested in a great read this is an extremely valuable resource. The amount of detail that was recorded makes this register one of the wonders of the State Archives!
This content first appeared in Now&Then 28 October 2007.