State Library of South Australia

South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau website launched

Date: 3 June 2015

We are pleased to announce the release of the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau website . The site allows other institutions, researchers and family historians worldwide to search, contribute to and harvest the database, and highlight South Australia's contributions to WW1.

South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau website launched
South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau website launched

History of the SA Red Cross Information Bureau records

From 1916 until 1919, the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau (SARCIB) researched 8,033 enquiries from family and friends of missing Australian Imperial Force personnel who fought in World War 1. An envelope was created for each enquiry containing:

  • information about each soldier enquired upon
  • letters from the requesting family
  • eyewitness statements about the soldier's last known whereabouts
  • and, in most cases, the resulting information on the fate of the soldier, expressed to the enquirer.

When the Bureau was winding down in 1919, it donated its records to the State Library of South Australia (then Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery). Several newspapers, including The Register on 20 December 1919, reported the donation. The Library's acquisition of the records is most likely due to Sir Josiah Symon who was instrumental in the creation of the South Australian Bureau and a significant benefactor of the State Library of South Australia (SLSA).

Since this time, the records have been accessible to the general public at the Library but users could only search for a soldier's surname in the Bureau's card index. Each index card recorded a series of numerical codes that, depending on their location on the card, showed regimental rank or number, name, unit, enquiry file number, and links or references to other series within the records. The required interpretation of numerical codes and cross-referencing made the use of these records difficult.

The new SARCIB website

Our new website allows the user to search for the names of soldiers enquired upon, any eyewitnesses and those who made enquiries. Each soldier is linked to their service records at the National Archives of Australia and, where possible, a link to a personal notice from the Chronicle newspaper in Trove.

Screen shot of a WW1 soldier named Talbot on the SA Red Cross Information Bureau website
A screen grab of a WW1 soldier named Talbot on the SA Red Cross Information Bureau website.

The packets of information have all been digitised and are available for download. These jewels reveal the:

  • anguish of families
  • frank eyewitness statements that take the reader straight to the moment
  • tremendous value and help this and the other state's Bureaus provided.
An eyewitness account from Talbots SA Red Cross Information Bureau packet
An eyewitness account from Talbot's SA Red Cross Information Bureau packet.

With help from our volunteers

Just as the Bureau used a volunteer workforce, SLSA continued this tradition by engaging volunteers to contribute to the discovery of these missing South Australian soldiers.

Our reformatting staff digitised 8,024 packets, creating a total of 76,718 pages which were indexed by volunteers. This resulted in more than 19,000 names being indexed and turned into individual records in the website - soldiers, nurses, eyewitnesses and enquirers were indexed to broaden the appeal and usefulness of the content.

The project involved 40 volunteers from our current volunteer program (including some recently retired archivists from our own staff). Students from the University of South Australia's Business Information Management and Library Information Management course were also involved.

SLSA was fortunate to have the support of the Barossa Public Library where 13 volunteers from Nuriootpa worked on this project.

The recruitment of volunteers for data entry was a natural alignment for this project, neatly creating a full circle that starts with volunteers in 1915 and ends with volunteers in the 21st century. We are grateful to all volunteers associated with the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau.

For more information about the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau project, email centenaryofanzac@slsa.sa.gov.au or watch our video.

Story by: Andrew Piper

Back to e-xtra Winter 2015 stories

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