Directory of Western Australian teachers, 1900-1980

9 12 2022

As part of researching my family history, I use quite a number of online resources (this post on my professional blog lists the main ones: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2022/07/24/family-history-resources-i-use/).

One I’ve used a lot is a digital database of Western Australian teachers from 1900-1980 (https://www.carnamah.com.au/teachers). Why? Because quite a number of my extended Western Australian family were teachers, including me and my mum. Back in the day, this directory was published each year, with several copies delivered to each public school in the state. We called it ‘the stud book’! And we used it back then to see where our colleagues had been posted, check their qualifications and years of service (if we were competing for seniority-based promotion), even their middle names and the married names of the women (many married locally and didn’t leave the town, so they’d appear in the stud book the following year under their married name). It was a valuable resource then, and it still is. Either in the 1980s or by the early 1990s the Education Department of the day either decided to no longer publish it as a printed book, or not distribute it so freely to schools, or went digital with this information (if it was digital, it wasn’t available to teachers in schools). Whatever the reason, the stud book seemed to disappear from schools. I taught until early 1992, and as I was a teacher-librarian, I was the custodian of many years of stud books in my school (available to the staff only, not to students), but I know in the last few years I was there we didn’t get the annual stud book.

So I was delighted to discover a fully searchable database of all the stud books from 1900 to 1980 on, of all places, the Carnamah Historical Society and Museum’s website. Why was this surprising? Well, for those who don’t live in Western Australia, Carnamah is a dot on the map in the central wheatbelt (the town’s Wikipedia entry is correspondingly tiny, but the link from there to the Wikipedia entry for the historical society uncovers a wealth of information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnamah_Historical_Society). Carnamah is about 200 km north of Perth and has a population of around 400 people. So why did Carnamah do this and who was the driver for it? It would’ve taken many many thousands of hours of scanning and typing and editing the data—there is no easy way to get those hundreds of pages (all in a tiny font size and with deep gutters in the books) each year into a digital form, and I’m sure the state Education Department wasn’t willing to share any digital information, assuming they had it.

I still don’t know who the driver is for this most useful website (they aren’t resting on their laurels either—they recently added 80,000+ records of Western Australian car registrations from 1915 to 1928: https://www.carnamah.com.au/car-registrations), but I had occasion to contact them recently. Back in the late 1940s my mum was a ‘monitor’ at Carnamah Primary School and she had some photos from that time that I shared with the person who looks after their Facebook page and website. In my email to him I congratulated him and the historical society on making the old stud books available as a searchable database. He shared back this information:

The school teacher index was a slow burn but we got there. We were assisted by Work for the Dole participants at a number of locations across metro Perth.

What a fantastic use of resources! And what a fantastic resource freely available to anyone in the world. Well done, Carnamah Historical Society.