The census was introduced because musters, the previous method of counting the population, were ruled illegal because the government couldn’t compel free men to come to a muster, said Adam Lindsay, the executive director of the State Archives and Records NSW.
By the time the 1828 census was conducted, said to be the first and most detailed in the English speaking world, Charlotte’s mother had died at 35 years of age. The teenager was living and working with her godfather, Thomas Hyndes. She’d later help raise her younger brothers.
Mr Killion said the record showed «how circumstances of family can change over time».
«The documents give a a snapshot of a family, whether it is a well known one like the Macarthurs or part of our convict past,» he said.
As well as assisting families trying to trace their history, Mr Lindsay said the census was an amazing resource for anyone studying Australian history, convict transportation and administration, and British Imperial expansion and colonial settlements.
The 1828 census is one of 11 items newly included in the UNESCO’s register, which assesses their cultural importance and encourages their preservation. In other words, if there was a fire, these documentary records are would be rescued first.
They include Harriet and Helena Scott’s butterfly and moth drawings and notebooks held by the Australian Museum; the entire personal archive of Professor Frank Fenner who is credited with eradicating smallpox and controlling the rabbit plague; author Ethel Turner’s original manuscript for Seven Little Australians, which has never been out of print since it was published in 1894; an oral history of migrants; and Anzac Day records.
Something less well known is the Veness Letter Book, the entire record of Tamworth’s race to modernity when it introduced electric street lighting before the rest of the Southern Hemisphere.
Clerk Daniel Veness kept every letter and contract leading up to the big day in November 8, 1888, when Tamworth beat Sydney and Melbourne to become the first city of light in the southern hemisphere.
Only a decade after Paris had introduced electric candles, Tamworth’s Lady Mayoress Piper turned on the electric lights to illuminate 21km of streets, the town hall, and the finals of a foot race that night.
Dr Ros Russell, the chair of the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Memory of the World Committee, said the Veness Letters — though little known — were «up there» with Seven Little Australians and others in importance.
«It was a first. It was an amazing story. It is documenting the process of a regional town in NSW, which took on the challenge of becoming the first modern town with street lighting,» said Dr Russell.
There was very little else on the register about infrastructure or the introduction of modernity, and the completeness of the Veness record made it unusual.
The register also includes the original manuscript for Seven Little Australians, showing Turner’s scribbles as she toyed with calling the book Seven Pickles.
«In 125 years, it has never been out of publication,» said State Library of NSW curator Sarah Morley. Not only did the novel have a female heroine who came to a surprising end, it had a distinctly Australian character from its very first page.
Turner introduced the book by telling readers not to expect «good children».
«In England, and America, and Africa and Asia, the little folks may be paragons of virtue … But in Australia, a model child is — I say it without thankfulness — an unknown quantity.»
Julie Power is a senior journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.