Wife & Child Deserters


In 1988, I published Digging for Gold. A guide to researching family & local history in Victoria’s Central Goldfields. The book was the first basic guide to goldfields research for genealogists and local historians.  It has been out of print for some years now, but copies are available in many family history organisations, local libraries and various State libraries.  I subsequently co-authored and published Cops and Robbers. A Guide to Researching 19th Century Police and Criminal Records in Victoria, Australia.  This book is now also out of print, but again, copies are available in a number of locations.

One particular source I find useful is the listing of wife and child deserters regularly published in the Victoria Police Gazettes.  As the Gazettes were not indexed until 1859, in Digging for Gold I included the basic details of those deserters listed from the commencement of the Gazettes in December 1853, until December 1858. I also found and included a listing of South Australian families left destitute by husbands abandoning them for the Victorian goldfields. The South Australian listing can be searched from the link below.

Copies of the Gazettes to 1872 are now available on microfiche, and many family history libraries have them, but the only way for many people to access Gazettes after this time period is to purchase the CD version, which is expensive,and the search facility is not always 100% accurate. For some time now I have been extracting the basic details of these wife and child deserters, indexing the entries and creating cross references to places, and publishing them on microfiche. The periods covered are: 1880-1885, 1886-1890, 1891-1895.  Each microfiche contains around 3,000 entries, and includes some extracts from interstate Police Gazettes.

As well as wife deserters, there are many references to men deserting their illegitimate children.  While the police were concerned with offenders, and thus list only the offender in the Gazette indexes, I have also cross referenced the names of all victims.  For those people trying to find the father of an illegitimate child, this source can be very useful.  Copies of the microfiche are available from Harriland Press.  Special reduced prices for these fiche apply while stocks last.

During my searches through miscellaneous police correspondence files I have also come across many references to wife (and occasionally husband) deserters.  While the basic details of many of these entries are reproduced in the Victoria Police Gazette, the files themselves can contain more information.  Some of these files also include a photograph of the deserter, and I have now started including these details on this web page.

Search Victorian Index

Search South Australian Index


As all of the files on this particular web page contain photographs, the easiest option is to request a digital image.  The Public Record Office has made a digital camera available for researchers in the search rooms, so it is possible to take the images using a USB, burn them onto a CD later, and post this off in a padded bag.  The fee for this is $55, where there are under 20 pages.  A large number of pages will mean a higher fee because of the time element involved, so that the cost for up to 30 pages will be $65, and up to 40 pages will be $75.  An alternative is to copy directly onto a USB stick, but I do ask an additional fee of $8 to cover the cost of these.

These prices include the cost of postage within Australia.  Alternatively, I am happy to provide the exact reference if people wish to retrieve the document and arrange copying themselves.  The retrieval fee is $45.

Arranging payment:

Either send a cheque in Australian Dollars made out to Harriland Press to PO Box 92, Forest Hill, Victoria, Australia, 3131, or email me to obtain details for a direct credit to our account.  If  you wish to send a cheque in a foreign currency please allow $Aust15 bank fee.  New Zealand orders are advised to email me for alternate arrangements.   Please include two International Reply Paid Coupons for return postage if outside Australia, (obtainable from any post office).

  1. Remember to supply your own address, including if possible, an email address.
  2. You will be emailed when your letter arrives, and again when your order has been posted to you.
  3. My email address is hdh1[at]ozemail.com.au (you will need to remove the ‘at’ and replace with @).