Overview

We hold records relating to care and relief for people who were destitute. The government oversaw relief for those who had no means of support, which included running Lying-In Homes for destitute expectant mothers.

These records can contain quite detailed accounts of individual family circumstances, as known by family members at the time.

There is often an overlap with cases of Children in State based care.

There may be cases also recorded in the records of the Magill Old Folks' Home.

Access conditions

Records relating to destitution are typically restricted from general public access for 100 years, to protect sensitive personal information. You may have a right to apply for access to restricted records.

There may be some open access records in part-open series. Ask a staff member for assistance if the case you are researching might only recently have become open.

Researching the records

Most records relating to this subject were created by the:

  • Destitute Persons’ Department (GRG28)
  • Social Welfare Department (GRG29), or
  • State Children’s Department (GRG27).

The relationship between these three agencies and the series they recorded may be complex.

You may need assistance from staff to order individual case records.

Indexes and special lists

Index to returns of sick and destitute emigrants, 1840 (GRG 24/1)

See Chief (former Colonial) Secretary's Office for special list.

Register of cases of destitution - Destitute Board, c1846-1857 (GRG 28/4)

Special List to GRG 28/4 - Register of cases of destitution, 1849-1857 - A - H

Special List to GRG 28/4 - Register of cases of destitution, 1849-1857 - I - Z

Nominal list of orphaned and deserted children taken out of the Destitute Asylum, 1855-1861 (GRS 3822)

See Children in State based care for special list.

Register of admissions - Destitute Asylum, 1870-1924 (GRG 28/5)

There is a gap in this series and the special lists from 5/7/1873 to 1/1/1881.  For records in this period try Minutes of the Destitute Board, 1849-1927 (GRG 28/1), which is indexed by GRG 28/2 between 1849-1861.

These special lists are arranged alphabetically by the surname of the applicants, and cover 1870 to 1906.

Once you have identified the year and reference, you can look at these registers online if they have been digitised by FamilySearch.

1870 to 1906

Special List to GRG 28/5 Register of Admissions, Destitute Asylum, 1870-1906 - A - C

Special List to GRG 28/5 Register of Admissions, Destitute Asylum, 1870-1906 - D - F

Special List to GRG 28/5 Register of Admissions, Destitute Asylum, 1870-1906 - G - I

Special List to GRG 28/5 Register of Admissions, Destitute Asylum, 1870-1906 - J - K

Special List to GRG 28/5 Register of Admissions, Destitute Asylum, 1870-1906 - L - N

Special List to GRG 28/5 Register of Admissions, Destitute Asylum, 1870-1906 - O - Q

Special List to GRG 28/5 Register of Admissions, Destitute Asylum, 1870-1906 - R - T

Special List to GRG 28/5 Register of Admissions, Destitute Asylum, 1870-1906 - U - Z

1906 to 1909

Special List to GRG 28/5 Register of Admissions, Destitute Asylum, 1906-1909

Register of admissions to Destitute Lying-in Home, Flinders Street, 1865-1868 (GRG 28/34)

This series records admissions to the Lying-In Home operated by the Destitute Board in Flinders Street, Adelaide. 

A digital copy is soon to be available through FamilySearch.

Special list to GRG 28/34 Admissions to the Destitute Lying-in Home, Flinders Street, 1865-1868 - alphabetical by surname

Register of applications and licences issued to keep lying-in homes, 1900-1910 (GRG 27/14)

This series records addresses of lying-in homes from metropolitan, suburban and rural areas of South Australia.

Special list to GRG 27/14 Register of applications and licences issued, 1900-1910 - alphabetical by surname of applicant

Digitised records

FamilySearch - Register of admissions, lying-in-home for expectant mothers, and infants born in destitute asylum, 1881-1909

This page contains:

  • Register of admissions - Destitute Asylum, from 1881 (GRG 28/5, Units 2 to 6)
  • Register of infants born in the Destitute Asylum, from 1883 (GRG29/15, Unit 1)
  • Register of admissions to the lying-in home, from 1886 (GRG28/13)

Records held

Other series which may be of interest are available in hard copy format within our Research Centre:

  • Minutes of the Destitute Board, 1849-1927 (GRG 28/1), which is indexed by GRG 28/2 between 1849-1861.
  • List of children forwarded from the Destitute Asylum to the Roman Catholic Orphanage, 1867-1869 (GRG 28/33) - soon to be available on FamilySearch
  • Ledgers of maintenance payments by relatives of destitute persons, 1893-1928 (GRG 29/16)
  • Reports on applicants for admission to the Lying-In home, 1900-1922 (GRG 28/14)
  • Quarterly record of recipients of relief in the Wallaroo, Moonta and Kadina districts, 1910–1922 (GRG 28/32)
  • Register of relief applications - Burra (Redruth) district, 1906-1917, 1935-1953 (GRS 14431/1)

Types of records

The Destitute Asylum was a place of refuge for:

  • those who were unable to work due to age, infirmity or disability
  • destitute expectant mothers.

Some inmates were placed there by fee-paying relatives.

Registers of destitution cases can include:

  • name and address of applicant
  • date of application for relief from destitution
  • number of children
  • personal information such as age, nationality and religion, occupation
  • date of arrival in South Australia and name of ship and
  • remarks, recommendation regarding circumstances and details of relief given.

They also give information regarding:

  • relations living in South Australia
  • reasons for admission
  • dates of admission and discharge
  • proposed whereabouts.

Register of admissions to Destitute Lying-in Home, Flinders Street, 1865-1868 (GRG 28/34)

This series records admissions to the Lying-In Home operated by the Destitute Board in Flinders Street, Adelaide. 

The volume records: 

  • by which ship the person arrived
  • how long the person has been in the Australian colonies
  • date of arrival in South Australia and last place of residence
  • usual occupation and what employment now capable of
  • relatives in the colony and where they are living
  • nationality and religion
  • recommendation
  • reasons for requiring admission
  • date of admission, date of leaving and where gone to.

Register of applications and licences issued to keep lying-in homes, 1900-1910 (GRG 27/14)

This series records addresses of lying-in homes from metropolitan, suburban and rural areas of South Australia.

The register is arranged by application number and gives:

  • date
  • name of applicant
  • address of the premises
  • whether or not the licence was granted and
  • licence number.

The remarks field sometimes indicates whether a licence was renewed, and cites a vide [see also] file reference number for further information.

Key factsGRC 27/32, unit 1, Destitute Asylum, with historical notes

During the Victorian era there was an increasing professionalization of the medical and welfare sectors. This was evidenced by a growing involvement of the State as a service provider and regulator of these activities.

The first Ordinance relating to the maintenance of the destitute was passed in 1843. The Destitute Board was appointed in 1849 and was responsible for overseeing and relieving those who had no means or relatives to support themselves. Two forms of relief were available:

  • “Outdoor” – consisting of rations of food and firewood to those with a roof over their head; and
  • “Indoor” – available to the sick, homeless, widowed and elderly residing in the Destitute Asylum.

The Destitute Asylum also operated the Lying-In Home for destitute expectant mothers. Most records relating to this subject were created by the Destitute Board (GRG28).

Family historians may find admission registers created by these institutions useful. These records provide evidence of the health of individuals and their need for support from the State.

Social welfare institution records can be a vital source of information for family historians as they provide evidence of stresses and factors influencing individuals at varying stages of their lives. Social welfare institutions operating in South Australia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries provided support to unmarried mothers, children requiring board or foster care, those who were destitute, the aged and infirm, and the mentally ill. These institutions also placed children in Industrial Schools or Reformatories.