Researcher delves into convict past

Peter SweeneyGeraldton Guardian
Di Evans, researcher of Midwest convicts.
Camera IconDi Evans, researcher of Midwest convicts. Credit: Peter Sweeney/Pictures: Peter Sweeney, Peter Sweeney The Geraldton Guardian

As soon as her name was said, Diane Evans received thunderous applause from a packed audience.

Even more so when Lorin Cox, the heritage services co-ordinator for the City of Greater Geraldton’s library, talked about how many hours Mrs Evans had devoted to the convict database project.

“This was 10 years in the making,” Ms Cox said.

“There are 2500 convicts on the database and if you say every convict took two hours to research, then this is a 5000-hour project.

“But all of us here know doing two hours research (on somebody or something) is unrealistic, and it would have taken much longer.”

Mrs Evans admitted, “yes, it was my research”, and she spent countless hours visiting the State Records Office in Perth, researching, writing, checking and re-checking, but this was “a team effort, 100 per cent effort of volunteers”. She particularly thanked Graham Grundy, president of the Irwin Districts Historical Society, who spent two years creating a database to make the project possible. The project — launched at Geraldton Regional Library on Friday — is an online database register of convicts who came to the Victoria District, known now as the Mid West. The website — midwestwaheritage.com — now features the Midwest Convict Register with the Midwest Deaths Register.

The convict register includes details of the 2500 men who arrived in the district at differing stages of their prison sentences.

Some arrived as probationer prisoners at the Geraldton Convict Hiring Depot or as members of road parties living in tents, some as ticket of leave men (parolees) and some whose sentences were almost over and were granted more freedom to move.

“Midwest WA Heritage sheds light on stories about our community members,” the website says. “The Midwest Deaths Register contains a searchable database of burials, cremations and those who have no formal burial location or official ceremony.

“The convict database includes records for imperial and colonial convicts who made their way to the Mid West.”

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