Below is an image from the Sands and Macdougall Directory in South Australia for 1885 which lists Sellars Louisa, public school, Hindmarsh on page 388/984.

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Hindmarsh is an inner suburb of Adelaide, and my great grandmother Louisa Margaret Sellers was born on 29 Dec 1878 at Medindie (another inner suburb of Adelaide).

I think this may be her, but I am wondering how to interpret "public school" because I am used to entries in these directories usually referring to heads of households (who were then most often adult males) and that part of the entry being an occupation.

Her father, Robert John Steven Sellers, does not appear to have been listed in 1885, but in 1884 he was at Young Street, Parkside (another inner suburb of Adelaide) and in 1886 he was at Halifax Street, Adelaide. Louisa Sellars is not listed in either of those two years but in 1886 she seems to have been replaced by a Lavinia R. Sellars (public school, Hindmrsh; who may be worth me investigating further).

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I am not yet certain that this Louisa Sellars and my great grandmother Louisa Margaret Sellers/Sellars are the same person and so I am after advice purely on how to interpret the entry.

Does it perhaps mean/suggest:

  • Louisa Sellars was living at a public school in Hindmarsh (and her parents elsewhere)?
  • Louisa Sellars was attending a public school in Hindmarsh (and living with her parents elsewhere)?
  • Louisa Sellars was attending a public school (i.e. was a student) somewhere and living in Hindmarsh (presumably with her parents)?
  • or something else?
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    If this were England, I could suggest the National School Admissions Registers on Find My Past, but I don't know if records of that kind exist for South Australia in this period. A topic challenge: can you answer the equivalent question At what ages did British students enroll in school in the late 1800s and early 1900s? for South Australia? – Jan Murphy Jan 24 '15 at 4:20
  • @JanMurphy I'll check and see if the historic information on that is readily available anywhere, and if not will try to ask a question around it. I think the Grade 1 starting age from at least the 1930s has been 5 because my mother started school in 1939 aged 4 and was a year younger than most in her class, while I was 5 and most in my class were the same. I think schools in South Australia are currently opening up their records to genealogists but I have not found any online yet. The hardcopy ones that I have seen from around 1910 give father's name and residence as well as start/end date. – PolyGeo Jan 24 '15 at 5:06
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    From that site it seems 1875 is your 'waypoint' date: "it was then that parliament decreed that no child should be exempt from attendance at some school where the elements of an English education were taught." Governmental Acts produce Records; after 1875 records would have been created -- do they still exist? How can I determine what records are available in a particular locale? – Jan Murphy Jan 24 '15 at 17:14
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    I have no idea about Australian directories, but in the UK, people had to pay for their entries - why would anyone pay for an entry for a 7y old child? What purpose would such an entry serve? I would want a lot of convincing that such a thing might happen - such as other pupils with directory entries. Do we know if the school was residential (i.e. a boarding school in UK terms)? If not then the only reason for anyone to appear against the school would be if they worked there. Of course - it might all be an error somehow! – AdrianB38 Jan 25 '15 at 21:35
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    @AdrianB38 I'm not sure whether regular entries cost money but certainly to get BLOCK LETTERS like the entries for SELLAR J.Z. cost 5 shillings in 1885. – PolyGeo Jan 26 '15 at 3:29

I'm not too convinced that your ancestor, born in 1878, would appear in a directory in 1885.

There's a history of Hindmarsh at www.sahistorians.org.au/175/bm.../a-heritage-history-of-hindmarsh.doc which indicates that Hindmarsh Model School was founded in 1878.

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  • I think it seems unusual, if not unlikely too, but there are many such entries for other people and locations in the same directory. Do you think instead that it may be an adult Louisa Sellars running a public school in Hindmarsh that is listed? There seems to be a teacher occupation for many others in the directory. +1 for that useful reference to the history of Hindmarsh. – PolyGeo Jan 24 '15 at 23:26
  • @PolyGeo -- there might be school directories or staff records that could answer your question. Also check Trove for newspaper articles about the school. I would do a broad search for any information about the school and then cross-check whatever names of staff or students I might find against other contemporary records such as these directories. – Jan Murphy Jan 25 '15 at 20:00
  • @PolyGeo as always I encourage keeping an open mind and not theorizing ahead of the data. – Jan Murphy Jan 25 '15 at 20:27

With some useful ideas thrown in by others I did some more research in the Sands and Macdougall Directories and Trove newspapers and noticed the timeline below:

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  • 1884 Sands and Macdougall Directory (see question for picture) does not list Lavinia but the data for this was probably collected during 1883 before her appointment.
  • 1885 Sands and Macdougall Directory (see question for picture) does not list Lavinia but lists Louisa Sellars, public school, Hindmarsh which would seem to be a misspelling
  • 1886 Sands and Macdougall Directory (see question for picture) lists Lavinia R., public school, Hindmrsh
  • 1887 Sands and Macdougall Directory lists Lavinia R., public school, Hindmrsh

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  • 1888 Sands and Macdougall Directory lists Lavinia R., public school, Hindmarsh

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  • 1889 Sands and Macdougall Directory lists Lavinia R., public school, Hindmarsh

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I think it is now clear that the Louisa Sellars listed with public school, Hindmarsh in the 1885 Sands and Macdougall Directory is actually Lavinia R. Sellar, head mistress of the infant department.

My advice to anyone trying to understand the "occupation" of public school in Sands and Macdougall directories will be to consult the Trove digitised newspapers to see if they can find a record of the appointment to a position by the Education Department (of South Australia).

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