HomeCouncilOriginal cemetery records reveal region's history

Original cemetery records reveal region’s history

Cemetery records
Bundaberg Regional Council's Nicholas Burfield with original cemetery records dating back to 1879

Original cemetery records now more than 140 years old have been uncovered, naming Wilhelmina Hermann as the first person buried in the Takalvan Street cemetery.

Bundaberg Regional Council records staff made the surprise find recently while digitising cemetery records.

Regional Supervisor of Cemeteries Nicholas Burfield said unlike other types of records, those held at the cemetery were permanent and could never be destroyed.

“While going through the boxes we came across three bound burial record books dating back to 22 May 1879,” Nicholas said.

“We knew we had photocopies of these records but didn’t realise we still had the original books which are now quite fragile.”

Viewing the books is a delicate process and staff are minimising the handling as much as possible.

The records show that on 22 May 1879 Wilhelmina Herman, aged 40 years was the first person buried at Bundaberg’s Takalvan Street cemetery when the original site on land opposite the old Blockbuster building was closed after approximately six years.

The plot number and type of burial reveals that she was buried in a public grave which, during those times, was quite common and meant the graves had no headstone.

Nicholas said due to their age, the books would be sent to State Records to be archived and stored in conditions appropriate for such fragile records.

cemetery records
The extremely fragile cemetery records will be transferred to State Records for safe keeping

The team has been diligently working to digitise local cemetery records to ensure the information is preserved and to allow for increased accessibility to the information stored within.

“Having all cemetery records digitised is a significant achievement and the last piece to undergo this process are the cemetery maps,” Nicholas said.

“I’m concerned about the valuable history in those maps which also date back to the 1800s and give us a good overview of who is buried at our cemeteries, and in which plot.

“For this reason, I’ll be sending the maps to State Records for preserving and in turn, they will provide us with the digital copies.

“Viewing the maps in a digital format will make it a whole lot easier when searching for information on behalf of the families of loved ones.”



  1. What a wonderful undertaking. A lot of my relatives lived in the Bundaberg/Gin Gin area, so looking forward to searching to provide more info on My Heritage site.
    Thank you.

  2. Well done to all involved. I would now urge you to place the digital copies onto the internet able to be searched and copied, printed off by anyone.

    I would also urge you to consider a special website dedicated to the cemetery records, where people can link to each digital record and write up whatever family history or other history they wish to add about each individual.

    I expect that Council will have computer contacts who could arrange the software for such a project.

    As well as preserving and expanding information on all locals in the past; this can be something which schools can use for teaching historical research methods to their children.

    From Council’s perspective, it should take very FEW resources to establish and to maintain; and can add immesurably to knowledge on non-prominent individuals from Bundaberg.

  3. My Comment is not meant to be critical But…

    The best $35 (each) Mrs. and I have ever spent was through Bundaberg’s YMCA’s over 50’s and was a 1/2 day tour of the Kanaka workers heritage after being contracted to work on Bundy’s cane fields from our neighbouring South Pacific Islands.

    The final part of the magnificent half day conducted tour was lunch (included) at the Pacific Islanders “church” complex adjacent to the Takalvan Street cemetery where our tour group learned that contracted labourers who died during their mid contract term were not allowed to be buried within the Bundy cemetery but were buried immediately adjacent to it on non consecrated land whilst having been already being converted to Christianity before their arrival is Australia.

    Many Kanaks (which translates as Men) had islander (not Anglisied) sounding names but these had been over-ridden to those most current at the time (1950’s, from memory).

    So for those deceased there would be no records, because they were not buried in the cemetery proper and under a convenient re-naming process.

  4. Ron, the PSA on the cemetery does contain names of people, including a number of Aboriginal folk. you will not find death certificate, that is true, but if you know what you are doing pieces can be put together through other records. some SSI people had proper wills made by Bundaberg Solicitors and their employer normally would carry out those wishes. You can locate some by chance through the old QLD Government Gazettes. at the Queensland State Archives, I have seen passenger rolls for SSI people along with the Chart that the ship visited the islands at and recruited indentured labour. One problem I have is a horse trainer, way back, quite popular, a strange religion, died after he was thrown from a horse. his common name did appear in various records. what name he might be buried under in the PSA is quite another thing.

    the number of SSI people who died from TB should be noted. it becomes obvious that people were arriving already had contracted T.B. (you might get lucky as sometimes inquests into deaths were recorded.)

  5. What an amazing find. It is great that it is being digitised. My daughter worked at a premises that digitising of old books. To see some of these hundreds of years old books, ledgers, historical records being preserved and the care taken by the staff and the complexity of the scanning machines used was amazing to watch.

    Well done for passing them on to be forever preserved in our history.

Comments are closed.

Latest news

Recent Comments