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    There are many fascinating historical certificates among the Registry's 18 million records, often relating to prominent and notorious Australian figures. 

    Some interesting examples include:

    Famous women

    Dame Nellie Melba

    Helen Porter Mitchell, famously known as Dame Nellie Melba, was an Australian operatic soprano born in Richmond, Victoria in 1861. In 1880, Mitchell left school and moved with her father to Queensland. She married Charles Nisbett Frederick Armstrong in 1882 and together they had a son.

    She quickly grew bored of her family and in 1884 she left them to pursue a singing career in Melbourne. That same year she made her singing debut in Melbourne and adopted the stage name 'Melba' after her hometown.

    In 1887, Melba made her European debut in Brussels, Belgium as Gilda in the opera Rigoletto. In 1889 she debuted in Paris and London with her career coinciding with Covent Garden's golden age. She began socialising in circles of high society, performing for the crowned heads of Europe.

    In 1890 Melba had an indiscreet affair with Phillipe, Duke of Orleans. Melba's husband finally divorced her in Texas in 1900. In 1902 she returned to Australia on a concert tour likened to a royal tour, drawing huge crowds at train stations. She would tour Australia again in 1909 and 1911. Melba was also active in promoting war bonds during World War I and supporting the Albert Street Conservatorium in Melbourne.

    In 1924 Melba began a series of infamous 'farewell' concerts which introduced the phrase 'doing a Melba' to the language. Her last performance was at a charity concert in London in 1930.

    She returned home to Australia in 1931 but died in St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst. Aged 69, Melba died of septicaemia which had developed from facial surgery she had undergone in Europe. Melba was much loved in Australia and her funeral was a major national event. She left a legacy of recorded performances, a glamorous image and a dessert named after her: the Peach Melba.

    See Dame Nellie Melba's death certificate [PDF 250kb]

    Mary Reiby (nee Haydock)

    Mary Haydock was born in England in 1777 and sent to the Colony of New South Wales for horse stealing in 1790. When arrested she was dressed as a boy and using an alias, however her identity was revealed during the trial. She was 13 years old when sentenced.

    Arriving in Sydney in 1792, Mary was assigned as a nursemaid in the household of Major Francis Grose. In 1794 she married Thomas Reiby, formerly of the East India Company, who established a trading enterprise called Entally House.

    By 1803 Thomas owned three boats, trading coals and wheat up the Hawkesbury and Hunter rivers. In 1807 Thomas bought a schooner for trading with the Pacific Islands but fell ill after a voyage to India in 1809. He died in 1811, leaving behind his wife and seven children.

    Mary took control of the family business which included rural properties, Bass Strait sealing operations and overseas trading. Through enterprise and hard work she became one of the most successful businesswomen in the Colony. Her rise in affluence came with respectability, often socialising in Governor Macquarie's set.

    In 1812, Mary opened a new warehouse and extended her fleet with the purchase of two more ships in 1817. In 1820 she returned to England with her daughters.

    Returning to Sydney, she began buying property and erecting buildings in the centre of town. Mary was soon able to retire from management and live on her investments. In 1825, noted for her interest in church, education and charity, Mary was appointed as one of the governors of the Free Grammar School. She settled in Newtown in her later years, where she lived until her death in 1855. Mary's face now appears on the Australian $20 note. 

    See Mary Reiby's death certificate [PDF 140kb]

    Famous men

    Victor Trumper

    Victor Trumper was an Australian cricketer born in Sydney on 2 November 1877. He learnt to play cricket on the streets of Surry Hills and at age 15 he played with the Carlton Club followed by the South Sydney Club at 16. He scored 67 runs for the New South Wales Juniors eighteen against Andrew Stoddart's eleven on 22 December 1894, leading to his selection for the New South Wales side against South Australia in January 1895.

    Touring as the fourteenth man in 1899, Trumper became the first Australian to score 300 in England and was admitted as a full team member. During the 1902 tour he scored 11 centuries and was described by Wisden as 'the best batsman in the world'. He became the first batsman to record a century before lunch in a Test at Old Trafford.

    In August 1904 Trumper opened a sports store in Market Street, Sydney. In 1909 he formed a sports and mercery store on George Street near Wynyard Station and in 1911 it became known as Victor Trumper And Dodge Ltd.

    Trumper was appointed NSW captain for the 1910/1911 seasons and led the state 24 times for 15 wins, 4 draws and 5 losses. He was the first to score six centuries in an Anglo-Australian Test in Sydney in December 1911. In his final test in 1912, Trumper opened and scored 50 in the second innings in Sydney.

    Trumper's final game was for his club Gordon against Petersham at Chatswood Oval on 24 October 1914. Already tired and ill, he only scored 4 runs. By late 1914, kidney disease had taken its toll and by April 1915 he was confined to a bed.

    In June he entered St Vincent's Hospital, Darlinghurst and died there on 28 June 1915. Buried in the Anglican section of Waverley Cemetery, he was survived by his wife, 9-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son. Trumper's first class batting figures included 255 matches, 16,939 runs, highest score 300 not out with an average of 44.58. He made 42 centuries and 87 half centuries. He took 172 catches and 64 wickets at 31.73.  

    See Victor Trumper's death certificate [PDF 250kb]

    Henry Lawson

    Henry Lawson was an Australian writer and poet, born on 17 June 1867 in Grenfell NSW. His father, a Norwegian miner who changed his name to Peter Lawson, married his mother Louisa and separated when Henry was young.

    Lawson had an unhappy childhood. Lonely and unpopular in school, he was often unable to attend due to isolation and constantly moving from place to place with his parents. His isolation was made even worse when he was left partially deaf due to a childhood illness.

    Leaving school in 1880, Lawson moved to the Blue Mountains to work as a builder with his father. In 1883 he moved to Sydney to live with his mother and became an apprentice coach painter for Hudson Bros Ltd, studying at night to matriculate.

    Unable to cure his deafness, find a better job or succeed in his studies, Lawson began to write. Inspired by his mother's republican friends, his first published poem, 'A Song of the Republic' appeared in the Bulletin in 1887. His first published short story, 'His Father's Mate', appeared shortly after his father's death. He began working as a journalist, writing articles for the Republican as well as publishing verse.

    In 1891 Lawson was hired by Brisbane publication the Boomerang, contributing prose and verse as well as writing for the Worker. When the Boomerang ran into trouble Lawson was let go and he divided his time between odd jobs, writing and carousing when he fell into a rut.

    J. F. Archibald sent Lawson to Bourke at the Bulletin's expense. This period of time filled with drought and hardship would colour Lawson's work for the rest of his life. This inspiration can best be seen in 'The Bush Undertaker', 'The Union Buries its Dead' and the story collection While the Billy Boils in 1896. In the same year another book was published titled In the Days When the World was Wide and Other Verses. He also married Bertha McNamara in 1896.

    Returning from a trip to the Western Australian goldfields, Lawson began drinking heavily in the company of his friends. Bertha moved to New Zealand in an attempt to remove Lawson from the influence of his friends. But when she fell pregnant they returned to Sydney and Lawson returned to his old friends and habits.

    He became obsessed with wanting to write in England and having been sponsored by Earl Beauchamp, he finally took his family to England in 1900. Joe Wilson and his mates was written and published in London, however the climate and ill health forced the family to return to Sydney in 1902.

    During this time Lawson began to enter a decline. His wife left him and he drank heavily and attempted suicide. He was jailed for failing to pay maintenance and spent time in mental hospitals. Although he was writing, his work suffered and critics accused him of maudlin sentimentality. Works from this period include The skyline riders and other verses (1910), Triangles of life and other stories (1913) and My army, o my army! and other songs (1915).

    Friends arranged spells in the country and the Commonwealth Literary Fund granted him a pension of one pound a week, but Lawson's alcoholism and deterioration continued. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage at Abbotsford on 2 September 1922 and was granted a state funeral. Henry Lawson is best remembered as one of Australia's greatest poets and story writers most popularly known for his bush tales.  

    See Henry Lawson's birth certificate [PDF 220kb]
    See Henry Lawson's death certificate [PDF 240kb]

    Bushrangers

    Ben Hall

    Ben Hall was an Australian bushranger born at Wallis Plains, near Maitland on 9 May 1837. The son of ex-convicts, Hall spent his early years around Murrurundi and in the early 1850s he worked as a stockman on the Lachlan River.

    On 29 February 1856, Hall married Bridget Walsh at Bathurst. Together they had a son Henry, born 7 August 1859. That same year, Hall entered into partnership with John McGuire and took up a Crown lease of land at Sandy Creek south of Forbes.

    In early 1862, Bridget left Hall, taking with her their infant son. In April of 1862, Hall was arrested for armed robbery but was released due to lack of evidence. 

    Three months later he was arrested again for involvement in the Eugowra gold escort robbery but was again released due to insufficient evidence. Having incurred substantial legal expenses, Hall and McGuire were forced to transfer the lease of Sandy Creek. In early 1863, Hall joined John Gilbert at the head of a gang of bushrangers.

    The gang was well led and armed, using stolen racehorses to easily outpace the poorer police horses. In October 1863, they made a daring raid on Bathurst and throughout 1864 they committed many robberies along the Sydney to Melbourne road south of Goulburn.

    Following the shooting of two policemen by the gang, a reward of 1,000 pounds was offered for Hall's capture. Betrayed by an informer, he was ambushed on 5 May 1865 and shot dead by police near the Billabong Creek near Forbes. His body, riddled with gunshot wounds was buried in Forbes Cemetery. He was 27. His funeral was well attended with considerable sympathy amongst local people for a young man who had been so well regarded but whose life had taken such a disastrous turn.

    See Ben Hall's death certificate [PDF 290kb]

    Frederick Ward (Captain Thunderbolt)

    Frederick Ward was born in 1835 in Wilberforce, near Windsor, though there is no official record of his birth. He worked as a drover and horse breaker at Tocal Station on the Paterson River until his arrest in 1856 for receiving seventy-five stolen horses. He was sentenced to ten years hard labour. Released in 1860, Ward returned to Cockatoo Island to complete his sentence after being tried for horse stealing.

    Ward escaped in 1863 with the help of his wife, Mary Ann. They lived on the Culgoa River near Bourke until Ward adopted the name 'Captain Thunderbolt' in 1865. With associates, Ward carried out armed robberies near Bourke, Moree and Gunnedah. Alone and with a reward of 200 pounds on his head, Ward held up a mailman in 1867 and was almost captured while drunk near Manilla. In November of 1867 his wife died of pneumonia.

    Ward then worked with 13-year-old runaway William Monckton until October 1868. On 25 May 1870, Ward was testing a horse when he was surprised, chased and shot by Constable Alexander Binney Walker at Kentucky Creek near Uralla. A Protestant, he was buried in Uralla cemetery without religious rites. Ward's career as a professional bushranger is attributed to his horsemanship, choice of horse, gentlemanly behaviour and never taking on armed guards or police. 

    See Frederick Ward's death certificate [PDF 190kb]