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Amelia Lucy Wayn (1862–1951)

by Ian Pearce

This article was published:

Amelia Lucy Wayn (1862?-1951), historical researcher, was born probably in 1862 in Germany, daughter of Rev. Arthur Wayn, Anglican clergyman, and his wife Amelia, née Ibbotson. Her father, who had been ordained priest in New South Wales in 1854 and had later been a curate in England, became curate at St Andrew's Church, Evandale, Tasmania, in November 1864. For the next thirty years Amelia accompanied her father (widowed in 1877) around the various parishes in which he was the incumbent; following his retirement, in 1896 she trained as a nurse at Launceston Public Hospital. Moving to Hobart, she ran the Fairfield Private Hospital, initially in partnership with Miss McDowall, in 1900-15. Amelia then went to Launceston as matron-in-charge of the military base hospital until she was demobilized in 1921.

For the compilation of The Historical Records of Australia, funding was negotiated between the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments to employ a person to arrange and index Tasmanian archival records, dating from the 1820s, which were held by the Tasmanian Chief Secretary's Department. In March 1921 Miss Wayn was appointed in a temporary capacity as a 'lady indexer'. She quickly became the one who answered requests received by the Tasmanian government for all manner of historical information and was recognized as the 'authority on the historical records of the State'. Over the next twenty-five years she undertook work and provided replies for a wide range of researchers. By the early 1930s the funding for her indexing had been reduced to a minimal honorarium in token recognition of her voluntary labours.

In January 1941 she was appointed M.B.E.: although the citation referred primarily to her contribution to historical research, it also mentioned her various charitable works. In 1942 the Tasmanian government finally allocated increased funds to pay its annalist. Amelia continued her indexing and research until 1949 when a full-time archivist was formally appointed under the Public Records Act (1943). Miss Wayn died in Hobart on 11 August 1951 and was cremated at Cornelian Bay.

Although she did not publish any books herself, Amelia Wayn contributed greatly to the work of others through the provision of information, research and assistance without which many publications would have been the poorer, or may not have been possible at all. Her major legacy to researchers, however, were the indexes and compilations that she created for records prior to 1856 in Tasmania. These are now held in the Archives Office of Tasmania and include substantial compilations dealing with governors' dispatches, shipping, the military and the civil service. The massive index which now bears her name is, despite its idiosyncrasies and errors, an invaluable starting point for any researcher engaged on the early period of European settlement in Tasmania and provides a lasting memorial to her work.

Select Bibliography

  • Mercury (Hobart), 24 Sept 1901, 14 Aug 1951
  • Premier's Department, recommendations and associated correspondence related to the granting of honours (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • Premier's and Chief Secretary's Department, general correspondence (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • Wayn compilations (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Ian Pearce, 'Wayn, Amelia Lucy (1862–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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