The University of Western Australia

Genealogical Research - Desperately Seeking Eva

Desperately Seeking Eva

Sometimes our Archivists receive genealogical enquiries so vague it appears no amount of research will provide an answer. However, with a bit of imagination and a little luck, miracles can occur.

Recently an enquiry was received from a researcher trying to track down information about a relative. All that was known about this woman was that her name was Eva Shell. It was thought that Eva may have worked at the University Library in the late 1940s.

The usual searches on the family name revealed nothing so, on a hunch, our intrepid Archivist retrieved a Library staff photo from 1950 and discovered that the group photograph contained a woman identified as Malvina Evalyn Wood. The unusual spelling of the middle name led our Archivist to contact the researcher. Was it possible that Eva was the middle name and her surname was actually Wood? This clue led the researcher to pursue another line of enquiry which revealed that this was indeed the case. Eva’s father had legally changed the family name to Wood, although why he did this was unclear.

Once this information was confirmed, the University Archives were able to uncover Eva’s long history with UWA. Recipient of a BA in 1927 and an MA in 1943, Eva worked in the Library from 1927–1959 as the University Librarian. As a result, the University Archives were able to send the lucky researcher information from Eva’s student file, staff file and of course the image that turned out to be the key to the puzzle.