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Archives In Brief 69 - Cemetery records

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Provides a brief overview of the major sources held by State Records that relate to cemeteries. Researchers should consult Archives Investigator and Keyname Search for more detailed information. Records listed here are open to public access. For information about access to other records consult the Register of Acces Directions.

Background

The Reverend Samuel Marsden remarked that 'At the first establishment of the colony for a long time no piece of ground was set apart for a Burial place. [1]

Devonshire Street Cemetery, Sydney, 1932
Devonshire Street Cemetery, AIB 69

The Old Burial Ground (now occupied by the Sydney Town Hall) was used between September 1792 and 1820, when it officially closed. Its replacement was the Sandhills Cemetery (Devonshire Street Cemetery), which later became the site of Central Railway Station. By the 1840s there were concerns about overcrowding and over the next twenty years a number of alternative locations were considered. In 1862 the government purchased 200 acres of land 'near Homebush on the Railway Line…' — what was to become the Rookwood Necropolis — for use as a general cemetery. The first registered burial took place at the Rookwood Necropolis in 1867 [2].

[1] Keith A Johnson and Malcolm R Sainty, Sydney Burial Ground 1819-1901 (Elizabeth and Devonshire Streets) and History of Sydney's Early Cemeteries from 1788, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 2001, p. 11.

[2] David A. Weston, ed., The Sleeping City: The Story of Rookwood Necropolis, Society of Australian Genealogists in conjunction with Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1989, pp. 13-14.

Where to find burial records

Trusts, boards, councils or other bodies administering burial sites generally maintain burial records and enquiries about particular cemeteries should be directed to them. Researchers interested in cemetery transcriptions can check on their availability in the publication referred to at the end of the AIB.

Records of dedications and administration of burial grounds

In addition to the records listed in this AIB, information on the dedication and administration of burial grounds, including maps and particulars of the land set aside for this purpose can be found in Archives Investigator amongst the records of the Surveyor General, Colonial Secretary and the Lands Department. Parliamentary Papers are another useful source, as many cemeteries were set up under Acts of Parliament.

Attorney General

NRS 333, Special Bundles
*
Establishment and control of public cemeteries in Sydney, 1835-81 [5/7704-05]

Colonial Secretary

NRS 905, Main series of letters received
This series includes applications for burial licenses for interments at St Jude's Randwick, St Stephen's Camperdown and the Devonshire Street Cemetery between 1867 and 1880.

NRS 906, Special bundles
Check the Special bundle listing in the reading room for references to cemeteries and burial grounds.

Botany Cemetery Trust

These records relate to re-interments from Devonshire Street Cemetery.

NRS 15514, Index to the re-interment register, 1 Jan -31 Dec 1901
Reel 3722

NRS 15513, Re-interment register, 1 Jan -31 Dec 1901
Reel 3721

Department of Lands (now Land and Property Management Authority)

NRS 8285, Dedication registers, 1842-1979

NRS 8292, Cemeteries register, 1906-27

Camperdown Cemetery

NRS 8297, Photographic prints of headstones, monuments and plans of Camperdown Cemetery, c.1951-58
A list of the photographs is available in the reading room.

NRS 8298, Plans of Camperdown Cemetery, 1949-54

Mudgee Cemetery

NRS 8299, Register, c.1845-85

Wollongong Cemetery

NRS 8311, Typescript extract from 'Register of the Names of and other relevant information in respect of persons buried (in the) Old Roman Catholic Cemetery, Crown Street, Wollongong', 1805-1914

Further reading

  • Johnson, Keith A. and Sainty, Malcolm R., Sydney Burial Ground 1819-1901 (Elizabeth and Devonshire Streets) and History of Sydney's Early Cemeteries from 1788, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 2001.
  • Killion, Martyn C. H. and Garnsey, Heather E., Cemeteries in Australia: A Register of Transcripts, 3rd ed., New South Wales, Australian Federation of Family History Organisations, 1994.
  • Weston, David A., ed., The Sleeping City: The Story of Rookwood Necropolis, Society of Australian Genealogists in conjunction with Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1989.

Public Works and Services

NRS 12419, Special Bundles
* Haslem's Creek Cemetery, 1867 [2/895 part]
* Singleton Cemetery, 1889 [2/895 part]
* Sydney Devonshire Street Cemetery and Benevolent Society appropriation for railways, 1878, 1881-84 [2/896B]
* Sydney - Devonshire Street - Burial Ground, 1890 [2/895 part]

Devonshire Street Cemetery Board (see also Botany Cemetery Trust)

When Central Railway Station was being built on this site in 1901, about one third of the monuments and remains of those interred in the former burial ground were relocated to metropolitan and country cemeteries.

NRS 12555, Copies of letters sent, 5 Mar-17 Apr 1901

NRS 12556, Reports on the restoration of graves, Jan-Mar 1901

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
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