Remember, it is always easier to work from the present to the past when tracing your family history. A good place to start is with yourself: write down your date of birth and then other important dates such when you were married and when your children were born. Continue recording this basic information working back through the generations, your parents, grandparents, great grandparents...
This guide provides an entry into a unique collection of records, created by both the British Government and the Colonial administration, covering the period 1788-1842 (plus the 'convict exiles' from the later 1840s and 1850s) that documents the 'convict careers' of these men and women.
Between 1788 and 1842 about 80,000 convicts were transported to New South Wales. Of these, approximately 85% were men and 15% were women. Almost two thirds of convicts were English (along with a small number of Scottish and Welsh), with the Irish making up the remaining one third. Convicts were usually given sentences of transportation for seven, 14 years or life. Some convicts in the 1830s received ten-year sentences. About one quarter of the convicts were sentenced to 'the term of their natural lives', and a proportion of these had reprieves from the death sentence.
This page is an overview of 19th century Aboriginal population records in our Collection.
Local colonial authorities such as the magistrates and police were required to report to the Government on the distribution of blankets and on the conditions of Aboriginal people in their area. These reports, or returns, resulted in detailed lists of individuals and communities.
A grant of probate is the authority given by the Supreme Court NSW to the executor(s) to deal with a deceased person's estate. The will in the Probate packet is considered by the Court to be the only legal document. Records in a Probate packet include: the last will and testament codicils (additions or revocations to the will) letters of administration. Other documents may include: inventory of assets of the estate; affidavits of death and copy of the death certificate; oath of office of the executor; affidavits sworn by the executor; executor's petition for probate; affidavits of attesting witnesses; notices of motion for administration; any application or lodgement documents including notice of motion for probate and address for service; orders relating to the filing of accounts;or renunciation of probate by executor.
A guide for researchers who may have difficulty tracing individuals because they changed their name. It outlines some of the reasons for changes of name and, if the change of name has been registered, suggests where evidence of the name change may be found.
Photographs have filtered into every aspect of our lives. There can be few people today who have not posed for a family snap shot or reminisced over holiday photos from years ago. The use of photography spans the recording of important moments in history to the more commonplace tasks of insurance and identification records. So important have they become that it is difficult to conceive of a passport without one.
On arrival, a convict was either retained by the Government or assigned to an individual. Assigned male convicts were generally employed as field labourers, or tradesmen; women became domestic servants. Government convicts were most often engaged on public works projects. The majority of women convicts were engaged in the manufacture of wool and linen at the Parramatta Female Factory. A smaller number were employed as hospital nurses and midwives, as servants to officers, and in caring for orphans. Please be aware that very few records of assignment have survived.
Convicts with a life sentence could receive a pardon but not a Certificate of Freedom. The two main types of pardons were:
- Conditional pardon - the convict was free as long as they remained in the colony. The vast majority of convicts granted pardons were granted a conditional pardon
- Absolute pardon - the convict's sentence was entirely remitted. That is, they were free both within and outside of the colony and could return to Britain.
Penal settlements were places of incarceration and punishment for convicts who committed serious offences after reaching New South Wales.
Convict discipline depended not only on punishment but also on incentives and rewards. Governor King introduced the ticket of leave system in 1801. It helped reduce costs by allowing those who could support themselves honestly to do so and was also a reward for good behaviour. A ticket of leave allowed convicts to work for themselves on condition that they remained in a specified area, reported regularly to local authorities and if at all possible, attend divine worship every Sunday.
A list of convict records in our Collection relating to Van Diemen's Land.
A brief overview of the major sources in our collection that relate to divorce and procedures for accessing Divorce Case Papers (Open to Public Access after 30 years).
Electoral rolls can provide valuable information, indicating where a person lived over a period of time.
Families of convicts sometimes accompanied their convict relations or came out later. Marriages in the Colony were encouraged, the authorities believing family life served moral ends and brought stability to society. Various inducements such as tickets of leave, pardons and assistance with establishing households were offered.
The majority of women convicts were engaged in the manufacture of wool and linen at the Female Factory. A smaller number were employed as hospital nurses and midwives, as servants to officers, and in caring for orphans. This guide provides a brief historical overview of the Female Factory and a list of the main record series.
The Moreton Bay penal colony, on traditional Turrbal and Yuggera land, operated from 1824 to 1842 as a place of secondary punishment for convicts who committed serious offences. In 1842 it was declared open for free settlement. It became the city of Brisbane.
One of our ongoing projects is the digitisation of these archives which relate to Aboriginal people, 1832-1835 and 1837-1844. The 19th century ‘blanket returns’ are lists of Aboriginal people who received blankets from the Colonial authorities. The records are broadly arranged by locality and include both Indigenous and European names for each person as well as their age. Returns are also included - these provide detailed information about individuals and their movements.
Colour digitised images of early convict indents are available for the first time through 'Sentenced beyond the seas' - a project to digitise and index Australia's early convict records.
This Guide is designed to provide quick reference to NSW immigration and shipping records and will assist researchers tracing free persons arriving in and departing from NSW as well as the movement of vessels.
Search series, items, digital images and online index entries all in the one place. The new Collection Search is a powerful single search tool that provides access to the 1.9 million items in the State Archives Collection and the 1.7 million Online Index entries in the one place for the first time. This includes 6,500 never before seen series and 300,000 new items.
In these days of high tech tools and databases which can answer research queries in an instant, the challenge presented by reading and interpreting handwritten archival documents often comes as a surprise to first time researchers. In fact interpreting old handwriting can be a laborious and time consuming task for even the most experienced.