- What are the State archives?
- What's in the collection?
- What is the oldest record?
- Who uses the archives?
- Can I find my ancestors here?
- Where can I see the records?
- Are your records online?
- Do you have photos of my hometown?
- How many staff work at NSW State Archives?
- How can I become an archivist?
- How can I find out more about the archives?
- What is the Government Records Repository?
What are the State archives?
The State's archives are a unique and irreplaceable part of our cultural heritage. They date from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 until today. The archives are the 'raw material of history' and are part of our collective memory.
What's in the collection?
We have approximately 12 million items stored at the Western Sydney Records Centre which includes hundred of thousands of maps, plans, glass negatives, photographs and modern media such as computer records, videos and films. There are about 527 linear kilometres of paper records which means that if all the shelves were put in a line it would go back and forwards to Sydney city CBD four times!
Examples of the archives include:
- correspondence of the Colonial Secretary, a valuable source on all aspects of the history of the Colony and the State of New South Wales
- records of the convict system, such as the First Fleet convict indents and pardons
- documents which established our systems of government and justice, such as the Charters of Justice 1787, 1814 and 1823
- key sources of information about people and life, such as the records of the 1828 and 1901 censuses
- records of exploration and land settlement, such as Phillip's 1792 map of Sydney and Sturt's report on his 1838 journey to South Australia
- records of great events in our history, such as the dismissal of the Lang Government in 1932
- plans of public buildings, from early colonial buildings to the Sydney Opera House and beyond.
What is the oldest record?
NRS 13691, Indenture book, which is dated 17 Oct 1709 to 24 May 1739. It was brought to NSW from England by the Judge Advocate or another legal official.
Who uses the archives?
People use the State's archives for many reasons. Public, academic, family and local historians, social and scientific researchers, people establishing their rights and entitlements, authors, the media, students - all are among the regular users of the State's archives. Government agencies, too, make extensive use of the archives.
Can I find my ancestors here?
If your ancestors figured in the NSW government’s records. See our Family History Guide.
Looking for BDM Certificates?
For copies of birth, death and marriage certificates registered in NSW and NSW historical BDM indexes you need to visit the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages website. It provides access to online historical indexes: NSW Births that are over 100 years old, NSW Deaths that are over 30 years old, and NSW Marriages that are over 50 years old.
Where can I see the records?
Original records are available to view in the reading room at Kingswood, Western Sydney. Before viewing original State archives at Kingswood or at one of our Regional Archives Centres you will need to be issued with a Reader's Ticket.
Records that have been copied onto microfilm and microfiche can also be viewed in our reading room - some microfilm is held by other cultural organisations.
Where else can I access the records?
The ARK is held by 40 community access points across NSW. The majority of access points are libraries. The ARK consists of microfilm copies of our most popular and heavily used colonial records. Included are records to do with convict arrivals, assisted immigrants, births, deaths and marriages, publicans' licences, electoral rolls, naturalisation, returns of the colony ('Blue Books'), land grants, and the wide range of functions of the Colonial Secretary (1788-1825).
Are your records online?
- Our catalogue is online
- We have over 19,000 digitised photos: search the website; browse the digital galleries that highlight records in the collection; or visit our Flickr stream.
- Digital copies of passenger lists are online covering the years 1828-1896.
- Some gaol photos are also available from the online index (this is part of a digitisation-on-demand initiative).
Do you have photos of my hometown?
Search the website for images using your town as the keyword.
Try the App
You may also find your town via the app Towns Through Time. This is a mobile phone app by Bathurst-based developers Appiwork who were the winners of an Apps4NSW challenge. Towns Through Time provides images from our photo collection based on users' location.
You can also try Trove (National Library of Australia).
How many staff work at NSW State Archives?
About 130 staff and 55 volunteers
How can I become an archivist?
A university archives qualification plus a year of relevant work experience, or a university degree with two years relevant work experience.
How can I find out more about the archives?
Online: follow the Archives link on the horizontal menu. Here you will find links to Guides and Indexes, Collection / Site Search and Popular Research Topics. Browse our Magazine section for News, Events, Galleries and more.
Offline: We provide an Activities Program of talks, tours and seminars focusing on specific aspects of our collection. Seminars can be arranged for your local family history or historical society.
What is the Government Records Repository?
The Government Records Repository is part of the Western Sydney Records Centre and stores semi-active records for Government. Storage facilities are state of the art and include full electronic surveillance, and sprinkler and gas fire prevention systems. The Stage 6 addition won the 2006 Energy Champion Government Award; it uses geo-thermo technology which taps into the heat below the earth's surface to create the perfect atmosphere for records storage. It was designed to maximise environmental efficiencies and minimise greenhouse gas impacts using features such as full insulation, concrete walls and internal walls, lighting and air conditioning systems that can be turned off in areas not in use.
The GRR retrieves and returns these records for agencies - about 40,000 operations a month - and also destroys records that have reached the end of their life-span, usually through a pulping process at a nearby paper mill. About 5,000 linear metres of inactive records are destroyed annually - that's about 10 tons a week. All the waste paper at the GRR is sold for recycling and comes back as our cardboard boxes.