- Brief administrative history
- Using the catalogue to find record series
- Surviving records
- Records held elsewhere
This Guide provides information on the available inmate records for the Infirm and Destitute Asylums and where to find them.
Function of government
One of the functions of Government, overtime, has been to provide care for the poor and infirm as part of social and community services. You can find more detail on the history of the Government function of social and community services in our catalogue under Social and community services (Function No. 4).
Care for the poor and infirm is not the same as care provided as part of mental health programs. For records relating to mental health patients please see the Mental Health Facilities Guide.
The Benevolent Society
Before 1862 care for the infirm and destitute was primarily provided by non-government organisations. The Benevolent Society, founded in 1813, opened the first asylum for the poor, blind, aged and infirm in 1821 on the site of Central Railway Station.
Government control of asylums
In March 1862 a Select Committee report found the Society's institutions seriously overcrowded and provision of care inadequate.  In response to the report the Government assumed responsibility for the Benevolent Society's asylums for the infirm and destitute.
The Government Asylums for the Infirm and Destitute Branch was established in 1862 under the control of the Colonial Secretary's Department. The Branch administered asylums at Liverpool, Hyde Park Barracks and Parramatta.
Government asylums in 1888
On the 27 August 1888 control of the Government Asylums Branch became the responsibility of the Department of Charitable Institutions.
In 1888 Government asylums operated at Newington, George St - Parramatta, Macquarie St - Parramatta and Liverpool.
Government asylums in 1911
By 1911 the Branch administered State Hospitals and Asylums for the Infirm at Rookwood, Liverpool, Newington, Macquarie St - Parramatta, George St - Parramatta, Cottage Homes for Aged Couples - Parramatta and the Waterfall State Hospital for Consumptives.
Government asylums in 1913
On 1 March 1913 the Government Asylums Branch became part of Department of Public Health.
We hold records of the following State managed infirm and destitute asylums.
|Agency No.||Agency name|
|1999||Lidcombe State Hospital and Home (formerly Rookwood Asylum)|
|1726||Liverpool State Hospital and Home|
|1997||George Street Asylum, Parramatta|
|1998||Macquarie Street Asylum, Parramatta|
|1994||Newington State Hospital|
|1999||Rookwood Asylum (later Lidcombe State Hospital and Home)|
|1995||Hospital for Consumptives, Waterfall|
Note that many records of infirm and destitute asylums are incomplete. We do not hold any records of inmates at Hyde Park Asylum.
Records of individual facilities
For further information about our holdings you can consult our catalogue (Tip: use the Agency links in the table above for quick access).
You can also search for records of asylums for the infirm and destitute for the Function 'Health'. The information provided includes a list of agencies exercising that function.
Records of the Government Asylums Branch
As well as records of individual facilities, we also hold records of the Government Asylums Branch (Agency No. 1924).
Records provide only brief details
Most surviving records of asylums only provide brief details of the inmate's admission and discharge. It is rare to locate family history information or a case history of a patient. Many records are incomplete.
Registers of admissions and discharges
Registers may be arranged chronologically or alphabetically and each page may be divided into admissions and discharges. They may show on the admissions side — name, age, date of admission, total, and remarks; and on the discharge side — name, age, date of admission, date of discharge, total, and remarks.
Details recorded on admission cards vary. Some of the details may include: name; religion; occupation; birth place; residence in New South Wales; last address; marital status; age at marriage; to whom married; father's name; birth place; occupation; mother's names and birth place; nationality of patient; details of pension; names; ages; addresses and circumstances of children; names and addresses of spouse, brothers and sisters. Details concerning treatment may also be recorded on the reverse of the admission card.
Patient-identifying records more than 110 years old are Open to Public Access (OPA). You can access the records in the reading room.
Benevolent Society records
The Benevolent Society has an index to Sydney Benevolent Asylum admissions and discharges, 1857-1900 available online.
Records of the Benevolent Society are held at the Mitchell Library (part of the State Library of NSW). To obtain permission to access these records researchers must contact:The Benevolent Society
PO Box 171
Paddington NSW 2021
Telephone: (02) 9339 8004
Researchers may also wish to consult the Guide to the Records of the Benevolent Society, 1813-1995, in the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW; arranged and described by Paul Scifleet.
 Report from the Select Committee on the Benevolent Society, Sydney, 7 January 1862, Votes and Proceedings 1861-62, Vol 2, p.910
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Content in this Guide first appeared in Archives in Brief 86 - Infirm and destitute asylums - Inmate records
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