- Searching for records relating to a locality
- Preliminary research
- Online resources
- Colonial Secretary's records
- Land records
- Lands Department records
- School records
- Railway records
- Hotel records
- Public building records
- Mining records
- Maritime records
- Public health records
- Roads water supply and sewerage records
- Records of inhabitants
- Other records
We hold the New South Wales government's archives collection. When searching for localities, the first step should be to determine what dealings the government of the day may have had with an area. You then need to consider which public office would be likely to have carried out the relevant government function.
Preliminary use of the sources below can help you better identify possible public offices and record series that may assist you in your research.
- Printed sources such as books, newspapers and journal articles can help to establish when, how, and why a particular area was settled
- Interviewing long time residents can help, especially if little research has previously been undertaken
- Material may also be held in public libraries, local government archives, historical societies and the Mitchell Library
- Printed government sources, including Government Gazettes, Parliamentary Papers and the Blue Books (Returns of the Colony) can also provide background information.
Our catalogue provides contextual information that can help to identify which public office administered which government function at a particular time. It is a valuable tool for local history research. Records are listed by series title and item title, often showing the locality name.
Other guides and indexes should also be consulted. Many indexes mention various localities and are therefore excellent sources for local history research.
The Colonial Secretary had widespread administrative responsibilities. The Colonial Secretary's Department acted as the channel of communications between the Governor, other Government offices and private settlers. Consequently the Colonial Secretary's records are an important source for correspondence relating to alienated and leased Crown lands.
The Index to the Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825 is arranged alphabetically and by subject/locality.
Researchers should also check the online Index to the Colonial Secretary's letters received relating to land, 1826-1856.
We hold information on the original alienation and occupation of Crown land.
Surveyor General's records
The Surveyor General was responsible for exploring and surveying New South Wales and the alienation of Crown Land.
See the listing of Agency No 1773 Surveyor General's Records in our catalogue.
We have a large collection of original surveys, maps and crown plans of areas in New South Wales.
See the Index to Surveyor General's Crown Plans 1792-1886. Also consult the Index to Maps and Plans, available in the reading room.
The records of the Surveyor General include Surveyors field books are searchable in the Index to Surveyors' field books, 1794-1860.
Registers of land grants and leases
NSW Land Registry Services
The Lands Department was responsible for the alienation and occupation of Crown Lands from 1859. Common forms of occupation included conditional purchase, conditional lease, pastoral holdings, and occupation licences. See our catalogue for records of the Lands Department and Western Lands Commission and the interim Guide to Occupation of Crown lands, available in the reading room.
For records prior to 1848, check our catalogue for records of the Colonial Secretary and the Clergy and School Lands Corporation. The administrative correspondence of the various education authorities (from 1848) provides valuable insight into the development of a locality. See The Administration of Education Under Two Boards, 1848-66 (PDF, 18.5mb); and The Council of Education, 1866-1880 (PDF, 10mb), also available in the reading room.
For the period c.1880-c.1979, consult the:
The series NRS 15051 Department of Education photographic collection, may also be of interest. The photos are being progressively digitised an made available online.
Comparatively few pupil records have survived. Check the School Records / Pupil Records Guide and with reading room staff for details of surviving records.
The bulk of State Rail's archives collection was transferred to us in 2000. Records include photographs, survey field books, maps and plans and historical notes. Part of this collection is described and listed in our catalogue and the Railways Guide.
Many of the records held for hotels relate to the licensing of publicans and the government's control of the establishment's finances. Consult:
- Publican's Licenses Guide
- our catalogue under the headings Licensing Courts and Licenses Reduction Board
- interim guide to Publicans' licences, available in the reading room, for a list of useful sources.
For information concerning the planning and erection of public buildings check the:
- Government (Colonial) Architect Guide
- our catalogue for records of the Colonial Secretary, Government Architect and Public Works
- NRS 12419: Public Works special bundle listings
For safety inspections of theatres, public halls, shops, factories and public buildings, see our catalogue for records of the Board of Fire Commissioners.
We hold photographs, maps and plans that may also help to document the history of buildings. See:
- our catalogue
- the card index to maps and plans in the reading room
- and Photos in the Archives for further information.
Parliamentary Papers may also be of interest.
Records at NAA
For information on post offices and lighthouses contact the National Archives of Australia.
We hold a few general registers concerning mining activities. These are generally arranged by locality. For these and other mining records, check our catalogue under Agency 76, Department of Mines, its successors and other relevant public offices.
For records relating to maritime issues consult our catalogue for records of the Public Works Department; Maritime Services Board; Marine Board; Navigation; Sydney Harbour Trust and/or Harbours, Pilots and Lighthouses.
Records covering health issues are listed in the our catalogue under Health. Of note are the NRS 4858 Sanitary Inspection files, 1897-1964, which are arranged by locality.
For records relating to these amenities consult our catalogue for those created by the Colonial Secretary, the Lands Department and the Department of Public Works.
Colonial Secretary's records
Individuals are well documented in the Colonial Secretary's correspondence. Start your research with the Colonial Secretary Overview Guide.
Law enforcement records
NRS 10958 Police Gazettes, 1862-1929, contain entries and photographs of people.
Court records, depositions and related documents provide a wealth of information about inhabitants of an area. The various court jurisdictions can be found in our catalogue.
See also the Bench of Magistrates Index, 1788-1820 and the Quarter Sessions Indexes (Clerk of the Peace, 1824-1837) .
Prison records (Agency 1) include, from the 1870s, photographs of prisoners with details of conviction and personal history.
Other information on individuals can be obtained from records of:
Assisted and unassisted immigrants arriving in New South Wales, 1788-1922, and crew records
|Immigration / Shipping Guide|
Administration and operation of the convict system
Guide to Convict Records (reading room guide)
|Professions and occupations||
See what is available under "Professions / Jobs"
Deceased estate files, 1880-1958
|Deceased Estates Guide|
|Probate packets, from 1817||Probabte Packets Guide|
ARCHIVES IN BRIEF
This content first appeared in Archives in Brief 6 - Local History Research
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