Enquiry services temporarily impacted
In line with decisions made by the NSW Government, our Reading Room is closed to the public and our Engagement and Access staff are working offsite until further notice. This action is being taken to help protect the health of all visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the State.
Before you contact us see our frequently asked questions below
Frequently Asked Questions
We hold archives of NSW Government agencies.
- Start by checking the Research A-Z, a list of research topics.
- Search the catalogue Collection Search for keywords, especially those that were commonly used for the topic at the time of your interest
- Search for records of the agency that may have created records about that subject
When you are researching family history using our Collection think about how the people you are seeking interacted with the NSW government agencies during their lives (eg: land, law, employment), or in the event of their death (eg: inquest or estate).
- Check our Family History Guides
- Search our catalogue Collection Search and the Online Indexes for people and places
- See Research A-Z for a list of research topics
We do not hold these records. For copies of birth, death and marriage certificates registered in NSW and to search the NSW historical Birth, Death and Marriage indexes visit the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages website which includes:
- 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.
We hold immigration records to Sydney between 1788 and 1922 including records of convicts and crew. Unassisted passenger and crew records, especially prior to 1854, are incomplete. Many passenger records are very limited, eg: ‘Mr & Mrs Smith & infant’.
- Have you tried searching searching our online indexes?
- See our Immigration and Shipping resources
- View digital shipping lists for assisted immigrants, 1828-1896
If you are looking for immigration records from 1923 onwards contact the National Archives of Australia.
Probate packets contain the paperwork collected by the Supreme Court as part of the process of granting probate. Probate packets include the will of the deceased, where there was one. We hold probate packets 1800-1976 and some from 1989.
Divorce files contain the paperwork collected by the Supreme Court of NSW for a divorce case. We hold divorce files for most of the years 1873-1976.
- You can order copies of divorce files from our catalogue in Collection Search
- See our Divorce Guide for further information
Divorce records after 1976 are held by the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
We hold patient records from State-run mental health facilities. Patient identifying records are open to public access after 110 years.
Court records are arranged by Jurisdiction. You need to know which Court heard the matter, the locality of the Court and the date. Not all court records have been transferred into the State Archives Collection and may still be held by the relevant Court.
Some NSW public schools have transferred into the NSW State Archives Collection admission registers and other records such as punishment books and examination registers. Admission registers held in the Collection are listed by the name of the school in either:
If we do not hold the register you are seeking, it may still be held by the school. For more information about school pupil records held in our Collection see the School Students Records Guide »
Search the NSW Education school history database for basic details of NSW government schools including opening and closing dates and alternative names.
Search for the item in Collection Search. If an original item can be viewed in the reading room the clipboard icon will be visible from the search results and the full details page.
- See more information on how to make a Reading Room Request »
- You do not need to preorder a record copied onto microfilm or microfiche
We recommend you order records before you visit the reading room this gives us time to process your requests and have the records ready when you arrive.
You don't need a log in to search, pre-order reading room requests or purchase copies of records but a Collection Search account will let you save search queries, view your search history and add tags to search results.
Our staff will offer expert and professional advice on all aspects of your research however we do not offer a research service.
- See our Enquiry Services Guide for more information about our enquiry service and details of organisations that maintain lists of professional researchers
You can order copies of many files and documents listed in Collection Search. An item with the shopping cart symbol indicates that you can order copies. Follow the prompts to order and pay for your copies.
- See more about our Copy Service »
Our standard turnaround is 15 working days from date of receipt of order to despatch of copies.
Yes. During your visit you may photograph the records using your camera / smartphone / tablet or you can use our photocopy service for a fee. You can also scan images of most original records to your USB stick for free using the mounted cameras, and scan microform material using our digital scanners.
If you intend to use your personal scanner please contact the Senior Archivist, Access and Information at firstname.lastname@example.org before you visit.
- See our Reading Room Guide for more information
Public offices are required to make access directions for all their records more than 30 years old. They assess the records for which they are responsible, including those held as State archives for continuing sensitivity. They are required to make an access direction which determines whether the records are open or closed public access.
Still have a question?
Please note there is a 20 working day turn around for responses to your enquiries. We do not undertake research on your behalf and may refer you to organisations who maintain lists of professional researchers.