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.
This Guide consists of a listing and description of records held in our collection which relate to Aboriginal people. It is not an exhaustive list of sources which can be used in tracing Aboriginal family and personal history. References to Aboriginal people are likely to be found throughout the records of various Government agencies held in our collection and may be located through our catalogue, finding aids and indexes.
This chronology gives an overview of significant events which have happened in Australia from 1788 to 1998, concentrating on the relations between Aboriginal people and the post-1788 immigrants. Some other events are shown in order to give an historical context. Some of these events generated many records whereas other records are the result of legislative changes. Please note that all institutions and legislation are from New South Wales, unless otherwise noted.
Anyone, including NSW State Archives, can apply to have an access direction made for records in the open access period, if the records are not covered by an access direction.
The State Records Act provides an internal review mechanism for decisions made by public offices to close or open records to public access. It helps ensure that public offices are accountable and answerable for decisions that affect your entitlement to access records in the open access period.
Public access to the records of government is a fundamental right in a democratic society. The State Records Act 1998 promotes the principles of accountability and access by requiring public offices to create records of their business and administrative transactions and ensuring that records of significant value are preserved. The underlying principle is that all relevant records of enduring value will be publicly available in due course.
The State Records Act 1998 establishes a general entitlement to access to State records that are at least 30 years old. Not all such records, however, are open for public access. Some contain information, such as sensitive personal information, that require a longer period of closure. The Register of Access Directions lists whether records are open or closed to public access.
The NSW Anzac Centenary website highlights records from the State archives relating to key events and historical themes associated with NSW and World War I. A number of these documents have been digitised and made available to view online for the first time, alongside historical background to help contextualise 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 relating to 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).
Assisted immigrants arriving in Sydney and Newcastle 1844-59, Moreton Bay, 1848-59 and Port Phillip 1839-51. 'Assisted immigrant' refers to those people whose passage was subsidised or paid for through one of the assisted immigration schemes to NSW from the United Kingdom and other countries.
A complete index of a single photo (No. 1331) from the State Rail Authority Archives Photographic Reference Print Collection, now in the custody of NSW State Archives. The 65 names have been transcribed from the back of the photograph.
Insolvency - The inability to satisfy creditors or discharge liabilities. Early legislation in NSW addressed insolvency rather than bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy - Bankruptcy is similar, but not identical to insolvency. Bankruptcy involves the sequestration of a person's assets when they are unable to meet the demands of creditors. Bankruptcy is a state in which a person is unable to pay creditors and is required to undergo a legal process that usually results in liquidation of his/her estate in order to meet expenses (as least in part). If a person is...
Bankruptcy is a state in which a person is unable to pay creditors and is required to undergo a legal process that usually results in liquidation of his/her estate in order to meet expenses (at least in part). It is similar, but not identical to insolvency.
The first Bench of Magistrates was convened in Sydney on 19 February 1788. By 1800 sittings were held regularly in Parramatta and the Hawkesbury district, and the use of magisterial proceedings had become widespread in the Colony by the 1820s. As settlement spread during the squatting era, magistrates and their clerks performed an increasingly wide range of judicial and administrative functions, particularly in more remote areas.
Are you looking for BDMs?
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.
For historical information and other sources on baptisms, deaths and...
The Returns of the Colony ('Blue Books'), NRS 1286 consist of sets of statistical returns of the Colony of New South Wales and of areas under its jurisdiction compiled annually from 1822 to 1857 by the Colonial Secretary for transmission to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London. View the NRS (Item) List »
The war between the British and the two Dutch South African republics — the Boer War — began on 11 October 1899 when the Boers declared war on the British. It lasted until 31 May 1902. This Guide provides a brief overview and list of the main sources in our collection relating to New South Wales' participation in the Boer War.
This index is to the Botanic Gardens and Government Domains; NRS 13129, Register of Employees for the period 1863 to 1926. It provides employee's date of birth, date of employment, status, salary and adjustments to salaries, or a change in duties.
Owners of firms Registered under the Firms Act, 1902. It records Name of Firm, Nature of Business, Place of Business, Date of Registration, Persons Carrying on Business, Additional People in the Business, Packet Number & Page Number.
Did you, or someone in your family, grow up in an orphanage, children’s home or foster care in NSW? Our Care Leavers guide gets you started accessing care leaver records. This page provides information to assist Care Leavers to locate and access records of their time in out of home care in New South Wales, and adoptees to locate New South Wales adoption records.
The 1891 Census was taken on the 5th April 1891. It was the first census to survive in substance after the 1841 Census. Records of the intervening censuses are believed to have been destroyed in the Garden Palace fire on 22 September 1882. This Guide lists the districts covered in the 1891 Census. The records are arranged by Census district and are available to view on Reels in the reading room. Please note: householders only are listed in the records. The names of the other people resident in the household are not identified.
The 1901 Census was taken on the 31 March 1901. This Guide lists the districts covered in the 1901 Census. The records are available to view on Fiche in the reading room. Please note: householders only are listed in the records. The names of the other people resident in the household are not identified.
This database is designed to assist users researching the history of public buildings. Most records that are more than 30 years old are open to public access. Those that relate to security buildings are subject to a closed to public access direction, AD 28.
The correspondence of the Colonial Secretary is one of the most valuable sources of information on all aspects of the history of the Colony and the State of NSW. Chiefly responsible for this was the Colonial Secretary's pre-eminence in public life and the fortunate occurrence of the survival of the greater part of his papers. Included among these are earlier papers of the Secretary to the Governor taken over by the first Colonial Secretary, Frederick Goulburn, on his appointment in 1821.
This is not a name index to letters but a subject listing of bundles. The letters in this series are numerically arranged by number in the years 1826-1832 and 1850-1982. Between 1833 and 1849 the letters are arranged in writer/subject bundles.
Arranged by name and subject this is the most comprehensive index of early NSW settlement. The Papers include petitions by convicts; requests for permission to marry; memorials re potential settlers; land grants/leases applications; information re court cases and lists of assigned servants.
The long history of the Office of the Colonial (later Chief) Secretary, and its close association with all aspects of the administration of NSW, meant that it was responsible for the creation of records of major importance to all researchers. The correspondence of the Colonial Secretary is one of the most valuable sources of information on all aspects of the history of the Colony and the State of New South Wales.
This Guide provides an historical background on the conditional purchase scheme in NSW from 1862 to 1951, also known as 'free selection before survey' along with a list of the major record series and step-by-step guidance on how to access them.
“Foxing” is a generic term used to describe a range of deterioration mechanisms in paper and photographic documents – the thing they have in common is that they all tend to appear as small brown spots. Some “foxing” is almost certainly caused by the action of mould or mildew as enzymes used by the organisms breakdown the structure of the paper or photograph.
One of our most frequently asked conservations questions from members of the public is how we remove sticky tape from documents. Conservators use a number of methods to remove sticky tape and one of the most effective can be attempted at home.
Metal fasteners can be dangerous, and even a sheet of paper can produce a nasty wound. If you find yourself bleeding over your precious documents or family heirlooms, do not despair, speedy action will probably result in little or no permanent damage occurring.
Glass plate negatives are extremely fragile and need to be handled very carefully. The glass is old and brittle and plates may have been cracked or broken and will sustain further damage if not treated with care.
This advice is not intended for mould remediation after a large flood incident. We are focusing here on cleaning minor surface mould growth resulting from poor storage environments. Flood incidents have a range of complications that are not covered here.
Before going into any detail about the salvage and handling of wet records the importance of relevant training cannot be stressed enough. Contact the government archives, libraries, museums or galleries in your State or Territory to find out what training might be available. The best courses will provide training both in the development of a disaster plan and in the salvage of records – with the very best providing the opportunity to handle and treat examples of damaged records.
The U-Splint book support (Splint) is a simple alternative being trialled at NSW State Archives to help minimize further damage and support the book structure without the need for costly treatment. The books can still be accessed and can be stored vertically.
Conservation Q&A: Can you give info on removing chewing gum on reverse side of an important document? There is a small quantity of gum still in place – fairly fresh, a circle of about 1/2 inch. Some stain has bled thru to front. What is a safe cleaner? Or is this a job for a conservator/archivist?
When State archives that are damaged are requested by a reader, to view in the reading room, they are assessed and treated by our conservators. Damage may have been caused by poor storage practices, unfortunate disasters, or bad handling in the past. We refer to these archives as being “Too fragile to issue” and these archives cannot be accessed either by staff or readers until they have been treated by Conservation.
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.
Transportation to NSW effectively ceased in 1842 but between 1846-1850 exiles were transported. Exiles had served part of their sentence in a penitentiary in Britain and were granted a conditional pardon or ticket of leave on arrival in the Colony. This index covers 1849-50 only.
Convict Indents list the convicts transported to NSW. Early indents provide name, date and place of trial and sentence; later indents usually contain more information such as a physical description, native place, age and crime. Search over 12,000 names and view digital versions online.
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.
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.
Key details about the parties applying for permission to marry including: names; ages; the date of permission or refusal; ship of arrival; sentence (for the party who was the convict); whether free or bond and name of the clergy. Indexed so far - Dec 1825 to Mar 1841; Oct 1842 to Feb 1851.
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.
Minutes of proceedings show date of sitting, members present, the nature of the action, and judgment of the Court. Arguments put forward by both parties are summarised. Where an action concerned a business document (eg. promissory note), tendered in evidence, a copy was normally entered up.
An overview of the Court of Claims and a list of the main records series in our collection. The Commissioners appointed in the court were empowered to hear the claims of all persons holding or claiming to hold lands where grants had been promised and claiming to have grants delivered to them.
The Letters Patent (or Charter of Justice) provided that the Court should be a Court of Record presided over by the Judge Advocate of the Colony, together with six naval or military officers appointed by the Governor, with the authority to try all criminal causes which were offences under the law of England. A majority vote of the Court was sufficient for conviction except in capital cases, where unless five members of the Court held the accused guilty, the matter was reserved for Royal decision.
Research into crew records can often be difficult as there is no comprehensive index to the nineteenth century crew lists. In general, there are few records relating to crew until 1854. The shipping lists from 1854-1922 include the names of the crew members, their position on board and their nationality. As with the unassisted passenger lists, they are not indexed after 1855.
This index is to the Devonshire Street Cemetery Reinterment Register. The Register covers details of remains, and in some cases monuments, from Devonshire Street Cemetery following its resumption to make way for the development of Central Railway Station.
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.
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...
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.
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.
This guide provides details about records in our collection relating to historical house and property research and includes a list of other organisations that may hold relevant material. Please note however, that property records can be complex and confusing without conveyancing training.
This Guide highlights the key records and available indexes, relating to passengers arriving in New South Wales, 1788-1922. While most of the records relate to passengers disembarking in Sydney, records of arrivals in other ports are also included. Records relating to departures are also listed.
These letters were sent by the Immigration Agent in response to complaints, transport arrangements, advertisements and financial arrangements relating to migration between 1838 and 1857. This index covers the names of individuals found in the letters.
Browse the list of online indexes alphabetically by subject
Intestate: A person who dies without leaving a will. This is a very large series of records comprising 964 boxes. The records have been indexed from 1821 to 1913: [6/3481-3910] (excluding boxes of miscellaneous papers) [10/27478-27949] and [6/26823-24, 6/26843-45].
A joint initiative between NSW State Archives and Lands and Property Information (LPI) to provide online access to a number of historical land title records was announced in November 2010. Using the popular search tool PIXEL (now HLRV) researchers can now search and view Old Form Torrens Title Registers, Charting Maps and Crown Plans online. We offer free access to HLRV in the reading room: access high quality colour images of an ever growing digital collection of land title records. Please be aware copies, including printing, digital photography and screen dumps,...
Unassisted passengers - marinersandships.com.au »
Transcripts of the Shipping Master's Office Inwards Passengers Lists, each of which includes Crew names, in some cases includes their on board position and place of origin.
The first NSW Medical Board was constituted in 1838 (2 Victoria, Act No. 22) 'An Act to define the qualifications of Medical Witnesses at Coroner's Inquests and Inquiries held before Justices of the Peace in the Colony of New South Wales'. The Board was responsible for examining and approving the qualifications of those wishing to be declared 'legally qualified medical practitioners'. It was also required to maintain a register of such persons and publish the names in the Government Gazette each year. This guide provides an overview of the Board and a list of the...
This guide provides information on how to find arrivals of early military personnel and a list of records in our collection relating to Early British Army Regiments in NSW; Volunteer Force; Sudan Expedition; Boer War; World War I and World War II.
This Colonial Secretary's Special Bundle includes a variety of letters, papers and returns dating from 1794 to 1813. For example, it includes victualling and 'slop' clothing books, lists of persons on and off the stores and an annual return of settlers and convicts.
This index is now complete. It records: name, hospital trained at, certificate number, date of registration, records number, and remarks. It should be noted this is an index of the register entries only and certificates referenced in these registers have not survived
We hold thousands of photographic images from the late 19th Century to the present, capturing life in New South Wales in much of its richness and diversity. The original formats of these images vary widely, from...
Preorder RecordsThe Real Property Act, 1862 established a system whereby owners could convert land granted prior to 1863 to Real Property Act title. This is done by what is called a Primary Application. These records are an important research resource as the supporting documentation lodged with the application often remains in the packet.
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...
This index is for supplementary (early) probate records that are not part of the main probate series. It records the name, date, item number and page number. If you are looking for the main series of probate records (NRS 13660) please use the microfiche index in the reading room or search our catalogue.
The Protestant (Male) Orphan School Register, 1850-1886 lists over 1,000 boys who were admitted to the school. Boys were usually admitted because one or both parents were dead or unable to care for them. The register is an important document in the history of child care and protection in New South Wales.
Find out where information on public servants can be found. Quick link: record series list of NRS 1286 'Blue Books' (Returns of the Colony) 1822-1870 »
If you are considering publishing, reproducing, printing, displaying or transmitting State archives (either entire documents or extracts therefrom) to other people you need to ask for permission to use State archives. This guide includes information on how to request permission to publish and how to cite records accurately.
The case papers are numbered and arranged chronologically and usually include the name of the of the person tried, date, place, verdict and sentence. They generally contain the indictment which gives a statement of the crime and circumstances.
The Quarter Sessions court was an intermediate court with greater powers than the local court or bench but not as great as the Supreme Court. It could hear all crimes and misdemeanours where the crime was not punishable by death. It met three times a year at various locations throughout NSW. It was composed of two or more magistrates, presided over by an elected Chairman who served the entire colony/state.
In New South Wales during the 19th century, passenger traffic was the largest single purpose for train journeys. As the rail system expanded across the State the journeys often involved passengers in several hours travel, making the provision and availability of refreshments an essential part of the trip.
This page includes information about copy services provided in the reading room.
Follow the tag "Record Series List" for item lists of selected series. You can also view a list of "Special Bundles" which contain papers on particular subjects and because of their significance and/or quantity were usually extracted from a series and treated separately.
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.
A network of Regional Archives Centres, located in host institutions in Armidale, Broken Hill, Newcastle, Wagga Wagga, Wingecarribee and Wollongong provide access to State archives of regional significance and to copies of key State archives.
Follow the quick link to the Register of Access Directions - a listing of records that are open or closed to public access under the State Records Act 1998. The State Records Act 1998 establishes a general entitlement to access to State records that are at least 30 years old. Not all such records, however, are open for public access. Some contain information, such as sensitive personal information, that require a longer period of closure.
This guide provides a brief overview of the records we hold that document the activities and development of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney from 1816 on, as well as related areas which fell under its administration over time.
Most of these records provide information relating to Government Schools, Orphan Schools and Industrial Schools for admission purposes. The Index to schools and related records, 1876-1979 is the main source for finding records related to schools, teachers and students.
The Teachers' rolls are one of most useful sources for researching individual teachers in the later half of the nineteenth century. They provide a service record for each teacher and include date of birth, examination results, appointments, promotions and date of resignation.
Transfer of land ownership originally obtained under the Closer Settlement and Returned Soldiers schemes. It records surname and first name (may be that of transferor or transferee), file number, residence of owner, settlement purchase number, parish, county and date of transfer.
This index will be of interest to those researching the transfer of land ownership originally obtained under the Closer Settlement and Returned Soldiers schemes. It records: name of applicant and vendor, name of estate, land district and Closer Settlement Promotion number.
The index related to the transfer of land ownership originally obtained under the Closer Settlement and Returned Soldiers schemes. The registers record names of transferor and transferee, file number, residence of owner, settlement purchase number, parish, county and date of transfer.
A list of the main land records in our collection that relate to returned soldier settlement, or closer settlement, after World War I. The passage of the Returned Soldiers Settlement Act 1916, (Act No 21 1916) allowed the settlement of returned soldiers on Crown and Closer Settlement lands.
This index relates to land ownership originally obtained under the Returned Soldiers Settlement scheme. This index records Soldier Settlement loan number, name of applicant and land district. The records relate to the application of Returned Soldier Settlers Advance/loan after World War I.
The Qualification Certificates in these files appear to be the only surviving examples of World War 1 Qualification Certificates from NSW. The index records certificate number, name of applicant, residence at time of application and in some cases the land district required for settlement.
A Settlement Purchase was the principal tenure under the Closer Settlement Act (Act. No.37 1904). These are similar to the tenure of Conditional Purchase with the payment of a deposit and annual instalments. Many but not all returned soldiers obtained their land using this form of tenure.
Follow the tag "Special Bundles" for item lists. You can also view a handy list of other selected records series via the tag "Record Series List".
Special Bundles contain correspondence and papers on particular matters or subjects which because of their significance or the quantity of correspondence generated were usually extracted from an agency's main correspondence series and treated separately.
As a result of the criticisms of the existing judicial arrangements in NSW by Commissioner Bigge, the existing Court of Criminal Jurisdiction and the Supreme Court of Civil Jurisdiction were abolished. The Supreme Court was established under the Third Charter of Justice (1823), operating with a number of jurisdictions from 1824. The Supreme Court heard all matters that were punishable by death until the abolition of the death penalty in 1955.
A complete listing of the Surveyor General's Crown Plans from the Select List of Maps and Plans (and Supplement), 1792-1886. It contains the earliest surveys of NSW (towns and villages, squatting districts, counties and parishes, roads, rivers, mountain ranges, and explorers' expeditions).
We have several photo series showing the growth and expansion of Sydney from c.1860 to c.1915. Sydney is the main subject of these series, however, photos of Sydney are not limited to this page. Other series with broader subject ranges may also include views of Sydney and can be found using the collection search »
A brief history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge plus a select list of records relating to the design, construction and official opening ceremnony. Also included is a list of records relating to the construction workers employed by the NSW Government.
The arrival of post World War II migrants has had a profound effect on the nature and diversity of Australian society. This Guide helps to commemorate cultural diversity in NSW by bringing together State archives that document the provision of education to migrants in the latter part of the 20th century. The records listed in this Guide reflect the changing role of government administration in adapting to a new era of immigration.
This index will be of interest to those whose ancestors may have been unemployed in 1866 and wish to learn of their situation and possibly their approximate arrival in the colony. It also provides a snapshot of economic conditions in Sydney in 1866.
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.
This index relates to vessels arriving in Sydney only. It records the name and type of vessel, and date of arrival. If you know the name of the ship, this index will be useful to check or confirm the date of arrival. There are 120,133 entries in this Index.
One of the earliest courts established in New South Wales, the Vice Admiralty Court was an Imperial Court whereby directives, instructions, imperial bills and acts changing its structure or procedures as well as rules, regulations and tables of fees were received via dispatches from the Secretary of State. Under this arrangement, local conditions could not be taken into account; as a result, the Court was much maligned, particularly by merchants who felt that both the scale of fees and the relatively slow dispatch of business in the Court were detrimental to merchant shipping in New...
If you can't make it to our Western Sydney Reading Room other organisations hold copies of some NSW State archives. This page lists where those records are held.
Focuses on divorce, health, children and family endowment. Includes specific record series and terms for further research as well as 'Care of Children' and the agencies that helped mothers to care for their children and the development of family endowment schemes.