Recordkeeping search

The 1828 Census was the first census of the colony. The Alphabetical Return is the core record relating to the Census. The Census records have been inscribed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.

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 index includes the names of approximately 80 Aboriginal people. It is not a complete list of Aboriginal people living on reserves in NSW in the period of 1875-1904.

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.

An administrative history of contact between the Government of New South Wales and Aboriginal people.

This overview provides a brief explanation of State archives that document the NSW government's interaction with Aboriginal people from 1788 until today.

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.

Provides information on how to access patient identifying records from NSW operated mental health facilities and asylums for the poor/infirm and destitute.

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 Public Accountants Registration Board was established by the Public Accountants Registration Act 1945.

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. 


Records listed include those from: Clergy and School Lands Corporation and the Department of Industrial Relations and Technology (Apprenticeship Directorate)

The Board of Architects of New South Wales was established under the Architects Act, 1921

Archives in Brief (AIB) were fact sheets that were available on our old site up to June 2016. The Archives in Brief have now been replaced by the more versatile Research A-Z section. This page lists the content migration of the AIB.

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).

Browse through digital shipping lists from 1828-1896.

Henry Parkes - passenger entry on the Strathfieldsay, arrived 25 July 1839, NRS 5316 4-4784-0129

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. 

The records created by the various boards and offices of the Supreme Court of New South Wales are listed under the heading Supreme Court in this guide.

The First Australian Railway Supply Detachment, 11th A.A.SC, 1914. Digital ID 17420_a014_a014000498

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.

The index lists criminal and civil cases heard before the Judge Advocate's Bench of Magistrates 19 Feb 1788-25 Nov 1820. It includes meetings of the Rose Hill (Parramatta) bench from 7 October 1789.

This guide provides a list of the Registers of Births, Deaths and Marriages, 1787-1856. The records are Open to Public Access (OPA).


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.

Sample from the Botanic Gardens and Government Domains Employees Index. Digital ID NRS13129_X1600_007-008

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.

A pilot project available to search at This project offers a digitised version of the Index to Bounty Immigrants, 1828-42 which was compiled by the Church of Latter Day Saints.

As part of the State Archives Collection, we hold a volume which may shock present Sydneysiders as it records the presence of Bubonic Plague or the Black Death in Sydney of the early 20th century. It is a volume filled with disease and death.

For over 100 years bushrangers roamed throughout the state of NSW. Their exploits entranced the public and names such as Ben Hall, Captain Thunderbolt and Ned Kelly became both heroes and villains for many. 

A brief overview of the main sources in our collection that relate to business and companies.

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.

A brief overview of the major sources in our collection that relate to cemeteries.

This index covers all the surviving householders' returns and abstracts of returns. As the returns record only the name of the head of the household, the names of the other people resident in the household are not identified.

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 Guide lists the more significant State archives relating to population muster and census records, 1788-1901

A guide for researchers who may have difficulty tracing individuals because they changed their name. It outlines some of the reasons for changes of name and, if the change of name has been registered, suggests where evidence of the name change may be found.

This index may assist those researching chemists, druggists and pharmacists who were registered between 1876 and 1920. It contains c.3000 entries.

A chronology of child youth and migration from the United Kingdom and an overview of the related records series

Major sources from the collection relating to child care and protection, c.1801-1912

This index combines: Mittagong Farm home for Boys (1907-1921); Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children (1852-1915); Orphan schools records (1817-1886) and Industrial schools records (1867-1942).

A look at the relationship between New South Wales and New Zealand from the early 1800s to Federation.


A brief overview of the major sources we hold that relate to coastal fortifications, defence works and military buildings.

The NSW Coat of Arms was granted in 1906. This Guide provides a brief overview of the major sources in our collection that relate to the official coats of arms.


The Colonial Architect's Department was responsible for the planning and supervision of the construction and repair of public buildings.

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.

This index was compiled by Joan Reese, Linda Bowman and Aileen Trinder. It was first published as the NSW Colonial Secretary's In Letters Index, 1826-1896, based on Joan Reese's Convicts and Others Index, 1826-1894.  

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 index covers requests from individuals for land - leases and purchases - received by the Colonial Secretary's office between 1826 and 1856.

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.

We suggest you use these record series lists (NRS 898 and NRS 906) if you are looking for a particular subject as some papers on important matters were extracted from the main series and became special bundles. 

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.

A brief overview of the major sources we hold that relate to the main records of the Commissioners of Crown lands and key related series.


We have made some of the most useful State archives for family and local history available in the Archives Resources Kit, located at 40 community access points around NSW

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.

The facts about sticky tape: the types of adhesive and different techniques appropriate for different stages of degradation.

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?


Have a look at some of the challenges our conservators face in preserving archives and read some advice on how to protect your own records.

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.


On arrival, a convict was either retained by the Government or assigned to an individual. Assigned male convicts were generally employed as field labourers, or tradesmen; women became domestic servants. Government convicts were most often engaged on public works projects. The majority of women convicts were engaged in the manufacture of wool and linen at the Parramatta Female Factory. A smaller number were employed as hospital nurses and midwives, as servants to...

Convict Assignment record NRS 12194 4-4521 Reel 586

This index will be of interest to those researching the assignment of convicts for the period December 1821 to December 1825. The index records the convict’s name, ship, date of assignment, to whom assigned, residence and remarks

A certificate of freedom was a document stating that a convict's sentence had been served.


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.

A digital Indent, accessible from the Early Convict Index

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.


Convicts with a life sentence could receive a pardon but not a Certificate of Freedom. The two main types of pardons were:

  • Conditional pardon - the convict was free as long as they remained in the colony. The vast majority of convicts granted pardons were granted a conditional pardon
  • Absolute pardon - the convict's sentence was entirely remitted. That is, they were free both within and outside of the colony and could return to Britain.

Penal settlements were places of incarceration and punishment for convicts who committed serious offences after reaching New South Wales.

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.


A history of convict transportation to New South Wales and a list of related records such as trial records and records of the voyage and arrival.

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.


Sample from the Register of Convicts Applications to Marry NRS 12212 4-4509 p75

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.


A list of convict records in our Collection relating to Van Diemen's Land.

Sample from NRS 1156 Indents to Convict vessels from Ireland, 1822-1840, 4-7076.4, Blenheim 1834

A single searchable database containing certificates of freedom; bank accounts; deaths; exemptions from Government Labor; pardons; tickets of leave; and, tickets of leave passports. There are 140,000+ entries to search.

A secure gaol was required for those who committed criminal offences within the colony and who were sentenced to imprisonment. Gaols were also used to house prisoners awaiting trial or transportation to another penal settlement.

Outlines how copyright affects your use of State archives. It provides only general information and should not be used as legal advice.


The index records: inquest number, name, date, location and remarks note whether the person identified in the index is the deceased or is appearing as a witness in the inquest for 1796-1824 only.

An overview of county, parish and town/village maps created by the Department of Lands and its predecessors and a background to the Parish Map Preservation Project.

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.


This index will be of interest to those researching early or disputed land ownership. It records: date of memorial to the Court of Claims, name of applicant, address, occupation, name of first possessor of land and case number.

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.

Crew and Passenger List Captain Cook 1832

This index may assist those searching for crew of ships arriving in New South Wales between 1828 and 1841.

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 is a valuable resource relating to the New South Wales colonial justice system and will be of benefit to those of you researching criminals, convicts and crimes committed during the early years of the Colony.


Includes criminal actions at country area Quarter Sessions relating to cases of a non-capital nature etc. The Index records: registration number, name of defendant, place and date of committal, offence and where committed for trial.

Example from the Criminal indictments records. Reel 1861 9-2634 p22

Includes criminal cases tried before the Supreme Court at Sydney and on the Circuit for the period 1863-1919. The Index records: trial number and where tried, name of defendant, offence, date of trial and Judge, verdict and sentence.


This Guide provides a brief overview of the major sources in our collection that relate to the occupation of Crown lands in the period prior to 1856.

Founded by Dr James Graham in 1893, the Women's Hospital in Crown Street aimed to lift medical standards for maternity care. This Guide lists the major sources held in our collection relating to the hospital.

A brief overview of the administration of the collection of death duties - Deceased estate files - and how to find the records.

This index simplifies the process of searching several different deceased estates indexes by combining all indexes into one searchable database.

The Dental Board of New South Wales was established under the Dentists' Act, 1900.

Depasturing Licences permitted settlers to graze stock on Crown Lands "beyond the limits of location". The "limits of location" refer to the nineteen counties of settled area extending from Sydney.


These records relate to children who were admitted to State care between 1883 and 1923. They record where the dependent children were placed (whether with foster parents or guardians). Some of the children were eventually adopted.

Devonshire Street Cemetery, 1902. ID 17420_a014_a0140000258

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.

We are progressively migrating our Digital Galleries into the Discover section. Galleries not yet migrated may still be found here »

A brief overview of the major sources in our collection that relate to divorce and procedures for accessing Divorce Case Papers (Open to Public Access after 30 years).

This Index now covers the years 1873-1923. Entries for the letters F G H and I for the years 1897-1903 are missing. These entries will be added to the index shortly.

Official or government records that have somehow been moved out of official custody are referred to as estrays. These often end up in local museums, historical societies, libraries or in private hands.

Electoral rolls can provide valuable information, indicating where a person lived over a period of time.

This page provide information about the level of research advice offered by NSW State Archives and how to have research carried out on your behalf.

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...

Timeline covers 1846-2001.


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. 


Fire Commissioners Personnel Index - example 2

This index is to the NRS-510 Personnel record books [Board of Fire Commissioners] for the period of 28 April 1884 to 2 September 1955. 

This guide provides brief history and overview of the major record series that relate to firefighters.

A brief overview of the major sources in our collection that relate to fires.

Find out what types of prison records are available and how to access them

Gaol photo of Mary Ann Burton. View in Collection Search   ...

Broken Hill Gaol - gaol photograph of Jim Skidmore, 1927. Digital ID  2057_a006_a00603_6018000139r

The Gaol Photographic Description Books contain a photograph of each prisoner and personal and criminal history. 

Archives are the 'raw material of history'. The State archives document the business of government in New South Wales - and its interaction with people and groups in our society - from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 until today.

The index records name of the lease holder, lease number, date of application, location, remarks, series number, reel/item number, and surveyor’s name.

Goldmining can be a challenging field of research. The record series listed in this guide may assist.

Government publications provide background information to State archives as well as a useful entry point to identifying government agencies and records relevant to your research.

This index includes cases relating to the payment of debts on promissory notes or goods, services, or for slander. The quantity of papers for each case varies and in some cases very little information is given.

Information about our guarantees of service include services for the reading room; enquiries; copying; outreach; publications orders; and website.


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 a select list of sources relating to hospital buildings, including sketches, plans and photographs.

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.

Hyde Park Barracks, deisgned by Francis Greenway, opened in 1819 as housing for convicts. This page include a brief overview and a list of the convict-related record series.

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

Researchers are often interested in compiling indexes to State archives, often with a view to publishing the end product. Users of State archives have benefited enormously from these indexing projects over the years.


There are approximately 250 entries in the index from the period 1788-1838.

This index relates to persons admitted to Government Asylums. It shows name and age of patient; some details of their history, such as place of birth, date of arrival in colonies, and occupation.

This Guide provides information on the available inmate records for the Infirm and Destitute Asylums and where to find them.

Search 45,500+ entries. This index records: inquest number, name or particulars of fire, date, location, coroner and remarks for the period Jul 1942 to Jun 1963 only.

Inquests are conducted by coroners and are held to investigate the manner and cause of death

Insolvency is the inability to pay debts or meet expenses. Under early colonial law insolvency was treated as a different concept to bankruptcy (which involved an insolvents assets being administered and distributed to creditors).

Intestate: A person who dies without leaving a will.

This guide provides an overview of the Office of the Curator of Intestate Estates and a select list of related records series

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].

Justices of the Peace were authorised to keep the peace for the territory of New South Wales by being able to arrest, take bail, bind to good behaviour and to suppress and punish riots.

This is an index of the first six volumes of the Surveyor General's Registers of Land Grants and Leases [7/445, 7/447-451] and contains all grants to 1819, mainland grants to 1822 and Cumberland grants, 1823-65.

The records listed in Guide relate to the original alienation of land from the Crown. Parish maps are useful for research in this area, as they record original grants. 


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,...


Land value refers to the monetary value of the land only and does not include the value of the home or other structures on the land. Land value is used by local councils and the State Government to calculate rates and taxes.


This guide provides an overview of the main series of patient records in our collection for Liverpool Asylum for the Infirm and Destitute (1862-1933) and Liverpool State Hospital and Home (1933-1961).

The first local councils in NSW were incorporated in 1842, with 29 District Councils established under the provisions of the Imperial Act of 1842, An Act for the Government of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land.

This Guide lists a number of resources in our collection to help local historians trace the history of a place (rather than focusing on individuals).

Example for the Metropolitan Childrens Court Register

The Metropolitan Children's Court was established by the Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act, 1905. The role of the Court was to hear and determine cases of offences committed by or against children.

Unassisted passengers - »

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 describes the different types of patient records available and where to access them. It also provides a brief history of mental health care administration.

Detail Sheets: An overview of the Detail Sheets created by the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board (MWS&DB) from c.1904 to 1945 and how to access them. 

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.

Search for passengers who paid their own fare and also assisted immigrants. Information includes: name, ship, date of arrival, age and events (e.g. shipwreck).

    The Moreton Bay penal colony, on traditional Turrbal and Yuggera land, operated from 1824 to 1842 as a place of secondary punishment for convicts who committed serious offences. In 1842 it was declared open for free settlement. It became the city of Brisbane.

    All handling causes damage – so handle Archives as little as possible. These tips are from our in-house manual handling procedures and guidelines that were prepared by our Senior Conservator.

    Naturalization records are a good source of information for tracing details of an immigrant's arrival and native place. This guide lists the key records in our collection relating to naturalization, 1834-1903.

    Name search for non-British subjects wishing to own land or vote in NSW. This index contains over 5500 entries and was compiled from one record series.

    First Railway Imperial Expeditionary Force at the Sydney Showground prior to departure for France, n.d. Digital ID 15905_a014_a015000001

    Name search for NSW railway employees who formed the 1st Railway Section of the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force, also known as the 6th Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company.

    As well as being a penal establishment, one of the primary reasons for establishing the first settlement at Norfolk Island was economic: the Colonial Government had hoped to utilise the flax and pine trees on Norfolk Island.

    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 includes the names of over 10,000 NSW Government employees reported to have been granted military leave, or to have enlisted as nurses and military or navy personnel during World War I, 1914-18.

    This index provides access to digital copies of correspondence relating to applications to take silk in NSW between 1892 and 1950. The index is searchable by name and year appointed silk.

    General nursing duties in the earliest days of the Colony were undertaken by untrained convicts. This Guide provides an historical background and select list of records relating to nursing in New South Wales.

    Nurses and mothers with babies at Newtown Baby Clinic, c.1914. Digital ID 4873_a004_a004000003r

    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

    The Board of Optometrical Registration was formed under the Opticians' Act 1930.

    The Board of Pharmacy of NSW was formed under the Sale and Use of Poisons Act 1876 (40 Vic. No. 9). This Guide lists the main record series relating to pharmacists, chemists and druggists.

    A listing of photographic series in the collection. The related Stories section contains various photographic series and sample images. Follow the tag "Photos"  and find more of our photos on Flickr.

    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...


    The Physiotherapists' Registration Board was established under the Physiotherapists' Registration Act 1945.

    The first police force in the Colony was made up of eight of the best-behaved convicts. This Guide includes a select list of records for researching police officers in NSW.

    This index covers police service appointments between 1852 and 1913. 

    Search by name and view/download the digitised entries. Infomration includes: names of plaintiff and defendant, cause of action, amount of claim, costs, judgment and amount of judgment. 


      Make the most of your visit by pre-ordering your Requests for the Reading Room in advance. We recommend that you submit your requests at least 2 working days* ahead of your visit. If you are unable to place your order in advance, you may experience delays in receiving your records on the day..

      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.

      The major sources from our collection relating to gaol staff employed by the NSW Department of Corrective Services and its predecessors.

      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.

      Follow the tag "Professions and Occupations" for a list of professions and jobs and the more significant State archives relating to each particular occupation.

      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.

      This index is to NRS 12532, Public Works Salary Registers for the period 1854 to 1895.

      The earliest licensing records in the State archives date from 1798 Bench of Magistrates records. Other early records can be found in the records of the Judge Advocate's Office and the Colonial Secretary.


      Publican Licence #1164 for Robert Reilly, The Diggers Arms 6 Jan 1854. NRS 14403 [4-86]; Reel 5064

      There are c.20,000 entries to search that covers the period 1830-61. Note: for the years 1849-1852 where we don't hold copies of the licences check newspapers on TROVE for details.

      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.

      Employment with the Railways covered a large range of positions, including working as a driver, cleaner, engineer, draftsman, inspector, timekeeper, porter, ganger etc.

      The Index records the name, position, date of appointment and page number within the register. There are 763 entries

      The bulk of the State Rail Authority's archival collection was transferred to us in 2000. This Guide provides a brief introduction to the collection, and how to access the records.

      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.

      Name search for railway employees who died in the First World War. 

      A brief history of the Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children. A list of the main records series can be found in the Child Care and Protection Guide.

      A reader's ticket is required to access original State archives at the Western Sydney Records Centre. If you don't already have one and your research will involve the use of original records then fill out the Reader's Ticket Application »

      Your responsibilities when using our facilities and how to handle original (uncopied) State archives. Our reading room staff are also on hand to provide expert and professional advice to help you get the most out of your visit.

      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.

      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.

      The Guide lists records in our Collection - such as those from the Colonial Secretary, Executive Council, the Governor, and the Premier's Department - that date from the 1820s when the first Legislative Council was established through to the 1978 referendum at which NSW electors overwhelmingly voted in favour of direct election by the people of the Members of the Legislative Council.

      This page highlights photographic series from the Department of Main Roads. While most of the photos are of New South Wales there are also photos of the Norfolk Island aerodrome construction, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

      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. 

      Overview of education in New South Wales 1788-c.1979 plus a list of the main record series

      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.

      Records that relate to teacher employment in the Government sector between 1788 and 1979.

      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.

      The records indexed include School Administrative files and records from individual schools such as admission registers, punishment books and inspection books. 

      Colour digitised images of early convict indents are available for the first time through 'Sentenced beyond the seas' - a project to digitise and index Australia's early convict records.

      This Guide is designed to provide quick reference to NSW immigration and shipping records and will assist researchers tracing free persons arriving in and departing from NSW as well as the movement of vessels.

      Available in the Society of Australian Genealogists MIDAS catalogue - this series (NRS 1289) lists both passengers and crew departing from Sydney.

      The following sources may provide details of crew involved in shipwrecks and of government relief provided to them. Researchers should also consult Government Gazettes for occasional 'notices to mariners' for 'missing vessels'.


      Short Guides were available on the old NSW State Archives site up to June 2016. The Short Guides have now been replaced by the more versatile Research A-Z section. This page lists the content migration of the Short Guides.


      You can find us on   @nswarchives   -     @nswarchives   -   ...


      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.

      A brief overview of the major sources in our collection relating to sport and recreation.

      This is an index to holders of depasturing licences and others who were occupying Crown land beyond the Nineteen Counties, and who were visited by the Commissioners of Crown Lands.

      We are connecting related stories to our research guides. Read stories as you browse the guides and indexes or follow the tag "Stories" to find all stories added to the website.


      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.


      The cartographic records of the Surveyor General provide some of the most detailed and comprehensive descriptions of the nature, agricultural potential and occupancy of land in the colony.

      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). 

      The index records surveyor's name, date and locality covered and gives book number, item number and reel number (if available on microfilm).

      These are letters received from surveyors, mostly relating to matters such as the survey description of farms, reserves, churches, schools, rivers and mountain ranges, or forwarding tracings and plans of these after survey.

      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.

      A large number of the Observatory’s records, along with records relating to an earlier observatory based in Parramatta, are held in our Collection and provide an intriguing resource for the history of science in Australia.


      A brief history of the Sydney Opera House plus a select list of records relating to the design, construction and official opening.

      A brief overview of the major sources in our collection that relate to the opening and operation of Taronga Zoo at Mosman.

      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.

      A brief overview of the major sources in our collection that relate to the administration of theatres and public halls in NSW.

      Search tramways staff records and view the digitised records! This index covers Tramway staff records c.1879 to 1911 and records: name, service entry date and date of birth.

      Government transport records.

      A brief overview of the Trigonometrical (Trig) Survey of the City of Sydney 1865, NRS 9929 and the project to make it available on CD-ROM. 

      Unassisted (or free) passengers who came to Australia at their own expense, including ships' crew and military (check under 'Regiments'). This index was compiled by Ms Aileen Trinder and Ms Pat Fearnley (formerly Stemp) of Pastkeys. 

      Inspector General of Police

      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.


      Muster and census records for Van Diemen's Land from 1811-1822.  In 1856 Van Diemen's Land changed its name to Tasmania.

      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...

      A selection of resources highlighting New South Wales' involvement the Sudan, the Boer War, WWI and WWII.

      Some of our archives are listed on other websites such as Ancestry, Find My Past, Family Search and Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters. 

      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.

      Focuses on industrial relations, employment records and school and training records. Includes specific record series and terms for further research.

      Records relating to women's suffrage and citizenship, including specific record series and terms for further research. Also includes a partial list of letters to the Colonial Secretary relating to suffrage.