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The series was created in accordance with the 'Gaol Regulations' proclaimed in the Supplement to the NSW Government Gazette of 19 February 1867. A 'Description Book' was required to be created and maintained by the Gaoler of each prison. The Description Book was to be kept in the same order as the Entrance Books and was to contain the following details: personal description, religion, and all other prescribed information of all prisoners received.
Photographing prisoners for inclusion in the Description Books commenced late in the nineteenth century, although it was not regulated until the mid twentieth century with the passage of the Prisons Act 1952 (Act No.9, 1952) which stated 'Every prisoner shall be liable to be photographed, to have the impression of his fingers and palms taken, and to have such details of his personal description as may be prescribed recorded.'
The series consists of individual loose-leaf sheets each including a photo or photographs of a prisoner, accompanied by the following details: name, aliases, date when portrait was taken, native place, year of birth, arrived in colony - ship and year, trade or occupation, religion, degree of education, height, weight (on committal, on discharge), colour of hair, colour of eyes, marks or special features, where and when tried, offence, sentence, remarks, previous convictions - where and when, offence, sentence.
Microfilm copies of NRS 2496 are available in the Western Sydney reading room. 3/6004-3/6005 on Reel 5140; 3/6006-3/6008 on Reel 5141. Digitised for EmDARA - see file path in archives note.
Item lists are available electronically.