Introducing State Records New South Wales 3

Continuing my blog series on Australasian family history research institutions, this month's focus is on State Records New South Wales. As most people know, Australia's first European settlement began with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 with its cargo of British convicts. Wikipedia has an article on the First Fleet giving the names of the ships plus statistics of convicts transported and other information.

State Records New South Wales, image courtesy of State Records New South Wales

State Records New South Wales, image courtesy of State Records New South Wales

This blog post is not about the early European settlement of Australia, but on where the surviving records of the settlement ended up. State Records New South Wales is the New South Wales government's archives and records management authority established in 1961. Prior to that, the state's archival records were the responsibility of the Mitchell Library and the Archives Section of the Public Library.

Not surprisingly, there is a wealth of family history information in State Records and there are a number of ways to discover what records may be relevant to your family including:

  • search the online catalogue Archives Investigator
  • search using State Records catalogue search tool
  • search Photo Investigator
  • use the online indexes
  • view digital records
  • browse/read Archives in Brief
  • use online subject guides

If you are totally new to State Records New South Wales there is Archives in Brief 7 - Tracing your family history and over 120 Archives in Brief on a wide range of topics. Archives in Brief 51 is an alphabetical subject listing of all topics and is a great overview of what records are available. The guides give brief historical background to the topic plus a listing of the most relevant records and how to access them.

The online indexes are searchable with a KeyName search but be aware that not all the indexes online are searchable by KeyName. You may need to search other relevant indexes individually.

PhotoSearch can be a fascinating way to discover interesting information on your families. The image below of a street scene in Sydney would be extremely exciting if your people lived in the same street at the time. But would you even think to search by street name?


Numbers 22 and 24 Clyde Street, Miller's Point, Sydney in 1900 taken at the time of the bubonic plague outbreak - image 350 courtesy State Records New South Wales

Both Archives Investigator and the catalogue search tool can be searched by person's name or place as some records series have been indexed directly into the online catalogue.

As you can see, there are many ways to search and you should try them all to make sure you are not missing any quick and easy information. For example, divorce case papers 1873-1923 are indexed and the index is listed in the online indexes section but divorce case papers from 1922 to 1963 are indexed within Archives Investigator. This information is included in Archives in Brief 77 - Divorce Records. If you do not consult these research guides, you may miss the fact that divorce case papers have been indexed for the later period. There is other useful information in the guide including terminology, how to view the records, obtain copies and other record series which may be of interest.

State Records New South Wales has a free monthly e-newsletter Now and Then with past issues also online. State Records New South Wales is also an active contributor to social media including Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Google +, Historypin, YouTube and SlideShare. All of these media are an excellent way to keep up with what's new or to see various aspects of the collection from different perspectives. For example, currently on Flickr there is an excellent tribute to New South Wales government employees who enlisted in World War 1. There are 110 portraits in the photostream, with all the soldiers named and whether they returned or not.


New South Wales Government Printing Office staff, Portraits of WW1 ( photostream, State Records New South Wales on Flickr

Anyone with ancestors who went to New South Wales will find lots of exciting records to search at State Records New South Wales. Good luck!

Shauna Hicks

About Shauna Hicks

Shauna Hicks has been tracing her own family history since 1977 and worked in government for over 35 years in libraries and archives in Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne. Since retiring, she has written a number of family history guides and is a regular speaker at genealogy cruises, conferences and seminars. She now operates her own business at and is the author of the blog, Diary of an Australian Genealogist.

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