Archives Outside

For people who love, use and manage archives

Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

State on a Plate

What we mean by New South Wales in the 21st century is something quite different from what it meant in 1788, 1825 or 1859.

Our Senior Archivist, Context and Documentation was fortunate to come across this wonderful ceramic plate showing maps of the Australian colonies or states with the caption ‘Australia 1980 Growth of a Nation.’



But why does what we mean by New South Wales even matter?


The Colony of New South Wales (Organisation 1) in 1788 covered the area between latitudes 10 degrees 37 minutes south [Cape York] to 43 degrees 39 minutes south [South Cape]. It even included the adjacent islands so both Van Diemen’s Land, Norfolk Island and New Zealand’s North Island and half of its South Island  were part of New South Wales. Hence the earliest records for the settlements on these islands are New South Wales records.


1825 (Tasmania)

Van Diemen’s Land became a separate colony in 1825 but prior to this had no superior court so prisoners often had to travel to New South Wales for their cases to be heard in the Criminal Court in Sydney (Agency 535) or the NSW Deputy Judge Advocate had to travel to Hobart or Launceston to hear cases there. Hence some of the earliest court records relating to those residing in Tasmania can be found in New South Wales records (eg. NRS 2708).


1851 (Victoria)

Similarly the Port Phillip District of New South Wales did not become the Colony of Victoria until 13 July 1851. So the earliest immigration records for Victoria from 1839 to 1851 are records of the Colony of New South Wales. Just look at the online Immigration index.


1859 (Queensland)

What about Queensland? Well it was the Moreton Bay District of New South Wales prior to 6 June 1859. Once again the earliest records belong to New South Wales. Think of the Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Darling Downs (Agency 3500) or the Moreton Bay Penal Establishment (Agency 2101).


Northern Territory

Even the area now known as the Northern Territory was part of New South Wales. Are there any New South Wales colonial records though? Emphatically yes! There was the Fort Wellington Settlement at Raffles Bay from 1826 which was abandoned in 1829 and another settlement at Port Essington (Agency 2887) from 1838 to 1849 when it too was abandoned. We hold records such as the Register of public labour performed daily at Fort Wellington (NRS 1092).


Western Australia

And don’t think New South Wales doesn’t have any records relating to Western Australia. After the Raffles Bay settlement was abandoned the folk there took off to King George’s Sound (Agency 2517)  to start again in December 1829. It remained a penal settlement until it became part of the Colony of Western Australia.


Australian Capital Territory

One late change to the borders of the State of New South Wales (Organisation 2) took place in 1911. That was when the Commonwealth of Australia took possession of the area now known as the Australian Capital Territory. Thus New South Wales has records relating to the selection of the site of Canberra (see our Guide to New South Wales State Archives relating to Responsible Government) and we have records relating to places which were part of the State prior to the transfer. Examples may be found in the School files (NRS 3829) listed in our online Schools index.


Understanding our changing borders can help us to understand what we can find in the archives of the State we now know as New South Wales!


Verso of Plate


SRNSW @Mander Jones Awards 2012

State Records’ staff were recognised at the recent Australian Society of Archivists Conference in Canberra with Mander Jones Awards for 2012 and in the 2013 President’s Awards of the Australian Society of Archivists.

On 15 October 2013 the winners of the 2012 Mander Jones Awards were announced at the Australian Society of Archivists Conference in Canberra. These awards are the highest professional recognition for those working in archival related fields in Australia and New Zealand.

State Records NSW and its staff received recognition in the following categories:

Commendation for the best finding aid to an archival collection held by an Australian institution or about Australia. (Category 3)

Presented to State Records NSW and to Janette Pelosi as Project Coordinator for Sentenced beyond the Seas: Australia’s early convict records

Janette acknowledged all those at State Records NSW, those in our partner institutions – the National Library of Australia, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives (UK) – and also at W & F. Pascoe Pty Ltd who contributed to the project.

The names of all contributors are on the project home page.

Mander Jones Award 2012 for best article or chapter about archives written by an Australian in an archives, library, museum or records management journal or within an anthology / monograph (Category 5)

Presented to Dr Richard Lehane for ‘Documenting sites of creation’, Archives and Manuscripts, Vol. 40 No. 3, November 2012, 171-180.

At the ASA AGM held on Tuesday 15 October 2013 Dr Richard Lehane was also one of eight ASA members acknowledged for their significant contribution to the running of the society with the awarding of a President’s Award. Richard received his President’s award “for his excellent work as an understudy to the Archives & Manuscripts Editor, with affability and an understated yet piercing intelligence”.

Mander Jones Award 2012 for the best article or chapter about archives written by an Australian in a journal or newspaper or within an anthology / monograph not primarily intended for archivists or records managers (Category 6)

Presented to Janette Pelosi for “‘Submitted for approval of the Colonial Secretary’: Popular Entertainment in the State Archives, 1828-1856”, in A World of Popular Entertainments: an edited volume of critical essays, edited by Gillian Arrighi and Victor Emeljanow, (Newcastle Upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012) Chapter 7 (pp.83-100) and Appendix A: Plays Submitted to the Colonial Secretary, NSW, Australia 1841-1856 (pp.244-249).

Congratulations to all the Mander Jones Award winners for 2012!

Music in the Archives!

While a few might think of the State archives including scripts of plays even fewer would think any music would be held in them. A rare find indeed is some music included in a manuscript play from the 1850s.

Rookwood music 319

The play in which the music was found is Rookwood, or, The Adventures of Dick Turpin and Tom King (NRS 980, [SZ57]). The manuscript play was submitted to the Colonial Secretary on 21 September 1850 by Gustavus Frederick Arabin, a colonial actor who had performed in places such as Hobart, Launceston and Sydney. The play was performed at the Royal Victoria Theatre in Sydney on 13 February 1851 as Rookwood, or, The Adventures of Dick Turpin and Death of Tom King.

Rookwood title 317

The music was found by Senior Archivist Janette Pelosi during her research for a conference on popular entertainments. Janette has researched the plays held by State Records and even a few  of the actors and actresses who played in them.

Another researcher with interests in colonial music is Graeme Skinner, musicologist, historian, and writer. Graeme’s Austral Harmony website includes a biographical register of many of the colonial performers as well as a chronological checklist of colonial compositions. Like many of us Graeme is a Trove aficionado.

Rookwood dramatis personae 318

When Janette found the music she asked Graeme whether it was a colonial piece. The answer is on his website . For those of us who can’t read music the tune is Greensleeves – think of ice cream van music!

Additional information

For more about the manuscript plays see

Talking “Sentenced beyond the Seas” – Radio interview with Carol Duncan & Janette Pelosi

State Records, like other archives, is keen to promote its collection to the public. One way it does this is through talks to groups from local and family history societies and libraries. One such talk was given at Newcastle Region Library for Seniors Week on Wednesday 20 March 2013 by Janette Pelosi, Senior Archivist, Context and Documentation. Janette is project coordinator for Sentenced beyond the Seas: Australia’s early convict records and her talk featured many stories from these recently digitised convict records.

As part of the promotion for the talk the Library arranged for Janette to be interviewed by Carol Duncan (@carolduncan) (Afternoons) on 1233 ABC Newcastle Radio  (@1233Newcastle) on Tuesday 19 March 2013. A big thanks to 1233 ABC Newcastle for allowing State Records to provide the interview online.

Radio Interview

Carol Duncan & Janette Pelosi at 1233 ABC Radio Newcastle

Janette_Pelosi_State_Records_ 19Mar2013_ABC_Radio_Newcastle


Note: Sentenced beyond the Seas – the story so far

Sentenced beyond the Seas has been promoted through an exhibition of the First Fleet Indents at Parliament House . Articles on this convict digitisation project have appeared in Descent, Inside History Magazine and on the Australian Geographic  web site. There have been talks to the Botany Bay Family History Society (14 February), the Society of Australian Genealogists (16 February), Newcastle Region Library (20 March) and Windsor Library (10 April) as well as media such as the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Stay in Touch’ and ‘Column 8’ as well as local papers such as the Lithgow Mercury. State Records press releases resulted in radio interviews on ABC Riverina, 630 ABC News Radio Sydney, ABC South East and ABC Newcastle. The project has even received  a favourable mention in NSW Parliament (Hansard: State_Records_Legislative_Council_20130312 .)


Australia Day 2013: Come and see the real thing (Original First Fleet Convict Indents on Display)

First Fleet Convict Indents on Display at NSW Parliament House

State Records NSW in partnership with the Parliament of NSW is celebrating 225 years since the establishment of New South Wales. On Australia Day, 26 January 2013, at NSW Parliament House, the exhibition Sentenced beyond the Seas features the original indents for convicts transported in the First Fleet. Don’t miss this rare opportunity! (On display for Australia Day 2013 only.)

Hours of Opening: Parliament House will be open to the public on Australia Day, Saturday 26 January 2013 from 10am to 4pm as part of the Macquarie Street celebrations.  Entry is free.

Sentenced Beyond the Seas Digitisation Project

State Records NSW’s digitisation project Sentenced beyond the Seas for the first time makes available colour digital images of the early convict indents from 1788 to 1801. Sentenced beyond the Seas, features the series Indents First Fleet, Second Fleet and ships to 1801 (NRS 1150) and contemporary indexes known as the Alphabetical Indents, 1788-1800 (NRS 12188). The digital images in Sentenced beyond the Seas include archives held by State Records NSW and selected archives held by The National Archives (United Kingdom), the National Library of Australia and the State Library of New South Wales. State Records NSW thanks these institutions for their co-operation in this project. There are over 800 colour digital images included in Sentenced beyond the Seas.

Sentenced beyond the Seas can be found on State Records website via Online Indexes or through the Convict records web page. The comprehensive Early Convict Index includes over 12,000 names which appear in the records, including not just those who arrived but those on the lists who were embarked, those who died on route and even those whose names were crossed off the lists. The index includes: surname, first name, alias, ship page and ship entry, age, tried at, county, tried when, sentence, occupation, ship and remarks. There are links from each entry to the digital images for the ship’s indents and/or the Alphabetical Indents.

Sentenced beyond the Seas is State Records NSW’s free gift to the people of Australia and the world to mark the 225th anniversary in 2013 of the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788.