Getting started with your research
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 State's archives are a unique and irreplaceable part of our cultural heritage. They date from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 until today. The archives are the 'raw material of history' and are part of our collective memory.
We have approximately 12 million items stored at the Western Sydney Records Centre which includes hundred of thousands of maps, plans, glass negatives, photographs and modern media such as computer records, videos and films. There are about 527 linear kilometres of paper records which means that if all the shelves were put in a line it would go back and forwards to Sydney city CBD four times!
Examples of the archives include:
- correspondence of the Colonial Secretary, a valuable source on all aspects of the history of the Colony and the State of New South Wales
- records of the convict system, such as the First Fleet convict indents and pardons
- documents which established our systems of government and justice, such as the Charters of Justice 1787, 1814 and 1823
- key sources of information about people and life, such as the records of the 1828 and 1901 censuses
- records of exploration and land settlement, such as Phillip's 1792 map of Sydney and Sturt's report on his 1838 journey to South Australia
- records of great events in our history, such as the dismissal of the Lang Government in 1932
- plans of public buildings, from early colonial buildings to the Sydney Opera House and beyond.
People use the State's archives for many reasons. Public, academic, family and local historians, social and scientific researchers, people establishing their rights and entitlements, authors, the media, students - all are among the regular users of the State's archives. Government agencies, too, make extensive use of the archives.
If your ancestors figured in the NSW government’s records. See our Family History Guide.
Looking for BDM Certificates?
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.
Original records are available to view in the reading room at Kingswood, Western Sydney. Before viewing original State archives at Kingswood or at one of our Regional Archives Centres you will need to be issued with a Reader's Ticket.
Records that have been copied onto microfilm and microfiche can also be viewed in our reading room - some microfilm is held by other cultural organisations.
Where else can I access 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 to do with 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).