Norfolk Island guide

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.

However the anticipated economic importance of Norfolk Island was not realised and the settlement was steadily reduced from the early 1800s. One of Governor Macquarie’s first actions when he arrived was to order the abandonment of the island.

On 1 August 2010 Kingston and Arthur's Vale Historic Area on Norfolk Island were inscribed onto the World Heritage List as one of 11 Australian Convict Sites. Places in New South Wales that were included are the Old Government House and Domain, Hyde Park Barracks, Cockatoo Island Convict Site and the Old Great North Road.

Historical Overview

Transports to and from Norfolk Island

Shipping list of convict ships sent to and from Norfolk Island 1828-50

The tables below encompass convict transports between Norfolk Island and New South Wales and also from Great Britain for the period 1840–50. Please note these lists are not complete.

See the Convicts and convict administration guide below pp 194-195 for shipping lists of convicts from Van Diemans Land to Norfolk Island, 1826-40; and p199 for lists of convicts sent from Norfolk Island to Van Dieman’s Land 1845-47.

Convict records

Convicts index 1791-1873

140,000+ entries of certificates of freedom, bank accounts, deaths, exemptions from Government Labor, pardons, tickets of leave & tickets of leave passports

cover of the printed guide

Convicts & convict administration guide

A unique collection of records, created by both the British Government and the Colonial administration, dating from 1788 to 1842

Convict transportation to NSW

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

List of main record series

Colonial Secretary

Indexes to check

NRS 898, Special Bundles - Papers relating to Norfolk Island, 1794-1813

A detailed item list is available online. These papers can also be searched in the index above. This includes a variety of letters, papers and returns, 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. Examples from the list: List of the names of every man woman and child on and off the stores residing at Norfolk Island, Feb 1805 [4/1167A], Reel 762, COD 413.

See also the full NRS 898 Special Bundle item list for other records relating to Norfolk Island

NRS 1022, Norfolk Island Charter of Justice, 1795

View the Charter of Justice in our catalogue

RNCG 350 Estrays recovered from Mitchell Library, Sydney [A4110]

Lists of settlers removed from Norfolk Island to the Derwent/Port Dalrymple, 1807, 1808, 1813:

  • An45/2 - to the Derwent, 9 Nov 1807
  • An45/3 - to the Derwent, 26 Dec 1807
  • An45/4 - to the Derwent, 14 Feb 1808
  • An45/5 - to the Derwent, 3 Sep 1808
  • An45/6 - to Port Dalrymple, 1813

Please note these documents are fragile and should be handled with care.

NRS 936, Copies of letters sent to Van Diemans Land, Newcastle and Norfolk Island, 6 Jan 1810-16 Dec 1813

NRS 988 Copies of letters to Norfolk Island, May 1825-12 Jun 1851

NRS 905, Letters received, 1826-1982

See the catalogue for a list of bundles of letters concerning Norfolk Island, 1831-1844

NRS 906 Special bundles,1826-1982

A detailed list of these papers is available in the Convict and convict administration guide pp 180–182. See a list of the list of the bundles related to Norfolk Island in the catalogue.

Examples include:

  • Norfolk Island – Returns, 1828-29, [4/117], Reel 764, COD 432, COD 472
  • Alphabetical return of English prisoners at Norfolk Island, Sep 1841 Letter 41/9309 in [4/2566], return at [X2230], Reel 769
  • List of 107 prisoners who died at Norfolk Island, 1 Oct 1836-22 Apr 1842 with CSIL 42/5520 in [4/2583.1] pp 40-43, Reel 693, COD 226
  • Administration of Norfolk Island, 1897, [4/928.2]

Population / Census / Musters

Thomas Davies Mutch: Card index to births, deaths and marriages, 1787–1814, Reels 2125–2129

Early ceremonies on Norfolk Island were recorded at St Phillips Church in Sydney

NRS 1261, Population Musters – Dependent Settlements, 1811, Aug 1812

General Muster at Hobart Town, Port Dalrymple and Norfolk Island. Includes male and female convicts

NRS 898, Special bundles – Population Book and Stock Book, Norfolk Island, 6 Aug 1812

Annual return of all inhabitants, parts in cultivation, stock etc at 6 Aug 1812

NRS 1282, 1841 Census: Abstract of Returns

Search the Index to the 1841 Census

NRS 12188; NRS 12189; NRS 1156 Indent and Surgeon's journal of convict ship Augusta Jessie (3) with prisoners for Norfolk Island from Dublin, 27 Mar 1840

Original with The National Archives UK. See Adm 101/6 PRO Reel 3189

Principal Superintendent of Convicts: Alphabetical register of convicts secondarily transported from NSW to Norfolk Island and remaining there, Aug 1844

Original in the Archives Office of Tasmania. See a copy on Reel 687, COD 2

NRS 4558, Norfolk Island - Returns of inhabitants, list of births, deaths and marriages, 1870-1871

NRS 4556, Norfolk Island - Register of births, deaths and marriages, 1894

NRS 685, Collectors Books, 1901 Census

See Fiche 1087 for Norfolk Island, Kingston and County Lands.

More population records

Census & musters guide

Population muster and census records, 1788-1901

Victualling lists

These are records of persons receiving rations.

T1/668 1788 Victualling book: List of persons victualled in New South Wales and Norfolk Island, 25 Feb–17 Nov 1788

Original with The National Archives UK. See PRO Reel 3551, COD 88

NRS 1343, Norfolk Island Victualling Book: Register of persons receiving rations, 1792–1796

A list of all people, whatever their status, entering the Island who were supplied with food rations. Original with the Mitchell Library. See [MLA1958], Reel 2747

Court records

Index to check

Court of Criminal Jurisdiction

NRS 2702, Miscellaneous criminal papers, 1788-91, 1798-1800, 1802, 1805, 1807-16

Included in the index above.

Supreme Court

NRS 13693, Miscellaneous papers and documents, 1787-1803, 1795–1847, 1829, 1843

A detailed list of these papers is available in the reading room.

NRS 13535, Norfolk Island informations, 1834 [T38 part]

NRS 13703, Commission to try prisoners at Norfolk Island, 13 Nov 1835

Bathurst Court of Petty Sessions

NRS 2782, List of Norfolk Island expirees in the Bathurst area, c.1850


NRS 13236, Miscellaneous returns, 1836-1841

These include a list of men in irons from Norfolk Island and Moreton Bay, 1839-40, and a list of prisoners from Norfolk Island for commutation of sentence, 1840-41

Land records

Surveyor General

Browse all

Land grants and leases (registers) 1792-1865

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

Cumberland County, Hunters Hill Parish - Sketch of Kissing Point Ferry

Surveyor General's crown plans 1792-1886

A complete listing of the Surveyor General's Crown Plans from the Select List of Maps and Plans (and Supplement), 1792-1886

P L Bemi, Plan of the Parish of Gidley in the Hundred of Windsor &c. County of Cumberland Shewing the Lands The Property of R. Fitzgerald Esquire New South Wales 1822

Surveyor General guide

These cartographic records provide detailed descriptions of the nature, agricultural potential & occupancy of land in the colony

NRS 13868, Plan of Norfolk Island showing grants and subdivision, 1887

Lands Department

NRS 8232, Map of Norfolk Island showing allotments, 1860

[Map 6211]


NRS 4515, Register of despatches received from the Secretary of State relating to Norfolk Island, 1872–1896

NRS 4516, Despatches and enclosures from the Secretary of State relating to Norfolk Island, 10 May 1868–24 Jul 1895

NRS 4517, Despatches from the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, and related papers, concerning the transfer of the administration of Norfolk Island from New South Wales to the Commonwealth, 1902–1914

NRS 4520, Despatches to the Secretary of State and general correspondence relative to Norfolk Island, 13 Mar 1874–1 Sep 1883

NRS 4526, Despatches and enclosures from the Governor of Tasmania, 3 Jul 1831–18 Jan 1860

NRS 4555, Papers relating to Norfolk Island (includes documents relating to the settlement of Pitcairn Islanders on Norfolk Island), 1852–93

  • 1852–72 [4/1673-1674 part], Reel 1248
  • 1 Oct 1880 [4/7641.7] formerly ML An45/7
  • 7 Feb 1893 [4/7641.8] formerly ML An45/14

NRS 4557, Copy of evidence taken by Commissioner Oliver during a Royal Commission into Norfolk Island affairs, Sep-Oct 1903

Main Roads

NRS 20013 Construction of Aerodrome (photographs), Norfolk Island,1942–c.1943

The photographs are digitised and can be viewed in our catalogue.

NRS 9771 Miscellaneous Files, 1926–1978

Aerodrome construction at Norfolk Island Parts I and II, File 42M854 [10/27348]


NRS 3829, School files, 1876-1939

Norfolk Island

  • 1897–1919 [5/17157.3]
  • 1919–39 [5/17158.1]
  • 1940–67 [14/7749]
  • 1967–87 [14/7750]

NRS 15051, Photographic collection, 1963–1991

Many of these photographs are digitised in our catalogue.

More resources to check

Browse all
Page from Crooybar school file

Schools & related records 1876-1979

30,000+ entries include administrative files & records such as admission registers, punishment books & inspection books

building plan from the Broken Hill Public School file

Schools: what the files can tell you

School files very strongly reflect the growth or decline of towns and are an excellent source for your local history research

Plan of Dubbo Public School

School records guide

An overview of education in New South Wales 1788-c1979 and a list of the main record series

School records

Find out about the wealth of information in school records about students, teachers and school buildings and sites in NSW

Records held elsewhere

Libraries Tasmania

Norfolk Island was administered by Van Diemans Land from 1844.

National Archives of Australia

The National Archives holds records relating to Norfolk Island, some dating from the resettlement of the Pitcairn Islanders in 1856.

State Library NSW

  • Papers relating to the convict establishment on Norfolk Island, 1843-55 - Mitchell Library D113
  • Alphabetical return of convicts transported from Norfolk to Van Diemen’s Land, 1844 - Mitchell Library Tasmanian Papers 335-6
  • Correspondence and reports re the Convict system at Norfolk Island under the superintendence of Capt. Maconochie, 1846 - Printed. Mitchell Library Q.365/G


1. John Cobley, Sydney Cove, 1788, p.71

2. NSW Government Gazette, 14 September 1844, p.114

3. National Archives of Australia (NAA) RecordSearch database

4. NAA RecordSearch database

5. Op cit.

In the catalogue

Some records have been digitised and can be viewed online.

In the Reading Room

Access original, uncopied records for free