Archives for Everyone: community digitisation and indexing partnerships

Published on Thursday 15 February 2024

Are you part of a group or society with an interest in history?

Would your group or society like to help Museums of History NSW (MHNSW) make the State Archives Collection more accessible?

If you answered yes to these questions, our community partnership project may be of interest to you.

What is the project?

The State Archives Collection at MHNSW is vast, comprising over 14 million items related to the history of NSW, its environment and the lives of its people.

MHNSW is looking to partner with groups or societies that have an interest in history and in making the State Archives Collection more accessible. This project aims to digitise and index a set of records from the State Archives Collection that will showcase your local area and enhance our digitisation efforts.

The project will involve the digitisation of Small Debts Registers from the former courts of petty sessions (now local courts). The digitisation process not only involves scanning the registers, but also creating an index to ensure the digital content is accessible and discoverable over time.

About the records

Small Debts Registers were created by the courts of petty sessions throughout NSW. From 1846, these courts had the authority to recover small debts (defined as debts of up to £10). The registers contain information such as the name of the plaintiff, name of the defendant, the cause of the action, amount of the claim, costs, the judgement and amount of the judgement.

These records are all about people taking other people to court to recover debts. So they may contain information about your local community that cannot be found in other records.

The State Archives Collection holds over 375 Small Debts Registers, with the volumes arranged by court/locality. Approximately 70 locations around NSW are represented in the records. The number of volumes per court/locality varies.

The video below provides details about the Port Macquarie Small Debts Register, which was digitised and indexed by the Port Macquarie & District Family History Society Inc:

Sample from the Small Debts Register - Port Macquarie Courts of Petty Sessions, 4 May 1846

Port Macquarie Small Debts register

This Small Debts Register was indexed by the members of the Port Macquarie & Districts Family History Society. As part of the project it was digitised and the copies can be viewed in Collection Search. This webinar takes a close look at the register and how it can be searched

Partner with us

Nominate the volumes/localities your group or society are interested in working on.

Digitise the volumes onsite in our Reading Room at the Western Sydney Records Centre, Kingswood.


Use existing digital copies to index the entries using a template provided by MHNSW. This can be done remotely or onsite in our Reading Room at the Western Sydney Records Centre, Kingswood.

For further details on the courts/localities covered and quantities per court/locality or to let us know of your interest in being involved in the project, please click on the expression of interest link below.

Expression of interest