The Victorian Police Gazette present a fascinating and unique view of social and family history in Victoria. Not only does it provide a detailed record on the history of policing in Victoria but it also include valuable information on individuals – the police, the criminals and the victims. Use this terrific resource to research your family – you might discover that your ancestor was a constable in the police force, a ships deserter, a horse thief or perhaps the victim of a theft.
The Victoria Police Gazette commenced in December 1853 and was distributed each week to city and rural police stations and to government offices and newspaper publishers. It’s main aim was to keep the police up to date on current police affairs including recent appointments, promotions and retirements. It also provided a detailed list of recent criminal activities that appeared under such headings as:
- Highway robbery and stealing from the person
- Housebreaking and stealing from dwelling houses
- Deserters of wives and children
- Deserters from HM vessels
- Deserters from merchant vessels
- Incendiarism (burning of property)
- Escaped prisoners
- Horses and cattle (Stolen)
- Property lost
- Property found
- Warrants issued
- Ticket of leave holders
The State Library holds the Victoria Police Gazette for the years 1853 to 1971 and although there is an index to the gazette it’s frequency and depth of coverage varies. The first index appeared in 1860 and was produced annually until 1869. It then became monthly until 1935 and from then on was issued quarterly. You will find a separate consolidated index on microfiche Victoria Police gazette index : for the years 1853-1868 and we recently purchased a Compendium index for the years 1864-1924.
If you do find a reference to an ancestor be sure to carefully evaluate the information provided. Look for such information as dates and places; the names of acquaintances and relatives; the name and location of property, or the name of port of departure for a ship. Such clues can open up other avenues of investigation and really help to bring the story of your ancestors to life.
Here are just a few excerpts from the gazette, that show the level of detail included in each report. Click on each image to enlarge.
Prisoners reported as discharged from penal establishments. Victoria Police Gazette, May 10, 1934, p 559.
Incendiarism. Victoria Police Gazette, April 13, 1865, p 166.
Missing friends. Victoria Police Gazette, May 11, 1865, p 195.
Deserters from merchant vessels. Victoria Police Gazette, April 20, 1892, p111.
Property found. Victoria Police Gazette, April 26, 1934, p 513.
Throughout the gazette you will find incredibly detailed descriptions of victims and people that can help you visual what they looked like. Here’s a brief description of James Henry Freeland, charged with deserting his two illegitimate children in May 1892.
Blacksmith, about 30 years of age, 5 feet 8 or 9 incues high, fair complexion, blue eyes, reddish hair, sometimes wears a moustache, round face and head, surly appearance. Plays the flute at concerts.
Photographs started to be included in the early 1900s and in 1906 a monthly supplement of discharged prisoners was issued. A separate photo supplement was issued from 1931 onwards.
Photograph of John H. Webster Photo supplement to the Victoria Police Gazette, April 5, 1934, p 31.
You can now access sections of the Victorian and interstate police gazettes through the following online resources:
Find my past Australasia (available only in the library)
- Victoria Police Gazette 1855 – 1900
- New South Wales Police Gazette 1862, 1864-1900
- Queensland Police Gazette 1864-1900
- Queensland Police Gazette Index 1864-1874
- South Australian Police Gazette 1862-1900
- Tasmania Police Gazette 1884-1900
Find my past Australasia also provides access to over 3 million records from Victoria Petty Sessions (1854-1985). The Court of Petty Sessions was created to hear minor criminal cases such as those involving drunkenness, criminal damage and theft. These cases, brought before a magistrate, would usually not involve a jury.
Ancestry Library Edition (available only in the library)
- Victoria, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1893-1924
- Queensland, Australia, Police Gazette Index, 1881-1945
- South Australia, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1862-1947
- New South Wales, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1854-1930
- Tasmania, Reports of Crime, 1861-1883 Tasmania, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1884-1933
The Police Gazette of Western Australia 1876-1900
The State Library of Western Australia have digitised sections of the WA Police Gazette. You can freely access this resource from home.
The Public Record Office Victoria holds a range of records relating to police in the State of Victoria, including salary cards, police muster rolls, registers of appointments etc. Go to the PROVguide 33: Police Records for a list of their holdings.