These records reflect Australia in a historical context and the information within may not reflect current understanding. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that these records may contain information which may be considered culturally sensitive and may cause distress, including names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Islander people now deceased.

A major milestone was reached in 2020 as the National Library’s work to digitise the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) came to a close. The original AJCP project filmed government documents from the National Archives UK collection (formerly known as the Public Records Office), along with a separate sequence of collections from organisations and individuals. Together they provide invaluable primary source documents covering Australia’s colonisation, settlement and government, covering the period 1560-1984.

The filming project ran from 1945 to 1993, and the digitisation process for 3 years, culminating in 2020. The AJCP, ultimately amounting to over 10,000 reels of microfilm, is now digitised, and freely available online.

We have developed a research guide to help you navigate this complex collection and discover resources that could be helpful for your family history research. We have listed several different search methods for the collection – bearing in mind, that the text of the documents themselves are not searchable, and that many are handwritten and can be difficult to decipher. The guide identifies published resources and databases that can provide you with other entry points to the collections.

Family History Records

Colonial Office (emigration records)

The Colonial Office was responsible for the administration of the Port Phillip district, later known as Victoria. Records from other states and colonies including New Guinea, Fiji, and New Zealand also come under this body. Documents in this series includes government despatches, correspondence and emigration records.

War Office (military records)

Military records were managed by the War Office. In this collection you can find muster books and pay lists for the British Military forces stationed in Australia.

There are also several published indexes to help you locate your military ancestor, and a separate research guide which lists other resources.

page of Monthly returns for the Australian colonies, War Office records
Monthly Returns, Australian Colonies, Records of the War Office (as filmed by the AJCP)
WO 17, File 1225.

Home office (convict records)

Convict records chiefly relate to New South Wales and Tasmania as the principal sites of convict prisons, however there are some resources for convicts in Port Phillip (Victoria). These ledgers show the stark reality for life and death for people entering the prison system.

page from returns of convicted prisoners, Home office records
Returns of Convicted Prisoners 1819-1822, Records of the Home Office, Criminal Department, Old Bailey Sessions, Series HO 16 File 2

Miscellaneous series (personal papers and diaries)

Along with official records and listings from the National Archives UK collection (formerly known as the Public Records Office), the Miscellaneous series includes personal papers and diaries. A shipboard diary of a voyage to Australia can be a wonderful record to add to your knowledge of your ancestors. In the event that one doesn’t exist for your family, you can look for one for the same voyage as your ancestors. In the example below Frederick Hoare describes his voyage on the Red Jacket, departing from Liverpool 4 May 1854.

Also from the Miscellaneous series, this letter from the papers of James Getty, gives us a sense of the postal system, and the long wait between letters.

pages from James Getty, wheelright, miscellaneous series
pages from James Getty, wheelright, miscellaneous series
Getty, James, Correspondence of James Getty, a wheelwright of Melbourne,
Records held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Series D1196.

Our research guide covers the different record series and links directly to listed sections, along with the research guides developed by other state and national libraries.

Useful resources

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *