Our guest bloggers, Lucy Shedden and Shona Dewar from the Australian Manuscripts collection at the Library introduce us to a new online research guide on the Victorian Sheriffs Office warrants collection recently received by the Library. This also includes an index of over 26,000 entries covering the period 1842-1861.

Hot off the press is the new research guide at: http://guides.slv.vic.gov.au/warrants. The Sheriff was responsible for the enforcement and execution of Supreme Court Writs and Orders and the control and direction of civil warrants. These records were not required by  Public Record Office Victoria and have found a home in the State Library.

This large collection, dating from 1838 to circa 1919 is held at accession no. MS 14521 in the Australian Manuscripts Collection.  Long-time volunteers, Sally Hall and Dulcie Burns are indexing and transcribing the warrants, a task that they have been engaged with for over 4 years.

The collection contains thousands of files, mainly comprising warrants for the recovery of money and other assets. Many of the cases concern insolvencies. Currently, the index contains some 26,200 entries for names of plaintiffs, defendants and attorneys, 1842-1861.  Places of residence (where available) have been recorded, also occupations and miscellaneous information such as physical descriptions.


Occasionally, the files include correspondence or maps. A file dated 13 June 1856, contains a map of part of Ballarat, indicating the properties owned, or formerly owned, by Dr James Silverman, an insolvent. The streets are named, allowing comparison with modern maps (BOX 22/3b, no. 595).

Approximately half of the entries include occupations. Of these, over 60% were lawyers handling the cases. The next most common occupation was publican, representing 17%.  People from all walks of life are featured, including livery stable keepers, hawkers, barbers, surgeons, coffee roasters, bricklayers, civil engineers, booksellers and farmers.  For itinerant workers or miners on the goldfields, these may be the only existing records indicating a location in a point in time, meaning that this index could be a boon to family historians in locating ancestors who do not appear in any directories, census records or electoral rolls.

The Library’s records complement (but do not duplicate) the Civil Case Files (VPRS 267) and Civil Action/Cause Books (VPRS 5328) held by the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV). An index to civil case files is available on microfilm at PROV (not available at the State Library of Victoria). Residential and occupational details do not appear in PROV’s indexes to civil case files.

In the Research Guide, the indexed warrants are accessible through an Excel spreadsheet sorted alphabetically by surname and then first name, with the location of the original documents in the Manuscripts Collection.  Warrants can be searched by surname, occupations and date.

Original warrants can be made available for viewing with 24 hours notice by telephoning the La Trobe Reading Room on (03) 8664 7009.  Alternative ways to contact us are listed on our ‘Ask a Librarian’ Internet web page at:



This article has 4 comments

  1. Have viewed the spreadsheet, it’s a great searchable document, thanks for making it available. Would like to find out about 99 year warrants, do you have any information which could help locate 99 warrants in 1856-1857, in Victoria.

    • Hi June
      I will pass a copy of your inquiry re 99 year warrants on to our Australian Manuscripts Team and ask them to reply to you.
      Thank you very much for your question.
      Anne (Burrows)

  2. Hello,
    Could I please ask are these old Warrants of any monetary value? If so, why and if not, why not?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Dezi,
      Thanks for your comment. Individually, the Sheriff’s Office warrants have no monetary value. However, their value lies in the overall data that can be extracted in bulk, through our value-added indexed searching, and the running of statistical analyses over many thousands of warrants. Individual users obtain value from the collection when they locate names that are useful for their research.


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