Convicts: Life in the colony

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Key to library resources

Access anywhere with a library card In the Library (or anywhere with a Library card for NSW residents)
Available to access in the library Only in the Library
Publicly available online Publicly available

Colonial Secretary's correspondence, 1826-1894

How to use Colonial Secretary's correspondence, 1826-1894

Only in the Library You can use Colonial Secretary's correspondence index, 1826-1894 when you are in the Library. Can't come to the Library? Contact us.

How to find out about a convict's work assignment and family


Collect the Colonial Secretary's correspondence index, 1826-1894 on microfiche from the Family history shelves in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room.


Search the microfiche that covers the relevant date ranges. The index is arranged alphabetically by last name of convict (or other person mentioned in the correspondence).


Note down all the details in the entry and use this information to locate the original records at State Archives & Records NSW.

Example of an entry in the index:

BODKIN Thomas Castle Forbes 27/1090 4/1921
If the letters CF appear after a ship's name, this means that the person 'Came Free' and not as a convict.

Go to the resource

Available as part of the 'Archives Resources Kit' on the Family history shelves in the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room.

About the correspondence

The letters from the Colonial Secretary cover many different aspects of convicts' lives including work assignments, wives and families of convicts, petitions, punishments, references to colonial offences, indents and other official papers relating to the management of convicts.

Searching tips

We recommend you use your convict's date of arrival as a starting point.

Work systematically through all of the following date ranges to see if your convict is mentioned in any of the correspondence.

The microfiche is arranged in date ranges and where dates overlap we recommend you search more than one sequence.

About the Colonial Secretary

For an overview of the history of the Colonial Secretary read the State Archives & Records NSW Colonial Secretary Overview. You can also check their guide to Colonial Secretary's Correspondence for more detailed information.