Convicts: Life in the colony

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are kindly advised that this website includes images, sounds and names of people who have passed.

All users should be aware that some topics or historical content may be culturally sensitive, offensive or distressing, and that some images may contain nudity or are of people not yet identified. Certain words, terms or descriptions may reflect the author's/creator's attitude or that of the period in which they were written, but are now considered inappropriate in today's context.

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

Illness and death

Death registers and inquests

Wills and probate records

Hospitals and Asylum records


Ward at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, 1886 from Sir Edward Knox family papers

Digital order number: a419005 (album ID: 823973)

What is in the Convict Death Register?

If a convict died while still serving their sentence, their death was recorded in the convict death register. This was part of monitoring convicts in the colony.

The death register generally shows the convict's name and age, their ship of arrival and the date and place (district or parish) of burial. In some cases you may find an indication of the cause of death.


Probate is the legal process of validating and settling a person's will after their death.


Sydney Hospital / Star Photo Co. ca. 1900-1910.

Digital order number: a116212

Coroners' Inquests

Coroners were responsible for inquiring into unnatural or sudden deaths. They also investigated deaths when a body was unidentified, a cause of death was uncertain or the deceased was in the care of the state.

You can access the registers of coroners’ inquests in NSW for 1796 to 1942 in the Library on Ancestry Library Edition or microfilm. The coroners' registers contain similar information to death certificates.

Looking for asylum records?

Visit State Archives & Records NSW or their website to find records from asylums and other mental health facilities in New South Wales.

Check out the State Archives & Records NSW research guide on Asylum records for further information.