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

Deane index to Colonial Office correspondence, 1823-1840

How to use the Re-index of the Deane index 1823-1840 (Colonial Office N.S.W. correspondence)

Only in the Library You can use Colonial Office correspondence index, 1823-1840 when you are in the Library. Can't come to the Library? Contact us.


Collect the Re-index to the Deane Index from the 'Archives Resources Kit' shelves in the Family history area on Lower Ground 2 of the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room.

It is also available on CD-ROM, and a printed version of the Deane index is available at the Special Collections desk in the Mitchell Library.


Search the index for your convict and note down the information from the index entry in particular the 'AJCP/PRO Ref'. This is the location of the original records.

Noting the names of one or two of the entries before and after the entry will help you find the entry in the original records. This will generally be the order of the records on the reel.

Below is an example of an entry from the index.

Entry Record Explanation
Name SPINKS H W Name of individual or ship.
Status Writer Writer or subject of correspondence.
Date of Event 07/10/1831 Usually the date the letter was written.
Event DI Source of the index entry. DI: Deane Index and CO: Colonial Office.
AJCP/PRO Ref CO201/224/R183-4 British Government Department (CO) class (201) and piece number (224) and
microfilm reel numbers (R 183-4). These reels are part of the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP).
Source ML CY2452/V2/P622 Usually the location number of the microfilm copy of the Deane Index (ML CY2452)
and the volume (V) and page (P) number of the entry in the Deane Index.
Remarks Convict
Brief remarks about the contents of the correspondence - often left blank.

The 'Source' provides details of the same entry in the original Deane Index which is held in the Mitchell Library. Consult the Deane Index as it may provide additional information, such as the following:

SPINKS H W 9 Octr 1831 Reqs: free Passage to join his Wife, a Convict

If there is a note in the Deane index entry stating missing or 'Sent to Home Office' or similar, then the entry will not be found on the AJCP/PRO reels and you will not be able to find copies of the original records.


To view the copies of the original letter (on microfilm), go to the Special Collections desk in the Mitchell Library and complete a stack request form (including the microfilm reel number) to have staff collect the reel for you.


Scroll through the reel using the piece number to locate the original record relating to your convict.

Entries are grouped alphabetically however, the entries are not strictly alphabetically arranged within each letter grouping.

The entries in the Deane Index are a good guide to the location of your entry however some of the entries in the Deane Index do not appear on the AJCP/PRO reels.

Index and Re-index?

There are two indexes to help you find letters to the Colonial Office; the Re-index to the Deane Index and the Deane Index.

First search the Re-index of the Deane Index to find copies of the original letters held at the Mitchell Library. This index will also provide details to find the entry for the same person in the Deane Index.

It is helpful to refer to both indexes as the Deane Index will show you the order of the letters on the microfilm. The Deane index can also provide additional information about the content of the letter.

What's in the letters?

The letters in the Colonial Office correspondence cover all aspects of colonial life. There are letters from wives requesting passage to join their convict husbands, letters from relatives enquiring about a convict, as well as general enquiries from prospective immigrants about conditions in the colony and availability of land grants. The letters can contain personal references of settlers seeking to emigrate to NSW.

The Colonial Office was based in London and the corresponence has been microfilmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP).