Australia Court Records
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Court records contain information about individuals who were involved in a number of matters, including those mentioned below. Details about Australian convicts are often found in court records. Most court records provide names of individuals who served as defendants, plaintiffs, jurors, or witnesses. They may also provide such information as the individual’s residence, occupation, physical description, and family.
District magistrates’ court
Handled cases of petty crimes, such as theft, breaches of peace, and drunkenness.
Quarter Session courts
Quarter Sessions were also known as Petty Sessions and handled both civil and criminal cases.
State Library of New South Wales has a good guide to finding and using Quarter Sessions Court Records at guides.sl.nsw.gov.au/content.php
Historical background is available at familysearch.org/node/1234You will need to know where your ancestor was living in England before searching for them in Quarter Session records.
Handled divorces, bankruptcies, insolvencies, and naturalizations. Some of the functions of the supreme courts were later transferred to the federal courts. The federal courts were established in 1911 and tried the most serious and indictable offenses, such as murder and manslaughter.
investigated unusual deaths. Records dealing with these matters included the deceased’s name, age, and place of death. Newspapers often reported the dealings of the coroner’s courts, which may provide additional information such as the names of the descendant’s spouse and children and reports of witnesses.
Find these records on the web by searching for "State Name" Coroners Court. Example: South Australia Coroners Court or Victoria Australia Coroners Court.
Each state published a government or police gazette. These gazettes included information about individuals who appeared before the courts and individuals who were employed by the government or who held public offices (school teachers, constables, or postmasters). The gazettes also gave details about land grants and transfers, leases, mining claims, runaway convicts, and individuals who were granted various licenses.
An index of the Police Gazette of Western Australia is available on the web at Police Gazettes 1796 on provided by State Library of Western Australia.
World Vital Records also provides indexes to some of the Police Gazettes at World Vital Records Australia 1880
Family Search Catalog shows films 6359174 through 6359190 which contain police records.
Locating Court Records
Court records can be found in national archives, state archives, and other local repositories and libraries. For further information about these archives, see the Archives and Libraries article. State archives have published guides to their court record holdings. To find online guides, go to Google and type the name of the state followed by the word Archives.
The Family History Library has some microfilm copies of Australian court records and gazettes. These copies are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:
- AUSTRALIA - COURT RECORDS
- AUSTRALIA, [STATE] - COURT RECORDS
- AUSTRALIA, [STATE], [TOWN] - COURT RECORDS
Some published name indexes exist. The Family History Library has some of these indexes. Look in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:
- AUSTRALIA, [STATE] - COURT RECORDS: INDEXES
- AUSTRALIA, [STATE], [TOWN] - COURT RECORDS: INDEXES