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Australian Joint Copying Project: Colonial Office Records - CO

A guide to the holdings of the State Library of South Australia

Colonial Office records

The Colonial Office was responsible for the administration of the Crown colonies and for communications between Britain and the self-governing colonies. Its records therefore contain an enormous amount of information relating to the six Australian colonies, New Zealand, New Guinea and Fiji. Until the colonies became self-governing in the 1850s almost total power was exercised by the Governors. Their despatches dealing with all aspects of colonial life make up the main series of records. Of most importance are the Enclosures accompanying each despatch - statistical returns, reports of officials, letters and petitions from private individuals and newspaper and other printed items, many of which have marginal annotations made by departmental officials.

Contents of reels have not been described in detail or individual items indexed, however a general description of reel contents may be found in the Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook, Part 2, Colonial Office produced jointly by the National Library of Australia and the State Library of New South Wales. 

CO 13 - South Australia - original correspondence

Reel No.                   Date Range               INCOMPLETE set
305 - 310    1831 - 1837  

CO 201 - New South Wales - original correspondence

(including Tasmania up to 1825)

Reel No.                    Date Range             COMPLETE set of CO 201
1 - 55 1784 - 1821  
98 - 214 1821 - 1837  
311 - 411 1838 - 1860  
619 - 681 1850 - 1860  
1806 - 1903 1861 - 1900  

CO 207 - New South Wales - entry books relating to convicts

Reel No.                    Date Range              COMPLETE set of CO 207
57 - 59 1788 - 1867  

CO 225 - Western Pacific - original correspondence

Reel No.                    Date Range               COMPLETE set of CO 225
2277 - 2345 1872 - 1902  
2861 - 2882 1903 - 1909  
2914 - 2942 1910 - 1913  
3094 - 3097 1912  

CO 280 - Tasmania* original correspondence - Secretary of State

(*before 1825 see CO 201) 

Reel No.                 Date Range                   COMPLETE set of CO 280
230 - 287          1824 - 1849  
475 - 577 1838 - 1849  
687 - 752 1849 - 1860  
1963 - 1994 1865 - 1900  
2971 - 2981 1861 - 1864  

CO 323 - Colonies General - original correspondence

Reel No.                   Date Range                  INCOMPLETE set
986 1834 - 1845  

CO 385 -  Emigration - Australia - letters from Secretary of State

Reel No.                  Date Range                    INCOMPLETE set
865 1855 - 1871  

CO 386 - Land and Emigration Commission

(South Australian content)

Reel No.                 Date Range                      INCOMPLETE set
866-868 1838 - 1844  
874-875 1836 - 1894  
987 1834 - 1874  

CO 396 - South Australia - entry books of correspondence

Reel No.                 Date Range                      COMPLETE set of CO 396
876 1834 - 1844  
877 1842 - 1849  
878 1849 - 1854  
879 1849 - 1861  
880 1864 - 1866  
881 1867 - 1873  

CO 419 - Fiji - register of correspondence

Reel No.                 Date Range                      COMPLETE set of CO 419
2899 1888 - 1898                      This item is on ADM 51, Reel 2900

CO 514 - South Australia - register of out-letters 

Reel No.                  Date Range                     COMPLETE set of CO 514
2675       1873 - 1900  

Locating information

Below are extracts from the Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook, Part 2 - Colonial Office that may be of assistance when looking for more detail.

Some of the extracts below have been marked with yellow highlighter. This indicates which reels the Library has in its collection where the holdings are not complete for that Class.

UK National Archives

Recently the UK National Archives began a Digital Microfilm Project to allow access to its most used items.  Amongst the documents currently uploaded are items from the Colonial Office. Items are grouped by Class (e.g. CO 207) and many of the documents are very large. For more details go to Digital Microfilm Project, UK National Archives.