In the early days of the colony the Colonial Secretary's Office was the main point for communication with the government. Correspondence with the Colonial Secretary's Office therefore contains a broad range of information about the early government business in the colony.

We hold the records of the major series of incoming and outgoing correspondence for the Colonial, later Chief Secretary's Office (1842-c1984).

We also hold later series of records relating to the Premier's Office.

Access conditions

Corporate records of government departments are typically open for general public access after 20 years.

Some later series may carry restrictions where correspondence files contain sensitive personal or legal content.

Indexes and special lists

Copies of records covered by the following indexes and special lists are available on microfilm in our Research Centre.

Letters sent and received - Colonial, later Chief Secretary's Office 1837 - 1856

These are the major correspondence series of the Colonial Secretary's Office.

The special lists are arranged alphabetically by subject or author name, and contain a reference to the item of correspondence. The lists cover outgoing letters from 1837, and incoming letters from 1842, until 1856.

References beginning with an 'A' are letters to the Colonial Secretary (GRG 24/6)

  • For example: A (1849) 1159, 1458
    The part in brackets is the year
    The other numbers are docket or letter numbers.

References beginning with any other letter of the alphabet are letters from the Colonial Secretary (GRG 24/4)

  • For example: Q (1849) 445, 476
    The letter relates to the volume of the letter book
    The part in brackets is the year
    The other numbers are docket or letter numbers.

'W Fin' references refer to GRG 24/20 (Letters sent relating to financial matters, 1855-1856)

'S.A .. Aug. 28, 1849 .. 2C, 3C' references refer to early newspapers with page and column details. Digital copies of these papers are available via Trove (up to c.1954) or the State Library of South Australia.

Abberton - Avell

Babbage - Bonus

Book Post - Byrons

Cadd - Coffin's Bay Peninsula  

Coggle - Cutting

Dabb - Dyson

Eade - Eyre's Flat

Faass - Fyffe  

Gadd - Gwynne & Lawrence

Haase - Hydress

Ice - Ivett  

Jack - Justices of the Peace

Kaethner - Kympton

Labour - Lysander  

Mabbett - Mezzger

Michael - Myrick

Nagh - Nyland

Oats - Oysters

Pabst - Porter

Porter - Prior

Prison Labour - Pyke

Quack Medicines - Ryder

Sabbath - Sowerby

Sowerby - Synnot

Taafe - Tyte

Ullathorn - Vulcan

Waddell - Wyndham

Yailgalta - Zschack

Two further special lists to GRG24/6 contain selected documents relating to coronial inquests and schoolmasters (teachers).

Letters received by the Colonial Secretary, Governor and other Government officials 1836 - 1851

The Colonial Secretary's Office apparently maintained these letters separately from its formal correspondence series (GRG 24/6), although it is evident that some pages have been extracted/separated from the formal correspondence series.

There are four lists for this series.

  1. Special list for GRG 24/1 Letters and other communications received, 1836 - 1851 - alphabetically by subject
  2. Special list for GRG 24/1 Letters and other communications received, 1837 - 1840 - numerically by year
  3. Special list for GRG 24/1 Letters and other communications received, 1841 - numerically by year
  4. Special list for GRG 24/1 Index to returns of sick and destitute emigrants, 1840 - alphabetically by surname of emigrant

Miscellaneous records of historical interest - Colonial Secretary's Office, Governor's Office and others 1837 - 1963

This series contains a range of records including correspondence:

  • between the Governor and the Colonial Secretary
  • between the Governor and Cabinet
  • of the Executive Council.

Special list for GRG 24/90 Miscellaneous records of historical interest, 1837 - 1963 - alphabetical by subject

It includes records covering topics such as:

  • hospitals
  • gaols
  • cemeteries
  • courts
  • the Surveyor-General's Office
  • harbours
  • Botanic Gardens
  • Lunatic Asylum and Destitute Board
  • exploration
  • police and military matters
  • Chinese immigration
  • Aboriginal people
  • marriage licences
  • prostitution
  • the postal service
  • the Adelaide Railway Company
  • agriculture
  • churches and
  • the Admella sinking.

Types of records

Incoming correspondence was organised into files, which relate to one particular subject or individual. Documents received over a number of years may have been placed in the same file. File covers may be annotated with the file numbers of related files. Correspondence files consist of:

  • letters and other documents received by the Office
  • memoranda of action taken
  • internal reports or inquiries
  • brief notes outlining the reply (nineteenth century), or copies of letters sent (twentieth century).

Outgoing correspondence was often drafted in letter books, or paper pressed over wet drafts was bound into books as an early form of copying.