Researching archival records can be rewarding and fun but it may also require some in-depth searching. This page will help you to understand the State Records of South Australia collection and how to get started with your research.

Things to know before you start

State Records collection is not arranged by subject like a library but instead by the government agency that created the records (e.g. Royal Adelaide Hospital or the South Australian Railways). It is also useful to know that not every record in our collection is listed or indexed in our catalogue. It can often help to think of which government agency may have created the types of records you are searching for.  


What type of records are held at State Records of SA?

Our collection is made up of records of permanent value that have been created by state and local government agencies in South Australia. This does not include all the records created by government and only a small amount get retained permanently as archives. Many records remain with the government agencies and are subject to approved disposal schedules which dictate how long the records must be kept.

You can read about some of the most popular records in our collection on the Discover our Collection page - these include records relating to Health and Welfare as well as Police, Courts and Goals

How do I search the collection?

You can search our collection on our catalogue ArchivesSearch. The catalogue allows you to search by keyword for government agencies, series of records and individual records. You can also search directly by agency (e.g. GA246 Surveyor-General's Office) or series (e.g. GRS 12200 Diagram books, alphabetical series by Hundred - Survey Office). The below video shows you how to search our catalogue using Keyword and Direct searching options. Please note that digital copies of records are not available to view or request through our catalogue. 

Video on State Records catalogue searching instructions.

You can also search and discover certain popular records via our website. Some of our most popular records have online indexes available to search and online copies of records to view.

You may need to search across both the catalogue and the website to:

  1. Search for the records via the catalogue and;
  2. Check the indexes or examine digital copies of the records via links on the website.      
Which records are available to view online? 

Some of the most popular records in our collection have been digitised either by staff or volunteers or in partnership with FamilySearch. Our Online Records page details how to find records and how to access digital copies of records hosted on FamilySearch.

An online video tutorial shows the steps to find an entry on a State Records website index and how to then navigate to the FamilySearch website and view the digital images.

Access to digital copies of records on FamilySearch requires a free registration. If you do not wish to register with FamilySearch, or if the images for the records are not available, you may send us an enquiry to ask for a copying quote. Specific references are required when requesting a digital copy of a record (e.g. GRS 1334/1 Unit 38 File 3296).

How can I use archives to search my family history? 

Government archival collections hold a number of records which may record information about your family and ancestors. Some of the most popular records relating to family history are listed on our webpage relating to Family History Research. Specific topic pages will then explain how to search each of the types of records. 

The collection also contains records that may be of use to people searching their Aboriginal family history. Further information about records and services can be found on our Aboriginal Access Services webpage. 

Thinking about how your family and ancestors may have interacted with government and which government agencies may have recorded information about them can be useful to help search for records relating to your family history.    

Can someone help me with my research?

We do not offer a research service and do not view original records on behalf of a researcher. We do offer an enquiry service which is outlined on our Enquiry Services page.

If you or a someone on your behalf are not able to visit the Research Centre, these fee-based research services are available:

Researchers for hire are not State Records employees.

Your local library or history group may also be able to help with your research or provide you with access to some family history resources.

Where else can I research historical information and records?

There are a number of other organisations who hold non-government records that may also assist with your research. A listing of these organisations can be found on the webpage Where else to find information


How do I order records for viewing in person?

Once you have identified that there are records you wish to view in our Research Centre and found the precise references, book an appointment via Eventbrite or via phone (08 8343 6800).

If you have booked online follow the ordering instructions on the booking link and email us your order or order yourself through our catalogue. Alternatively, if you book via phone please notify staff of the records you would like to view and staff will order these on your behalf. Records you wish to view must be pre-ordered at least 24 hours in advance of your visit. You will not be able to order records for same-day viewing. 

Some records are stored at our secondary repository and are subject to increased retrieval times. Staff will advise where this is the case and arrange an appropriate booking time. 

Can I request a digital copy of a record?

Yes, you can request a digital copy of a record. Follow the steps below to obtain a copy.

  • find precise references for the original records through the catalogue or online indexes (e.g. GRS 1334/1 Unit 38 File 3296)
  • request a written quote
  • once your payment has been made, digital images will be emailed within 4 weeks.

Prints and USB/CD copies are posted. Orders for printed copies may include both digitisation and printing charges. Further information about can be found on our Copying and Digitisation Service webpage.

How do I request access to a restricted record?

As you search our catalogue and website you may discover that some records are restricted from pubic access due to the sensitivity of the information contained in the record.

If you have a need to access the records before they become available for general public access, you may apply to the agency responsible for the records. ArchivesSearch shows the agency responsible for the series which contains the records, and the period of restriction specified in the access determination. Contact the agency responsible for the records to either: 

  • Obtain access allowing you to view records at the Research Centre, or
  • Make a formal application under the Freedom of Information Act.

Further information and contact details for a number of government agencies who may responsible for restricted records is available on our Restricted Records webpage.

Need to ask us a question?

You can find our contact details on the Contact Us page.