National archives & public records

Australian Joint Copying Project

The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) began in 1945 when an agreement, to copy material relating to Australia and the Pacific held in repositories in the United Kingdom, was signed by the National Library of Australia and the State Library of New South Wales.  The initial aim was to microfilm all documents held in the Public Record Office in the UK, now the National Archives, relating to Australia. Eventually, all State libraries and the National Library of New Zealand were involved and the scope of the project expanded to include material related to Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific, most of South East Asia and Antarctica from archives and libraries throughout the UK. This ambitious project lasted for over 50 years and resulted in the production of more than 10,000 reels of microfilm.

AJCP collection at the State Library

The State Library of WA has nearly 5,000 microfilm reels in the AJCP collection which is in the Genealogy Centre on the 3rd floor. They are organised by the four-digit AJCP number beginning with the Public Record Office series and followed by the Miscellaneous series. Please ask staff at the 3rd Floor enquiry desk for assistance in using the microfilm reels or visit the AJCP portal to access the digital copies of all the records.

Using the AJCP

The most important tool to access the AJCP material is the series of handbooks which was produced to accompany the collection. Before conducting any research you should read the introduction in Part 1. Once you find a relevant entry it is vital that you note down all parts of the reference as some material can be difficult to find within the microfilm reel. It is important to check the latest edition of the handbook. The list below shows the various classes of records with examples of some of the key sections useful for family historians. The edition shown is the latest available for each handbook. Please note that the entries within the PRO series are not necessarily arranged in class order so you need to check the contents page at the front of each volume.

  • Part 1 General introduction and Shelf List - Provides an introduction to the project. There are also two lists in microfilm reel number order giving class and piece; dates and titles of material within both the PRO and Miscellaneous series. Please note that headings are fairly general. From this reel number listing you can see that there is no logical order and that the sequence frequently jumps from one class of records to another. If you have a microfilm reel number only, you need to look at Part 1 to find out which handbook to consult for further information.
  • Part 2 Colonial Office - This is the largest class of records and formed the original source of filming for the AJCP. The Colonial Office was responsible for the administration of the Australian colonies and no aspect of colonial life escaped the scrutiny of British officials. The Colonial Office required that the entire population be accounted for which resulted in census and muster records and statistical returns (Blue books). It includes letters and petitions from individuals as well as official governors' reports covering topics such as land grants, debts, appointments, expeditions, arrival of emigrants, conduct of convicts, admission to asylums and more.
  • Part 3 Home Office - The Home Office was responsible for the administration of the penal system and its records are invaluable for family historians researching convict ancestry.
  • Part 4 War Office - Contains material about the military forces employed in colonial administration.
  • Part 5 Foreign Office
  • Part 6 Air Ministry, Board of Trade, Exchequer & Audit Department, Treasury and other Record Groups
  • Part 7 Admiralty - The Admiralty Office was kept informed of naval matters by captains on voyages of discovery, from admirals in charge of stations in the East Indies and the Pacific and by ship's’ surgeons. This class includes surgeons’ journals for emigrant and convict ships.
  • Part 8 Miscellaneous - This series of records is taken from non Public Record Office archives throughout the UK including associations, businesses, churches, county record offices etc. Examples of records filmed include diaries, letters, logs, journals, convict records and pictorial matter including rare maps, charts, sketches of colonial buildings and portraits. This handbook is well indexed and individual names and places can be found using the index at the back of the Part 8 volume. Detailed notes have been produced for many of the microfilm reels in this series. These are located in 16 volumes in the Genealogy Centre.
  • Part 9 Public Record Office Personal Collection - This collection covers records acquired by the PRO from individuals, families or organisations. They were usually people who had had some involvement in public life. There is an index at the back of this volume to particular people and subjects.
  • Part 10 Dominions - This material tends to range from the 1920s to the 1950s. The list is also more detailed, going to file level rather than class and piece. It includes information on Fairbridge Farm School and the Group Settlement Scheme. For Fairbridge Farm School see PRO reels 6711, 6726, 6757, 6772. For the Group Settlement Scheme see PRO reels 6734, 6736, 6747, 6756-7, 6772
  • Part 11 - covers the classes filmed in the last five years of the project so it is important to remember to check here for records from all different classes.

Resources which draw on AJCP records

Log of logs: a catalogue of logs, journals, shipboard diaries, letters and all forms of shipboard narratives, 1788-1988, for Australia and New Zealand and surrounding oceans - This important set of volumes by Ian Nicholson is valuable for researching ships. Look up the name of the ship you are researching and you will be referred to the AJCP reel number for captains’ logs, shipboard journals, surgeon’s journals etc.

Index: Australian Joint Copying Project Prison Commission registers, AJCP PCom2, reels 5971-5991 -  this is a very useful microfiche index to the UK Prisons Commission records produced by volunteers from the Western Australian Genealogical Society. Viewing the AJCP reel can often reveal extra information about convicts, such as who visited them in gaol, and sometimes addresses are given.

State Records Office of Western Australia - for Western Australian correspondence visit the State Records Office (SRO) which has various indexes available. The SRO website provides the  Colonial Secretary's Office correspondence. You may need to refer to the AJCP collection in cases where there was an enclosure with outward correspondence. If this is the case, make a careful note of the date and subject matter.

The Army in Australia, 1840-1850: prelude to the golden years - this is an excellent source of information on the army in Australia during the early years of European settlement. It gives statistics on troop numbers and placement and includes information on enrolled pensioner guards.

Bound for Australia - this book explains how to trace ancestors who were bound for Australia, whether convicts or free settlers. It goes through the process stage by stage and gives lots of examples.

Criminal ancestors: a guide to historical criminal records in England and Wales -

Historical Records of Australia - transcribed Governors’ Despatches for New South Wales were published in Series I in 26 volumes. Published in chronological order with an index at the back of each volume. .

Historical Records of New South Wales - An earlier project to transcribe Governors’ Despatches published in 9 volumes.

Historical Records of New Zealand - Transcribed Governors' Despatches for New Zealand published in 2 volumes.

Convict records in Australia - this extremely useful work explains which records are available for tracing convicts in all Australian states. It gives references to AJCP reel numbers where applicable.

Convict records of Western Australia: a research guide - this is the key work to consult for those researching Western Australian convicts.

Administering the Empire, 1801-1968 : a guide to the records of the Colonial Office in the national archives of the UK

Commonwealth sources in British official records : Colonial and Dominions Offices

The records of the War Office and related departments, 1660-1964

My ancestor was in the British army: how can I find out more about him?

My ancestor was a merchant seaman: how can I find out more about him?

AJCP tools and tips

AJCP Reel Numbers - even if you have been given a microfilm reel number you should consult the AJCP handbooks to double check the reference and find the piece number (PRO series) or detailed notes if available (M series). For a PRO series microfilm number (without the M prefix) go to the AJCP handbook Part 1 and locate your microfilm reel number. Note down the full reference, then consult the latest edition of the relevant handbook for further details. For an M series microfilm, go to the AJCP handbook Part 8. The entry will indicate whether or not detailed notes are available in the 16 volume series.

PRO Reference Numbers - Check to see which handbook covers the class of records you are looking for. Go to the latest edition of the correct handbook and look at the contents page to see which page number covers the class of records you are interested in. Turning to that page, look for the piece number. The reel number will be given alongside the piece number and the date.

Locating the AJCP Reel  - There is currently no up-to-date listing of AJCP microfilms held at the State Library so you need to check the shelves in the Genealogy Centre on the 3rd floor. If it is not available it can be ordered from the National Library by asking staff at the 3rd floor enquiry desk.

Citing AJCP Material - Citations should refer to the original material and the microfilm reference number.

This page last updated on 22 September 2021