Public Record Office Victoria has an historical collection of prisoner, convict and police records dating back to 1850.
The majority of police records PROV holds about Police in Victoria from 1853 to the current day can be found in the series created by Victoria Police VA 724. Prior to 1853, various separate police forces had operated, including the Melbourne City Police, Border Police, Mounted Police, Water Police, Native Police, Gold Escort and Goldfields Police.
Victorian prisons were required to submit information about the prisoners in their custody to the Penal and Gaols Branch (VA 1464) of the Chief Secretary’s Department. There was no state-wide centralised registration of prisoners until 1985. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was common practice for a prisoner to be moved directly from the court where the trial was held to a local prison, such as Beechworth. If the trial took place outside the Melbourne area researchers are advised to consult the records of local prisons.
Strictly speaking, no convicts were transported directly to the Port Phillip District of New South Wales. However convicts did find their way to the District by either being assigned to a work gang in Port Phillip, holding a ticket of leave and enter Port Phillip from either New South Wales or Tasmania to work, or the convict may have been an Exile.
Further information on police, prisoner and convict records can be found in our guides at the bottom of this page.
Digitised Records Online
You can search the digitised Central Register of Male Prisoners through our catalogue by clicking on the link below and searching with VPRS 515 for the surname of your prisoner.
You can look at the digitised indexes to the prison registers if you are having trouble identifying a prisoner:
We are in the process of digitising the 15 volumes of the Central Register of Female Prisoners. Until such time as we publish those digital images, you can use the digitised index below to find the prisoner number and register page for the person you are interested in:
You can see copies of the registers VPRS 516 Central Register of Female Prisoners on microfilm in PROV Reading Rooms.
This register contains a number of lists relating to the management of convicts in the Port Phillip District (from 1851, Victoria). Consult the index at the front of the volume for specific lists contained in it. Please note that the list for ‘Runaways’ was missing from the volume at the time of digitisation.
Early Court Records
The records contained in this volume, commonly known as the Portland Magistrate’s Book, document a number of different government activities. It is a snapshot of daily life in the district of Portland in the 1840s.
Some of the major contents of the volume include: Salaries of Police at Portland; Unfixed contingent accounts; Return of arms, ammunition and accoutrements for the service of the constabulary; Register of licenses to slaughter cattle; Issue of various licenses and certificates in the Portland district; Quarterly returns of leg irons, handcuffs and marching chains at the Portland police station; Particulars of Ticket of Leave holders; List of convicts who had obtained their freedom.