Records of the Benevolent Asylum


The surviving records of the Benevolent Asylum cover the admission and discharge of those who spent time there. There are also records of those who did not enter the Asylum but who received help with food and clothing in the form of 'out-relief'

All of these records are now in the custody of the Mitchell Library and are on restricted access.  Most have been microfilmed. Access is available to holders of a Mitchell Library Reader's Ticket and a letter of authority from The Benevolent Society. See for information on how you can contact the Benevolent Society. 

Remember they are NOT on open access and you will not be able to access these records at the Mitchell Library until you have your letter of permission from The Benevolent Society.


There are many other records relating to the Benevolent Asylum held at the Mitchell which we have not indexed. 


The records of the Asylum can be divided into a pre-1851 and post-1851 period.  The early (pre 1851) records are unindexed and can contain applications for admission, admission and discharge details, births and deaths as well as details of out-relief. All of this information is contained in the Minute Books of the House Committee and of the Acting Committee.


From 1852-1913 a series of Inmates Journals record daily information on those housed in the institution. Registers of Admissions and Discharges for the period 1857-1905, which are arranged chronologically, also survive and have been microfilmed. There is a gap in these registers between December 1867-October 1877. A yearly index for the period 1852-1913 is available on microfilm, although it can be difficult to use.


Many other records relating to the Asylum survive and are listed in the Guide to the Records of the Benevolent Society of New South Wales in the MItchell Library, State Library of NSW, compiled by Paul Scifleet in 1996.  You can consult this Guide at the Mitchell and it is also held by the Society of Australian Genealogists in its library.  You can also elect to purchase your own copy when arranging access to the records with the Benevolent Society.


Fractured Families, Life on the Margins in Colonial New South Wales by Dr Tanya Evans, published in 2015 by UNSW Press, includes examples of many who went through the Sydney Benevolent Asylum and provides an excellent insight into why people in colonial Sydney turned to this institution for help.